Day two of minicamp for the 2014 rookies took place in Flowery Branch on Saturday. The guys gave their best effort while learning as much as possible.
1. Smith Offers More About Defense: The Falcons' defensive scheme for 2014 has been a hot topic of conversation among fans this offseason and head coach Mike Smith furthered the mystery behind it Saturday as he spoke about the different things the Falcons could do this year with a versatile bunch. We'll just let Smith take it from here: "We want to have a lot of flexibility. I think you see the trend is that there's no real true way that you displace your defenses. You can line up based on the down-and-distance and have no one with their hand in the ground. You can have three guys with their hand in the ground, two guys — there's nothing to say that you can't line up and have your safety with his hand in the ground. You might see William Moore do that." There you go. Let the discussions begin.
2. Rookies Have Uphill Climb: Smith said that no rookie class before has had as much against the 2014 version with both the CBA rules for how much contact teams can have and the NFL Draft being moved back two weeks later this year. The Falcons wasted no time getting the new rookies in as they reported to Flowery Branch on Sunday night and have been working with the coaching staff ever since, but Smith emphasized Saturday that this year's Rookie Club will have to take a lot of initiative to be up to speed by OTAs.
3. Shembo's Versatility: Notre Dame linebacker Prince Shembo might be the Swiss Army Knife of the Falcons' Rookie Club. Smith said Shembo's versatility is something the Falcons plan to exploit this year and it might just go further than you originally thought. Shembo was drafted as a linebacker, but Smith says Shembo can be a defensive end, an outside linebacker and an inside linebacker. "He's got the flexibility and, as you know as you've watched this defense develop and mature, we've got guys that line up in different spots. It may look like he's lined up as an inside linebacker but when the ball is snapped, he's doing the job of a defensive end. To me, that's the fun part of putting this defense together."
4. Running Back Roles Changing: The retirement of Jason Snelling has left the Falcons with the job of figuring out how to replace such a versatile back who could run up the middle and outside, catch passes and play the fullback position at times. The team drafted Devonta Freeman out of Florida State in the fourth round last week and he'll be a vital part of what the Falcons do in the future as far as filling that hole. In fact, Smith said, the entire running back corps will pitch in to pick up the slack in Snelling's absence. "We're going to take, for example, Antone Smith, and he's going to be a piece of what we were doing last year with a different player. We've got some options, and we've got to find out what Devonta Freeman can do." Then came Smitty's biggest statement about the RB position: "To me, if he can step up and be a good pass protector, he's got the chance to be a three-down back."
5. Replogle Embracing Position Switch: A year ago, Adam Replogle went through a similar situation he finds himself in this weekend — going through rookie minicamp, trying to learn a position in the NFL. This time around, however, he's on the other side of the ball. Replogle, who spent the 2013 season on the Falcons' practice squad as a defensive tackle before being signed to the active roster for the final game, has been moved to the offensive line and has been lining up at guard throughout rookie camp. Replogle says he can't remember the last time he played offensive line, but said it was likely in second grade as he spent his high school years playing fullback and his college years at Indiana playing defensive tackle. He showed something to the Falcons coaching staff last year, however, as a practice squad player that leads them to believe he might be well-suited to the other side of the ball, which is the impetus for the switch. Replogle has looked the part on the offensive line so far this weekend and offensive line coach Mike Tice has even had him do extra reps in team portions and drills to get him up to speed. "I'm going to give it my best shot and I'm going to study hard and do the extra stuff, so we'll see," Replogle said.
6. Freeman's Three Things: Devonta Freeman comes with a tremendous backstory of trials, tribulations and successes, and his most recent success, other than being drafted last weekend, came when Florida State earned a national championship. Freeman said he thinks his mindset can bring a lot to the table in the form of three things: "I'm all about perfection, consistency and I'm going to always be persistent. If somebody tells me no, I can't do this, I'm always going to be persistent and say, 'Yes, I can.' ... I know what it takes to win, all the hard work. It's going to take all of us to come together, the locker room, in treatment, the nutritionists, all that's gotta play a big part to get us the national cham... I mean, the Super Bowl."
7. Allen Looking to Make Impact: The Falcons secondary is a young group where players can come in and potentially vie for a spot in sub packages, and that definitely interests fifth round cornerback Ricardo Allen, out of Purdue, who ran down a laundry list of areas where he thinks he can fit in on the Falcons defense. "I feel like I can help this team on special teams. I can help this team on nickel packages. I can help this team on dime packages. I can help in any sub. If they wanted me to play safety, I can get back and play safety. I'm just here to compete every day and try my hardest."