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Falcons begin 2024 rookie minicamp this weekend — top storylines to watch

Up next in the Falcons' offseason training program: the rookies come to Atlanta. 

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Welcome, rookies.

The Atlanta Falcons' potential first-year players arrived at the facility Thursday to begin their 2024 minicamp over the weekend. Below there will be three storylines worth keeping an eye on. But first, a quick summary of who will be in attendance, along with what they'll be doing.

There should be at least 18 newcomers, broken down into nine for the offense, eight for the defense and one for special teams. They'll fall under coordinators Zac Robinson, Jimmy Lake and Marquice Williams, respectively. And of course, over all is head coach Raheem Morris.

Eight were brought in from the 2024 NFL Draft: Michael Penix Jr. (Round 1, quarterback), Ruke Orhorhoro (Round 2, defensive tackle), Bralen Trice (Round 3, outside linebacker), Brandon Dorlus (Round 4, defensive tackle), JD Bertrand (Round 5, inside linebacker), Jase McClellan (Round 6, running back), Casey Washington (Round 6, wide receiver) and Zion Logue (Round 6, defensive tackle).

Another 10 undrafted free agents then agreed to terms with the Falcons shortly after the tentpole event concluded: Ryan Coll (offensive lineman), JaQuae Jackson (wide receiver), John Paddock (quarterback), Nolan Potter (offensive lineman), Jayden Price (cornerback), Anthony Sao (cornerback), Ryan Sanborn (punter), Austin Stogner (tight end), Trey Vaval (cornerback) and Isaiah Wooden (wide receiver).

No one has technically signed a contract yet. So, regardless of how anyone landed in Atlanta, each player now has the opportunity to prove his worth. All of the rookies will have to go through an introduction process that includes paperwork, meetings, medical, performance testing and equipment sizing, along with on- and off-field workouts. Draft picks are scheduled to meet with the media Friday after their first practice.

Now, as promised, those storylines:

— Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has been the talk of the town ever since the Falcons used their No. 8 overall pick to draft him, and that's not bound to change anytime soon.

The why behind the gossip is veteran Kirk Cousins, who signed a four-year $180 million contract back in March to be the Falcons' starting quarterback in 2024. The initial uproar over the Falcons' decision to double-down in that position room has since calmed down. General manager Terry Fontenot, head coach Raheem Morris and assistant general manager Kyle Smith have all explained the plan: Cousins is the present. Penix is the future. That's that.

Still, rookie minicamp will be the first time Penix suits up and practices as a Falcons member. Regardless of the outside conversations, that alone is noteworthy. It'll be interesting to see if he lives up to the hype from 2023 alone: an FBS-best passing yards per game (326.9), a first-team All-American selection and the Maxwell Award winner (given to best college football player).

— Defensive tackle overload. The Falcons drafted three in that position group alone: Ruke Orhorhoro, Brandon Dorlus and Zion Logue.

Similar to the Penix-Cousins situation, the Falcons making this move helps ensures their future at the tackle spot. Right now, they're set with veterans David Onyemata and Grady Jarrett. But Onyemata enters Year 9 and Jarrett enters Year 10. Both are 31 years old. There will come a time where their cleats will be hung up. It's inevitable. Then what? Hello, this trio of potential.

What's most curious, though, is the difference in size between Orhorhoro and Dorlus versus Logue. Orhorhoro is 6-foot-4 and 294 pounds. Dorlus is just an inch shorter and 11 pounds lighter. Logue, meanwhile, is much larger than both at 6-foot-5 and 314 pounds. Seeing how, if at all, that makes a difference in their play and usage will be interesting.

— Secondary reinforcements did not come to Atlanta via the draft. Instead, three cornerbacks agreed to terms with the Falcons as undrafted free agents: Jayden Price, Anthony Sao and Trey Vaval.

The Falcons need depth at cornerback more so than safety. The latter has starters Jessie Bates III, Richie Grant and DeMarcco Hellams back for action. But A.J. Terrell is missing an obvious counterpart in the former role. So, the scale tipping that way is no surprise.

Depending on how they perform, these cornerbacks could very well earn a bid on the training camp roster and fight for another on the 53-man list later. This is the start of their audition, essentially, which will make them interesting to watch. Say all goes well, these UDFAs could later compete against 2023 returners Clark Phillips III and Mike Hughes and also 2024 free-agent signees Kevin King and Antonio Hamilton Jr. So, basically, Atlanta brought in more options.

NOTE: Rookie minicamp is the Falcons' second installation of their 2024 offseason programs. The first was voluntary minicamp, held prior to the draft in April. The next will be Organized Team Activity sessions (OTAs), followed by mandatory minicamp, to finish out May and run into mid-June. There will then be a short break before training camp begins later in July.

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