FLOWERY BRANCH – Today's Early Bird Report includes the Falcons turning their full attention towards the 2018 season, an injury scare for Tampa Bay and the Atlanta rookie who is most likely to be a starter this fall.
Although there was some tension among the fan base as to whether or not a certain wide receiver would take part in the Falcons 2018 AT&T Training Camp, Julio Jones and the team worked out a solution and he was back for Day 1 of practice.
As Sports Illustrated's Jenny Vrentas writes, with everyone's deals sufficiently ironed out, including a new contract for quarterback Matt Ryan, the Falcons can now turn their full attention on preparing for what should be an exciting 2018 season.
"Contract extension talks still loom for Jones in 2019, but now, the focus is on this season," Vrentas writes. "Jones missed time in camp last year after offseason foot surgery, but this year, he says he used his time away from the team to focus on getting his body fully healthy. During a break in practice, Jones was demonstrating what looked to be a route stem for two rookie receivers; later, when he caught a pass in 11-on-11 drills, the fans dotting the hill overlooking the practice field erupted in cheers."
In her piece, Vrentas detailed a few other observations she had from her time at Falcons training camp:
- She learned how highly the Falcons regard the ball, which is one of the three pillars of head coach Dan Quinn's philosophy and referred to as "everything" by the team.
- She took note of how rookie wide receiver Calvin Ridley is learning from two of the best in the game in Jones and Mohamed Sanu, and he presence gives the Falcons one of the top receiver corps in the NFL.
- She learned the Falcons eat probiotic yogurt-covered raisins instead of regular yogurt-covered raisins.
Here are some other articles for Falcons fans to check out today:
AJC: Falcons playing Parker at free safety
The Falcons signing of safety Ron Parker this offseason is the type of savvy move that contending teams often make. A former starter for the Kansas City Chiefs, Parker will be a good veteran presence in the locker room and a quality backup in the secondary. Initially, it was believed Parker might be the primary backup for Keanu Neal at strong safety, but D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that he is currently playing free safety.
"He's at free safety right now," Falcons coach Dan Quinn said, per Ledbetter. "We've had experience, he's played corner, he's played nickel, he's played free safety, so he's got real versatility, but at this point, I want to see what is the best fit for him in our defense, so that's what we're trying to do."
ESPN: Rookies who could start for each NFL team
Under Quinn, the Falcons have had no problem relying on young players – they started four rookies in Super Bowl LI, setting a record for that game. It should not be surprising, then, to see them rely on several members of this year's rookie class in 2018. As we approach the fall, ESPN ran a piece detailing which rookie could start for each of the NFL's 32 teams.
Falcons beat writer Vaughn McClure tabbed Ridley as the rookie who is most likely to start for Atlanta right away. Here's part of what McClure had to say on the subject:
"He has all the tools to be an immediate contributor. He can line up outside opposite Julio Jones and be an instant threat. When the Falcons took the field for their two playoff games last season, they started Jones and Mohamed Sanu at receiver with 11 personnel: two tight ends, two receivers. It will all depend on the alignment, but expect Ridley to be on the field a lot. He's a fluid route runner with great speed and the ability to establish separation."
ESPN: Vita Vea exits practice with left calf strain
Goal No. 1 for every NFL team during training camp is to enter the season with no major injuries. Therefore, it's understandable that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers may have collectively held their breath Sunday after first-round pick Vita Vea was carted off the field. Fortunately for the Bucs, the injury may not be as seriously as it initially looked.
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, who cited a team source, Vea suffered a strained calf during practice that "doesn't look bad." Vea was selected by the Bucs with the 12th overall pick in April's draft.