A minicamp date in June may not reveal everything a training camp practice in August will, but there's still plenty to watch for. Before the Falcons' summer break can begin, they hit the field for three days of minicamp sessions this week before a break and a return for camp in July. A number of new faces (and numbers) have been added to this year's team and here are seven things to watch for as you get your first glimpse of the 2014 Falcons.
1) Roddy White Back in Action: Julio Jones, the younger half of Atlanta's dynamic wide receiver duo won't be suiting up for minicamp, but Roddy White will. After a season of injuries last year, White is healthy and a healthy Roddy White is a good Roddy White. Keep your eyes on No. 84 and the 32-year-old receiver will show you he's got plenty left in the tank.
2) Filling the LB Void: A crowded group at linebacker lost their leader, Sean Weatherspoon, for the season, but there's still a ton of potential at the position. The Falcons added four linebackers in the draft and they have the return of promising youngsters Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu to look forward to. Some of the group will be used as situational pass rushers while others, like Kroy Biermann and Jonathan Massaquoi, you'll notice roam around the field more. Watch the action at linebacker and you'll get a better feel for what defensive coordinator Mike Nolan is trying to accomplish without Weatherspoon on the field.
3) Trufant Shining: Last year's first-round pick, Desmond Trufant, had a stellar rookie season and the full-team sessions when Trufant is covering a receiver will be can't-miss plays. Trufant took his lumps in training camp last season squaring off against White and Jones and his maturation as a corner will be on full display during minicamp. Trufant showed last year that he can tip passes with some of the best in the league and this year, he's likely to intercept some passes that would have been tipped last season.
4) The Cox/Tice Influence: Those two coaches you don't recognize at practice, but you seem to hear from anywhere you stand? That's offensive line coach Mike Tice and defensive line coach Bryan Cox, both new to the Falcons. They've joined the Falcons to reshape the trenches and they do a lot of coaching. Tice works closely with his players and watch out for his old-school tendencies during side sessions. You'll notice Cox teaching a ton of technique to his lineman, learned from his 12 years as a player in the league.
5) Added Size: Some of those players you don't recognize aren't new to the team, they're just larger. One of the missions in the offseason was to get bigger and many of the Falcons' returning players are larger and some of the new ones tip the scales as well. For the best indication of added size, look to the interior of the defensive line, where Paul Soliai and Tyson Jackson reside. You can't miss them.
6) Right Side of the Line: Two more new faces man the right side of the offensive line. Jake Matthews is this year's first-round pick, a player many believed to be the most ready-now player in the draft. He'll line up at tackle and free agent guard Jon Asamoah will line up beside him. They're expected to improve the pass protection and the run game and this is when they start to learn how to work together.
7) Run-Game Options: After averaging 29 yards-per-carry last season, many fans want to see more of running back Antone Smith and last week, head coach Mike Smith said that's something to be anticipated. The offensive line improvement should improve the run game this season, but the Falcons didn't stop there. In addition to Steven Jackson and Smith, the Falcons have Jacquizz Rodgers and Josh Vaughan returning and added Devonta Freeman in this year's draft. Freeman is pure energy on the field and worth a watch during practice. Watch out for college free agent Jerome Smith as a darkhorse for a roster spot later this summer as well.