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Falcons mandatory minicamp notebook: Four items of note from the final day

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Devonta Freeman’s contract and the possibility of a British fullback stand out.

Super Bowl LI - New England Patriots v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Atlanta Falcons wrapped up their three day mandatory minicamp yesterday, capping off a joyous stretch where we were able to see players doing football things on a football field. We got to catch up on a few highlight catches, hear from coaches and players, and get an early look at the rookies and UDFAs who will be the topic of so much discussion in July and August.

So we’ll bid a fond farewell by taking a look at what we learned on the third day, and then we’ll wrap up some bigger picture takeaways for the weekend. Here are four noteworthy observations as we sadly close this thing down and await more sweet, sweet football.

#1: B.J. Daniels gives it a go at running back

You may remember B.J. Daniels as a quarterback. He was drafted in the seventh round to play the position back in 2013 by the San Francisco 49ers, and he spent time with the Seattle Seahawks in the same role. Then the team moved him to wide receiver, and he’s been bouncing around rosters ever since.

Daniels has always had intriguing athleticism on his side, but he hasn’t been able to find a team and a position where he’s been able to belong. It’s possible that running back will prove to be a stellar back who fights his way on, but for now, this is more of one of those quirky, interesting notes we sometimes get in June.

Daniels remains an extreme long shot to make the roster, but if the team keeps four running backs and Terron Ward is on the outs, it could happen.

#2: The Devonta Freeman extension talks are ambling along

After the initial panic caused by hearing that Freeman’s camp wasn’t happy with his contract, things have settled in. The team has routinely expressed confidence that they’ll get a deal done, Freeman has shown up for offseason workouts and hasn’t complained once, and life goes. Unless there’s a significant roadblock that shows up once the offers start flying back and forth,

The earliest a deal is going to likely to get done is training camp, so basically put it out of your minds until then. The important thing is that Freeman doesn’t appear disgruntled, and he’s locked in to another big season for the Falcons in 2017.

#3: Alex Gray, fullback?

The British practice squadder and former rugby...er....can’t play for the Falcons this season, but the team can develop him with an eye on using his physicality and athleticism down the line.

This makes a ton of sense, frankly. Gray is going to struggle to find a spot in the tight end group with Austin Hooper, Levine Toilolo, Eric Saubert, and guys like Josh Perkins and DJ Tialavea kicking around. He’s got a much clearer path to the team in 2018 and beyond at fullback, where Derrick Coleman is signed on a one year deal and UDFA rookie Tyler Renew is the only other current competition.

If Gray can show this team he’s got the blocking skill and physicality to be a fullback, and can hold on to the football on those rare instances where he gets touches, he’ll be in good shape to compete. He’ll bear watching if this comes to fruition.

#4: Jack Crawford shines early

Out of all the signings the Falcons made, Jack Crawford came the most out of left field. He was not an edge rusher, which the team truly needed, and he was not the kind of elite defensive addition we were all looking for early in free agency.

What Crawford offers is versatility, some pass rushing acumen, and solid play against the run. Most importantly, he offers the ability to play more or less full time at defensive tackle, a position that is now well-stocked with talented players but lacks dedicated depth. Crawford can play end if the need arises, but he can also be the team’s fourth defensive tackle, and that’s a legitimate need.

Bryant Young, the team’s new defensive line coach, appears to really like the team’s new acquisition. Crawford shouldn’t lack for snaps, at the very least.

BONUS: Mohamed Sanu, kicker

They talked about Sanu’s versatility, but they did not mention that he’d be second in line behind Matt Bryant. Sanu booted an extra point to end practice today. His #versatility throwing the ball, running the ball, catching the ball and now kicking the ball should ensure a role for him on this team.