The first weekend of 2015 XFINITY Atlanta Falcons Training Camp started on Saturday at Falcons headquarters in Flowery Branch. The players hit the field while fans watched from the hill.
Jake Matthews Looking Sharp: Prior to the start of camp, it was unclear how much time Jake Matthews would need to regain his form. While he's not 100 percent healed from a recent foot surgery, the former Texas A&M Aggie, now entering his second NFL campaign, looked solid and took plenty of first-team reps. His improved health was evident during one of the morning's first drills, when Atlanta's offensive linemen were pinned against each other in one-on-one scenarios. Matthews displayed sound technique and attacked the line of scrimmage with great force — a sign he isn't severely hampered by the lingering foot injury he suffered in 2014.
Opportunities Abound: Fans in attendance may have noticed a lot of depth players receiving snaps alongside starting units. This was not an indication of how the hierarchy is forming, but rather a chance for coaches to see how everyone fares when surrounded by top-level talent.
"Early, we actually want to play guys with the first-team," said Quinn. "That's our chance to evaluate the guys. 'Can you handle it?' So it's really by design, how many guys can we put in that mix? In the first meeting, we told them, 'You're going to play.' It's part of the system to show you can do it. So I love that part of it too for the guys who like to get up and have that challenge."
Robert Alford Finding Consistency: Third-year cornerback Robert Alford has built on his strong offseason with a productive start to camp. He's still lining up opposite Desmond Trufant, and despite competition from rookie Jalen Collins, is on track to retain a starting job.
Ricardo Allen Enjoying New Role: Like Alford, Ricardo Allen has created some momentum by following up a solid minicamp with a good weekend here at Flowery Branch.
"I always just look to learn anything I can, look to make myself more valuable any way I can," he said. "Any way I can help this team out, any way I can help this team be great, I'm here to do it."
Allen, 23, is currently Atlanta's top free safety, an indication that he's made a successful transition from cornerback. Trufant in particular likes what he's seen from Allen, and said his teammate is "a natural fit" at FS. Quinn expressed a similar opinion.
"(Allen's) worked extremely hard at it," said the head coach. "So he's taken to the principles of playing free safety. And I think more than that — than anything — it's that communication that he's working on day in and day out. At that free safety spot, you're farthest from the ball, but you see the most. So that communication is key."
Health Still In Tact: As was the case on Friday, Lamar Holmes, who is on the PUP list with a broken foot, was the only missing player. Ryan Schraeder left the first practice early with a muscle strain but was back in action; as previously mentioned, his ailment isn't believed to be serious. Quinn, who is still gaining familiarity with his roster, was pleased to see many injured players return.
"It's great to have some of the guys who've been injured (at camp)," he said. "Not necessarily a surprise, but it's so nice to see Jake Matthews and Joe Hawley and Peter Konz and Brooks Reed and some of the guys who missed such a big portion of our OTAs … I knew how good some of them were from watching tape, but I didn't get a chance to be out on the field with them."