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OTA report: Kirk Cousins explains why current QB situation with Michael Penix Jr. is 'more the norm'

Plus notes and observations from Tuesday's open practice, including roll call, injury updates and schedule release reminder. 

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — The moment many had been waiting for came and went Tuesday without any major surprises.

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Kirk Cousins was made available to the media for the first time since the 2024 NFL Draft, aka when quarterback Michael Penix Jr. was selected in the first round and everyone started questioning the franchise's decision to double-down at the premier position.

A major hindsight question was therefore asked and answered, both reasonably so.

Reporter: "Hey, Kirk. Transparency and communication are essential. When the Falcons were courting you, if they would have told you then that they were going to pick a quarterback at (No.) 8, would you have signed?"

Cousins: "I don't really deal in hypotheticals. We could go down that path for a long time in a lot of ways. It just doesn't do us any good. I'm excited for this opportunity that I have. I think it's a real privilege to be a quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, and I'm trying to make good on the opportunity that they've given me with the way I work each day and the way we play this fall."

The lack of drama shouldn't be surprising for two reasons.

First, Cousins is a professional. He has been in the NFL going on 13 years now. It's no wonder coaches and even teammates think he's perfect for Penix to develop behind.

"Kirk is trying to win a Super Bowl," Falcons head coach Raheem Morris said. "Kirk is in full-blow preparation mode to set the Atlanta Falcons up for the best success that they could possibly have."

Said wide receiver Drake London: "He's an all-around pro. He does everything right — off the field, on the field."

Penix, too, is in support of this notion.

"I'm super, super blessed to be able to right here in this position right now, obviously with a veteran in front of me," Penix said at rookie minicamp last week. "Just learning from him and going about my business each and every day. Just trying to find ways to improve and get to where he is: multiple years in the league. That's what I want."

Secondly, Cousins has been in similar situations before, which he noted himself.

In 2007, Cousins signed with Michigan State. Two weeks later, he recalled, quarterback Nick Foles committed.

In 2012, Cousins was drafted by the Washington Commanders in the fourth round. The Commanders had already picked quarterback Robert Griffin III in the first round.

"The response is that this is the exception when really, if you know my story, this is more the norm of the journey," Cousins said. "It's more: OK, let's just start working and start building together."

That's exactly what Cousins told the Falcons brass when he got the call about Penix.

"It's always going to be a competition in this league, and you always got to go out and earn it," Cousins said. "I'm going to control what I can control and also understand there's a lot you don't control."

So, on Monday when Organized Team Activities began in Atlanta, Cousins went to work. Penix did, too. As did fellow quarterbacks Taylor Heinicke and John Paddock, who are also rostered.

Altogether, they did the same Tuesday. And will again Thursday.

Cousins may already hold the title of QB1. But he's never going to be alone in the position group.

"I think it's so important that the quarterback room is just working together to help one another succeed," Cousins said. "That's the way it's always been. That's the way it always needs to be, no matter what the names are in the room."

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Kirk Cousins #18 during OTAs at Atlanta Falcons Training Facility in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Monday, May 13, 2024. (Photo by Shanna Lockwood/Atlanta Falcons)

Notes, observations from practice

Roll call: The Falcons were without four players for Tuesday's practice, two from the same position group. Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett is progressing well through his recovery from a season-ending knee injury in 2023, Morris said. However, Jarrett was not practicing with the team. Also not in attendance for practice was running backs Bijan Robinson and Jace McClellan. Robinson has an ankle injury, while McClellan is still working through a foot injury that kept him sidelined for the SEC championship with Alabama this past December.

Though not a name specifically mentioned by Morris, Falcons edge rusher Ade Ogundeji was not seen on the field with the team. He's returning from a 2023 foot injury.

Tryout players make the roster: The Falcons announced Monday afternoon that they signed three tryout players from the weekend's rookie minicamp. Those three were defensive lineman Bradlee Anae, safety Dane Cruikshank and wide receiver Dylan Drummond. Here is what Morris had to say about each and why the Falcons valued their skill sets enough to keep them in Atlanta longer:

  • Anae: "When we're talking about up front, it was the size of Bradlee Anae. It was some of the pass-rush ability that he actually showed within the drill work that we were able to go about. I know he's a veteran and played a little bit. I was eager to give him another chance, and he really fired me up."
  • Cruikshank: "It's some of the potential special teams (abilities) from Shank that he's already brought to the league and brought to the table. He got a chance to show us last week with some of the movements and some of the things he was able to do in the special teams drills. He's got good size as well."
  • Drummond: "With the young wideout we signed, it was the movement and how sound he was. It was actually some of the things that he's brought from other places. You can see that he's been coached up really well."

First-look secondary: The Falcons notably did not draft a cornerback in the 2024 NFL Draft. In the weeks since, both Morris and general manager Terry Fontenot have been asked frequently about the decision, and every time, Morris makes a note about feeling confident in the abilities of the players already on the roster. That includes players like veteran Mike Hughes and second-year player Clark Phillips III.

As the lineup played out in Tuesday's practice, it was Hughes over Phillips opposite A.J. Terrell, while Dee Alford slotted into nickel with the first team.

Plethora of return options: The Falcons are not without capable bodies in the return game. In fact, nine players rotated through the return-man role. Avery Williams was the first up throughout most of the special teams period of practice. He is returning from a season-ending knee injury that happened during OTAs last offseason. Other names to keep in mind who were taking reps are Hughes, Alford, Ray-Ray McCloud, Natrone Brooks, Carlos Washington Jr. and Isaiah Wooden.

Heavy rotation: One of the main questions about the Falcons inside linebacker core is what do the Falcons do with three players at the position with significant playing time? Kaden Elliss, Troy Andersen and Nate Landman can – and have – started games at the professional level. They've all performed well at the professional level, too. Andersen is returning from a season-ending pectoral injury, so his recent reps were limited in comparison to the other two. However, he returns to full-go in 2024 and all three will be working toward significant playing time this season.

Speaking of playing time, it wasn't uncommon to see any combination of the three working through the first-team reps. One can maybe infer it wouldn't be strange to see three-linebacker sets, as well, if the play call calls for it.

Schedule release tease: As a reminder, the Falcons' official 2024 schedule will be released Wednesday. Check back on for all the latest news and ticketing information.

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