5 things we learned from Falcons’ OTAs
Julio Jones and Matt Ryan believe center Alex Mack will help the offense immensely. (Photo by Curtis Comptonfirstname.lastname@example.org)
FLOWERY BRANCH — The Falcons held their ninth and final OTA on Thursday.
All that is left in the offseason program is the mandatory minicamp Tuesday through Thursday. Training camp will start in late July.
Here’s what we learned during OTAs:
1. Special teams: Falcons special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong is looking to improve the units, which he called “average” last year. They were ranked 22nd in the league in 2015.
2. Experimentation on defense: Falcons defensive coordinator Richard Smith looked at several linebacker combinations with Vic Beasley moving to strongside. Philip Wheeler is slated to be his “relief pitcher.”
3. The rookie club: One key for the Falcons will be how fast they can get rookies Keanu Neal, Deion Jones and De’Vondre Campbell on the field. The Falcons want to get faster and drafted these hitters to help improve the defense.
4. Reed, Upshaw: Both former strongside linebackers — Brooks Reed and Courtney Upshaw — were moved to defensive end with the coaches leaving no stone unturned in their quest to improve the pass rush.
5. Coleman is up: The Falcons remain high on running back Tevin Coleman, the season-opening starter in 2015.
PROJECT PASS RUSH
Dan Quinn pressing all buttons to create a pass rush
How does drafting Keanu Neal help the pass rush?
DL line coach Bryan Cox: Hageman needs to improve his play
LB coach Jeff Ulbrich: ‘Cream will rise’ at linebacker for Falcons
Defensive coordinator Richard Smith pleased with early progress of the defense
Falcons still have a spot for DT Jonathan Babineaux
Dwight Freeney 95 percent certain that he will play in 2016
Falcons working 80 percent of time on pass rush
Weatherspoon on Freeney: ‘He still has it’
90-MAN ROSTER ANALYSIS — POSITION BY POSITION
Atlanta Falcons 90-man roster analysis: Linebackers
Atlanta Falcons 90-man roster analysis: Running backs
Atlanta Falcons 90-man roster analysis: Specialists
FALCONS’ OFFSEASON SPOTLIGHTS
Falcons’ offseason spotlight: OG Wes Schweizter, sixth round pick
Falcons offseason spotlight: LB De’Vondre Campbell, fourth round pick
Falcons’ offseason spotlight: TE Austin Hooper, third round pick
Falcons’ offseason spotlight: LB Deion Jones, second round pick
Falcons’ offseason spotlight: SS Keanu Neal, first round pick
Falcons’ offseason spotlight: DE/SLB Vic Beasley
Falcons’ offseason spotlight: DT Grady Jarrett
Falcons’ offseason spotlight: FS Robenson Therezie
Falcons’ offseason spotlight: CB Jalen Collins
Falcons’ offseason spotlight: RB Tevin Coleman
Falcons’ offseason spotlight: WR Justin Hardy