Camp report: Drake London, Elijah Wilkinson, Bryan Edwards and perhaps the most competitive practice of the Arthur Smith era

Camp report: Drake London, Elijah Wilkinson, Bryan Edwards and perhaps the most competitive practice of the Arthur Smith era

FLORAL BRANCH, Ga.– Drake London started sprinting straight down the field, then lifted his foot to plant it apparently for use on a turnover or sharp cut inside. Cornerback Dee Alford hit the London brakes, as did most everyone else watching the one-on-one drill.

One problem: the No. 8 overall pick didn’t break in or snap back. He hit the accelerator again, gaining clear separation as he strode toward the end zone.

Marcus Mariota sent the ball down the field and London flew from the air just over Alford’s head. Touchdown.

First-round rookie Drake London had a good practice, making an acrobatic catch over Dee Alford for a TD in one-on-one drills and then catching TDs from Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder in 7-on-7 drills. pic.twitter.com/4gxjAwMoM8

That was one of several nice plays the USC alum made during a highly competitive open practice (more on that later), including two more catches in 7-on-7 drills. Although the flash moments caught a huge crowd on hand, his consistency might have been more impressive.

He created constant separation running different types of routes – although A.J. Terrell shut him down at least once – and caught the ball when he was targeted. London still shows up and stands out in the pattern, with a nice start to this training camp.

Is that a sign of a stellar rookie season? No. It certainly doesn’t. There is a lot he has to show and prove as summer turns to fall. But there is no doubt that London has started strongly, a positive sign as he makes his way through the camp towards tougher challenges ahead.

“Every day, I feel like he’s getting comfortable,” Terrell said. “He gets the playbook down. He moves a little bit differently. He’s more confident in his route running and what he has to do. Every time we go against each other, it brings that edge that I need to help prepare for game day. need to keep that going, keep building.”

Falcons prove “competitive as hell”

Intensity was very high during open practice on Saturday and Arthur Smith left with a positive feeling about his team.

“I was really encouraged by the day,” Smith said. “That was probably the most competitive practice we’ve had since I’ve been here.”

The intensity turned into a pair of late scuffles among offensive and defensive linemen – one player was thrown out of practice for throwing a punch (that didn’t land) – but that unwanted behavior ultimately didn’t negate a session with plenty of positives and a level of aggression the coaches praised him.

“You want competitiveness,” Smith said. “Part of that is the makeup of the guys we brought in here; so many of them have a chip on their shoulder. We want to go out and prove ourselves. We’re having so much fun with these guys and how they work. It’s unbelievable.”

Wilkinson struggling hard with the left guard

Freshman Elijah Wilkinson is making early progress in a bid to start on the Falcons’ offensive line, earning first-team reps at left guard for the third straight day. Current starter Jalen Mayfield has worked with the second unit during that time, although we are a long way from the Falcons naming a starter in that crucial position.

Head coach Arthur Smith said Wilkinson earned first-team reps more than anything, praising the sixth-year veteran’s early work.

“I won’t go into specifics, but there are often certain things he does the way they need to be done,” Smith said. “I think that’s a good thing for Jalen, so he can step up and make it a competition and we’ll see where it goes. We’re not down on Jalen. It’s more about what Elias does it right.”

Wilkinson said he tries to do all the little things right on the training pitch and in meeting rooms, paying attention to detail and being a true pro. While he has played a lot of tackle in the NFL, he adapts well to the guard spot – he also has experience there – despite going up against more powerful guys like Grady Jarrett.

While Wilkinson is happy with his start to camping, he is not taking anything for granted. That includes his first team reps the last few days.

“It doesn’t tell me anything. I don’t think anything is being done here,” said Wilkinson. “The work keeps coming. You have to bring it every day. You have to earn it every day.”

Atlanta Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts #8 signs autographs after the Atlanta Falcons AT&T Training Camp at Atlanta Falcons Headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Saturday, July 30, 2022. (Photo by Shanna Lockwood/Atlanta Falcons)

Shanna Lockwood/© 2022 Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot speaks to fans during the Atlanta Falcons AT&T Training Camp at Atlanta Falcons Headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia, Saturday, July 30, 2022. (Photo by Shanna Lockwood/Atlanta Falcons)

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A team cheers as fans watch during AT&T Atlanta Falcons Training Camp at Atlanta Falcons Headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Saturday, July 30, 2022. (Photo by Shanna Lockwood/Atlanta Falcons)

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Atlanta Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts #8 during AT&T Atlanta Falcons Training Camp at Atlanta Falcons Headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Saturday, July 30, 2022. (Photo by Shanna Lockwood/Atlanta Falcons)

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Fans watch during the AT&T Atlanta Falcons Training Camp at Atlanta Falcons Headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Saturday, July 30, 2022. (Photo by Shanna Lockwood/Atlanta Falcons)

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Atlanta Falcons quarterback Feleipe Franks #15 makes a catch in front of cornerback Darren Hall #34 during Atlanta Falcons AT&T Training Camp at Atlanta Falcons Headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia, Saturday, July 30, 2022. (Photo by Shanna Lockwood/Atlanta falcons)

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Atlanta Falcons linebacker Marcus Mariota #1 runs the ball during the AT&T Atlanta Falcons Training Camp at Atlanta Falcons Headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Saturday, July 30, 2022. (Photo by Shanna Lockwood / Atlanta Falcons)

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A view of the scrum around Atlanta Falcons running back Cordarrelle Patterson #84 visiting fans during Atlanta Falcons AT&T Training Camp at Atlanta Falcons Headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Saturday, July 30, 2022. (Photo by Shanna Lockwood / Atlanta Falcons )

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Atlanta Falcons cornerback A.J. Terrell #24 signs autographs during AT&T Atlanta Falcons Training Camp at Atlanta Falcons Headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Saturday, July 30, 2022. (Photo by Shanna Lockwood / Atlanta Falcons)

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Freddie Falcon and Fred Jr. poses for a photo during AT&T Atlanta Falcons Training Camp at Atlanta Falcons Headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Saturday, July 30, 2022. (Photo by Shanna Lockwood / Atlanta Falcons)

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Atlanta Falcons cornerback A.J. Terrell #24 during AT&T Atlanta Falcons Training Camp at Atlanta Falcons Headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Saturday, July 30, 2022. (Photo by Shanna Lockwood / Atlanta Falcons)

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Atlanta Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder #4 drops back during Atlanta Falcons AT&T Training Camp at Atlanta Falcons Headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Saturday, July 30, 2022. (Photo by Shanna Lockwood / Atlanta Falcons)

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Atlanta Falcons linebacker Marcus Mariota #1 reacts after running the ball during the Atlanta Falcons AT&T Training Camp at Atlanta Falcons Headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Saturday, July 30, 2022. (Photo by Shanna Lockwood / Atlanta Falcons)

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Atlanta Falcons running back Damien Williams #6 runs the ball during AT&T Atlanta Falcons Training Camp at Atlanta Falcons Headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Saturday, July 30, 2022. (Photo by Shanna Lockwood / Atlanta Falcons)

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A general view of fans on the hill during AT&T Atlanta Falcons Training Camp at Atlanta Falcons Headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Saturday, July 30, 2022. (Photo by Shanna Lockwood/Atlanta Falcons)

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Atlanta Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts #8 approaches fans for an autograph with Freddie Falcon during the Atlanta Falcons AT&T Training Camp at Atlanta Falcons Headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Saturday, July 30, 2022. (Photo by Shanna Lockwood / Atlanta Falcons)

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An Atlanta Falcons fan visits the face painting station during AT&T Atlanta Falcons Training Camp at Atlanta Falcons Headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia, Saturday, July 30, 2022. (Photo by Shanna Lockwood / Atlanta Falcons)

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A view of fans on the hill during AT&T Atlanta Falcons Training Camp at Atlanta Falcons Headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Saturday, July 30, 2022. (Photo by Shanna Lockwood/Atlanta Falcons)

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Freddie Falcons visits with fans during AT&T Atlanta Falcons Training Camp at Atlanta Falcons Headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Saturday, July 30, 2022. (Photo by Shanna Lockwood / Atlanta Falcons)

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Atlanta Falcons running back Cordarrelle Patterson #84 during AT&T Atlanta Falcons Training Camp at Atlanta Falcons Headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Saturday, July 30, 2022. (Photo by Shanna Lockwood / Atlanta Falcons)

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Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Stanley Berryhill Jr. #80 during Atlanta Falcons AT&T Training Camp at Atlanta Falcons Headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Saturday, July 30, 2022. (Photo by Shanna Lockwood/Atlanta Falcons)

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The Atlanta Falcons cheer team poses for photos during the Atlanta Falcons AT&T Training Camp at Atlanta Falcons Headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Saturday, July 30, 2022. (Photo by Shanna Lockwood/Atlanta Falcons)

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Freddie Falcon poses with fans during AT&T Atlanta Falcons Training Camp at Atlanta Falcons Headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Saturday, July 30, 2022. (Photo by Shanna Lockwood/Atlanta Falcons)

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Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Drake London #5 and cornerback A.J. Terrell #24 during AT&T Atlanta Falcons Training Camp at Atlanta Falcons Headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Saturday, July 30, 2022. (Photo by Shanna Lockwood / Atlanta Falcons)

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Fans cheer during the AT&T Atlanta Falcons Training Camp at Atlanta Falcons Headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Saturday, July 30, 2022. (Photo by Shanna Lockwood/Atlanta Falcons)

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Atlanta Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder #4 talks with tight end Anthony Firkser #86, wide receiver Damiere Byrd #14, wide receiver Drake London #5, running back Cordarrelle Patterson #84, and cornerback Avery Williams #35 during AT&T Training Atlanta Falcons Camp at Atlanta Falcons Headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Saturday, July 30, 2022. (Photo by Shanna Lockwood/Atlanta Falcons)

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Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus #17 runs the ball as cornerback Isaiah Oliver #26 defends during the Atlanta Falcons AT&T Training Camp at Atlanta Falcons Headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia, Saturday, July 30, 2022 (Photo by Shanna Lockwood/Atlanta Falcon)

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Atlanta Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo #7 signs autographs during the Atlanta Falcons AT&T Training Camp at Atlanta Falcons Headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Saturday, July 30, 2022. (Photo by Shanna Lockwood/Atlanta Falcons)

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Atlanta Falcons defensive back Dee Alford #37 and safety Richie Grant #27 react during Atlanta Falcons AT&T Training Camp at Atlanta Falcons Headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Saturday, July 30, 2022. (Photo by Shanna Lockwood / Atlanta Falcons)

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An Atlanta Falcons fan takes pictures during AT&T Atlanta Falcons Training Camp at Atlanta Falcons Headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia, Saturday, July 30, 2022. (Photo by Shanna Lockwood/Atlanta Falcons)

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Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Drake London #5 during AT&T Atlanta Falcons Training Camp at Atlanta Falcons Headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Saturday, July 30, 2022. (Photo by Shanna Lockwood/Atlanta Falcons)

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Fans react after catching a ball from Atlanta Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota #1 (not pictured) during Atlanta Falcons AT&T Training Camp at Atlanta Falcons Headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Saturday, July 30, 2022. (Photo by Shanna Lockwood / Atlanta Falcon)

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A view of the helmet of Atlanta Falcons running back Damien Williams #6 during Atlanta Falcons AT&T Training Camp at Atlanta Falcons Headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Saturday, July 30, 2022. (Photo by Shanna Lockwood / Atlanta Falcons)

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Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Anthony Rush #94 during Atlanta Falcons AT&T Training Camp at Atlanta Falcons Headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Saturday, July 30, 2022. (Photo by Shanna Lockwood/Atlanta Falcons)

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Atlanta Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota #1 during AT&T Atlanta Falcons Training Camp at Atlanta Falcons Headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Saturday, July 30, 2022. (Photo by Shanna Lockwood / Atlanta Falcons)

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Receiver Bryan Edwards suffered an apparent right arm/shoulder injury late in Saturday’s practice while trying to make a tackle that was challenged by safety Dean Marlowe. Edwards did not return to the action. The third-year pro, acquired in a trade from Las Vegas, was attended by trainers and left in the locker room before practice ended.

Arthur Smith said the initial staff did not think the injury was that bad, although some images will give clarity as to the extent of the injury. Edwards has had a strong start to camp, proving hard cover with consistent hands over the first few practices, a talent that pairs well with London and Kyle Pitts.

We talked about Dee Alford getting beat on an excellent route and hold down by Drake London in one-on-one drills, so it’s fair to point out the fact that he rebounded well after that play. His next rep was an excellent one, as he went high and contorted his body to break up a deep pass attempt in almost the same spot on the field. … Lafayette Pitts had a similar experience, getting beat for one game and then making a nice break the next. … Avery Williams made a few nice plays at running back, including a touchdown catch in a goal line situation where he ran a somewhat delayed route. He worked a lot with the first team as a receiver out of the backfield. He’s a dangerous player in space, as we saw in the return game … Receiver KhaDarel Hodge continues to show up on offense. He’s a tough receiver who knows how to create last-minute separation and make contested plays. The veteran is someone to keep an eye on in the battle for tight end receiver spots. … While Grady Jarrett, Anthony Rush and TaQuon Graham have been first-team regulars on the defensive line, Vincent Taylor has been rotating with that group as well.

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