Atlanta Falcons Minicamp, built by The Home Depot, came to a close on Thursday after three days of workouts in the Georgia heat. Fans came to Flowery Branch for one more look at the team.
With a new head coach in place, XFINITY® Training Camp is set to look much different than it has in the past. Dan Quinn already made a strong impression during OTAS and minicamps; when the pads go on, and when the intensity picks up, his fingerprints — along with those of his staff — will only become more palpable. Here are five changes to watch for in the coming weeks.
New leaders on the field
Fans should expect to see new faces and younger players embrace mentorship roles when camp begins. Former Seahawk O'Brien Schofield, for instance, can guide others thanks to his playbook knowledge. Third-year pro Desmond Trufant is quickly blossoming into a leader in the secondary. Formerly with Washington, guard Chris Chester has multiple years of experience in Kyle Shanahan's offense and can be a valuable asset to his fellow linemen.
With the shift to an outside-zone scheme, the Falcons' offensive linemen will be performing some different drills than the ones they ran last year. The new system requires O-linemen to make a lot of lateral movements, and their practices will undoubtedly emphasize that skill. Conditioning will likely be more important, too, as OL in the ZBS tend to be slimmer and faster than average.
If you paid attention to the Falcons throughout springtime, surely you've heard about the revised, intensified environment at Flowery Branch. Quinn and Co. have developed a fast paced style of practice, which includes little (to no) downtime, quicker, more efficient workouts and loud music from start to finish.
The Falcons are moving away from the 3-4 and are employing a 4-3 under formation similar to the one Quinn fashioned in Seattle. According to Schofield, the defensive system is nearly identical to the one he learned with the Seahawks, so we have a pretty good idea what to expect. This means those attending camp will see three linebackers — strong side, middle and weak side — two defensive ends and two defensive tackles during 11-on-11 drills. Where Quinn's system differs from the average 4-3 is at DE. The end who lines up on the weak side is referred to as the LEO, who's a hybrid defender capable of standing upright or putting his fingers in the dirt. The main responsibility for this player is rushing the quarterback. First round pick Vic Beasley Jr. will get plenty of reps at LEO and is a favorite to earn the starting job.
Quinn has hired a large staff, much like the one Pete Carroll assembled with the Seahawks. This has worked out so far, as players have enjoyed hearing lots of voices on the field, in the film room and during down time. Most (if not all) of Atlanta's new coaches are high-energy guys who believe a hands-on approach is essential to maximizing talent.