Takeaways: Falcons’ draft picks lead way in first rookie minicamp practice

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Under a cloudy Friday afternoon sky with the sun occasionally peeking through, the Atlanta Falcons took to the field for their first rookie minicamp practice of the offseason.

The practice session provided coaches with their first opportunity to work directly with the Falcons’ rookie class, guiding them through a number of non-contact individual and group drills. This is the opportunity for draft picks, college free agents and tryout invitees to make a strong first impression on Atlanta’s coaching staff and earn a role with the team.

Here are some of the notable takeaways and observations from Friday’s practice session.

Falcons had their first-round picks working side-by-side

Right from the jump, first-round picks Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary were working next to one another at right guard and right tackle, respectively. The two worked with the first-team offensive line throughout the afternoon, and they worked in tandem on double-team drills.

Both players seemed to fit right in, showing a combination of power, speed and control while making their blocks and moving in space.

There was plenty of room to run on offense

The Falcons’ first 11-on-11 period began in explosive fashion. On the first play, fifth-round draft pick Qadree Ollison took the handoff, made one man miss and hit a crease on the left side of the offensive line for a big gain.

After Ollison’s big play, former Oregon running back Tony Brooks-James subbed in an found a big crease on the right side of the line behind Lindstrom and McGary. Brooks-James showed off some major speed, going untouched down the right sideline. He broke free later in practice on a run up the middle, once again showcasing the speed to run away from defenders.

It was a good day overall for the running backs.

Miller working on the outside, Sheffield in the slot

Following the draft, the Falcons said they would look at using fifth-round pick Jordan Miller on the outside at cornerback and using fourth-round pick Kendall Sheffield inside at nickel. On the first day of minicamp, that appeared to still be the plan.

Miller got a lot of work at left cornerback throughout practice, working with the first-team unit, and Sheffield was mostly operating at nickel. After practice, coach Dan Quinn said Sheffield only received work during individual drills. He is recovering from a torn pec muscle that he sustained during the NFL Combine.

Sixth-round pick Marcus Green held out with injury

Another player who was sidelined due to an injury was running back Marcus Green, the Falcons’ sixth-round draft pick. Quinn explained the Green is dealing with a strained hamstring, but that he was able to participate in the team’s walkthrough drills prior to practice. Green figures to be a primary contender for the Falcons’ return duties during training camp, but it does not appear he will see the field during rookie minicamp.

Cominsky gets work on the outside, inside of the defensive line

One of the more fascinating players fans will want to watch in the coming months is defensive lineman John Cominsky. A former quarterback, Cominsky gained some serious weight throughout his career at Charleston, and he definitely looks the part of an NFL defensive lineman.

While viewed as an end coming out of college, Cominsky slid inside to defensive tackle at times in the Falcons’ nickel packages, something he also did at Charleston.

Six players back to return punts, including Sheffield

During the early part of practice, the Falcons had six players back to return punts. Those players were wide receivers Shawn Bane, Shun Brown, Devin Gray and Olamide Zaccheaus; running back Tony Brooks-James and cornerback Kendall Sheffield.

Although he was not a returner at Ohio State, the Falcons said Sheffield would get a look in the role, which makes sense given how fast he is. Because the team is not allowed to undergo contact in drills, the Falcons had their returners wear flags around their wastes.

Lindstrom led players in stretches

Chris Lindstrom assumed an early leadership role, leading the players during the last part of the team stretch and then breaking down the huddle prior to the start of practice.

Other notes and observations

  • Former Virginia receiver Olamide Zaccheaus scored a touchdown during 7-on-9 drills.
  • Defensive tackle Jacob Tuioti-Mariner was consistently the first off the line during position drills.
  • The Falcons’ tight ends were getting a lot of looks operating at fullback.
  • Former Georgia wide receiver Jayson Stanley worked with the second-team defense at cornerback.

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