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Atlanta Falcons 2018 training camp: Notes and standouts from Wednesday’s practice

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Austin Hooper looks good, Takkarist McKinley isn’t practicing, and the red zone work goes fitfully.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons-Training Camp Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Practice started back up for the Falcons on Wednesday, and while the weather wasn’t ideal, the team got its work in. That means we have a few takeaways, as we always do, to mull over.

So, what happened out there today? Drawing on notes from those who were there, here’s what you should be paying attention to.

  • Austin Hooper looks pretty good this summer, by all accounts, and that continued in Wednesday’s practice as he made a stellar grab at the expense of poor Duke Riley. Hooper is going to have tougher assignments this year, but the fact that he can work above someone as speedy as Riley is another positive sign for a man who might be on his way to a post-hype breakout season.
  • Wes Schweitzer continues to get first team work, which tells you the Falcons are very serious about treating this like an actual competition, rather than a fait accompli for Brandon Fusco. Schweitzer was not bad in 2017, though the coaching staff clearly wasn’t satisfied with his level of play, and there remains a non-zero chance that he could steal the job away from Fusco, however unlikely it may seem.
  • Patrick Kerney, who finished his career in Atlanta as one of the team’s best pass rushers ever, returned to training camp today to work with the team. Kerney has dropped by camp in the past to hang out and offer some tips, and this can’t possibly hurt and should only help a team suddenly loaded with young pass rushing options.

Even more intriguingly, the Falcons have Chuck Smith on a two day coaching internship, per ESPN’s Vaughn McClure. Fans have been clamoring for Smith, a pass rushing coach and former franchise great, to take a position with the coaching staff, and this might well be his foot in the door, especially if some team hires Marquand Manuel and the staff is depleted a year from now.

  • With Takk McKinley and Ty Sambrailo out, the Falcons get a chance to take a longer look at some of their other options at their respective positions. With Takk this is sort of moot—he’s going to play a ton of snaps—but for Austin Pasztor and Matt Gono it represents an opportunity to knock off the presumptive swing tackle, if they can impress early and outplay Sambrailo in preseason. No word on how the two fared today just yet, but with Sambrailo expected to miss a few days, keep an eye on both.
  • Finally, just a note that Calvin Ridley continues to impress just about everyone who comes into contact with him. It’s more of a question of opportunity than readiness with Ridley, but if he continues to practice at this level, the Falcons will find him plenty of looks when the season rolls around.