Training camp is always a stressful time for players, especially for rookies.
But the top draft picks made by the Atlanta Falcons didn’t let the pressure get to them and put on quite a show on opening day of camp.
On the offensive side of the ball, rookie tight end Austin Hooper saw snaps with both the first and second team and did not disappoint. Hooper made several nice catches in traffic, one of which was caught with three players draped all over him.
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The Falcons haven’t had a pure pass catching tight end since the great Tony Gonzalez retired at the end of the 2013 season. Hooper may not get the nod as the starter of Jacob Tamme right away, but it will soon be his job to lose.
On the defensive side of the ball, rookie linebackers Deion Jones and DeVondre Campbell had a very nice opening day as well. Both men started the day off with the second-team defense but both were subbed in mid-way through practice to get reps with the first team.
Jones had a rather quiet day, but it was a very different story for Campbell. When asked to run stride-for-stride with Tevin Coleman on a designed wheel route, Campbell deflected the pass way nearly 40 yards down field.
Getting faster on defense was the No. 1 goal for Dan Quinn and with the picks of Jones and Campbell, that couldn’t be more obvious.
Both men will likely start the year as backups, but it shouldn’t take very long for them to have a significant role on defense. Both men could be the starters by the end of the season.
First-round pick Keanu Neal had a very quiet day as well, but that wasn’t a bad thing. Neal started with the first team all throughout practice and was featured in the box more times than not. It’s clear that the Falcons want to use him as close to the line of scrimmage as possible and that should excite a lot of people.
Giving Neal as many opportunities as possible to make big plays is key for him to succeed. He’s very capable of dropping back into coverage, but his home is in the box.
Check back later for a recap of day 2 of training camp.