Atlanta Falcons Training Camp Highlights to Date

Camp in Full Swing

Matthews as Good as Advertised

Well, it’s finally here folks. The dreaded Dead Zone is over, the pads are on, and the fights are breaking out. Not necessarily that the fights are going strong, but the pure indication that Falcons Football is officially BACK!!!!! While we’re waiting on the Godfather (Seminole) to bring us his up-close view and opinions from Flowery Branch, here’s a few of the highlights from the fine Falcons beat reporter (Vaughn McClure at ESPN for those curious).

Jake Matthews as Good as Advertised

It’s music to fans ears that the Falcons #6 overall draft pick has lived up to the hype and then some already as a rookie. Yes, he hasn’t played in a live NFL game yet, but he’s held his own and then some against pretty much every player he’s faced. You also have to keep in mind that the Falcons don’t have the league’s premiere pass rushers, but he’s shown to a be a legit stud so far and even had no issue mixing it up with Kroy Biermann on Day 1.

Offense Struggling, but…………..

It’s only been 2 days of pads. Most coaches believe that the defense “should” be winning the battles early on in camp because it takes the offense longer to get into a groove than the defense. Where the offense has issues, it seems a normal progression. But when the defense is getting lit up left and right in the early days of camp, that would likely raise flags much quicker.

Nickel’s the Battle We Thought it Would Be

Everyone predicted that the fight for the nickel back position on defense (essentially considered a starter by Coach Smith) would be a good one. And it hasn’t seemed to disappoint early on. It appears that it’s a 4 way battle between Robert McClain, Javier Arenas, Josh Wilson, and rookie Ricardo Allen. McClain would seem to be the favorite, but wilson appears to be getting most of the reps so far. Not only is the nickel competition in play, there may be an odd man looking out if the Falcons carry only 5 cornerbacks.

Toughness Off to an Early Start

It should be said that fights alone should never be thought of as any indication whatsoever about how “tough” a team will be. Any fool can throw punches and get in fights. But what fans are hopeful of, and has been mentioned by a few players, is that the fights skirmishes are only a product of the fierce competition by both lines to become the driving force of grittiness and resolve for the 2014 Falcons.

Lesser Knowns and Rookies Doing Well

McClure has mentioned many names of players either thought to be on the roster bubble or just camp bodies that may get a backup position on the team. Several players have been singled out for good play thus far, including rookies Prince Shembo and Ra’Shede Hageman, as well as Lamar Holmes, Terren Jones, Malliciah Goodman, Jacques Smith, Bernard Reedy, Harland Gunn, Travian Robertson among others.  Honestly, this doesn’t mean much right now, but if they keep up their effort consistently they could either snag a roster spot or earn some playing time going forward.

5th WR Spot Reedy’s to Lose?

Right now, it seems as though Bernard Reedy may carry on the long line of undrafted free agent wide receivers breaking through. The news of Drew Davis’ injury coupled with Darius Johnson apparently retiring from football has seemed to give Reedy the inside track on making the team. Nothing is in stone yet, but Reedy possesses “elite speed” according to Coach Smith and that’s one trait that can’t be taught. While Johnson and Davis were solid, they were not speed merchants. Same goes for Harry Douglas and Roddy White as well.

Can an RB “Take the Ball and Run with It?”

Really terrible pun aside, the news that Steven Jackson injured his other hamstring and will be out at least until the opener has created a golden opportunity at running back. Right now, it seems as though rookie Devonta Freeman may the biggest beneficiary. The former Seminole has drawn rave reviews thus far and he really has a chance to push the envelope. It would seem that the battle will be between Freeman and Antone Smith, who Coach Smith swears will “get his chance.” Hard to imagine Jacquizz Rodgers being the one, but you never know. Ultimately, this could be a blessing in disguise because Jackson is 31, was injured last year, and the sun could be soon setting.

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202 thoughts on “Atlanta Falcons Training Camp Highlights to Date

  1. Coop

    Sorry about that glitch. So, I have been quite skeptical about this team being any better (not than 4-122, but better than 2012) since Smitty is still at the helm. And I will continue to wait and see if they have a killer instinct or not. But I admit I am encouraged by this “nasty” attittude I keep reading about. Play tough. Play hard. Maybe that mentality will help them overcome Smittyball…

    Reply
  2. Ken Strickland

    UNCA’ BOB-Thank you, thank you & thank you for that excellent article. It proves I was right about OC DKoetter & OL coach being given the authority to make changes, modifications and/or adjustments to our previously outdated, one dimensional & conservative PBS. And once again we hear the mention of our OLinemen pulling, which is a sure sign of a blocking scheme change. The question about our OLinemen’s ability to block in space is a sure indication of the ZBS, or at least some element of it, being implemented.

    We’re going to witness a lot of the blocking principles that Koetter used when he established that potent rushing OFF as the Jaguar’s OC. You add that to the 4 vertical OFF he plans to unveil, & you have the makings of a very potent elite OFF that’s more than capable of overcoming any DEF shortcomings we might have. Our 2008, 2010 & 2012 OFFs certainly managed to overcome far more DEF & DEF shortcomings than we now have, especially when it comes to our run & pass blocking, as well as our rushing DEF. And you can bet those OFFs weren’t as potent or as well balanced as this yrs OFF will be, & those rushing DEFs weren’t nearly as stout as this yrs rushing DEF will be..

    When it comes to the Falcons, these so called experts love to use us losing LB SMerriweather as an excuse to cast doubt about our DEF, & use the loss of TE TGonzalez as an excuse to cast doubt about our OFF. TE Toilolo have the physical tools & ability to match or exceed TGonzalez’s 3rd down & red zone production, as well as give us much better blocking & YAC. WR HDouglas has certainly proven he can produce more YAC, yds overall, as well as stretch the DEF a lot better than Gonzo did.

    Reply
  3. Greg Mendel

    They’re dropping like flies on the practice field. Carimi the latest injury. Hawley ejected from practice. I reckon they needed Hawley off the field before he put everybody on IR. At this rate, they’ll be a tough team or in the hospital.

    Reply
  4. Seminole Warrior

    Coop

    First of all, you never need to apologize for anything that you do. Second, hold your head high and re-engage. All things, ALL THINGS, are possible in the eyes of the Greatest Power. Seek and trust in the Divine Grace.

    You know where I am…and you know that I will be there for you in any way I can just as you and the Cage were there for me in my darkest hours. I found so much strength in you guys and your word.

    You are my warrior brother and don’t you ever forget that!! Reach out if you need too. Do not let the pressures get to you; too much invested both personally and professionally. I wore blue but as you know, my heart is RED, WHITE, and BLUE.

    RED represents the blood and the will to fight for my brother with my life if necessary. WHITE represents the peace, both internal and external, that we as warrior seek to establish and preserve. And BLUE represents the emotion, the grace that is the passion we hold for all things special such as freedom, FAMILY, and life. Put them all together and we are UNIITED, UNIFIED, and one under the graces of God.

    Stand tall, lean on the everlasting arms, and know that we are here for you. WE ARE HERE for you!! Never ever forget that!!

    Remember and lean on the words of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

    “Faith is taking the first step even when you do not see the entire staircase.”

    Reply
  5. RoddyRules

    What’s up Cage. I think it is well known I’m not impressed with one Mr. Thomas Dimitroff, and if it wasn’t it is now. I’m really not wanting to bash the guy but I do have a few questions I’d like to ask and maybe you guys can help me see the error in my logic.

    Everyone, including my wife, knew that the Falcons needed to cut DeCoud. His contract when compared to his performance was laughable. Yet, did everyone not ALSO know that there was no replacement currently on the roster? Motta, who came in for DeCoud last year had just had neck surgery, not a good prognosis for an NFL safety. We signed Lowery whom everyone also knew had a probably 50-60% chance of staying healthy. Lowery had been hurt every year for like the last 4 out of his 6 NFL seasons, so the percentage could of easily been lower. We reach for a CB/FS/SS in Southward at the top of the 3rd round in what has been called one of the deepest drafts in 10 years. Yes Southward’s hurt and I can’t blame Dimitroff for that, but was he REALLY the Falcon’s plan at FS this year. A 3rd round rookie??

    Now, are we or are we not now over 9 million under the cap and totally without a viable option at one of the most integral areas of need on an NFL Defense in the S position? Hey, if Blank needs some cash flow then it’s his money and if he wants to make an extra 4-5 million that’s his business. He better just not expect me to pony up on PSL’s for the new stadium if that’s the case. Or has TD somehow screwed up our cap situation and put us 9 million under this year, of which I think we can only carry over 4 million to next year (I may be mistaken on this), and which will put us in a situation of being over the cap next year when these back-loaded contracts start cashing in? If we are going to go into the season with no FS and 9 million under the cap, shouldn’t we re-work some of these contracts to take pressure of next year. We could pay out this 9 million to guys who are already gauranteed money next year and put ourselves in a more cap friendly situation going into 2015 could we not? Or is that not part of the GM’s job?

    Reply
  6. RoddyRules

    I was all for the signing of D Hester. The Falcons have been lacking for years in the return department. But couldn’t Hester start taking some snaps at FS?

    Reply
  7. Wings

    RoddyRules the Falcons staff and front office seem to never think ahead, do they? This situation is not new.

    Reply
  8. Ken Strickland

    While there’s absolutely nothing good about any injury, it does look like we dodged a few bullets on the injury front. Hageman’s stupid reaction didn’t end up being a fracture, Jones & Lowery’s injuries were concussions, & Camini’s injury was just a sprained ankle. Fortunately these are not long term or season ending injuries. I believe the excess fighting is due in part to the desire to have our players become more aggressive. I also believe it’s the result of having far more talent in camp, which generates far more competition, which makes everyone work harder to try & separate themselves & make the final 53 man roster.

    There’s likely 1 starting position open on OFF, & that’s RB due to the injury to SJackson, & 2 on DEF, IBL(between Bartu & Shembo) & FS, which appears to be wide open due to a series of injuries. All of the other battles are for backup positions.

    COOP-Quite a bit of info has leaked out over the off season that supports my contention about ABlank’s mandates setting the stage for the changes that have taken place, which will lessen Smitty’s negative impact on the OFF, DEF & overall team. Switching to the 3/4 DEF & our sudden reliance on much younger less experienced players, unlike the previous overreliance on vets(WWP & VPP have been canned), are all definitely NONE SMITTY INSPIRED CHANGES. On OFF, we’ve done what amounts to a 180 change in blocking schemes, which now has our OLinemen pulling & blocking in space, which are definite ZBS techniques.

    These changes represent the 1st time under Smitty’s rule, that there’s been a total move away from the PBS, inside running approach, & the 4/3 DEF scheme that he’s embraced throughout his previous 6 yr tenure as Falcons HC. OC DKoetter mentioning his intention to employ his favored 4 vertical passing OFF for the 1st time. Drastic changes to our blocking scheme & overall OFF approach are all indications that both he & Nolan, along with their OL & DL coaches, have been given more decision making authority into how our OFF & DEF will be constructed & implemented.

    We all should know damned well Smitty didn’t initiate any of these decisions/changes, but he did agree to let them take place in order to get his 1 yr contract extension. If he hurts the team in anyway by interfering with what his Coordinators & their staff have put in place, and/or tries to revert back to old habits, he’s outta here. ABlank gave his OC & DC a 2 yr extension, which is how long he’s giving them to put THEIR schemes & approaches in place & make it work. He gave Smitty a 1yr extension to see if he could change his personal habits & allow power &/or responsibility to be delegated to his subordinates.

    There will be no more AUTOMATIC SMITTY BALL for the entire 2nd half, or shutting down our passing OFF at anytime. There will be no more automatic & predictable running exclusively inside & to the right on short yardage, 1st or 3rd down situations. Koetter will now be able to utilize HIS blocking scheme, HIS approach & HIS philosophy when calling plays. Like he said right after the season ended & ABlank stepped in with his mandates, WE CAN NOW OPEN UP THE ENTIRE PLAYBOOK. He can not only open it up, he can now IMPROVE IT.

    Reply
  9. JB Falcon

    Source tells @foxsports that @Atlanta_Falcons cautiously optimistic OL Gabe Carimi only suffered ankle sprain when hurt in Monday practice

    Reply
  10. Ken Strickland

    http://hsrd.yahoo.com/_ylt=A2KLthPDCeFTJTcBqGGbvZx4;_ylu=X3oDMTRrZGNraGE3BGJwb3MDMQRjY29kZQNkc19sY3BfY2ZiX3dpa2lub3BydW5lX2ltcHJvdmVkdARjcG9zAzMEY3QDMQRnAzkwMjYxNGEwLTc1ODctMzMyOC1hZTY1LTQyMjEwNzdhMjA0NARpbnRsA3VzBHBrZ3QDNARwb3MDMQRzZWMDdGQtc3RybQRzbGsDdGl0bGUEdGVzdAMzMTc-/RV=1/RE=1408466628/RH=aHNyZC55YWhvby5jb20-/RO=2/RU=aHR0cDovL3d3dy5mb3hzcG9ydHMuY29tL3NvdXRoL3N0b3J5L2ZhbGNvbnMtZm91ci1vYnNlcnZhdGlvbnMtZnJvbS1jb21iaW5lZC1wcmFjdGljZS13aXRoLXRpdGFucy0wODA1MTQ-/RS=%5EADA9qdMFoRMrHo7soGEg49H68MeQsg-

    CAGERS-Here’s an interesting take on Monday’s joint practice with the Titans.

    Reply
  11. Hamad Meander

    And Mr. Hawley seems to possess the nastiness we have needed on the line that has been missing since letting Harvey Dahl go. I like nasty in the middle. I can’t wait to see how effective our running is with the right side fixed.

    Reply
  12. Arno

    Here’s a tidbit from the Titan’s website about how they fared against the Falcons: “All of the Titans skill players showed little problem getting open. Justin Hunter provided the spectacle during the 1-on-1 drills, making it look easy as he glided past defensive backs for consecutive long completions.” Not given though, where the identities of the Falcons d-backs beaten. They also felt their QB looked comfortable in the pocket, and that their d-line brought good pressure. Hints of positive spin doctoring, but it is preseason…

    Reply
  13. Hamad Meander

    http://www.atlantafalcons.com/team/depth-chart.html

    So our base D is a 4-2-5? WTF? Is this Mike Smith trying to be cute again? This roster is set up for a 3-4 D. I don’t believe the 4-2-5 puts our best talent on the field. I also don’t think we’ll be able to rush the passer as well outside of the 3-4. I guess one advantage to the 4-2-5 is that we should be able to stop the run up front and prevent the big play on the backend. But lookout when we play someone with a good tight end or play-action passing…….

    Reply
  14. JB Falcon

    Arno, I checked out the titan’s site, http://www.titansonline.com/ and they have a lot more coverage about the joint practice than the Falcon site. Naturally their views were a little slanted but there was much more content and films. They did mention Josh Wilson as one of the CB’s that got burned.

    Reply
  15. Hamad Meander

    Oh, I’m sorry I forgot. We are just a bunch of simpleton football fans……folks who have a passing knowledge of the game, but really don’t understand. We couldn’t possibly understand what “multiple” defenses are, or where a tight end lines up (evidently it must be within 4.002839483 yards of an offensive tackle). Nevemind that all other NFL teams show their base defense as a 3-4 or a 4-3. We are so far beyond other teams in scheme and strategy. Please forgive me for trying to figure out a nickel defense. Way beyond my comprehension.

    Reply
  16. Unca' Bob

    HM,

    According to some, M Smith no longer has any control of this team. Find a new scapegoat. Perhaps A Blank. It’s his mandate.

    Reply
  17. RoddyRules

    The Falcons will actually be running what amounts to a 5-2 D most of the time. I think that more accurately describes the so called 3-4 of today’s NFL. Hey, we used to run a lot of 5-2 back in the Pop Warner days.

    Reply
  18. JJ

    Cagers and OBCM, need help. The advertising is driving me crazy on the net!!
    My biggest beef is with : “Ads by AllDay Savings”…
    You click off and they reroute you to there adv…you click mimimize and same occurs…
    I have Uverse and wonder if thid spam is everywhere.
    My internet safeguards are on the highest settings but I still get these assholes commercials when Im trying to watch some falcon video…..

    Any advice will be greatly apprec!!!

    The chive.com (which I enjoy for the articles) has the biggest “be ware” on my computer.

    Everyone from Chrome to Adobe wants you to download their new greatest software…I would not. In the last 2 weeks they downloaded and tried to take over my computer….no way!

    Just to be sure, go to control panel and click on uninstall prog, look at dates of install…

    Reply
  19. dawsondevitt Post author

    JJ — If you’re using Chrome, go to the Google Play Store and download “Ad Block.” You only have to pay a minimal fee (like $5 or $10 for whole year) and they block EVERYTHING!!!!!!

    Reply
  20. dawsondevitt Post author

    Hamad —- And you just said the pitch perfect reason that I refuse to buy a ticket on the optimism train for 2014 until I see with my own eyes in live action. Smith simply is not the leader to take this team / organization to next level. To be frank, the league figured him out long ago and he’s now on his descent.

    Reply
  21. Wings

    D3 – “………a ticket on the optimism train for 2014 ……………”.

    I will purchase my ticket when Coach Mike Smith defeats the Saints TWICE. There is no excuse to not defeat your biggest rivalry. The two Saints’ games should be the deciding factor whether Smith is fired. In my book, it is unacceptable to loose to the Saints.

    D3, I tried to post some help for JJ, but there must be a new “Blog Monster”. His computer is infected with malware. It will take some work to get rid of it. You are right about AdBlock. It works on Chrome, Firefox and IE. But it only prevents the normal ads from appearing.

    Reply
  22. JJ

    Ran malware , took less than a sec and said im clear.
    Ran micro essentials full scan and they said the same !

    Help brothers before i toss this laptop out the window!!!

    Reply
  23. Ken Strickland

    UNCA’ BOB-your last post is a prime example of THROWING A ROCK & THEM HIDING YOU HAND. But that’s okay, it’s not like you haven’t done something like this before. Maybe it’s the result of having problems with seeing the forest for the trees.

    As we move along in training camp we’re starting to see some of our younger 2nd & 3rd yr players step up to the plate after having a very intense & productive off season. It also appears this individual improvement, especially among our OLinemen & DLinemen, is the result of the input our OL & DL coordinators. During our 1st off season under MTice & BCox, our OLinemen & DLinemen, particularly our younger less experienced ones, all seem to have gotten bigger, stronger, better conditioned & more skilled. THE WPP IS FINALLY DEAD, AND GOOD RIDDANCE.

    Behind what was likely the NFLs worst OL last yr, without his top WRs healthy, & the next to last rushing OFF, QB MRyan still managed 4500 passing yrs even though he was sacked 44 times, hit 290 times(tops in the NFL last yr), & hurried untold number of times. You put an above average OL in front of him, give him his top 3 WRs & an actual rushing OFF, and you can expect him to pass for over 5000 yds this season & this OFF to become elite once again.

    Reply
  24. JB Falcon

    JJ, I feel your pain on the virus. You can use my personal account to go buy you a new computer. The routing number is 0095384398 and the account number is 00058736398763. Please don’t give anyone else this number.
    Your Friend,
    JB

    Reply
  25. JB Falcon

    D3, just having a stupid/funny moment, unless, of course, the numbers represent money!! 🙂 Thanks for looking out for me but I didn’t fall off the collard truck yesterday, I just have a twisted sense of humor! Naw mean?

    Reply
  26. JB Falcon

    Ken, I agree also. I like the dark horse reference. I might not be so optimist if we lose to NO in the first game but, at this time? I want to see the LOMBARDI in Atlanta! Hoping for anything less, imo, is not being a true fan.
    Definition of FANATIC : “marked by excessive enthusiasm and often intense uncritical devotion.”
    Hey, look it up! http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fanatic

    Reply
  27. Greg Mendel

    JJ: I use Adblock, Zonealrm and Ghostery. Takes care of most stuff. You usually don’t see comments on most sites, but you can override individually, although comments on most sites are too stupid to read anyway.

    Reply
  28. medallion8

    Why Dez Southward in early 3rd to presumably be a FS – especially since he was a CB, NCB, and SS in college, he was used as some type of CB by Coach Smith during Senior Bowl, the risks with Lowery’s concussion history/health had to be understood by TD, and TD and Coach Smith’s jobs could be on the line? Consider that New Orleans took a CB (from Nebraska no less) in the late 2nd round whose speed measurables were vastly inferior to Dez’s speed measurables and less than lots of CBs drafted in rounds 3 through 5. According to a NO sports writer, Sean Payton explained that 2nd round pick basically as follows: We needed someone who could match up with the taller receivers in the league and, to do that, there’s some trade off on speed and we’re okay with that for him. In my mind, Dez’s awesome jumping ability more than makes up for that Nebraska CB being taller by 2 or so inches – especially when you consider height makes no difference if you can’t keep up with the receiver. So, did TD really draft Dez as solely a FS in training for this year in case Lowery got hurt or was TD (with Coach Smith’s input and maybe even a clever disguise of using Dez as some type of a CB at the Senior Bowl to discourage other teams from drafting Dez) really smart because Dez could be used quickly to help cover so many big TEs in just our division (with William Moore dropping back into the FS position whch was his position in his final year of college) and an excellent fit for big nickel defense package side by side with Moore (assuming someone could be the FS for that package if Lowery was out)?

    Reply
  29. Grits Blitz

    Should be obvious already that:
    1. Reedy is ready! Outside speed and hands! Surely, even Smitty w/ the VPP (Veterans Preference Program) wouldn’t be stupid enough not to use him…in every game. Reedy appears for real; Hester appears, as a WR, as a pretender.
    2. Can’t keep this good man down…anymore. RB, A. Smith’s time has been more than earned. Quit wasting snaps on Quizz. Trade Quizz (& ?) to get us a 1st class FS.
    3. Defense. I don’t care what combo or package they run as long as it brings some heat on the QB…in their backfield! We appear to still be in serious trouble here. Re-hire Jerry Glanville if it would help develop a pass rush! (It’s been a long time since we had a real pass rush for consecutive seasons… Humphrey & Zook).

    Reply

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