The Falcons held their second padded practice of 2021 Training Camp on Tuesday. It was a fairly cool but still sunny day at Flowery Branch, and we got a closer look at the second and third teams today with the starters mostly working on the far field. Here are some of my observations from Day 6.
Olamide Zaccheaus puts on a show
We’re still waiting to see how the depth chart will shake out at wide receiver behind the top two of Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage, who continue to work out separately with quarterbacks during position drills. However, it seems like former undrafted free agent Olamide Zaccheaus is the clear favorite for WR3 at this point in training camp.
Zaccheaus made play after play today in both 11-on-11, 7-on-7, and 1-on-1 sessions. He looks quick, has showed off excellent hands, and generally looks confident on the field. Zaccheaus has also notably been lined up both in the slot and outside, so there’s a chance he could be the starting outside WR opposite Calvin Ridley when the Falcons are in 12 personnel packages.
Atlanta needed someone to step up in a crowded but unproven WR depth chart, and it looks like Zaccheaus is the early winner there.
Tyeler Davison returns to practice, Austin Trammell still out
We got a few injury updates today, along with witnessing a few minor bumps and bruises throughout practice. Most notably, starting nose tackle Tyeler Davison returned to practice today and didn’t appear to be held out of any snaps, drills, or team sessions. We also got an update on the status of impressive UDFA WR Austin Trammell.
#Falcons impressive UDFA WR Austin Trammell "tweaked something" about halfway through practice on Tuesday, per source. Not expected to be a long absence.— Kevin Knight (@FalcoholicKevin) August 4, 2021
A team source told me that the injury was minor and occurred partway through Tuesday’s practice. It was described as a “tweak” and is not expected to keep Trammell on the sideline for long. TE Jaeden Graham also briefly came off the field after slipping on a route, but returned shortly after. Hayden Hurst took a hard hit in the final team session, but Arthur Smith didn’t express any concern about his status going forward during his press conference after practice.
Richie Grant and Adetokunbo Ogundeji continue to earn more reps with the starters
The Falcons have been adamant about making the rookies—outside of Kyle Pitts, because he’s just that good—earn their snaps with the starters. I’m happy to report that second-round pick, safety Richie Grant, has been getting more opportunities—including in 11-on-11 sessions today.
Rookie safety Richie Grant appears to be working with the 1s this morning in half-speed 11-on-11. #Falcons— Kevin Knight (@FalcoholicKevin) August 4, 2021
Rookie edge rusher Adetokunbo Ogundeji has also clearly been impressing the coaching staff, as he’s been involved in the mixed 1s-and-2s team sessions for the past several days. That trend continued today, and Ogundeji looked like he belonged there over the course of today’s practice. We’ll hope that the fifth-round pick can take on a significant role for Atlanta in 2021, as the depth chart at EDGE is concerning to say the least.
A.J. McCarron expected to win the backup QB job, but will have to earn it
After a solid practice from veteran QB A.J. McCarron, Arthur Smith was asked about the state of the backup QB competition. Smith expressed confidence in both QB options, but based on what we’ve seen in practice, A.J. McCarron has the clear advantage.
Arthur Smith: A.J. McCarron will have to earn the #2 QB job. Nothing will be given to him. That is a very tough role in the NFL. You don't get a lot of reps, and on any play you could come in the game. It's the job we expect him to earn but he's still got to do it. #Falcons— Kevin Knight (@FalcoholicKevin) August 4, 2021
Smith’s comments today drive home that UDFA Feleipe Franks has a difficult road ahead to winning the backup job—but not an impossible one. McCarron is “expected” to win the QB2 job, but Smith made it clear that they would have an actual competition and that nothing would be “given” to McCarron. Franks has continued to get more work in 11-on-11 sessions and has looked more comfortable every day. This looks like an exciting competition to watch in the preseason—just keep in mind that McCarron is the heavy favorite at this point.
Offensive depth players impress
While we had a couple of nice plays from defensive players in 1-on-1s and a forced fumble by Kendall Sheffield in the team session, it was the offensive depth players who put on a show all day. Hayden Hurst and Cordarrelle Patterson, in particular, were the standouts among the rotational starters. Hurst pulled in a few impressive catches and Patterson had a great downfield catch against Deion Jones.
Several depth players also stood out today, as the media got a much closer look at the mixed 2s-and-3s group. FB/TE John Raine was quite impressive, and was targeted a number of times as a receiver. Meanwhile, Christian Blake had a strong day after his spectacular catch on Tuesday, and UDFA RB Javian Hawkins continued his dominance against the second-string defense.
Thanks for following along with me over the past week! This is, sadly, my final day at Falcons training camp this year. It was a lot of fun and I’ll continue to provide remote coverage over the coming week and into the preseason.