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Five Things We Learned In Camp: Day 7

Posted Aug 1, 2013

Each day of Russell Athletic Atlanta Falcons Training Camp, AtlantaFalcons.com's Daniel Cox will share five observations from his day watching and listening to all the happenings around camp.


1. More Of Matthews: There hasn't been much made of it, but there are a few players in camp that, to the naked eye, appear bigger this season. Most of those players are along the defensive line and in the case of Cliff Matthews, it's not an instance where your eyes aren't playing tricks on you. Matthews has beefed up this season and it's because he's completing a switch to a more versatile defensive lineman, one that can play inside and outside. He's a piece in the defense that coordinator Mike Nolan is anxious to use: "He is bigger. He is stronger. At the end of the year, if you’ll remember, in the playoffs games, even in sub pass situations, he went and played as an interior lineman. That’s kind of what he’s doing now. He’s a guy that is playing some end and tackle. It certainly fits his playing style. I’m excited about Cliff.” After practice on Thursday, head coach Mike Smith said Matthews had added about 10 pounds and referred to him as one of the strongest players on the team.

2. Returns In Alford's Future? One area the Falcons would like to see improvement is the return game, but that's not going to begin to heat up until next week when the Falcons start playing preseason games. Special teams coach Keith Armstrong isn't ready to name a returner for kickoffs or punts, but he gave some insight into the position: "There should be some good competition (at kick returner) with Jacquizz Rodgers. You may see James Rodgers. There's a pretty good chance you'll see Robert Alford, so we've got some options. Harry Douglas obviously has some return ability as a punt returner. Dom Franks has experience with it. There are a lot of good young guys and a lot of good competition."

Armstrong added that he felt Jacquizz Rodgers would only be used as a kick returner, but didn't specify if that was Rodgers' job to lose. He also said using Douglas as the punt returner would be Smith's decision.

PHOTOS: See Images From Day 7 Of Camp

3. Starry Shoes: Robert Alford has caught the attention of many at training camp this year and the physical rookie is in a heated battle with his draft classmate, Desmond Trufant. Alford's shoes have also caught the attention of many at camp. The cornerback has been sporting a pair of red, white and blue shoes with stars and stripes that resemble the American flag. Alford said he got them while he was at the Senior Bowl and likes them quite a bit.

4. Speaking Of Trufant: Desmond Trufant spent some time in the slot during Thursday’s practices. We haven't seen much of him at that position, although Smith has said many of the corners are getting in work at all of the positions. Trufant has been working out on the outside at corner with the first-team defense, but he slid inside while on the field with the third team. Trufant had a pass break up from the slot and he also flashed some blitzing prowess, rushing the quarterback from the slot once.

5. Unsung Heroes: Here are two names you might not hear much of at camp, but they both had a moment during Thursday's practice that is worth mentioning. Backup rookie running back Ronnie Wingo has a lot of depth in front of him, but during the final 11-on-11 session Thursday, he flashed some speed we've not been able to see from him. He caught a screen pass and made a few people miss before turning on the burners and running away from everyone on the field to the endzone. It was an impressive run and that kind of speed and elusiveness may help land Wingo on the practice squad.

The other hero from Thursday was defensive end Brandon Thurmond, another rookie. In those same 11-on-11 drills, Thurmond found himself dropped back in coverage and an errant pass went right for him. The big guy had the presence of mind to catch the ball and hang onto it before the play was blown dead. Once the whistle blew, the entire defense swarmed Thurmond while chanting "Rook."


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