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Question of the Week: What did you learn from first open practice with rookies and veterans? 

Organized Team Activities began Monday in Atlanta, but Tuesday was the first practice open to media. Rookies and veterans alike were in attendance. 

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Roll call has returned, which can only mean one thing: So have all the Atlanta Falcons.

That's right, rookies and veterans finally mixed and mingled. They officially converged Monday with the official start of Organized Team Activities. There was then a full two-hour open practice Tuesday that media could attend.

That prompts the latest Question of the Week: What is the biggest takeaway from the two parties being together on the field? The Falcons editorial staff of Tori McElhaney, Terrin Waack and Amna Subhan answer.


McELHANEY: A healthy Kyle Pitts is a fun Kyle Pitts.

Here's the thing, I really wanted to talk about the defense because (spoiler alert) Terrin highlights the wide receivers in this Question of the Week and Amna is talking quarterbacks. I needed to give the defense some love. However, it's really difficult to do so right now because that unit doesn't get to do what its members are fundamentally taught to do... which is defend. They can't tackle. There's absolutely no contact. They can't go up and get what would be considered 50/50 balls in real life. They're going at a rate of maybe 25%. That doesn't breed very many learnings about who this defense is and what it could be in 2024.

Here's what you can see during OTAs, though: Pitts' health.

It's no secret Pitts' season-ending knee injury in 2022 lingered into 2023. He said as much when he was made available to the media Tuesday. Raheem Morris also made note of Pitts' health when asked about the Falcons picking up Pitts' fifth-year option.

"Getting a healthy Kyle Pitts back gives you a very dynamic player that we believe in a lot. Hence the picking up his option for -- hopefully -- our immediate and long-term future," Morris said. "... We all know what he could be, and that's the job of a coach, right? To find out what a player can be and go get the best out of him. Hopefully, myself along with all of our coaches, we can go get the best version of Kyle Pitts because that will be really good for all of us."

It's not just the coaches, either, who can help get the best version of Pitts on the field in 2024. A portion of Pitts' production will fall on the shoulders of the man feeding him the ball: Kirk Cousins. Even in OTAs and even against nothing but air, you can feel a sense of ease from passer to pass-catcher. It's something receiver Darnell Mooney spoke of on Tuesday, too.

"I just have to win, Mooney said, "and the ball will be in the right spot every time."

If you don't think this matters for the Falcons and Pitts specifically, have you watched the last two seasons?

Atlanta Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts #8 during OTAs at Atlanta Falcons Training Facility in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (Photo by Shanna Lockwood/Atlanta Falcons)

WAACK: Rather than just say my takeaway, I'm going to share a short story that paints the picture I saw.

There was once a lone wolf named Drake London. He was the only Falcons wide receiver signed for 2024, set to be thrown out into the wild that is the practice field.

"I don't think I could go out there and do it by myself," London said.

The Falcons leader, head coach Raheem Morris, knew that, too, so he started to form a pack for London.

The first to be recruited was actually a familiar wolf, KhaDarel Hodge, who played for the Falcons in 2023. He re-signed March 14.

Then, Morris looked outward for more wolves, bringing in Rondale Moore (also March 14), Darnell Mooney (March 15) and Ray-Ray McCloud (March 18).

That's now five wide receivers in a five-day span. Still, not enough. Some youth was needed among these elder wolves.

So, Morris drafted Casey Washington and gave chances to some other newcomers looking for a home, such as Austin Mack, JaQuae Jackson, Chris Blair, Dylan Drummond and Isaiah Wooden.

Also, can't forget Josh Ali, an injured wolf from 2023 who's healthy for 2024.

Moral of this short story: safety in numbers.

"I feel much better," London said.

SUBHAN: The Falcons' quarterback room may be the most newsworthy storyline from a national perspective after Atlanta selected Michael Penix Jr. in the 2024 NFL Draft despite signing veteran Kirk Cousins to a big contract in fee agency. But when the quarterbacks take the field, all I see is depth.

The depth feels especially pertinent after Atlanta dealt with quarterback instability for a couple years now. Quarterback is arguably the most important position in sports. The Falcons seriously invested in it, and now we're starting to see the fruits of that investment in OTA practices.

Whether it's Cousins hitting tight end Kyle Pitts in stride with timing mimicking in-season familiarity or Penix developing by staying after practice to key in on plays and motions, there's a sense of security watching the group in red jerseys run drills.

The two put the unavoidable interpersonal part of their dynamic to rest as narratives swirled. Penix answered questions about it last week during rookie minicamp, and Cousins addressed it Tuesday. Both quarterbacks were professional and said all the right things because, at the end of the day, they're just ready to work and — more importantly — ready to win.

"The quarterback room is a working force for one another, and that's never not been the case," Cousins said. "... That dynamic has always been there and always will be there."

That's not even to mention the third signal-caller in the room, Taylor Heinicke, who started a handful of games for Atlanta last year. So, whatever might happen during the season, and a lot can unfold in the NFL, the Falcons will be steady at the quarterback position.

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