The Falcons came out strong for the last day of veteran minicamp, which was held Thursday morning in Flowery Branch.
1. Trade Fallout: The Falcons burned the late-night oil Wednesday by pulling off a trade that sent Akeem Dent to the Houston Texans for veteran QB TJ Yates around 11 p.m. So late, in fact, that neither he nor veteran linebacker Tim Dobbins, who agreed to terms with the team at the same time, were in attendance during the final day of veteran minicamp Thursday. Smith addressed the trade after Thursday's session: "We're always calibrating our roster. We're always trying to put the most competitive roster in place and give ourself the best opportunity to win. This was an opportunity that came up for us. We felt like it's going to create a very competitive atmosphere where we need to have some competition."
2. Standout of Day 3: Cornerback Robert McClain gets the nod for Thursday, but he truly put together a strong veteran minicamp. With Desmond Trufant sidelined for precautionary reasons, McClain stepped in and took his snaps opposite of Robert Alford and McClain shined. He was able to break up passes and create turnovers throughout minicamp, and even recorded a diving interception during two-minute drills Thursday.
3. Roll Call for Thursday: Safety William Moore returned to practice after being excused for personal reasons Wednesday. Roddy White, Julio Jones, Dominique Croom, Corey Peters, Zeke Motta and Trufant didn't practice.
The Falcons hit the practice fields for day two of veteran minicamp on Wednesday afternoon. Minicamp was open to the public for the day for fans who wanted to get a glimpse of the action.
4. Inside Linebacker Update: The addition of Dobbins, an eight-year veteran, at the inside linebacker spot shakes things up a bit for a very young group. Paul Worrilow has been the starter in middle throughout minicamp and it's hard to expect that will change moving forward. Next to him in certain defensive sets, however, has been Joplo Bartu, a fellow undrafted player who is entering his second year. With Dent out of the picture now, behind Bartu is Prince Shembo and Marquis Spruill, who were both drafted by the Falcons in May. Dobbins brings experience as a defensive star, but also as a former special teams captain with the Texans: "I think that's going to be a very interesting dynamic when we go through our training camp. We've got two guys that started for us last year. We've got Prince Shembo, who we are very excited about. He's picked up the system very well," Smith said. "He doesn't have any experience but we're going to give him a lot — I assure you that — in the preseason."
5. Rookies Stood Out: Asked what one thing stood out the most during the Falcons' three-day minicamp, Smith didn't hesitate when he said the 2014 Rookie Club has been most impressive. Adding that there are plenty of players in that group expected to see significant playing time, Smith pointed to Jake Matthews, Ra'Shede Hageman, Dezmen Southward and Prince Shembo as names that he's looking forward to seeing more of during training camp.
6. Time Off — Well, Sort Of: The Falcons broke minicamp and the mass exodus from Flowery Branch began, but don't expect team headquarters to be quiet until training camp begins next month. At the team meeting Thursday morning, Smith told his players that the weight room would be open every day between now and the opening of camp, with the exception of July 4. Asking for a show of hands as to how many players plan on using the weight room during that time, Smith was pleased with the number of arms in the sky: "We can't really look at it as time off, even though it's a dead period by the Collective Bargaining Agreement — we can't have contact with the guys — it's very important. We've worked extremely hard in the weight room. We started back in April, officially, but guys have been working since late February. We can't take this month off. We have to continue to work."
7. Ryan Impressed with Freeman: Speaking of rookies, running back Devonta Freeman has stood out to quarterback Matt Ryan as he works with the young ball-carrier a bit. What has impressed him most is Freeman's ability to soak up the knowledge the running backs around him have: "Devonta, coming in as a rookie, there's a lot to pick up. But I thought from a playbook standpoint, he did a great job of taking things from the meeting rooms out onto the field. He's got three really good guys to learn from in Steven (Jackson), Jacquizz (Rodgers) and Antone (Smith), so I think those guys have helped him out quite a bit."
8. Matthews Embraces Facing Veterans: We noted Wednesday just how rookie offensive tackle Jake Matthews had been handling minicamp, and more specifically, how he'd been handling facing off against veterans. He showed plenty of good technique and strength in going head-to-head with Tyson Jackson during Wednesday's session and Matthews said Thursday that the higher competition level has been good for him: "They're studs, man. That's the first thing. It's really good for me because I need to go against really good players like that in order to better myself. But I feel like I'm doing good."