As the Falcons began the third and final phase of the NFL's voluntary offseason program, players and coaches could get on the practice fields together with no live contact allowed. Teams can run drills with the offense and defense going up against each other for the first time.
Tuesday's practice was the first time head coach Arthur Smith was able to take the field with his entire team (the program is voluntary and players are not required to show up) and his coaching staff.
Here are five observations from the first organized team activity (OTA) session:
Falcons veteran leaders in attendance
While a lot has changed within the walls of the Falcons' training facility, Matt Ryan, Grady Jarrett and Jake Matthews showing up and leading their team remains consistent year after year. Ryan, Jarrett and Matthews are three of the Falcons' oldest players who have a total of 29 combined years of experience. Jarrett and Ryan were both team captains in the 2020 season.
Matthews was asked how he feels being the veteran leader on the offensive line now with Alex Mack no longer on the roster. The former No. 6 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft said he's embracing his new role and hopes to succeed in every way.
"Sometimes I feel like I just started, it goes pretty quick," Matthews said. "I'm enjoying it, I feel like I have a lot to help. I want to make sure I play well, and I improve the people around me and that's been my goal from the beginning."
Free agent signing Fabian Moreau lining up across from A.J. Terrell
A.J. Terrell solidified his spot as Atlanta's No. 1 cornerback after a stellar rookie season. So, who will line up across from Terrell on Sept. 12? The battle for the No. 2 cornerback spot will be one of the most intriguing ones to watch during the offseason during training camp.
During the first OTA session, Fabian Moreau saw action outside at cornerback. The Falcons signed the 6-foot, 204-pound cornerback in March after he spent the 2020 season with the Washington Football Team where he played in all 16 games with one start. Moreau recorded five total tackles, two interceptions, two pass deflections and three special teams tackles last year.
Matt Hennessy growing into his role
Matt Hennessy saw what game action is like as a starter in the NFL at the center position twice when Mack was sidelined during his rookie season. The former third-round pick and rookie Drew Dalman will compete to be Atlanta's starting center with Mack no longer on the roster.
According to Matthews, who spent a significant amount of time with Hennessy last season, Hennessy has become a lot more comfortable.
"It's actually really cool to see how much he's grown," Matthews said. "He's so much more vocal and confident. He's come so far. Last year you got him on the field and sometimes it was hard to get him to talk. Now he's almost talking too much so it's been a good change up."
It's Marlon Davidson's time to shine
After an up and down rookie season, Marlon Davidson looked enthusiastic on the practice fields. The Falcons drafted Davidson in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft and had high expectations for the former Auburn standout. Davidson suffered an injury during training camp and spent time on the reserve/COVID-19 list in his first year in the NFL. He played in eight games and recorded eight tackles and one pass deflection.
The Falcons will be counting on a bounce back season from Davidson in his second year.
Arthur Smith staying true to his word about holding players accountable
During the first portion of practice when the team was going through their special teams period, Smith was present coaching his players up as he was during rookie minicamp. Smith said from the beginning he would hold all of his players accountable, that's been noticeable since he got here.
Right before the end of practice, offensive lineman Sam Jones moved early which would have resulted in a false start penalty in a game. His teammates immediately yelled for Jones to take a lap around the field.
Smith's culture will be about accountability every day and that was on full display on Tuesday.
The Atlanta Falcons have entered Phase III of the offseason and kicked off organized team activities on Tuesday.