FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – There's really only one word to best summarize the Falcons' seventh practice of 2018 AT&T Training Camp: Energetic.
With the sun shining down on them for the first time in two days, the Falcons players appeared to have an extra pep in their step as they participated in a competition-filled practice full of 1-on-1, 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills.
The emphasis of the day, as head coach Dan Quinn explained after practice, was on the red zone, an area the Falcons have designated as one in which they'd like to improve this season.
"I can probably say the biggest thing we really tried to emphasize [was] some of the timing down there," Quinn said of what stood out to him during the red-zone work. "And you can imagine the importance of that, how quickly some of the routes take place. So, that's what we did before practice, in it, and then if you were watching afterwards there's at least once or twice a week the receivers and running backs and quarterbacks are getting together and emphasizing some of the routes and timing."
Observations from an entertaining 1-on-1 skill period
- Midway through Wednesday's practice, the offense and defense were split with half of each unit heading towards and opposite side of the field. At the goal line nearest to the media press box, the offensive skill players squared off against a defender in a 1-on-1 one matchup with the respective objectives of scoring a touchdown or preventing a touchdown.
- Tight end Eric Saubert made an impressive catch in the left corner of the end zone against tight coverage from Keanu Neal late in the period, but he did not have similar success when matched up against linebacker De'Vondre Campbell earlier on.
- Wide receiver Julio Jones had this catch against cornerback Brian Poole:
- Linebacker Duke Riley gave up a pair of catches during the session. One came against fullback Luke McNitt, where Riley was in tight in coverage through the entire route but didn't get his head around to locate the ball. The other was against running back Malik Williams, who ran a quick out route that Riley couldn't close ground on.
- Safety Kemal Ishmael didn't allow a catch to running back Devonta Freeman after stopping his route re-adjustment.
- Tight end Troy Mangen showed off strong hands during his touchdown catch against safety Secdrick Cooper, who tried fervently to jar the ball loose.
- Running back Ito Smith and linebacker Deion Jones had two of the best reps of the day. Jones ultimately did not allow a reception in either rep, but Smith showed some nice agility to gain a step on the Pro Bowl linebacker each time.
- Linebacker Emmanuel Smith closed quickly on running back Justin Crawford's attempt to pivot and knocked the ball away.
"It's good for the defensive backs as well, the challenge and going for it," Quinn said after practice of the 1-on-1 goal-line reps. "To see [Robert Alford] battle Julio [Jones] like that. One of the times he had terrific coverage on him, and he still completed it and Rocky was frustrated. I said, 'Well, there's not many people that can help you train like this.'"
Falcons to hold second scrimmage on Saturday
As they did at the end of their first four-day block of training camp, the Falcons will hold a scrimmage on Saturday to culminate their second four-day stretch, head coach Dan Quinn announced after Friday's practice.
The teams, Red and White, will be comprised of the same players as last time. In the last scrimmage, the Red Team emerged with a 14-0 victory thanks to a Devin Gray touchdown and a Damontae Kazee pick-6. Quinn explained that the score will remain the same when they begin the second scrimmage with the Red Team holding a two-touchdown lead.
Here are the team rosters:
Other notes and observations
- During the special teams portion of practice, wide receivers Justin Hardy, Marvin Hall, Reggie Davis and Calvin Ridley were the players back to return punts.
- While the individual position drills took place early in practice strong safety Keanu Neal was working with the defensive linemen on hand-technique drills.
- The defensive line then went on to practice various stunt techniques and stringing a play down the line of scrimmage. Neal was not with them for this part.
- Right guard Wes Schweitzer was back working with the first team on Friday after going with the second team the day prior. Over the last few days, the Falcons have alternated Schweitzer and Brandon Fusco at right guard with the first team.
- Cornerback Deante Burton had a leaping interception in the end zone during the first 11-on-11 period.
- Rookie safety Chris Lammons had what would have likely been a pick-six in a live game during the team's 7-on-7 portion of practice.
- Cornerback Desmond Trufant and tight end Austin Hooper had a good rep against one another in 7-on-7 with Trufant ultimately knocking the ball away at the front corner of the end zone.
- In the final 11-on-11 period, tight end Jaeden Graham had a touchdown at the right corner of the end zone. Wide receiver Mohamed Sanu ended the practice with a leaping touchdown over linebacker Deion Jones for a red-zone score.