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Falcons training camp recap: Day 4


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Falcons training camp recap: Day 4

The fourth day of Falcons training camp was the most intense and spectacular thus far, which was fitting for the large contingent of fans that braved the possibility of inclement weather. Atlanta’s offense shined after two strong days by the defense.

By Kevin Knight@FalcoholicKevin  Jul 30, 2022, 8:27pm EDT
 
The fourth day of Atlanta Falcons training camp started off a little cautiously, with eyes on the sky for the possibility of thunderstorms. Even so, fans were unperturbed and showed up in droves—particularly once the sun came out partway through practice.

Saturday featured a quick address at the podium from Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot to the fans, who they both thanked profusely for coming out to support the team. Perhaps owing to the presence of so many excited fans, today’s practice was the most intense and spectacular one yet. Let’s get to it.

Offense takes over on Day 4

After two strong days from the defense, the offense fought back on Saturday. Early on, it looked as if the defensive dominance would continue: Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder combined for an 0-4 start in the first 11-on-11 period, and the defense stuffed up the run well. After that though, it was mostly the offense’s show—with a few nice defensive plays sprinkled in. Dean Pees did note after practice that the defense installed a whole new set of coverages today, and it led to some mistakes on the back end. So that could have played a part, too.

For fans looking for fireworks, they got them today. Mariota was sharp (more on that below) and he and Ridder combined for a very productive day in the red zone. It felt like almost every wide receiver found their way into the endzone at some point during practice, whether that was in team work or 1-on-1s. You could tell that it started to get to the defense late in practice, as the intensity was high and the players were playing at practically full game speed without contact. Speaking of that intensity...

The competition was fierce and tempers flared

The coaches gradually ramped up the speed and intensity of practice throughout the day, culminating in a full “game simulation” set of 11-on-11 red zone drills. Atlanta’s offense and defense went back and forth throughout the session. The defense had some nice plays, including a sack from veteran Quinton Bell and a throwaway forced by pressure from rookie Arnold Ebiketie.

On offense, both Mariota and Ridder repeatedly found the endzone in the passing game. Mariota added a first-down scramble to keep a drive alive, and would later score on a rushing touchdown. The rushing attack was about 50-50 on the day, with a mix of good plays from the offense and defense.

Late in the session, tempers began to flare. It began with a fight between DT Jalen Dalton and OT Germain Ifedi, where Dalton ran in from across the field to get at Ifedi. UDFA DT Derrick Tangelo had a TFL on the final play of practice, which ended up sparking another scuffle. Arthur Smith called it after that, as practice had already gone over the scheduled end time.

In some ways, the intensity is nice to see. Our very own Will McFadden covered this aspect of practice, and some of the quotes from the coaching staff, in a separate article today. This quote, in particular, stood out to me:

Darren Hall bounces back, Richie Grant continues to impress,

After a couple of difficult days in a row where he was so close to making some big plays, second-year cornerback Darren Hall finally saw those plays go in his favor. He had a number of impressive PBUs today, providing tight coverage in both team sessions and 1-on-1 drills. I was really glad to see things turn around for him, and he looked sharp playing mostly on the outside today.

There were a lot of standout players in the secondary—including the usual suspects like A.J. Terrell and Casey Hayward—but Day 4 marked another practice where Richie Grant had a terrific day. He’s been excellent in coverage and always seems to be one of the first guys there as a tackler and in run support, though it’s tough to evaluate those aspects fully without pads on.

In fact, both Grant and fellow starter Jaylinn Hawkins have looked good in their four days as the top duo. The future is looking bright for Atlanta’s new-look secondary.

Kyle Pitts, Drake London dominate

It was once again the Kyle Pitts and Drake London show, with both players getting into the endzone on multiple occasions. Pitts just looks unstoppable at times, and showed off his ridiculous catch radius on this low pass from Mariota.

Pitts is also showing dominant flashes in 1-on-1s, like on this rep where he fights through a pretty egregious hold from DB Teez Tabor. His movement skills and body control are ridiculous for a player of his size.

Not be be outdone, rookie Drake London caught the most touchdowns of any player today. He looked dominant in 1-on-1s, where he mossed cornerback Dee Alford for a deep touchdown.

He was very effective in the red zone period as well, drawing a ton of targets from both Mariota and Ridder. London was able to get a step on cornerback Darren Hall and score right on the goal-line.

 

So far, Pitts and London look like a dynamic duo for the Falcons. Let’s hope this continues once we get to full-contact practice on Monday.

Marcus Mariota has his best day yet

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Mariota is defying all expectations thus far. He’s been sharp, accurate, and in command of the offense. I’m struggling to come up with different ways to say it, because it’s been a consistent theme with him. You’ve already seen some of his impressive throws above, but today showcased how dangerous Mariota can be as a runner in the red zone.

On multiple occasions, the coverage was good and the pressure was coming—but Mariota was able to escape and turn it in to a positive play. Take this one, for example, as Mariota is able to use his legs to pick up a crucial third down play to keep the offense alive in the 7-on-7 session. He’d throw a touchdown pass to Auden Tate on the very next play.

Later, in 11-on-11—which I cannot film, sadly—Mariota had a similar play. The Falcons offense was at about the two-yard line, and a previous rushing play was stuffed for minimal gain. Mariota surveyed the field briefly before beating the edge defender for the touchdown. The fans erupted in cheers, and Mariota ran to the edge of the field and tossed the ball into the crowd.

Mariota continues to look better than any of us thought he would be. The big question now is whether or not it will translate to the preseason, and then the regular season after that. Everything looks positive now, and I hope the momentum continues.

Other notes from Day 4

  • An update on the starting offensive line: there was once again some shuffling with the first team. The change came at center, where it went back to Matt Hennessy. That marks an even split between Hennessy and Drew Dalman, who was with the starters on Days 1 & 3. After Jalen Mayfield got the start on Day 1, it’s been veteran Elijah Wilkinson every day since. Right tackle has remained Kaleb McGary all four days.
  • With all the praise I’m heaping on Mariota, don’t forget about Desmond Ridder. Ridder is a step below Mariota right now—he’s not quite as accurate and you can tell he’s just a tick slower to process things. But that’s totally understandable for a rookie in his fourth day of training camp. Ridder is progressing nicely, but fans need to be patient.
  • There’s a clear top three emerging in the receiving corps: Drake London, Bryan Edwards, and Olamide Zaccheaus. All three have been heavily and exclusively involved with the starters. Edwards left practice during the final team session with what appeared to be a hand/arm or shoulder injury. That will be worth monitoring going forward.
  • Damiere Byrd, KhaDarel Hodge, Auden Tate, and Geronimo Allison appear to be the four players in competition for the remaining 2-3 roster spots at WR. This will be a fierce battle to monitor all through the preseason.
  • In terms of other receivers competing for spots, I’d say UDFA Stanley Berryhill Jr. has been the most consistently impressive so far, with fellow UDFA/lacrosse star Jared Bernhardt right behind him. The Falcons kept three receivers on the practice squad for much of the 2021 season, and I’d say those two are early favorites for a couple of those spots.
  • This was the best day on the ground so far for the offense, with Cordarrelle Patterson, Damien Williams, and Tyler Allgeier all having success. Even so, I’d call the “successful” split around 50/50 with the defense, which was once again pretty stout against the run overall.

That’s all for today’s training camp notes. Sunday is a rest day, which A.J. Terrell said he is going to use to get his mind and body right. I’m going to do something similar. Adnan and I will see you again, bright and early, on Monday at Flowery Branch for Day 5!

As a quick addendum, I want to thank everyone for the affirming comments. It really means a lot. Thank you for your support of myself, and the site as a whole. Also, I really enjoyed meeting all those who came out to camp and said hello!

https://www.thefalcoholic.com/2022/7/30/23285358/falcons-training-camp-recap-day-4-nfl-2022-marcus-mariota-drake-london-kyle-pitts-richie-grant

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Another article recapping Day 4:

Camp report: Drake London, Elijah Wilkinson, Bryan Edwards and maybe the most competitive practice of the Arthur Smith era

We also discuss Avery Williams, KhaDarel Hodge and many others from an action-packed Saturday practice

Jul 30, 2022 at 03:39 PM

Scott Bair   Falcons Digital Managing Editor

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Drake London started sprinting straight down the field, then picked up his foot to seemingly plant it for use on a turnaround or a sharp cut inside. Cornerback Dee Alford bit on London's brakes, as did most everyone else watching the one-on-one drill.

One problem: the No. 8 overall pick didn't break in or hook back. He hit the accelerator again, gaining clear separation while streaking toward the end zone.

Marcus Mariota sent the ball downfield and London plucked from the sky just over Alford's head. Touchdown.

That was one of several nice plays the USC alum made during a super-competitive open practice (more on that later), including two more touchdown catches in 7-on-7 drills. While the flash moments caught a massive crowd on hand's attention, his consistency might've been more impressive.

He created consistent separation running different types of routes – though A.J. Terrell shut him at least once – and caught the ball when targeted. London keeps showing up and standing out in the pattern, with a nice start to this training camp.

Does that portend a stellar rookie season? No. It surely doesn't. There's a lot he must show and prove as summer turns to fall. But there's no doubt London’s off to a strong start, a positive sign as he makes his way through camp toward tougher challenges that lie ahead.

"Every day, I feel like he's getting comfortable," Terrell said. "He's getting the playbook down. He moves a bit different. He's more confident in his route running and what he's got to do. Every time we go against each other, he brings that edge I need to help get ready for game day. He needs to keep that going, keep building."

Falcons proving "competitive as ****"

Intensity was sky high during a Saturday open practice that left Arthur Smith with a positive feeling about his team.

"I was very encouraged by the day," Smith said. "That was probably the most competitive practice we've had since I've been here."

The intensity turned into a pair of late scuffles among offensive and defensive linemen – one player was thrown out of practice for throwing a punch (that didn't land) – but that unwelcome conduct ultimately didn't negate a session with plenty of positives and a level of aggressiveness the coaches praised.

"You want competitiveness," Smith said. "Part of that is the makeup of the guys we brought in here; so many of them have a chip on their shoulder. We want to go out and prove ourselves. We're having so much fun with these guys and how they work. It's unbelievable."

Wilkinson battling hard at left guard

Newcomer Elijah Wilkinson is making early inroads in a quest to start on the Falcons offensive line, earning first-team reps at left guard for the third straight day. Incumbent starter Jalen Mayfield has worked with the second unit during that time, though we're a ways away from the Falcons naming a starter at that crucial position.

Head coach Arthur Smith said Wilkinson has earned the first-team reps more than anything, praising the sixth-year veteran's work in the early going.

"I won't go into specifics, but a lot of times certain things he's doing are the way it needs to be done," Smith said. "I think that's a good thing for Jalen, so he can step up and make it a competition and we'll see where it goes. We're not down on Jalen. It's more about what Elijah is doing right."

Wilkinson said he's trying to all the little things right on the practice field and in meeting rooms, paying attention to detail and being a true pro. While he has played a lot of tackle in the NFL, he's adapting well to the guard spot – he has experience there as well – despite going against bigger, powerful guys like Grady Jarrett.

While Wilkinson is happy with his start to camp, he isn't taking anything for granted. That includes his first-team reps the past few days.

"It doesn't tell me anything. I don't think anything is done here," Wilkinson said. "The work is still coming. You have to bring it every day. You have to earn it every day."

 

https://www.atlantafalcons.com/news/drake-london-elijah-wilkinson-bryan-edwards-arthur-smith-2022-training-camp

 

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1 hour ago, Herr Doktor said:

Crazy to see the competition.  Many many slots are wide open.  The secondary looks to have a very bright future.

I’m with you Dok if onething is resonating with me it’s the tight coverage and when your hearing Terrell Hayward and Grants names frequently in this discussion I’m hyped about this group hyped.

If the rush can’t get there the coverage has to stand up.This year I think we may well be equipped to.

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1 hour ago, kiwifalcon said:

I’m with you Dok if onething is resonating with me it’s the tight coverage and when your hearing Terrell Hayward and Grants names frequently in this discussion I’m hyped about this group hyped.

If the rush can’t get there the coverage has to stand up.This year I think we may well be equipped to.

Totally agree brother!

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17 hours ago, theProf said:

Another article recapping Day 4:

Camp report: Drake London, Elijah Wilkinson, Bryan Edwards and maybe the most competitive practice of the Arthur Smith era

We also discuss Avery Williams, KhaDarel Hodge and many others from an action-packed Saturday practice

Jul 30, 2022 at 03:39 PM

Scott Bair   Falcons Digital Managing Editor

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Drake London started sprinting straight down the field, then picked up his foot to seemingly plant it for use on a turnaround or a sharp cut inside. Cornerback Dee Alford bit on London's brakes, as did most everyone else watching the one-on-one drill.

One problem: the No. 8 overall pick didn't break in or hook back. He hit the accelerator again, gaining clear separation while streaking toward the end zone.

Marcus Mariota sent the ball downfield and London plucked from the sky just over Alford's head. Touchdown.

That was one of several nice plays the USC alum made during a super-competitive open practice (more on that later), including two more touchdown catches in 7-on-7 drills. While the flash moments caught a massive crowd on hand's attention, his consistency might've been more impressive.

He created consistent separation running different types of routes – though A.J. Terrell shut him at least once – and caught the ball when targeted. London keeps showing up and standing out in the pattern, with a nice start to this training camp.

Does that portend a stellar rookie season? No. It surely doesn't. There's a lot he must show and prove as summer turns to fall. But there's no doubt London’s off to a strong start, a positive sign as he makes his way through camp toward tougher challenges that lie ahead.

"Every day, I feel like he's getting comfortable," Terrell said. "He's getting the playbook down. He moves a bit different. He's more confident in his route running and what he's got to do. Every time we go against each other, he brings that edge I need to help get ready for game day. He needs to keep that going, keep building."

Falcons proving "competitive as ****"

Intensity was sky high during a Saturday open practice that left Arthur Smith with a positive feeling about his team.

"I was very encouraged by the day," Smith said. "That was probably the most competitive practice we've had since I've been here."

The intensity turned into a pair of late scuffles among offensive and defensive linemen – one player was thrown out of practice for throwing a punch (that didn't land) – but that unwelcome conduct ultimately didn't negate a session with plenty of positives and a level of aggressiveness the coaches praised.

"You want competitiveness," Smith said. "Part of that is the makeup of the guys we brought in here; so many of them have a chip on their shoulder. We want to go out and prove ourselves. We're having so much fun with these guys and how they work. It's unbelievable."

Wilkinson battling hard at left guard

Newcomer Elijah Wilkinson is making early inroads in a quest to start on the Falcons offensive line, earning first-team reps at left guard for the third straight day. Incumbent starter Jalen Mayfield has worked with the second unit during that time, though we're a ways away from the Falcons naming a starter at that crucial position.

Head coach Arthur Smith said Wilkinson has earned the first-team reps more than anything, praising the sixth-year veteran's work in the early going.

"I won't go into specifics, but a lot of times certain things he's doing are the way it needs to be done," Smith said. "I think that's a good thing for Jalen, so he can step up and make it a competition and we'll see where it goes. We're not down on Jalen. It's more about what Elijah is doing right."

Wilkinson said he's trying to all the little things right on the practice field and in meeting rooms, paying attention to detail and being a true pro. While he has played a lot of tackle in the NFL, he's adapting well to the guard spot – he has experience there as well – despite going against bigger, powerful guys like Grady Jarrett.

While Wilkinson is happy with his start to camp, he isn't taking anything for granted. That includes his first-team reps the past few days.

"It doesn't tell me anything. I don't think anything is done here," Wilkinson said. "The work is still coming. You have to bring it every day. You have to earn it every day."

 

https://www.atlantafalcons.com/news/drake-london-elijah-wilkinson-bryan-edwards-arthur-smith-2022-training-camp

 

Loving that Wilkinson is coming in to compete.  Mayfield needs to step up, gauntlet has been thrown down.

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2 hours ago, kiwifalcon said:

I’m with you Dok if onething is resonating with me it’s the tight coverage and when your hearing Terrell Hayward and Grants names frequently in this discussion I’m hyped about this group hyped.

If the rush can’t get there the coverage has to stand up.This year I think we may well be equipped to.

Another article re Day 4 of training camp that backs-up your observations:

JUL 31, 2022 10:02 AM EDT
 
Falcons Training Camp Notebook: Defensive Backs Shine In 'Most Competitive' Practice
 
The Atlanta Falcons enter 2022 looking to improve on a 7-10 record from last season, the first of the new regime headlined by coach Arthur Smith and general manager Terry Fontenot.

With training camp officially kicking off, the Falcons face several questions, but have a month and a half to find the solutions.

Here's everything of note on defense from the fourth day of camp, which Smith described as "probably the most competitive practice" the Falcons have had since he became the coach ...

DALTON DUSTUP SENDS MESSAGE

The first fight of Falcons training camp occurred Saturday between defensive lineman Jalen Dalton and offensive tackle Germain Ifedi. To Smith's dismay, it wasn't the only fight of the day, but nevertheless, the competitive juices were flowing, and it resulted in a valuable team lesson.

"These guys were competing, and you go to the edge, and there's learning experience," Smith said. "Nobody did anything, really, that dumb, but if somebody takes a swing on the air, you throw him out. He went inside and that's what happens. They throw you out of the game, they fine you, and (if) you don't have emotional control, you won't be here."

Training camp fights are an age-old tradition, and while coaches don't want to see them, it's certainly a good indication as to where the team's competitive mindset is during the first week of camp.

DEFENSIVE BACKS HAVE STRONG DAY

The Falcons' secondary was predicted to be a good unit entering the season and they've done nothing but support it throughout the early stages of camp. That continued Saturday, led by a pair of breakout candidates in second-year pro Darren Hall and CFL free agent signee Dee Alford.

Hall showed quick eyes and even quicker feet, enabling him to stay in phase and agitate receivers at the catch point. His read-and-react ability had high-end flashes today. Alford was on the bad end of receiver Drake London's highlight catch, but that play highlighted the biggest positive of Alford's day: he was in good position.

Alford received praise from Smith during OTAs but hadn't made much of an impact through camp's first three days; that changed Saturday. Fellow corners A.J. Terrell and Casey Hayward also turned in solid-as-expected performances, while nickel Mike Ford, who's had an adequate camp thus far, had a bit of a rough showing.

On the back end, safeties Richie Grant and Jaylinn Hawkins have been given an opportunity to start and are running with it. Grant has thrived in coverage situations while Hawkins has shown range and pursuit ability to limit run after the catch.

ROOKIES CONTINUE ASCENSION

After a quiet first day, linebacker Troy Andersen has turned in three consecutive strong days working with the first and second team defenses. Known as an elite athlete, Andersen has shined when forced to cover running backs and tight ends, including Kyle Pitts.

After him, edge rusher Arnold Ebiketie also continues to flash in pass rushing situations, as the second-round pick was able to generate pressure on Atlanta's quarterbacks throughout the day.

Moving beyond the drafted players, linebacker Nate Landman and defensive tackle Derrick Tangelo had strong days. Landman arrived in Atlanta as a proficient tackler with outstanding instincts but has held his own in coverage against running backs. Tangelo has made plays up the middle against the run.

Atlanta's defense as a whole started fast but faded down the stretch on training camp's fourth day. Still, there were plenty of positives to take from the day, the final session without pads.

The Falcons will get Sunday off before being back at practice on Monday.

https://www.si.com/nfl/falcons/.amp/news/atlanta-training-camp-notebook-defensive-backs-shine-richie-grant-jaylinn-hawkins-troy-andersen-arnold-ebiketie-darren-hall-jalen-dalton-germain-ifedi-fight-drake-london-dee-alford

 
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14 hours ago, theProf said:

Another article re Day 4 of training camp that backs-up your observations:

JUL 31, 2022 10:02 AM EDT
 
Falcons Training Camp Notebook: Defensive Backs Shine In 'Most Competitive' Practice
 
The Atlanta Falcons enter 2022 looking to improve on a 7-10 record from last season, the first of the new regime headlined by coach Arthur Smith and general manager Terry Fontenot.

With training camp officially kicking off, the Falcons face several questions, but have a month and a half to find the solutions.

Here's everything of note on defense from the fourth day of camp, which Smith described as "probably the most competitive practice" the Falcons have had since he became the coach ...

DALTON DUSTUP SENDS MESSAGE

The first fight of Falcons training camp occurred Saturday between defensive lineman Jalen Dalton and offensive tackle Germain Ifedi. To Smith's dismay, it wasn't the only fight of the day, but nevertheless, the competitive juices were flowing, and it resulted in a valuable team lesson.

"These guys were competing, and you go to the edge, and there's learning experience," Smith said. "Nobody did anything, really, that dumb, but if somebody takes a swing on the air, you throw him out. He went inside and that's what happens. They throw you out of the game, they fine you, and (if) you don't have emotional control, you won't be here."

Training camp fights are an age-old tradition, and while coaches don't want to see them, it's certainly a good indication as to where the team's competitive mindset is during the first week of camp.

DEFENSIVE BACKS HAVE STRONG DAY

The Falcons' secondary was predicted to be a good unit entering the season and they've done nothing but support it throughout the early stages of camp. That continued Saturday, led by a pair of breakout candidates in second-year pro Darren Hall and CFL free agent signee Dee Alford.

Hall showed quick eyes and even quicker feet, enabling him to stay in phase and agitate receivers at the catch point. His read-and-react ability had high-end flashes today. Alford was on the bad end of receiver Drake London's highlight catch, but that play highlighted the biggest positive of Alford's day: he was in good position.

Alford received praise from Smith during OTAs but hadn't made much of an impact through camp's first three days; that changed Saturday. Fellow corners A.J. Terrell and Casey Hayward also turned in solid-as-expected performances, while nickel Mike Ford, who's had an adequate camp thus far, had a bit of a rough showing.

On the back end, safeties Richie Grant and Jaylinn Hawkins have been given an opportunity to start and are running with it. Grant has thrived in coverage situations while Hawkins has shown range and pursuit ability to limit run after the catch.

ROOKIES CONTINUE ASCENSION

After a quiet first day, linebacker Troy Andersen has turned in three consecutive strong days working with the first and second team defenses. Known as an elite athlete, Andersen has shined when forced to cover running backs and tight ends, including Kyle Pitts.

After him, edge rusher Arnold Ebiketie also continues to flash in pass rushing situations, as the second-round pick was able to generate pressure on Atlanta's quarterbacks throughout the day.

Moving beyond the drafted players, linebacker Nate Landman and defensive tackle Derrick Tangelo had strong days. Landman arrived in Atlanta as a proficient tackler with outstanding instincts but has held his own in coverage against running backs. Tangelo has made plays up the middle against the run.

Atlanta's defense as a whole started fast but faded down the stretch on training camp's fourth day. Still, there were plenty of positives to take from the day, the final session without pads.

The Falcons will get Sunday off before being back at practice on Monday.

https://www.si.com/nfl/falcons/.amp/news/atlanta-training-camp-notebook-defensive-backs-shine-richie-grant-jaylinn-hawkins-troy-andersen-arnold-ebiketie-darren-hall-jalen-dalton-germain-ifedi-fight-drake-london-dee-alford

 

Glad to hear names like Landman, Wilkinson, Anderson, Tangelo, Horne all getting mentioned.  

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2 hours ago, Herr Doktor said:

Glad to hear names like Landman, Wilkinson, Anderson, Tangelo, Horne all getting mentioned.  

Rooting hard for all these guys, especially Landman and Wilkinson. I think Landman brings that chip and relentless determination to make a play Pees is looking for. 

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23 hours ago, theProf said:

Falcons training camp recap: Day 4

The fourth day of Falcons training camp was the most intense and spectacular thus far, which was fitting for the large contingent of fans that braved the possibility of inclement weather. Atlanta’s offense shined after two strong days by the defense.

By Kevin Knight@FalcoholicKevin  Jul 30, 2022, 8:27pm EDT
 
The fourth day of Atlanta Falcons training camp started off a little cautiously, with eyes on the sky for the possibility of thunderstorms. Even so, fans were unperturbed and showed up in droves—particularly once the sun came out partway through practice.

Saturday featured a quick address at the podium from Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot to the fans, who they both thanked profusely for coming out to support the team. Perhaps owing to the presence of so many excited fans, today’s practice was the most intense and spectacular one yet. Let’s get to it.

Offense takes over on Day 4

After two strong days from the defense, the offense fought back on Saturday. Early on, it looked as if the defensive dominance would continue: Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder combined for an 0-4 start in the first 11-on-11 period, and the defense stuffed up the run well. After that though, it was mostly the offense’s show—with a few nice defensive plays sprinkled in. Dean Pees did note after practice that the defense installed a whole new set of coverages today, and it led to some mistakes on the back end. So that could have played a part, too.

For fans looking for fireworks, they got them today. Mariota was sharp (more on that below) and he and Ridder combined for a very productive day in the red zone. It felt like almost every wide receiver found their way into the endzone at some point during practice, whether that was in team work or 1-on-1s. You could tell that it started to get to the defense late in practice, as the intensity was high and the players were playing at practically full game speed without contact. Speaking of that intensity...

The competition was fierce and tempers flared

The coaches gradually ramped up the speed and intensity of practice throughout the day, culminating in a full “game simulation” set of 11-on-11 red zone drills. Atlanta’s offense and defense went back and forth throughout the session. The defense had some nice plays, including a sack from veteran Quinton Bell and a throwaway forced by pressure from rookie Arnold Ebiketie.

On offense, both Mariota and Ridder repeatedly found the endzone in the passing game. Mariota added a first-down scramble to keep a drive alive, and would later score on a rushing touchdown. The rushing attack was about 50-50 on the day, with a mix of good plays from the offense and defense.

Late in the session, tempers began to flare. It began with a fight between DT Jalen Dalton and OT Germain Ifedi, where Dalton ran in from across the field to get at Ifedi. UDFA DT Derrick Tangelo had a TFL on the final play of practice, which ended up sparking another scuffle. Arthur Smith called it after that, as practice had already gone over the scheduled end time.

In some ways, the intensity is nice to see. Our very own Will McFadden covered this aspect of practice, and some of the quotes from the coaching staff, in a separate article today. This quote, in particular, stood out to me:

Darren Hall bounces back, Richie Grant continues to impress,

After a couple of difficult days in a row where he was so close to making some big plays, second-year cornerback Darren Hall finally saw those plays go in his favor. He had a number of impressive PBUs today, providing tight coverage in both team sessions and 1-on-1 drills. I was really glad to see things turn around for him, and he looked sharp playing mostly on the outside today.

There were a lot of standout players in the secondary—including the usual suspects like A.J. Terrell and Casey Hayward—but Day 4 marked another practice where Richie Grant had a terrific day. He’s been excellent in coverage and always seems to be one of the first guys there as a tackler and in run support, though it’s tough to evaluate those aspects fully without pads on.

In fact, both Grant and fellow starter Jaylinn Hawkins have looked good in their four days as the top duo. The future is looking bright for Atlanta’s new-look secondary.

Kyle Pitts, Drake London dominate

It was once again the Kyle Pitts and Drake London show, with both players getting into the endzone on multiple occasions. Pitts just looks unstoppable at times, and showed off his ridiculous catch radius on this low pass from Mariota.

Pitts is also showing dominant flashes in 1-on-1s, like on this rep where he fights through a pretty egregious hold from DB Teez Tabor. His movement skills and body control are ridiculous for a player of his size.

Not be be outdone, rookie Drake London caught the most touchdowns of any player today. He looked dominant in 1-on-1s, where he mossed cornerback Dee Alford for a deep touchdown.

He was very effective in the red zone period as well, drawing a ton of targets from both Mariota and Ridder. London was able to get a step on cornerback Darren Hall and score right on the goal-line.

 

So far, Pitts and London look like a dynamic duo for the Falcons. Let’s hope this continues once we get to full-contact practice on Monday.

Marcus Mariota has his best day yet

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Mariota is defying all expectations thus far. He’s been sharp, accurate, and in command of the offense. I’m struggling to come up with different ways to say it, because it’s been a consistent theme with him. You’ve already seen some of his impressive throws above, but today showcased how dangerous Mariota can be as a runner in the red zone.

On multiple occasions, the coverage was good and the pressure was coming—but Mariota was able to escape and turn it in to a positive play. Take this one, for example, as Mariota is able to use his legs to pick up a crucial third down play to keep the offense alive in the 7-on-7 session. He’d throw a touchdown pass to Auden Tate on the very next play.

Later, in 11-on-11—which I cannot film, sadly—Mariota had a similar play. The Falcons offense was at about the two-yard line, and a previous rushing play was stuffed for minimal gain. Mariota surveyed the field briefly before beating the edge defender for the touchdown. The fans erupted in cheers, and Mariota ran to the edge of the field and tossed the ball into the crowd.

Mariota continues to look better than any of us thought he would be. The big question now is whether or not it will translate to the preseason, and then the regular season after that. Everything looks positive now, and I hope the momentum continues.

Other notes from Day 4

  • An update on the starting offensive line: there was once again some shuffling with the first team. The change came at center, where it went back to Matt Hennessy. That marks an even split between Hennessy and Drew Dalman, who was with the starters on Days 1 & 3. After Jalen Mayfield got the start on Day 1, it’s been veteran Elijah Wilkinson every day since. Right tackle has remained Kaleb McGary all four days.
  • With all the praise I’m heaping on Mariota, don’t forget about Desmond Ridder. Ridder is a step below Mariota right now—he’s not quite as accurate and you can tell he’s just a tick slower to process things. But that’s totally understandable for a rookie in his fourth day of training camp. Ridder is progressing nicely, but fans need to be patient.
  • There’s a clear top three emerging in the receiving corps: Drake London, Bryan Edwards, and Olamide Zaccheaus. All three have been heavily and exclusively involved with the starters. Edwards left practice during the final team session with what appeared to be a hand/arm or shoulder injury. That will be worth monitoring going forward.
  • Damiere Byrd, KhaDarel Hodge, Auden Tate, and Geronimo Allison appear to be the four players in competition for the remaining 2-3 roster spots at WR. This will be a fierce battle to monitor all through the preseason.
  • In terms of other receivers competing for spots, I’d say UDFA Stanley Berryhill Jr. has been the most consistently impressive so far, with fellow UDFA/lacrosse star Jared Bernhardt right behind him. The Falcons kept three receivers on the practice squad for much of the 2021 season, and I’d say those two are early favorites for a couple of those spots.
  • This was the best day on the ground so far for the offense, with Cordarrelle Patterson, Damien Williams, and Tyler Allgeier all having success. Even so, I’d call the “successful” split around 50/50 with the defense, which was once again pretty stout against the run overall.

That’s all for today’s training camp notes. Sunday is a rest day, which A.J. Terrell said he is going to use to get his mind and body right. I’m going to do something similar. Adnan and I will see you again, bright and early, on Monday at Flowery Branch for Day 5!

As a quick addendum, I want to thank everyone for the affirming comments. It really means a lot. Thank you for your support of myself, and the site as a whole. Also, I really enjoyed meeting all those who came out to camp and said hello!

https://www.thefalcoholic.com/2022/7/30/23285358/falcons-training-camp-recap-day-4-nfl-2022-marcus-mariota-drake-london-kyle-pitts-richie-grant

Great to hear the safety duo is looking strong.  To me that is key to our success this year was Grant and Hawks ability to step up and be major contributors on defense. 

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