Falcons players had a day off on Saturday, and Roddy White took time out of his schedule to sign autographs and take photos with Falcons fans at the Birchbox Road Trip in Atlanta. White was there on behalf of Birchbox Man, a mail order personal care and grooming products retailer, and fans were out in force to meet the prolific receiver. White also took the time to speak to The Falcoholic about the new offense, how players are adapting and how Atlanta's defense is shaping up for the season.
Much has been made of the Falcons' focus on establishing a ground attack this season, but with so many dynamic receivers at Matt Ryan's disposal, it makes sense that the team isn't really de-emphasizing the pass.
"No, we have too many explosive guys to just go out there and not throw the ball around the yard, so we're going to take our time and do what we do," White said.
White also pointed to the team's success when Michael Turner was at his best to illustrate what the team hopes to accomplish with a more effective ground game.
"We have to get our run game going. We know that. It makes the play action pass a whole lot easier so we can get explosive plays and things like that," White said. "We're going to be balanced. It'll be good. When Mike Turner was there, we were a very balanced offensive team. We won a bunch of games and made strides and were always in the playoffs, so that's what we look forward to getting back to."
Matt Ryan isn't necessarily thought of as a mobile quarterback, and over the past few seasons, the offense has been built around dropping back.Ryan will be called upon to roll out and move around a bit more in Kyle Shanahan's scheme, and White doesn't see this as a problem.
During Ryan's first few seasons, he did roll out more. This scheme isn't a complete novelty for Ryan, and White believes Ryan is fully prepared.
"He's good. This is what he did his rookie year, the year after that. He's done it for three or four years," White said. "We went straight drop-back maybe two or three years ago, so he's used to it. He's been working hard in the offseason, getting his legs and things strong enough so he can prepare himself for the bootleg and stuff like that, so he'll be perfectly fine."
As I walked through the Birchbox Man line to help White put together his Birchbox, we found some beard oil that was perfect for White to share with his teammates along the offensive line.
"Oh, yeah, I like that. I like that. I'm going to get the beard oils to everybody, starting with Joe Hawley. That's my guy," White said. "And we're going to throw that beard oil in there, and we're going to get it rolling, baby."
In addition to having some pretty amazing beards, the offensive line has also been working hard throughout the offseason to master the new scheme, per White.
"They're doing a good job, especially for the time off and just knowing what to do and just going to protections and stuff like that," White said. "So those guys have worked very, very hard in the offseason to get themselves prepared for this moment, and they're ready."
Fans have consistently heard good things about Atlanta's tight ends during training camp, particularly Jacob Tamme. Tamme has been very consistent and clearly has excellent chemistry with Matt Ryan. He's a reliable receiver, an adept blocker, and definitely an upgrade to the position.
I asked White what he thinks Tamme brings to the offense, and White is as impressed with Tamme as I've been.
"Jacob "I catch everything" Tamme? Yeah, that guy is amazing," White said. "Our tight ends have played well throughout the camp for the first week. They're catching a lot of balls, just going out there and making strides in the blocking game and getting on their guys and understanding the offense, what they want out of those guys, and they're doing a good job, man. They're doing a heck of a job."
There's obviously a new defensive scheme in Atlanta, too, and it's simpler, fast and physical. The defense, and particularly the secondary, seems to be adapting well.
White's in a unique position to gauge the secondary's progress with the new scheme since he goes up against those guys in practice every day. So far, he's pleased with what he sees.
"Oh, they love it. They love it. It's more aggressive; more in your face," White said. "Tru and Robert are doing a heck of a job, and Will Mo's flying around and making plays throughout the practice. So those guys are going to be in tune to get ready and go, and it's all about being aggressive, and that's what they like to play, aggressive style of football."
It was clear that the pass rush was an emphasis for the Falcons this offseason, as they added several players to help address what has been a genuine weakness over the past couple of seasons. Adrian Clayborn's name has come up throughout training camp due to his quickness off the snap and his versatility, as the team has him bouncing between defensive end and tackle.
Clayborn's performance has stood out to White, as well as the overall approach with the pass rush.
"Clayborn's doing a heck of a job. He's playing inside, outside — they're just moving guys around and just letting them rush from different areas," White said. "A lot of times, that's what Seattle did throughout the year, so we've got the guys who can do that, and we're going to go out there and get after people."
White has been in the league for a long time, and that's shifted his focus a bit. When I asked Roddy if he's changed the way he physically prepares for training camp and the season as he's gotten older, he told me that he's focused on being physically able to help the Falcons win.
"Stay healthy," White said. "That's all I want to do is stay healthy."