FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – The Atlanta Falcons’ Minicamp built by The Home Depot kicked off on Tuesday and everyone was present and accounted for.
After missing voluntary organized team activities, Julio Jones, Grady Jarrett, Deion Jones and Vic Beasley were back with the team for the start of minicamp. Of that group, only Beasley actually participated in practice, but that was all according to plan. Austin Hooper and Desmond Trufant were also excused from practice, and Keanu Neal did some limited work on the field.
But, as coach Dan Quinn explained after practice, this isn’t a time meant for the star players. It’s a time for the younger guys to get up to speed and for the new Falcons to put plenty of reps on film.
“I’m sure you saw us featuring a lot of the newest Falcons in a lot of different variety of ways,” Quinn said. “The veteran free agents, certainly the draft picks and the college free agents, they got the lion’s share of the work today.”
Here are some key takeaways and observations from the Falcons’ first minicamp:
Vic Beasley has ‘zero mental errors’ on first day back
Beasley spent the offseason working out on his own, but he came back focused and ready to go. The Falcons’ defensive end told reporters he spent time working out individually with Steelers pass rusher Bud Dupree, but it’s Quinn and defensive line coach Jess Simpson who get to work Beasley now.
In his first practice back, Beasley appears to have made a good impression. The fifth-year end got about half of the reps he normally would due to the emphasis on newer players, but he handled those reps well.
“His attention to the detail was excellent,” Quinn said of Beasley. “I thought he had good quickness. So, for the first time out to have zero mental errors, I thought that says a lot about his retention.”
One of the primary areas of his game Beasley said he worked on this offseason was his conditioning, and he believes he’s coming into camp in really good shape. Another key focus for Beasley and Quinn moving forward is to make each and every rush move look alike at the snap.
“When you’re able to do that and keep a lineman guessing, that’s when you have the best chance at success as a rusher,” Quinn said.
Chris Lindstrom getting off to a strong start
Chris Lindstrom was viewed as one of the most NFL-ready offensive linemen in this year’s draft, and thus far that assessment appears to be correct. The rookie has looked smooth in both run blocking and pass protection, even earning his way into the starting lineup for the final practice of OTAs.
The Falcons continue to work with Lindstrom on the finer details of pass blocking such as hand placement, but Quinn is pleased with how Atlanta’s first draft pick has looked.
“He’s really had a hell of a start in picking up the system,” Quinn said. “In the run game his movement and quickness is like we thought it would be … He’s really established his identity of who he is as a player as quickly as you could.”
Ra’Shede Hageman shows off power
One sign of how poised Lindstrom looks is that he held his own against Ra’Shede Hageman on back-to-back plays, which wasn’t something other linemen could say. During one particular 11-on-11 period, Hageman blew his way into the backfield on consecutive plays, showing what type of disruptive force he can be at times.
The Falcons’ defensive line is far from sorting itself out at this point, but if Hageman can string together more plays like the pair he showed today, Atlanta will certainly benefit from his presence on the interior.
Calvin Ridley back out on the field
After being held out of the Falcons’ final OTA practice, Calvin Ridley was back out on the field and looked unencumbered while running routes.
Other observations from practice
Kurt Benkert received the vast majority of 11-on-11 reps, and he connected with Christian Blake on a deep touchdown pass early in practice.
Running back Kenjon Barner and rookie receivers Marcus Green and Shawn Bane were the three players returning punts and kicks at practice.
Russell Gage has looked noticeably improved as a receiver so far in his second NFL season.
Damontae Kazee made a nice play to breakup a pass in man coverage.