FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Heading in to his third year with the Falcons, A.J. Terrell's leadership will be looked upon heavy to help navigate, not only the defense, but team in the right direction. Holding himself accountable, competing daily, and having fun with the game is his focus right now.
Coach Arthur Smith is happy with what he's been seeing in the young cornerback so far in training camp. That includes a Saturday practice where moved all over the formation, including the slot, and often shadowed rookie first-round pick Drake London.
"He's a versatile player," Smith said. "Different moving parts with gradual experience in this system. [There are] different things we'll do, a lot of things we'll do different this year, so I'm very pleased with how he's playing."
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With so many new moving pieces to this defense in guys like Lorenzo Carter and Casey Hayward Jr., he sees the chemistry amongst this unit growing stronger daily in practice. The defense has stood out the entire second week of training camp with the secondary remaining consistent in passing coverage, inside guys filling gaps, and pass rushing improving week by week.
"We're having some swag for real," Terrell said during Saturday's press conference. "We just have to tap in everyday, have fun with it, bring energy and make the offense feel us. Just hold our own. Be passionate and have fun with it."
Marcus Mariota, one of the few quarterbacks in the league with running mobility has been challenging the defense in all the right ways, keeping plays alive and forcing them to adjust on the fly. Terrell says this type of play, along with competing against guys like London and Kyle Pitts, has been preparing this defense for when the season rolls around.
"Just challenging both of them in practice, the defense giving them a good look and them giving us a good look," Terrell said. "You know, just building chemistry and just competing."
Terrell understands his responsibilities in being a vital piece for coach Smith and the Falcons going into this season and he fully embraces the challenges set out in front of him.
"That's the bigger picture," Terrell said. "They bring us in to be able to step up, lead the team and lead the defense."
Marcus Mariota was a big Saturday standout. The eighth-year vet showed his running mobility throughout the entire day, while connecting with Kyle Pitts on a few deep routes. He's looking more comfortable in the pocket and in his playmaking ability.
Jaylinn Hawkins looked confident all day. The safety had an interception off of a tipped pass early in the training camp practice and was consistent in his coverage against receivers.
"It's always turnt to get the ball," Hawkins said. "I've been trying to get the ball as much as possible. I mean, that's our goal out there. Guys on our team have stripping stuff and getting after the ball, so it's always good to get the ball."
News, notes, observations from practice
Feleipe Franks continues to show his growth at the tight end position. He snagged a few balls today during 11's and made a few diving catches. He also got in some reps at quarterback showing his versatility on this offense.
"We got to give Feleipe a lot of credit," Smith said. "Feleipe is a special guy. We saw that today, and to be able to do what he does, come in there and to be able to play both positions, that's rare."
Avery Williams had a lot of touches during practice at the running back position.
Wide receiver Cameron Batson was back in full pads practicing today after recovering from a knee injury.
Bryan Edwards continues to practice with a yellow jersey on, but he looked closer to full speed today, as he had multiple reps with the first team offense.
Quinton Bell rotated in the first team defense a couple of times, lining up on the right edge.
Isaiah Oliver practiced with the first team defense for the second day in a row.
Qadree Ollison rotated in as running back for the first team offense getting a few touches with that unit throughout practice.
Elijah Wilkinson remained at the first-unit left guard position, as he has since the second day of camp.
OL Jalen Mayfield did not practice on Saturday due to a lower back issue.
DL Bryce Rodgers went down holding his knee late in Saturday's practice. Smith did not provide an update on his status following practice.