Atlanta’s final public practice at Flowery Branch is over, and here’s what we’ve learned.
Training camp rolls on. We’re a little over a week away from the first Falcons preseason game and closing
Hopefully you enjoyed Kevin Knight’s first-hand coverage from camp, with all the exciting updates on the likes of Kyle Pitts, Javian Hawkins, Darren Hall and others that it entailed. Hopefully, a few of you are heading out to Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday and will get to watch practice from there on Saturday, as well.
Today, without one of the Falcoholic team at practice, I’m rounding up camp observations from the many talented reporters assembled at Flowery Branch and what we can glean from them right here. Join me on the journey.
Ade Ogundeji working his way up
My year one expectations for much of this rookie class are modest. I genuinely like Frank Darby, Darren Hall, Ta’Quon Graham, Ade Ogundeji and Avery Williams, but I figured most would slot into rotational roles or would be reserves aside from Williams, who is my early favorite for the punt returner job. Those expectations might have been a little low for Ogundeji, though we’ll need to see how things shake out once Dante Fowler returns.
Why low, though? Because Ogundeji continues to work with the first and second teams in practice, a very positive sign for his early development. Atlanta’s dearth of pass rushing options at outside linebacker is pretty well documented at this point, so Ogundeji’s strength and length could be an asset immediately if he’s ready to play. Let’s hope he is.
Ade Ogundeji getting a ton of first- and second-team reps today on the edge.
— Tori McElhaney (@tori_mcelhaney) August 5, 2021
Matty on the move
The Falcons have made speed and movement an emphasis for Matt Ryan thus far this offseason, which is not surprising given how useful Arthur Smith’s found Ryan Tannehill’s scrambling ability to be. Last year, Tannehill had a career high 6.2 yards per carry on 43 totes and scored 7 touchdowns, and he had exactly 43 carries in both years under Smith with the Titans. Ryan is 36 years old and is not, for all his underrated and understated ability to pull the ball down and run when called upon, exactly a dual threat.
Quarterbacks working a scrambling drill where they’re throwing on the run. Matt Ryan said last week how much more in shape he felt this season. pic.twitter.com/cS9hkqICZV
— McClain (@McclainBaxley) August 5, 2021
I’ll be interested to see how often Ryan does scramble in 2021 and how much he’s asked to do exactly what you see above. It goes without saying that #2’s game is not going to completely transform this late in his career, but it’s readily apparent that the Falcons are going to try to do more with him on the move.
Jaeden Graham’s season-ending injury is a big blow to the Falcons, who were likely counting on him to be a key reserve at tight end and an asset on special teams. Unless the team keeps piling up tight end signings in the days ahead, it’ll likely come down to Parker Hesse and Ryan Becker for that competition.
One day of training camp doesn’t tell us much, and one big play tells us even less. Considering Hesse spent two years on Tennessee’s practice squad with Arthur Smith, carries a reputation as a fine blocker and did some dazzling work on the grab you see below, though, it’s safe to say he’s a player to watch for what I presume will be the fourth and final tight end spot on the roster.
My play of the day. The fade route to Rookie TE Parker Hesse. Nice! pic.twitter.com/XhNDjH0IBN
— Tenitra Batiste (@tenitrabatiste) August 5, 2021
A.J. Terrell’s hype train is gaining steam
Terrell is not working against scrubs in practice, as he’s matching up with the likes of Kyle Pitts, Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage. With the obvious caveat about putting too much stock in training camp implied throughout everything we write, Terrell is consistently being mentioned as a breakout candidate for a reason.
Throughout camp, Terrell has been making big plays and showing a knack for breaking up what otherwise might be easy catches, and that continued today when he showed impressive physicality and coverage against Kyle Pitts to force an incompletion. As ESPN’s Mike Rothstein notes, Russell Gage said Terrell has looked like a different player this summer, and he already impressed me in 2020 by holding his own as a top rookie cornerback in a shaky secondary.
— Michael Rothstein (@mikerothstein) August 5, 2021
If you’re not checking out Mike Rothstein’s excellent notes daily on Twitter, I’d remedy that, by the way.
Today was the last day of training camp practices open to the public at Flowery Branch, with the much-anticipated Mercedes-Benz Stadium practice open to the public taking place this Saturday. If you’re going, be sure to use the comments to help you link up with your fellow fans, and we’ll look for your observations after you attend.