FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Too small. Too skinny.
DeAngelo Malone has heard all before. That was the case in high school and again when he was trying to find a college. Then it came up again during the pre-draft process. Can someone the Atlanta native's size compete at the NFL level?
Malone can answer that one for you: Heck yes.
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He's determined to show that during his rookie season, playing for his hometown team. The Falcons drafted the Western Kentucky product in the third round, believing his tenacity, speed and bend can help him be disruptive off the edge.
We've seem flashes of that during this Falcons training camp, both in one-on-ones – Malone cam whip around tackles in a flash – and team drills.
Malone also says he's carrying some extra weight – eight or nine pounds by his count – that helps anchor him in run defense without sacrificing speed.
"Technique over everything," said Malone, who's listed at 243 pounds. "If you have that, there's no reason why you can't beat an offensive tackle."
Technique is key. He also has more moves than just a speed rush, though he's not showing what's in his bag of tricks. There's another 'T' word, however, that's key to his game.
"It's definitely a trademark," Malone said. "Ever since I was younger, I always played with a chip on my shoulder due to all the doubters I've had. People have always said I'm too small, too skinny. I'm trying to go prove those people wrong.
"I feel comfortable playing the way I am. Folks always like to talk about me being smaller. It's not about size. It's about heart and technique and drive. I come out here and try to prove myself every day."
Mariota has nice day/preseason workload
Falcons first-team quarterback Marcus Mariota threw a few dimes on Tuesday, including one threaded through a tight window, avoiding a defender while putting it where he knew KhaDarel Hodge would be. It was an expert-level toss and punctuated a solid showing for Mariota and the Falcons offense as a whole after some recent off days in padded practice.
Mariota believes he's finding good sync, even while working with rotating centers, as we head toward Friday's preseason opener in Detroit.
Arthur Smith said that both Mariota and Ridder would play against the Lions, though the split would not be 50-50, implying that Ridder will see the majority of on-field time.
Mariota, for his part, is ready for whatever comes. He didn't volunteer a specific amount of game time required to find improved cohesion with his new team.
"I'll play as much as he lets me play," Mariota said. "I just love playing ball. Whatever they decide, whatever the gameplan is, I'm just going to go out there and have fun playing."
It's also possible that Feleipe Franks works some calling signals. He has spent most of his time at tight end but has run select periods at quarterback. He made a nice throw on the run late in Tuesday's session, connecting with Stanley Berryhill on a big game. While his well-documented position switch is going well, Franks remains an emergency option at quarterback.
"Yeah, it depends on how the [Lions} game goes," Smith said. "But, yeah, he's got to be ready to go."
T-minus three days until Detroit #RiseUp
Other news and notes
Defensive lineman Marlon Davidson missed Tuesday's practice. Smith didn't provide a specific update but inferred that his absence wasn't a serious issue.
The center rotation continues with Matt Hennessy working with the first team after Drew Dalman had the responsibility the day before. Elijah Wilkinson continues working at first-team left guard, as he has since the second day of camp.
Bryan Edwards was back wearing a yellow non-contact jersey during Tuesday's padded practice, one that suggests non-contact. He has worn one every day but Monday – the Falcons weren't in pads – since returning from an apparent shoulder/arm issue.
It's always tough to get a great gauge on the run game without live tackling, but Cordarrelle Patterson had a few solid reps running outside and to the offense's left that looked well blocked. He seemed to regularly find space over there, able to find space for longer gains.
I've mentioned KhaDarel Hodge a few times now – he's one of my favorites this camp – but he's a tough player who finds ways to get open. He has gotten somewhat frequent reps with the first unit. He's heavily in the mix for a roster spot on the back end of his position group.