Vivlamore reporting from Falcons training camp.
Flowery Branch – The Falcons have made it known you can expect two differences in their offense this season – less carries for Michael Turner and more screen passes.
Both are just fine with Jason Snelling.
Turner had more than 300 carries in three of his four seasons with the Falcons. The lone exception came in 2009 when he played in only 11 games due to injury. Coach Mike Smith has said it’s unlikely his final total will begin with the number three. Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers will get more carries.
“I know that the amount of carries that Michael has had under his belt the last few years,” Snelling said following Friday’s training camp practice. “I know that, as a running back, it wears on you. I feel like we have a good group of backs who can handle the job, whether it’s me or [Rodgers]. If my number is called, I’m going to be ready.”
Snelling, who signed a three-year, $4 million contract in March, rushed for 151 yards on 44 carries last season, a 3.4 yards per carry average.
Snelling also had 26 receptions for 179 yards and a touchdown last season Snelling has been the leading receiver among running backs each of the past three seasons (100 totals receptions).
A commitment to the screen pass promises even more touches.
“I feel great about it,” Snelling said. “Me being a player that has the versatility out of the backfield it gives me an opportunity to get the ball in space and I’m loving that.”
Reynolds facing competition
Garrett Reynolds is back with the first-team offensive line, practicing at the right guard position where he started the Falcons’ first seven games last season.
However, Reynolds struggled and was replaced.
“Yeah of course that is going to be difficult but it’s something that you can overcome,” Reynolds said. “If you are not playing great, it’s their call. All you can do is help the team any way you can when you are not in there.”
Reynolds (6-foot-7, 310 pounds) said he spent his offseason working on technique and fundamentals. With a new offensive coordinator in Dirk Koetter and offensive line coach in Pat Hill, Reynolds has a clean slate. Management has made it clear that there is open competition along the offensive line for the best five players to protect quarterback Matt Ryan and successfully use the team’s offensive weapons.
To that end, the Falcons used their first two draft picks on offensive lineman this year in Peter Konz and Lamar Holmes. Reynolds knows he is being challenged.
“Competition is good for you,” Reynolds said. “It helps you grow. You take it as an opportunity to get better. And also you help those guys along because that is the business we’re in. You keep on working. All you can worry about is yourself, what you do and make yourself a better player and carry guys with you instead of worrying about if you are going to be here or not. Keep your head down. Keep on working. Help the team out while you are here.”
Pads but little contact
The Falcons will practice in pads for the first time on Saturday, but don’t expect much hitting.
According to Smith the next few practices will be similar to the initial non-contact drills of camp, allowing players to get acclimated to the pads.
“You don’t want to come out and be taking guys to the ground [right away],” Smith said.
The first full-speed contact will be during the team scrimmage Friday at Peachtree Ridge High School, according to Smith. The coach also indicated that meaningful contact, although not full speed, will be part of the combined practice with the Titans at Coahulla Creek High School on Aug. 6.
Asante Samuel is rarely at a loss for words. Here are two instances from the vocal cornerback from Thursday’s practice.
* Directed toward general manager Thomas Dimitroff: “Mr. Dimitroff, I’m going to have to spend my own money to hire some referees to come out here because these guys are pushing off.”
* Directed toward Koetter: “The [receiver] spacing was all wrong on that route.” Koetter’s response: “My bad.”
Sculpture in New Orleans
The rebirth of the Saints after Hurricane Katrina began against the Falcons. Now the moment is memorialized by a sculpture outside the Superdome in New Orleans. The artwork, entitled “Rebirth,” depicts the Saints’ Steve Gleason blocking a punt of former Falcon Michael Keonen in the Sept. 25, 2006 game. It was unveiled at a ceremony Friday.
It was the first game at the dome and came 13 months after Katrina ravaged the region. The blocked punt was recovered in the end zone by Curtis DeLoach for a touchdown, 90 seconds into the game, and sent the Saints to a 23-3 victory on Monday Night Football.