It’s hard to believe that the Falcons have already completed their second four-day block of training camp and are now up in Ohio getting ready to play the first of five preseason games on Thursday night.
And it’s not even August yet.
So, yeah, it is still really early and there’s a lot to be determined when it comes to the Falcons roster and depth chart – never mind who will end up on the practice squad.
That said, a handful of players have caught my attention for different reasons through the first eight practices. Now, I am not saying they’re having the best camp and outperforming everyone else in their respective position groups – only the coaches and the folks in the personnel department know that.
But these are guys who've stood out to me early on. And so without further ado, here they are and in no specific order.
Putting Allen on this list was a no-brainer for me. Never mind that just the mere sight of No. 37 running around and making plays on the practice fields is cause for Falcons fans everywhere to celebrate, especially considering everything the Falcons safety had to go through just to be ready in time for camp.
Allen, who missed nearly all of the 2018 season with a torn Achilles, is not only back at full speed but he’s making his presence known whenever he’s on the field – with hits, pass break-ups and interceptions. In Sunday’s Red-White scrimmage, Allen picked off a Matt Ryan pass – and players from both teams celebrated as Allen high-stepped into the end zone.
Having Allen back is real shot in the arm for this team.
Behind lead back Devonta Freeman – yet another early feel-good story for these 2019 Falcons – there is a crowded backfield. And considering the fact that this team has needed at least three running backs just to get through the last couple of seasons, that’s a good problem to have.
Enter Hill, who is finally living up to all the reasons why the Falcons drafted him out of Wyoming in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Hill not only caught a touchdown pass from Matt Schaub during the Red-White scrimmage, he’s been showing that he can catch and run after the catch throughout this camp. Falcons coach Dan Quinn said Hill has worked hard at improving his pass catching and it’s certainly showing. The Falcons now possess two bigger backs in Hill, who is 6-foot-1 and 219 pounds, and rookie Qadree Ollison, standing at 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds. Will the Falcons keep both or just one? That’s anyone’s guess at this point, but Hill is at least giving the coaches something to think about with his play early on.
Since the very beginning of training camp, Lindstrom has taken every single snap with the offensive starters. And, really, that was the expectation when the Falcons selected him with the 14th overall pick in April’s NFL Draft. In short, the athletic 6-foot-4, 308-pound lineman from Boston College looks – and plays – like he belongs. Quinn confirmed as much early in camp.
“It’s an indicator of where we see him starting right now,” Quinn said. “He had earned a lot of that through the spring, about where his performance was. You’ll still see some work as we’re going through – different combinations of people – it wasn’t exclusive to that way (Lindstrom working with the starters) but that’s how we began.”
It'll be interesting to see how Lindstrom performs against other teams during the preseason, but early on the rookie is checking all the boxes – and that's a good thing for the Falcons as they continue to revamp their offensive line.
Everyone knows the Falcons are stacked at receiver. Just look at the depth chart – Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage and Justin Hardy for starters. And then there’s Gray, a second-year player out of Cincinnati who spent 2018 on the Falcons practice squad. And to Gray’s credit, all he’s done is catch balls and make plays – some of the biggest ones in camps so far, too.
I don’t know how Gray will perform this preseason or what his realistic chances are of making the Falcons’ 53-man roster, but he’s certainly doing enough things right to make the coaches and personnel types think twice about him. And, remember, many of these players aren't just trying to make an impression with their current clubs, 31 other teams will be watching the preseason games as well. Every rep counts – and Gray is making the most of his.
Surprised? Look, I get the criticism Beasley has received the last couple of seasons, mainly due to the fact that he’s produced just five sacks in each of the last two seasons – and that’s on the heels of leading the league with 15.5 in 2016. And by listing him here I’m also not saying that the eighth-overall pick in the 2015 draft has turned a corner and is going to turn into a sack machine in 2019.
Not at all.
But through eight practices, I’ve seen enough good things from Beasley to think that things are at least pointing in the right direction for the Falcons’ fifth-year edge rusher. We all know that Beasley is playing out his option year and is on a one-year, prove-it deal. We also know that Quinn is taking a “hands-on” approach with Beasley and believes that he can get the most out of him (watch the video above).
If you watched Beasley closely during the Red-White scrimmage, he was playing fast and with sense of urgency. More importantly, he was in position to make a number of plays – and that’s one of the advantages of having Quinn calling the shots now. Beasley would have sacked Matt Ryan at least once or possibly caused a fumble.
Remember that interception Allen made during the scrimmage? Watch the play below as Beasley hits the brakes and refrains from hitting Ryan.
Yep, it’s really early, but I like what I’m seeing ... from these guys in particular.
*Note: All opinions here are Matthew Tabeek's unless otherwise noted.