On the first of two joint practices with the Dolphins, the Falcons got the better of Miami at nearly every position. The only notable group or position win for the Dolphins was Eric Rowe on Kyle Pitts, but the Falcons’ offensive and defensive lines dominated, which was a massive concern for most. Below are my three takeaways from that first day.
- Kyle Pitts and Calvin Ridley will be one of the best one-two punches in the league
- Falcons pass rush could be a pleasant surprise
- The new regime demands a different level of intensity
The second joint practice didn’t go nearly as well for the Falcons as the first, but there were still positives. Unlike the first bunch of takeaways, the second practice has more negatives, so I will acknowledge those.
Calvin Ridley isn’t that much of a downgrade from Julio Jones
Some people believed the Falcons were losing Julio Jones without an established replacement, if you can believe it. Calvin Ridley is finally getting the respect he deserves; he’s firmly a top 10 player at his position, and his peers are beginning to notice. Xavien Howard is one of the best press-man corners in the league, and he had some high praise for the All-Pro receiver.
“It’s a nice matchup,” Howard said. “I appreciate that we’re doing the joint practices. We’re just focused on getting better. Every week we go up against a top receiver no matter where we’re at, so just getting better and just working on guys, seeing different ways and how you can play different guys in this league.”
“(He’s an) all-around receiver – releases, fast,” Howard said. “That’s what you’re looking for in a receiver. He has nice releases. Catching the ball – anywhere the ball is at, he’s going to go get it. That’s what you want from a receiver with everything – all of the techniques and everything.”
Ridley toasted Howard in the first practice in one on ones. Then in the second, he left Byron Jones — another high-level player — searching in the back of the endzone.
Jeeeeeeeesh @CalvinRidley1. ⛸ pic.twitter.com/NKKSPcvfta
— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) August 19, 2021
Kaleb McGary still needs to improve his pass sets
Emmanuel Ogbah is one of the better edge rushers in the league, and coming into these joint practices, I was eager to see how the Falcons’ tackles faired against him. Jake Matthews gave up a couple of pressures but won some reps too. McGary, on the other hand, was dominated by Ogbah.
4th and Goal from the 12 after Jake Matthews jumped offsides. Ryan sacked on 4th down after Emmanuel Ogbah beat Kaleb McGary. #Dolphins held #Falcons out.
— D. Orlando Ledbetter (@DOrlandoAJC) August 19, 2021
McGary will have to go up against Brian Burns, Shaq Barrett, Jason Pierre-Paul, Cameron Jordan, and Marcus Davenport because defensive coordinators are going to attack weaknesses. They won’t put their best pass rusher against Matthews; they’ll attack McGary. The former first-round pick missed the first part of training camp, so there is a chance he is getting back into shape. Still, his pass sets are his weakness and will need to improve if the Falcons offense is going to have any sliver of success.
Jalen Mayfield might not be ready to start Week 1
Nothing was more concerning than when reports surfaced that Mayfield jumped offsides during joint practices and had to run a lap. A simple mistake, but the result was unbelievable.
In case you were wondering, practice punishment isn’t exclusive to Flowery Branch. Jaylen Mayfield false starts and immediately starts running a lap. He’s having a hard time finishing it.
Cool moment as Willie Wright runs over to help him finish #FalconsDolphinsPractice
— Gates (@TheGent28) August 18, 2021
Miami is certainly hotter and more humid than Flowery Branch, but not by much. This is concerning. If you’re not in shape to get through a joint practice, you’re not in shape to play a full 17 game season. If he starts, Mayfield will match up with Fletcher Cox in the opener, and Vita Vea and Ndamukong Suh in Week 2… That should terrify Falcons fans. Mayfield might not be as ready to start as I once thought; the Falcons left guard situation could be more dire than previously discussed.
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