D. Jones Gets Vocal:Deion Jones arrived at Flowery Branch with blazing speed and supreme athleticism, making him an intriguing project for head coach Dan Quinn and his staff. With that natural ability, the key for Jones during XFINITY® Training Camp was to learn the scheme and develop his voice as a leader at inside linebacker, and Quinn believes the second-round pick has done just that.
"One of the things (his position) involves is having that voice and having the ability to make the calls, make the checks," Quinn said. "He's the one on the field who has to really direct the traffic. I've seen a real improvement in that. I see that spike going up again this week. The communication is better; he's had more reps at it. He's more familiar with his guys, too. So we wanted to encourage him (and say), 'Hey man, it's your group to take a hold of when you're on the field.' And he's done that."
Reed Adjusts to DE: Now healthy and in better shape, than he was at this time last year, Brooks Reed has successfully made the change from linebacker to defensive end, where he's getting a lot of reps in the base defense. The 29-year-old appears to be faster than he was in 2015 and, as he showed versus Washington, can get after the quarterback when matched against an offensive tackle.
"When he was playing over on the defensive end side, he did a good job with his hands," Quinn said about Reed. "We're encouraged with where he's at. The move to D-end has been good for him."
Offense Not Worrying About Opponents: Atlanta's first-team offense had a frustrating start against Washington, going three and out twice before being pulled. According to Julio Jones, the key for this week (and through the rest of the preseason, for that matter) is to make sure that group focuses on itself — not what's happening on the other side of the line.
"We just have to go out there and compete," Jones said. "It's nothing we have to do better because we're not game planning for people. We're just going out here and drawing up plays and going out and trying to execute them. We're not going against what defense they primarily run…we just have to go out there and compete."
WRs Doing Their Part on Special Teams: One of the most intriguing position battles has been taking place at wide receiver, where a long list of talented options are vying for a limited number of spots behind Jones, Mohamed Sanu, and Justin Hardy. How they perform on offense is important, but they also know their work on special teams could help them stick around when the roster is whittled down to 53 men.
"I'd say it's a deep group, that's what we've learned number one. The special teams factor has been legit there between (Nick) Williams and (Aldrick) Robinson and (Justin) Hardy, to name a few, McKissic (too)," Quinn said. "They're not just going for it at receiver; they've understood, 'Hey, special teams is going to be a big part of this as well.'
"I like the competitiveness of the group. It certainly helps when the leader of that group has the standard of how he works — talking about Julio. If you see him (working) like that, it's pretty hard not to follow suit. So we're very fortunate in that way that he has a real standard about how he commits himself."
Injury Update: Although neither was hurt, Julio Jones and Tevin Coleman were limited Monday as a precaution due to the heat. Quinn anticipates both being "fully ready" for Thursday's game. Chris Mayes left practice early on after injuring a foot and is being evaluated by the training staff.
C.J. Goodwin was held out with a muscle strain, and Kemal Ishmael, who injured a shoulder during last Thursday's game, sat out as well. Quinn is hopeful both will be able to play this week in Cleveland.