FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Wednesday marked the third day of AT&T Atlanta Falcons Training Camp, and it was the first day that the pads came on.
The Falcons spent the first portion of Wednesday's practice with their shoulder pads on, providing the opportunity for the coaching staff to better evaluate some of the action in the trenches. It was a trio of rookies who stood out to coach Dan Quinn after the first day of pads.
First-round picks Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary showed off their physicality during the live sessions on Wednesday, and fourth-round pick John Cominsky was another standout player on the defensive line.
"What I do know about those two is their attitude to go after it," Quinn said of Lindstrom and McGary. "Kaleb and Chris, and I would say probably on the defensive line side, Cominsky, the three of them have like a grinder work ethic … You stay after, you see them doing more. That's kind of what you like from the guys who are the big guys inside, they know it takes work, especially when the padded part starts."
Quinn also mentioned defensive tackle Justin Zimmer as a player who caught his eye on the defensive line, an area the coaching staff and the fan base will be watching closely.
Julio Jones: 'I'll be ready to go'
Julio Jones is back with the team for training camp, as he and the Falcons continue contract negotiations, and he's taking things slowly ahead of the 2019 season. Jones has been out on the field with his teammates but is primarily working on individual drills off to the side with linebacker Deion Jones; both players are coming off of foot injuries and the team is taking it slow with each of them.
Jones is entering his ninth NFL season and is firmly established as one of the premier players in the league. With the start of the season still more than a month away, Jones says he's working on getting better each and every day and that although he's taking his time to get back to full participation, he will be ready to go once the season begins.
"For me it's just getting acclimated coming back out," Jones said. "Running full speed and doing full-speed cuts. We don't want to chance anything since I've been taking my time to get back into the swing of things. But I'll be ready to go. Like I said, we've got a plan in place."
Quinn estimated about 10 days to two weeks before Jones is back and fully acclimated into team practice.
No hesitation from Devonta Freeman
After missing most of the 2018 season, Devonta Freeman looks energized being back out on the football field. The Pro Bowl running back has looked as good as ever making cuts and catching passes out of the backfield, and Freeman's energy has been palpable.
The Falcons have liked what they've seen from Freeman as well. Quinn has frequently referred to Freeman as a "multiplier," saying his presence carries over to the rest of the team and boosts their intensity. Having their starting running back in the fold for 2019 could be exactly what the Falcons offense needs to put them over the top.
"You feel the joy back that he has on the field," Quinn said. "He is a multiplier, his energy, his quickness. The way he goes, everybody else you better be ready too … The way he practices makes the guys across from him really have to bring it too. He looks exactly as we remember him in his best space."
- During each of the Falcons' first three camp practices, Kenjon Barner, Marcus Green and Olamide Zaccheaus have been the three players back returning punts.
- Jake Matthews had a very nice block against a hard-charging Takk McKinley during an early 11-on-11 period.
- Damonta Kazee continues to shine in coverage. He broke cleanly on a route during 11-on-11 and arrived in time to knock the ball away from Russell Gage.
- Perhaps the most impressive play of the day involved rookie running back Qadree Ollison. During the live 11-on-11 drill, the Falcons ran a play-action pass. Instead of running his play-action fake, however, Ollison recognized Ra'Shede Hageman coming free on the left side of the line. He stepped up in front of quarterback Matt Schaub and delivered an excellent block on the 6-foot-6, 313-pound Hageman.
- The wildcat formation made an appearance during Wednesday's practice. Receiver Mohamed Sanu lined up behind center for one play and kept the ball on a read-option. He found space along the right-hand side and picked up a good chunk of yards.
- Sanu also beat Damonta Kazee deep late during practice in an 11-on-11 period, racing down the seam and catching a beautifully thrown pass from Matt Ryan that arrived just ahead of safety Sharrod Neasman.
Shoulder pads are on. Check out the best photos from Day 3 of practice here.