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Camp takeaways: Julio Jones looks 'fast' and 'explosive' in 11-on-11 drills

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- After playing their first preseason game, the Falcons resumed their normal training camp activities Sunday with a few areas of emphasis in mind.

Some of the situations that coach Dan Quinn said the team focused on were the red zone and two-minute scenarios. Offensively, the Falcons scored two touchdowns and kicked a field goal after moving inside of the red zone against Miami on Thursday. On defense, Atlanta allowed a field goal and a touchdown when the Dolphins reached the red zone but also forced a turnover.


As the Falcons continued to put work into those aspects of the game, there were plenty of other takeaways from practice.

1. Julio back in action for 11-on-11 drills

Julio Jones continues to progress after his offseason foot surgery, and he made another positive stride forward.

Jones has received snaps during full-team periods at times in training camp, but he was often running as a decoy or away from the action. On Sunday, he was right in the thick of things and catching passes. After practice, Quinn said he was pleased with the way his All-Pro receiver looked.

"It was great for us, and for the team, getting (Julio) back in," Quinn said. "He really put the work in on the rehab front as well. He looked fast, he looked explosive. I guess he was probably somewhere in the six-to-eight (reps range), and we'll go a few more than that, but the way and the style and the intensity he practices with, it was good to have him back in the mix today. Especially down in the red zone."

One of the players held out of Thursday's preseason game, Jones has looked smooth while running routes at practice. The coaching staff is wisely taking things slow with Jones, and he said earlier in camp that he would be ready to go whenever he is needed.

2. Jones playing 'louder and looser' at linebacker

Like his fellow second-year players, Deion Jones is no longer the fresh face at training camp. That year of experience is a critical one for developing players, and Jones has made it a personal goal to be more vocal on the field in 2017.

Thus far, he is accomplishing that goal.

"He's louder and looser, that's more accustomed to him," Quinn said when talking about his players' leadership qualities. "Now, he wasn't able to do that as a first-year player. When I go back and see, maybe the first half of the season, (he was) more rigid, even when he made a play. He didn't even know how to celebrate with the guys. It was just, 'I did my job.' And now, you see the communication take place all along."

Jones acknowledged it took him a while before he really felt comfortable in his role.

"It took a good bit of time," Jones said. "It was really like after that (Philadelphia) game where it like really clicked where I needed to communicate more, be more physical and just get everybody on the same page and get us lined up to play fast."

This preseason, Jones says he working to improve his on-field communication. With one preseason game under his belt, he's enjoyed the personal challenge.

"It was good," Jones said. "You know, communicating, giving out alerts, lining up and getting people lined up. It was fun."

To see all of Deion Jones' post-practice interview, click here.

3. New additions to the defense help increase depth

One thing that's stood out during preseason practices is the depth that the Falcons possess on defense. With younger players growing into their roles, and new additions brining different strengths to the team, there is a lot of talent on the depth chart.

"It's been great having all of these guys flying around, like (Dontari) Poe, a new addition, Jack (Crawford) and a lot of other guys," Jones said when asked about the depth on defense. "Just getting that chemistry, getting them into the Brotherhood, getting them on the same page, flying around and playing our style of ball."

That depth was evident during Thursday's preseason game. After an impressive opening series by the first-team defense, players like Ra'Shede Hageman, LaRoy Reynolds, Kemal Ishmael, Adrian Clayborn and Duke Riley got an opportunity to prove what type of impact they can have.

4. Freeman leaves practice early and other injury news

Near the end of the practice, Devonta Freeman was seen leaving the field with a trainer. After practice, Quinn was asked about his status, and he provided the following information.

"I don't think he was going to come back," Quinn said. "He had some heat stuff that he dealt with from the first practice and again today. I didn't get a chance to go in and see him yet, but I'll find out."

There were a couple of players who did not participate in Sunday's practice, linebacker Jermain Grace and defensive end Martin Ifedi.

"Ifedi's foot has been bother him," Quinn said. "We're probably going to hold him this week, and we'll take a better look after Pittsburgh. We'll let his ankle settle down, it's really not coming around as fast as he had hoped.

"Grace did a rehab run today. He had a strain of a hamstring, and (we're) hopeful he's going to return. He's putting the work in, for sure."

5. Highlights: Alford intercepts Ryan during team period

During his four seasons in the NFL, Robert Alford has intercepted nine passes and taken two of those all the way for a touchdown, including a pick-six off of Tom Brady in Super Bowl LI. On Sunday, Alford picked off another MVP quarterback, stepping in front of Matt Ryan's pass to Justin Hardy and making a play for the defense.

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