The seventh day of Atlanta Falcons training camp—the third straight in pads—featured a dominant performance by the defense. With a combination of smothering coverage, stout run defense, and an active pass rush, Dean Pees’ unit took control on Wednesday. The offense was asked to push the ball downfield more by Arthur Smith, and while there were still a handful of great connections, it clearly remains a work-in-progress.
Let’s get to the good stuff.
Defense gets the W on Day 7
During Grady Jarrett’s post-practice presser, he said he though the defense won on Day 7—though he admitted he was probably biased. I’d tend to agree with him though. The Falcons defense played well in all three phases: smothering coverage, stout run defense, and an active pass rush. Both the first and second-team units played with a lot of confidence in what was a fairly active practice.
A lot of players made an impact today. There were likely sacks from EDGE Ade Ogundeji, DT Nick Thurman, and DT Jalen Dalton. Against the run, NT Timmy Horne had a very active practice with Anthony Rush absent for an undisclosed reason. He was involved in multiple TFLs and run stuffs throughout practice. DT Darrion Daniels batted down a pass from Desmond Ridder which very nearly nearly resulted in a pick-six from rookie EDGE Arnold Ebiketie.
If you’re hoping for an improved defense in 2022, all the early returns are looking positive.
Richie Grant, Darren Hall, and Mike Ford have strong days in coverage
The standout in the secondary—in terms of unexpected players, at least—has pretty consistently remained second-year safety Richie Grant. Grant caught a lot of flak during his rookie season for failing to crack the starting lineup at safety, and expectations were high for this offseason. So far, Grant has absolutely answered the call. Not only as he looked like the best safety on the team, he’s been the only player outside of A.J. Terrell who has had success covering Kyle Pitts.
Outside of Grant, two other players continued to bounce back after getting beaten on some reps earlier in camp. Second-year cornerback Darren Hall was really close to some highlight reel plays early in camp but couldn’t quite get there. Over the past few days, he’s started to come on and impress more consistently. Here he is getting an impressive jumping PBU working against wide receiver Tyshaun James.
Another player who has started to string a few good days together is veteran cornerback Mike Ford. Signed initially for his special teams acumen, Ford has been playing a lot in the slot as Isaiah Oliver works his way back to full speed. He has had some up-and-down reps, but generally hasn’t looked out of place for someone making the jump to the first-team after spending most of his career as a reserve. Here’s a nice PBU working against wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge.
Drake London makes the play of the day
With the defense mostly controlling things on Day 7, there weren’t quite as many flashy plays by the offense. Arthur Smith made it clear that the coaching staff was asking the quarterbacks to take more risks and push the ball downfield to help work on that part of the offense. It’s still very much a work-in-progress, but there were some positive signs. It should also be noted that the offense continued to look sharp in the short-to-intermediate passing game, but it wasn’t emphasized as much during today’s practice.
The play of the day featured exactly the player you want to be hearing about: rookie wide receiver Drake London. London had a chance to match up with veteran cornerback Casey Hayward 1-on-1, and well, I’ll let the rep speak for itself.
There were a handful of other nice throws, but I particularly enjoyed this 1-on-1 battle between wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus and cornerback Dee Alford. Zaccheaus puts a move on Alford, which forces the hold, and still manages to make a great TD catch thanks to a well-placed ball from Desmond Ridder.
Tyler Allgeier has emerged as the most consistent runner in pads
I’ll be honest: the running game has been the weakest part of the offense so far. It’s not that there haven’t been any good runs, but there’s been very little consistency. A lot of that probably has to do with a lack of chemistry among the starting five—the group is constantly being shuffled, after all—and some of it is likely the defense playing better than expected.
There were a number of standout runners early in camp before pads, but a clear winner has emerged thus far in pads: rookie Tyler Allgeier. He’s shown off good vision, decisiveness, and an ability to get through very small creases—plus his trademark physicality as a runner. Allgeier definitely looks the most consistent of the bunch and has shown off very reliable hands, as well.
Qadree Ollison did get some additional reps today with Damien Williams absent, and he took advantage. He was the second-most impressive runner today, but was a little more up-and-down than Allgeier. Caleb Huntley also got more work, and again, was up-and-down. All the running backs have looked capable, but it’ll be tough for guys like Ollison and Huntley to earn a roster spot over the top-4 of Cordarrelle Patterson, Damien Williams, Tyler Allgeier, and Avery Williams.
Other notes from Day 7
- RB Damien Williams and NT Anthony Rush were not present at practice on Wednesday. Arthur Smith didn’t disclose exactly why, saying only that the team “has different plans for different guys.” He did say it if was a notable injury or issue, the team would say so. In positive news, WR Bryan Edwards was on the practice field again, but was still wearing the yellow non-contact jersey.
- Your daily update on the offensive line: the starters on Day 7 were LT Jake Matthews, LG Elijah Wilkinson, C Drew Dalman, RG Chris Lindstrom, and RT Kaleb McGary. I think it’s safe to call Wilkinson the starter and incumbent Jalen Mayfield the challenger after six-straight starts for Wilkinson. Meanwhile, we’ve gotten little clarity on the state of the center battle, as both Dalman and incumbent Matt Hennessy have been pretty solid.
- It’s time to start taking RB Avery Williams seriously as a threat in the passing game. He has been absolutely lethal in 1-on-1s and has been peppered with targets by both quarterbacks in team drills. I think the team loves his potential there and will find creative ways to get him involved in the passing game. Remember, Mike Davis had a whopping 58 targets—fourth-most on the team—in 2021, and Williams has a lot more upside.
- This is your daily appreciation bullet for TE/QB Feleipe Franks, who once again had some terrific plays and also had praise heaped on him by head coach Arthur Smith.
That’s all for today’s training camp notes. Sadly, Wednesday marked my final day reporting from Flowery Branch. I had a terrific time and I’m already looking forward to next year. Obviously, our coverage here at The Falcoholic will continue, just from afar. I will note that Adnan Ikic will be on-site on Saturday, so you should get at least one more day of in-person coverage from us this season.
Thanks for all your support and for coming along for the ride. I definitely got a better understanding of where the team is at over these first seven practices, and I hope you did too. Next up: the preseason, which starts in just about a week. Can’t wait!