The Falcons ran a long onside kick period near the start of Thursday's minicamp practice requiring players from most position groups. The quarterbacks obviously weren't involved and didn't have receivers available, so they took some target practice on the field next door.
Matt Ryan, A.J. McCarron and Feleipe Franks alternated working through a footwork drill designed to refine movement within the pocket before firing a pass into a net with three windows. Then they took another ball and tried to hit a tackling dummy on moving across the end zone on a cart.
If this sounds like an odd way to lead a practice recap, well, it is. It was also pretty fun to watch. Don't forget that head coach Arthur Smith remains in OTA mode, meaning there were more teaching periods than intense work at full speed. And not all minicamp moments involve serious football business.
This was a nice change of pace. Make fun of me if you want, but I took play-by-play during the entire thing and don't regret a drop of ink lost while doing so.
Let's put those notes to good use:
All three quarterbacks were dead on hitting stationary targets. The one that moved, however, was a bit trickier. The cart driver wasn't as consistent as the quarterbacks would like, leaving Ryan to demand (jokingly) he drive at the same freaking speed. Only he didn't say freaking.
The dummy got tagged often once the cart eliminated the starts and stops. Franks hit the moving target. Then McCarron. And, after getting close so many times, Ryan hit it with a walk-off shot to end the period.
Smith talks "authentic" leadership
The Falcons head coach used a powerful word during his pre-practice press conference to describe the best team leaders. It's not about being vocal or setting a great standard. Smith is right: there's one trait that unifies all effective leaders.
"They're authentic," Smith said. "The players see and hear everything. The know what's real and what's not. If a guy posts his workouts on social media and hashtags that he's grinding or whatever, and then comes in here and players look at him and see he's not what he presents on social media. It has to be authentic. The same goes for coaches. If you act like somebody you're not, players aren't going to buy it. It's about being yourself and proving it. If a guy says he's going lead by example and then works hard, guys will get in line. If he doesn't, guys will tune him out regardless of what he posts online."
A non-kicker kicking contest
Coaches will often reward their team if a kicker makes a field goal at the end of practice, helping a key specialist practice performing with consequences on the line. Smith allowed players to skip running at the end of practice with a made field goal, but he didn't let Younghoe Koo handle it.
A member of offense and defense took a shot from short distance and, if it was good, that representative's unit got to end practice then and there.
Defensive lineman Marlon Davidson took the first attempt, sent it straight through the uprights and then got mobbed by those in black jerseys. Tight end Lee Smith's offensive attempt went way wide right, leaving his unit to run.
Other news and notes
Safety T.J. Green dropped an interception early in the practice session and did push-ups on the sideline as penance. Marcus Murphy had a nice pass defensed in a full-speed period. The Falcons worked on punching the ball out, and offensive players did a nice job protecting it. … Most starting skill players save the tight ends didn't participate, as Smith tries to ensure his team enters training camp as healthy as possible. … The Falcons have four more OTAs starting Monday before wrapping the offseason program.