McElhaney: Five takeaways from the Falcons’ offseason program

I’m not going to lie, I was a bit bummed when Scott asked me to write more notes about the mandatory minicamp. Did you not read the 2,569 words I wrote in the stories titled ‘What we learned on Day 1 (and Day 2) of Falcons mandatory minicamp’?! Have you written almost exactly 1,285 words for both articles and still want more?

He then had the courage to post his five takeaways first. I realize this is probably retribution for telling you all to call out Erik Harris in practice for standing under a tree when it was 100 degrees on the field. However, I see this as a power play and will eventually have my revenge.

Since you’ve probably read most of my notes/observations/takeaways from minicamp already, I thought I’d take a holistic view of what I saw. My talks are a bit more abstract in thought than they are true observations. I already wrote those. Therefore, I will be diagnosing what we have seen in the last two days from a level of 5,000 feet, while thinking about the effects that these questions have on the future of the Falcons in the 2022 season.

I hope you see that these notes are a little different from the ones I have already written.

1. Receiver numbers will shrink

EVERYTHING IS FINE. So, I know I’ve written about this not once but twice now but I felt like it begged me to repeat myself. Arthur Smith explained it best: Due to the nature of OTAs, the Falcons carry more receivers and tight ends than they will once training camp gets closer. Read also : 2021 Falcons cheerleaders preparation process underway. They will make some roster moves soon, in fact they already have. Chances are we’ll see the Falcons draft a handful of linemen before the start of training camp, and even through camp as league cuts are made.

My point in saying all this is to wonder which receivers (WRs and TEs) the Falcons will decide to keep vs who they let go. As I wrote earlier in the week, I consider Drake London, Bryan Edwards and Olamide Zaccheaus wide receiver group locks to make the 53-man roster. If the Falcons keep – say – five wide receivers, who gets the other two spots? Do they stay big with Auden Tate and Geronimo Allison? Do they go smaller and faster with Damiere Byrd and Cameron Batson? And what about KhaDarel Hodge or Frank Darby? Do they fit the mold of what the Falcons need? In truth, it can be any number of combinations.

It ultimately begs the question of: What are the Falcons valuing at the position? And what they are looking for is already in the team? If there’s one thought that put minicamp on my mind, it’s this.

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2. Classroom > Field

Let’s be honest, minicamp doesn’t tell you anything about what this team will be like in Week 1 of the season. This may interest you : Miami Dolphins cheerleaders celebrate Monday’s win, Shredded Shaq and Phil Mickelson launch a road bomb. A majority of the important work done during this time is completed behind the scenes, in the “classroom,” so to speak.

Smith said a successful minicamp for him means getting everyone on the same page before training camp. This means getting the set up, getting everyone to understand how things operate in Atlanta, as well as making sure everyone is fluent in Falcons specific terminology. For the most part, Smith said the Falcons are on the right track, particularly the rookies.

To explain the importance of off-field work, take the offensive line for example. We know there will be significant competition within this group for the five starting places. However, we really can’t see that competition in full until the pads go on and live reps start. Therefore, to keep them stimulated, they must be challenged in the meetings, as their field work is limited to more individual exercises.

“There’s a lot of things that we’re fundamentally trying to improve right now,” Smith said. “It’s the same thing in the classroom, another year of understanding as we evolve, but they know the basic foundation, which certainly helps, so you evaluate all that too.”

There is still much to discover within this position group.

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3. Strong secondary

If someone were to ask me which position group I think is the strongest right now, at this moment I would say the secondary. I’m not worried about AJ Terrell and Casey Hayward doing their job outside. I think Isaiah Oliver will go back to nickel and pick up where he left off. On the same subject : Do NFL cheerleaders get paid? Here’s what the average salary is. I believe this could be Jaylinn Hawkins’ year to shine, and Richie Grant’s year to make a significant leap. Picking up Dean Marlowe and Mike Ford in free agency and re-signing Erik Harris provides veteran depth, and starting potential.

Of all the groups, this one feels the safest. (If – of course – everyone stays relatively healthy). That, and they’re just a fun bunch to watch. Never quiet on the sideline, the defensive backs seem to be the lifeblood of this team. They bring excitement, which is something I would never be crazy to see.

4. The faces of the franchise set the tone

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4. The faces of the franchise set the tone

I dare not write that this is the team of Kyle Pitts and AJ Terrell. If I did, he’d call Arthur Smith from deep in the bowels of the Flower Branch facility to tell me he’s everyone’s team. Jokes aside, what I mean by this is that it is obvious that the most marketable players on this team are Pitts and Terrell.

In my opinion, they are the ones you build a future around. And to me, they are starting to act like those figureheads both on and off the field, and I mean that in a good way.

They are more vocal in practice, with each other and with their peers. They seem to be more comfortable, too. Maybe that’s the experience, they’re not even what I consider new anymore. Even though they are still “young” players simply from an age standpoint, they have played more snaps than many veterans. You can tell they carry themselves this way, too.

Pitts and Terrell are coming into their own in 2022. And as two of the most intriguing talents in the entire league at their respective positions, that can only mean good things for the Falcons.

5. The future of Deion Jones is still uncertain

5. The future of Deion Jones still uncertain

Jones did not report to the mandatory minicamp, as he was excused, rehabbing a shoulder procedure he underwent this season. It has sparked much speculation from those outside of Flowery Branch about his future with the organization. I’m here to tell you that the mandatory minicamp did nothing to quell those noises and questions. I wish I had a more concrete answer for you but I don’t.

When asked if the roster will change anything between now and training camp, Smith said “probably,” and that Terry Fontenot’s phone is always on if a team wants to discuss a player.

We know Jones’ current contract is a monster, but so was Matt Ryan’s. If the right circumstance comes along, there’s a chance the Falcons will listen. We will monitor the situation this season, but for now it just feels like a situation that is up-in-the-air.

Meanwhile, Mykal Walker, Rashaan Evans and Troy Andersen and Nick Kwiatkoski behind them are easily holding the position together.

Atlanta Falcons defensive end Tre Webb #33 during practice in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Tuesday, June 14, 2022. (Photo by Mitch Martin/Atlanta Falcons)

Mitch Martin/© 2022 Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts #8 during practice in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Wednesday, June 15, 2022. (Photo by Mitch Martin/Atlanta Falcons)

Mitch Martin/© 2022 Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta Falcons cornerback Darren Hall #34 during practice in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Tuesday, June 14, 2022. (Photo by Mitch Martin/Atlanta Falcons)

Mitch Martin/© 2022 Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota #1 during practice in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Tuesday, June 14, 2022. (Photo by Mitch Martin/Atlanta Falcons)

Mitch Martin/© 2022 Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts #8 during practice in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Tuesday, June 14, 2022. (Photo by Mitch Martin/Atlanta Falcons)

Mitch Martin/© 2022 Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta Falcons tight end Parker Hesse #46 during practice in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Wednesday, June 15, 2022. (Photo by Mitch Martin/Atlanta Falcons)

Mitch Martin/© 2022 Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta Falcons offensive lineman Ryan Neuzil #64 during practice in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Wednesday, June 15, 2022. (Photo by Mitch Martin/Atlanta Falcons)

Mitch Martin/© 2022 Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta Falcons linebacker Lorenzo Carter #9 during practice in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Tuesday, June 14, 2022. (Photo by Mitch Martin/Atlanta Falcons)

Mitch Martin/© 2022 Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta Falcons defensive end Cornell Armstrong #25 during practice in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Tuesday, June 14, 2022. (Photo by Mitch Martin/Atlanta Falcons)

Mitch Martin/© 2022 Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta Falcons running back Tyler Allgeier #25 during practice in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Wednesday, June 15, 2022. (Photo by Mitch Martin/Atlanta Falcons)

Mitch Martin/© 2022 Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta Falcons safety Richie Grant #27 during practice in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Wednesday, June 15, 2022. (Photo by Mitch Martin/Atlanta Falcons)

Mitch Martin/© 2022 Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith during practice in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Wednesday, June 15, 2022. (Photo by Mitch Martin/Atlanta Falcons)

Mitch Martin/© 2022 Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta Falcons running back DeAngelo Malone #51 during practice in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Wednesday, June 15, 2022. (Photo by Mitch Martin/Atlanta Falcons)

Mitch Martin/© 2022 Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota #1 during practice in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Wednesday, June 15, 2022. (Photo by Mitch Martin/Atlanta Falcons)

Mitch Martin/© 2022 Atlanta Falcons

Detail image during practice in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Wednesday, June 15, 2022. (Photo by Mitch Martin/Atlanta Falcons)

Mitch Martin/© 2022 Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder #4 during practice in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Wednesday, June 15, 2022. (Photo by Mitch Martin/Atlanta Falcons)

Mitch Martin/© 2022 Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Drake London #5 during practice in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Tuesday, June 14, 2022. (Photo by Mitch Martin/Atlanta Falcons)

Mitch Martin/© 2022 Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts #8 during practice in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Tuesday, June 14, 2022. (Photo by Mitch Martin/Atlanta Falcons)

Mitch Martin/© 2022 Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder #4 during practice in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Tuesday, June 14, 2022. (Photo by Mitch Martin/Atlanta Falcons)

Mitch Martin/© 2022 Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta Falcons cornerback A.J. Terrell #24 during practice in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Tuesday, June 14, 2022. (Photo by Mitch Martin/Atlanta Falcons)

Mitch Martin/© 2022 Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta Falcons defensive lineman Grady Jarrett #97 during practice in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Tuesday, June 14, 2022. (Photo by Mitch Martin/Atlanta Falcons)

Mitch Martin/© 2022 Atlanta Falcons

during practice in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Tuesday, June 14, 2022. (Photo by Mitch Martin/Atlanta Falcons)

Mitch Martin/© 2022 Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Drake London #5 during practice in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Tuesday, June 14, 2022. (Photo by Mitch Martin/Atlanta Falcons)

Mitch Martin/© 2022 Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta Falcons running back Qadree Ollison #30 during practice in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Tuesday, June 14, 2022. (Photo by Mitch Martin/Atlanta Falcons)

Mitch Martin/© 2022 Atlanta Falcons

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