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Five Things From XFINITY Camp: Practice 13

1. Coach Smith on Overall Progress: On the same day his team travels to Houston for combined practices and a Saturday preseason game against the Houston Texans, Falcons head coach Mike Smith evaluated the team's progress from the first day of practice through today's workout: "I think we've done some things very well at times and I think we've done some things that we've got to get better at and that's the way training camp is," Smith said. "It's going to be one day, you're feeling good about one segment of your offense or defense and the next day you're going, 'Where was that offense yesterday?'; it's up and down. I do like the way the guys are competing. That's the main emphasis for us and everyone knows what the situation is in terms of roster spots. They are playing the game like it's supposed to be played and I look forward to watching them finish off camp. When we come back, we'll have one day of double session and then we're going to get into game plan mode, but first, we've got a lot of work to do in Houston."

2. Starr Looking to Shine in Houston: The Falcons were efficient after practice on Tuesday, addressing reporters, before grabbing lunch and heading to the airport for Houston. From the moment the team arrives in Texas, Falcons rookie LB Tyler Starr is looking to continue building his on-field resume by making plays against the Texans.

"I'm not where I want to be, but I have seen improvements and I think I'm heading in the right direction," Starr said. "I'm going to prepare myself for this game and hopefully after it's done, I'll be able to say I took another step forward. I want to progress as a player and I think special teams is going to be huge this game, where I can come out and help do a little bit more in that aspect of the game."

3. Combined Practice Protocol in Houston: When the Falcons and Texans meet for combined practices, during the next few days, Coach Smith says the trip will be a lot like the Falcons combined practice with the Tennessee Titans, held earlier this month.

"I think it will be very similar in terms of the practice schedule and the practice structure," Smith said. "We're a little further along, so there will be some situational periods that will be different than the Titans practice, but again, we're talking about going down there and playing thud; we're not going to take guys to the ground. We want to have a good, clean practice. It's going to be good for us to compete against some really good players."

4. Falcons QB Competition: Since the beginning of XFINITY® Atlanta Falcons Training Camp, the team's QB meeting room has been occupied by franchise-star Matt Ryan, offseason addition QB T.J. Yates, second-year QB Sean Renfree and rookie QB Jeff Mathews; while Ryan is clearly the team leader, the signal callers behind him are each looking to prove their worth to the team. Falcons QBs coach Glenn Thomas has mentioned Ryan's leadership and the experience of Yates as vital strengths to the team and also assessed Renfree and Mathews.

On Sean Renfree - "He's got a knack to make plays," Thomas said. "He reads coverages extremely well, he's efficient pre-snap as far as getting the defense identified like we need and once the snap happens, he does a nice job of seeing the field and gets through his reads really, really well."

On Jeff Mathews - "He's extremely eager and excited about the opportunity," Thomas said. "He was extremely productive in college and you don't have to stand out here long to understand that he does have arm talent, he really does. He's picking things up really well in the classroom and now it's a matter of him getting an opportunity and showing what he can do on the field."

5. Soliai Provides Spark on DL:Who says you can't be a defensive tackle and have cat-like reflexes? Falcons DT Paul Soliai showcased his quick-reaction skills, with a near interception, early on in practice, instigating boisterous cheers from his defensive teammates. The 2011 Pro Bowl player, who played two seasons under then Dolphins defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, was proud of his drop move, but upset by not turning the deflection into an interception.

"It was a good drop (move)," Soliai said. "I'm not really a dropper; I was just doing my job and fortunately I was there at the right moment and should have made a play."

Like the rest of his Falcons teammates, Soliai is focused on proving some things early on in the 2014 season.

"Last week is not what we wanted," Soliai said of the defensive line play against the Miami Dolphins. "We've got to show people what we want to be this year and we've got to go out there and prove it; we can't just talk about it. We've just got to show it on tape."

Extra Rep: Falcons rookie RB Devonta Freeman returned to practice today, after leaving the team workout yesterday, due to slight dehydration, according to Coach Smith. Freeman again showed out at practice, making plays, both with and without the ball, continuing his impressive play that was showcased in the first preseason game, facing the Dolphins.

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