Arthur Smith was very clear on Tuesday afternoon that the decision to hold Cordarrelle Patterson back was the head coach's to make. In the days leading up to the Falcons first mandatory minicamp practice this week, Patterson's return to Atlanta for offseason workouts was a hot topic.
Patterson had not been to the voluntary portion of OTAs these past few weeks, but it was never something Smith was worried about, calling the hybrid offensive weapon a "true pro" who constantly communicated his offseason plans to Smith and his staff. However, Smith was quick to set the record straight about Patterson's absence at the start of mandatory minicamp.
"He and I have been working on a veteran offseason program to build him up," Smith said "… He's here. We want him to work, but myself and our performance staff we have a different plan for Cordarrelle. I am not going to crank him up for two days. We want him ready to go on July 26."
Smith went on to say that based on where Patterson is at in his near decade-long career and where the Falcons need him to be come training camp and - later - Week 1 of the season, it didn't make sense to have him on the field for minicamp this week.
The Falcons are trying to be smart about Patterson's usage, especially after the load he carried offensively last season. According to Smith, the Falcons are actively trying to maximize what they can get out of Patterson during the season, which means they'll limit him as much as they can in the offseason to keep him fresh.
Smith concluded his update by saying he trusts Patterson, noting he has good work habits and he's someone who communicates with Smith constantly. Getting Patterson ready for the 2022 season ahead won't be a problem. No one should worry that he's not practicing for two days in June.
More notes/observations from practice:
- Grady Jarrett's view of the 2022 Falcons: It's no secret Jarrett is the leader of this team, a veteran that coaches and player trust through and through. But chatting with the media after practice, Jarrett said something very interesting about the team as a whole. He said this group was as close as just about any team he's been a part of in Atlanta (and he's been a part of his far share of teams). Jarrett said there's a shared mentality amongst this team that he feels brings them closer. Perhaps it's that chip on their shoulder that they all have? Whatever it is, Jarrett said he feels that connection.
- Roll Call: There wasn't much that has changed since the voluntary portion of OTAs, but here's a quick breakdown nonetheless. Smith confirmed Deion Jones, Keith Smith and Vincent Taylor would not be practicing this week as they are still rehabbing their offseason procedures. Mike Ford was excused as he deals with a family/personal matter this week. And a group of players were practicing but were limited in their participation. That list includes: Cam Batson, Frank Darby, John FitzPatrick, Auden Tate, Austin Trammel, Erik Harris, TQ Graham, Isaiah Oliver and Teez Tabor.
- Speaking of Harris: After tearing his pectoral muscle against the Panthers late last season, Harris quickly went into surgery and began the rehab process. Having re-signed with Atlanta this offseason, he's been at nearly every OTAs - both voluntary and mandatory - for the Falcons. On Tuesday, Harris was getting a bit more work in the 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 periods. He played alongside Jaylinn Hawkins and Dean Marlowe for much of the afternoon.
- Feleipe Franks continues to excite in new normal: It's nothing new to see Franks running with the tight ends and not the quarterbacks. It was a pretty normal sight last season, and that's continued into this offseason. During the 7-on-7 period, Hawkins disrupted a ball intended for Franks, knocking the ball out of his hands. A few plays later, Franks got his revenge, plucking a pass out of the air that was thrown slightly behind him and in traffic. It was a solid catch for a former college quarterback. One should note that no one is more excited when Franks catches a contested pass in practice than Kyle Pitts is, as the full-time tight end gave the loudest shout on the field when it happened. Oh! And one more thing: Desmond Ridder shared that the coaching staff likes to give him and Marcus Mariota a hard time by telling the duo Franks is a better athlete than them both. They all laugh about it a lot.
- Smith zeroes in on pass rush: Prior to the start of the live periods, the position groups were broken up for individual drills. During said period, Smith spent a good portion of his time working with the outside linebackers. Holding the pad himself, all of the outside linebackers took turns putting their first moves out of their stance on Smith. Even after the drill ended, Smith stuck around a little while longer with the group, showing young players like Arnold Ebiketie and DeAngelo Malone exactly where he wanted their hands when trying to come off a block by a lineman.
- Center competition: During a two-game stint last season, we saw the Falcons rotate Matt Hennessy and Drew Dalman at center. Hennessy would get two series, then Dalman would relieve him for two. That only went on for two games, though, because it's not an easy task to rotate linemen, let alone a center. Now, the Falcons have the opportunity to do that in OTAs and training camp. For the most part on Tuesday, Dalman worked with what many would consider the "first team" offensive line. We can say that because it's the group that included Jake Matthews and Chris Lindstrom, who we can infer with ease will be the starting left tackle and right guard. With pads going on in August, we'll know a lot more about the offensive line then.
- Mixing and matching: Smith has been very candid about how he likes to conduct his OTAs. He likes to play around with personnel groupings to see what he has within certain looks and packages. It's something the Falcons did last year that they continue to play around with this year. Smith used the example of Patterson when explaining why they conduct training in this way: "That's when we learned a lot about Cordarrelle Patterson and what he could handle. I had never coached him before so we did a lot of that stuff (mixing and matching personnel groupings and packages) last spring. We will continue to enhance that and there may be some other things we add."
- Battle of receivers: It's no secret the Falcons are carrying a lot of receivers right now. That's all by design, as I have previously written. However, not everyone will make it to training camp or even through training camp. If there's one note I kept coming back to it's that this group will be seriously cut down over the course of the next two months as we get closer and closer to the announcement of the 53-man roster. If the Falcons only carry five or six receivers on that roster, who are they? We know Drake London, Olamide Zaccheaus and Bryan Edwards are locks. But what about the other two or three spots? It'll be noteworthy to see how the Falcons weigh their options at receiver, and just who they value. They'll have to choose from guys like Auden Tate, Damiere Byrd, Geronimo Allison, KhaDarel Hodge and even Frank Darby. Who of this group provides the build and skillset Smith needs in this offense? It's definitely something to watch over the coming weeks and months.
The temperatures may be hot outside, but our team is cranking up the heat at practice this week as they wrap up OTAs.