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Camp takeaways: Dan Quinn explains what he’s looking for vs. Dolphins, discusses right guard

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Camp takeaways: Dan Quinn explains what he’s looking for vs. Dolphins, discusses right guard


Will McFadden




FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Rain forced the Falcons into their indoor practice facility for the 11th practice of training camp, but the change in routine did not seem to faze the players or coaches one bit.

Despite practicing indoors, the Falcons stuck with their regular game plan, going through individual position work and various situational drills. Coach Dan Quinn said he was glad to see his team focused and motivated during their final full practice before their first preseason game at Miami on Thursday at 7 p.m. ET.


With Thursday’s game approaching, the team still focused on internal improvement, and there were several takeaways from Tuesday’s practice.


1. Quinn looking for ‘crispness’ and ‘speed’ against Miami


Although it’s exciting to have live football games again, the preseason is about evaluation more than anything else. Outcomes don’t matter in the preseason, players do.


A consistent string of performances can help a player edge out another in a tight position battle, while a handful of reps will allow a veteran to get back up to game speed. This period is an important one for Quinn and his staff, and he briefly explained what he’s looking for on Thursday.


“Offensively, It’s really that tempo in and out of the huddle,” Quinn said after practice. “Always going to be about the ball, but we’re looking for that crispness – the sharp, out of the huddle, at the line of scrimmage, the communication. That part’s important to us.


“Defensively, I’d love to see our speed come to life. Here’s our first chance for some tackling, and we’ve worked hard at it. The leverage, those are things we’ll be looking for defensively. And then past that, evaluations. There’s so many evaluations to get on all the players. I do love this time, and so many guys are going to be going for it, trying to put their best foot forward, and for a coach – and certainly with our staff – it’s an exciting time. We love seeing these games.”


Training camp practices can provide small glimpses into a player’s abilities and the team’s progression, but they are nothing compared to watching live action.


So, what exactly do Quinn and his staff look for? This early in the year, they’ve got a pretty clear idea of what they want to see.


“We want the guys to be really clear-headed, in terms of going in,” Quinn said. “So the plan and the scheme, in this time, isn’t as important as the evaluation and a guy (who) can feel like he can really let it rip. So, the scheme part, there won’t be any new concepts and game plans, so to speak. We want to stay almost in our camp mode of doing things. How aggressively, how fast, how explosive can you play? That’s where the real importance lies.


“Now, situations are going to come up – third downs and two minutes and short yardage – so that’s important. But past that: Man, can they really haul?”


2. How things stand with the battle at right guard


The Falcons released their first unofficial depth chart of the preseason on Monday, giving a small look at the status of the right guard competition. Ben Garland was given the starting nod over Wes Schweitzer for this first game, but before jumping to conclusions, this battle is still very much ongoing.


Quinn explained that their positions on the depth chart was more out of respect for Garland’s lengthier time with the team.


“I think that’s fair,” Quinn said of giving Garland the first reps. “Coming into camp, both he and Wes were right in the middle of it. We could have went either way with it, really. But I thought Ben was the one we named coming into training camp, based on his experience playing last year, so that’s why we went that way.”


Although Garland will head out onto the field first, he isn’t expected to have any advantage in the number of reps he gets.


“Both of them should see about the equal amount of time,” Quinn said. “We’ve got to get a good evaluation on these two guys.”


3. Sarkisian will coach from the box, Manuel from the field


One priority for Quinn this preseason will be determining where his new coordinators are most comfortable and effective while calling games. Some coaches prefer to be down on the field among their players to provide hands-on direction and tap into their emotion, while others feel they are more effective in the coaches’ box, where they have a better view of the unfolding action down below.


New offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian and first-time defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel will alternate between the sideline and the box during the preseason, giving them an idea of which they prefer moving forward.


For Thursday’s game, Sarkisian will coach from the box and Manuel will be down on the field.


“Sark will be up, and Marquand will be down,” Quinn said. “And then we’ll probably flip (them), maybe even in the next game. It’s a good opportunity. We’ve got some new guys, a new staff, and (we’ll figure out) how they fit in that role on game day.”




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Quinn: Falcons receivers Julio Jones, Taylor Gabriel will be held out of first preseason game


Kelsey Conway




FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Don’t expect to see Julio Jones or Taylor Gabriel on the field during the Falcons’ first preseason against the Miami Dolphins on Thursday night.


Falcons coach Dan Quinn ruled the two receivers out on Tuesday when he addressed the media following practice. Quinn said three other players would be out: tackle Kevin Graf, defensive end Martin Ifedi and running back B.J. Daniels.


Jones underwent surgery on his toe this offseason and the Pro Bowler said he is “easing” his way back into things. Gabriel was limited during Atlanta’s offseason workout program with a lower leg injury and similar to Jones, started training camp off only being able to participate in individual drills.


Both have worked their way back to 11-on-11 participation at practice.


As for rookie Takkarist McKinley’s status for Thursday’s game, Quinn said he has yet to make a decision.


“He’s [taking] about half of the team reps here [at practice],” Quinn said. “As we take it down into the game, we’ll decide as we get closer. I’m pleased with his progress from a scheme-wise, assignment-wise and speed-wise, you can see the improvement taking place.”


Following McKinley’s final season at UCLA, the pass-rusher had surgery on his shoulder. Similar to Jones and Gabriel, the Falcons have a plan set for McKinley’s progression.


The Falcons and Dolphins will kick off at 7 p.m. ET at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens.




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Marvin Hall ready to add more speed to Falcons’ receiver group


Kelsey Conway




FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Marvin Hall has been a name to know around the Falcons’ team facility through the first two weeks of training camp.  Whether it’s quarterback Matt Ryan or head coach Dan Quinn, there’s been plenty of praise for the speedy receiver’s performance thus far. Hall is taking advantage of every rep he gets for the Falcons, and it’s paying off.


“I treat every rep like a game situation,” Hall said. “I’m going to take it one day at a time, one play at a time. I’m just going to continue to take advantage of my opportunities.”


After spending time with the Oakland Raiders and the Arizona Cardinals, Hall signed with Atlanta in early June.


Not only has Hall grasped the Falcons’ offensive system quickly, he has familiarity with offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian’s coaching style. Hall played for Sarkisian at the University of Washington in 2012 and 2013 when Sarkisian was the head coach there. During his time with the Huskies, Hall caught 25 passes for 409 yards.


Hall credits the other Falcons receivers for helping him get acclimated so fast, saying they have “treated him like family” since Day 1. Between his comfort in the offense and with his position group, Hall has been able to make an impression on the coaching staff.


At 5-foot-10, 190 pounds, Hall believes his biggest strength is his speed and his ability to open up a defense. Even though the Falcons have Julio Jones and Taylor Gabriel returning – two of the fastest players on the team – Quinn is always looking for more speed on his roster, and that’s what Hall believes he can add to the unit.


“[Taylor] Gabriel has speed,” Hall said. “[Mohamed] Sanu is the possession receiver and then we have Julio [Jones] who can do it all. I feel like I can fit in there and be a Gabriel-type receiver and help out.”


The Falcons saw great success when they put Gabriel in situations where he was able to make plays with his feet, which is why there’s reason to believe Hall could be used in a similar fashion moving forward. Time will tell what kind of impact he’ll make. The Falcons play their first preseason game Thursday.


Gabriel’s average catch came at 8.6 yards beyond the line of scrimmage and he averaged a team-leading 7.94 yards after the catch, showing his ability to turn a small gain into a big one.


Hall also sees himself being a valuable contributor on the Falcons’ special teams – the way Quinn says players can separate themselves from one another.


The Falcons will try Hall at returner some. And much like Hall has done since he arrived in Flowery Branch, he’s ready to take on any role and make the most of his opportunity.




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