Overall Speed Has Improved: Head coach Dan Quinn said the biggest change he has seen through XFINITY Training Camp is how fast his team is. Adding a host of quick-twitch athletes — including Deion Jones, Keanu Neal, Aldrick Robinson and Dwight Freeney — has made Atlanta a speedier bunch than the 2015 roster. Moreover, thanks to a year of experience in the scheme, Quinn has seen that many returning Falcons are thinking less and reacting faster to game situations.
"We can run. That jumps off on the field to me," Quinn said. "The guys came back in great shape ready to work."
The Rookies Shined: Collectively, the Falcons' Rookie Club earned high marks throughout training camp. Neal fit in nicely with the first-team defense, where he began carving out a role as a physical, well-rounded strong safety. Linebackers Jones and De'Vondre Campbell received some first-team reps, too, and they took advantage of those opportunities by showing coaches they're quickly learning the scheme and holding their own against tough opponents.
Red zone offense was a big emphasis at camp, and Austin Hooper, a tall, rangy tight end, excelled in that area. Guard Wes Schweitzer saw time with the first-team offense, including significant playing time against Washington, thanks in large part to his familiarity with the zone-blocking scheme. Devin Fuller also garnered praise as a receiver and a return specialist.
In addition to the draft picks, some of the college free agent signings stood out, as well. Defensive back Brian Poole, running back Brandon Wilds, wide receiver/return specialist J.D. McKissic and tight end Joshua Perkins are among those who turned heads in Flowery Branch.
Second-Year Players Make Big Jumps: Like the first-year Falcons, Atlanta's 2015 Rookie Club impressed at camp from start to finish. At various times Quinn spoke highly of Vic Beasley, Jr., Jalen Collins, Tevin Coleman, Grady Jarrett and Akeem King, and it wouldn't be surprising if all of those draft picks took on expanded roles in 2016.
Position Changes Paying Off: A number of returning Falcons used training camp to adjust to new positions. Beasley told reporters he's pleased with his transition to SAM linebacker, where his primary objective, rushing the passer, won't change. Brooks Reed has gone from linebacker to defensive end, which, according to Quinn, has been good for the 29-year-old.
On the other side of the ball, Mike Person, who started at center last season, is seeing time at left guard, right guard and center to make sure he's as versatile as possible.
The Team is Deeper: Falcons showed us they're a noticeably deeper team than they were when Quinn took over. This was apparent at several key positions, including linebacker, wide receiver, offensive line and safety. This added depth will make it difficult for Quinn and GM Thomas Dimitroff to finalize a 53-man roster, which is certainly a good problem to have.