Practice report: Marcus Mariota's leadership, Arthur Smith on roster cutdown aftermath, plus other news and notes

Kaleb McGary returns to practice after a day away

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Falcons haven't reached a true game week yet, but they're getting awfully close. The roster has been trimmed to 53. September's just a day away.

This core must come together and perform well in a Week 1 contest against the rival New Orleans Saints.

Quarterback Marcus Mariota will play a huge role in that, both as a producer and leader of this offense and this team.

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"He as taken command of this offense," receiver Olamide Zaccheaus said after Wednesday's practice. "He knows he's our leader and he never takes that [responsibility] lightly. He's always just authentically him. He's so consistent and always does the little things right."

That sets the tone for a offensive striving for precision.

After a full preseason, Mariota has seen the team build and progress. Now, with the regular season on the immediate horizon, Mariota says it's time to take the next step.

"It comes down to our trust and our preparation," Mariota said. "We had a great training camp. We had great OTAs. Now it's just about putting it all together and believing that, when we go out there on the field, we're going to make plays. I'm excited for this group. I think we've got a competitive group. It's a fun group to be around. I'm looking forward to distributing the ball and giving these guys a chance."

First practice after final cuts

The Falcons practice field seemed empty -- relatively speaking, anyway – during Wednesday afternoon's workout. There was good reason behind it. The Falcons decreased their roster size by 27, to the league-mandated 53, on Tuesday afternoon. The practice squad isn't completely full and there are some transactions, plus injuries and personal matters keeping numbers low.

The main part is the drop from 80. While he has been through several cutdowns before, the first day is always odd.

"Yeah, you feel it as soon as you step into the team meeting room," head coach Arthur Smith said. "You're used to seeing a lot more people in there. It will fill back up as we continue to fill out the practice squad and some of the corresponding transactions happen over the next 48 hours.

"It's a tough business. Like I said after the [last] preseason game, I have a lot of respect for all the guys. We understand you're well compensated, but there's still a human element to this. You wish you could keep all the guys, but we can't. It certainly does fell a little bit different."

We take a look at the top snaps from 2022 AT&T Training Camp practice in Flowery Branch on Monday, August 29.

Notes, observations from practice

Roll call: Notable absences of Wednesday's 30-minute viewing period included WR Drake London, WR Bryan Edwards, ILB Deion Jones, DL Marlon Davidson, CB Mike Ford, RB Cordarrelle Patterson, S Dean Marlowe, OLB Arnold Ebiketie, OL Jalen Mayfield, and TE John Fitzpatrick. London, Davidson, and Mayfield continue to be out due to injuries.

"The picture will clear up for a lot of those guys," Smith said. "We're excited about Drake's progress, and we'll see where that goes, and those other guys, we'll wait and see how it plays out."

Hall continues to remain out due to a personal matter and Patterson will be back for Week 1. Following practice, Arthur Smith re-emphasized with transactions happening rapidly, things will continue to look fluid until Friday.

"With everything right now, we had to get our work in today," Smith said. "I've been on record many of times, this things fluid. It'll all clear up by tomorrow and certainly by Friday. We'll have a very clear picture of what the early roster is going to look like."

Offensive line: Kaleb McGary returned to practice and ran with the first team at right tackle and Germain Ifedi shifted to right guard. The center position continues to see a rotation between Matt Hennessy and Drew Dalman. Hennessy did start practice at first team center on Wednesday.

Nickel: With Ford not at practice today, Dee Alford remained in the starting nickel spot in which he has seen significant reps at. To reiterate what was in Monday's practice report, this is something to keep an eye on as Week 1 approaches next week.

Practice squad: There were a few practice squad members who were practicing today, including S Teez Tabor, RB Caleb Huntley, OLB Jordan Brailford, CB Matt Hankins, WR Cam Batson, TE MyCole Pruitt and WR Josh Ali.

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