During the first two weeks of organized team activities, there has been an early portion of practice reserved for special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong to run the team through the different things that he needs his units to work on. Since many of the players who make up those units also play core offensive and defensive positions, it's generally a time many position coaches are off working with a very small group of players who don't have special teams roles.
During that period Wednesday and also during last week's session open to the media, outside linebackers coach Mark Collins spent some one-on-one training time with Kroy Biermann. Biermann has been a special teams cog for years, but that looks to be changing this year. Not one to waste any free time with one of his star players, Collins engages Biermann in some fundamental drills while special teams sessions wear on.
The Falcons hit the practice fields in Flowery Branch for the second week of organized team activities as the countdown to veteran minicamp and training camp continues
"I can say this: It's been a lot of fun," said Collins, who served as the Falcons' assistant defensive line coach from 2010-2013 before his promotion. "It really hasn't been that big of a transition, but with any kind of new job or new transition, there is a little bit of a learning curve, a little bit of an adjustment period."
The addition of an outside linebackers coach has added fuel to speculation about the Falcons' defensive scheme heading into 2014, but from all accounts, the creation of the position and the promotion of Collins into it had much more to do with his readiness as a coach.
Collins is hands-on in his approach, and laid back doesn't seem to be a term he takes to. Detail-oriented on the field, he will routinely stop a drill to give immediate feedback to players, and when they do the right things, he's the first one over there with encouraging words and a pat on the back.
"Mark Collins is awesome — an awesome addition," Jonathan Massaquoi said. "He critiques you and, at the same time, he teaches you. He takes time with you and he allows you to exploit your talents out here and just become a player. He's an awesome guy. I love him."
For inside linebacker coach Glenn Pires, who oversaw the entire linebacking corps in previous years, splitting the position among two coaches will only help each group be more focused on their responsibilities.
That specificity will allow the two to be more detail-oriented in their teaching of both the inside and outside linebackers, and "you're always going to be better when that happens," Pires said.
One area the Falcons are hoping to be better in is pass rush, and Collins will play a vital role in preparing players for those responsibilities at outside linebacker. With plenty of different players to work with and other positions and coaches participating in that effort, Collins can already see improvements in that area.
"You've got a guy like Kroy Biermann, who's coming back — we certainly missed him last year. You've got a guy like Osi Umenyiora, who's been doing it a long time and has certainly been a productive player in this league. You've got a guy like Jonathan Massaquoi that's ascending," Collins said. "I think you've got three or four guys that have proven that they can produce on the field, and I think with the extra push inside, the extra girth, the addition of Coach Cox and his expertise in the pass-rush realm that we anticipate being better."