FLOWERY BRANCH -- Don’t confuse the fact that the Atlanta Falcons finished their first training camp session early as a sign the team was taking it easy.
Nothing could be farther from the truth.
The Falcons started promptly at 10 a.m., breezed through practice and completed the approximately 30-minute session with the media by 12:11 p.m., well before the heat and humidity had a chance to take their toll.
“Everybody was focused, especially on the first day because you don’t want to make any mental errors,” wide receiver Roddy White said. “You want to run around and be fast on every play. Everybody was jacked up, you could see (it) early in the meetings.
“It was a good practice; it was fast. We got through some of the periods before the time was out. That was pretty good. That means we’re moving fast.”
Nowhere was the speed of practice as evident than with the offensive linemen.
With offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan installing a zone blocking scheme, the Falcons’ big men up front must be able to get off the line of scrimmage quickly and get into space to take care of their blocking assignments. So far, so good.
Bodies flew as the linemen went through individual drills. Whether it was one-on-one or five-on-five tests, the intensity was high as there was little to no rest between repetitions, and the amount of movement was increased from previous seasons.
“There’s going to be some bumps and bruises (with those guys),” said rookie running back Tevin Coleman, who worked behind the fast-moving offensive linemen Friday. “They’re going to pick it up, and they’ll get it right. I’m here to help them do that.”
Coleman, along with second-year rusher Devonta Freeman, should be the beneficiary of the offensive line’s new fast-paced blocking scheme. He said that once the linemen in front get everything ready, his job will be to make one cut back against the grain and turn regular plays into explosive runs. If the offensive line can make it into space and gobble up blocks (which will require mobility and speed), Atlanta’s running game should blossom.
On the opposite side of the line of scrimmage, the defensive line worked almost as feverishly as its counterpart on offense. The edge rushers, in particular, were put through some unique drills to enhance their ability to get around would-be blockers.
The coaching staff set up two approximately 15-foot circles on the ground next to each other. The pass-rush specialists were forced to figure-eight in between the two circles and come back to where they started. Along the way, they had to pick up a tennis ball from the first circle, place it down in the second while picking up a new ball from the second and carrying it back to the first.
Rookie pass-rusher Vic Beasley shined. His first rep was so fast, he was asked to perform the drill again immediately. The second repetition went just as well as the first, as did his third time through. He never dropped a tennis ball, nor did he ever waiver off balance around either of the circles.
One of first-year head coach Dan Quinn’s favorite phrases since he has arrived in Atlanta has been “fired up,” and if Friday’s practice was any indicator, the intensity in Atlanta is definitely on the rise.