FLOWERY BRANCH, GA — A welcome sight during Saturday's morning practice was that of the No. 25 jersey on the field, participating in practice.
Safety William Moore, who has been out for much of training camp recovering from a groin injury, returned to the practice field as one of several players head coach Mike Smith has been targeting to get back for Friday's game at Miami.
The injury was one Moore was familiar with. He injured the same groin during OTAs and missed some time there. Moore said he felt excellent and in great shape after his first practice in a few weeks.
"It feels real good, man," Moore said. "Came out here, flying around a little bit, get back into the swing of things and have a good week of practice so I can play this week."
Moore was expected to battle with fellow safety Erik Coleman for the starting spot alongside Thomas DeCoud, but the second-year player will be worked back slowly now that he's back on the field. He is expected to play Friday.
Moore has been working on his game from a mental aspect since his injury. He was able to participate in a lot of work with the training and athletic development staff throughout camp, but he missed a lot of mental reps on the field. Still, he doesn't feel the slightest bit behind.
"That's the whole thing with an injury," Moore said. "You've got to show that you can come back and be right on speed when you come out here. That's what I tried to show today."
A bright spot: The Falcons defensive line has showed out in both preseason games with a lot of penetration and run-stopping ability. On Thursday, two players in particular stood out.
Defensive tackle Trey Lewis and defensive end Kroy Biermann both had spectacular games for the Falcons, causing a lot of problems for New England's offensive line.
Biermann, in particular, is having a great preseason. In the Falcons' 20-10 win over the Chiefs during the first preseason game, Biermann put on a performance that turned a lot of heads. After Thursday's loss to the Patriots, Smith was emphatic about a lot of things during his postgame news conference, one of which being Biermann's chances of earning a starting position.
"I'm out here to work. I'm out here to help this team win and I'm out here to do what they ask me to do," Biermann said Saturday in response to Smith's comments. "Whatever that role is come Week 1, I'll do it to the best of my ability and get it done."
Biermann had a sack and a forced fumble against the Chiefs and did the same against the Patriots. His preseason is creating a lot of high expectations for what he can accomplish when the regular season rolls around.
"I don't want to put a limit on him, but good things," Lewis said with a laugh when talking about Biermann's potential. "Good things."
Lewis might have to deal with some of the same high expectations after his game Thursday night. The third-year defensive tackle spent much of his night in the backfield and left Smith with a very good impression as he called Lewis one of the few bright spots of the night.
An injury to rookie defensive tackle Corey Peters and a one-game suspension for Jonathan Babineaux means the rest of the defensive tackles have to step up, Lewis said. There is no word yet on how long Peters will be out.
Lewis said he's relying on backups to really pick up the slack and be ready to play whenever they're called upon.
"We've had a lot of injuries on the D-line, and we've done a pretty good job of rotating, getting guys to come in quick and fill that position," he said. "It goes back to backups. You've got to be paying attention when you're not in there, so when you do get in, you can pick up where they left off. I say this season, that's been more important than ever."
No moves expected: Smith was asked about how the season-ending knee injury to rookie wide receiver Kerry Meier affects the team's preparations as the Falcons push toward the regular season.
Smith quickly dispelled any notion that the Falcons might be looking to bring in more talent.
"We feel good where we're at with our guys," Smith said. "Harry (Douglas) is back, so I don't anticipate that we need to do anything in terms of our roster."
The week ahead: Smith, particularly upset Thursday and Saturday about the Falcons' performance against the Patriots, laid out a very clear plan of how he will attack some of the issues that arose during Thursday night's game.
Smith said he was very disappointed in the defense's inability to get off the field in third-down situations. The Patriots converted 65 percent of their third-down attempts.
"My biggest concern is the way we played third down," Smith said Saturday. "You can't have situations where you're in third-and-7 on the first drive and have them convert on checkdown passes and get first downs. We've got to make sure that we make solid tackles and knock the ball carrier back. They also scored three of their four touchdowns on third down. One was a third-and-12."
Smith also noted that he will be focusing on how to get the Falcons' scoring issues solved. During the first two preseason games, Falcons offensive drives stalled on a regular basis, forcing the team to rely on the kicking game for points.
And that's a wrap: The Falcons finished their final two-a-day practice day for the 2010 training camp this afternoon. They practiced this morning at 10:40 a.m. — a later start than anticipated because of poor weather in Flowery Branch — and they wrapped with a 3:45 p.m. practice.
Camp was scheduled to break Sunday after a 9:30 a.m. special teams session, but the practice was canceled by Smith to allow his players an extra day of rest before the Falcons get into full game preparation for the Miami game..
"This is our last two-a-day," Smith said. "We're going to start into our one-a-days, so we're getting into the routine for our players of how we're going to prepare for our regular season games. Even though these last two games are in the preseason, we're still going to go through the process, the procedure and the logistics of how we prepare for a regular season game."