Energy and Excitement High
Amid the insane heat today, took the boys to see the Falcons begin the Dan Quinn Era and it was an exciting experience. The energy was indeed high and attendance was good considering the heat. It was a stark difference to previous practices under Smith. Just remember that it’s still only helmets and shorts, but there were a lot of great things going on…………
- Dan Quinn is the Man — Yes, everyone’s excited about the new Falcons head man and much of that optimism is brimming because the slate is clean and his win-loss record sets at a brand new 0-0. However, there just seemed to be an energy and enthusiasm that he carried throughout the practice. He jogged around, talked and high-fived players, and seemed to have a smile on pretty much the entire time. Whether this new positive attitude and energy translates to wins is yet to be seen, but he has an infectious persona.
- The Famed Playlist — Don’t ask me to name any of the songs on the playlist, but it was
really neat seeing as music was playing literally the entire time. It was playing well before the players came out and continued to play for the whole practice. It was interesting to see the players be able to focus, call plays, and be able to tune in during practice with the music blaring. It wasn’t like you may expect with players dancing and not taking the practice serious. Actually, it seemed the opposite. Players seemed extremely tuned in.
- Hot as Hades — Temperature reached about 95 degrees yesterday and for those of you who have gone, you know there’s no shade in sight. Not exactly sure why they chose one of the hottest parts of the day, but it was blazing. They did have a few cooling stations for fans to cool down with around the site. And tons of players had long sleeve shirts on. Several of the coaches, including Quinn, had long sleeves and pants. Wha?
- Good Fan Experience — There wasn’t quite as much fanfare as Training Camp, but that’s to be expected. It was, however, very good and family friendly experience. They had concessions where everything was a dollar (which came in handy for Gatorades and water in the searing heat), a small vendor van, and a few other stations set up. Everything was good……………
- Except……………you had to park a little ways away from the complex and they were nice enough to have golf cart pick ups running every minute or so. It was a nice little pick up and drop off system, especially considering the heat. So the assumption was they would have a
similar drop off after the session was over, right? WRONG! There was no more courtesy return because as the drivers told us, “they only paid us until 2:30.” Really? Look, I don’t have much of a problem walking, but when you have older adults and young children that have already been in the scorching heat and you can’t pay drivers another hour or so to return fans to their cars? C’mon now. If you want to be a “first class organization” than small things like this make the difference. Again, if it’s not 95 degrees out and it’s just me, then whatever, but when you have older people and children, would it really break the bank to pay for drivers for a little while longer? Hell, I bet you could get volunteers to do it for some Falcons SWAG or autographs.
- Higher Energy All Around — It can’t be emphasized enough the difference in practice styles from the previous regime to this one. Players are hyped, moving around, and seemed really pumped. Coaches and players alike seem to be really enjoying themselves. And it doesn’t mean that they aren’t taking it serious because it’s quite the opposite. Honestly, it’s a very interesting dynamic to try and explain. Perhaps it’s just the novelty of a new regime, but it feels entirely different.
- Get Ready for the Stretch / ZBS — One of the biggest things that stuck out was the
implementation of the Zone Blocking System. Even though there were no pads, these offensive linemen will be on the move and that appears to be a great thing. The stretch play, a staple of the ZBS, was on full display many times, which was a refreshing site after years of “up the gut for no gain.”
- Devonta Freeman is a Man Possessed — As it continually needs to be said they were only in shorts and helmets, but Devonta Freeman is on a mission and the quickness in hitting the hole was extremely impressive. He was a breath of fresh air to see in the backfield with his speed, quickness, and toughness. It would be a shock if Freeman isn’t the bell cow or at least gets the bulk of carries. Didn’t get to see Tevin Coleman too much, but Antone Smith had a nice carry and didn’t seem to have any effects from the injury. Jerome Smith had a really nice run and almost looked like a fullback, but he showed some nice explosion on a play. The running back corps should finally be a bright spot this year.
- Tight End Should be a Major Improvement — Who’s #83 that just made a great play over the middle and up the seam? It was Jacob Tamme and it was pure pleasure to see a tight end stretch the field. Tamme would seem to have a stranglehold on the starting TE spot, at least judging from shorts and t-shirts. Tony Moeaki also made a fine looking play down the middle as well. Toilolo is almost surely locked in as the 3rd spot if it continues as it did Tuesday. After years of low output from the TE spot (including Gonzalez last year) it will be nice to have a mid-range and deep threat down the middle.
- West Coast on Full Display — The West Coast Offense was easy to see in the passing routes, trees, and designs. It was most obvious in the 7-on-7 skeletons where the routes
were shorter, quicker hitting, and all the running backs displayed those prototypical WCO characteristics. It wasn’t all quick hits, however. It was definitely methodical in seeing the intermediate and quick passes were setting up the long ball. One particularly beautiful long ball was a sight to see, as will be discussed in a bit. Matt Ryan already appears very comfortable in this offense and it really should tailor nicely to his skills and strengths.
- Defense was Swarming — Since much of the practice was on the other end, it was hard to see individual performances, but the defense was much quicker and did a really good job swarming to the football and it was also evident that Quinn has brought Pete Carroll’s “All About the Ball” mentality to Atlanta. Players were always doing the best they could to try and strip the ball. To the offenses credit, they held onto the ball pretty well. The defense looked much better, at least as much as you can tell at this point. Didn’t see Vic Beasley, but reports have been great. Ra’shede Hageman looked huge, even though slimmed down a good bit. A very hopeful sign.
- As Expected, Deep at Receiver — It was quickly apparent that Roddy White and Devin Hester were not in action on Tuesday. Julio Jones was up to his usual monster self and that
was obviously expected. What was a pleasant surprise was how truly deep the receiving corps seems. While it’s true that all receivers look good in shorts and t-shirts, the route running, hands, and overall skill was on display. Leonard Hankerson, Justin Hardy, Bernard Reedy, and several other guys looked good. The starters were Jones, Hardy, and Hankerson. Most fans could live with that if White and / or Hester can’t make it. Obviously, we’ll know more when the pads are put on, but the Falcons appear in good hands at WR.
- Noticeable Difference at DB –– One area that was evident was Quinn’s impact at defensive back. They were all at the line of scrimmage and jamming receivers on almost every play. The size difference was noticeably different as well. Jalen Collins and Dez Southward added a new “length” that hasn’t always been present. The cornerbacks should be in good position with Trufant, Alford, Collins, Southward, and Phillip Adams. Speaking of Adams, he looks to a be very good pickup. He made a couple of nice plays, including one great 3rd down stop against Julio in the endzone.
- Ricardo Allen May Be Biggest Surprise — Allen got first team reps at free safety and he looks to be quickly moving into the lead of starting. He looks really comfortable back deep and there were reports today that he had several interceptions and is looking like one of the best overall defensive players. What a great story that would unfold. Allen, drafted in the 5th round, was cut by Smith and Co., but managed to stay on the practice squad. One of Quinn’s best skills is to match skills of players to positions. Ricardo Allen may be his first huge victory in that aspect.
- Get Ready for New Names and Numbers — Even though you know there was a pretty big roster turnover, it doesn’t hit home until you’re saying, “Who’s 20? Who’s 81? Who’s 32?” and that continued quite a bit. It was a much needed roster churn, but it will take some time with the new faces.
- Time to Pay Julio –– Many have engaged in hand-wringing on whether or not to pay Julio a mega-contract as one of the best overall players in the league. It’s almost unfair asking cornerbacks to cover #11. After a few intermediate passes during 7-on-7, Jones torched Robert Alford for about a 50 yard bomb touchdown. And Alford had good coverage. Julio is just on another plane. The dude is unbelievable.
- It’s also fair to say that #11 has caught (and maybe surpassing) #2 in terms of popularity. It’s quite common to see a pretty even split of Ryan and Jones given fans jerseys on display. Some of it probably has to do with Ryan being around longer. Julio is the consummate
professional. Instead of holding out and pouting, #11 is doing the exact opposite and talked today that he has no intention of “being selfish” and that he’s there for his teammates and to get better everyday. The contract isn’t a matter of “if,” but “when.” It’s going to be a big deal and many will whine, moan, and complain for awhile (the same way they did about the Ryan deal), but he’s worth it. They have money and they can structure it to dovetail with expiring contracts, such as Babineaux, White, and Tyson Jackson to name a few. They just got $4.5 for for cutting Sam Baker. His agent will probably drag it out until the beginning of training camp, believing his leverage will increase. It’s so refreshing to see a professional athlete that is a a great teammate, player, and has the true “team-first” attitude, free of diva-drama (look over in Denver and Dallas, by comparison). Pay the man already.