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Minicamp Takeaways

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Minicamp takeaways: Calvin Johnson shows up for Falcons' final practice

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – A notable guest was in attendance for Day 3 of Falcons Minicamp built by The Home Depot.


Calvin Johnson, a.k.a., Megatron, was hard to miss among the players and coaches on a beautiful Thursday afternoon. The former Detroit Lions star retired from the NFL following the 2015 season, but Johnson certainly looks like he could still play the game today.

At one point, Johnson was speaking with Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and receivers Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu and Calvin Ridley, and, man, what a collection of talent in one place.

"Sometimes those guests, there's a topic or a thing that you can gain from," Falcons coach Dan Quinn said after practice. "And I thought, what rookie player here wouldn't gain from [Johnson's] mindset? … Those little interactions I always think are good."

Falcons relying on peer-to-peer coaching

While veterans like Ryan and Sanu got reps during these three minicamp practices, it was rookies and newcomers who saw the majority of the snaps for the Falcons. Quinn explained after practice that was by design. Between the coaching staff and the veterans on the team, there is hundreds of years of football knowledge to pass along to the younger players.

Minicamp is often more about the mental side of the game than it is the physical side, and the Falcons relied upon the older players to help mentor the newcomers in that aspect. Over the next month before training camp kicks off, many of the players will continue to work out with one another away from the facility and Quinn is hoping these teaching lessons carry on.

"So many of them have good information to pass along, it shouldn't always come from the coaches," Quinn said of the veterans. "That's where some of the peer-to-peer teaching and accountability can go, because over the next four or five weeks it won't be with the coaches. They'll spend lots of time working out together, whether it's here locally or around the country."

Devonta Freeman is a 'multiplier'

The Falcons sure seem glad to have running back Devonta Freeman out on the field and healthy. He's been one of the standout players dating back to organized team activities, and Freeman looked sharp going through his drills.

Freeman's return will impact the Falcons in more ways than one, according to Quinn. When describing what Freeman means to the team, he used the word "multiplier" to describe how the running back's energy and enthusiasm ripples throughout the locker room and the huddle.

"His energy, his toughness, what he can bring to the team is significant," Quinn said. "He affects more than just one person. There's a couple of guys like that on our team that are multipliers and bring extra energy for others; do things to help other players around them perform better. And when you have players like that competing at their best, it only makes the team better."

Kaleb McGary feels like he 'sucked less'

One thing that became immediately clear after the Falcons drafted tackle Kaleb McGary: The dude has a phenomenal personality. McGary doesn't shy away from conversation and is self-deprecating in the best kind of way.

It was no surprise then to hear him describe how his first NFL minicamp went. McGary learned just how fast the game is at the professional level, but he's beginning to pick up his assignments and role. On the field, both McGary and Lindstrom had a few hiccups but by and large looked like they belonged.

"It went well," McGary said of his first minicamp. "I went from feeling and looking like I sucked to feeling and looking like I sucked less. Nah, I think it went well. It was fun. It was awesome to be around the older guys and learn from them. There's so much knowledge in the room and so much experience and willingness to teach and help. It's been awesome, an awesome experience for me. I'm actually kind of bummed that it's over now."

Other observations from Day 3

  • Justin Hardy made the catch of minicamp during individual drills. While practicing back-shoulder throws at the right front pylon of the end zone, Hardy leapt up and over receivers coach Raheem Morris, hung in the air for a moment and snatched the ball out of the air with his left hand. It was quite the one-handed catch and drew cheers from all who saw it.
  • The quarterbacks, receivers and running backs spent a couple of minutes trying to throw a football into a trash can situated about 35 yards away. Matt Ryan hit the trash can on his first attempt, and he later made it into the trash can towards the end of practice. Devonta Freeman was the only other player who hit the trash can, so be ready for some halfback passes (kidding).
  • Running back Qadree Ollison scored a touchdown during the final period of practice. He's strung together a nice minicamp, showcasing his skills as a runner and a receiver.
  • Rookie receiver Olamide Zaccheaus had a nice catch in the back of the end zone during that same period, but he couldn't manage to stay inbounds.
  • Safety Sharrod Neasman had a nice pass breakup during 11-on-11 drills, flying in front of the intended receiver to swat the ball away.