The sixth day of Atlanta Falcons training camp started off cloudy but heated up quick, both in terms of weather and the on-field performance. After a slower-paced warm-up for the first day in pads, the Falcons turned up the intensity on Day 6. Today’s practice featured a lot of 7-on-7, 11-on-11, and our first legitimate look at 1-on-1 drills on the offensive and defensive line. There certainly weren’t a lot of those OL/DL drills, but we got to see some!
Let’s get right to it.
Offense and defense trade blows on Day 6
In terms of the overall performance on both sides of the ball, this was perhaps the most competitive and evenly-matched practice so far. The first-team offense had some terrific plays to open practice, connecting on a number of passing plays for big gains. On defense, Atlanta remained stout against the run, largely shutting down every running back not named Tyler Allgeier (more on him later).
That competitiveness carried over into the first “public” 1-on-1 session, where we got to see the reps on the close field—without being blocked by the entire team. It was definitely back and forth, with the OL and DL trading blows. UDFA DT Derrick Tangelo was one of the clear winners from the 1-on-1 session, dominating G Jalen Mayfield and C Drew Dalman on two separate reps.
The offensive line fought back, though, with OT Germain Ifedi stonewalling rookie EDGE Arnold Ebiketie, C Matt Hennessy doing good work against DT Jalen Dalton, and veteran G Colby Gossett handling NT Timmy Horne.
It was the same story in coverage. Kyle Pitts dominated everyone he faced, save for one short pass broken up by LB Mykal Walker. Walker was unfortunately the victim of a highlight-reel play earlier in the day, but he showed he can keep up with Pitts in reduced space.
End of practice features a competitive two-minute drill
To close out practice, the team participated in a fully simulated “2 minute, 2 down” drill. That means there were two minutes on the clock, and the offense needs a FG to win. Both the first and second-team went through this simulation, and both units were pretty impressive.
With the first-team, it was a hard fought battle between offense and defense. Marcus Mariota was cooking early, hitting Kyle Pitts on two consecutive plays to get a big chunk of yardage. The defense would come to play on the next two downs, as A.J. Terrell locked down Drake London on 1st down and a deep bomb to Olamide Zaccheaus was close, but incomplete.
Mariota was able to officially get the team into field-goal range with a quick pass to Damiere Byrd, and another short completion to Cameron Batson saw the offense wind down the clock for the kick attempt. It would have been about a 50-yard attempt, but with Younghoe Koo at kicker, I’d pencil that in as a W for the first-team offense.
The second-team session was just as exciting, as Desmond Ridder came on the field at QB. You could tell Ridder was a little uncomfortable in the high-pressure, high-speed environment compared to Mariota—which is completely understandable. Still, Ridder braved a lot of heat from the defense and a few incompletions before the offense wound up in 4th-and-short. Ridder successfully converted on 4th down with a quick-hitter to Stanley Berryhill.
The next set of downs started off promising, but a penalty pushed back the offense. Facing third-and-long, Ridder went to “ole reliable”: TE/QB Feleipe Franks. Franks made the catch but was brought down short of the first down. Facing another 4th-and-short and very little time on the clock, Ridder went deep to Cameron Batson and hit him in stride for a first down near the 20. However, Batson was flagged for OPI, and that effectively ended the series. Chalk that one up as a W for the second-team defense, but a hard-fought one.
Overall, you love to see the competitiveness on both sides of the ball. I hope we see more stuff like this in the future.
Casey Hayward gets a pick, Dee Alford continues to impress
We’ll touch on some of the standout players on defense, first. Veteran cornerback Casey Hayward has had a relatively quiet camp—which is a good thing for a DB, in general—but had some flashy plays today. He notched his first interception of training camp off a bobbled pass by wide receiver Damiere Byrd. The pass was delivered on target by Marcus Mariota, since I know you’ll ask.
In terms of other corners that impressed, there’s obviously A.J. Terrell. I haven’t spent a lot of time talking about him, because honestly, we all know how good he is. He’s continued to be that good in camp. Here’s a great clip of him pretty effortlessly breaking up a pass intended for Damiere Byrd.
In terms of other, lesser-known corners who are stepping up, CFL-standout Dee Alford has continued to make plays despite getting mossed by Drake London a few days ago. He had an impressive pass breakup working against Frank Darby on a deep route. Here’s a play of his against WR Cameron Batson, who runs a 4.35s 40, where he stays stride-for-stride with him to force a throw out of bounds by the QB.
Bryan Edwards returns, Drake London and Cordarrelle Patterson pop
On a day where injuries overtook the NFL—and the Falcons, sadly, were no exception—it was nice to see some positive injury news as well. Wide receiver Bryan Edwards, who missed Monday’s practice with a shoulder injury, returned to the field after just one day off. It’s worth noting that Edwards was wearing a yellow “non-contact” jersey, but he seemed to be out there for all drills and a portion of the team session as well.
We also saw another strong day from rookie wide receiver Drake London, who had a great session in 11-on-11. He made a big catch downfield from Desmond Ridder for about a 30-yard gain, and had this impressive 1-on-1 rep against cornerback Darren Hall. Hall had tight coverage, but London brought in the ball anyway.
Then there’s Cordarrelle Patterson. Let’s be honest: Patterson doesn’t get a ton of reps at camp. That makes perfect sense, as the team wants to keep him fresh and they already know what he can do. But he gets a handful of opportunities every day, and he absolutely made the most of his on Tuesday. Let’s all enjoy this amazing downfield grab from Patterson—and upon re-watching the video, I’m thinking it was actually perfect placement considering the position of the DB and not an underthrow.
Other notes from Day 6
- While we got good news in Bryan Edwards returning to the lineup after just one day off, there was bad injury news as well. Veteran defensive tackle Vincent Taylor ruptured his Achilles, which will cause him to miss the entirety of the 2022 season. It’s a brutal blow for Taylor, who looked to have a clear path to the roster and had finally returned from a season-ending injury in 2021.
- Your daily update on the offensive line: today’s starting five were LT Jake Matthews, LG Elijah Wilkinson, C Matt Hennessy, RG Chris Lindstrom, and RT Kaleb McGary. It seems that we should now refer to Wilkinson as the starting left guard, as there’s no indication that Jalen Mayfield will get his spot back. The Dalman/Hennessy rotation continues, while it was once again Kaleb McGary at right tackle. Germain Ifedi did have a terrific rep in 1-on-1s, so his presence is still something to monitor.
- Cornerback Mike Ford has continued to play the majority of snaps with the starters, while Isaiah Oliver primarily plays with the second-team. I think it’s too early to read anything into this, but it’s worth monitoring as camp goes on. Oliver continues to wear his knee brace.
- The run game is still struggling with pads on, but one player is not: rookie Tyler Allgeier. He’s impressed with pads and more allowed contact, and absolutely leveled linebacker Nate Landman on a big run late in practice.
- TE/QB Feleipe Franks and Desmond Ridder are definitely developing a strong rapport. I’ll say it: Franks looks like a legitimate threat at tight end, and not just as an end-of-roster project. Here he is beating linebacker Troy Andersen, who we know is a terrific athlete. It looks like Andersen stumbled in coverage, but it’s still impressive.
- I think it’s clear that UDFA receivers Stanley Berryhill Jr. and Jared Bernhardt are the frontrunners for the practice squad. Berryhill Jr. has been excellent as a receiver, making sharp cuts and showing off great hands—he had his only drop in camp today. You can just tell Bernhardt is so talented, and the team absolutely loves his character.
That’s all for today’s training camp notes. I’ll be back at Flowery Branch, bright and early, for the last time this season on Wednesday. It’s been a blast, and I’ve really enjoyed bring you all this coverage. Thanks for reading and supporting us.