Smith says opening camp is one of the ‘best days of the year’

Falcons coach Mike Smith talks with the media after the teams first practice of training camp. (D. Orlando Ledbetter/dledbetter@ajc.com)

Falcons coach Mike Smith talks with the media after the teams first practice of training camp. (D. Orlando Ledbetter/dledbetter@ajc.com)

FLOWERY BRANCH – With the offense in place, a promising young quarterback and a rebuilt secondary, the Falcons have managed to win the offseason Super Bowl.

No, there won’t be a parade down Peachtree Street.

No, Arthur Blank won’t get to hold a trophy over his head.

But by making all of the right moves, the Falcons are media darlings and are showing up in the top 10 of several of those so-called “power rankings.”

“We are real excited about the energy,” general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. “The big message that we really stressed in the offseason is consistency.”

But the work for the “real” Super Bowl – the one that comes with the Vince Lombardi trophy — starts today.

“That’s exactly how we are going to proceed,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “When we first got here we talked about our goals and our goals are always going to be kept internally. I think that we have had a very productive offseason in terms of adding personnel through the draft and free agency. But it all starts on Friday morning.”

When I talked to Smith early last week, he was clearly excited to get back out on the field.

“It’s probably one of the best days of the year when you get your team together to start the journey,” Smith said. “There are going to be a lot of difficult decisions that we are going to have to make over the next five or six weeks leading up to

The Vince Lombardi Trophy on display at the Super Bowl. (D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC)

The Vince Lombardi Trophy on display at the commissioner's Super Bowl party in January. (D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC)

the start of the season.”

Smith noted that this camp will be much more difficult for his coaching staff. There wasn’t much depth when they arrived after the disastrous 2007 season. They gutted the team and have somehow managed to cobble together two winning seasons while rebuilding.

You can call it rebuilding on the fly.

But in this camp, there is depth at just about every position, even place kicker.

“We are going to get really good evaluations not only in the four preseason games, but by having the combined practices, the four against Jacksonville and the two against New England,” Smith said. “It’s really going to give us an opportunity to evaluate these guys that are fighting for roster spots.”

Smith was more than happy to talk about two of the positions that will be highly competitive.

Defensive lineman Peria Jerry, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 2 last season, grabs his team backpack after checking in. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

Defensive lineman Peria Jerry, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 2 last season, grabs his team backpack after checking in on Thursday. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

1. CORNERBACK: “We felt like we needed to upgrade in the secondary. Don’t get me wrong. We weren’t very good in pass defense and we weren’t where we wanted to be in giving up explosive pass plays. We were 28th in the league. It’s been well documented and that’s unacceptable for everybody in this building. I’ve said it many times, that it was just not the DBs, but we felt we had to start to address that. We added Dunta Robinson. We also have Brent Grimes, Christopher Owens, Brian Williams and we added Dominique Franks in the draft. We feel like that is going to be the most competitive spot on the entire team.”

2. OFFENSIVE LINE: “I also feel that the offensive line will be competitive. We added new players in Joe Hawley and Mike Johnson. When you do your 53-man roster, you’re going to have 9 or 10 offensive linemen. That’s going to be very, very competitive.

“The front line starters are fairly set. They are set. I think that was a solid group last year. But I think we need to start looking at the backups at those positions. There are going to be some very good battles for those roster spots.”

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57 comments Add your comment

Paddy

July 30th, 2010
7:17 am

Like the look of this squad already.

Prof

July 30th, 2010
7:23 am

Second (I’ve degraded myself)

bigslow

July 30th, 2010
7:40 am

2010 season tickes in hand ready to go.

Section 108

July 30th, 2010
7:49 am

Today is a glorious day in the land of the Atlanta Falcons. RISE-UP!!!!!!

26Sept10……..

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by ajc sports editor, Fantasy Tackles and D. Orlando Ledbetter, ATLHOMER. ATLHOMER said: Atlanta Falcons – RT Smith says opening camp is one of the “best days of the year”: Atlanta Falcons general … http://bit.ly/afedb2 #AJC [...]

Gritz Blitz

July 30th, 2010
8:07 am

My season tickets arrived yesterday. I’m so ready. Go Falcons!

Falcon 8211

July 30th, 2010
8:07 am

let’s get this party started. falcons rise up!!!!!!

mountain_jim

July 30th, 2010
8:11 am

Football season is finally here!

(and just in time too, with the Hawks offseason ownership-lead financial fiascos arousing little enthusiasm and the Braves now running out of gas)

Iceman

July 30th, 2010
8:15 am

Let’s rock and roll!

Boo the Falcons!!!

July 30th, 2010
8:18 am

This day would be beter if TO was part of this team.

Just sayin…..

Cool your jets, Falcon fans...

July 30th, 2010
8:31 am

…remember, it IS the Falcons about whom you are getting excited…and why does Smitty wear that dumb looking safari hat? Next thing you know Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton will be down here telling us that that signifiys racism since it is associated with Africa and most of the players are African-American…

OOPS...

July 30th, 2010
8:32 am

…”signifies”

Leopold Stotts

July 30th, 2010
8:34 am

Boo, you have got to be kidding.

florida falcon

July 30th, 2010
8:37 am

Make us proud! We, the loyal fans of atlanta want to hear-”the 2010 nfl champion Atlanta Falcons!”
Rise up! I got my opening day tickets, let’s pluck some Arizona Cardinal!

Falconidae

July 30th, 2010
8:37 am

Boo,
TO’s number of catches, yards per catch, total yards and TDs have all gone down each of the last 3 years. He’s 36 years old, his skills are declining; couple that with his insanity- he tried to commit suicide, his disruption in the locker room- he called one QB gay, another a choker, and the run first O that the falcons run-he’s not worth it.

I’m excited for the Falcons- the O looks good, the reports about Ryan increasing his strength and building confidence are encouraging, there’s finally enough talent on the D to run the aggressive scheme that BVG & Smith want, there’s quality depth everywhere. Jerry, HD, and Moore are cleared to practice, no holdouts- this will be a really fun year.

Don’t know if the falcons are ready to move up to elite status yet, but they’ll be a very good team.

For the first time in years, there’s no loss on the schedule- don’t mean they won’t lose a game, but there’s no game where you circle and say” That’s a loss” I’ve been rooting for the Falcons since the early 80s and too many times I looked at a SF or a STL game and thought, “well, if the entire team comes down with food poisoning, they’d have a chance…” Not that way any more – this current team will be competitive with every single team it plays this year.

gdg73

July 30th, 2010
8:39 am

If I was coach Smith, I would leap frog Snelling over Norwood in the depth chart at RB and utilize Jerious exclusively as our kick returner. Also, will we ever incorporate the screen pass into the game plan to slow down the opposing pass rush?

GT in Gold Town

July 30th, 2010
8:41 am

11 wins the first year, 9 in the second. So I’m going to go with the middle number and say that we get 10 wins, win the NFC South over a 11-5 Saints due to us winning both matchups against them, beating Dallas in the first round, Packers in the Second, and as a repeat of ‘98 we beat the Vikings in the NFC championship game. Then we play the Jets and keep LT from getting that ring, and instead put it on Tony Gonzalez’s finger.

rekingball

July 30th, 2010
8:45 am

Boo@818am……..I think that TO would look real good in one of those uniforms that have the gold helmuts, gold pants, and the white or black jersey(depending if that team is home or away).

Season ticket holders

July 30th, 2010
8:45 am

Are you guys going to camp tomorrow and getting the complex tour for renewing early? Did you get passes to that too? I RSVP two weeks and nothing. I am ready to get the Championship season started, just need a little feedback. How come nobody ever mentions our nickel corner when the talke about the secondary. Chevis Jackson, Coach??

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

July 30th, 2010
8:45 am

finally the day is here!! let’s pray for a healthy team, no injuries, and get ready to defeat the Steelers on 9/12!!

rekingball

July 30th, 2010
8:50 am

GT@841…..Wouldn’t the Falcons have to be 11-5 to win the South against the saints in your prediction.

rekingball

July 30th, 2010
8:53 am

I believe the Falcons will wind up 12-4, at least.
They will win the NFC South, with no problem, I predict.

No

July 30th, 2010
8:53 am

“10 wins, win the NFC South over a 11-5 Saints due to us winning both matchups against them”

Dude, if they have 11 wins and we have 10 wins, it doesn’t matter if we beat them twice … they have the better overall record and win the division.

Learn some football.

Marcus

July 30th, 2010
8:54 am

I like ‘The Process’. We look to be battle-ready.

Zone4FalcFan

July 30th, 2010
8:59 am

All of this pessimism… FALCONS SUPER BOWL BOUND!!! I will say it until it is feasibly impossible. Yea our pass D was 28th in the league but our team was the worst in the league before we went 11-5. I’m not saying, I’m just saying

Brian

July 30th, 2010
9:17 am

Peria! Get that Cardinals hat off your head! You’re in Atlanta! Mississippi is Braves country anyway.

SiCkOfThIs

July 30th, 2010
9:23 am

RISE UP??????? Hmm… I believe this was another Atlanta team’s marketing campaign not too long ago. Way to be original

AJ

July 30th, 2010
9:29 am

Football Season is right around the corner and I can’t wait!!!!!

Honesty is best policy

July 30th, 2010
9:33 am

Season Ticket Holder: Yeah the passes were distributed already. Check with your rep. not this message board.

truth

July 30th, 2010
9:34 am

Brian you beat me to it. But if he stays healthy and play like he was at the begining of last season, he can wear a steak-n-shake hat if he wants to.

bigslow

July 30th, 2010
9:34 am

If we can stay healthy i really like our chances. ICE 3 yrs in. BURNER in better shape. Tony’s Tony. OL we picked up some good pieces.I think the defence will be much improved and will be the differece maker here.

3rdWinningSeason

July 30th, 2010
9:36 am

Waiting for season tix to arrive, excited for this team.

Paddy

July 30th, 2010
9:56 am

Boo…….the last thing this team needed is TO. Coach Lewis, by some accounts, is already 2nd guessing his owner on that move.

ToccoaBird

July 30th, 2010
10:29 am

D-Led needs to interview Beer Man and ask him if he is happy in Atlanta

Grady Jackson *Barber Shop*

July 30th, 2010
10:45 am

————————–
Nesbitt for Heisman
————————–

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

July 30th, 2010
11:04 am

nesbitt for heisman = hilarious!!!

Pete

July 30th, 2010
11:26 am

It ALL boils down to injuries. Injuries to key starting, premium players.
Without injuries…………anything is possible.
With them………..it’s back to square one.
The NFL has evolved into a brutal battleground, injuries everywhere.
Hold your breath, cross your fingers, or pray.
It will be interesting to watch this season unfold………..starting today.

SeenThisB4

July 30th, 2010
11:42 am

Using injuries is an excuse, not a reason. All teams have injuries to key starting, premium players.

General Patton

July 30th, 2010
11:42 am

Mr. Blank – Please just stay out of the way!

SeenThisB4

July 30th, 2010
11:48 am

THE WAY THINGS SHOULD BE:
Nicholas: Weatherspoon! Bring my pads in!
Weatherspoon: What?
Nicholas: You heard me rookie, bring in my pads!
Weatherspoon: Bring in your own pads, you don’t want a Dez Bryant repeat.
Nicholas: You don’t either, now pick them up!
Weatherspoon: Man! Alright, but you are gonna regret it when I take your spot!
Nicholas: Shut up and pick’em up rookie!

waynester

July 30th, 2010
12:14 pm

The injury bug will bite every team, that’s why Coach Smith was stressing the importance of the battles for backup positions so that when the inevitable injury occurs, there’s a competent player behind them ready for action. When you totally rebuild a roster, you’re going to have some depth problems(as ATL has faced the last 2 years). Dimitroff has brought in fresh depth with starting potential to reduce the problem. Everyone’s optimistic about their chances in August–it’s a fun time….

jon

July 30th, 2010
12:20 pm

This is the year.

SirReal

July 30th, 2010
12:26 pm

I just dont wanna see anyone hurt this camp…and if so I hope something minor. We need a healthy squad to make a legitimate run at the Big Dance.

ICEMANcometh10

July 30th, 2010
12:32 pm

I smell 3 winning seasons in a row and the overall feeling is that this one will be SUPER……

Wow, most of these Falcons fans...

July 30th, 2010
12:49 pm

…must also be UGA fans, ’cause this over the top optimism is just plain delusional…

truth

July 30th, 2010
1:05 pm

The only thing “delusional” is you mother actually gave birth to you. Man, I bet she thinks she got a raw deal.

Iceman

July 30th, 2010
1:17 pm

Tony Falcon

July 30th, 2010
1:21 pm

One of the best articles yet DLed! Maybe it’s because I’m almost excited as much as Coach Smith! Prolly so…..

Thriller from Manilla

July 30th, 2010
1:44 pm

Calm down Falcons fans,they have not played a preseason game as yet. It is good to be optimistic, but some of you are really over the top. It is real to believe they will make the playoff but to win the division and to go 12-4 or to say there is not a game on their schedule that they can’t win even those on the road is crazy.

Birdword

July 30th, 2010
1:52 pm

tell it, truth.