The Falcons began the third week of OTAs on Tuesday. Take a look at these pictures of the guys at the Branch.
1. Roddy Returns: Falcons wide receiver Roddy White was back on the field for OTAs this week after spending a few weeks with his family following the death of his brother. Head coach Mike Smith said it was great to get White back on the field, but more importantly, it was a chance to get back around his supporting "football family."
2. Offseason Attendance Has Been Big: Smith marveled at the Falcons' attendance at offseason workouts, which are voluntary. He said, throughout the offseason, the Falcons have only had one or two players miss practice and workout sessions, if at all. "That says a lot about these guys," Smith said. "They want to work."
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3. Star Presence Helps: Julio Jones was also at OTAs Tuesday, although there was no sign of him participating in anything but a few runs and stretches with the Athletic Performance department. But with him and White on the field at the same time, even in Jones' case in more of a supportive role, quarterback Matt Ryan said there's a palpable difference: "It's nice to have those guys back healthy, and if we can keep them on the field, that's going to bode well for us."
4. Intensity Big, Too: The Falcons engaged in a redzone scoring mini-game at the end of Tuesday's OTAs session as the entire team showed quite a bit of intensity. Smith developed a scoring system for the period and there was some disagreements back and forth on which side, offense or defense, won, but Smith liked what he saw from a tempo standpoint. The drill ended when inside linebacker Joplo Bartu busted through the middle of the line to record a simulated tackle for loss, and the rest of the defense went wild in celebration.
5. Nickel Spot Competitive: We're a bit away from true training camp competitions at positions, but the nickel spot is shaping up between three players — Robert McClain, Josh Wilson and Javier Arenas. Smith sounds happy with the players vying for that spot: "I think there's three guys that have experience and have played that position in a game, and it'll be fun to watch them compete in the rest of our OTAs and through training camp."
6. Bigger Role for Antone?: Asked about the running back position, Mike Smith mentioned that Josh Vaughn — a former practice squad back who made the 53-man roster last season — and Antone Smith as players who have caught his eye. Mike Smith specifically said that Antone Smith has earned an "expanded role" this offseason. "When Antone had opportunities last year, he made the most of them and we want to give them opportunities moving forward," Mike Smith said. Antone Smith carried the ball five times in 2013 for 145 yards and two touchdowns with a 29-yards-per-carry average. Ryan also mentioned Antone Smith as doing a great job for the Falcons in OTAs.
7. Young LBs Growing Fast: If you told Mike Smith a year ago that two undrafted linebackers would either lead the team in tackles or play more than 70 percent of the snaps in 2013, he would have looked at you like you had two heads. But that's exactly what happened with the emergence of Bartu and Paul Worrilow, and Smith pointed at them as perhaps the most improved and matured players from last season. Smith also said that he's been impressed with the rookie linebackers the team added in the draft, saying that he'd be surprised if at least three of them didn't impact the Falcons defense or special teams this year.