FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Kyle Pitts lined up out wide, setting up face to face with A.J. Terrell. Thursday's practice wasn't the first time the Falcons' last two first-round NFL Draft picks have matched up, and it certainly won't be the last.
This one, though, was a particularly fierce contest.
Pitts headed downfield with Terrell glued to his hip, the two battling for proper positioning all the way. The ball sailed their way, and Pitts tried use his height and vertical leap to catch the ball where Terrell couldn't reach it.
Terrell wouldn't let Pitts stretch out, angling his arm through the tight end's catching radius to render the attempt incomplete.
That's not the first time Terrell has done that to a top Falcons pass catcher. The last year's No. 16 overall pick has been excellent thus far in camp, seemingly ready to take the next step towards becoming a lockdown corner.
While Pitts, Calvin Ridley and others will surely win some of these showdowns, they're productive for all involved as the Falcons best prepare for the regular season.
That also didn't happen by accident. The Falcons are creating these scenarios so, as they like to say in football, iron sharpens iron. There's great benefit in doing that for Pitts, who is transitioning from college to the NFL game. Going against Terrell will help him prepare for the best opposition. It works both ways, with Terrell refining his skills as well.
"There are things we set up logistically in practice to make sure you're getting that," Falcons head coach Arthur Smith said. "We feel good about how A.J. is playing out here, and it's good for Kyle. We need the best guys to match up to find out about them. We can go out there and spot throw to them while I cover him, but it's not what you're going to see in the NFL. It was good to see them. It was good to see A.J. step up there in tight spaces.
"It was good to see him body up on [Cordarelle Patterson]. He's not small either. That was impressive from A.J. today as well."
Graham lost for the year
Smith said that tight end Jaeden Graham was lost for the year with a knee injury. He was placed on injured reserve on Thursday. It's a virtual certainty he'll have surgery to repair it, cutting his third NFL season off before it began. It was a disappointment for the Falcons and certainly Graham, a Yale product who had an excellent shot to make the team as a fourth tight end.
"Jaeden has put a lot into this," Smith said. "You hate this for anybody you coach. It's very emotional. This is his life. It's a tough game, a tough business. It's unfortunate that he happened. Jaeden is a guy who cares, a great teammate and a hard worker. You really feel for him.
More practice news and notes
Defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard has stood out in recent practices and is making a play for a spot in the rotation. Adetokunbo Ogundeji has also been seen working with the first team at end more and more. Drew Dalman continues working in at left guard, where Smith said he has been a "pleasant surprise." The offensive line competition is going to take some time, with Kaleb McGary's eventual return. If he comes back strong, then Jalen Mayfield might earn a look at left guard alongside Josh Andrews. Dalman may be a versatile interior swing man for fight for a starting gig. There are a lot of variables up in the air at those spots and, as Smith says, "it will separate itself during camp." … Patterson flashed his speed yet again on a red-zone touchdown run, proving again he's a threat if he can reach the outside. … Thursday marked the final open practice at the team's training complex. Fans can see one more practice on Saturday at Mercedes Benz Stadium.
The coaches and staff wore green shirts to support the Novelis Rise Up & Recycle initiative on Day 7 of 2021 AT&T Atlanta Falcons Training Camp.
2021 AT&T Atlanta Falcons Training Camp: Dirty Birds Open Practice
WHEN: August 7th
WHERE: Mercedes-Benz Stadium
TIME: 2:00 PM ET
The 2021 AT&T Atlanta Falcons Training Camp: Dirty Birds Open Practice entertainment, including cheerleaders, drumline and Atlanta Falcons Legends, will kick-off when gates open and fans are encouraged to arrive early to enjoy Mercedes-Benz Stadium's award-winning food & beverage experience offering fan-first prices.
Tickets for the open practice at Mercedes-Benz Stadium will be $5 each and all proceeds will go to the Emory Healthcare's research and discovery programs.
Due to the current NFL protocols around COVID-19, there will not be opportunities for player autographs.
Stay tuned here for more information!