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Falcons minicamp takeaways: Kazee showing his versatility, injuries open door at receiver

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Falcons were back on the practice fields for the second day of mandatory Minicamp Built by Home Depot, and coach Dan Quinn remains pleased with the production he's seeing from his team. Here are the biggest takeaways from the day:

Deion Jones: Defense knows what it takes now

Falcons linebacker Deion Jones approached the podium following practice with an exuding amount of confidence. The usually soft spoken middle linebacker wasn't shy when asked about the expectations for his defense in the upcoming season.

"We know all the tools we need to get back to the point that we were at last year," Jones said, referring to the Super Bowl. "It's just taking those same tools and sharpening them and getting better at what we do."

Atlanta's defense benefited exponentially from Jones' elevated level of play as the season went on. Following the Falcons' bye week in Week 11, Atlanta went on to win five of its last six regular-season games, in large part due to their defensive performance. During that time span Jones recorded 44 of his 106 total tackles.

Also during those five wins, Quinn's defense surrendered only 18.8 points per game.

WR group thin with injuries on Day 2

Wide receivers Andre Roberts (back), Taylor Gabriel (lower leg) and Julio Jones (toe) were all held out of Wednesday's minicamp session.

Gabriel and Jones have not practiced at all during the three-day minicamp, while Roberts has yet to miss a practice. Coach Dan Quinn said Gabriel will be held out for Thursday's practice as well.

Quinn said the team could see tight end D.J. Tialavea return to action in a limited role on Thursday after missing both practices so far with an undisclosed injury.

Defensive lineman Courtney Upshaw was excused from practice with a family matter, per Quinn.

The standard is everything for Atlanta's wide receivers

At the beginning of practice when Atlanta's receivers were running routes, Justin Hardy dropped a pass.

So when Hardy returned to the line where the rest of his teammates were standing, rather than pretending like it didn't happen, he dropped to the ground and started doing pushups.

Accountability at its finest.

Quinn was asked if this type of player-led accountability from Hardy surprised him, and he didn't seem surprised in the slightest.

The reason?

The standard the receivers have set for themselves in their room.

"I would say that definitely came from his teammates," Quinn said of Hardy doing pushups. "That's their own small ways of holding each other accountable. That group is so fun to coach because of the connection they have."

With Jones and Gabriel out, Quinn said the rest of the receivers are taking advantage of their opportunities.

"For us to not have Julio and Gab as part of it, and to see the speed that we have, it excites me. Sometimes the byproduct of guys being out is opportunity for other guys to step up. When your time is there, it's really important for you to nail it. The receiver group is recognizing, 'OK, here's extra reps because [Gabriel] and [Julio] aren't taking them, so here's my chance to go for it and I'm going to take those."

Damontae Kazee gets reps at nickel

Since arriving in Atlanta, Damontae Kazee has been featured primarily at free safety during the Falcons' organized team activities. Kazee played cornerback at San Diego State where he recorded 17 interceptions during his career as an Aztec, a school record.

Quinn likes versatility in his players, and Kazee has shown some.

During Wednesday's practice, the Falcons moved Kazee from free safety to nickel. Kazee took the challenge head on, something his coach commended the fifth-round draft pick for.

"Kazee has done a good job," Quinn said. "We've played him at nickel. We trained him at free safety some and he played corner in college. We are looking for the versatility in him. He's a very competitive guy, the more we throw at him, he's ready for that challenge."

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