When it comes to the potential relationship the Falcons want to forge between Drake London and Desmond Ridder, perhaps London described it best. Essentially, they have no choice but to connect.
The 2022 rookie class reported to the Falcons facility in Flowery Branch on Thursday before rookie minicamp began on Friday. As they received their dorm assignments, it should shock no one to find out London and Ridder are dorm mates. One can assume that was by design.
The two already had a foundation, having gone through the pre-draft process together with a draft team that overlapped. Now, when the day comes to a close, they're going over plays together, "chopping it up," as London would say. The young receiver and quarterback vibe. The hypothesis is that they do so because they find significant common ground with one another.
"Honestly, he's like me in a sense," London said. "We are on the same mission. So, I am happy we came in together."
And that mission is simple: They want to be the best, and build the best.
The idea of building the best is something London spoke about at length after his first official day as an Atlanta Falcons. He talked about the responsibility this draft class feels it has as the second of the Terry Fontenot/Arthur Smith era in Atlanta.
It goes without saying that the youth of this team is going to play a major role this fall. It's that way for a reason. It's simply how the roster is constructed at this point. And if we ever wondered if these rookies - and maybe even second-year players - felt that?
It would seem they do.
"It's up to us to change it. It's up to all the guys to change it as well, but we're the new juice in the area, that new energy that's going to come here," London said of a new Falcons era. "We gotta stand by it."
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Notes and observations from Day 1 of rookie minicamp
- London is as big as advertised: One should note that minicamp only includes the incoming draft class, signed undrafted free agents, tryout players and a handful of players currently on the Falcons roster who the coaches want to take a closer look at. So, no. London isn't lining up against the defensive backs he'll face once OTAs begin. That doesn't make his size any less notable, though. On the field, he looks the part of the big-bodied receiver Arthur Smith was wanting in his offense. Seeing the mismatch London is live and on the field shows you exactly why the Falcons value him.
- John FitzPatrick is, too: You're not going to overlook the Falcons final 2022 draft pick on the field. He stands out. Of course, you can look at FitzPatrick on paper all day long and say that he's a big guy. Like London, to see him in person is to really put into perspective his frame. FitzPatrick stands at 6-foot-7, 250 pounds, and he looks it. A draw of FitzPatrick's game is his blocking ability, when you see him you completely understand why that is.
- Ridder commands early: The open practice period wasn't very long, only 30 minutes. In that time frame, we got to see these guys stretch, run through special teams drills and walk through a little 11-on-11 action. During the latter part of the viewing period, the best way to describe Ridder is to use the word, "controlled." He was vocal and commanded the offense, making sure everyone was lined up properly as they worked through formations and motions at a fast pace. London said there was even a point during practice when Ridder gathered the offense, saying simply that yeah its Day 1, but "we gotta get this shit together," according to London. More so, London had a lot of praise for Ridder after practice ended: "He's a guy I want to be around. He's a guy all of us want to be around."
- Troy Andersen's quickness on display: He was the fasted inside linebacker at the Combine and it didn't take long to see that speed in action on Friday. Andersen's quick footwork was noticeable. It caught my eye. I am looking forward to seeing how that speed translates when playing beside some of the other linebackers the Falcons have on the current roster in two weeks time.
- A surprise big guy: In no way shape or form would I look at Seth Vernon on the street and think to myself, "Yeah, that guy's a punter." But he is. Vernon is one of the Falcons undrafted free agents from Portland State and he's interesting to say the least. He stands at 6-foot-5, 230 pounds. It wouldn't surprise me if Arthur Smith converted him to a tight end for a day just for kicks and giggles to try it out.
- Back on the grass: When asked what he was most looking forward to during rookie minicamp, London said just getting back on the field is exciting enough for him. Following an injury that sidelined him through the final portion of the 2021 season, London noted that the Falcons didn't put any restrictions on him and that he's back at 100 percent health. This was a big step for London in his recovery: "It was just a blast getting out here and playing football again, especially under my circumstance, not being able to play football since - shoot - last October."
- Following the theme: In their first in-person press conference as a Falcon, DeAngelo Malone and Justin Shaffer were asked how they view themselves coming into the league. They echoed the same sentiments I wrote about after the 2022 NFL Draft ended: They have a chip on their shoulder. Malone discussed bringing that chip to practice with him every day, while Shaffer said it's nothing new, he's always been an "underrated" player. If anything, their words continue to reinforce how this class sees itself.
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