The Falcons had their last public practice of the 2021 season at Mercedes Benz Stadium on Saturday August 7th. For many fans, it was a great opportunity to see the stadium, taste the food and support a good charity while seeing their favorite team practice on their home field.
The team was in pads but there was no live tackling. The practice was primarily 11 on 11 drills throughout, with the offense being intentionally put into different situations - whether it was their backs on their own goal line, in the red zone or in a hurry up. They ran the gamut. What did we learn from the practice?
Arthur Smith is changing this offense ... drastically
The Falcons were one of the worst teams in the league for using pre-snap motion and play action last year. Arthur Smith used it almost more than anyone in Tennessee. During the practice, the Falcons offense almost always had players in motion and they used play action a good bit. It was almost always the tight ends that were motioning, particularly Hayden Hurst.
Now, keep in mind that what the Falcons showed on Saturday was likely the most vanilla plays you’ll see. There’s no way they were going to unveil their actual playbook in a practice with 27,000 people watching. However, these concepts will probably carry over to the regular season and are completely consistent with what Smith has done the last 2 years with the Titans.
Young players are standing out
Everyone wants to know about Kyle Pitts. His first pass was dropped but he bounced back and caught several more later. However, the name that jumped out the most was A.J. Terrell. The second year corner was repeatedly making plays (against Calvin Ridley) and is consistently around the ball. Matt Ryan specifically called out Terrell as someone who is making a big impression early on.
Likewise, the battle to make the running back rotation is in full swing. It seems like Mike Davis is the presumed starter, but any one of Cordarelle Patterson, Javian Hawkins and Caleb Huntley were getting reps with the 1st team. Patterson had a fumble, which probably didn’t help him but his speed and size are noticeable. Hawkins has incredible speed and Huntley looks like a bruiser. This will be a key battle to watch.
With Kaleb McGary still out, Jalen Mayfield has been getting the 1st team snaps at right tackle ... until Saturday. Veteran OL Willie Beavers got all of the first team reps. Coach Smith clarified it was because Beavers has “earned the right” to get the snaps, so this is definitely something to watch. McGary may not be a presumed starter at this point, which could mean an offensive line with 3 new starters from 2020.
Guys like Olamide Zaccheaus and Tajae Sharpe are also fighting for snaps with the first team. Both guys are getting repeated opportunities to go out there with Matt Ryan and make an impression. Zaccheaus looks to be making a good impression early, but Sharpe has experience and history with Arthur Smith. That third and fourth WR spot could be a very interesting one to pay attention to.
If you’re looking for some additional notes about the practice, Michael Rothstein of ESPN does a great job of providing extensive thoughts after each practice. His are here:
Thoughts and notes from Saturday’s #Falcons practice at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, including a @Mrmattwalsh Veep reference and a nice touch to remember my colleague Vaughn McClure. pic.twitter.com/l8A857k8Eo— Michael Rothstein (@mikerothstein) August 7, 2021
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