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Falcons minicamp notes for June 12: Russell Gage hype train, Deion Jones hungers for success

Choo choo and all that.

Atlanta Falcons Training Camp Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The second day of minicamp came and went yesterday, and now there’s only a single day remaining. Waft that football-like material toward your nose, friends, and dive in to our notes from the second day.

Russell Gage hype train gains momentum

The other day, I wrote that while I have long-term high hopes for Russell Gage in this offense, I didn’t expect him to have a major role this year. That’s something to bear in mind as the hype continues to gather around the second year receiver, who is doing head-turning work in OTAs and minicamp.

It’s worth remembering that Gage is six feet tall, has good wheels, and showed real promise in his limited run as a pass catcher a year ago. It can be easy to lose sight of this because Gage’s chief value at the moment is as a gunner on special teams, and it’s a relatively rare special teamer who carves out a significant role on offense. But Gage’s upside is real, and while 2019 may not be his breakout year, there will be opportunity to build toward something for 2020 and beyond.

Deion Jones knows the defense has a lot to prove

The Falcons seemed as though they might be poised for a defensive breakout after a pretty productive 2017 season, especially after they suffocated the Eagles in the playoffs, even though that came in a losing effort.

Instead, the Falcons of 2018 backslid almost across the board, losing both their starting safeties and weathering stretches without Deion Jones and Grady Jarrett, among others. Paired with regression or a lack of significant progress for players like Robert Alford and Vic Beasley, the defense took a major step backward, and looked a lot closer to the unit we’re used to seeing (i.e. a struggling one) that one on the cusp of elite play.

Debo knows all of that, and he knows the Falcons’ defense is being doubted again. With the talent on hand and the stakes, it’s not a bad idea for Deion Jones and this defense to start amping themselves up to excel.

Day two standouts

On Tuesday, Dan Quinn took the time to single out a handful of young players, and he made sure to do so again on Wednesday.

Those players were a mix of the expected—Kaleb McGary, like Chris Lindstrom, is looking impressive early on—and the less expected. Matt Gono has always looked like an intriguing athlete along the offensive line and continues to practice well, Ito Smith looking good after suffering an injury late in the year is welcome, and Jayson Stanley and Rashard Causey are interesting projects at a cornerback position that is suddenly crowded with talent. Causey and Stanley are probably pushing for practice squad spots and Gono for the team’s final offensive line gig, but Smith and McGary should be set for significant roles in 2019, especially McGary.