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Falcons training camp recap: Day 8

Here are the most noteworthy observations from Day 8 of Falcons Training Camp, including Dante Fowler returning off the COVID list and some shuffling on the offensive line.

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

The Falcons held their final open training camp practice at Flowery Branch on Friday, and it was reportedly a fairly quiet day. In preparation for a more lively event at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday night, today’s practice did not feature pads or contact, and instead focused on install and walkthroughs. Here are some of the most interesting observations from Day 8 of Training Camp.

Dante Fowler Jr. returns off the reserve/COVID-19 list

The Falcons have been missing their top edge rusher since the start of training camp, as Dante Fowler Jr. was on the reserve/COVID-19 list. That has finally come to an end, as the veteran EDGE was activated off the list on Friday.

It’s unclear if Fowler actually practiced today or was simply returned to the active roster. Still, all eyes will be on Fowler over the course of the preseason to see if the expensive pass rusher can live up to his potential this season. A strong showing in Dean Pees’ defense—which many fans and analysts believe is a better fit for Fowler than Quinn’s—would go a long way to assuaging our concerns about the EDGE group.

Calvin Ridley returns from rest day, Trevor Davis joins the team

Another vital veteran returned to the field on Friday, but thankfully his absence wasn’t injury-related. Top receiver Calvin Ridley had a veteran rest day on Thursday, but was full-go once again for Friday’s shortened practice.

It’s wise for the Falcons to limit Ridley’s practice reps early on, especially with the talented wideout returning from a minor surgery that occurred just over a month ago. Meanwhile, recently-signed WR Trevor Davis participated in his first practice today. It seems a number swap was negotiated, as WR Tajae Sharpe has switched to 4 and given 83 to Davis. We haven’t heard much about Davis as of yet, but ESPN’s Michael Rothstein reported that Davis was working with the punt returners during special teams drills.

Jason Spriggs getting reps with the starters

A good example of an observation that could be nothing but is certainly worth reporting, ESPN’s Michael Rothstein noticed that there was a bit of a shakeup at right tackle during Friday’s practice. Rookie Jalen Mayfield, who had been starting at right tackle in Kaleb McGary’s absence, was working with the second team today. Meanwhile, former second-rounder and recent signing Jason Spriggs got work with the starters.

Rothstein was quick to point out that this was a shortened, “walkthrough” practice in preparation for Saturday’s event at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. However, it’s worth noting that Spriggs has apparently earned a chance to work with the starters after joining the team just before camp. With Matt Gono’s availability for much of the season in serious doubt—and Mayfield potentially factoring in at guard after McGary returns—Spriggs could be in the mix for the swing tackle job.

Adetokunbo Ogundeji continues to work with the starters

Rookie fifth-round EDGE Adetokunbo Ogundeji has had a slow but steady ascension to the top of the depth chart. After playing primarily with the second team over the first few days of camp, Ogundeji began to earn reps with the starters. Now it seems he’s a regular fixture with the 1s, as ESPN’s Michael Rothstein reported that Ogundeji “once again received a bunch of first-team reps”.

It’s worth wondering if Ogundeji will continue to receive the same volume of opportunities with Dante Fowler returning from the reserve/COVID-19 list, but it’s abundantly clear that the rookie has made an impression on the coaching staff. Veteran Steven Means and former UDFA Jacob Tuioti-Mariner seem to be the early favorites to start opposite Fowler, but it’s entirely possible that Ogundeji’s impressive training camp has earned him a permanent spot in the rotation.

Dorian Etheridge impresses with second team

There weren’t a lot of interesting tidbits from today’s practice—it was apparently “shortened” and at a slower speed—but one player who Rothstein noticed was UDFA linebacker Dorian Etheridge. Etheridge has apparently been earning snaps consistently with the second team after starting camp working with the 3s, and continued his impressive play on Friday.

I definitely noticed Etheridge gaining more snaps over the course of the first week, and even making it onto the field in the mixed 1s-and-2s team sessions that the Falcons seem to run near the end of practice. If that trend continues, Etheridge could emerge as the favorite for the fifth and final roster spot at ILB. He’s got an advantage over fellow UDFA Erroll Thompson in terms of athleticism and coverage ability, as Thompson is very much an old-school, run-stuffing thumper. The battle between those two should be a fun one to watch during the preseason.

Thanks for following along today, and big shout out to Michael Rothstein for his notes from an admittedly slow day of practice. Saturday will be the final practice open to fans, and will take place at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. After that, we’ll be straight on into the preseason. Speaking of, Atlanta’s first preseason game is just a week from today: Friday, August 13 at 7:00 PM ET.