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Practice report: Running backs active in receiving game, young corners emerge

Arthur Smith working Mike Davis, Qadree Ollison into passing game, Chris Williamson, Darren Hall flash in secondary

Atlanta Falcons running back Mike Davis #28 and cornerback Fabian Moreau #22 during AT&T Atlanta Falcons Training Camp at Atlanta Falcons Headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Saturday July 31, 2021. (Photo by Kara Durrette/Atlanta Falcons)

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – The football gets spread around in Arthur Smith's offensive system.

We've talked extensively about how the Falcons will use a strong tight-end group. Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage and separation-creating receivers will have opportunities aplenty.

So might the running backs, who were auditioning for receiving roles during Sunday's practice.

In other words, the skill players must learn to share.

We're still in the experimentation phases regarding some play calls and how they're executed, but those on hand saw the running backs get a workout. And it wasn't just Cordarrelle Patterson, a former receiver turned running back who is always dangerous in the flat or any other open space.

Mike Davis and Qadree Ollison were also frequent targets, as they have been in recent days. Davis is expected to be a featured back, and Ollison could earn a significant role with a strong summer.


Smith has liked practice efforts from those two early on.

"It's clear that both guys are very smart players. That's obvious about both of them," Smith said. "They have pretty good hands, and we're trying to push to see what they can do. That's part of our job. We need to make sure they can (do. We're trying to test them and be aggressive.

"We want to try certain things and see if we can make certain throws. If you don't take those chances in practice, it will never happen in a game. The easiest thing to do would be to check down all day and feel good and pad your stats. We're not going to do that. We're happy with both of those guys."

Smith also singled out undrafted free agents Javian Hawkins and Caleb Huntley for a solid start to camp. We'll learn more about these backs operating Smith's system when pads come on Tuesday morning.

"It's a long season, and we'll see who can carve out a role, who can take over on third down," Smith said. "The competition's good for the entire room."

Young cornerbacks emerging

A.J. Terrell had another standout performance Sunday that included an interception, but he wasn't the only impressive young cover man on the field.

Rookie Darren Hall always seems to be around the ball, including a pass break-up tipped into the air that Dwayne Johnson grabbed for an interception.

Smith praised Chris Williamson unprompted during his Sunday press conference.

"Chris keeps showing up," Smith said, "and did again today."

That's true. The first-year cornerback out of Minnesota is off to a strong start with a few flash plays to his credit. We didn't see Saturday's interception fest redux, but the defensive backs continued making nice plays.

Catch of the day

Sunday's award goes to…Chris Rowland. The Tennessee alum went completely horizontal diving for a moderately low liner that only he could grab and survived the ground to make a nice reception.

More practice notes

While pads weren't on to add intrigue, offensive and defensive linemen squared off in one-on-one and tandem pass-rushing drills. Those are always fun, especially between talents at the top of their game. Grady Jarrett and Chris Lindstrom faced off a few times. Lindstrom won most rounds, but they were battles on every occasion. …Kyle Pitts moves around the formation, which you already knew. You don't see other tight ends doing that, however, meaning Pitts has a special and unique role designed to accentuate his talents. Olamide Zaccheaus was mentioned yesterday and deserves to be again after another quality showing. He could well be the third receiver in the pattern alongside Ridley and Gage when that's required. It's definitely a role to watch as we move forward.

Tight end Kyle Pitts is locked in as he works through his first training camp. Take a look at the best images from Day 4 of 2021 AT&T Atlanta Falcons Training Camp.

A fan cheers at players from the Delta Club field level patio, during AT&T Military Appreciation Training Camp at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, on Sunday August 4, 2019. (Photo by Kelly Kline/Atlanta Falcons)

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!

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