Although meaningful games won't be played for nearly four months, preparations for the 2015 season will begin in earnest when organized team activities start Tuesday morning. The Falcons are scheduled to practice at 11:20 a.m. and continue at the same time on June 2 and 9. (Practices are closed to the public.)
Organized team activities, also referred to as OTAs, typically include weight lifting, conditioning, film study and light on-field training. Such workouts might not feel particularly significant, but many talent evaluators view them as an essential part of the NFL calendar.
"These practices help determine the specific roles for each player and set the tempo for all the new acquisitions, regardless if they are rookies or veterans," former Chicago Bears GM Jerry Angelo said. "The new players get their first taste of what their jobs will be while both meeting and getting a feel for their new coaches and teammates. This is the time of year when players and coaches start coming together as a team to develop chemistry.
"Although things move fast with OTAs, there isn't that overhanging cloud of pressure that surfaces during the regular season. Veteran players are more relaxed and begin to get a handle on the new faces, rookies are wide-eyed and coaches are positive, loose and upbeat. The foundation is being laid during this time. If done right, a team will have less transition issues when the season starts, allowing them to focus on mastering their schemes, executing the playbook and teaching the young players the fine details of the NFL game."
With a revamped coaching staff in place, OTAs should be a great opportunity for Dan Quinn to impart his ideologies to the roster. Certainly, it'll be interesting to see how his approach differs from those of his predecessors.
The Falcons' 2016 roster is constantly evolving and we've amassed all the players in one gallery that will be updated throughout the year
It'll also be interesting to see how everyone adjusts to schematic changes. The offensive line, for example, is moving to a zone blocking scheme under Kyle Shanahan; the defense will shift to the 4-3 under formation that worked famously in Seattle.
Given the coaches Quinn has brought on board, the players should have plenty of information to wrap their heads around.
"It's one of the most fun parts of coaching, the teaching part of it, and our gratification comes from how far you can pull a player to see the player that they can become," Quinn said. "That's when you get great satisfaction as a coach."
One story to monitor is how rookies fare against their more experienced counterparts. OTAs should help first-years gain valuable perspective and, with some encouraging results, should boost their confidence, as well.
Above all, it'll be imperative to avoid serious injuries. Several notable players are currently sidelined with existing ailments — including Jake Matthews, Peter Konz, William Moore and Joe Hawley — and adding to that list is the last thing the Falcons want to do. As long as they remain healthy and buy what Quinn is selling, OTAs will go down as a success.
"When the team reports to training camp all the minutia has been spelled out thanks to these OTAs and now it's time to get down to business," Angelo added, "and that business is to win football games. So this time of year may not get the same attention as the pre-season or regular season, but it is just as important in laying a winning foundation."