The Falcons were in pads for the first time today, and it was obvious that players were excited to actually hit someone. They weren't, however, doing full tackling today. It was mostly a catch-and-release situation. Still, being in pads gives players the opportunity to really start getting their bodies ready for actual football.
Many fans are questioning why certain players are getting first team reps over other players, and it's a good time to remind everyone that it really means very little at this point. The coaching staff is moving players around quite a bit to see what they're capable of, and the best way to get a sense of their ability is to give them some opportunities with the first team. For example, a wide receiver fighting for a roster spot would be better able to showcase his talents catching balls from Matt Ryan as opposed to only getting to work with T.J. Yates or Sean Renfree. The coaching staff is assessing talent at this point. We'll have a better idea of how the depth chart is shaking out when preseason begins.
Tackle Ryan Schraeder, who suffered a strain during Friday's practice, was limited in today's practice, but did participate. Linebacker Justin Durant had what Dan Quinn described as a scheduled day off, and Lamar Holmes obviously continues to be out with the broken foot that landed him on the PUP list.
- Justin Hardy looked really good today. Matt Ryan connected with Hardy deep, and he also looked good on intermediate routes. Hardy has been praised consistently by his teammates for his intelligence and work ethic, and those qualities translate to him looking prepared on the field.
- Jake Matthews' mechanics are really good. He has such an instinctive understanding of leverage and how to use it to his advantage. Despite missing the majority of OTA work as he continued to recover from Lisfranc repair, Matthews is settling into the new scheme nicely.
- Both Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman looked solid today, and this competition continues to be a lot of fun to watch. I'd give the edge to Freeman at this point, based on his experience and his vision and instincts, but I expect Coleman to really contribute regardless.
- It's way too early to know for certain, but it definitely looks like this simplified defensive scheme is resulting in players taking better angles to the ball. Couple that with the emphasis Quinn is placing on tackling effectively and creating turnovers, and this defense really should be improved this season.
- Vic Beasley is going to be something special. His first step is incredible. He was battling against Jake Matthews in one-on-one drills, and they were really evenly matched. It seems like the Falcons did well with their first round picks in 2014 and 2015.
- Adrian Clayborn is playing inside and getting great push up the middle. For a guy his size, Clayborn is explosive off the line of scrimmage, and as long as he stays healthy, he should really be able to disrupt quarterbacks this season.
- Jonathan Babineaux is also consistently getting good push up the middle and getting into the backfield.
- Allen Bradford had a really solid day today, including a well-timed pass break up. Bradford was mentioned by name after practice by William Moore as one of the linebackers who should help this defense improve this season.
- Both Matt Bryant and Matt Bosher were simulating kick offs during special teams drills. I don't think this means these two are competing for the role per se. These guys are each other's backup, so it makes sense that they would each get enough work in to be prepared to step up if necessary due to injury.
I'm not certain, because there are a lot of DTs on the roster, but Dan Quinn has said that he'll legitimately consider any available player and definitely make a move if they determine that the player will help the Falcons win. If the Falcons think McDaniel can help them win, they'll grab him.
Yes, Ricardo Allen is shining in the free safety role. It's been really interesting to see how well he's adapted. We'll have a better idea of Allen's grasp on the position once we see him in preseason action, but in terms of practice, he seems to be getting it.
I talked about Clayborn in the defensive summary above, and Hageman looks really good. He seems to be more explosive since he lost some weight.
Southward is back on the field following knee surgery a few weeks ago. He's transitioning to cornerback, and he really hasn't stood out.
@jeannathomas Do you feel like the Falcons' offense will have slowed down at all with such a defensive based coach?— Matthew Owlbreaker (@MOwlbreaker) August 2, 2015
I really don't believe this offense has, or will, take a step back because they have a defensive-minded head coach. For one thing, they've added so much talent--two veteran tight ends in Tony Moeaki and Jacob Tamme who are good fits for the scheme, rookie Justin Hardy and veteran Leonard Hankerson, both of whom have been impressive, and running back Tevin Coleman joins Devonta Freeman and Antone Smith to round out a unit that should drastically improve the Falcons' chances on the ground. Kyle Shanahan also seems to be a very good coordinator. He has a clear vision for this offense, and the team has bought in and they're ready to execute it.
@jeannathomas did they practice any tackling fundamentals today? Like rugby style tackling?— Tony B (@chyeahhhtone) August 2, 2015
Quinn said they really haven't practiced that specifically since today was their first practice in pads. The coaching staff has been teaching the fundamentals of that style.
@jeannathomas Who impressed you most out of all the new WRs?— Tomaster (@Tomaster134) August 2, 2015
Hankerson has impressed me the most, with Justin Hardy a close second.
First of all, that Bryan Cox "gym class" quote is one of my all-time favorites. Practice was a little sloppy at first, but guys cleaned up their technique as the day went on. Nobody looked noticeably out of place or behind.
They've struggled a little in coverage, but overall, the linebackers as a whole look pretty good. Durant didn't practice today, as I noted above.
DiMarco has been dropping a lot of balls. I don't think the fullback will necessarily be targeted often in this new offense but rather will be more of a consistent blocker, so it may not matter much that he's dropping balls. Mooney has not stood out to me one way or the other.
Share your thoughts and questions about the third day of training camp in the comments.