FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – The pass rush swarmed Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder multiple times during Friday's open practice, forcing them to make incomplete passes majority of the time. Arnold Ebiketie and Ade Ogundeji were major factors in forcing defensive pressure, showing quickness and strength off both edges.
"I think this offseason we did a good job of trying to work together. When we have the right group of guys going and rushing together that what comes out and gets sacks. Today, we had everybody working on their lanes, working on their pass rush lanes," Ogundeji said after practice. "If one guy wins and the rest of the three are not working, (the quarterback) can step up into the pocket and run. When all four guys are rushing? He has nowhere to step up. I think it's a collection of the group going to rush.
- Ade Ogundeji 'quietly' coming into his own on Falcons defense
- Grady Jarrett on helping Dean Pees, Falcons, change defensive culture
- How Arnold Ebiketie found his way to football, then to the NFL
- Positional breakdowns: Quarterbacks; Running backs; Receivers/Tight ends, O-line; D-line; ILBs, EDGE; Secondary
- Training camp storylines: Line of scrimmage; Edge rush, Quarterbacks
"We know what our skillsets are. We know what each person can do, what the other person can't do. Things like that. That's a big 'why,' too."
Coach Arthur Smith said, "it's been refreshing to watch that front seven play." As Dean Pees emphasized shifting the culture around this defensive, the front line has continuously shown promise early in training camp. The chemistry amongst this unit is clear as you see all the guys meshing collectively, knowing each other's strengths and weakness, and feeding off each other at the right times.
"Guys are playing aggressive, coming downhill. It's physical with a lot of good competition, especially inside and the inside linebackers, so I've been pleased with the front seven," Smith said.
Along with the front seven, the entire defense looked solid on Friday. The secondary played relatively tight coverage, not allowing any deep passes to be made. As the defense continues to build a rapport amongst each other, keeping this momentum will be key as the first preseason game nears next Sunday.
Feleipe Franks was a main standout in Friday's open practice. He rotated between tight end and quarterback in one-on-ones and made two back-to-back catches, showing off his athleticism and height against defenders. He spent the last four minutes of the drill playing quarterback completing 2-of-4 passes. He was consistent and looked comfortable at the tight end position during 7-on-7s.
Kyle Pitts continues to show his versatility during drills and 7-on-7s. Improving on the hand swipe to shake off defenders has been something Pitts homes in on, which has been noticeable in each of his matchups. He snagged a lot of catches during 7-on-7.
Arnold Ebiketie looked quick today off the left edge. He was in the backfield almost every play pressuring Mariota to force throws. His presence in the pass rush will be needed this season as that continues to be a focal point.
News, notes, observations from practice
Isaiah Oliver practiced on the first-team field during an early 11-on-11 period, and looked relatively comfortable in the secondary. This is the first time during this training camp that he's moved from working with the second-team to sticking with the first-team more often. Parker Hesse ran with the ones at times on Friday and had a ton of reps at tight end.
I think it's pretty clear who will be at the left guard position with Elijah Wilkinson practicing with the first team in Friday's practice yet again. Arthur Smith said on Friday that Jalen Mayfield is dealing with a lower back issue that they are working to "calm down." Mayfield and Wilkinson are currently competing for the starting left guard position. Mayfield did not practice on Friday.
Drew Dalman lined up as first team center over Matt Hennessy, continuing the rotation at center. As Smith mentioned in Tuesday's press conference, he's looking for a someone who can show command on the front line, which will be the determining factor deciding on who the starting center will be come Week 1.
Bryan Edwards is still practicing with a yellow jersey, but he was back in the first team lineup getting in a few reps with the offense.
Drake London vs. A.J. Terrell: This is always a fan favorite matchup. London sprinted off the line of scrimmage which looked like a flat straight to end zone before making a quick cut to the right, where Terrell caught back up and deflected the pass. Great offense but better defense by Terrell.
Kyle Pitts vs. Jaylinn Hawkins: This was a pretty scrappy matchup. Hawkins pressed Pitts off the line of scrimmage using his strength to slow him down which resulted in an incomplete pass.
The temperatures are rising up, and so are we!