Yesterday, the Falcons reported to training camp. As you might imagine, the assembled media were out in droves to see
As you’d expect from a day where the team’s beat writers were chatting with players as they rolled up to the team facility, we’re light on news. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t call out a few interesting observations and conversations from reporters who were there doing the work of checking in for us, though, especially if it helps whet our appetites for the actual news and practices just around the corner.
Mike Davis is home. There are a lot of players from Georgia playing in the NFL and quite a few end up on the Falcons, but it still feels fairly rare that the team lands someone who grew up as a bonafide fan of the team. That doesn’t guarantee success—Vic Beasley’s tenure in Atlanta had some real highs and lows, to put it succinctly—but Davis seems particularly excited to be with his hometown team. It helps that he’ll likely step into the largest role of his career right out of the gate.
On playing at home: “Of course, I feel like everybody always dream of playing at home. Growing up, I was a Falcons’ fan. I’ve seen everybody from Alge Crumpler to Michael Vick. I’ve seen everything growing up. The Falcons are my dream team. To actually play for the Falcons is a dream come true.”
We likely won’t see much of Davis in preseason, so it’ll be quick reports from practice until the season. That’s perfectly okay, because Davis is a strong fit for this Arthur Smith-led offense thanks to his ability to power through contact and pick up additional yards, and he’ll be the lead back in Atlanta no matter how the rest of the depth chart shakes out.
“Dean Pees his defense speaks for itself, it’s multiple but very simplistic.” Erik Harris gives great kudos to Pees and his scheme that he will bring to Atlanta. @e_harris_31 is also excited for this next chapter in his life for himself and his family. #Falcons #RiseUpATL pic.twitter.com/GgxbM2Wtlf— Maria Martin (@Ria_Martin) July 27, 2021
Harris, who figures to have a prominent role in this secondary even if he doesn’t wind up starting at safety, is echoing the best comments we’ve heard about Pees to this point. Atlanta’s going to need to depend on versatility in 2021 given their obvious weaknesses on defense, and Harris is an example of a value signing the Falcons hope can give them a season’s worth of capable snaps in multiple roles. It’ll be interesting to see how the pecking order shakes out at safety, where rookie Richie Grant, Harris and fellow free agent signing Duron Harmon join 2020 draft pick Jaylinn Hawkins.
Harmon, for his part, is candid that it’s going to take hard work, buy-in and reps to get this new-look secondary to come together. Again, the only man absolutely guaranteed a starting job right now is A.J. Terrell, who the Falcons hope will blossom into a lockdown cornerback in his second season. Everyone else is going to be competing for jobs, which makes camp and a truncated preseason critical.
Falcons LB Mykal Walker looks a lot bigger than he did last year. Said he put on 15 pounds this offseason and thinks he’s more powerful now. pic.twitter.com/nYdatwRX0V— Michael Rothstein (@mikerothstein) July 27, 2021
Mkyal Walker says he went from about “224 to 240” he also said he loves Coach Dean Pees and is excited to work with him this season “he turns players into legends.” #RiseUpATL #Falcons @MykalWalker3 pic.twitter.com/cIqEj9yuEO— Maria Martin (@Ria_Martin) July 27, 2021
Mykal Walker has put on some pounds, and not in the same way I have thanks to a desk job in a pandemic. This may just be part of him getting “more powerful,” as he’s quoted saying by ESPN’s Michael Rothstein, but it’s worth noting that we don’t know what kind of role the new coaching staff envisions for Walker. If they’re planning on moving him around the formation a bit and potentially even having him put his hand in the dirt and rush the passer at times, that extra weight may come in handy. There’s no question I’m bullish on Walker’s potential and versatility, given that he had a strong rookie season with a lot in flux around him.
File this one away for later.
#Falcons OL Matt Gono just showed up with a neck brace. He had offseason surgery.— D. Orlando Ledbetter (@DOrlandoAJC) July 27, 2021
We’ll end this one on a sour note. Gono’s status has been unclear for a while now, ever since multiple reports indicated he had an injury that might keep him out for a while. That timetable is no more clear now than it was when those reports first came in, but the fact that he has a neck brace and had surgery is certainly concerning.
If Gono’s not able to go for a bit, it’ll open the door for rookie Jalen Mayfield (if he’s not pushing Josh Andrews at left guard), recent free agent signing Jason Spriggs and others to try to claim a swing tackle role. Given that Gono was entering a fresh start with a new coaching staff and that he’s talented enough to carve out a major role on this offensive line, I truly hope this is more minor than it appears. We’ll likely get an update in the days ahead.