Competitions Abound: As Chris Chester's surgically-repaired shoulder continues to mend—he did individual work Tuesday after sitting out OTAs—competition at right guard is starting to heat up. Sixth-round pick Wes Schweitzer received some first-team reps at that position; Tom Compton and Mike Person did, as well.
"We really want that competition to come to life at that position," said coach Dan Quinn. "I've been encouraged by those guys."
Guard isn't the only place where young guys are getting opportunities to line up with starters. Rookies across the offense and defense are playing alongside some of the team's best talent, which gives coaches a window to see what exactly these draft picks and college free agents are capable of.
"That part is by design," Quinn said. "For all the young players, at some point in time, they're going to line up with the first group. And whether (it's at) linebacker or receiver or offensive line, we want to find out what a guy can do. And that's is our time to find that.
"So we tell the players in advance, 'Hey, be ready, 'cause at some point in this OTA, everyone's been up with that group. How do you handle yourself in that huddle?' And that's an important part of the learning process for them, as well. So we're pleased with their development up to this point."
Jones, Campbell Shine: Two first-year players who got first-team reps are linebackers Deion Jones and De'Vondre Campbell. Each appeared with the starters in Atlanta's nickel defense and appeared to hold their own.
Campbell in particular had some noteworthy moments: He broke up (and nearly intercepted) a pass over the middle during 11-on-11s, shadowed tight ends well and was confident enough to call out a number of pre-snap adjustments.
"I think Jones and Campbell have done a really great job," Matt Ryan said. "Both of them are super athletic. That's the No. 1 thing going against them every day: they're fast. I think as they get more comfortable in the scheme, they're going to continue to get better and better. And that's exciting for us.
"So I've been really impressed with those guys. They've made some good plays in the passing game; their recovery skills and the length of both of them (are impressive). Both those guys are long. They've done a really good job."
Hooper Returns: After missing OTAs to finish his studies at Stanford, Austin Hooper has returned to Flowery Branch as a full participant at minicamp. The rookie tight end looked like he belonged during 11-on-11 drills, presumably because he made sure to put in a lot of work while he needed to be in California.
According to Hooper, he spoke with position coach Wade Harman on the phone daily throughout his absence and practiced running Atlanta's routes on his own as a way to build muscle memory.
"We were excited to go back in and see the film on Hoop and see where he's at," Quinn said. "He worked hard in terms of being off. He wasn't able to participate in the OTAs, (but) that doesn't mean there wasn't learning taking place. There's nothing that can replace the on-field work; so for him, he'll be tired come Thursday. We'll give him a lot of reps and a lot of turns to see where he's at heading into training camp."