FLOWERY BRANCH – The one lasting impression of the Falcons minicamp, was seeing Tony Gonzalez whizzing around the field like a youngster.
He appeared to catch everything thrown his way. On Sunday, he drove out to tip a pass that was too far in front of him. While falling to the ground, he caught the ball.
Offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey had him run a couple of vertical routes and it doesn’t look like the 33-year-old has lost a step. (Wonder if the Hawks have called the Falcons to see if he can suit up for Game 4 on Monday. Gonzalez also played hoops at California and went to the Sweet 16 with Jason Kidd and the crew back in the day.)
“He’s everything that I’ve seen for the last nine or 10 years,” Falcons head coach Mike Smith
said. “He’s the prototypical tight end. He can block. He can catch. He can run after the catch. He’s just a guy who’s going to make everybody on this team, offense and defense, better.
KICKING IT WITH THE BVG: Defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder is still the loudest coach on the field.
He’s got perhaps the toughest job, but has tons of help from his assistants and Smith. Molding at least five new starters into the unit is going something we’ll keep tabs on.
POSITION OUT IN
Strong safety Lawyer Milloy Thomas DeCoud
Cornerback Dominique Foxworth Brent Grimes
Weakside LB KeithBrooking Michael Peterson
Strongside LB Michael Boley Stephen Nicholas
Nose tackle Grady Jackson Trey Lewis
BVG thinks he has enough veterans to blend in some of the young talent.
He cited Erik Coleman, Michael Peterson, John Abraham and Chauncey Davis.
“We’ve got enough veteran leadership that can work out to be a great blend with the young players,” VanGorder said. “With young players . . . right now it’s kind of crucial to allow them to get comfortable.”
COMPETITION: Smith said don’t put too much stock into how the unit lined up in mini-camp. There will be plenty of competition for those starting spots. First round pick Peria Jerry could push Lewis. Chris Owens could push Grimes and William Moore could push DeCoud.
“They are competing for playing time,” VanGorder said. “That playing time could come in a lot of different forms. That doesn’t mean, just as a starter. Certainly a lot of guys are battling for starting positions. Some guys are trying to earn spots on the roster. Some guys are trying to get into the two-deep so that they can gain reps. There are a lot of dynamics involved in that.”
NO MATTER HOW IT GOES DOWN, THE DEFENSE WILL BE YOUNG: “We’re going to be young,
but I still think we’ve got a good mixture,” VanGorder said. “We have a number of guys going into their third year. We played with some rookies last year, who gained some valuable experience and should improve this year.
We’ve got a good formula set up.”
MULARKEY ON THE OFFENSE: Mularkey knows that with Gonazlez on board, teams will have trouble keying on one player.
There were games last season, when teams could sellout on stopping Michael Turner or Roddy White and shut the offense down.
“It will be hard to beat down on one guy with Tony in there,” Mularkey said. “It should help the run game with him in there.”
The theme for the offense is “Get Better.”
“We want to get better, everywhere,” Mularkey said.
THE ROOKIES: Made it a point to meet all of the rookie draft choices. Real nice and intelligent group. The Garrett Reynolds kid is huge. He’s the second biggest lineman next to Tyson Clabo. Was worried about the cornerbacks — Chris Owens and William Middleton — being to small. But one Falcon scout told me “as long as they can play.” And warned not to get caught up on their height. William Moore looks like a stud, now it will just be a matter of how fast will he pick up the defense.
Well, now that mini-camp is over, did you get your football fix? Learn anything new about the rookies? Worried about the defense still? Excited about the offense?