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Falcons training camp recap: Day 4

We had Kevin Knight on-site once again for Day 4 of Falcons Training Camp. Here are the most noteworthy observations from a surprisingly cool and breezy Sunday morning at Flowery Branch.

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

The Falcons held their second open practice of 2021 Training Camp on Sunday. Crowds were down and the weather was surprisingly nice to kick off the month of August, with temperatures in the mid-70s and a consistent breeze. I was once again on-site at Flowery Branch, and here are some of my most noteworthy observations from another exciting day of practice.

A.J. Terrell, Darren Hall impress at CB

While much of the focus has been on the Falcons offensive playmakers in training camp, the secondary had an impressive day on Sunday. A.J. Terrell was arguably the best rookie cornerback in the NFL during the 2020 season, and he’s having a very strong start to his second training camp.

Terrell had a very nice interception, stealing the ball right out of tight end Jaeden Graham’s hands and running it down the sideline for what would have been a pick-6 in a live game. He also showed off tight coverage and terrific movement skills throughout the day, with another pass breakup on wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus. Terrell wasn’t the only cornerback who had a strong day, however.

By my observation over the past two days of practice, the most effective player in coverage on Kyle Pitts has been rookie CB Darren Hall. Hall has two pass breakups against Pitts thus far, as has generally played an aggressive, ballhawking style of coverage. He’s definitely a player to continue to monitor through the preseason, as the depth chart is currently wide open behind the top three of Terrell, Fabian Moreau, and Isaiah Oliver.

Qadree Ollison is the current RB2

We spent a great deal of time on The Falcoholic Live arguing about who would be the primary backup for starting running back Mike Davis, but very little of it was focused on former fifth-round pick Qadree Ollison. It appears we may have missed the mark, as Ollison has had an impressive start to training camp.

From Saturday through today, Ollison was taking reps exclusively with the first team offense. Not only that, he was looking good. Ollison appears more confident and decisive in Arthur Smith’s zone-based rushing attack—a scheme that fits his skillset a lot better than Dirk Koetter’s confused system in 2019-2020. Hopefully, Ollison can continue to build on his strong start to camp with an impressive preseason. At his size, he’s a logical primary backup to Mike Davis who can do a lot of similar things.

Frank Darby, Chris Rowland, and Austin Trammell stand out

The Falcons once again put the wide receivers front-and-center for the fans to see up close, and the group didn’t disappoint. There were some electric catches by the usual suspects—Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage, and Olamide Zaccheaus still seem like the clear cut starting trio—but some other players also managed to stand out on Sunday.

After a quiet Saturday, rookie Frank Darby was the star of the show today. He opened things up with an excellent catch-and-run down the sideline during the initial 11-on-11 session and never let up, adding several additional impressive catches to his highlight reel. Other receivers who made an impact were Austin Trammell—who also stood out yesterday—and former UDFA Chris Rowland. Trammell added a few other good grabs and a very nice long punt return, while Rowland made a spectacular diving sideline catch against tight coverage from rookie safety Richie Grant.

If the first few days of camp are any indication, it’s going to very difficult to decide who to keep on the 53-man roster.

Matt Hennessy is the clear leader at center

Fans didn’t get to see much from 2020 third-round pick Matt Hennessy outside of a few games as an injury replacement, but he appears to be impressing the new coaching staff. After the addition of fourth-round pick Drew Dalman in the 2021 NFL Draft, the center position seemed like it could be up in the air going into camp.

That doesn’t appear to be the case right now, with Hennessy getting all the first-team reps at center and looking good doing it. Obviously, it’s difficult to fully evaluate line play without full contact and pads, but Hennessy’s movement skills and ability to climb to the second level were on full display on several run plays. Meanwhile, Drew Dalman got some looks as both a center and guard with the second team offense.

Arthur Smith’s offense features constant pre-snap motion

One of the biggest criticisms of Dirk Koetter’s offense in 2020 was the lack of pre-snap and at-snap motion—which has been correlated with greater and more consistent offensive success over the past few NFL seasons. It’s not that Koetter never used motion, but he did use it at one of the lowest rates in the league. That’s all going to change under Arthur Smith in 2021.

Smith’s offenses in Tennessee were consistently ranked among the best in pre- and at-snap motion, and he’s brought that tendency with him to Atlanta. There was rarely a play where there wasn’t motion, including both 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 reps. That’s a good sign, as motion is an invaluable tool for reading a defense, helping to identify mismatches, and generally keeping your opponent off-balance. I’m excited to see if this simple change contributes to a better Falcons offense in 2021.

Thanks for following along with me today! Monday is an off day, so we’ll all get a break tomorrow. However, I’ll be on the sideline with the media on both Tuesday and Wednesday. So you can look forward to even more in-depth coverage—and hopefully a few great videos—later in the week!