"Aggressive" is a term that may have been over used to describe the Falcons this offseason, but after witnessing their first minicamp practice on Tuesday, it's not too far off.
Tuesday's afternoon practice was open to the public and fans lined the sidelines to get their first looks at what many believe is a new-look Falcons team with new coordinators on both sides of the ball.
What they saw was an enthusiastic team on offense and defense that was as boisterous as they were productive. Although there is no tackling at this stage of the offseason, there are 11-on-11 drills and they do get spirited. No side of the ball was the clear winner on Wednesday. The offense made a handful of impressive down-field plays, highlighted by a 40-yard pass to Harry Douglas that the receiver caught in double coverage.
The defense had at least one takeaway and broke up a few other passes. Their highlight came when Robert McClain tipped a pass that Marty Markett hauled into his arms.
Falcons head coach Mike Smith was pleased with the way his players took the field and handled themselves once on it.
"Very energetic," Smith said of the team's energy. "I thought the guys did a very nice job in terms of working against each other. They were cognizant of making sure they take care of everybody."
Quarterback Matt Ryan was the lucky QB to be throwing passes to Douglas, Julio Jones and Roddy White. Wide receiver Kerry Meier also got in on the passing fiesta that Ryan was responsible for. Ryan said this time of the football calendar year is about working on personal technique. His footwork and maintaining a stable throwing base are two of the primary personal objectives of his this year.
As for the team he saw on the field both on his side and opposite him, he was pleased was both Tuesday's practice and all the work they've put in during the offseason.
"I thought it was good," Ryan said. "We've been going three or four weeks with the OTAs. I think the practices have been really pretty good. I think our energy has been pretty good every day. Today was pretty good too. We had fans out here today which kind of changes the atmosphere for everybody a little bit. It was a good start to our minicamp. We've got some more work to do before we're done."
Defensive end Kroy Biermann thought the pace of practice was consistent with the style of defense new coordinator Mike Nolan has been installing and teaching, a defense that has heard the "aggressive" association a few times this offseason.
"High-energy, high-octane, fast-paced defense," Biermann said of Atlanta's new defense. "It's going to be exciting. The guys are picking it up quick. Once you know the defense, you can play fast. It should be an exciting year."
Judging by the tone of the voices of the loudest of the bunch on the defense, Asante Samuel and Sean Weatherspoon, there's plenty to be excited about in 2012. Samuel and Weatherspoon were both overheard numerous times loudly supporting their teammates when something was done well and in general sharing their enthusiasm for what is expected to be a run toward a fifth-straight winning season and then some.