With training camp rapidly kicking off all around the league, the Atlanta Falcons are a team looking to hit the ground running. After last season’s well-documented second-half collapse, the sophomore staff of Dan Quinn, Kyle Shanahan and Richard Smith head into August with much greater expectations from their groups than they had a year ago.
The club will be relying on a slew of younger players to make an impact on both sides of the ball. Offensive and defensive coordinators Shanahan and Smith need their men full-speed by September 11.
As head coach, Quinn has established a competitive environment. He said all the right things back in OTA’s to have his squad digging deeper.
Atlanta Falcons Young Guns Putting in Work
What offseason? ?
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) July 12, 2016
Neal: “He reached out to me. He really told me about Marquand, Coach Manuel, and he told me he’s a great dude and everything. He asked if I wanted to train with him, and its hard to turn that down. … It was just a great experience. (We worked on) body control. Being able to control my energy, my physicality. Physical players are aggressive, so being overly aggressive can hurt you at times.”
If Neal can resemble Kam Chancellor in any way, the Falcons will be very satisfied for a long time.
Second-rounder Deion Jones was the latest to strut his stuff when his training crew posted this exciting clip…
— Albert Brock (@AB_Xplode) July 17, 2016
Jones has a shot at winning the starting middle-linebacker job from the incumbent Paul Worrilow, as the Falcons look to add speed and range across the entire defense.
The former LSU standout wasn’t the only rookie linebacker to make a good first impression during off-season team activities, as 2016 fourth-round pick De’Vondre Campbell saw the majority of starting reps himself at weak-side linebacker. Veterans Philip Wheeler and Sean Weatherspoon will provide steady competition. However, Campbell’s ability to cover the tight end may press him onto the field in sub-packages immediately.
Big man Ra’Shede Hageman has also been running drills under the mentorship of former Pittsburgh Steelers defensive back and Minnesota alum Tyron Carter. Bending the edge and improved footwork could go a long way in the third-year pro’s switch to defensive end.
— Tyrone Carter (@TyroneCarter954) July 15, 2016
Free agent signee linebacker Ivan McLennan posted a picture of himself training alongside Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright in preparation for training camp.
Working and competing with the best ? pic.twitter.com/q5E1NzBxnh
— Ivan McLennan (@Forever_Leisure) July 15, 2016
It definitely hasn’t been a slow off-season in the A-T-L, so it’s great to see the young guns keeping pace. The rookies (& Hageman) have put in the work; though as always, the true test will come once the pads are strapped in just a few more days.
Main Photo: CHICAGO, IL – APRIL 28: (L-R) Keanu Neal of Florida holds up a jersey with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being picked #17 overall by the Atlanta Falcons during the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University on April 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)