The Atlanta Falcons practiced in the rain on Monday morning during 2015 XFINITY Atlanta Falcons Training Camp, which will wrap up later this week.
Injury Update:Devonta Freeman (hamstring), Tevin Coleman (hamstring), Brooks Reed (hip/groin), Cliff Matthews (ankle) and Devin Hester (toe) returned to practice. Antone Smith (hamstring) and Desmond Trufant (shoulder) did not participate. Coleman and Freeman participated in individual drills and hope to play on Friday in New York on Friday.
"Still taking it one day at a time," said Freeman, who added that his rehab has been "phenomenal." "It's just exciting to be back out there having fun and stuff with the boys. Feels like I'm back a part of something even though nobody ever left me out."
Emphasis on Play Action:With Matt Ryan at quarterback, a talented group at running back and Julio Jones at wide receiver, the Falcons have the tools necessary to make the play action pass a lethal—and heavily emphasized—part of their offense. Friday's game, which included a number of impressive PA throws in the early going, offered a small glimpse of how effective those calls can be.
"That's a big part of what we do," said QB coach Matt LaFleur. "I thought, especially the starters, they came out and looked really sharp. Matt (Ryan), he played fast, executed the way we want him to execute."
Ryan Happy with Yates, Renfree: The backup QB competition is heating up once again, and based on early comments/impressions, the battle should go down the wire. T.J Yates, a 28-year-old veteran, completed 9-15 passes against Tennessee for 105 yards; Sean Renfree connected on 6-7 throws for 68 yards.
"I thought both of them competed well," Ryan said. "They made some good plays, made some nice throws. Both led some scoring drives and helped us win that game. That's what you want to see—you want to see guys playing winning football. And I thought both those guys made plays throughout the game that helped us win."
A Legend Helps Out: Hall of Fame defensive end Bruce Smith attended Monday's practice at Flowery Branch, where he assisted Bryan Cox with the D-line and sat down for a one-on-one with Dan Quinn.
"I got better today from being around Bruce," said Quinn. "What an honor it is for us to have him here and help work with our guys for a short time. So much respect for him, his game and his approach.
"It's endless—that relationship, how far it can go. A little tip that can lead to something bigger."
Young DBs Learning How to Compete: While the Falcons defense has a lot to work on, it did excel in two important areas against the Titans: creating pressure and forcing turnovers. Defensive backs coach Marquand Manuel was especially happy about the latter.
"The No. 1 theme of this program is get the ball. We did that," he said. "I thought we played with high-energy. Guys finished well. Did we have plays that we wished we could have back? That's any game you've ever played. But I thought for the most part, our relentless effort—that was there.
"That's what we have to continue. Continue to get the ball, play with a relentless effort and it'll fix the critical error that happens in the game."