Atlanta Falcons: 5 things we learned from minicamp

061312 FLOWERY BRANCH: Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith circles his troops for some "coach speak" at the conclusion of team practice in Flowery Branch on Wednesday, June 13, 2012. Mini-camp for the team will begin next week.   CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

061312 FLOWERY BRANCH: Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith circles his troops for some "coach speak" at the conclusion of team practice in Flowery Branch on Wednesday, June 13, 2012. Mini-camp for the team will begin next week. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

FLOWERY BRANCH — Before the players were dismissed on Thursday, Falcons Coach Mike Smith had a final message for them.

They have a chunk of off time before reporting for training camp in the last week of July.

“It was the same message that we give every year,” Smith said. “You want guys to be careful when they are out. They need to unplug a little bit, but at the same time it’s not unplugging like at the end of the season.”

061912 FLOWERY BRANCH: Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones outjumps cornerback Christopher Owens to make a two handed grab during the first day of mini-camp in Flowery Branch on Tuesday, June 19, 2012.      CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

061912 FLOWERY BRANCH: Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones outjumps cornerback Christopher Owens to make a two handed grab during the first day of mini-camp in Flowery Branch on Tuesday, June 19, 2012. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

He wants the players to continue to work out.

 

“They need to stay on the regiment with their weight training and conditioning and be careful,” Smith said. “We want them to be refreshed.”

Smith plans to get in a little trout fishing and will value his family time.

“We certainly hope that guys have taken most of their vacation time prior to this,” Smith said.

You could sense that Smith is not a big fan of the new collective bargaining rules, which basically banned offseason contact. One of the major areas of concern for the Falcons is the offensive line.

Smith and his staff couldn’t really evaluate the offensive and defensive lines because the players were just basically playing tag up front.

If the Falcons are going to continue being a playoff team and make a step up, the offensive line must improve.

So, while we are going to get to five things we learned during minicamp, the biggest question remains unanswered. Can the offensive line protect Matt Ryan long enough for Dirk Koetter’s vertical passing game to work? We’ll just hold off on that question until training camp opens on July 26.

While Smith liked having an offseason, he was clearly not happy with the non-contact rules.

061912 FLOWERY BRANCH:  Falcons guard Peter Konz shares a laugh with offensive line coach Pat Hill at the start of the first day of mini-camp in Flowery Branch on Tuesday, June 19, 2012.      CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

061912 FLOWERY BRANCH: Falcons guard Peter Konz shares a laugh with offensive line coach Pat Hill at the start of the first day of mini-camp in Flowery Branch on Tuesday, June 19, 2012. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

“We’ve got to address a number of areas,” Smith said. “The two areas where I think we’re going to have the most competition and the biggest battles will be on the offensive and defensive lines. We have depth at both of those positions. I think it’s going to be interesting to evaluate those guys. We’ve got somewhat of an evaluation process through theses OTAs and minicamp.”

Basically, Smith wants to see some pads popping. They have to know if Sam Baker is fully recovered or if they have to go into scramble mode and try to find a veteran or get one of the younger players ready.

They have to sort out the all-comers competition at right guard. Garrett Reynolds looked good taking most of the snaps with the first-team, but he’ll have to hold off rookie Peter Konz, veteran Vince Manuwai, Joe Hawley and Mike Johnson.

Also, I just pencil in Todd McClure at center, but old Mud Duck is not going to play forever. Eventually, Hawley or Konz will take over at center.

“We haven’t been able to evaluate like we’d like because these were not padded practices,” Smith said. “We’ll get a better evaluation when training camp starts.”

Smith is anticipating that the battle at defensive tackle will be fierce. Jonathan Babineaux and Corey

061912 FLOWERY BRANCH:  Atlanta Falcons defensive end John Abraham runs an agility drill during the first day of mini-camp in Flowery Branch on Tuesday, June 19, 2012.      CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

061912 FLOWERY BRANCH: Atlanta Falcons defensive end John Abraham runs an agility drill during the first day of mini-camp in Flowery Branch on Tuesday, June 19, 2012. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

Peters will have to battle to retain their spots. But Smith looks at the defensive line as having seven starters because of their rotational system. Peria Jerry and Vance Walker will have to earn their playing time.

Kroy Biermann will have to hold off Lawrence Sidbury and Jonathan Massaquoi in the defensive end rotation. There could be some more longshots in the group like Cliff Matthews at defensive end and Travian Robertson at defensive tackle.

“We are looking at a number of guys at different spots both on the offensive and defensive lines,” Smith said. “We need to make those evaluations through the first two or three weeks of training camp to try to solidify the guys who are going to be starting for us.”

Since we’ve covered what we didn’t learn at minicamp – pass protection and pass rush — let’s get to things we did learn.

1. A committee will replace Eric Weems. It is going to take two or perhaps three players to replace Weems, who was the punt returner, kickoff returner and one of the leading tacklers. Harry Douglas and Dominique Franks appear set to battle for the punt returner job. James Rodgers and Antone Smith appear set to battle for the kickoff returner job.

060612 FLOWERY BRANCH : The Atlanta Falcons offensive line works with assistant offensive line coach Paul Dunn (in hat) during team practice at Flowery Branch on Wednesday, June 6, 2012.  CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

060612 FLOWERY BRANCH : The Atlanta Falcons offensive line works with assistant offensive line coach Paul Dunn (in hat) during team practice at Flowery Branch on Wednesday, June 6, 2012. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

“A lot of the roster moves will have a lot to do with it and all that type of stuff,” special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong said. “I’ll just try to coach the group and go from there. A young guy has got to step up or a veteran has to step up and fill that role as the core cover guy. Eric wore so many hats for us and did an outstanding job. We’ll have to split his role into several different guys obviously.”

2. The pass coverage will be improved with my new friend “Deuce, Deuce!” Asante Samuel has promised to slide his 15 percent (talking to the media) rule to the side for us. That’s good for the fans!!! We like him already. But he has single-handedly elevated the intensity of practices with his positive talking and good-natured ribbing of the offense.

Wide receiver Roddy White finally has someone to return his barbs.

“I love that guy,” White said. “He’s been here three weeks and I love him. He brings out the energy. He keeps the defense up high. A lot of people are doing a lot more talking since he’s come out there. He’s

With the help of a team trainer, Falcons running back Michael Turner stretches his leg muscles at OTAs on June 13. (Curtis Compton, ccompton@ajc.com)

With the help of a team trainer, Falcons running back Michael Turner stretches his leg muscles at OTAs on June 13. (Curtis Compton, ccompton@ajc.com)

brought that spark that we needed on defense and we love him.”

With the addition of Samuels, Dunta Robinson appears to be pretty happy, too.

“We are gelling as a secondary,” Robinson said. “That’s the most important thing to us. We are learning each other. Myself, [Brent] Grimes and Asante, we are learning how to play with each other. That was the most important thing going into training camp. We are getting comfortable with each other and we are having fun. That was the biggest thing.”

3. The defense will be unpredictable on third downs. Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan threw the kitchen sink at the offense during minicamp. He clearly has a mandate to improve the third down defense. “We feel that it’s an honor that he feels he can rush seven or eight guys and he has confidence in his guys on the back end,” Robinson said. “Pressure means the ball is coming out fast. That will give us an opportunity to make a lot of plays. We are ready for the opportunity.”

4. Julio Jones is going to the Pro Bowl. The second-year wide receiver is starting to look very polished. “It’s great, not only spending time with [wide receivers coach Terry] Robiskie, but with Matt [Ryan],” Jones said. “Just connecting on balls and knowing where I’m supposed to be at, at the right time and right depth. That’s very critical for me.”

060612 FLOWERY BRANCH :  Falcons 2008 first round pick (21st overall) offensive tackle (72) Sam Baker and offensive tackle (74) Will Svitek walk off the field at the end of team practice in Flowery Branch on Wednesday, June 6, 2012.  CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

060612 FLOWERY BRANCH : Falcons 2008 first round pick (21st overall) offensive tackle (72) Sam Baker and offensive tackle (74) Will Svitek walk off the field at the end of team practice in Flowery Branch on Wednesday, June 6, 2012. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

5. The Falcons will be fine at middle linebacker. Both Lofa Tatupu and Akeem Dent looked at home while rotating with the first team defense. It looks like either one of them will be able to replace Curtis Lofton’s tackling skill in the middle. “Akeem is a young player that we’re hoping just continues to mature and get better and better,” Nolan said. “Hopefully that’s happening. He’s done a real good job out here. Lofa is a dependable guy that’s a veteran, who has some pelts on the wall. He’s done an outstanding job and he gets a lot of respect from the players around him because of that. He’s also a willing player as far as the young guys go. He’s not a selfish older player, where it’s all about him. He’s been a leader. He’s been to the Pro Bowl. He’s been to the Super Bowl. He’s done a lot of things. He remains the same guy, only a little bit older. That will be an interesting thing to watch as far as competition goes.”

–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog

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98 comments Add your comment

SeenThisB4

June 22nd, 2012
10:51 am

SeenThisB4

June 22nd, 2012
10:55 am

What about Ryan’s arm strength? He claimed to have been working out to improve that. Did he, or did he not, look any stronger, or was he just as inaccurate as always?

Michael M.

June 22nd, 2012
11:05 am

Why you always on here so worried about the Falcons, b-4…………………unless you worried they may beat up on your team this upcoming season…………” Saints who-datters, get your head sacks ready ! “

No more eggcuses 4 Perrier Jerry

June 22nd, 2012
11:09 am

I dunno. I was up there yeasterday and I was not 2 very impresed. I saw Donte Roberson get brunt on a play then pretend he got hurt. I did not see Witherspoon at all is he injrued aleady? The passes were all short so we could not see if Matt Rayn his beter arm strengt. Finaly U still have not reproted on Perrier Jerry and why he is still on the rooster.

torgo

June 22nd, 2012
11:09 am

D-Led – several jersey numbers I saw during minicamp aren’t even listed on the team’s official roster. This included some guys who were getting real reps in the 11-on-11 segments. Can you help the team’s web site fill in the blanks?

For example, who was wearing #73 for the offense? (He worked with the 2nd and 3rd units at left tackle.) And who was wearing #45 for the defense? (That one played LB with Lofa Tatupu and Robert James. His highlight on Thursday was jumping a route to pick off a John Parker Wilson pass.)

Also, there was a #97 in white, but he didn’t participate much. He was too far away to catch a name, but it sure didn’t look like Carlton Powell. Any hints?

Bucky Badger

June 22nd, 2012
11:21 am

Not again Today…Seen

gabby

June 22nd, 2012
11:39 am

Let’s crank up a paypal account to put a bounty on seenthisb4.. I’m sure he knows all about bounties…

ueeediot

June 22nd, 2012
11:43 am

y’all still havent figured out that SeenB4 is an inmate?

Brian

June 22nd, 2012
11:44 am

saints go 8-8 this year and Payton gets another year for freaking out and having contact with Vitt. Vitt denies contact and also gets suspended for remaining year. Anyone say bounty?

GE Nupe

June 22nd, 2012
11:59 am

Got a couple of season tickets and I’m feel very optomistic about this group. Ryan is stronger, has another year under his belt, and the offense (which always had the tools) appear to be getting ready to unleach the hounds! Defense – our secondary may be one of the bestss now with the addition of Samuels….just hope they allow the guys to cover more and get out of so many zone sets. We have the athletes – let ‘em play already! I’m ready….let’s get this party started, right? Let’s get this party started QUICKLY….. Look for Julio and Weatherspoon to have an all-pro years. We already know Roddy and Abraham are always making plays….Edwards is healthy…..let’s GO FALCONS! Gimes may make his statement as the best corner in the game this season…yeah, I said it. BUT, if we don’t get past the first round it’s time to consider sorme serious changes with the amount of talent on the field….gotta face reality…hope it doesn’t get that far…..

Fiddle Stix

June 22nd, 2012
12:04 pm

No Eggcuse for Roberson getting Brunt,,,just sayin

Jean Claude Killy

June 22nd, 2012
12:05 pm

Boy Seen,, your Johnny on the spot here lately,,,

Jimmy Jam

June 22nd, 2012
1:02 pm

I just want to see two things from Falcons. Their first offensive play call against KC and the first 3rd and 15 the defense face. From there I can tell you if anything has changed.

Mike Franklin

June 22nd, 2012
1:22 pm

Changes at O & D coaching are not as disruptive as starting over with a new head coach. In fact, depending on how well these new coaches are at migrating what was into what can (and will) be, the changes should be obvious right away. Of course, perfection takes time and as the 2012 season rolls on, we should see it all get better, not worse.

If it doesn’t get better as we go, it could be a very, very long season.

Dirtybird 82

June 22nd, 2012
1:40 pm

SeenthisB4, what about Drew Brees? Is he going to sign or not? Is Billy Jo going to have to suit up for the aints this season? Will Vilma take his year off like a man? Will Sean Payton resist the urge to call the team when they start 0-4? Will you finally figure out we don’t want you on this blog?

SeenThisB4

June 22nd, 2012
1:50 pm

@Dirtbird82: Will you finally figure out that what you want means zip to me?

Judge Smails

June 22nd, 2012
1:51 pm

We are dealing with the copycay SeenThisB4. The real one won’t show himself till the season starts. This guy is a wanna-be (and never will be)

The real Seen is much nastier and a total douche.

SeenThisB4

June 22nd, 2012
2:03 pm

@Judge Smails, I am the real deal, BUT, trying to be a little more civil. BUT NOW the gloves are off. The falcant’s were my #2 team behind the saints, now thanks to you guys, dead last…and I mean dead last. Will we stop the bounties? Absolutely NO!! Only thing different is who we target…(tounge in cheek). 2012 is the head….as in Coach and then the coordinators. It is easy to roll-up a coach on the sidelines, and we have the drills to get it right. Oh smitty, oh smitty! Do’t call da cops, I’m just kiddin ya’ll.

Falconfan85

June 22nd, 2012
2:05 pm

What happened to the speedster Pearcy? Thought he was the favorite for kick return job?

MyThoughts

June 22nd, 2012
2:08 pm

Who is Donte Roberson ???? I dodn’t see where we signed anyone with that name ???????

HGN

June 22nd, 2012
2:13 pm

D-Led , what was your take on the rookie crop ?? Did any of them stand out , or catch your eye , in mini camp or get any praise from the coaching staff ?

Just curious as to what the draft class was looking like early on.

AlanFalcon

June 22nd, 2012
2:15 pm

SeenThisB4- once again you have invaded the Falcons blog, you must be afraid that the Birds are going to jump up and snip your Aint’s while they are waiting for the big three to return, 2 of 3 will not be back this year and as a matter of fact neither will the team be back except on there backsides.

mark

June 22nd, 2012
2:18 pm

@SeenThisB4 man i dont get it! u wake up and say lets crash the falcons blogs? i really dont get it!! or u are just an employee from ajc? and ur job is to enter and make troubles with other fans? so the blog keeps moving i really dont know man ur one of a kind! keep that spirit!

#1 Falcons Fan

June 22nd, 2012
2:24 pm

Oh I am excited about this year! Instead of starting over and trying to get all of the pieces of the puzzle in one single year, it seems to me like we got the most important pieces in year 1 (Ryan, Turner) and then every year after we picked up another piece of the puzzle….Gonzalez, Abraham, Edwards, Jones, Samuel, etc. Honestly I can’t see anything else that is needed here. We have the components to make an AWESOME team, a CHAMPIONSHIP team. I do fear that the major change a Coordinator(s) could take a year or two to gel completely but hopefully its just a nice tweak in the right direction. Could we get a few lucky breaks in the games we expect to fall short on and go UNDEFEATED this year?? YES WE CAN GO FALCONS!!!

SeenThisB4

June 22nd, 2012
2:25 pm

The imposter at 2:03PM was not me.

The falcan’ts have never been my #2….NEVER! They wouldn’t even rate at #33 with me. Perhaps around #189, if the league ever expands to 189 teams. As for putting bounties on falcan’t coaches and coordinators, for what? I will rue the day Coach Smith gets handed his walking papers, he’s our best weapon, (how else do you explain going for it on 4th and 6 inches, in overtime, on your own 29?)

To the imposter: tsk, tsk, tsk. Nice try. But, you’re not in my league.

yeahsure

June 22nd, 2012
2:28 pm

Havent heard one thing about Bosher. He was straight garbage at the beginning of the season last year. I hope he’s been working on that leg. We need it at least 4 yards into the endzone every time.

Another person I hoped to hear about is Edwards. Where’s he been hiding.

I’m worried about our lack of depth at TE and S.

BIG CHUCK

June 22nd, 2012
2:38 pm

They will still finish 8 and 8. You can change the frame but the picture remains the same. Ryan still will choke when the lights are the brightest. They have no pass rush. You can have 3 Deion Sanders playimg corner it won’t matter. if you can’t rush the passer.

BSG3003

June 22nd, 2012
2:51 pm

man look at Julio! Can you say man-beast?

fanATicaL

June 22nd, 2012
2:54 pm

Always non believers and pessimistic fans.Probably a fan of another team.The one true gift of the offseason.Is that every fan of every team in the league.Gets to believe they are Superbowl contenders.That each move made.Puts your team that much closer to that coveted Lombardi trophy.But it always seeems the loudest cans are empty ones.The opinions who feel the need to voice thier opinions,always negative.This Falcons fan have seen how close we have been.Seen the learning process from each season.And the jugernaut the Falcons are becoming.I know there are 31 teams not looking forward to seeing the Falcons on thier schedule.This is a better team than last year.I hope you can say the same for whatever team you follow.And we made the playoffs.

Barry

June 22nd, 2012
2:57 pm

Hey Y’all:

I cannot wait to hearthe clashing of football helmets; hearing the grunts of the players; and seeing the sweat dripping profusely off our Atlanta Falcons trying to make the team. This is where the tire hits the road to our going to the Super Bowl. This is where it starts: at Flowery Branch. This is where the team starts learning to snap, get off the ball, hit catch, and run in “ONE HEARTBEAT!!1″. THIS IS THE TIME , MY FRIENDS. THIS IS THE TIME!!! The end product of training camp with be a group of NASTY, HUNGRY, AGGRESSIVE, FOOTBALL PLAYERS, OWNERS, AND COACHES, who will be “JOINED AT THE HIP” ,with the FANS AND THE COMMUNITY, AS “ONE HEARTBEAT!!1″. YOU KNOW THE MOTTO: “WE RISE UP!” IN “ONE HEARTBEAT!!. That’s how we have been playing since Coach Smith got here and that is the philosophy of the Falcon organization. We are together as a community and as a team. THESE ARE OUR ATLANTA FALCONS!! AND WE ARE THEIR FANS!! TOGETHER, WE ARE “ONE HEARTBEAT!!!”

NOW, ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL!!!!???? I DAMN SURE AM!!!!!

GO FALCONS!!!!! GO COACHES!!! GO PLAYERS!!! GO OWNERS!!!! GO FANS!!! WE ARE “ONE HEARTBEAT!!”

“FALCONS RISE UP” IN “ONE HEARTBEAT!!”

SSSSSSSSSSSSSSHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!
This is a SECRET from a FALCON FAN! TELL EVERYBODY!!!!!!!

…………………………………”ONE HEARTBEAT, BABY!!!………………

Dirtybird 82

June 22nd, 2012
3:02 pm

I think SeenthisB4 is the most dedicated Falcons’ fan. He claims to be an aints’ fan but he clearly prefers the Falcons. From this day forward I will call you a loyal Falcons fan. Welcome!

Bubba Bean

June 22nd, 2012
3:04 pm

Hey Chuck if its true ‘you can change the frame but the picture remains the same’, how do you have them being 8-8 since Falcons have had 4 winning seasons under Smith – even in year 2 when Ryan & Turner missed multiple games?

Bubba Bean

June 22nd, 2012
3:10 pm

This Falcons team has potential to be dangerous on O & D. Coach Nolan has had top Defenses everywhere he’s coached. Asante Samuel is a big time addition and allows them to be aggressive on the rush. A new OL coach and OC should help big time too. Give Ryan a little time and Julio can be like Randy Moss in his prime (w/o all the headaches & taking plays off). I’m excited to see more plays for Jacquizz Rodgers too.

DePort

June 22nd, 2012
3:13 pm

Depth at TE has little effect on the season. I do agree we need more depth at Safety though.

How long does it take?

June 22nd, 2012
3:15 pm

First Round Draft Pick
Peria Jerry will have to ‘earn’ his playing time.

Joe Tess Fishhouse

June 22nd, 2012
3:20 pm

The Flacons will never nake the superbowel,, too many injery prune fist round busts. even though they do have a deep throat on their rooster now with juliet jones, Nuudle arm rian cant get them the ball,, donta roberson is a shellfish player and chep shot artist

Paddy

June 22nd, 2012
3:27 pm

SeenthisB4……back it down a notch, you promised!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Paddy

June 22nd, 2012
3:29 pm

no more eggcuses………Jerry is still on the roster because he is still on the roster. What can DLed tell you? Come on, give it some thought first, pal

Paddy

June 22nd, 2012
3:31 pm

Joe Tess….we don’t do liars on this blog!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Find another team!!!

Marcel

June 22nd, 2012
3:37 pm

D. Orlando Ledbetter

June 22nd, 2012
4:04 pm

HGN — Konz looks like he can play. Hard to tell without the pads. Ewing didn’t look lost, but mostly they just blended in.

hiramsaint

June 22nd, 2012
4:06 pm

i see we haven’t learned if the failclowns will win a playoff game much less be able to score an offensive point in one . it’s been awful quiet about the meltster . i guess we learned that he won’t ever be the all world qb he was cracked up to be . probably he’ll end up being on par with joey harrington when it’s all said and done -wait- did harrington ever win a playoff game ?

D. Orlando Ledbetter

June 22nd, 2012
4:06 pm

SeenThisB4 — I’ve got a Sunday story coming that covers that topic. Coach Smith says he was much stronger.

Jay

June 22nd, 2012
4:13 pm

So you think he is going to the Pro Bowl based off of some non-contact practice? Lol, ooooook. Allen Iverson comes to mind…we’re talking about practice!

D. Orlando Ledbetter

June 22nd, 2012
4:15 pm

torgo — On the road without my roster. 73 is Bryce Harris. 45 is the Matt Hansen kid who’s trying to convert from safety. I think 97 is Louis Nzegwu. (BTW, I’m not driving!)

D. Orlando Ledbetter

June 22nd, 2012
4:17 pm

Falconsfan85 — Pearcy will get his chance in the exhibition season.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

June 22nd, 2012
4:18 pm

Paddy — Don’t know what you all are fussing about. He was working with the first team. He’ll be in the mix at DT.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

June 22nd, 2012
4:26 pm

Jay — Allen is not playing now because of his attitude towards PRACTICE! You’ve got to make the All-Flowery Branch team first.

Bobby Butler

June 22nd, 2012
4:49 pm

I’m a diehard Falcons fan but I must admit that I find good humor in SeenThisB4’s blogs. Nothing wrong with a bit of trash talking. He ranks up there with Sonny Clusters on the humor scale. Enjoy your weekends folks!

Big Ray

June 22nd, 2012
5:17 pm

The imposter at 2:03PM was not me.

The falcan’ts have never been my #2….NEVER! They wouldn’t even rate at #33 with me. Perhaps around #189, if the league ever expands to 189 teams. As for putting bounties on falcan’t coaches and coordinators, for what? I will rue the day Coach Smith gets handed his walking papers, he’s our best weapon, (how else do you explain going for it on 4th and 6 inches, in overtime, on your own 29?)

To the imposter: tsk, tsk, tsk. Nice try. But, you’re not in my league.

So true.

The imposter should know that you never try to argue with or imitate an idiot. They will take you down to their level and then beat you with experience….