The Falcons took the field this morning in pads once again, which was a bit of a surprise. Considering the limitations the CBA places on the number of padded practices each team is permitted to have during training camp, having the first two on consecutive days wasn't anything I expected. The early focus was special teams, with an emphasis on hitting assignments and getting timing down.
Dan Quinn said after practice that the team was also focused on short yardage situations today, and while there were a lot of penalties and a number of things they'll need to clean up, he was pleased with how the team performed overall.
Linebacker Brooks Reed had an unspecified strain, according to Dan Quinn. He was limited in practice as a precaution. In addition,
- Running back Terron Ward, an undrafted free agent out of Oregon State, is quickly making a name for himself and earning some first-team looks. Ward has broken off a couple of long runs and he's already an adept pass blocker. He blocked Vic Beasley so violently that Beasley was a little shaken up after the play. Ward runs with a lot of power and catches the ball reasonably well, too. He's definitely a guy to keep an eye on throughout camp and the preseason.
- New offensive lineman Pierce Burton looks pretty fluid and has clean technique.
- Julio Jones is truly remarkable. Matched up in coverage against rookie Jalen Collins, Jones made a really impressive catch. Knowing how going up against Jones helped the development of Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford, it should be beneficial to Collins in the long run.
- It seemed like Devonta Freeman was getting the bulk of the first team carries today, but there's a long way to go in this training camp battle between Freeman and Tevin Coleman.
- Both Patrick DiMarco and Collin Mooney got some first team reps at fullback today. Both were blocking well.
- Matt Ryan looks really comfortable in this new scheme. It will be interesting to see how he looks in preseason against actual opponents, but for the time being, it looks like the transition is going well for him.
- Rookie Justin Hardy is really coming along. His teammates have praised his work ethic and willingness to learn from the veterans and receivers coach Terry Robiskie. Hardy really seems to shine on intermediate routes, though he's had a couple of impressive plays on deep balls, too. Hardy did have a drop today on a sure touchdown pass, and he was frustrated with himself, but was able to shake it off and maintain focus.
- Levine Toilolo has genuinely improved. His blocking is better and he's been coming up with some really nice catches.
- Vic Beasley doesn't just have remarkable burst off the line; he's also tough. Beasley was shaken up after Terron Ward put a nasty block on him, but he returned to action almost immediately.
- It seemed like the defensive line was getting the best of the offensive line pretty consistently during 11 on 11s. This is due in part to improvement, but Dan Quinn also mentioned after practice that they were offsides quite a bit, so that's something they'll need to clean up before the season begins.
- The linebackers and secondary seem to be taking much better angles to the ball carrier in run situations. If that's demonstrated against actual opponents, it will be a big improvement.
- Tyler Starr has really improved. I'm still concerned about his functional strength, but his technique is better and he's using his speed more effectively. Starr spent some time on the field with the first team defense today.
- Linebacker Boris Anyama, an undrafted free agent out of Louisiana-Lafayette, looked really good in one-on-ones against the offensive line. He's someone to keep an eye on in preseason action.
- Lots of players got opportunities to return kicks today. In addition to Devin Hester, Eric Weems and Robert Alford, we saw Bernard Reedy, Nick Williams, Marquez Clark, Freddie Martino and Terron Ward all got some shots as return specialists at the beginning of practice.
It was really fun, thanks for asking.
Shede is in great shape and looks really quick coming off the line. Eager to see him in preseason action.
I've been really impressed with Allen. I'll have a more comprehensive piece on Allen's transition to free safety tomorrow.
Chris White (@ChrisW0417) August 3, 2015
There haven't been any fights during training camp thus far. Joe Brawley has not been living up to his nickname. What's interesting is that practices are really physical and there's a lot of competition against guys in one-on-one and team drill situations, but tempers have not flared.
I don't really keep a snap count or anything, but everybody's getting a lot of reps.
@jeannathomas where was tevin coleman today?— Alex Davis (@dashdavis43) August 3, 2015
It seemed like he spent more time with the second team. It means very little at this point. Both Freeman and Coleman are going to get plenty of first-team looks.
To this point, I'd have to say the defense has been more impressive. You can really see the benefit this simplified scheme is having on the way these players execute on the field. That's not a knock on the offense, but this new defensive scheme is pretty exciting.
Hester's still getting a lot of opportunities in practice and has looked solid. I think there's a role for him in this offense, and we'll have a better idea of what that is in preseason.
If we see these apparent improvements carry over to preseason game performance, I think that's probably the turning point.
We mostly try to remain objective, but I will say, watching Dan Quinn and his staff work is a whole lot of fun.
It looks like a really positive change so far. Assignments are really simple and players are free to adjust to create turnover opportunities. The guys they have in the secondary are really well suited for this approach, also.
A couple of guys had some issues with cramping the first day, but overall, players seem to be in good shape and there haven't been many problems despite the heat.
As I mentioned above, he got some first team work today. I'd say there's a chance he sticks.
I think the offensive line is coming along. The combination of an improved rushing attack and the scheme adjustments should result in more time for Ryan.
Your thoughts on camp so far?