When De'Vondre Campbell met with reporters during June minicamp, the Falcons' fourth-round pick said he already felt like he knew "the whole defense." Given the praise he's received for his intellect, and given how comfortable he looked during 11-on-11 drills — covering tight ends, stuffing the run, calling last-second adjustments — he has every right to feel that confident.
Nevertheless, Campbell understands he still has a long way to go before he's ready to take the field in a regular season contest. So he'll be spending the bulk of July on his own, making sure he learns as much about Dan Quinn's scheme as possible before XFINITY® Training Camp begins.
"My athletic ability is there, it's just (about) making sure I know what I'm doing," Campbell said. "So this entire month off, I'm going to make sure that I'm in my playbook, just studying and making sure that I don't fall behind."
Campbell's approach shows the kind of commitment talent evaluators saw during the predraft process. And it shows the kind of maturity Falcons alum Chuck Smith noted during his recent conversation with AtlantaFalcons.com.
"There's a lot of value in teaching him," Smith said of Campbell. "He's a raw athlete who can be molded, because he has a humble attitude. That's a big deal, man: being humble in the National Football League as a great athlete. De'Vondre is willing to learn. I think I taught him everything he needs to know about being a mature, young guy. That's the big thing with De'Vondre — he's so mature."
Competition at linebacker should be fierce at training camp, as Campbell, along with second-rounder Deion Jones and Sean Weatherspoon, will challenge the incumbents for playing time.
For Campbell, his natural skill and length give him an advantage over the others. To move up the depth chart, he'll need to comprehend the system well enough to execute at full speed. That's why off-the-field work is so important for him this summer.
"It's definitely a lot more intense. I'm still kind of adjusting, but I think I'm picking up everything pretty well," Campbell said. "Coach (Jeff Ulbrich) is doing a really good job of putting in the extra time to make sure that I know what my assignment is and what everyone else assignment is. Things are moving a lot faster because I'm out here with the vets now. I'm really trying to take it one day at a time to get better."