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Falcons OL Jake Matthews fully prepared for camp after foot surgery

  • Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons starting left tackle Jake Matthews, who underwent foot surgery in January, said he received full clearance to practice at the start of training camp Friday morning.

Matthews had his torn Lisfranc ligament repaired and rested most of the offseason.

"It feels good," Matthews said. "Yeah, I'm ready to go. I'm cleared to do everything. So when we start tomorrow, I'll be out there and playing. I'm excited, too. It's been a while. Ready to get back into it."

Although he received clearance for camp, Matthews still could see his reps limited so that he is fully healthy for the regular season.

"Obviously when you have a surgery like that, there's going to be some soreness," Matthews said. "You feel stuff every now and then. I'm sure they'll do a good job of limiting reps, if it does bother me. But I'm planning on it feeling good and getting everything. We'll see how it goes."

A number of significant injuries along the offensive line have kept the Falcons from developing the chemistry they would like to have going into a new scheme. Starting center Joe Hawley, who tore the ACL and MCL in his right knee last September, told ESPN.com his reps will be limited at the start of camp as he gradually works his way back into the lineup. Starting right guard Jon Asamoahsustained what he called a "tough" offseason ankle injury, which limited his participation. Asamoah said he is ready to go through a full practice Friday.

"Real cautious with it during the offseason to make sure, come this time, that we're good to go," Asamoah said.

The Falcons signed veteran lineman Chris Chester to fill a void, likely at left guard. Ryan Schraeder has settled in as the starting right tackle. But the combination of Matthews, Hawley, Asamoah, Chester and Schraeder has yet to work together in full-team drills as offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan implements his outside-zone blocking scheme, aimed to enhance the running game.

"I'm excited to get a feel for the new line and how we work together, especially in this new offense," Matthews said. "Training camp, it's a good time for us to find out what we're about and get to know each other. I'm going to be excited, and it will be fun."

Asamoah is a bigger-bodied player more suited for pass protection, so his ability to get out and run in the zone-blocking scheme will be worth monitoring.

"It's exciting," Asamoah said of the scheme. "It's what I came in doing in Kansas City. It's good to get back to it. It's something that can really put the defense on their heels. Once we get the run game going, everything falls right off that."

Asamoah addressed developing chemistry along the line following all the injuries.

"It's the same thing every year, so this is the beginning of a new group," he said. "It's never the same. You know how it is: We leave the team meeting at the end of the season before, and it's almost a totally new group every year. So, this is the time that we build all that."

Depth is also a concern for the offensive line. The Falcons placed reserved offensive tackle Lamar Holmes on the physically unable to perform list Thursday as he continues to recover from a broken foot. Holmes arrived at training camp on crutches and with his right foot in a boot. Holmes still counts against the 90-man roster.

The backup offensive tackles include veteran Tyler Polumbus, rookies Jake Rodgers and Matt Huffer and newly signed DeMarcus Love.

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Julio Jones talks new contract, players arrive at Falcons training camp

By Jeanna Thomas @jeannathomas on Jul 30, 2015, 6:02p 7

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Players were universally excited to be checking in for training camp, and Julio Jones shared some details about the status of his contract talks.

Falcons players reported to the team's facility in Flowery Branch today to check in for training camp, which begins tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. The players seemed excited to get back on the field and get to work.

Julio Jones told the media that his agent is currently working with the Falcons front office to work out a contract extension, but Jones isn't aware of the details of those talks or how close the parties are to reaching an agreement.

"I don't know," Jones said. "I haven't talked to [the Falcons]. My agent and the Falcons obviously have been talking. I haven't been talking."

Jones' contract has been a hot topic of discussion this offseason, but he's made it clear that he's simply focused on the game.There was really no question as to whether or not Jones would hold out for a new deal. He showed up today ready to go, and Jones indicated that he and Dan Quinn are of one accord.

"I talked to DQ earlier. Me and him are on the same page," Jones said. "He just needs me to be the leader I am and to continue to keep working hard and take care of what I can take care of."

Jake Matthews said that he's back to 100% following offseason Lisfranc repair and that he's eager to get back on the field with a full workload.

"It feels good, yeah. I'm ready to go. Ready to do everything," Matthew said. "So when we start tomorrow, I'll be out there and playing. I'm excited, too. I'm ready to get back into it."

Lisfranc injuries are very difficult to rehab, but Matthews said he worked hard to recover and that he's confident and prepared.

Matthews did say that he has experienced some soreness, which isn't unusual or cause for alarm. It's possible the team will choose to limit his workload as a precaution.

"Obviously, when you've had a surgery like that, there's going to be some soreness," Matthews said. "You'll feel stuff every now and then, and I'm sure they'll do a good job of limiting reps if it does bother me, but I'm planning on feeling good and getting everything, so we'll see how it goes."

There have been some personnel changes along the offensive line and there are several players returning from injury, so it will be interesting to see how the starters in this unit develop chemistry during camp, especially with a new scheme.

Matthews was really limited in OTAs, so he's eager to get out on the field and work with his teammates.

"Yeah, it's a new group. Like I said before, I haven't really been out there practicing with them much, so I'm excited to get a feel for the new line and how we work together, especially in this new offense," Matthews said. "Training camp is a good time for us to find out what we're about and get to know each other. It's going to be exciting and it'll be fun."

Jonathan Asamoah said it's not really unusual in the NFL to be dealing with a completely different offensive line each season.

"It's the same thing every year, so this is the beginning of a new group. It's never the same," Asamoah said. "You know how it is. You leave that team meeting at the end of the season before, and it's almost a totally new group every year. So this is the time we build all that."

The offensive linemen seem to have really bought into the new zone blocking scheme.

For Matthews, it's a situation where he's learned the scheme in theory, and now it's a matter of putting what he learned in the meeting room into practice.

"Yeah, I feel good about [the zone blocking scheme]," Matthews said. "I was in for all the meetings and everything, all the OTAs, and so I feel like I have a good understanding just like everyone else, but now I've got to go out there and physically do it."

Jonathan Asamoah started his pro career in Kansas City running in a zone blocking scheme, and he believes it can help turn the run game around for the Falcons.

"It's exciting. It's what I came into the league doing in Kansas City, so it's good to get back to it," Asamoah said. "It's something that can really put the defense on their heels, and once we get the run game going, everything falls right off that."

New guard Chris Chester said that moving into the dorms at the start of camp was very similar to the first day of school. "I picked out my outfit and everything," Chester said.

While Chester is certainly one of the new kids on the block in Flowery Branch, he's also a seasoned veteran. That experience should help him adjust.

"There's kind of a duality to it. On the one hand, I've done this for ten years now and I've got a lot of experience, but on the other hand, I'm not 25 years old anymore," Chester said. "So I'm just going to have to lean on my experience and my knowledge of the game."

Rookie Grady Jarrett is at the other end of the spectrum, entering his first NFL training camp. Jarrett said that his primary focus during the team's time off was staying in shape.

"It was definitely good and definitely something that you want to do. You want to come into camp in shape so you can come out here and impress your coaches, impress your teammates," Jarrett said. "So that was really important to me for our time away, just staying in shape and showing up here ready to go."

Jarrett's been putting in the mental work to be prepared, also, and he said that he's working to get to a point where the playbook becomes second nature for him.

Training camp is physically demanding, but Jarrett said that just prepares the team for the season.

"I'm ready for whatever comes our way, but we definitely, as a team, we want to be challenged so we can be ready for the season and be in shape and just be ready to go," Jarrett said. "We're going to be fast and physical, so I'm really, really excited to be a part of it."

Devin Hester's been in the NFL for a long time, but he said that when you have a new coaching staff in place, players can't really be comfortable coming into camp. Hester said he's been doing a lot of studying the playbook to ensure he's as prepared as possible.

Since the new coaching staff places such an emphasis on competition, Hester is wise to do so. Hester indicated that his role in the new offense remains undefined.

"It's still up in the air. I really don't know the answer right now," Hester said. "New coaches, so it's time to compete right now, and may the best man win."

The depth chart at wide receiver is stacked, and Hester will face stiff competition during camp from Leonard Hankerson, Justin Hardy, Eric Weems, and guys like Freddie Martino and Bernard Reedy.

While training camp can certainly be a grind, especially in the late July and early August Georgia heat, Hester said that the way Dan Quinn approaches practice -- getting his players to work hard and focus on accomplishing what's necessary as opposed to dragging out practice -- is something players appreciate.

"Dan Quinn is a little more player-friendly," Hester said. "He's not really that coach that's going to turn training camp into a player's worst nightmare. I think he's going to make it a lot of fun, he's going to take care of the guys, and that's what we're looking forward to."

The team certainly got a taste of Quinn's approach during OTAs and minicamps. The pace is fast, the intensity is high, but it seems like Quinn likes to work smartly and efficiently. Practices often wrapped up earlier than scheduled because the team had accomplished all that was necessary.

Jonathan Asamoah said that the coaching staff clearly communicated what players could expect under Dan Quinn, so none of it is a surprise.

"They kind of set everything out and they said this is what we're about," Asamoah said. "This is what practice is going to be like. So we started from day one doing the real thing."

Desmond Trufant has learned a lot over the past couple of years with the Falcons. He showed up to the facility toting a gallon jug of water that was half-empty.

"It's hot out here compared to where I'm from. Tacoma, that's where I'm coming from, so it's like night and day, that heat," Trufant said. "But yeah, I can't wait to get out there. Got to stay hydrated if you want to perform."

Trufant has also learned that he can pack light for his time at camp.

"Actually, each year I've packed less and less. My first year, I brought a TV, Playstation, Macbook," Trufant said. "Now, all i've got is some shorts, some sweats, a couple of hats. That's really all I've got. I sleep mostly, so I learned that real quick."

But Trufant is okay with the rookies bringing all of those things to camp. He might even take advantage of it occasionally. "Every now and then I might go to their room, get a win real quick, just go back to sleep," Trufant said.

While camp is physically and mentally demanding, especially with so much to learn on both sides of the ball, Asamoah said this is a fundamentally important time for the team to come together.

"It's essential," Asamoah said. "To me, the way I feel about the game and every team I've been on, we go through all these things together and this struggle will keep us tight, and that's what develops the family and the fight for each other and all those things that will lead to our success."

The team has added a lot of new faces, so the next few weeks will be key to becoming a cohesive team.

Desmond Trufant had some solid advice for the rookies as they head into their first NFL training camp. Trufant said they need to keep their focus on getting better each day.

"Take it one day at a time. It's a long camp. It's preseason games," Trufant said. "It's a little bit different, the schedule, things like that. But just take it one day at a time, and just give maximum effort, and you'll be alright."

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Falcons Roddy White confident as starter, no matter which other receivers emerge

Vaughn McClure


Maybe Roddy White can't accelerate like he did when he scored a 90-yard touchdown at San Francisco six seasons ago. And maybe White can't leap in the air and flip as easily as he did after crossing the goal line that day.

But one thing White hasn't lost from then until now is his confidence. Although he's set to turn 34 in November, the Atlanta Falcons veteran receiver firmly believes he can be a difference-maker going into his 11th NFL season.

"I know I can still do something in this league, and I know I can still go out there and win one-on-one battles," White said. "I've been doing that for the last six, seven, eight, nine years for this team, and I plan on that being my role."

White, who expects to follow a regular practice routine with training camp starting Friday, understands his body has to hold up for him to be effective. He continues to take precautions with the ailing left knee he had drained in June.

If White's health becomes a concern during the regular season, the coaches might turn to newcomer Leonard Hankerson more often as a secondary wide receiver option behind top target Julio Jones. Hankerson has an advantage over his teammates because he previously played in offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's system when both were in Washington. Falcons coach Dan Quinn raved about Hankerson's offseason performance numerous times.

White was asked how he would react if Hankerson were to surpass him in regard to snaps.

"That's not going to happen," White said. "I'm not a guy that's going to go out there and tell people what they should do and what they shouldn't do. I'm just going to play, do what I've got to do, and be Roddy White. You know what I'm saying? They can love whoever they want to love, but I'm just going to be me. I'm going to go out there and make the plays that I can make.

"It always happens like that when new coaches come in: There's always going to be someone else that they like and that they want to put in to see what he can do. There are going to be times when he's in the game, and I'm not in the game. I'm not going to see myself as not being a starter. I am definitely the starter."

White said it's difficult to size up one receiver against another in this offense, considering the way Shanahan moves his receivers to multiple positions. But the "Z" spot to the strong side of the formation is something Hankerson became accustomed to under Shanahan.

In discussing the addition of Hankerson in general, White was complimentary.

"I like Hankerson. He's a good player," White said. "I really think he's going to help us.

"But I've been in this league 11 years. If someone wants to say I'm in a competition, they need to come to me and let me know. I'm not going to fight and fuss about it. I just speak on what I've done in the NFL. I can't speak on what anyone else has done."

No one will know what Hankerson, rookie Justin Hardy or even pass-catching tight end Jacob Tamme truly bring to the offense until the Falcons play an actual game. Plus Hankerson has something to prove after missing so much time the last few years due to injury, including a serious left knee tear.

White battled ankle, hamstring and knee injuries himself last season.

"I missed two games and I still caught 80 passes for right over 900 yards," White said. "I feel like if I can play 16 games this season, I can really be successful."

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The Shutdown Seven: Rating the Best Cornerbacks in the NFL



I blame Deion Sanders. Primetime came along just as the modern NFL was born, and with him, cornerback became the type of high-profile position typically reserved for ball carriers and pass-catchers. In the past few years, it feels like quarterback is the only position in football that has inspired more debate about who’s the best. And in a way, it makes sense.

More 2015-16 NFL Preview It's almost here. For everything you need to know about the new season, follow all of Grantland's coverage.For the best corners, the challenge is simple: Stop the guy across from you. If you don’t, there’s no one around to blame. Several of the league’s best corners live on an island (even Richard Sherman’s time in Cover 3 has him playing without a parachute), which explains the amount of ego you see at the position. And in the run-up to this season, the answer is still murky. Sherman didn’t lose a step after 2013, but Darrelle Revis certainly got one back. Patrick Peterson fell off a bit, but a budding star in Denver arrived. There may not be a good answer to the question of who’s the best cornerback in the league as 2015 begins, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to try to find one.


The Up-and-Comer

Desmond Trufant

No one has a better chance to move into a different class of corner this year than Trufant. As Bill Barnwell pointed out in his re-ranked NFL Top 100, the Atlanta pass rush was an abomination last year. Only the Patriots and 49ers allowed opposing quarterbacks more time in the pocket than the Falcons, according to ESPN Stats & Info, and the poor pass rush led to plenty of plays on which Trufant could only throw his arms up.

Most of Trufant’s 2014 season is on display in this play against Carolina from Week 16. What already makes the former first-round pick so good is his otherworldly ability to change direction. Atlanta was plagued by spotty safety play a year ago, which meant a lot of off-coverage by its corners on the outside. That would typically open up a tempting amount of space for receivers on quick-stopping routes to the outside, but Trufant routinely snuffs that out because of how inhumanly fast he can break back to the ball.

He’s one of the league’s quickest corners (a 3.85 in the 20-yard shuttle at the combine put him in the 98th percentile among tested corners), and he also has a knack for knowing how to sit on a receiver’s ideal route. None of that matters, though, when a quarterback is free to roam around behind the line of scrimmage like Cam Newton was here. Atlanta’s pass rush should be improved by some of the changes the team made up front, but the other reason Trufant seems poised for a jump is how much simpler his life may get in Dan Quinn’s defense. With a steady diet of Cover 3 and man, Trufant’s speed and quickness should come to the forefront while his tendency to get lost should fade even further. He’s already a star. He’s about to be a star who’s a household name.

Ol’ Reliable

Brandon Flowers

What happened to Brandon Flowers over the past two years is about the best anyone could hope for a really good, undervalued athlete. Flowers spent his first six seasons in Kansas City as one of the steadiest — if notthe steadiest — corners in the league. As a dependable Cover 2 option, Flowers wasn’t a shutdown defender like Revis, but he was a sure thing at a position where those don’t last very long.

The arrival of Bob Sutton and Andy Reid meant a scheme shift in the Kansas City secondary, and in 2013, Flowers and the rest of the Chiefs defensive backs were asked to play considerably more man coverage. That season was probably Flowers’s worst, and after it was over, Kansas City cut a corner who’d spent the past four years playing at a Pro Bowl level.1San Diego gleefully scooped him up, and before a groin injury in Week 6, he was back to the player we’d seen for so long in Kansas City.


Sutton and his staff wanted corners who looked more like Sean Smith (6-foot-3, 218 pounds) than the 5-10 Flowers,2 but while Flowers may never stalk receivers on the outside, he does just about everything well. Few cornerbacks are better tacklers — a product of six years patrolling the flat and erasing yards after the catch — and he can capably play both in the slot and outside the numbers. San Diego knows what it has in Flowers, which is why it signed him to a four-year, $36 million deal this offseason. Two seasons ago, the Chargers had the second-worst pass defense DVOAin football. If both Flowers and Jason Verrett can stay on the field this year, those days should feel like a distant memory.

On the Cusp

Vontae Davis

When the Dolphins drafted Davis 25th overall in 2009, experts said he had no ceiling, as though he were built in a cornerback laboratory — which makes sense for someone who shares the same genes as superhuman tight end Vernon Davis. The concerns were about the finer points of playing the position, and Davis did little to alleviate those concerns during most of his time in Miami.

At 26 and in a contract year last season, we got the version of Davis so many thought was possible when he entered the league. He’s still a specimen, but in 2014, he was also a steady presence for the Colts week in and week out. What makes him really special, though, is that he’s capable of games like the one he had in the divisional round against Denver. It’d be difficult to play cornerback better than Davis did that afternoon; all day, Peyton Manning tossed balls that Davis batted out of bounds as he blanketed both Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. When Manning challenged Davis over the middle on a throw to Andre Caldwell in the fourth quarter, Davis played the route so well that the ball looked like it was intended for him. The challenge is going to be whether Davis can shake the inconsistency that has dogged him and repeat last year’s performance. If he can, we could be looking at one of the best corners in football.


Patrick Peterson

When a player’s performance dives like Peterson’s did last year, there’s typically an issue we don’t know much about that’s at least partially responsible. When it was revealed that Peterson was diagnosed with diabetes midseason, it became clear why his play dropped so dramatically. With a full offseason to learn how best to moderate his health, hopefully we’ll see a version of Peterson that’s closer to the one we got before last season.

Even that player, though, still has issues that keep him from reaching the same level as Sherman, Revis, and others. Peterson’s most persistent problem comes when capable route-runners get the jump on him with in-breaking patterns. A Calvin Johnson 72-yard touchdown in 2013 was a perfect example; Golden Tate also got the best of him during their first matchup that season. The troubles seem to come from a combination of footwork and physicality, which is surprising, considering how Peterson is built. At 6-1, 219, Peterson is actually more stout than some of the league’s monster receivers, but often, he ends up playing much smaller.

But it’s not hard to figure out why fans find Peterson fascinating, or why the Cardinals were willing to hand him a monster deal before last season. I don’t know if any cornerback in the league can make plays like this one from Week 4 in 2013. Peterson’s hands are not of this world. If he gets his mitts on anything thrown close to his sphere, he knows what to do. There’s probably no single player with better physical tools; there’s just still a question about whether it can all come together for a guy who is somehow just 25 years old.

The Elite

Chris Harris Jr.

In terms of pedigree, there’s no bigger gap than the one between Peterson and Chris Harris. While Peterson was a top-five pick from an SEC powerhouse in 2011, Harris was an undrafted free agent out of a Kansas program that’s become notably awful. Harris got his shot the way a lot of lesser-known rookies do — by playing in the slot. For three seasons, Harris spent a considerable chunk of time playing on the inside, where he was consistently the best slot corner in the league. Still, that’s a qualifier.

Last season, Harris ceded the primary slot responsibility to rookie Bradley Roby and didn’t miss a beat. Some guys can just play. The time Harris has spent all over the defensive backfield in Denver gives him a well-rounded knowledge of where everyone is supposed to be at all times. This near interception against the Cardinals last season is the sort of play only a few guys in football would even be willing to attempt, and Harris almost pulls it off. The lack of recognition of Harris’s elite status is just another case of draft history informing how we think about players years into their careers.

Richard Sherman

Even with a promotion to the outside, Harris is still asked to handle plenty of different tasks in the Denver defense. What makes Sherman unique is how much impact he can have on a team by doing just one or two things. Last season, the stats that opposing offenses put up against the Seahawks outside the right numbers — the area of the field that Sherman roams — look like typos. Teams attempted just 100 passes that way all season. That was the lowest total in the league, and for good reason. Seattle picked off six of those 100 throws and gave up the third-lowest completion percentage in the league. Teams know they just shouldn’t throw that way — so they don’t.

To say Sherman is the product of the Seahawks defense would be unfair, but he’s benefited greatly from playing in Pete Carroll’s system. Like Peterson, Sherman’s weakness comes when he has to cover quicker receivers on in-breaking routes, but much of his work is done outside the numbers, where he really is the best. Sherman’s 6-3 frame allows him to cut off the space down the sideline — it helps that he knows exactly how to shrink the limited space a receiver has. He’s far from a burner, but his understanding of angles and those long arms mean he’s able to make up for just about any throw over the top.

On his interception in the NFC Championship Game, it actually looks like Jordy Nelson has a step on him toward the end zone before Sherman makes up the ground, embarrassing Aaron Rodgers in the process. That’s the danger against Seattle. Few teams dare to throw Sherman’s way, and even when they believe they’ve found an opening, it doesn’t last very long.

The King

Darrelle Revis

The debate over whether a corner can be the best in football without covering a team’s no. 1 receiver is so reductive that it’s not even worth talking about. Sherman does what is asked of him in Seattle, and much of the Seahawks’ success is a product of the ruthless efficiency with which the players execute their assignments. They dictate what the offense will do, rather than the other way around.

For years, the Patriots have taken the opposite approach — they react. Last season, Revis gave Bill Belichick a tool he hasn’t wielded in years. New England didn’t ask Revis to do what he did so often in New York — shadow the best receiver on the field and let the 10 other guys figure the rest out — which is part of why the talk about shadowing a no. 1 guy is overstated.

Against the Lions, the Patriots chose to bracket Calvin Johnson with a corner and a safety while Revis chased around Golden Tate, who was having the best season of his career. Sherman’s performance in the past two seasons has been undeniable, but at his best, Revis can still do more at a high level than any corner in the league. At 30, Revis is no longer the athlete he was pre-ACL surgery, but he doesn’t need to be. He’s a technician unlike any other cornerback in the league, and it allows plays like this to be the standard. What made Revis the class of the position once again last year isn’t what the Patriots asked him to do every week. It’s that they could ask him to do anything.

I think we are going to see Tru become a beast with Coach Quinn here!!!
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Dan Quinn says Falcons still interested in tackle Jake Long

  • Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn said the team remains interested in free-agent offensive tackle Jake Long, who worked out at the facility this week.

The Falcons need more depth along the offensive line, particularly at tackle. Long, the first-overall pick in the 2008 draft, is coming of two ACL surgeries. The four-time Pro Bowler also visited the New York Giants and Denver Broncoswithout immediately signing a contract.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn says four-time Pro Bowler Jake Long "had an awesome workout here." Rich Schultz/Getty Images

"I think we're interested in everybody -- not just one specific player -- but anybody ... that can help us perform better. Jake was certainly someone that came in and had an awesome workout here. So Jake, amongst others, are always guys that we're going to keep looking, keep finding ways to compete in that way, too. Every way we can try and make our team better, Thomas (Dimitroff) and I together are going to constantly do that."

How the Falcons' offensive line will come together for the regular season remains a question mark. Starting left tackle Jake Matthews (Lisfranc) and starting center Joe Hawley (ACL/MCL) were back on the field coming off significant surgeries. However, both were limited during full-team drills. Starting right tackle Ryan Schraeder suffered what Quinn called a "strain" early in Friday's practice and was held out the rest of the day.

Guys such as left guard Mike Person, center James Stone, and right tackle Tyler Polumbus ran with the first team during the practice. Veteran newcomer Chris Chester got some late work at right guard after starter Jon Asamoah rested. Asamoah is coming off a serious ankle injury, but did participate.

Quinn spoke about the dynamic of limiting reps for players coming off injury while still trying to develop chemistry in a new, outside-zone blocking scheme.

"I think the first thing, it's for the players first," Quinn said. "Let's make sure that we're going to ease them back in terms of a rep count. They'll go just as hard on the plays. They might not go as many. And then we'll add to them as we go. It's kind of line getting acclimated back into something.

"For those guys on the offensive line, I couldn't have been more excited to know how hard they worked to rehab. Now that process has begun to get them back fully underway."

Quinn and the coaching staff will get a better feel for how the offensive linemen are adjusting to the outside-zone scheme when the Falcons put the pads on Monday.

The Falcons have one lineman on the physically unable to perform list: tackleLamar Holmes, who suffered a broken right foot during minicamp. Holmes remains on crutches and in a boot.

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Falcons coach Dan Quinn happy to see Seahawks' Russell Wilson get paid


FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- First-year Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn, formerly the defensive coordinator in Seattle the past two seasons, expressed his respect for Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson being rewarded with a new contract.

Wilson received a four-year extension reportedly worth $87.6 million, with $60 million guaranteed and a $31 million signing bonus.

"He’s one of those guys that I hold in such high regard, I really do," Quinn said of Wilson. "You know when we’re around people that totally have their act together and their world in order and is an unbelievably great teammate? I think he’s such a tremendous picture of that -- of what being a great teammate is about. So, I’m certainly pleased for him.

"He stands for everything that I love about ball: great teammate, doing it for one another, being a great leader. So, yeah, thrilled for him."

Quinn and Wilson shared a Super Bowl title two seasons ago against the Denver Broncos and lost last year’s Super Bowl to the New England Patriots. Quinn’s defense, ranked at the top of the league in 2013 and 2014, played an integral role in the team’s success and often helped carry the offense.

So Wilson might owe Quinn a little piece of that deal, right?

"I probably owe him," Quinn said with a laugh.

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Falcons rookie RB Tevin Coleman getting some first-team reps, as scheduled

  • Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons rookie running back Tevin Colemanhasn't surpassed Devonta Freeman on the depth chart, but Coleman did get a few first-team reps in full-team drills during the second day of training camp.

Head coach Dan Quinn downplayed the significance of the switch.

“Early, we actually want to play guys with the first group, not just at running back, receiver ...” Quinn said, referring to multiple positions. “And that's our chance to evaluate the guys going against [the starters], 'Can you handle it?' So it's really by design; how many guys can we put into that mix? So in the first meeting, we told the guys, 'You're going to play for this system to show that you can do it.'

“So I love that part of it, too -- for the guys who love to get up and have that challenge. And sometimes, you'll see, “Oh, they're really calling me up to do this? Can I do it?' So that's part of the process, for sure.”

Quinn's early evaluation of Coleman working with the first group?

“Totally natural doing that,” Quinn said. “For him to get that kind of work with the guys at that position ... I'm really pleased with the way that Bobby (running backs coach Bobby Turner) has taken to him and taken to Devonta in developing these guys. And their getting tighter (bond-wise), which is going to be important, too.”

A few quick-hitters from Day 2 of training camp:

  • Cornerback Desmond Trufant made the play of the day, intercepting a Matt Ryan pass intended for Julio Jones near the sideline. “Well Julio, he just took off running, so I knew it could only be one route,” Trufant said. “I knew I had deep help. I just took a chance and undercut it. And the ball was there. Just happy I made it.”

  • Starting left tackle Jake Matthews and starting center Joe Hawley had more extensive work in full-team drills than they did during Day 1. Starting right tackle Ryan Schraeder was limited coming off strain on Friday, so Tyler Polumbus got his share of first-team reps. And starting right guard Jon Asamoah continued to take it slow off an ankle injury, allowing Chris Chesterto take some reps.

  • Tight end Jacob Tamme made tough catches in traffic, just as he did during the offseason. Quinn said the team is just trying to find ways to feature Tamme. “He's got a unique style in that he knows how to get open, where to go to find it, and think there's a good rhythm between him and Matt [Ryan],” Quinn said.

  • Wide receiver Nick Williams was the unheralded player of the day, make a nice catch down the middle that drew praise from his teammates.

  • Quinn's musical playlist Saturday included Outkast ("ATliens"), Clipse ("Grindin'"), and 2 Chainz ("I'm Different").

  • After practice, the Falcons signed 6-foot-5-inch, 305-pound offensive lineman Pierce Burton and released guard Harland Gunn. Burton played right tackle in college at Mississippi.

  • Attendance at practice was 3,100

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Confident Altlanta Falcons cornerbacks feel ready to take on anyone

  • Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Maybe the question was a little unfair for a guy just three years into his NFL career, but Robert Alford's response spoke volumes about his mentality.

The Atlanta Falcons cornerback was asked which three wide receivers he thinks would be the toughest to cover, outside of teammate Julio Jones.

"To me, I feel like I can cover anybody," Alford said. "I never have any doubt that I can cover anybody. I mean, they've got some nice receivers as far as Calvin Johnson. Then I'd have to say Julio. Man, I don't know anybody else. I never go out there feeling like I can't cover somebody."

Fellow Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant also didn't want to give opposing receivers too much credit. But Trufant did offer up a complete top three.

"Antonio Brown (Steelers) is pretty good," Trufant said. "I haven't played Calvin (Johnson) yet. We played the Lions, but he was hurt that game. I would think him, though. And I think Victor Cruz (Giants) is pretty good, too.

"There are a lot of others guys. But honestly, I feel like any matchup, I'm ready for. I look at it like I'm going to win, regardless."

The swagger and confidence Trufant and Alford bring to the field was evident through the first two days of training camp. Trufant picked off a Matt Ryan pass intended for Jones Saturday, while Alford was mad at himself for deflecting a ball rather than getting an interception on Day 1.

With new Falcons coach Dan Quinn's defense emphasizing more press coverage and physicality, Trufant and Alford appear more than capable of elevating their games. Not to mention the addition of lanky rookie Jalen Collins, who could push for a starting role and give the Falcons a fierce trio.

The Falcons need all three to be effective, particularly against some of the big, talented receivers they'll face this season. In Week 3, it will be 6-foot-2, 220-pound Dez Bryant of Dallas. In NFC South play, they'll have to contend with Tampa Bay's Mike Evans (6-5, 231) and Vincent Jackson (6-5, 230), Carolina'sKelvin Benjamin (6-5, 245) and Devin Funchess (6-4, 225), and New Orleans'Marques Colston (6-4, 225).

Trufant talked about the keys to competing against such big targets.

"Honestly, it's really more just about your technique," Trufant said. "The bigger guys, you can get your hands on them more. Typically, the bigger receivers, we're usually faster than them. So we've got to use our feet, use our speed, and make sure they don't get in positions where they can box us out and use their bodies. Just staying in front of them and using your hands, pretty much.

"It really doesn't matter if they're big or small. If you're not in position, you're not going to be able to make the play."

It certainly helps when you compete against a guy the caliber of Jones on a daily basis. Quinn mentioned after June minicamp how Alford's competitiveness against Jones really jumped out as an example of how he wants his cornerbacks to compete against big receivers.

"The game comes easy because of what we go against every day," Trufant said of facing Jones. "You're not going to see too many guys like Julio and Roddy (White). They've been doing it a long time, and they're (two) of the best. They make it way easier in the game because we go so hard out here."

For Trufant, he's already proved the ability to consistently compete at an elite level. That's why analysts label him a rising star. That's why he was asked to shadow top receivers such as Steve Smith, Josh Gordon and Benjamin his first two seasons. His biggest issue early was dropping balls he should have intercepted.

For Alford, he understand he needs to play with more discipline in order to thrive. He was flagged four times for pass interference last season and three times for defensive holding in 10 games before breaking his wrist. To help solve the problem, Quinn has officials at every practice so Alford and others know when they're committing penalties.

"The only thing that was holding me down last year was the penalties, in my eyes," Alford said. "I feel like with the new coaches, with Coach Q and Coach M (Marquand Manuel), Coach Rich (Smith) at the defensive coordinator, and Coach (Raheem) Morris, they've all helped me out. They're trying to get me better."

Quinn's Cover 3 emphasis, with three deep and four underneath, allows the cornerbacks to play man-coverage technique in a zone scheme. If the Falcons manage to finally generate pressure up front, it should only make life easier for Trufant, Alford and the rest of the defensive backfield.

Regardless of what happens up front, they'll be ready to compete against the likes of DeSean Jackson, T.Y. Hilton, Brandin Cooks -- anyone.

"Everybody has a weakness," Alford said. "It's your job to watch as much film as you can and then go out there and put it to work on the field. Then you trust in your coaches and trust in your technique."

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Matt Ryan looking forward to Falcons establishing run game

  • Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, who has absorbed 75 sacks over the last two seasons along with endless hits, is looking forward to establishing the run under offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.

The Falcons continued to work on their new outside zone blocking scheme during Sunday’s initial padded practice of training camp. The goal is to open up holes for quick, one-cut-and-go runs for running backs Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman and Antone Smith.

"I feel like any time you can run the football and obviously when you can run it effectively, it slows down the pass rush,’’ Ryan said. "That’s the goal for us: to be a balanced offense and to get that run game going. And I think Kyle has a great scheme in terms of the zone-blocking scheme. We’ve got to rep it. We’ve got to get better at it. And we’ve all got to get on the same page; all 11 of us on offense. Once we do that, I think it will help.’’

Ryan played in a pass-happy offense the last three seasons under former offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. He attempted a career-high 651 passes in 2013 then followed with 628 attempts last year. The Falcons went 4-12 and 6-10 during those seasons, although they did reach the NFC Championship Game in Koetter’s first season (2012) as Ryan attempted 615 passes as opposed to 378 rushes.

The offense had much more balance under coordinator Mike Mularkey in 2011, when Ryan attempted 566 passes while the team had 453 rushing attempts. It also was the last time the Falcons boasted a 1,000-yard rusher in Michael Turner, who gained 1,340 yards on 301 carries that season.

The Falcons ranked 24th in the league in rushing last season (93.6 yards per game) and last in 2013 (77.9 ypg.). They cut ties with ineffective veteran running back Steven Jackson.

Ryan was asked about the importance of the young backs stepping up this season.

"I think it’s important for all of us to step up,’’ he said. "I think it’s about 53 guys on our roster pulling their weight, no matter what position it is. And I think all of our guys in that backfield are doing a great job trying to learn this offense as fast as they can, and competing to get playing time.

"You know, the more competition that we have at that [running back] position, the better off we’re going to be. You guys know as well as I do that in this league it takes a group at that spot. And I think we’ve got the right ones to do it.’’

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Jake Matthews-Vic Beasley battle highlights Falcons' padded practice

  • Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The third day of Atlanta Falcons training camp featured pads, so it allowed the coaches to get a closer look at the toughness of their players.

One battle stood out more than others: the one between first-round draft picksVic Beasley and Jake Matthews.

The rookie Beasley, expected to inject life into the pass rush, showed his speed and quickness. But the left tackle Matthews, who had his left plant foot surgically repaired following a Lisfranc ligament tear, went toe to toe with Beasley without issue. He held up well when Beasley tried to dip inside.

"This was really my first time getting a chance to get live reps since the last game," said Matthews, Atlanta's top pick in 2014. "I can definitely tell [beasley] is a really good player. I'm excited that we drafted him. He's going to make me a lot better. And hopefully, I'm going to make him a lot better."

Coach Dan Quinn certainly noticed the intense competition between the two.

"It was one of the matchups I just couldn't wait to see because Jake wasn't able to participate [in the offseason]," Quinn said ."I see guys going, 'I got you this one; you got me that one. I got you this one.' And that's how you get better. The great thing about those two is the competitive spark,'OK, you got me that one, I'm coming back for the next one.' I think that [battle], we'll be watching for a long time."

Quinn spoke in general terms about what he saw from the pass rush, which is one of the big areas of emphasis this season.

"We had a third-down period at the end. That's kind of the time now where we can see who has the featured stuff with pads and how to do it," Quinn said. "I thought it was a good first start at it. We're trying to throw as many people in there as rushers as we can to see which unique combinations work best together. ... Long process ahead for that."

A few quick-hitters from Day 2 of training camp:

  • The offensive linemen, as a whole, appeared to have their troubles adjusting to the outside zone-blocking scheme. There were numerous times when a lineman took a dive to the ground, and not because he was attempting to making a block. It will take time, particularly with guys coming off injuries.

  • Matt Ryan singled out rookie wide receiver Justin Hardy again, and for good reason. Hardy looks fluid and catches the ball so well. Ryan threw a perfectly placed deep ball that Hardy caught in stride down the sideline during 1-on-1 drills. Rookie cornerback Michael Lee was the defender.

  • The unheralded player of the day was linebacker Allen Bradford, who really made his presence felt throughout practice. He deflected a pass in coverage early and displayed some speed and quickness later on. The former Seahawk seems to fit the fast-and-physical style Quinn always preaches.

  • Starting right tackle Ryan Schraeder and starting weak-side linebacker Justin Durant pretty much were held out. Schraeder continues to recover from a hamstring strain but expects to be back in the mix Monday. Durant, who has been plagued by injuries in the past, received what Quinn called a scheduled day off. Tyler Polumbus stepped in for Schraeder with the first-team offense while Nate Stupar took Durant's place with the first-team defense.

  • The musical playlist for practice included Dorrough ("Ice Cream Paint Job"), Jeremih ("Don't Tell 'Em"), and Jidenna ("Classic Man").

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Falcons coach Dan Quinn hires DJ to provide beats at practice

  • Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- There was a noticeable lull during the earlier stages of Atlanta Falcons training camp Sunday. Then, someone pumped up the volume -- literally.

On the upper deck of the facility overlooking practice stood Jay Envy, a homegrown disc jockey who won the title as best local DJ in 2014. It was no coincidence how the energy level on the field elevated a notch as the sounds of Drake, Rich Homie Quan, and Young Dro blared through the speakers.

It's part of the reason why Falcons coach Dan Quinn sought out Jay Envy -- whose real name is James Lam -- to perform during minicamp and training camp.

"He worked downtown at a club and he is part of the Red Bull program of DJs through different contests," Quinn explained. "We didn't do a 'America's Got Talent' or anything. We were looking for somebody to provide the energy, the fast pace, and the beats we want -- boom, boom, boom.

"We want that mindset that when you're in your car driving, you're like, 'Oh, I like this one.' It's not the lyrics as much as the beat and it going fast. From the players' side, they like that energy. For the coaching side of it, it can get frustrating at times for them. So when we do our walkthroughs, we have no music."

Appealing to the musical taste of his players is far from the primary reason Quinn elected to turn practices into Hip Hop concerts. Yes, the 44-year-old coach enjoys rap just as much as the younger generation. But for Quinn, the constant flow of music serves as a method for improving focus.

"At some point, to get really close as a player, if you and I are playing next to each other, it's got to be a look or a hand signal," Quinn said. "The biggest difference about playing in the NFL and playing on the road? There's only once difference, and it's the noise. By having it every day, we don't have to be like, 'Hey, we're going on the road,' or 'We're playing at home and they get behind us and this crowd is rocking.' So, it's just part of the standard of how we go."

Quinn gave fans a glimpse of what was to come when he tweeted out his playlist this offseason. When he first met with Jay Envy, part of his request was to keep 2Pac and Rick Ross in the song rotation:

Quinn revealed some of his other favorites, both old school and new.

"If you just put on Backpin on Sirius and just played that, I'd be pretty good," he said. "Old 2Pac, old Run DMC, old Whodini, old Nas … and then there would be Bon Jovi and current stuff, too."

Such as?

"I like Drake the best," Quinn said. "It's a cool style and it's fast. Like back in the day, remember Bones, Thugs-n-Harmony? That would be perfect for here, if we could play it."

The players have a playlist suggestion board in the locker room. Quinn said one unnamed person got suspended from adding to the playlist for playing the soft R&B tunes of Joe.

"He's on full suspension," Quinn said. "He's never been back."

So what do the players think about the whole concept? They appear to be all-in, for the most part.

"I love it," said veteran safety William Moore, a rapper himself. "Coach Quinn is here to do what we all want to do and that's win and play football. There's no secret to winning and playing football and that's coming out here and enjoying yourself. And that's what he's doing.

"Personally, the song I want on the playlist is 'Willy Mo Always Ready.' I heard something today and Tech-N9ne was on it, and he represents K.C. (Kansas City). I'm from the Show Me state, so I want them to run that back."

Cornerback Desmond Trufant was asked which songs he would prefer to eliminate.

"I don't think it's really a song, it's just the genre of country music," Trufant said. "I mean, it's cool. The stories and stuff are cool. But when I'm out here out at practice, I'm trying to get my bounce and my swag going. I just need a little up-tempo. So, I love the Hip Hop. They play some Future, some Snoop (Dogg), so it's all good."

Center Joe Hawley, one of the players whose concentration is critical as the point man along the offensive line, offered his take on the playlist.

"I think they do a really good job of mixing it up," he said. "They've got some country in there; some R&B. Yeah, I like the country. They played some Kenny Chesney. I like it all, man. The variety is just really cool. And it's not hard to focus."

Quinn certainly has the Falcons dancing to a different beat.

DAMM Coach Quinn is on it!!!

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Rookie Vic Beasley shakes off big hit during practice

  • Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Although Vic Beasley admitted being a little stunned after being knocked to the ground by teammate Terron Ward, theAtlanta Falcons rookie pass-rusher shook off the blast and finished up Monday's practice.

Beasley sped past the offensive line then absorbed a fierce block from the undrafted running back Ward. Beasley then fell to the ground and remained there for a moment before slowly walking to the sideline. Ward went over to check and make sure Beasley was fine.

Vic Beasley earned the praise of coach Dan Quinn after returning to the field following a big hit: "I think he showed great resolve ..." Quinn said. Dale Zanine/USA TODAY Sports

Beasley received medical attention and sat out a few plays before returning. He chased down Matt Ryan from behind on his first play back.

"Football is a tough game, so you've got be tough out here," Beasley said afterward.

Of course the last thing the Falcons wanted to see was their prized first-round pick stationary on the ground. Coach Dan Quinn was pleased with the toughness Beasley displayed.

"I thought that was a real awesome sign," Quinn said. "You're playing basketball and you sprain you're ankle and you're like, 'I'm all right. Just got to roll it back and get back in there.' It was kind of one of those moments. That's playing in the National Football League. There are times when you get caught off guard and you get hit. Something happens and you get right back to it. I think he showed great resolve and a lot of grit to him."

Beasley appears to be adjusting just fine to the NFL game after two consecutive days in pads and doesn't feel overloaded.

"Playing at Clemson prepared me well," he said. "Here in Coach Quinn, I think he has a good system going."

Beasley showed his tremendous speed off the edge throughout Monday's practice, including forcing a holding penalty on newly signed offensive tackle Pierce Burton. And Beasley will continue to have head-to-head battles with another first-round pick, left tackle Jake Matthews.

"Definitely mutual," Beasley said of his respect for Matthews. "Jake's a great athlete, and I think he's going to get me better each and every day."

A few quick-hitters from Day 2 of training camp:

  • Starting strongside linebacker Brooks Reed was out on the field early, but was limited as he continues to deal with a groin/hip strain from the offseason. Linebacker Justin Durant rested for the second consecutive day. Right tackleRyan Schraeder remained limited by a hamstring strain. Defensive linemenCliff Matthews and Ricky Heimuli weren't even on the field because of injuries.

  • Quinn admitted the practice was sloppy. There were numerous penalties, and even Julio Jones dropped a ball.

  • The unheralded star of the day was the rookie running back Ward, who ripped off a couple nice runs to go with his big block on Beasley. After one Ward run, Quinn sprinted down the field to slap hands with the young back. Second-year running back Jerome Smith also had a nice run.

  • The musical playlist included N.W.A. ("Straight Outta Compton"), Drake ("The Motto"), and Wiz Khalifa ("We Dem Boyz").

  • The Falcons have Tuesday off.

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Atlanta Falcons receiver Julio Jones still not worried about contract

  • Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons two-time Pro Bowl receiver Julio Jones, who has one year left on his rookie deal, maintained the same stance regarding his contract situation.

Prior to training camp, Jones revealed that his agent Jimmy Sexton and the Falcons started negotiations.

"Seriously, I don't know where it's at," Jones said Monday. "I don't know when it's going to be done. I don't know if there's a deadline or none of that. I don't know what's going on. I'm just here, just playing ball."

Jones vowed not to protest his contract situation. He participated in all offseason activities and reported to training camp on time.

The Falcons now have a guideline to follow regarding Jones' contract after top receivers Dez Bryant (Cowboys) and Demaryius Thomas (Broncos) each signed five-year, $70 million contracts that included more than $40 million guaranteed.

Jones will make $10.176 million this season. He could reach as high as $15 million per year, although he seems unlikely to surpass Detroit's Calvin Johnsonand his $16.2 million per year salary.

The general sense is the Falcons and Jones will reach a deal sooner than later. If nothing is resolved before next offseason, Jones could face receiving a franchise tag.

Jones plans on putting up even bigger numbers this season after setting a franchise record with 1,593 yards last season in 15 games played.

"I've dropped a little weight now. I'm more muscular now," said Jones, who now weighs 224 pounds. "I'm faster. Also, on the go ball, I've got another gear. I can keep running for a long distance. My quad and hamstring got stronger, so I'm in and out of breaks faster and quicker."

Damm Julio trying to be the BEST!!!

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NFL Nation: QB auditions highlight early camp storylines



Atlanta Falcons: Starting right tackle Ryan Schraeder, who has been limited following a hamstring strain, said he expects to be back Monday. The Falcons need Schraeder and the rest of their projected starting offensive linemen healthy as they try to build chemistry in offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's outside zone blocking scheme, which is aimed at establishing the running game while setting up play-action. -- Vaughn McClure

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Longtime Falcons Roddy White, Matt Ryan have each other's back

  • Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer

Atlanta Falcons veteran wide receiver Roddy White doesn't care if the so-called "experts" leave Matt Ryan off the list of elite quarterbacks. All White cares about is having Ryan as his quarterback.

"I'm not a quarterback judge, but I just know we have a good one," White said. "I'm happy with our guy. I've played with not-so-good quarterbacks and saw how hard the game could be with them. I'm just happy that we have a good quarterback.

Falcons QB Matt Ryan (2) on receiver Roddy White (84): "We've been through good seasons; we've been through bad seasons. And we've been able to count on each other ..." Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

"As far as being a top tier quarterback or being second tier, they judge a lot of that off your winning percentage, how many touchdown passes you throw in a year, how many Super Bowl titles you've won. I mean, Drew Brees leads the league in passing yards. Tom Brady leads the league in Super Bowl titles. Peyton Manningleads the league in every statistical passing category during the regular season. Those guys have won Super Bowls. We haven't reached that plateau as a team yet. The minute Matt wins a Super Bowl, things will be totally different."

Maybe the Falcons can reach such goals in the next few years under new coach Dan Quinn. A renewed emphasis on the run game should alleviate some of the pressure on Ryan, who has been sacked or hit countless times over the past two seasons.

"This offense, basically everything is played off the run game," White explained. "When Matt first came into the league his rookie year, Michael Turner kind of ran wild in the league. Matt was just out there handling the game and everything was coming easy to him. That's what we need to get back to: where we can run the ball. We want to get our running game going to make life easier on everybody else, especially Matt."

White was asked if he was ever concerned about Ryan's health.

"When we played Pittsburgh (last year), he got hit from behind and nobody blocked the guy and yeah, I was like, 'Man.' You don't want 275-pound people hitting your quarterback running 15 miles per hour," White said. "You don't ever want to see a guy take hits like that. After you watched that on film, you're like, 'Come on, man.' You don't want to see a guy go through that at all."

That being said, White never believed Ryan would miss a game.

"No, because I know how tough he is," White said. "When you go out there and play with a guy who goes out and fights just as hard as he does and won't quit and will do anything to be on the field and has taken a beating like he has taken, you just know that he's going to play. You know he's going to be out there. You know he's going to do everything in his power to be the best player he can be. And that man works very, very hard.

"To see him on the Mondays and the Tuesdays after games just up there until 8 p.m. game-planning -- people don't see the things that he does to get ready to play on Sunday and have a better understanding of what plays we want to run and what things we can be successful at. When you see a guy work that hard and see the effort that he puts into it, you just don't concern yourself with little things. You just concern yourself with how we're going to get to where we need to be."

When told of how White praised his toughness, Ryan expressed gratitude toward his teammate of eight seasons.

"That's what you need from a team," Ryan said. "That's the kind of bond that you need across the board, and (White and I) have that because we've been together forever. I mean, we've been through it. We've been through the offseason programs together. We've been through good seasons; we've been through bad seasons. And we've been able to count on each other for that amount of time.

"The more guys we get to have those kind of connections, that's how we're going to get better. And I think that's what Dan Quinn preaches, so we're trying to do that."

Ryan spoke up when asked if White, who turns 34 in November, has much more left in the tank.

"He's got a lot left," Ryan said. "If there's one thing that I know more so than anything else, Roddy White's probably one of the most ferocious competitors that I've been around. He loves playing. When you have guys like that, you can't discount them any time. He just shows up, knows how to compete, isn't scared to make plays, and isn't scared to go in there and mix it up. ... He's the best."

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Julio Jones: No hazing with rookie Justin Hardy carrying pads

  • Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons rookie receiver Justin Hardy is holding his own during training camp.

He was holding something else following Monday's practice.

The fourth-round pick from East Carolina was spotted toting star receiver Julio Jones' shoulder pads following the two-hour session. Hardy seemed to shy away when he saw the camera pointed as his face, but he accepted his duties without any complaints. He was the anti-Dez Bryant.

Jones was asked about having the rookie carry his pads.

"That's just what rookies got to do," Jones said. "I mean, it's no hazing. We don't do hazing here. It's all about just showing those guys how to be a great teammate. I'm over here doing other things and I wasn't able to grab my pads. So I was like, 'Hey Hardy, grab these.' And he's like, 'All right, cool.'"

From a distance, it appeared at least one rookie offensive lineman had to carry pads as well.

On a different note, Jones praised what he's seen from Hardy on the field thus far.

"His work ethic, he comes to work," Jones said. "He's a young guy, so he's willing to learn. He didn't come in like he knew everything. He's taking coaching. He's listen to me and Roddy (White) and also (receivers coach) Terry Robiskie."

* I think this kid is going to be a great pickup for this team.*

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Roddy White cheering from afar as son competes in youth world series

  • Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer

Outspoken Atlanta Falcons receiver Roddy White didn't hesitate when asked which sport he wants his son, Lamar, to play: football or baseball.

``I just want my son to be successful at whatever he chooses to do in life,'' White said, ``but everybody knows baseball is the way to go -- fully-guaranteed contracts.''

For now, White is content rooting for a two-sport athlete.

Lamar, who plays quarterback in football, is an outfielder for Taylorville out of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, which starts play in the Dixie Youth AA World Series Tuesday in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Taylorville, a group of 7- and 8-year-old all-stars, represents the state of Alabama and faces Louisiana at 4 p.m.

Although the Falcons have Tuesday off, the team's training camp schedule won't allow White to attend the national coach-pitch tournament. However, he plans to watch as many games as possible through live streaming on the Dixie Youth website.

He was there when Lamar (No. 21) and Taylorville won the state title last month.

Taylorville coach Tim Dreyfus raved about what Lamar brings to the team.

``The whole teams loves him,'' Dreyfus said. ``He's a left-handed batter with amazing speed. He's also a great teammate and is very coachable.''

Taylorville will compete against 11 other state champions and has six teams in its pool. Play was pushed back a day due to a Monday rainout, meaning the championship is scheduled for Friday.

``The odds will be tough,'' Dreyfus said of Alabama winning the title. ``Hopefully we can make a few plays, and we will be confident.''

No matter the end result, White has reason to celebrate.

``I am very proud,'' he said ``It's my son. Nothing compares to it. It's the best feeling in the world.''

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Dan Quinn has William Moore altering his approach to tackling

  • Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer

The film doesn't lie.

As Atlanta Falcons strong safety William Moore sifted through various plays from last season, one in particular was indicative of how not to approach tackling.

"The Tampa Bay game here, I overran the ball, but [Paul] Worrilow caused the fumble and he saved me," Moore said. "I had the proper angle to make the tackle, but I overran it because I was going for the kill shot, and (Bucs running back Bobby Rainey) cut back at the last minute. I didn't break down where I should have just broken down and made the tackle. But I was thinking 'kill' the whole time.

"I've just got to pick my poison and settle down."

New Falcons coach Dan Quinn, with his fast-and-physical motto, appreciates Moore's aggression. At the same time, Quinn made it a point to emphasize to Moore how he needs to alter his tackling approach to thrive on defense. Not to mention Moore has been fined at least $97,000 for illegal hits over the previous two seasons and even received a warning letter from the NFL for his sometimes reckless play.

Rather than take Quinn's words as an insult, the seventh-year veteran and one-time Pro Bowler Moore gladly accepted the challenge.

"I'm a rookie now. That's my mindset," Moore said. "I've got a new playbook, new coach. My expectations for myself, I haven't reached that yet. I could be so much better than what I am. When Coach Quinn said, 'We're going to work on your tackling,' I came back and said, 'What do you mean by that, coach?' I wanted to get specific. And he told me, 'Pick your battles, and know when to make the proper tackle and know when you've got the kill shot.'

"Since I've been here, I've watched the plays that I've missed. I don't want to go see interceptions because I already know how those ended. I like to watch miss tackles and missed opportunities because that's the only way I can get better."

Missed tackles and missed opportunities were part of the reason the Falcons struggled miserably on defense the last two seasons. Last year, when the Falcons surrendered a league-high 398.3 yards per game, they gave up 82.9 yards after contact, which ranked 22th in the NFL. The league's best was the Quinn-coachedSeattle Seahawks defense at 57.25 yards allowed after contact per game.

This season, Moore will play more of the in-the-box safety he's best suited for, so he has to be a sure-tackler. He dropped weight this offseason to better prepare himself. But the emphasis on tackling doesn't mean Moore needs a beginner's course on wrapping up and securing the tackle or needs to constantly practice a Rugby-style technique, as Quinn has used as a teaching tool in the past.

"It's not about whether I can tackle; it's about knowing when to form tackle and when to blow somebody up," Moore said. "I know that. But when you go into the game, your adrenaline is pumping and your mindset is to destroy. Sometimes you get caught in the moment of thinking you can run straight through the guy and you need to settle down, gather, and make the proper tackle. It's not tackling. It's picking when to make the proper tackle."

Moore has no reservations about tackling despite coming off major right shoulder surgery. He missed nine games last season and was sidelined a majority of the offseason. Practicing in the pads Sunday and Monday gave him his first true opportunity to test the surgically repaired shoulder.

"I'm absolutely not worried about hitting on that shoulder," Moore said. "Time off heals a lot. I'm comfortable. I feel awesome. I was cleared before training camp to use my shoulder. If felt awesome to put the pads on. I want to go out there and thud a little more. Anybody that wants to come see me, they can come see me."

Quinn gave a quick assessment of Moore's play in camp.

"He didn't look inhibited in any way," Quinn said. "Certainly the speed, and he is lighter in weight by design. He has really come in with clear mind. There were really some plays that showed up to me, and I pointed and said, 'That's the style I'm looking for.'"

*I'm hoping that Willy Mo becomes our true enforcer on this defense because he has definitely shown flashes!! Coach Quinn is coaching this man up damm I love it!!!!*

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Tevin Coleman's absence, sloppy play highlight Falcons practice

  • Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Atlanta Falcons returned to practice after a day off and were without rookie running back Tevin Coleman, who sat out with a hamstring strain.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn said he hopes to have Coleman back soon, but did not provide an exact timetable. Of course, Coleman is engaged in a running back competition with Devonta Freeman for the starting role, although Freeman entered camp as the unquestioned leader.

Meanwhile, the Falcons had their struggles on Day 5 of camp. The ball was on the ground more often than not. Bad snaps and tosses appeared to contribute to the miscues.

The Falcons are determined to get Devonta Freeeman involved in the passing game. AP/John Bazemore

"Anytime you put the ball on the ground that much, that's our No. 1 goal is to protect the football, and get it on defense," center Joe Hawley said. "So, the defense won today on that. As easy things as center-quarterback (exchange) and holding on to the ball."

Quinn praised his team's overall effort but was naturally disturbed by the mistakes. There were a handful of penalties, too.

"That's one of the things, from an error standpoint, we can totally control that, so we own that," Quinn said. "It wasn't necessarily where the defensive player made a play on that. They were going for it -- the defensive guys were -- but the ones that were on the ground, certainly something we can control. Definitely have to shore that part up."

A few quick-hitters from Day 5 of training camp:

  • There was plenty of mixing and matching along the offensive line again. Rookie Jake Rodgers worked with the first team at right tackle with Ryan Schraeder battling a right hamstring strain and Tyler Polumbus watching from the sideline with an undisclosed injury. The first-team combination at one point included Jake Matthews at left tackle, Chris Chester at left guard,Mike Person at center, James Stone at left guard, and Rodgers at right tackle. Starting right guard Jon Asamoah had an upset stomach and didn't finish practice. Quinn said the team wants to get a closer look at the versatility of some of the linemen.

  • Freeman was a red-zone target twice for touchdowns, which emphasized how much the Falcons like what he brings to the passing game.

  • Rookie receiver Justin Hardy got an earful from offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan about route-running during a drill.

  • Tight end Levine Toilolo impressed with his pass-catching. Quinn also singled out Toilolo for what he's shown as a blocker in the running game.

  • First-team outside linebacker Brooks Reed remained sidelined with a groin/hip injury and defensive lineman Cliff Matthews (ankle) also didn't suit up. First-team weakside linebacker Justin Durant was back in action after a couple days off.

  • Undrafted rookie tight end Beau Gardner went down with a knee injury after being hit during a drill. Quinn had no immediate update on Gardner's status.

  • The music playlist included Coolio ("Gangsta's Paradise"), The Beastie Boys ("No Sleep Till Brooklyn"), and George Clinton ("Atomic Dog").

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