2018 Atlanta Falcons Training Camp Update
With the regular season right around the corner, here are eight updates from Falcons training camp.
As we all so anxiously anticipate the 2018 season, I’ve been taking a close look at training camp. There’s a more accurate account that can be taken when the pads are on. Here are eight key individual and team updates of camp as I’ve seen it for the week:
1. There has been an emphasis in red zone offense and defense in camp.
We all know how the red zone efficiency had taken a dip last season. I’m seeing some deliberate personnel groupings and decent play calling. There have been wins and losses on both sides, but it’s certainly good to see there has been an improvement in timing on the passing plays.
2. Eric Saubert is having a very good camp.
When the pads came on, he really stepped up. I always thought Saubert was a great athlete, but he seems to have been working hard in the offseason when it comes to his route running and his hands. He’s catching passes quite often from Ryan and Schaub and his focus has increased greatly. If he comes on, expect to see more 12 personnel from Sark to create match up problems. Saubert has the potential to be a match up nightmare.
3. The offensive line is showing good depth and cohesion.
Coach Quinn keeps rotating reps at the RG position between Wes Schweitzer and Brandon Fusco. Although some may have issues with this, I think it’s a well constructed plan. By all accounts, I think Fusco becomes the starter, but getting Schweitzer those reps to start gives him a chance to claim the role(not likely) and even more importantly, ensure a quality backup at the position. I’m very comfortable with the OL overall as a group.
4. This WR group is going to be dangerous.
As I stated before, Calvin Ridley is fitting in well with the WR group. He’s had some drops, which needs to be worked on, but he’s the real deal. Although Ridley will be moved around, I fully expect him to take the role as the Z receiver in this offense, with Mohammad Sanu taking the slot. There’s nothing to say about Julio Jones. He’s an absolute monster and having an excellent camp. I actually believe it did Julio well to workout on his own, as he camp into camp in excellent shape. Sanu, interestingly enough, may be having the best camp of all the receivers. Justin Hardy, who already has insane hands, looks to have been working on his speed and quickness. This is a deep and talented group that can hit defenses in so many different ways.
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5. The defensive line is showing some promise and potential.
Takk McKinley hasn’t had any contact reps due to a sore shoulder, but he has been in pads the past few days and completing drills. Vic Beasley looks as explosive as ever and also looks stronger. Grady Jarrett is seriously on the verge of being elite. Jarrett’s still wrecking plays and being very disruptive in camp. Jack Crawford could be the X factor on this line. He’s been disruptive during camp, and doing well in 1-on-1 drills. If he can take that into the season, this defensive line can actually be very good.
6. This secondary group of the Falcons is arguably the deepest on the team.
The competitiveness and talent in this group is exciting to watch. There are the usual suspects of Desmond Trufant, Robert Alford and Brian Poole. Isaiah Oliver is getting better and better as camp goes along also. He’s getting baptized by the best WR in the game, but it’s only helping him. Oliver also has great ball skills, as evident today in his pick. Damontae Kazee, one of my favorite players, looks faster and more comfortable in the FS role. Rico Allen of course stays ready, and Keanu Neal looks like he was carved out of granite. The acquisitions of Ron Parker and Justin Bethel truly round out this extremely talented and deep group.
7. This LB group actually may be the most athletic on the team.
Deion Jones and De’Vondre Campbell are some excellent athletes. They’re giving these tight ends and running backs fits in coverage. It’s taking perfect throws and circus catches against them to produce. Campbell is also spending time with the DL completing drills. Campbell is certainly the most versatile player on the defense, and I expect him to be used in multiple ways. Duke Riley is certainly showing improvement. He’s more comfortable in the scheme, showing better coverage chops and his instincts are there. He even broke up a pass to Devonta Freeman. Foye Oluokun is also taking reps at the WILL and he’s picking things up quickly. This LB group has the potential to take another step forward this season.
8. Communication among the defense has massively improved.
Having your core group of players in the system for three straight seasons is bound to yield good results. Individual speed aside, when you don’t have to think when on the field, you play faster. This Falcons team defense is the fastest in the league, and they will be even faster this season. This Falcons team truly has the potential to have a top 5 offense and defense. Whether that actually happens remains to be seen.