For the first time, the Falcons took to the practice field under head coach Dan Quinn for the first day of voluntary minicamp Tuesday
1. The Fun Begins: Falcons head coach Dan Quinn couldn't wait to connect with his players from the moment he signed with the team in February, followed by hours of film study, player evaluation, interviews and scouting trips.
Allowed to hold his team's first on-field practice of the offseason Tuesday, Quinn was very pleased with the energy and efforts of his players, provided with further evidence of the speed and attitude each brings to the field. The Falcons' new head coach has had a lot on his plate lately, preparing for the voluntary minicamp, followed by the 2015 NFL Draft, beginning Thursday.
"Isn't it awesome?" Quinn said about his busy week. "I've been looking forward to this week for a long time. I knew we had the (voluntary) camp coming, leading into the draft, (and) it's been an absolute blast, especially the highlight of today."
2. Well-Officiated Practice: There were many noticeable changes in Tuesday's voluntary minicamp, compared to years past, including continuous music, competitive drills and an officiating crew. Quinn is a big believer in creating a competitive culture to bring out the very best in each player and coach on the team, and the officials serve as part of the plan, simulating game situations as much as possible.
"I wanted to make sure that if we can play at our best, it's doing it without grabbing or holding," Quinn said. "The officials here are an important part of that to make sure we're not grabbing or maybe taking the easy way out as a defensive back holding or an offensive lineman holding and grabbing. It's all part of the general atmosphere of practice, making every scenario as competitive as we can."
3. Ryan's Review: Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has participated in several minicamps throughout his previous seven years as the team's franchise quarterback. Following Tuesday's fast-paced workout, Ryan was impressed by the way Quinn ran the practice and the remarkable turnout by his Falcons teammates.
"I think it speaks to the guys on our team," Ryan said. "I think it speaks to the kind of guys that we have in our locker room. Guys have been here right from the start in meetings, paying attention, trying to do things the right way, and I think that's going to bode well for us, moving forward."
4. Ready-to-Run Receivers: Among the veteran Falcons joining Ryan at practice Tuesday were some of his prime targets in the passing game, including receivers Roddy White, Devin Hester and Julio Jones. White and Jones worked out together in Arizona during the offseason, preparing each for a new scheme run by Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.
"You definitely have to be in shape, more so than we were last year," Jones said. "There's going to be a lot demanded out of us, and we have to go out there and play for the guy next to us. In the past, I don't think it was emphasized a lot, but now it's 'Hey, you have to go out, no matter what your play is on the backside, if you're getting the ball, if you're not getting the ball, you have to go full speed and pull the defense and pull the coverage.' "
5. Turnaround Season Planned: Falcons third-year cornerback Desmond Trufant has been an outspoken leader in the locker room and now on the practice field in 2015. Embracing the challenge of learning a new defensive scheme, Trufant is motivated to seize such a role, thanks to Quinn and his coaching staff. The excitement and competition at each practice and during meetings is fueled by goals to make the 2015 season unforgettable.
"We're trying to get this thing in the right direction," Trufant said. "The last two years have been rough, and we're trying to have a 360 year off that. We're out here competing. Everybody's happy to be here. Everybody's going hard, and you see guys after practice, getting extra work; we're just trying to get better."