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Falcons training camp 2023: Day 7 recap and notes

Day 7 of Falcons training camp was cool and cloudy for change. It also featured a quality performance from both Desmond Ridder and Taylor Heinicke, as both had their best throws of camp on Wednesday.

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

The weather finally turned (relatively) cool and cloudy on Wednesday ahead of the seventh day of Atlanta Falcons training camp. It made things all the more bearable for Adnan and Kevin, who continued watching and dissecting every play during the third consecutive padded practice. For more coverage and clips, we direct you to our Twitter (X?) feeds (Kevin, Adnan).

Let’s get to it with some of our observations from Day 7 of camp.

Another day of stout run defense

Atlanta’s run defense has been absolutely unrelenting since the pads came on. The defensive line is getting penetration, the linebackers are playing their gaps well, and everyone seems to be rallying to the ball with intensity.

After a great session on Monday and an absolutely shut down practice yesterday, the run defense once again won the day. There were a couple of longer runs from recent signee Godwin Igwebuike and Carlos Washington Jr., but both of those were against the third team defense.

Given what we’ve seen so far, we would not be at all surprised to see the Falcons boast a top 10 or even better run defense this year. That would be a major boost to the defense as a whole, and it’s a core component of defensive coordinator Ryan Nielson’s scheme. He’s been quoted as saying that the defense needs to “earn” the right to rush the passer by playing stout football on first and second down, and that part of the team seems to be coming along very nicely.

Desmond Ridder and Taylor Heinicke both make some spectacular throws

Atlanta’s top two signal callers, along with Toledo legend Logan Woodside, continued looking sharp in the short passing game. That seems to be the majority of what is being dialed up in scrimmages, but Taylor Heinicke has stood out for his willingness to push the ball downfield. That has resulted in some good and bad plays throughout camp—including a ball into double coverage that should’ve been picked off during Wednesday’s practice.

We normally put less weight on the one on one drills since the offensive players are always at a significant advantage. Arthur Smith even agreed with that sentiment in the post-practice press conference. But we did take notice of Desmond Ridder’s accuracy in these drills today.

Ridder also had one of his best passes of camp in 7-on-7s. He threw a perfect ball to WR J.J. Arcega-Whiteside on what looked to be an intermediate dig route, hitting Arcega-Whiteside in stride with an opportunity for some serious yards after catch. There was also a nice throw and catch by Ridder to JJAW in the 1-on-1 session.

Heinicke had the pass of the day, however, hitting a home run to WR Frank Darby on a deep pass for a touchdown in 11-on-11s. CB Tre Flowers had great coverage but the pass could not have been more perfect on Darby’s front shoulder. Heinicke has impressed us in camp so far, with the caveat that the majority of his work has come against the second-team defense.

Frank Darby and JJ Arcega-Whiteside step up in the WR5 competition

Speaking of Frank Darby and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, the most heated roster battle during this year’s camp is almost certainly for the WR5 (maybe WR6) role. There are a number of contenders, but Darby and JJAW have come on strong over the past few days in pads.

Last week, we saw Xavier Malone, Slade Bolden, Penny Hart and Keilahn Harris each have their own individual moments of positivity in the competition. All those guys have continued to make plays, which makes predicting this group even more difficult.

Darby in particular has come on very strong lately. He caught the home run pass from Heinicke mentioned in the previous section and had a really good contested catch against CB Cornell Armstrong in the one on one portion.

This battle looks like it’ll drag on well into the preseason, and it’s truly wide open at this stage. Based on the current depth chart and where guys are lined up, it would seem that Frank Darby, Penny Hart, and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside are leading the pack. There’s still an opportunity for someone to make the roster by winning the punt return battle, as well.

DeAngelo Malone has his best day

We haven’t really mentioned second year edge rusher DeAngelo Malone too much during the first week of camp, but today he demanded our attention.

It started with a rather impressive bull rush rep he had against offensive tackle Jalen Mayfield in the early one on one portion where he knocked the lineman off balance with a vicious move.

The good day continued as Malone got a sack against Ridder in the 11-on-11 portion. It looked like he got to the QB along with fellow edge rusher Ade Ogundeji on the play—so we’ll award them each 0.5 sacks on the play.

It’s nice to see a good day for Malone alongside several good practices from other young edge rushers like Arnold Ebiketie and Zach Harrison thus far. The coaches have to be pleased with Atlanta’s young collection of pass rushers through the first day of camp. Hopefully the group can translate their strong start into preseason, and eventually, regular season success.

Other notes

  • Bijan Robinson continued his streak of days with a highlight reel play. Today he added two: a beautiful grab on a deep crosser from Desmond Ridder in 7-on-7s, and a dominant 1-on-1 catch working against cornerback Mike Hughes.
  • Surprise surprise, star CB A.J. Terrell had another strong day at camp. He didn’t concede a single completion during the scrimmage portion (though the QBs weren’t really challenging him much), and he had a nice pass breakup in a one on one against Arcega-Whiteside with suffocating coverage.
  • We liked what we saw from LB Nate Landman, who was once again a major factor in run defense. He continues rolling with the second team and looks like he’s really solidifying himself as a backup to Kaden Ellis and Troy Andersen.
  • The offense had a much better day today than we saw yesterday, and part of that may have been due to the leadership qualities of Desmond Ridder that we’ve heard so much about. Ridder let us know in the post-practice presser that he gathered the offensive players and told them that they needed more energy the next day following yesterday’s session, and his teammates seemed to have responded well.
  • A couple of injuries for the team late in practice today. Both G Ethan Greenidge and DE Ikenna Enechukwu were carted off the field in the span of three plays. There were no updates available immediately after practice, though Arthur Smith said the initial ligament tests seemed clear.
  • Matt Hennessy remained sidelined as rookie left guard Matthew Bergeron continued working with the starters. Arthur Smith continued to reiterate that he’s day to day. TE Jonnu Smith also missed his second straight practice. Arthur said he had a “flair up” but isn’t too worried. Said he expects Smith back for their trip to Miami next week “at the latest”. It also appeared to be a veteran rest day for Cordarrelle Patterson and Keith Smith.
  • Training camp interception counter (only counting scrimmages and red zone drills): Jaylinn Hawkins (2), Micah Abernathy, Clark Phillips III, Richie Grant

That it’s from us for today! It’s an off day tomorrow so a day off for everyone involved. This marks the conclusion of Kevin’s training camp coverage for 2023 as he flies back home to New York. We will have our own Will McFadden covering practice for The Falcoholic on Friday, and then Adnan will be back out there once more on Saturday.

What are your thoughts on Day 7’s practice? Are you excited to see more battles in the trenches now that the pads have come on?