Falcons linebacker Brooks Reed had some high praise for Atlanta’s defensive draft picks when I asked him about how Keanu Neal, Deion Jones and De’Vondre Campbell are coming along so far.
“The younger guys are just athletes, man,” Reed said. “These might be the best younger players that I’ve seen come through ever, that I’ve been playing.”
That’s a strong statement, and it’s one that holds up when you watch the rookies on the field.
Campbell in particular has impressed. He’s very intelligent, and it shows in the way he’s picked up the scheme and understands his role in it. He covers like a cornerback, and his speed is a massive upgrade for Atlanta.
Jones’ speed is also an upgrade, as is Neal’s. All three rookies have the physical tools to earn significant playing time, if not starting roles, this season.
Reed also noted that the depth on defense, which has been an issue in recent years, is much improved.
“It’s going to be some good depth on this team for sure and some good ballplayers,” Reed said, “and it’s very competitive out here, and that’s the atmosphere that Dan Quinn’s created.”
Quinn does relish competition, and we’re seeing it unfold daily in Flowery Branch.
Reed said that’s part of the fun, and that players are excited to get out here and compete because this is what they’ve worked so hard for all offseason.
“It’s definitely fun, and it’s not, ‘Come out here, have practice, get through it, okay,’” Reed said. “No, it’s like you do everything outside of the practice to get ready for today, so today’s kind of like the highlight of our day, to come out here and work and show what we’ve been doing in the offseason, in the film room and everything.”
After being severely limited by injury last season, Reed said he’s feeling fully healthy and ready to make an impact at the LEO position.
Last preseason ended with Reed undergoing groin surgery. This preseason, he’s ready to go.
“I feel great and I feel fast, and just want to get better and develop some skills at the LEO position and just improve something every day,” Reed said. “This is why I’ve been training the past five months, so I could come out here and compete out here at the highest level I can and just get better every day.”
Everyone was adapting to a new scheme last offseason, and while the defensive scheme is actually simpler than the one employed by Mike Nolan under the previous coaching regime, it’s still an adjustment.
Reed said everyone is more comfortable in the scheme after another offseason absorbing it, and that the coaching staff is keeping them on their toes.
“We’re way ahead of where we were at this point last year, and just the knowledge we have of this defense and the expectations and the practices are a lot different, a lot more up tempo,” Reed said. “There’s no monotony in these practices. Everything’s changed around and super-competitive, so guys are always in the moment and working their craft.”
Hopefully it yields the results Atlanta desperately needs to see on that side of the ball.