O-Line Meshing:Last season, Atlanta's offensive line developed into one of the best in the NFL despite little time in the system and with each other. A year later, the unit entered XFINITY® Training Camp with loads of valuable experience and a new, reliable center in Alex Mack. Matt Ryan believes his offensive line has built a bond that is going to pay dividends on the field.
"I think back to last year, Andy (Levitre) came in after the preseason and was starting Week 1. I tip my cap to those guys," Ryan said. "They did a great job handling a lot of change in a short amount of time. I think this year, there's a little more continuity there; there's guys that have been in the system a little bit longer, guys that have played next to each other longer — all those kind of things help.
"When guys can trust each other, trust the guy next to them, that's when you start playing good football. And I think we're off to a good start." Quinn Gets Involved:Always one itching to be a part of the action, head coach Dan Quinn decided to play a little defensive back during one of the morning's passing drills. As the video below illustrates, Devonta Freeman was quite the handful for Quinn to deal with.
"We're trying to make sure Devonta made the catch so he has that confidence heading into practice," Quinn joked. "You feel the hustle; you feel the pressure … It's that short area quickness that makes him such a challenge for people to cover. He can break laterally and get to full speed really fast. And the guys that can do that—that makes it the hardest to cover."
Pass Rush Improving: One of the Falcons' main areas of concentration this season is to continue developing their pass rush. Atlanta made this a priority in the offseason by re-signing players like Adrian Clayborn and bringing in Derrick Shelby, and Quinn is pleased with the improvement thus far.
"I think it's just different combinations of people that we've had lined up at different spots," Quinn said. "We've addressed it not only in the OTAs, but minicamp, and we're starting right back there again to make it a big priority for us."
Spoon Providing Leadership: As Sean Weatherspoon works to re-establish himself in Flowery Branch, the veteran linebacker is setting an example for Atlanta's wealth of young defenders. An important voice during his first stint with the organization, the 28-year-old, previously a team captain, has once again assumed a leadership role.
"He's got a real voice that can bring guys along," Quinn said of Weatherspoon. "At times you need that. We told the guys, 'It's not going to be easy what we're doing, but it'll be worth it. You've got to put out that effort.' And we certainly see that from Sean."
Julio Update: A day after tweaking a muscle, Julio Jones participated in individual drills but sat out the rest of practice. He will be a full participant "in the next day or so," according to Quinn, who made the decision to limit his star WR.