Day One of Falcons training camp is officially underway. The Fontenot-Smith era has officially begun in Atlanta, and I will be with you every step of the way this year.
As Falcons fans, we have a lot to look forward to this season. Their aggressive “win now” strategy is apparent in the early days of training camp. Terry Fontenot has emphasized building a defense and a solid roster around Matt Ryan will be the key to their success in 2021.
Building a Defense
This offseason, the Falcons acquired defensive coordinator Dean Pees from the Tennessee Titans. Pees has been working with defenses at the collegiate level since ’79 and the professional level since ’06.
Arthur Smith seems very pleased with the job Dean Pees has done so far. “They’ll be rushing when they get off the bus.” This level of structure and discipline is exactly what our defense needs.
A.J. Terrell has CB1 locked down this year. Falcons have reported that Terrell will “play as many snaps as health permits.” I expect AJT Jr. to take a big leap this year in terms of broken-up passes and INTs.
According to Scott Blair, the favorite to lineup opposite from AJT is Fabian Moreau, a free agent acquisition from the Washington Football Team. Here’s what the Falcons had to say about Moreau:
Veteran Fabian Moreau should be considered a frontrunner at the outside cornerback spot. The offseason signing played 60 games in Washington and played a ton in 2018 and ’19 . He has spent significant time in the slot as well and could be an option there depending on how the position group shakes out. Quarterbacks had a 73.2 passer rating when targeting Moreau in 2020, far better than some the Falcons used last season.Scott Blair, atlantafalcons.com
Outside of these two DBs, we have Kendall Sheffield and Isaiah Oliver competing for snaps in the secondary as well. Currently, Sheffield is listed as starting RCB on the Falcons’ depth chart, with Moreau right behind him at second string.
Rookie Darren Hall will likely not have many snaps this season, as he works to adjust his game to the NFL. Another CB draftee, Avery Williams, will likely be used strictly for punt returns (if at all this year.)
We have a solid core linebacker unit returning from last year. One of the (few) highlights of last year’s defense, linebackers Deion Jones, Foye Oluokun, and Mykal Walker will remain the starting 3 behind the DL.
At camp, Brandon Copeland has been working with the outside linebackers in individual drills today. Building depth and chemistry at the linebacker spot seems to have been a priority of the Falcons this offseason, and in years past. Hopefully, he can lighten the load on our big 3 this year.
Kaleb McGary, Matt Gono, and Deadrin Senat (DL) made the PUP (physically unable to perform) list yesterday. We do not know why, but they are currently unable to participate in training camp, per the Athletic’s Tori McElhaney.
With McGary and Gono on PUP, rookie Drew Dalman has been lining up at right tackle in training camp. We’ll see if he earns a spot on the OL. Very possible! Arthur Smith is adamant that no position is set in stone.
Inside Training Camp
Rookie receiver Frank Darby was very active during voluntary OTAs and could be a core piece of the Falcons’ receiving unit in the future.
Today at camp, we got to see Ridley coaching Darby a little bit. Love to see this mentor/mentee relationship taking place so early on in training camp.
Obviously, Kyle Pitts has been working closely with Matt Ryan to develop chemistry, as he will be a critical piece of this Arthur Smith offense. Pitts is a “mismatch nightmare”, and fits perfectly in how Coach Smith likes to run his offense.
Calvin Ridley has also been running routes this morning. See the below video from Tori McElhaney (the Athletic.)
Training Camp will run until August 21. Our first preseason game is against the Tennessee Titans on August 13. I look forward to watching Pitts and Frank Darby this preseason. We have a great rookie class, and bright days are ahead in Atlanta.
Rise and GO FALCONS!