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Steve Sarkisian anxious to see Falcons in full pads, says physical aspect will be 'huge'

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- If you've been following the first two days of the 2017 AT&T Atlanta Falcons Training Camp, you're probably well aware of the fact that the practices have been non-contact and the players haven't been wearing any pads – aside from their helmets, of course.

Well that's all about to change come Saturday morning. When the Falcons hit the practice fields at 9:30 a.m. ET, they'll be in full pads. And hitting.

In other words, they'll be playing live football for the first time since February. Big deal?

"Putting the pads on is huge for us," Falcons offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian said. "We went all spring and we didn't have pads. I think we're really going to start to see some things develop, but not everything is going to happen on Day 1."

One of those "things" is the line play, and the much-talked about position battle at right guard between Wes Schweitzer and Ben Garland.

"It's going to take some time, but to see the line of scrimmage, to see the offensive line, to see some of the other runners run is really import for us," Sarkisian said.

For coach Dan Quinn, evaluating the line of scrimmage is at "the forefront" of his thinking as camp begins.

"I want to make sure that we're always, always, always talking about our line of scrimmage – and that's on both sides of the ball," he said. "It's the way we come off the ball in the run game and our play action. It's the way that we protect. That part on the offensive side is always critical. And then defensively -- the line of scrimmage. Can we get our run defense in accordance to what our standard is? Can we affect the quarterback in a four-man rush?"

"So those two positions – big guys on both sides – the battle they have to do against one another to get ready – that's always in the forefront of my thinking."

Even Falcons center Alex Mack is looking forward to watch and see how the Garland-Schweitzer battle shakes out. Mack said that it will be "an interesting part of camp" and added that both players appear to "look ready."

As far as other position battles to watch now that the pads are on, Quinn also noted the wide receivers, linebackers, running backs as ones he'll be watching particularly close.

Again, evaluating players is a year-round process, but Sarkisian explained that you can only evaluate so much without the pads on.

"I think we've gotten a really good evaluation from a mental standpoint," Sarkisian said. "Now we're really going to start to dig into the physical aspect of the game – which is a big portion of what we do."

Quinn said there will be competition "in all the spots" and that they "are going to to try every guy as far as we can."

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