The Falcons returned to practice Monday after having Sunday off. The session was one of the final two in Flowery Branch before the team heads to Houston for combined practices with the Texans.
1. Falcons Heading to Houston: The Falcons will have one more session of XFINITY® Atlanta Falcons Training Camp on Tuesday morning before loading up the plane and heading to Houston for two days of combined practices ahead of their preseason game Saturday. Head coach Mike Smith is looking forward to the chance to evaluate players against new competition, something he says makes these combined practices all the more valuable: "There's gonna be a lot of guys that did some things in the ballgame in Week 1 that are going to get an opportunity to play more in Week 2 — not just only in the game, but in practice."
2. Freeman Leaves Practice: Rookie running back Devonta Freeman left Monday's training camp practice and did not return to the field. Smith said after practice that he did not know why Freeman left but did say that he doesn't expect any injury that could have occurred to be serious.
3. Smith Set for Houston Defense: Running back Antone Smith has turned heads since he started to get more ball carrying opportunities for the Falcons last season, and after a strong performance in the first preseason game, Smith is excited about the chance to see players like JJ Watt and Jadeveon Clowney across the line from him in combined practice sessions. Make no mistake, though — Smith isn't exactly star-struck: "I mean, they're just guys to us. Everybody's got pretty good players, so they're just big-name guys we've got to go against. We've got to go out there and do our job."
4. Yates Set to Return to Houston: Quarterback TJ Yates was in Houston not that long ago, a part of a trade in June that sent linebacker Akeem Dent to the Texans in exchange for the backup QB. He's looking forward to seeing some familiar faces, but more importantly, the chance to use the Falcons playbook against a defense he's familiar with: "That's what it's about, seeing different looks. We've gone against each other for so long, so many days straight except for the day with the Titans and the game, but it's good to just break up camp a little bit. It's not the everyday grind of just doing the same thing. ... We know they're a very good defense. They're going to bring it. It's going to be a challenge for us."
5. Matthews Eyeing Matchups vs. Clowney, Watt: Rookie Jake Matthews has a test in front of him as the Falcons will get very familiar with a strong defense this week. He could see himself in matchups against Watt and draft-mate Clowney, and having the chance to measure himself this week is an opportunity he relishes: "Like I've said, I love the challenge of going against the best players. I want to see where I'm at. I want to see where I can improve. There's always going to be areas I can improve in so it's going to be a really good challenge for us up front."
Extra Note: Tuesday will be the final day of XFINITY® Atlanta Falcons Training Camp open to the public. Gates will open at 8 a.m. and practice is set for a 9 a.m. start.