FLOWERY BRANCH – This will be a busy week for the Falcons, who will hold their mandatory mini-camp Tuesday through Thursday.
Here are five things to know about the Atlanta Falcons this week:
1. Minicamp is open to the public. The Falcons minicamp will be open to the public. The practices will be held at 2:40 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Thursday practice will be held at 11:30 a.m. The team will hold Kid’s Day on Wednesday, which will include giveaways, prizes and appearances by the cheerleaders, Freddie Falcon and mascot friends.
2. Hooper on hand. The Falcons are excited about getting tight end Austin Hooper back for minicamp. He couldn’t take part in the OTAs because his Stanford class had not completed its academic calendar, per NFL rules.
Hooper, who was selected in the third-round of the NFL draft, received digital updates and phones calls from the staff in order to keep him in the loop.
“We really liked his route running ability,” Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. “He really comes off the ball hard. He’s not the fastest guy in the world, but he’s fast enough. He’s got good cutting ability, so he can break guys off at the top of his routes. He’s a big guy with length who’s got very good ball skills. He’s not scared to attack the ball. When he’s covered, he still has a chance to make the play.”
3. Linebacker shuffle. During OTAs, the Falcons have moved their linebackers around like pieces in a game a chess. The staff made it a priority to improve the unit this offseason. They have used several different combinations and will likely continue to do so during the minicamp. Linebacker coach Jeff Ulbrich said the “cream will rise” at that position.
4. Right cornerback shuffle. With Robert Alford sliding inside to nickel, the Falcons have a dilemma at right cornerback to start the season because of Jalen Collins’ four-game suspension for using a performing enhancing drug. The Falcons must find out if Akeem King, a converted safety and seventh-round pick in 2015, is ready for action.
Alford could actually start at right cornerback in the base until Collins is ready. Then slide inside in the nickel while King comes in at right cornerback.
The Falcons, who looked at veteran free agent cornerbacks Leon Hall and Brandon Boykin, have to figure out if this is a viable option.
King, who played in five games as a reserve and had one tackle and one pass breakup last season, is having a strong offseason.
“He’s now starting to come into his own,” secondary/senior assistant coach Marquand Manuel said. “He was already 6-1. Already ran fast. Now, the content of how he (goes) out there to perform is really the ultimate goal of what we are really starting to see.”
I asked Manuel if King could take over with Collins out for the first four games?
“Right now, I couldn’t answer that,” Manuel said.
5. Training camp schedule. After the minicamp, the Falcons will take a six-week break before returning for training camp on July 27.
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