Day 1 observation of the Falcons' OTAs
In the NFL’s voluntary offseason program third and final phase, the Falcons players and coaches could finally get on-field team practice while maintaining social distancing. The offense and defense teams can run drills by going up against each other for the first time on Tuesday.
Here are five observations from the first organized team activity (OTA) session:
1. Countless changes happened inside the Falcons’ training facility, but Mat Ryan, Grady Jarret, and Jake Matthews have been leading their teams consistently regardless. The three leaders are the oldest Falcon players who have 29 years of experience combined. In the 2020 season, Jarret and Ryan were both team captains.
Matthews, as a veteran leader on the offensive line, was asked how he feels now when Alex Mack is no longer on the roster. The former No. 6 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft stated he's embracing his new role.
“I feel like I have a lot to help. I want to make sure I play well, and I improve the people around me and that's been my goal from the beginning," said Matthews.
2. A.J. Terrell, after a stellar rookie season, secured his spot as Atlanta’s no 1 cornerback, yet the player who will line up across from him on Sep. 12 remains undecided. What is sure is that the battle for the team's no 2 cornerback spot will be fierce and interesting to watch.
Fabian Moreau saw action outside at cornerback during the first OTA session. In March, The Falcons signed the 6-foot, 204-pound cornerback after he spent the 2020 season playing in all 16 games with one start with the Washington Football Team. Moreau recorded five total tackles, two interceptions, two pass deflections, and three special teams tackles last year.
This year, the Falcons drafted cornerbacks Darren Hall and Avery Williams while still having Kendall Sheffield and Isaiah Oliver on their roster.
3. During his rookie season, Matt Hennessy — as a starter in the NFL at the center position twice — saw what game action is like when Mac was sidelined. Drew Dalman, the former third-round pick and rookie will compete with Hennessy to be the Falcon's starting center with Mac's absence.
Matthews, who spent a lot of time with Hennessy stated that Hennessy has become more confident than the last season.
"He's so much more vocal and confident. Last year you got him on the field and sometimes it was hard to get him to talk. Now he's almost talking too much so it's been a good changeup," Matthew said.
4. Marlon Davidson, who had a rough rookie season, seemed enthusiastic on the practice fields. In the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft, Davidson was drafted and the Falcons had high expectations for him. Davidson who suffered an injury during the training camp had to spend time on the reserve/COVID-19 list in his first year in the NFL. He played in eight games and recorded eight tackles and one pass deflection.
5. Arthur Smith had, from the beginning, said that he would hold all of his players accountable, and his players can attest to that.
Before the end of practice, offensive lineman Sam Jones moved early — which would have resulted in a false start penalty in a game. The offense resulted in him running a lap around the field as punishment. Smith’s coaching culture is about accountability, and that was on full display on Tuesday.