FLOWERY BRANCH – NFL Network analyst Deion Sanders made an interesting point when he was here with his youth football team.
He noted that he looks at a football team from the outside- in. That’s probably because he played on the outside at cornerback.
Most folks do just the opposite. It’s wiser to look at a team from the inside-out. Basically you start with both lines.
“You know I look at the game from the outside-in,” Sanders said.
If a team can’t block, it is in for a long season. You can have the best cornerbacks in the world, but if the defensive line isn’t stout, the opposition is just going to jam the football down your throat with the running game.
The Falcons are not going anywhere unless the lines are at least sturdy and preferably, dominating.
Knowing that the NFL games are won in the trenches, it’s always important to keep track of the lines. So you have to always check-in with defensive line coach Ray Hamilton and offensive line coach Paul Boudreau.
Hamilton likes how his unit is performing early in training camp.
He noted that John Abraham is embracing a leadership role and is really dialed in about having a bounce-back season.
“Trey Lewis is two years removed from his knee surgery,” Hamilton said. “He’s moving better. (Jonathan) Babineaux is quick as ever. He’s learning a couple of new pass rush moves, the same with Abraham.”
Rookie Corey Peters is doing well so far. Lawrence Sidbury and Kroy Biermann have continued to improve, too. Thomas Johnson, who started 11 games last season, looks much bigger.
But the really big news on the defensive line is that Jamaal Anderson is really coming on at defensive end. He’s finally developing those violate hands that Hamilton preaches around.
Anderson has been playing so strong that he’s been in a couple skirmishes with the offensive linemen. He’s also working well at defensive tackle in pass rushing situations.
“I would say overall, they are on the upswing,” Hamilton said. “They are doing their techniques and stuff that we are trying to teach them, decently. You just have to carry that into the preseason games.”
The defensive line will get a major boost if Peria Jerry can fully recover from has knee surgery. He returned to live action.
“We are going to be patient and ease into this,” Hamilton said. “We want to make sure that his legs get stronger.”
Boudreau, who’s in his 24th year of coaching in the NFL, appears set with a line of Sam Baker and Justin Blalock on the left side and Harvey Dahl and Tyson Clabo on the right and Todd McClure at center.
“We have to set the tempo,” Boudreau said. “We have to have an unspoken chemistry and right now we’ve got guys really not on the same page. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Boudreau is trying to cross-train several players and that’s always difficult. Rookie Joe Hawley played mostly center at UNLV, but is being cross trained at guard.
Garrett Reynolds, who got some action at guard late last season, is working at guard and tackle.
“It’s always a little different when you move over one spot,” Boudreau said. “You have to get a feel for it. We are going to have to cross train people because as you know, we go into every game with seven linemen. In preseason games, if we are going to be working the second and third units in a game, we might have to swing some guys between guard and tackle.”
Becoming a good swing player takes time.
“With (Will) Svitek and (Quinn) Ojinnaka, it’s taken them two years to be reliable swing guys,” Boudreau said. “We are trying to get everybody up to speed and learn our system.”
Boudreau confirmed that Jose Valdez, who was on the practice squad all last season, has looked impressive.
“He’s a guy who is very athletic when he gets out there and he pulls on our sweeps,” Boudreau said. “He’s very fluid. He’s got nice feet in space.”
An old-school coach like Boudreau isn’t going to have much good to say about rookies. So Mike Johnson and Hawley just better keep grinding away. They are big, athletic and have been studying hard in the class room.
“It’s been tough on them,” Boudreau said. “They’ve had some good snaps and some bad snaps.”
Sanders does like the fact that the Falcons have addressed their outside issue at cornerback and he likes quarterback Matt Ryan.
“Your quarterback, I think he knows what he’s doing,” Sanders said. “He started off with a great rookie season. Last year was OK. This year I think he’s going to be fine.”
It’s early in training camp, but things look pretty good from the inside-out.
Friday, August 6 — Practice 10:15 – 11:55 a.m. (open to the public)
Team Scrimmage at North Gwinnett High School – 7:30 p.m. (open to the public)
Saturday, August 7 — Mock Game at Flowery Branch – 12:00 p.m. (open to the public)
Sunday, August 8 — No Practice.
Monday, August 9 — Practice 8:30 – 10:40 a.m. (open to the public); practice 3:45 – 4:40 p.m. (open to the public). COMBINED PRACTICES WITH JACKSONVILLE.
Tuesday, August 10 — Practice 8:30 – 10:40 a.m. (open to the public); practice 3:45 – 5:50 p.m. (open to the public). COMBINED PRACTICES WITH JACKSONVILLE.
Wednesday, August 11 — Practice 8:30 – 10:40 a.m. (closed to the public); practice 3:45 – 4:40 p.m. (closed to the public).
Thursday, August 12 — Practice 8:50 – 10:55 a.m. (closed to the public); practice 5:15 – 6:15 p.m. (closed to the public).
Friday, August 13 — Preseason Week 1 vs. Kansas City 8 p.m.