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Camp Takeaways: Julio Jones says ‘we’ll be ready;’ Dan Quinn names standout players

Posted Aug 14, 2017

Although Julio has been brought along slowly in training camp, he’s excited for what the Falcons’ offense can do.

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The team held their last official practice of the 2017 AT&T Atlanta Falcons Training Camp on Monday, and it was very heavy on what Dan Quinn likes to refer to as situational football.

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The team worked on individual kickoff coverage pursuit drills, missed field goals and other important facets of the special teams game that can sometimes be overlooked. Players will have the day off Tuesday before getting into their regular practice routine ahead of Sunday’s preseason game at Pittsburgh.

Until then, however, we’ve got several takeaways to cover from the Falcons’ final training camp session.

1. Offense working to perfect the timing with Sarkisian

Atlanta’s starting offense didn’t skip a beat with new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian calling the plays, covering 36 yards in five plays for a touchdown on their opening drive against Miami.

With a lot of returning talent on that side of the ball, there’s a lot of comfort and familiarity between the players. This preseason, they are working to perfect the on-field flow with Sarkisian.

“It’s been great,” Julio Jones said after practice when asked about how the offensive timing was coming along. “I’ve been with Matt (Ryan), this is my seventh year with him now, so there isn’t too much we’ve got to do as far as timing. But we’ve got some new plays in and things that Sark wants to run, so those little things, we’ve got to get timing on those.”

Although Julio has been brought along slowly in training camp as he recovers from offseason foot surgery, he’s excited for what the Falcons’ offense can do.

“I’m excited about it; I mean, it’s offense,” Jones said. “I’m very excited about it. When (Sarkisian) dials it up, we’ll be ready to go. That’s what training camp is about. It’s about seeing if you can hit these plays, if you can’t hit them, is it going to be difficult, or whatever. I mean, everything is being ready for us.”

While there hasn’t been a complete overhaul of Atlanta’s offensive system, the little wrinkles that Sarkisian has brought with him are one that the players must know entirely. Coach Dan Quinn explained why the learning that takes place in the classroom is so important when the players get on the field.

“It’s not a wholesale change,” Quinn said of the offense, “but we did have minor tweaks in the system that we started way back for (Organized Team Activities). So now, it’s a matter of executing, executing, executing. The system is in, so now it’s a matter of can we execute it at the highest level. So, we install it in a classroom and then we have night walkthroughs, and then when we get out here on this field, we expect that rep to be full throttle as fast as you can do. So that timing is critical."

To see all of Julio Jones’ post-practice interview, click here.

2. Quinn identifies linemen who have stood out in camp

Now that training camp has ended, coach Dan Quinn was asked about the players who have left an impression along the offensive and defensive lines, an area of emphasis for the Falcons this preseason.

“I guess there are a couple of guys who have really stood out,” Quinn said. “I’ll start on the offensive side. I thought Alex Mack has thrown a great camp. He looks as quick, as strong as ever. He’s been somebody that’s really jumped out to me. I thought Ryan Schraeder and Jake Matthews have had good camps. Jake, in this last game – I don’t know he only played 10 or 12 plays – but he looked quicker and stronger than he has maybe at any time. So I was encouraged by that.

“On the defensive side, one of the guys I saw really improve, from the spring and into training camp and the first couple of weeks, was Dontari Poe. Putting him into a new style and a new system, he’s somebody that jumped out to me for sure. I thought Adrian Clayborn’s had a good camp. For him, he did about individual the first part and then got into some pass rush after that. He’s been somebody that’s jumped out. De’Vondre Campbell is another one we’ve asked to get into some pass rush; he’s been one. … Ra’Shede Hageman is another one I thought has had his best camp in my three years with him. He’s been a factor, for sure.”

Dan Quinn’s entire post-practice press conference can be seen here.

3. Freeman enters concussion protocol

Pro Bowl running back Devonta Freeman was seen leaving Sunday’s practice early. Afterward, coach Dan Quinn said, “(Freeman) had some heat stuff that he dealt with from the first practice and again today,” but he added that he had yet to see Freeman and would provide an update when he had more information.

Following Monday’s practice, Quinn gave the update he had promised.

“After taking him inside yesterday where we thought he had heat-related stuff,” Quinn said, “he reportedly had some concussion symptoms, so we put him in the protocol for that and he’ll be out this week. He may start practicing as we go, but we’ll rule him out now for the game as more of a precautionary note.”

Freeman was not seen at all during Monday’s practice. The fourth-year running back recently signed a five-year contract extension and scored the Falcons’ first touchdown of the preseason on a 15-yard reception.

For more on Freeman entering the concussion protocol, click here.

4. Quinn ‘impressed by the defensive line so far’

One area where Quinn diverted a lot of attention this training camp was the line of scrimmage. He was often seen working with defensive linemen individually during certain practice periods, and Quinn gave an update on the progress he’s seen. 

“Overall, the attitude of the line of scrimmage, defensively, the way we hit blocks, get off blocks,” Quinn answered when asked what he wants to see on the defensive line. “I’ve been impressed with the defensive line so far in training camp, overall as a group.

“As far as the pass rushers go, I’m always looking for the finish. Can we close on a quarterback; can you move him off his spot? Those are things I look for in the ball game, so we’ll look for that again this week.”

Quinn’s desire for improvement on the line of scrimmage doesn’t strictly apply to the defense, however. The offensive line is hard at work to improve off of last year’s success.

“(On the) offensive line, we’ve spent a lot of time in this camp on pass protection – the way that we punch, the way that we set,” Quinn said. “When you play 14 or 15 offensive linemen and 13 or 14 defensive linemen, it’s not all going to come out like we like. However, it’s the style and attitude we want to play with. How physical we can play.”

5. Highlights: Linemen engage in punt-return competition

The team portion of Monday’s practice ended in a tie, which simply can’t be allowed to happen. Fortunately, the coaching staff had a way to break the tie. As far as tie-breakers go, this one might be hard to top.

I’ll let Julio take it from here: