The Atlanta Falcons held their first training camp practice yesterday, and it was glorious to see our favorite team back out on the field. While you can only glean so much from one practice, there's plenty to discuss, ranging from injuries to position battles.
Let's reflect on the first day.
1) The promised intensity was there
I very pointedly told you not to pay this story line much attention, so I'm going to only bring it up this once.
In my seven years covering the #Falcons I've never seen OL drills with such speed & intensity. These guys are flying & not stopping for rest— Knox Bardeen (@knoxbardeen) July 31, 2015
This is music to my eyes for an obvious reason: Because this Falcons team has been killed for being too soft for a while now, and the offensive line has been injured and ineffective for the better part of the last two seasons. Knowing that offensive linemen—particularly Jake Matthews and Joe Hawley, who were coming off of injuries—were moving so quickly and aggressively does lend credence to Dan Quinn's insistence that practices and games will feature a fast and physical team.
2) This Falcons team is rounding back into health
There are no guarantees this will last, because training camp is chock full of injuries minor and major for the vast majority of NFL teams, but it was great to see a lot of these players back out there. Marquis Spruill and Jon Asamoah returned to the field, William Moore and Jake Matthews were out there looking healthy, and everyone from Joe Hawley to Antone Smith saw action on the practice field yesterday.
This is grounds for cautious celebration, and if these guys can avoid setbacks, the majority of them will be stepping into vital roles in 2015. Let's hope all goes well in the weeks ahead.
Two sour notes: Ryan Schraeder was receiving medical attention, leaving Tyler Polumbus to run with the starters at right tackle. Doesn't appear to be anything major, but something to watch like a hawk given the stakes at the position. Julio Jones also left the field for a bit to have his left foot re-taped, which caused about five minutes of raw panic in the fanbase.
3) Ricardo Allen, Devonta Freeman, Robert Alford running with the starters
Free safety, running back and cornerback figure to be three of the most contentious roster battles going this summer, so while the first day only mean so much, it's still telling that these players are out there.
For Allen, it's confirmation that his minicamp run as the starting free safety means he's genuinely going to get every chance to win the job, and that he may well be the favorite. For Freeman, it's a sign that his well-rounded skill set will make this position battle a dogfight with rookie Tevin Coleman. And for Alford, who intercepted a pass and broke one up in 11 on 11 drills, it's a chance to retain his leg up on rookie Jalen Collins and show he's ready to break out in a major way heading into his third year.
Keep a close eye on Charles Godfrey, Coleman and Collins in the days ahead to see if they receive their chances with the first team.
4) Roddy White's not going to cede that starting spot
In a conversation with Vaughn McClure, Roddy's making it very clear that he doesn't expect Leonard Hankerson to overtake him as a starter.
White was asked how he would react if Hankerson were to surpass him in regard to snaps.
"That's not going to happen," White said. "I'm not a guy that's going to go out there and tell people what they should do and what they shouldn't do. I'm just going to play, do what I've got to do, and be Roddy White. You know what I'm saying? They can love whoever they want to love, but I'm just going to be me. I'm going to go out there and make the plays that I can make.
"It always happens like that when new coaches come in: There's always going to be someone else that they like and that they want to put in to see what he can do. There are going to be times when he's in the game, and I'm not in the game. I'm not going to see myself as not being a starter. I am definitely the starter."
If White is healthy, he's extremely likely to earn more snaps and targets than Hankerson, even if Hank Time winds up spending more time as the #2 receiver. It's easy to be a little down on Roddy given his nagging knee issues and advancing age, but it's not difficult to envision him enjoying another fine year, either.
5) It was damn exciting to have football back in our lives
Oh lord, it really was. Hearing little things like Jacob Tamme making a one-handed catch, Leonard Hankerson impressing and even Phillip Adams snagging an interception make my heart flutter a little.
Share your observations with us in the comments.