The fifth day of Atlanta Falcons training camp was greeted with early fanfare, as it was the first opportunity to watch the 2022 team in full pads. However, much like the first day of practice, it was more of a warm-up session with a little bit of action mixed in late. Monday featured a lot of drills, a brief 7-on-7 session, and a good amount of 11-on-11 that occurred on the far field.
Despite the difficulty of observing practice from far away, we got to see a dominant performance by the defense—both in terms of the ground game and in coverage—and a handful of impressive plays by the offense.
Let’s get to the good stuff.
Defense dominates on Day 5
It’s been a very back-and-forth training camp so far, with the offense and defense trading blows and coming out mostly even over the course of the first five days. Today marked the first day in pads, and we’ve all been wondering if that physicality would change things on either side of the ball. The very early returns have been positive for the defense, which dominated during the full 11-on-11 sessions throughout most of Monday’s practice.
The run defense was absolutely smothering outside of a few good runs by rookie Tyler Allgeier and Qadree Ollison. Rookie edge rusher Arnold Ebiketie had an impressive play, shedding his blocker and making a run stop for no gain. Veteran DT Jalen Dalton also had a notable run stop, tripping up Caleb Huntley for a minimal gain.
The coverage was excellent once again. Today’s star was veteran cornerback Casey Hayward, who had terrific coverage on rookie WR Drake London in the endzone. His presence forced a high throw from Mariota, and London couldn’t come down with it.
Hayward also had another strong play against veteran receiver Geronimo Allison. Mariota is able to complete the pass, but Hayward is on him immediately to prevent any yards after catch. I didn’t notice Hayward at first when I tweeted it, but he clearly gets his hands on Allison.
It seemed like the second-team offense had significantly more success against the second-team defense, for what it’s worth. But the starting defense deserves credit for their best performance yet.
Grady Jarrett is a one-man wrecking crew
Speaking of defensive dominance, star defensive tackle Grady Jarrett took advantage of the first day in pads to put on a show to kick off 11-on-11. The defense stuffed Damien Williams on first down, and from then on, it was Jarrett’s show. Grady “sacked” Mariota on the next play, immediately beating the offensive lineman (I couldn’t tell if it was the center or left guard). Then, he did it again, instantly finding his way into the backfield to chase down Cordarrelle Patterson from the back side of the play.
Jarrett is going to be the heart-and-soul of this defensive line, both from a talent and leadership perspective. Early on, he looks like he’s worth every single penny of that extension. Hopefully the rest of the line can support him and make plays of their own when opponents inevitably game plan to stop Jarrett.
Bryan Edwards sits, Damiere Byrd impresses
I noticed WR Bryan Edwards leave practice a little bit early on Saturday after appearing to injure his shoulder or arm. On Monday, I got an update from Terry Fontenot on Edwards’ status.
#Falcons Terry Fontenot says WR Bryan Edwards has a shoulder injury, they checked it out. Not sure if he'll be practicing today or not.— Kevin Knight (@FalcoholicKevin) August 1, 2022
Fontenot confirmed that Edwards has a shoulder injury, but didn’t seem overly concerned about it and was unsure if he would even sit out practice. I can confirm that Edwards did not practice on Monday. In his post-practice presser, Arthur Smith gave more details on Edwards’ injury and timeline. For more information, check out the write-up done by Dave Choate.
Edwards’ absence led to an increase in targets for veterans Damiere Byrd and Geronimo Allison, but it was Byrd who really took advantage of the opportunity. Byrd was the most impressive offensive player on Monday, catching a touchdown from Desmond Ridder.
Byrd also beat veteran CB Casey Hayward with a diving reception for a big gain during 11-on-11. After a relatively quiet start to camp for the speedy receiver, he made a strong case to be one of Atlanta’s primary deep threats.
First look at the punter battle
For all the special teams sickos out there (Evan Birchfield), we finally got our first look at the punters today. We saw a handful of punts from both veteran Bradley Pinion and UDFA Seth Vernon. Honestly, both looked good. They both seemed to get quality distance and hangtime.
Here’s a punt from Seth Vernon—which I got a better angle on.
For what it’s worth, Arthur Smith seemed to praise Pinion quite a bit in his post-practice presser. I didn’t get an exact quote as I was leaving practice early, but he seemed to indicate that Pinion was more-or-less expected to be the starter. That’s not a shock considering Pinion’s experience and skill as both a punter and kickoff artist. I think it’s still worth monitoring Vernon’s punting during camp and preseason, as an impressive performance could still get him on the practice squad.
Other notes from Day 5
- Your daily update on the offensive line: today’s starting five were LT Jake Matthews, LG Elijah Wilkinson, C Drew Dalman, RG Chris Lindstrom, and RT Kaleb McGary. For those keeping score, that marks four straight starts at left guard for Wilkinson. Center has continued to go back-and-forth between Dalman and incumbent Matt Hennessy. Right tackle has had very little intrigue thus far, with McGary holding it down for all five days. I’m beginning to wonder if Germain Ifedi will even get a real opportunity.
- Cornerback Darren Hall got beat by Damiere Byrd in the clip above, but he had a strong day outside of that play with two PBUs across the remainder of plays at practice. This is a good place to remind you that the clips you see are just a fraction of all the plays going on at camp. Today, I was only able to record a brief session of 7-on-7—there were a lot of other plays I didn’t get to record.
- On a day where the running game struggled, rookie Tyler Allgeier had the best run near the end of practice. He squeezed through a small hole before exploding into the second-level for a sizable gain. As expected, the addition of pads and physicality has helped him.
- EDGE Jordan Brailford had a sack at the end of practice on Desmond Ridder.
- TE/QB Feleipe Franks continues to make at least one highlight-reel catch every single day. Today it was a touchdown catch from Ridder where he created excellent separation against LB Dorian Etheridge.
That’s all for today’s training camp notes. I’ll be back at Flowery Branch bright and early on Tuesday for what I hope is a more action-packed (and recording-friendly) Day 6 of practice.