With the first day of pads officially in the books, we have our first taste of Falcons football. There are no more real off days from now until the Super Bowl. With a new regime and an offensive-minded head coach in Atlanta, there will be plenty to talk about all year long. Though we are just five days into training camp, there have been plenty of newsworthy moments, and I’d like to give you my five observations from the past week of practices.
Clearly, there has been a culture shift
Nobody on the roster is above getting away with simple mistakes. Arthur Smith made Grady Jarrett run individually during Friday’s practice, then made the entire starting offense run after a small infraction early in Saturday’s practice. Smith has vowed to foster competition at every single position, and he has stayed true to his word. Perfection is essentially unattainable, but Smith seems to believe they can get damn close — he demands everyone’s very best.
There will be unexpected contributors if this team is to find success
In each practice, there have been individuals who have stood out that aren’t the stars of the team — i.e., Matt Ryan, Calvin Ridley, etc. Olamide Zaccheaus has made quite the impression, as he continually shows up doing something positive. Rookie Ade Ogundeji had impressive one-on-one battles, and even Chris Williamson has Arthur Smith complimenting him unprompted. For this team to compete for a playoff spot, there will have to be contributions from the role players that few people are paying attention to.
A.J. Terrell could be special
Saturday, Terrell had a great day with notable pass breakups on Russell Gage, and even when passes were completed, he seemed to have tight coverage. The next day he had an interception on A.J. McCarron. In yesterday’s padded practice, Terrell had blanket coverage on Calvin Ridley to the point where the quarterback didn’t even throw the ball. Arthur Smith has complimented his ability, and I believe Terrell could one day be special.
Musical chairs on the offensive line
With Matt Gono and Kaleb McGary out for an unknown amount of time, the Falcons offensive line has seen some interesting combinations. Jalen Mayfield has played at both left guard and right tackle. Matt Ryan has taken snaps from both Matt Hennessy and Drew Dalman. There seems to be just a never-ending cycle of seeing who can potentially play with Chris Lindstrom and Jake Matthews. Hopefully, McGary can make it back soon to continue his development at tackle, and Mayfield can continue his at guard.
2021 offense: Kyle Pitts, Kyle Pitts, and more Kyle Pitts
As I have been saying since the Falcons selected Pitts fourth overall, he will be the focal point of this offense and be used in every possible formation and alignment.
Pitts is potionless. He can align on the boundary, in the slot, or with his hand in the dirt. He’s as good of a route-runner as any receiver in this draft with great burst out of his break, giving him elite change-of-direction skills for a person of his size. Pitts is as good after-the-catch as he is before, a rare and tremendous red-zone threat. Excellent at beating one-on-one press, but also great at finding the soft spot in zones. The former Gator, much like Julio Jones, makes normal 50-50 balls, closer to 60-40 in favor of Pitts.
Arthur Smith has used Pitts in every scenario mentioned above, and the rookie phenom is living up to the hype thus far — including a highlight-reel catch yesterday.
OMG. KYLE. PITTS. pic.twitter.com/npujj07TdJ
— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) August 3, 2021
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