Falcons Training Camp Recap: Day 9

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As you can tell from the author’s byline in this article, I’m not Kevin Knight. After a stellar week of coverage, Kevin is now back home enjoying some well-deserved rest. So the baton was passed to me for our Day 9 Falcons training camp coverage.

Let me explain everything I saw at Flowery Branch on Saturday.

This day belonged to the offense

The offense seemed to have some new wrinkles in place on Saturday, as we were treated to a few more designed quarterback runs than we’ve seen before (and a number of undesigned runs as well). This seemed to be just the beginning of the problems for the defence, as Marcus Mariota for the most part, he made his way against the first team in 11-on-11 drills.

Speaking of which, this quarterback competition that was highly publicized before the preseason was anything but. The Falcons coaching staff announced Mariota as the starter upfront, and it was Mariota who got all of the first-team reps on the rookie. Desmond Rider. Frankly, Mariota seemed like the best quarterback, both in camp overall and especially today. Ridder had his moments but looked flustered by the pressure when she reached him and that led to poor passing early in the day in 7v7 drills. He bounced back in later work at 11 against 11 against the second team, but Mariota was always the best passer.

Despite the good work done in attack, the quarterbacks did not dare to challenge AJ Terrell a lot, even when he had assigned the cover on Drake London (and there seemed to be a bit of an emphasis on this ongoing confrontation). London did all of their work when not covered by Terrell, having some great catches in the day.

Kyle Pitts is the best player on the court

We haven’t seen Mariota binge Kyle Pitts, but when he looked his way, Florida’s sophomore tight end just showed his ability. It’s almost as if Pitts heard the whole discussion about how Richie Grant had success covering it up during camp and said “look at this”.

Pitts had two touchdowns, and both with Grant in cover. The first was a nice looping ball from Mariota where Grant was actually in great position but couldn’t do anything against the perfect pass and over the shoulder catch.

The second score was not as spectacular but was more consequential. It was a goalscoring exercise where the defense chained good plays to force a 4th and goal situation inside the five-yard line. Pitts got away from Grant in coverage and Mariota found him in the back of the end zone for a score that gave the offense the “victory” in that drill.

This Feleipe Franks thing is real

Perhaps the biggest show stopper at camp on Saturday was Felipe Franks. It’s clear he’s done a lot of hard work this summer in his transition to the tight end position, and it paid off during camp. His first reel play of the day came on a touchdown catch in a 7-on-7 drill where he completely carried Teez Tabor on his way to the end zone.

Later, Franks had perhaps the best hold of the day in an 11-on-11 game where it looked like he had lost his footing at first on an exit route, but still managed a dive catch on a Ridder pass. Franks also got limited action as a quarterback, getting a big gain on a deep pass to Tyshaun James and then picking up plenty of positive yards on a run a minute later. It was overall only positive games for the old Gator.

Arthur Smith tries not to show much emotion during his press conferences, but he let out a smile after I asked him about the job Franks has been doing as a tight end at camp this year . He gave Franks a lot of credit for his willingness to make the positional transition and said it was really fun coaching him. Will McFadden will have a longer article on Franks soon, so look for it.

All healthy starters will play in pre-season

The main takeaway from Arthur Smith’s post-game press conference is his announcement and confirmation that everyone will play Friday’s pre-season game against the Lions, as long as they are healthy .

Smith didn’t mince words, and it doesn’t look like he’s playing any mind games. He actually promised that every healthy player would be executed during the pre-season.

Of course, this follows last year’s pre-season when all starters were fully rested except for a series in the final game. The team ended up looking very sloppy in their Week 1 loss to the Eagles. To his credit, Smith said earlier this offseason that his approach to the preseason would change this year. On Saturday, he almost confirmed that would be the case.

Other Notes for Day 9

  • Despite Mariota’s overall good day, he was not without mistakes. The costliest came in a 7v7 drill where he knocked down Geronimo Allison and saw the ball land in the quick hands of Jaylinn Hawkins, who continues to show his ability to peddle the ball.
  • Kevin sang the praises of Avery Williams as a wide receiver in the Day 7 recap, but today he had the biggest play of any RB on a carry, taking it home after the offensive line did a great job opening a big hole for him on the right side. Williams had a good job in the first team. I’ll also note that Mariota nearly scrambled for a touchdown on the play immediately after Williams scored.

  • Bryan Edwards was back but he still hasn’t lost the “contactless” yellow jersey. Unfortunately, defensive lineman Bryce Rodgers injured his knee and had to be helped off the field by coaches in an 11-on-11 game.
  • Anthony Rush looks like the starting defensive tackle next to Grady Jarrett. He was exclusively there with the defense of the first team. Mykal Walker was also getting a lot of run at linebacker with the first team.
  • For those who thought there was finally some clarity at the center position after Drew Dalman ran with the team’s first offensive line for consecutive days, think again. Matt Hennessy was there with the first team once again, joined by Jacques Matthews, Elijah Wilkinson, Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary. Dalman had a negative game in 11 against 11 where he broke the ball badly and he found himself on the ground. I couldn’t tell if it was his mistake or Ridder’s.
  • Speaking of the offensive line, something interesting that I noted during Coach Smith’s press conference was that the team never planned to start Jalen Mayfield last year, at least at the start of the season. Smith said Josh Andrews was the team’s starting left guard until he broke his hand.
  • The crowd was fantastic. I think there were more people in practice today than there were on any other day. The fans brought a lot of energy and you can tell the excitement for this team is growing.

That’s it for today’s training camp notes. It’s another day off tomorrow before the team has its annual practice at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Along with the first preseason game on Friday, that marks the end of our in-person coverage for this year’s training camp. Kevin Knight did a fantastic job spearheading Falcoholics cover this year, and our very own Will McFadden was on stage with me for a few days this year as well. We’ll continue our coverage of this team from afar as we now enter pre-season.

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