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What are some main takeaways from Falcons mandatory minicamp? -- Question of the Week

Scott and Tori take a defensive angle on what they learned from the end of the offseason program

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – We're officially a week into the deadest of dead periods of the NFL football calendar. With mandatory minicamp having wrapped up last week and players and coaches (and hopefully our digital team members) on their respective vacations, there's not much excitement happening out at the facility in Flowery Branch. That doesn't mean our jobs stop, though. You need content to get you through the dead period, and we're here to provide that.

But we digress…


Last Friday, Tori wrote a story detailing her main takeaways from mandatory minicamp and the OTA season. That got us thinking we should let Scott have a go at sharing his main minicamp takeaway, which is why we made it the question of the week. For Tori, she'll pick her most surprising takeaway, while Scott will add his two cents on what he took from the week.

Without further ado, let's dive into it.


Tori: I've written about this a few times but I think it's OK that I do so one more time. I was very surprised (and pleased) with Dee Alford and his fight for the starting nickel spot.

When Mike Hughes was signed during the early waves of free agency, I just assumed he would be the Falcons first-string nickel. It made sense. They gave him a two-year deal and the former first-round pick was in need of a change of pace. I assumed the spot was his, but my assumption came too quickly because Alford had something to say about it.

For the majority of the open practices of OTAs and minicamp, it was Alford taking the first-team reps at nickel. He and Hughes are also in competition for the punt return job, after Avery Williams tore his ACL and will miss the 2023 season.

If I am being honest, I didn't foresee this competition being the one that I stuck on following OTAs. I didn't think this would be the competition I'm most looking forward to seeing come August. But here we are.

The coaching staff loves Alford's work ethic and with every chance he's gotten, the former CFL cornerback has stepped up. It would seem he has a shot in front of him to play quite the prominent role throughout the 2023 season if things fall his way. But there's still a lot of time between now and Week 1, and there's a lot that can still happen.

Scott: We learned a lot about the 2023 Falcons over the course of the offseason program, which was both important and inevitable evaluating a roster with so much new. There's plenty to dissect after watching OTAs and minicamp, but there's a larger defensive theme that I took away from this spring.

The Falcons defense is all-in on Ryan Nielsen. The new Falcons defensive coordinator has earned player trust by establishing a proper tone while installing a new scheme.

Just read the player quotes about Nielsen in this story. I mean, my goodness. They're glowing.

Don't want to click? Here's an example of what I'm talking about.

"We're going to play tough football," safety Jessie Bates III said. "We're going to play hard. There's no one better to have as a leader than Coach Nielsen."

Nielsen's coaching style provides the authentic leadership this franchise prefers. He's unapologetically fiery. He's passionate about his job and isn't afraid to get his hands dirty. But he's also a technician with a reputation for developing talent.

Players want to win and they want to get better. Nielsen has a plan of attack the players are receptive to. Will that translate into more pressure, more takeaways and fewer points scored? We don't know that yet. The 2023 Falcons haven't even put the pads on yet.

There's a collection of talent on defense that, if they realize potential and play well together, can play some good football. The secondary is deep and talented. The linebackers are aggressive and play fast. The remodeled defensive front is massive, with veterans who have been successful getting after the quarterback.

Early-season success will only enhance Nielsen's street cred and make true believers of these defensive stars. If the team leaders buy in, the younger players will follow. This early commitment to Nielsen's scheme and his style, however, shows that he's off to a good start.

Take a look at the 2023 Atlanta Falcons in action during mandatory minicamp, presented by MegaFit Meals.

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