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What I learned from second day of Falcons minicamp

A.J. Terrell in focus, Cordarrelle Patterson at running back, a defensive pick party and more from Day 2

A.J. Terrell expected to be even better after solid rookie season
A.J. Terrell expected to be even better after solid rookie season

I'm happy to report that the Falcons (and I) made it through Wednesday's practice without weathering a torrential downpour. Well, Tuesday was probably just a light shower for those from around here. It was a major weather event from through my native-Californian lens.

Either way, score.

That kept focus away from the sky and on the field for the second day of Falcons mandatory minicamp. Head coach Arthur Smith saying the Falcons remain in OTA mode, with focus on instruction over anything else.

There are, however, pop quizzes and stress tests. Mentally taxing his players is a goal here, with coaches putting extreme pressure on players to process information and apply it to new schemes in real time.

That was clear at a few points, including a no-huddle, two-minute-style drill without contact or even defenders flying to the ball. It seemed focused on decision-making processes for offense and defense.

Right now, everything is done with training camp in mind. That includes keeping a select few out of physical work. It also means being mentally ready for camp, when Smith's bar goes way up.

So I've decided to skip position-battle talk and pinpointing who's working with which unit and give first impressions of Falcons I haven't seen play or practice in person before joining this squad.

Kyle Pitts was Tuesday's target. I followed another first-rounder on Wednesday.

A.J. Terrell clearly plays with confidence

A.J. Terrell's rookie season was a trial by fire. Last year's No. 16 overall pick didn't get an offseason program due to the COVID-19 pandemic, yet was thrust directly into a starting lineup right away. He stayed there the entire year, collecting 74 tackles, seven passes defensed, three forced fumbles and an interception. Passers had a decent 109.2 rating against him, per analytics site Pro Football Focus, but he had a solid first season and many expect a big jump in 2021.

I can see why. He plays every snap with confidence, looking smooth when dropping into a zone or following a particular receiver, and seems comfortable fitting in on run defense. The Clemson product is ideally sized at 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, with long arms and quick reaction time. There's no tackling or overtly physical play at this stage, but the skills required to track pass catchers, get tough at the line of scrimmage and makes plays on the ball are clearly there.

Terrell also drew rave reviews for football smarts.

"A.J.'s advanced in his mental game already," veteran cornerback Fabian Moreau said. "He's a heck of a player, a heck of an athlete. He's a dog out there. I love seeing that. I love playing with him and exchange ideas back and forth."

Terrell starting outside seems like a sure thing. So does his status as a building block for a secondary that must do better after struggling mightily a season ago.


Cordarrelle Patterson at…running back??

Adding question marks to the subhead was done for impact. Smith has made it clear the career receiver would work from the backfield this season in a true position switch, but it still looked odd to someone (me) who has covered him as a receiver. I personally like the idea for a lightning-quick, evasive and strong skill player who was an awesome return man but never produced heavily as a receiver. Cordarrelle Patterson's a big dude at 227 pounds and can handle the punishment a running back takes inside the tackles and out. Run games can't be truly evaluated until pads come on, but Patterson was aggressive and quick slashing to the hole.

The relatively new signing will be a real asset in space as a receiver in the flat or on screens, with an air of unpredictability only established if defenses respect him running the football. That will be key in using this talent well from this new spot.

Need to see it to believe it? Here are some photos of Patterson working on Wednesday.

Catch(es) of the day

There's no rule this award has to go to an offensive player, right? Good. That's because the defense stole the show in this arena, with three interceptions and an excellent pass defensed all in one 7-on-7 period.

Safety Dwayne Johnson had two, though the best takeaway belongs to linebacker Mykal Walker. The second-year pro, who played a ton as a rookie, read the play perfectly – that's a gets a gold star in itself during these sessions – jumped the route and intercepted Matt Ryan before taking it to the house. Defenders reveled in the moment and the Johnson picks, which was also an important sign that they're starting to understand the scheme.

"Those plays show that we're getting a little closer every day," Walker said. "Our coaches say to be one percent better every day. We have been close to the ball and then a little closer to the ball, and today was a day for the defense to come up with a couple of them."


That'll do it for our Day 2 minicamp recap. Check out photos from today's workout below. Then hit me up on Twitter (@ScottBairNFL) for suggestions which players I should focus on tomorrow and, of course, check back for Thursday's minicamp finale recap. It should be fun.

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