MIAMI GARDENS, Fl. — Arthur Smith said he'll have to go back and watch the film from the second day of the Falcons joint practices with Miami, but he felt confident in saying post-practice that he's been really pleased with the way Desmond Ridder has carried himself as the Falcons starting quarterback.
"I do think his decision-making has been pretty damn good," Smith said. "His techniques have certainly improved, too."
For Ridder, he said he feels he's improved upon taking what defenses are giving him in each individual moment, which goes hand-in-hand with the decision-making of which Smith referred to.
Finally going against a team that doesn't know the offense's cadence or snap counts drove this point home for Ridder after Wednesday's practice.
"I feel like I've been seeing it well," Ridder said. "I'm very comfortable with our offense, so it's really about going out there and not forcing anything, not trying to make a big play, but trying to make things (happen) play by play."
At this point in the preseason, though, you take the good moments with the not-so-good moments. And as a unit, Ridder was adamant that there is one thing the offense wants to keep a lid on, even in the preseason.
"It's the pre-snap penalties, the operation, the false starts, the illegal shifts, whatever it may be," Ridder said. "Those are the things we want to be able to cancel out."
In all honesty, though, this comment wasn't necessarily brought upon by any particular Falcons pre-snap penalty. It was brought upon because the Falcons watched the Browns and Jets game last Thursday in the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio.
There were a few too many pre-snap penalties in said game, and it's something the Falcons don't want in their first preseason game this Friday against Miami.
"As an offense, obviously we can't control what the defense does after the snap, but we can control everything that we do before the ball is snapped," Ridder said. "Getting guys lined up and lined up fast. For us to do that, that's a part of our game."
Notes, observations from practice:
Roll call: After being carted off the field during team drills on Tuesday, Arthur Smith confirmed after practice on Wednesday that Clark Phillips III was not seriously injured, as was first reported by Josh Kendall of The Athletic on Tuesday afternoon.
Jonnu Smith saw a little but more action in team drills on Wednesday after being held back from those sections of practice on Tuesday. Calais Campbell still wasn't active in team drills, and he said after practice it's going to be a little slower ramp up for him since he hasn't been out at practice since training camp began.
Arthur Smith was asked if any decisions had been made regarding how much the first-team offense and defense would play come the first preseason game on Friday. He said the coaching staff will use the next 24 hours to nail the rotation down. He did say the Falcons have made the decision to play their first-team, but how much or how little will be determined later. When asked if he would want to play, Desmond Ridder said, "Hell yeah I want to play."
A hot start: After warmups and individual drills, the Falcons and Dolphins came together for some 7-on-7 passing drills in the red zone. Though Ridder laughed after practice that that period isn't real football (and he's right, it isn't), he was pretty vocal with excitement about the plays some of the Falcons pass catchers were making. On four consecutive plays Ridder hit Drake London, Cordarrelle Patterson, Bijan Robinson and John FitzPatrick all for touchdowns.
Speaking of Fitzpatrick, the second-year tight end had a really solid day as a pass catcher, bodying up a few Dolphins defensive backs on a couple catches. The case for FitzPatrick to make this 53-man roster continues to grow in strength. t
Chippy, chippy: With the Miami heat increasing, so did the intensity between the Falcons defense and the Dolphins offense. So much so that at one point Arthur Smith was seen on a dead sprint to the opposite field where the defense was facing the Miami offense to help defuse the heat. It was all in good fun, though, and a by-product of a pretty competitive couple of days of practice. Nothing you don't love to see as a spectator.
Falcons DBs hold strong: The Falcons secondary stood tall in situational team drills held outside during Wednesday's joint practice, with quality plays made by each unit. CB Lukas Denis made several, with two pass breakups in team drills and another in 7-on-7s. The first-year pro also played good run defense on the perimeter in one of his best days of this camp.
Safety Micah Abernathy closed out the first-unit team drill, without giving up a first down, due a leaping pass defensed while covering Tyreek Hill. Mike Hughes also got his hands on the ball in that sequence, batting another Tua Tagovailoa.
Taking you through the finale: The final period of practice was an end-of-game situation for both teams. The situation was as followed: With the ball placed on the 34 yard line, the offense trailed 20-14 with 48 seconds remaining in the game. The Dolphins and Falcons rotated through this situation four times. Here's a breakdown of the first two rotations with the first teams:
-- Falcons first-team offense vs. Dolphins first-team defense: Ridder found a wide open Mack Hollins to pick up a first down, but some miscues brought out the defense shortly thereafter. Ridder was "sacked" on the second play (no, there is no tackling, but the Dolphins collapsed the pocket and the play was blown dead). Then, the Falcons were called for a personal foul (kicking) on the next play. Though the Falcons still had a third down play, the point of the drill was to practice with the running clock. When the clock stopped for the penalty, Smith brought out the defense, feeling that they needed to keep the period moving. He also said he didn't want to show a situational play or call at that point in practice.
-- Dolphins first-team offense vs. Falcons first-team defense: Troy Andersen got the defense going with a PBU on the first play of the drive. With the defensive line pushing into Tua Tagovailoa on the second play, the Dolphins quarterback let a ball sail towards a receiver on the sideline. Tracking the ball through the air, Dee Alford nearly picked it off, the ball tipping off his hand before sailing out of bounds. On the next play, the Falcons did come up with the interception, only it wasn't Alford, it was Jaylinn Hawkins. The interception probably doesn't happen, though, without the collapse of the pocket with Lorenzo Carter coming off the edge. No one was as excited about the play as defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen was.
Take a look as the Atlanta Falcons put in the work with the Miami Dolphins during the 2023 AT&T Training Camp.