“The Atlanta Falcons wrapped up mandatory organized team activities this week in what Coach Dan Quinn called “the finest offseason I’ve been a part of from a player and coaching side.”
The four-day camp brought rookies and veterans together in helmets and pads to brush off the rust heading into a new season.
Here are four observations after the conclusion of camp:
- This rookie class does not plan to warm the bench
- This year’s camp saw 33 fresh faces compete for a roster spot on the 2018 team.
The large number could mean players getting overlooked, but instead many are finding ways to stick out.
RFA’s Luke McNitt and Daniel Marx showed impressive strength and ability to slide into the vacant fullback position left open by the departure of Derrick Coleman.
CB Isaiah Oliver received praise this week from fellow defensive back Ricardo Allen on his speed and showed that through the final day of camp. Oliver found comfort playing right corner but knows he will be moved around saying, “We’re all just competing.”
Of course, most of the rookie talk has surrounded the 26th pick in the draft, Calvin Ridley. The Alabama product believes he brings a winning mentality from his college days to this team. His college decision has also been vital in his early understanding of the playbook. Coach Quinn gave away a secret Thursday at camp.
“Not only did Alabama use some of the pro-style concepts we feature, some of the terminology had even been the same.” Quinn said. “So you can imagine how excited he was to see the playbook and see some of the language he’s been studying for three years. That was helpful. I’m encouraged, I really am. The speed, the athleticism all of the things we saw on tape came to life. I knew he was a good competitor; I probably didn’t know how strong of a football IQ he has.”
- Jones’ absence does not define this camp
- Almost every day at camp the first question directed at Coach Quinn involved the lack of Julio Jones at mandatory activities. However, his absence has not appeared to hinder the team and almost goes unnoticed; minus the fans.
“Would it have been ideal for [Julio] to be here? No doubt.” Quinn said about Jones’ absence “but, I wouldn’t certainly quantify the offseason based on [his absence]”
With the additions of Ridley and Russell Gage, the focus of camp so far has been getting the new guys comfortable with their route trees. Missing a guy like Jones also allows for the cliché of “next man up” to hold true. His absence could help a guy like Marvin Hall or Reggie Davis get touches they otherwise would not.
- QB2 could have a new name in 2018
- There is a quarterback battle brewing, but no it is not at QB1. One Matt is safe on the Falcons depth chart but the other, Matt Shaub, could see his name drop in the order. In what can be perceived as a “hot take” Atlanta might turn to the second year QB from Colorado State, Garrett Grayson, as their backup. Grayson and rookie Kurt Benkert are currently competing for the third-string spot, but Grayson’s arm strength, ball placement during camp, and youth could help him climb a spot to QB2.
- Grady Jarrett has fully embraced a leadership role on the DL
- The fourth-year lineman from Rockdale High School is showing his leadership by what he says AND what he does. During camp, he was often seen helping Defensive Line Coach Bryant Young direct the other guys with proper hand technique and shoulder placement. Not to mention, Jarrett has also taken third-round pick Deadrin Senat under his wing. Many media members have noticed the off to the side conversations between Jarrett and Senat in what one could only hope propels the rookie to make a big impact on the Falcons defensive line this season.
By Caleb Johnson