The final day of Falcons mandatory minicamp is here, and the second day was another interesting one, per reports. Time to round up some of the most relevant tidbits from day two while we wait for day three to start.
Again, don’t draw sweeping conclusions based off of these reports, but do feel free to file away everything in case it becomes relevant later, especially with Jalen Mayfield.
We learned Calvin Ridley had surgery
Arthur Smith was characteristically evasive about Calvin Ridley’s status, as reporters picked up on his absence and asked a few times about why he wasn’t there.
Shortly thereafter, Ian Rapoport reported that Ridley had “minor” surgery on his foot, but that he’s not expected to miss training camp time. It’s obviously worrying when your top receiver is having surgery of any kind just months before the start of the season, but for now we’ll hope the report is accurate and he’ll be fine well before September. Players like Tajae Sharpe, Olamide Zaccheaus, Frank Darby and others competing for jobs in this receiving corps will take the extra reps in the meantime.
Cordarrelle Patterson at running back is the real deal
I’m not certain how large his role will be when the dust settles on the summer’s competition, but Scott Bair with the Falcons noted that Patterson is doing a lot of work out of the backfield in practice and will primarily be operating as a running back this season. He’s been listed as one for months, so this is not exactly a surprise so much as it is
He did so last year with the Bears, too, getting 64 carries versus 25 targets as a receiver. His surface level numbers as a runner don’t wow you, but Patterson’s 10.7 carries per broken tackle mark would’ve ranked 11th in the NFL had he had enough carries to qualify. He also picked up 96 of his 232 rushing yards after contact, a testament to his physicality as a runner. If the Falcons roll with Davis, Patterson and Ollison as three of their backs, they will not struggle to put bruisers on the field in 2021.
I’d expect Patterson to still work as a receiver at times as Arthur Smith mixes and matches, but it seems like he could legitimately be Davis’s direct backup. I can’t say I expeceted that when the signing was announced.
Kyle Pitts is everywhere, always
Arthur Smith has already shown that he can be extremely vague when asked about situations he’d like to avoid talking about, like Calvin Ridley’s injury status and Julio Jones pre-trade. Other times, though, he’ll tell you exactly what he plans to do, as was the case when the coach said he would play Kyle Pitts at multiple spots, suggesting he’d line up out wide, in the slot, inline as a traditional tight end, and even out of the backfield.
We can’t guarantee that’ll happen during the season, but there’s a Julio-sized hole in this offense and a 6’6” tight end with wheels and excellent hands who moves all around the formation is the team’s best hope of still terrorizing defenses in 2021.
Observation from Falcons’ mini-camp: not sure I’ve seen the same set or Kyle Pitts line up in the same place twice.— Jeff Schultz (@JeffSchultzATL) June 9, 2021
Jalen Mayfield gets time at right tackle...with some caveats
Mayfield is expected to push for the starting left guard job this summer, alongside a large cast of characters including Josh Andrews, Matt Gono, possibly Drew Dalman and Matt Hennessy, and a few undrafted rookies. If Gono wins that job—or if Mayfield doesn’t, period—his positional versatility will likely be something the Falcons take full advantage of.
On Wednesday, with Kaleb McGary and Gono not practicing, Mayfield took right tackle snaps. Andrews continues to get plenty of time at left guard, an early trend that bears watching heading into training camp.
#Falcons rookie Jalen Mayfield at right tackle with Kaleb McGary and Matt Gono not at practice today. Josh Andrew’s holding it down at left guard.— D. Orlando Ledbetter (@DOrlandoAJC) June 9, 2021
The big question for Mayfield is readiness. Atlanta’s getting a 21-year-old mauler who doesn’t have prototypical arm length—his are in the neighborhood of Sam Baker, who was a starting tackle for years despite the Chicago Tribune saying he’d “have trouble getting the lint out of his pants pockets”—but otherwise looks to have the physicality and ability to be a contributor at guard or tackle for Atlanta, and the Falcons clearly drafted him with the thought that he could be a long-term starter on this line. If he doesn’t get there in year one, Mayfield will likely be counted upon to back up multiple positions, so he’ll get some time regardless.
But all that is ahead of us, because holding down right tackle with your top two guys out of practice doesn’t suggest anything beyond “hey, we know he CAN play tackle.” Expect Mayfield to compete for the left guard job first and foremost based on what we’ve heard to this point.
Mykal Walker got a pick six
I mention this highlight because Walker showed signs of being a damn good player in 2020, and his instincts and polish were extremely impressive for a rookie linebacker trying to get the job done in a shaky, inconsistent defense. A preseason interception off a Matt Ryan pass probably doesn’t indicate a spectacular breakout year ahead for Walker, but it worked out pretty well for Kyle Shanahan back in 2016.
We’ll see what day three brings a little later, and then it’s a couple of OTAs and we’re largely wrapped up until training camp. Enjoy this football-like substance while it lasts.