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Practice report: Arthur Smith explains plan for Josh Rosen

New Falcons quarterback expected to play against Browns

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Atlanta Falcons quarterback Josh Rosen #16 runs drills during AT&T Atlanta Falcons Training Camp at Atlanta Falcons Headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Wednesday August 25, 2021. (Photo by Dakota Williams/Atlanta Falcons)

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- There was a very distinct domino effect that began when AJ McCarron left the Falcons second preseason game with a torn ACL. The first one that fell was Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith going back to the drawing board when it came to their backup quarterback battle. They needed to bring someone in and they needed to do so quickly.

Enter the second domino: Josh Rosen, who the Falcons signed on Tuesday and who went through his first practice with the team on Wednesday. According to Smith, the plan for Rosen will have to be tapered back.

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Rosen didn't have a large role during Wednesday's practice. He had limited reps during the live drills, with Matt Ryan and Feleipe Franks taking a vast majority of snaps under center. During the 11-on-11 periods, Franks ran the operation for the second and third teams.

This is by design. Smith said he isn't going to throw Rosen to the wolves just yet. They'll increase his workload Thursday, give him more plays to run through and "see how well he handles it."

"Our plan for Josh is obviously to give him a fair shot this week," Smith said. "We have to get him ready to play."

And that's because he will. The domino effect of McCarron's injury is that the plan has changed for Sunday's final preseason game. The Falcons need to figure out what's going on behind Ryan on the depth chart, and that makes Sunday important because the original plan had to be shifted.

"The offseason, the practices, everything leading up was with the quarterbacks who were here with AJ and Feleipe and now we've had to add Josh," Smith said. "We want to make sure that we give him enough of a sample size. It definitely changes your plan."

Even in saying that, Smith was fortunate that he's in a situation with Ryan as the starter. Through the first two preseason games, Ryan hasn't taken the first snap under center. Even with a new scheme being implemented, Smith said Ryan isn't someone he's worried about, which turns more eyes to who emerges behind the starting quarterback.

"If we had a younger quarterback situation then maybe I would be a little more concerned, but I'm not really concerned with Matt," Smith said. "That's dictating our decision here in Atlanta."

And that decision may be that we don't see Ryan much on Sunday at all. Maybe he'll get a series this time, perhaps two. But it wouldn't be at all shocking if it's even less than that. And that seems to be OK with Smith, and with Ryan, too.

"I feel really good," Ryan said. "I'm at a point in my career where I know how to get myself ready to go."

So, it doesn't seem like a necessity to play Ryan much at all on Sunday night. It is a necessity, however, to get a clearer picture of what the backup role looks like moving forward and if Rosen is a good fit to replace McCarron.

Smith said Rosen will play on Sunday. The Falcons signed him. They must see him. So, expect ample playing time for Rosen and Franks against the Browns.

But it won't be flashy. Smith has a watered down version of the playbook ready for Rosen to become familiar with before Sunday.

"It's not like we're going to say, 'Here. Everything is on the table Sunday night. Here ya go, bud,'" Smith said. "We will have it packaged for him to give him a fair shot."

So, that's the plan for the backup quarterbacks. It's not the original plan, but sometimes the dominos fall and a new plan has to emerge.

Tori's Tidbits

+ Marlon Davidson and John Cominsky were back at practice on Wednesday. Erik Harris was also practicing after taking Monday off. This – in turn – dropped Jaylinn Hawkins back down to working with the second team.

+ With final cuts coming next week, some names to keep in mind are Chris Rowland and Frank Darby. As of Wednesday, it seemed that both Christian Blake and Tajae Sharpe are in a better position to make the 53-man than the former duo. When asked about the wide receiver position, Smith said he is pleased with the competition thus far, but when specifically looking at Blake and Sharpe, Smith said they are valuable because of their versatile skillset.

"Those guys play multiple spots in the receiver room," Smith said. "… When you're up on game day and you're not the top two guys, you have to be able to play multiple spots, and both of those guys can do that."

+ Josh Andrews had to be treated on the sideline for cramps towards the end of practice. Jalen Mayfield took his spot at left guard with the first team during the 11-on-11 period. The battle for right tackle is becoming obvious. Now fully healthy after missing the first portion of training camp, it's Kaleb McGary’s spot to lose.

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