The Atlanta Falcons are back in Flowery Branch. The team kicked off 2015 XFINITY Atlanta Falcons Training Camp Friday morning.
Hankerson Impresses: Leonard Hankerson was Atlanta's best wide receiver on Friday. The former Miami Hurricane who signed a one-year deal in March, hauled in more than a handful of impressive catches, appeared comfortable in his new surroundings. He displayed versatility by flourishing out wide and in the slot and his teammates certainly noticed.
"(Hankerson) did good, man," Roddy White said. "He made a lot of plays."
Health Improving: Some of the guys were limited, but the only notable face missing was Lamar Holmes, who is on the PUP list with a broken foot. Offensive linemen Jake Matthews and Joe Hawley participated in all activities, and neither appeared hurt. Running back Antone Smith looked sharp and didn't seem to be affected by the broken leg he suffered in November. Smith believes he's at 100 percent health and is almost in regular season shape. William Moore, Jalen Collins, Peter Konz, Malliciah Goodman, Marquis Spruill and Jon Asamoah all participated, too. Ryan Schraeder strained a muscle at one point during practice and was held out, but Quinn said the right tackle is fine.
Health on the offensive line is especially important after last year, when the unit was decimated by a glut of injuries. Well aware of this, Dan Quinn and his staff are trying to build player chemistry while avoiding any physical setbacks. Of course, it's a difficult balance to find.
"The first thing is for the players first," Quinn said. "Let's make sure that we're going to ease them back in terms of a rep count. So they'll go just as hard on the plays — they may not go as many. Then we'll add to them as we go."
RBs Involved in Passing Game:** Back in minicamp, Dan Quinn said running backs would be important to the passing game, and so far, that appears to be the case. Atlanta's quarterbacks consistently utilized their running backs — namely Antone Smith and Devonta Freeman — and were able to gain a lot of yards that way. Freeman was a reliable target in college, and Smith, who is a home run threat every time he touches the ball, can collectively change the dynamic of Atlanta's offense.
Players Happy with Shanahan's System: Speaking of the running backs, Antone Smith, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman all expressed delight with the new playbook, which includes an outside-zone blocking scheme known for enhancing the ground attack. Smith went as far as to say the offense is "a running back heaven." The wide receivers, including White, are encouraged as well, and believe a greater sense of equilibrium will benefit everyone.
Goal is to Win Now: With a new head coach in place following two consecutive losing seasons, many around football expect the Falcons to be in a rebuilding mindset. This is not the case. Although long-term success is undoubtedly the most important goal, Quinn stated that he's focused on prospering in 2015.
"This is not a rebuild in any way," he said. "Everything we're doing is about right now."