Andy Benoit at Sports Illustrated recently gave a look at what rookies can expect from attending the Atlanta Falcons rookie minicamp. Minicamp gives coaches a look at their new, young talent before the veteran players hit the field. I've included the eight most interesting things that happened at minicamp, listed below.
Arguably the most important thing about football is the equipment. So naturally one of the first things rookies do is get suited up to hit the practice field.
Many schools have sent over the specs for their players. Lindstrom is fitted with a temporary helmet; in a few days Riddell will come in and perform a 3D scan of his head for a permanent helmet. Earlier a test was performed on Lindstrom’s foot to help determine his best shoe. All drafted players and college free agents get such treatment.
First team meeting
Like the first day of school, the rookies have an introduction to their fellow rookies and the Falcons coaching staff.
Rap music blares even after all 62 players—seven draft picks, 16 rookie free agents, a handful of practice squad players still eligible for rookie camp, and the rest tryout guys—and 20 assistant coaches have taken their seats. Dozens from the front office and administrative staff stand in the back. We’re in the main meeting room. Quinn enters, the rap inadvertently creating a walk-up music effect. “Welcome to the Brotherhood,” Dan Quinn says.”
Also, an interesting takeaway from the meeting room is an apparent motto for the team, at least this year.
Quinn runs through a few slides, introducing the team’s three pillars: Ball; Battle; Brotherhood.
And then the club’s rules:
· Protect the team
· No complaining, no excuses
· Be early
Even the rookie quarterbacks know that Matt Ryan is the leader around Flowery Branch. They know ahead of time that the quarterback position is arguable the toughest to land a spot on the 53-man roster. The two quarterbacks attending this year’s rookie minicamp are Kurt Benkert, who was on the Falcons’ practice squad last season, and rookie Eli Dunne from Northern Iowa.
“Don’t sit in Matt Ryan’s chair, he’ll know,” says quarterbacks coach Greg Knapp. “Sit across the table in Matt Schaub’s.”
Offensive Line Meeting
The Falcons were committed to protecting quarterback Matt Ryan this offseason, as they drafted two offensive linemen in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Ten offensive linemen, including RG Chris Lindstrom and RT Kaleb McGary attended this year’s rookie minicamp.
“This play-action stuff is everything in our offense,” Morgan says. “It only works if you are 100 percent committed to it. You as an O-line make it go. Meadow has to look, smell and feel like a run.”
The walkthrough itself is pretty boring, but it basically is the first action that the rookies see as a member of the Atlanta Falcons. The rookies line up and go through the walkthrough, displaying what will occur when they actually practice.
The first-rounders, McGary and especially Lindstrom, exit their stances with a crisp burst. Some of the undrafted guys are visibly processing the calls.
Finally, it’s time to see what the rookies are made of! Practice gives the coaching staff a good idea on what to expect from each rookie heading into training camp. You have to respect that Dan Quinn isn’t just standing nearby watching.
On Field 3, Quinn is wearing giant padded arm shields and a backwards hat, working with players on pass-rush drills.
The level of play defensive players are accustomed to in college compared to the NFL is a challenge each must face. Dan Quinn discussed the difference in regards to defensive pass interference, where in college football it’s only 15 yards. In the NFL, a defensive pass interference can be a lot more.
“A downfield DPI? That’s worse than punching someone. In the NFL, you punch someone, it’s 15 yards. But grab their jersey downfield and it can be, like we saw today on this play [he rolls more film], 28 yards.” DPIs, Quinn says, are not just about the defensive backs. Often the DB gets in a tough situation after someone up front fails to do his job. It’s all connected.”
Special teams meeting
The Falcons will have a new special teams coordinator in 2019 with Ben Kotwica. Special teams hasn’t exactly been an area where the team has excelled as of late, and it seems the main area of focus will be coverage.
Kotwica teaches the NFL’s alignment rule and coverage strategies. “And if you make a play like this,” he says, rolling film of Dolphins running back Kenyon Drake celebrating a big kickoff coverage hit, “you can run around and celebrate all you want—just don’t take your helmet off.”
Rookie minicamp is an exciting time, as there’s some actual football action, even if it’s only between rookies and younger players. Sports Illustrated’s article goes more in depth on what took place at Falcons rookie minicamp, and it’s worth reading the whole article.