We’re entering the fourth day of camp, and the one thing that stands out is that players are going full speed and competing the way Dan Quinn expects. That was especially clear on Saturday, which was the third day of practice and the first day the players spent in pads.
“Always an exciting first day of training camp pad wise, especially for the line of scrimmage,” Dan Quinn said after practice. “That’s a real area of emphasis every year and no different today.”
Practice was packed on Saturday as fans made the trek to Flowery Branch to watch the team compete in practice. Quinn said that support helps the team get ready for the season.
“Any time you see the hill packed like that and this year we decided to get them involved with some crowd noise,” Quinn said. “It works for both sides. When we’re at home defensively they need it and when we’re on the road for the offense. It was great to see that connection today.”
Here’s what stood out on Saturday.
1. Robert Alford is consistently making plays.
Robert Alford came up with another big interception on Saturday. Quinn hesitated to say this is the best Alford has ever played, because the emphasis on getting better every day means everyone has a long way to go. But he did have some glowing praise for Alford after practice.
“He is really fit. His weight is up. He’s stronger than he’s been in a while. He’s using that strength at the line of scrimmage,” Quinn said. “You can feel that confidence sometimes that comes with just a little extra strength and a little extra weight with the same speed.
“He’s always had really good ball skills and towards the middle of last year we challenged him to use that good speed without having to grab. He’s done a good job with that, but I’d say more than anything you feel the physical presence of him.”
2. Damontae Kazee is developing quickly.
Damontae Kazee got plenty of first-team snaps on Saturday with Ricardo Allen excused from practice for personal reasons. Quinn said Kazee’s communication, which is a big part of the free safety role, is coming along.
“When I saw him at pre-practice I said ‘I really want to hear your communication today,’ knowing that’s such an important part of your role playing on the defense,” Quinn said. “He did fine. It seemed like he fit right in and made the calls. He’s got a good partner to go along with Keanu Neal some inside there. We were pleased to see that.”
3. Hail Mary!
Ryan completed a long bomb to Mohamed Sanu in the end zone. Sanu tracked the ball well and timed it so he could get in front of Desmond Trufant to haul it in.
Hail Mary?!@Mo_12_Sanu will go ⬆️ to get it. pic.twitter.com/rMVUm2QTpG— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) July 29, 2017
4. Players love being back in pads.
The defense was laying the wood on Saturday. It’s the only way Keanu Neal knows how to play.
KEANU HIT STICK‼️ pic.twitter.com/pLzEjQOb1t— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) July 29, 2017
Beasley had a nice stop, too.
Vic #BEASTLEY! pic.twitter.com/OLxQH85IaG— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) July 29, 2017
There’s much to learn from seeing how the players progress once the pads come on.
“Can they handle the physical part of it? We’re constantly trying to make it hard and then we’ll get into the preseason game and do that as well,” Quinn said. “It’s not just the pads. It’s that and two minute and here’s a new look and here’s the blitz. Can you handle all of those jobs?”
5. It’s hot out there, and it’s hard work, but players are still having fun.
You think @TGdadon1 and @Mo_12_Sanu realize the NFL celebration rules are lighter this season?— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) July 29, 2017
Today’s practice begins at 9:30 a.m. Keep up with the latest from Day 4 of training camp below.