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Rookies get their first test at Falcons' OTAs


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Rookies get their first test at Falcons' OTAs

Vaughn McClure

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The most noticeable difference for the Atlanta Falcons between the first week of organized team activities and the second week was the roles for the rookies.

The first week, Falcons coach Dan Quinn kept players such as first-round pick Keanu Neal with the backups while getting accustomed to new surroundings. But during Week 2 on Tuesday, Neal, a projected starter, was running with the first team at strong safety while fourth-round draft pick De'Vondre Campbell was working with the first unit at Will linebacker.

With a number of the guys, we wanted to find out 'Let's see what they have and how well they can learn,'" Quinn said. "And there were some busts, for sure. And that's part of it. You have to kind of go through that frustration of, 'Oh, I missed that call. I missed where I was supposed to be.' ... It was good to throw a lot in there today."

Deion Jones, the second-round pick from LSU, remained with the second team at middle linebacker as Paul Worrilow kept working with the starters. Fifth-round pick Wes Schweitzer lined up at left guard alongside starters Jake Matthews, Alex Mack and Ryan Schraeder for one series with newcomer Tom Compton at right guard.

Tight end Austin Hooper, the third-round pick from Stanford, is not with the team right now because classes are ongoing at the school.

Here are some other quick observations from Tuesday's OTAs:

  • Vic Beasley Jr. was not working at Sam linebacker with the first unit in the base package. Philip Wheeler took those reps, while Beasley worked primarily as a nickel edge rusher off the left side. Beasley worked with a rush group of Jonathan Babineaux and Derrick Shelby on the interior and Brooks Reed off the right edge. Beasley did play Sam in the base with the second unit, though.

  • When defensive line coach Bryan Cox summoned the three-technique defensive tackles to take part in a 2-on-1 drills, the only two "three-techs" to toe the line were Tyson Jackson and Babineaux. The Falcons moved Ra'Shede Hageman to the four-tech defensive end position.

  • Akeem King saw time with the first unit outside at corner alongside Desmond Trufant in the nickel package. King's presence kicked Robert Alford inside.

  • Cornerback Jalen Collins, who can practice but is suspended the first four games for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances, made a nice play on the ball to intercept Matt Schaub during 11-on-11 drills. It's something Collins did not show at all last season.

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I didn't really see Wheeler as a SAM, but he fits the height/weight profile for it.  I'm glad they're working him in there.  He was a huge bright spot last season.  I'm also glad to see them working Neal in with the 1s.  He needs the experience of running with the first unit, because he's almost certainly going to be the starter there.

Man, I REALLY hope Clayborn is going to spell Brooks at nickel DE when he comes back.  I'm not saying Reed can't rush, but I know Clay can.  I like Shelby and Babs inside for that package.

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15 minutes ago, JDaveG said:

I didn't really see Wheeler as a SAM, but he fits the height/weight profile for it.  I'm glad they're working him in there.  He was a huge bright spot last season.  I'm also glad to see them working Neal in with the 1s.  He needs the experience of running with the first unit, because he's almost certainly going to be the starter there.

Man, I REALLY hope Clayborn is going to spell Brooks at nickel DE when he comes back.  I'm not saying Reed can't rush, but I know Clay can.  I like Shelby and Babs inside for that package.

Yeah, I'd be highly surprised if the primary nickel isn't Beasley, Shelby, Babs, Clayborn.

With Reed et al spelling.

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56 minutes ago, JDaveG said:

I didn't really see Wheeler as a SAM, but he fits the height/weight profile for it.  I'm glad they're working him in there.  He was a huge bright spot last season.  I'm also glad to see them working Neal in with the 1s.  He needs the experience of running with the first unit, because he's almost certainly going to be the starter there.

Man, I REALLY hope Clayborn is going to spell Brooks at nickel DE when he comes back.  I'm not saying Reed can't rush, but I know Clay can.  I like Shelby and Babs inside for that package.

i didn't see Wheeler at SAM either. The Sam position was already crowded with Beasley, Reed, and Upshaw. Although it appears that Reed and Upshaw will play some DE also. I thought that Wheeler and Spoon would be at WLB, along with Campbell.  Then Worrilow and Jones would be at MLB.

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1 hour ago, theProf said:

i didn't see Wheeler at SAM either. The Sam position was already crowded with Beasley, Reed, and Upshaw. Although it appears that Reed and Upshaw will play some DE also. I thought that Wheeler and Spoon would be at WLB, along with Campbell.  Then Worrilow and Jones would be at MLB.

I thought Wheeler would be an option at MIKE too.  But hey, I'm good with him balling at whatever position they think he can play.  I have more trust in this staff on such things than I did the last one, largely because of things like Ricardo Allen and the emergence of Freeman.  They seem to know how to get the best out of players.

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I'm excited about Akeem King man, he has the athletic ability and length that DQ loves in a CB. He started to play better towards the end of last year. Wheeler I feel is DQ's utility guy, seems like he can play anywhere at LB and be good.

I think Reed playing DE in the Nickle is just largely because of Clayborn's injury, I'm sure Reed could rush sometimes, but it seems like that's Clayborn's spot.

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9 minutes ago, osiruz said:

Freeman should've really gotten snaps instead of geriatric azz stephen jackson whom the board loved. Stupidest football decision I've ever seen in my life. Signing a 30 year old past his prime back for big money, and starting him when he's ineffective.

He was only 31. Freeman wasn't playing his rookie year ahead of Jacquizz anyways. None of the three were going to be lighting the world on fire that season.

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6 hours ago, JDaveG said:

I didn't really see Wheeler as a SAM, but he fits the height/weight profile for it.  I'm glad they're working him in there.  He was a huge bright spot last season. 

 

5 hours ago, theProf said:

i didn't see Wheeler at SAM either. The Sam position was already crowded with Beasley, Reed, and Upshaw. Although it appears that Reed and Upshaw will play some DE also. I thought that Wheeler and Spoon would be at WLB, along with Campbell.

 

4 hours ago, JDaveG said:

I thought Wheeler would be an option at MIKE too.  But hey, I'm good with him balling at whatever position they think he can play.

 

Did you fellas forget about this from May 11th?
 

Quote

 

http://atlantafalcons.blog.ajc.com/2016/05/11/cover-99-which-undrafted-player-is-going-to-make-the-team/

7. Strongside, Leo crew. During one of the draft shows, Brooks Reed was inaccurately lumped with the Falcons’ middle linebackers.

Quinn noted that Reed is a SAM (strongside) or LEO (hybrid defensive end/weakside) player for the Falcons.

“The guys kind of playing those spots are Vic (Beasley), Brooks, (Adrian) Clayborn and (Courtney) Upshaw,” Quinn said. “(Philip) Wheeler is going to do some of that and Tyler Starr. That group of guys are guys we see playing on the end of the line, playing (defensive) end and in the nickel. We’re pumped about all of them.”


 

It does't explicitly say it, but I took that to mean that Wheeler is going to be that guy who can be a backup SLB in addition to his normal backup inside linebacker duties (MLB + WLB). I doubt this is a fulltime switch to the EDGE group, but more of a backup at multiple positions thing. (EDGE is how I classify the SLB and LEO personnel). I could be wrong, but as I said somewhere else around here in the last few days, it's what makes the most sense with how the 53 man roster will shape up.

Assuming defensive personnel take up 25 roster spots, and with a typical 9 DB's, that leaves 16 roster spots for the DL, EDGE, and ILB groups to fill. Last year we went with 7 big DL types, and a combined 9 between the EDGE and ILB groups - 4 of one, 5 of the other. This year with Clayborn being a big DL who plays mainly as a nickel DE, that will probably keep the big DL group at 7 again - whereas that group often has only 6 in Seattle for example.

That leaves us 9 spots to fit in our EDGE and ILB players - meaning one group is only going to have 4 players. With two rookie ILB's that means we're more than likely going to keep 3 other veteran players at that position for depth, so 5 total at ILB - meaning only 4 EDGE players (excluding Clayborn who is in the DL group). In light of that information, it makes perfect sense that one of the five ILB backups would be crosstrained to serve as a SLB backup as well. 

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10 hours ago, Duff_Man said:

He was only 31. Freeman wasn't playing his rookie year ahead of Jacquizz anyways. None of the three were going to be lighting the world on fire that season.

Running back effectiveness expires by age 30 about 98% of the time. Only a few red herrings are not done by then. I would not have signed SJ at age 29 as it was still a big gamble for a bandaid season. NFL common sense. Also freeman was more effective than Jacquizz, we just didn't give him a chance.

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On 6/1/2016 at 11:03 AM, JDaveG said:

I didn't really see Wheeler as a SAM, but he fits the height/weight profile for it.  I'm glad they're working him in there.  He was a huge bright spot last season.  I'm also glad to see them working Neal in with the 1s.  He needs the experience of running with the first unit, because he's almost certainly going to be the starter there.

Man, I REALLY hope Clayborn is going to spell Brooks at nickel DE when he comes back.  I'm not saying Reed can't rush, but I know Clay can.  I like Shelby and Babs inside for that package.

Reed has a nice bull rush i saw last year, But i do want Clay outside 

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