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Training Camp Takeaways

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Takeaways: Falcons defense impresses (again) in second scrimmage

Atlanta’s defense made plenty of plays on the ball and looked sharp across the board during the team’s second scrimmage

The Falcons held their second scrimmage of AT&T Atlanta Falcons Training Camp on Monday, and similar to the team's first scrimmage, the defense was the standout unit.

All three levels of Atlanta's defense – across both the starters and backup squads – had moments of brilliance. The Falcons' defensive line, led by Grady Jarrett, knifed into the backfield against the run and didn't give up much room on the ground.

There were also some notable pass-rush moments. Takk McKinley showed off his speed around the edge, beating Kaleb McGary for what would likely have been a clean sack in a game. Former first-round pick Charles Harris had two good rushes that could have potentially been sacks, and linebacker LaRoy Reynolds probably would have gotten home on a blitz late in the scrimmage.

The defensive communication at the second level was apparent and led to some really good moments in pass coverage. Rookie Delrick Abrams had an interception in the back of the end zone on the only threatening offensive drive of the scrimmage. Blidi Wreh-Wilson also came up with a pick late in the scrimmage, and Isaiah Oliver was in position to grab an interception but couldn't hang on. Kendall Sheffield, Keanu Neal and Deion Jones had some really nice pass breakups during the scrimmage as well.

It's tough to tell just how much to make of the defense's play in camp, because the level of talent on the field can vary from snap to snap. There's no question, though, that Atlanta's defense has been sharp for many of the practices, and that continued on Monday.

Matt Hennessy continues to work with starters

Although no official declaration has come from Dan Quinn about Atlanta's left guard competition, rookie Matt Hennessy seems to be getting every opportunity to prove he's up to the task of starting in 2020. He was once again working with the first-team group on Monday, something he's been doing since Atlanta's third practice of camp and first team scrimmage.

While Hennessy has been working with the starters, James Carpenter has been handling the second-team left guard duties and Matt Gono has spent the past couple of practice at the backup left tackle position.

Younghoe Koo goes 2-for-3 on Monday

The Falcons have not given Koo many reps during camp practices to kick in a live situation, but they did so on Monday. He drilled his lone extra-point attempt of the afternoon, and he was 2-for-3 on his field-goal attempts, which occurred around the 35-yard line.

Koo hit his first attempt through the uprights, but it was fairly close to the left pole. Perhaps overcorrecting a bit, Koo's second attempt went wide left of the uprights. Quinn simulated icing the kicker, but Koo still got a practice kick off and that was right down the middle, as was his third official kick of the day.

Brandon Powell and Chris Rowland locked in as returners

In most years, the Falcons have a handful of players rotating at kick and punt returner during training camp. This year, they've only got two. Perhaps the condensed nature of this year's camp led Atlanta to focus on getting Powell and Rowland all of the reps at returner, but that has been the case through the first six practices.

Powell is in his second year with the Falcons and handled punt and kick returns while in college at Florida. Rowland, an undrafted rookie out of Tennessee State, has extensive experience returning kicks from his days in college. He returned 46 punts for 543 yards and one touchdown for Tennessee State while also returning 74 kicks for 1,689 yards and one touchdown.

Quinn also named Ito Smith and Olamide Zaccheaus as players who could also handle kickoff return responsibilities if needed.

More camp observations

  • Deion Jones showed just how elite his coverage range and instincts are during the scrimmage. The offense ran a deep crossing play for Julio Jones, something they've been very successful with in the past, and Jones sniffed it out and adjusted the depth of his coverage to come out of nowhere and break up the pass.
  • Mykal Walker got some reps with the starting defense on Monday. He's made some nice plays in camp already, including a pick in the last scrimmage, and he showed his acceleration while closing in on a receiver to prevent any yards after the catch and force a fourth down.
  • John Cominsky has had a great camp so far, and Quinn gave him high praise before Monday's practice: "John Cominsky, from the first practice with pads all the way up through today, he has seemed like somebody that's taking that jump."
  • Keanu Neal looked like his old self during the scrimmage. There were audible pops heard when he shoulder bumped an offensive player to simulate a tackle, and he punched the ball out of Hayden Hurst's hands to deny a catch on a third-down during a two-minute drill.
  • Laquon Treadwell has struggled with some drops thus far in camp. He's got nice size for the position and moves around well enough, but he needs to show more consistency catching the ball.

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