Today was the second day of padded practice at Falcons training camp, and it’s becoming clear that the team’s rookies are making a good first impression as a whole. Richie Grant was taking snaps with the first-team defense, and Arthur Smith noted that Grant has been working hard and he was very impressed with him. The first-year safety had a notable pass breakup on Kyle Pitts; his anticipation and quick-twitch ability was on full display. Even though Grant will likely be the third safety behind veterans Erik Harris and Duron Harmon, he’ll be an important part of a defense that will probably run a lot of nickel personnel. Eventually, I believe Grant will force Dean Pees to play him if he continues to make difference-making plays in practice and in the preseason.
Next, Adetokunbo Ogundeji has looked impressive thus far in camp, according to reports. Today, he won both of his one-on-one reps against William Sweat. Even more impressively, he notched some wins against Jake Matthews. The EDGE position is one of the thinnest groups on this Falcons roster, if this defense is going to have success, Ade will have to exceed expectations. He’ll likely be a depth piece, but he could see the field early given his prowess against the run and his positional flexibility. He can stand up outside of tackles in three-man fronts, put his hand in the dirt in the same spot, or kick down in four-man fronts. His pass-rushing skills aren’t as effective just yet, but he has a fantastic get-off and thrives against the run.
I believe Ta’Quon Graham could also have a similar impact along the defensive line as Ogundeji. Still, these rookies are progressing nicely, and Smith took notice after today’s practice. The 2021 draft class is the first foundational piece of this new regime, and if they take unexpected strides in their first season, this could be a sneaky good rookie class to jumpstart the Smith/Fontenot era in Atlanta.
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