Before we jump into a recap of a fast and physical first day of minicamp, let's address what minicamp actually is. The team is still very limited in terms of contact and what they can do on the field. Minicamp is mandatory, so unless a guy is excused, as Devin Hester was today for personal reasons, he's expected to be there. The team works through drills, both with their position groups and as a team. This week is the last push to really install the new scheme, and the coaching staff will expect the players to have everything internalized so they can go full speed when training camp begins next month.
Roddy White was held out of today's practice. Following practice, Dan Quinn told the media that it was nothing serious and that the team was just trying to prevent a "flare up" from worsening.
A few things stood out in today's practice session.
The defensive backs are really playing physical, keeping their hands on receivers and playing aggressive coverage. They're drawing some penalties from the refs Dan Quinn has at each practice, which will be an important component of helping them strike the balance between playing that physical coverage and not drawing flags constantly.
Phillip Adams had two nice pass break-ups against Julio Jones in the end zone in team drills. He held Jones a little on the second play, but was successful in breaking up the pass each time.
You can tell that Jalen Collins was delayed in getting on the field as the speed of the game is challenging for him at present, but he seems to be coming along as well as can be expected.
Devonta Freeman is really rising to the challenge, knowing that he's competing with rookie Tevin Coleman for snaps this season. He's going full speed on every play and continues to demonstrate that impressive vision.
Leonard Hankerson stood out to me today. He was consistently making plays, including a beauty of a sideline catch with great body control.
Ricardo Allen was getting plenty of reps at free safety with the first team and looked comfortable out there.
We had some reader questions on Twitter as well.
@jeannathomas I’m really interested to know how the rookies are coming along. Thanks for your coverage, Jeanna!— Rise Up Reader (@RiseUpReader) June 16, 2015
The rookies are really adapting well. Matt Ryan mentioned Justin Hardy by name after practice as a receiver who's really working to grasp the new scheme and get himself prepared. Vic Beasley has looked fantastic, honestly. He's technically sound and there isn't a speed of the game gap for him. These fast practices are likely helping all of the rookies bridge that gap more easily. Jalen Collins has a little bit of a longer road because of the time he missed due to injury, but he's working hard to get to where he needs to be. Grady Jarrett looks really comfortable.
@jeannathomas what's the atmosphere difference from last season? Faster pace? New optimism?— SportingATL.com (@SportingATL) June 16, 2015
Yeah, when you hear the media talk about the atmosphere being totally different, it's not just hype. The pace and intensity really are completely different. Not only does everything on the field move more quickly, but the coaches are really interactive with the players to keep them moving at the pace they want to see.
@jeannathomas all I keep hearing about is the position battle between Freeman and the rook. how does antone Smith look?— Toruk Makto (@watersdry) June 16, 2015
Antone Smith looks fantastic. I've been really pleased to see how comfortable he looks on that leg. He looks to be 100%. I don't expect Smith to be a factor in the battle for the bulk of the carries, but I do think he'll be an important component of the Falcons' offensive approach this season, and it's great to have him back.
@jeannathomas How is Worrilow looking so far this year. I know there is not much competition at MLB does he look stronger, more fit, quicker— Hoyle W. Dabbs (@HoyleWDabbs) June 16, 2015
Worrilow has always been pretty strong and not particularly quick, and I'd say he looks about the same in those two regards. I do think, however, that this simplified scheme is a great thing for him. We won't know for certain until the preseason, but I like the way he's reacting to the offense in team drills.
@jeannathomas Who will be the biggest (pleasant) surprise?— Jenna Bannister (@JennaEarwood) June 16, 2015
This is a great question, and I think we have a few viable possibilities for the answer. Based on what I've seen so far, and as long as they stay healthy, I think Jacob Tamme and Tony Moeaki could really solidify the tight end position and be pleasant surprises. I think that whatever the outcome of the running back battle may be, fans are going to be happy with that position this season, particularly considering the lack of success in the run game over the past few seasons. I also think the defense as a whole could be a pleasant surprise. It's not hard to improve statistically over how the team performed defensively last year, but this new simplified scheme really should put them in a position to do so.
We'll have more from Falcons minicamp throughout the week, and if you were out there today, share your thoughts in the comments.