Vivlamore reporting from Flowery Branch with your Falcons report.
The Falcons had their first full squad training camp practice in pads Sunday and coach Mike Smith was pleased with the results. No one got hurt.
“At the end of a play, you want to see all 22 guys on their feet,” Smith said.
Players are getting acclimated to practicing in pads after seven months off. The team will begin to fully install offensive and defensive schemes. According to Smith, this week’s practices will focus on game situations and lead up to the team scrimmage Friday at Peachtree Ridge High School in the annual Friday Night Lights event. Players have an off day Wednesday.
There was some hitting Sunday, mostly between the offensive and defensive lines.
“I thought, as you normally see on the first day of pads, there are going to be some guys that really stand out,” Smith said. “And there were. You’re always concerned on that first day in pads that guys start a little too fast so we tried to ease them into the practice.”
Smith declined to be specific about what players caught his attention.
On the NFL Network
The NFL Network was at Flowery Branch and aired several live cut-ins of Sunday’s practice.
Smith said he was not concerned about giving away secrets to the competition.
“They network has a pretty good understanding of what can be televised and what can’t,” Smith said. “… We have parameters set as far was what periods we would like them to film.”
Robinson eager to blitz
Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson is excited about his role in the defense.
Early in camp, new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan is basically playing musically chairs with the cornerbacks flopping them from the right and left side. Robinson is also moving inside to play slot receivers as the team’s nickel back.
“I get to roam a little bit, make some tackles, blitz the quarterback and do a lot of different things,” Robinson said. “It allows me to be the versatile player that I am. It’s a lot of fun for me to be able to move from side to side, play corner and play nickel. It’s a very versatile defense and we feel like we have the athletes to play in this defense.”
Robinson blitzed from the nickel back position early in his career. He had three sacks in 2004 and one in 2005 with Houston.
When blitzing off the edge as a nickel back, Robinson said the element of surprise is key.
“You have to play with the quarterback by not showing your blitzes,” Robinson said. “When you’re not blitzing, you show him a blitz look. When your number is called, you showed so many times that when you do come nobody is going to pick you up. It’s kind of like a cat and mouse game.”
Robinson believes the overall secondary can improve under Nolan’s tutelage.
“We have to be aggressive to the ball when the ball is in the air,” Robinson said. “As long as we continue to work together, safeties and corners, I think we are going to be fine. So far, it’s been a lot of fun learning this defense. We are making a lot of plays on the back end.”
Rookie tight end Aron White finished his University of Georgia career with 34 catches for 512 yards and 10 touchdowns. He is well known for one particular touchdown catch – a reception that his Falcons teammates are slowly becoming aware.
In the closing seconds of the first half in a game against New Mexico State last season at Sanford Stadium, White caught a touchdown from Aaron Murray, ran out of the side of the end zone, had to leap over a piece of band equipment and disappeared into the famed hedges. It took several seconds for teammates to help White out of the shrubbery for the celebration to ensue.
“It’s funny because about once a week one of my Falcon teammates will say ‘I didn’t know that was you. I’ve watched you on YouTube. I saw you on [ESPN’s] SportsNation 101 Celebration Fails,’’’ White said. “I say ‘I appreciate that. I play football, too.’ At the same time, it’s all good, it’s all fun. It’s a memory I’ll have forever and it doesn’t embarrass me or make me feel bad.”
More snaps in practice
While the NFL’s new collective bargaining agreement has limited the number of practices and the intensity of the workouts, the Falcons staff has countered with an adjustment to its schedule.
According to Smith, he and his staff are getting more snaps out of each practice in an effort to evaluate the roster.
“Last year, even though they changed the rules on us, we weren’t able to make the adjustments that we felt like we needed to do in terms of our practice schedule and how we were going to do things,” Smith said. “We’ve added snaps … because we’re not having two [full] practices [a day].”
Compiled by Chris Vivlamore and D. Orlando Ledbetter.
–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog