Buford — The Falcons wrapped up their unofficial offseason program with the closing of “Camp Exile” on Wednesday.
During the NFL Lockout they tried to a normal offseason as quarterback Matt Ryan led the organized team activities.
In a surprise move, rookie Julio Jones was a regular at the practices after he was medically cleared from his foot surgery.
The Falcons, with between 20 to 35 players at the practices, actually went a week longer than what would have been allowed under league rules.
Here are the 10 things we learned from the practices:
1. Jones should be ready to go: After the last practice, Jones spent some extra time on the field running routes before he went over to Ryan’s house for sandwiches and some chalk talk.
They have been meeting away from the field since Jones was drafted.
“He’s taken me under his wings,” Jones said. “He’s let me come over his house to go over material that I don’t have in my playbook. Everything has been great.”
Jones said they study some of the finer nuances of the Falcons’ passing attack.
“We are just going over different material that I don’t have and I’m learning like that.” Jones said.
The Falcons’ offensive attack is not foreign to Jones.
“I recognize everything,” Jones said. “It’s the same pro-set that we ran at Alabama. Matt and all of the other guys, the other receivers, are helping me out as well.”
Jones and linebacker Akeem Dent were the only members of the rookie class to attend the seven-on-seven drills. Now, they must wait until the lockout is over to sign their deals and report for camp.
Jones went pretty hard during the workouts, but admitted that he guarded against injury. There were no major injuries during the practices, although reserve wide receiver Tim Buckley did tweak an ankle in a collision.
“Everybody knows how to practice out here,” Jones said. “This is the professional level. Nobody is going to do anything crazy and try to hurt anyone else. If the cornerback has position on me, I’m not going to jump up out here. I’m just going to let him get the ball and help him get better. I don’t want to push him, fall down and roll our ankles or something like that.”
2. Matt Ryan is the unquestioned leader: Ryan is about to enter his fourth year in the NFL and it’s clear that he’s the leader of the Falcons.
He organized the workouts, came up with the schedule and got input from the key veterans.
He also kept tabs on the players who were working out on their own, too.
3. Curtis Lofton has a whistle: Lofton came with a defensive script and thoroughly enjoyed calling the defenses.
He has to work on his coaching voice to become the next Brian VanGorder.
4. Offensive line might be in good shape: Although the offensive linemen don’t play a key role in seven-on-seven drills, Joe Hawley and Garrett Reynolds were at nearly all of the practices. Mike Johnson was also a regular.
They all could be competing for starting jobs if Tyson Clabo, Harvey Dahl and Justin Blalock leave in free agency.
5. Shann Schillinger is recovering: The backup safety suffered a fractured ankle in the 15th game of the season. He took part in two of the practices.
“I’m getting closer and closer everyday,” Schillinger said. “I can start getting into more football related drills now. Hopefully, things will progress here in the next couple of weeks.”
Schillinger said he was at 85 percent healthy. He was limping some on Wednesday while playing free safety.
“I was cautious with it,” Schillinger said. “It was good to come out and move around a little bit. It was good to get back on the field.”
6. Franks maybe ready to challenge: Cornerback Dominique Franks, a fifth round pick in 2010, was a regular at the practices.
Franks was clearly more comfortable back pedaling and making his breaks on the ball. He could be ready from some action.
7. Roddy White is not a cornerback: One of the delights was watching White play cornerback during the last practice.
He bit on Michael Palmer’s inside move and gave up a sideline route before falling down.
The All-Pro receiver is not going to be a two-way player anytime soon.
8. Palmer’s has some nice hands: Palmer, the Parkview High and Clemson product, was a regular and received a lot of work.
Tony Gonzalez did not make any of the sessions and Justin Peelle and Robbie Agnone made a few practices, but for the most part it was the “Michael Palmer Show” at tight end.
He caught nearly every pass thrown his way.
9. Harry Douglas is fully recovered: He battled back from knee surgery last season.
At the NFL scouting combine, head coach Mike Smith noted that it could take an extra year to fully recover from major knee surgery.
Douglas was a regular, ran extremely well and showed that explosiveness he displayed as a rookie.
With Jones on board, and the recovery of Kerry Meier, the wide receiver position is stacked.
10. Free agents flow: You have to respect linebacker Stephen Nicholas, kicker Matt Bryant, and linebacker Mike Peterson, who all made some practices despite the fact they are free agents. Nicholas was a regular.
(Well, it’s that time of the year to take a pause for the cause. I’m going to burn up this vacation time in anticipation of Roger and DeMaurice getting this labor deal done. Headed to the beach, see y’all around July 5 or 6th.)
–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog