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 Post subject: First Day of Rookie Camp Notes
PostPosted: Sat May 17, 2014 2:58 pm 
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10 observations from rookie minicamp

By Vaughn McClure | May 16, 2014 8:15:02 PM PDT
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Atlanta Falcons got going with their rookies Friday during the first of three minicamp practices.



Matthews
Of course, the center of attention was sixth overall pick Jake Matthews from Texas A&M. The right tackle looked as good as advertised in shorts. The most interesting part of the day was watching him work in drills against second-round pick Ra'Shede Hageman, the defensive end/nose tackle from Minnesota.

"He's a good player. It shows," Matthews said of Hageman. "It's understandable why he went in the second round. I wouldn't have been surprised if he went in the first. He's a hell of a player. Works hard. I actually trained with him all through the draft process. We both have the same agency [Athletes First]. He's a stud. He makes me better. And I know I'm making him better, so it's good for everyone."

Here are 10 other obversations from Day 1 of rookie minicamp:
Hageman (6-6, 318) seemed a little winded midway through practice, but he looked far from out of shape. If anything, he just has to get adjusted to the tempo of things in an NFL practices. He lined up primarily at left defensive end in the 3-4 look. His explosiveness was evident in individual drills.
Third-round pick Dez Southward, the free safety from Wisconsin, seems so eager to learn. He talked about already picking the brain of starting strong safety William Moore. Southward said he watched film of Earl Thomas and Eric Berry on Friday because they are two of the best safeties in the league.
New offensive line coach Mike Tice didn't bite his tongue in terms of yelling a few expletives at the rookies, particularly when they failed to pick up the pace during a sled drill. New defensive line coach Bryan Cox spoke in the same tongue.
Fourth-round pick Prince Shembo (6-0, 253), the outside linebacker from Notre Dame, is powerfully built compared to most linebackers. It particularly shows in his biceps and calves. He packs quite a punch. Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan singled out Shembo during one drill.
Speaking of outside linebackers, Matthews must have felt like he was going up against cousin Clay Matthews from the Green Bay Packers. That's because seventh-round pick Tyler Starr, the tatted-up outside linebacker from South Dakota, has the same dangling blonde hair as Clay Matthews does. And Starr has rush ability, too. He's no slouch by any means.
Undrafted quarterback Jeff Mathews from Cornell, at 6-4, looked like Matt Ryan standing in the pocket. And Mathews' first pass of the day was a dart. He wasn't outstanding, but solid. It was hard to get a read on the quarterbacks, running backs, receivers and tight ends with not much going on during Day 1.
Former practice squad defensive tackle Adam Repogle didn't look lost as the Falcons transition him to offensive guard from defensive line. He played left guard on the same unit that included Matthews at right tackle, William Wright (West Georgia) at right guard, James Stone (Tennessee) at center and Roderick Tomlin (Murray State) at left tackle.
New outside linebackers coach Mark Collins, who was previously a defensive line assistant, seemed detailed in his instruction with his crew of linebackers. His role in getting the players up to speed is crucial this year as the Falcons try to establish a better pass rush.
Running back Braden Wilson from Kansas State and defensive lineman Byron Jerideau from South Carolina, two players in for tryouts, watched Friday's practice with undisclosed injuries. That's a tough way to make a first impression.
General manager Thomas Dimitroff was around for the duration of practice and couldn't sit still while bouncing from position group to position group. Obviously his legs weren't tired from the 40-mile bike ride to work, as part of National Bike to Work Day.


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 Post subject: Re: First Day of Rookie Camp Notes
PostPosted: Sat May 17, 2014 2:59 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: First Day of Rookie Camp Notes
PostPosted: Sat May 17, 2014 3:01 pm 
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http://atlantafalcons.blog.ajc.com/2014 ... -minicamp/

6 quick observations from Day 1 of Rookie minicamp
By D. Orlando Ledbetter

Falcons at the end of Day One of rookie minicamp. (D. Orlando Ledbetter/Dledbetter@ajc.com)

FLOWERY BRANCH – Here are six quick takes from the first day of Falcons rookie minicamp:
Falcons first-round pick Jake Matthews won two battles with second-round pick Ra’Shede Hageman in one-on-one pass blocking drills. Both players were impressive.
Fourth-round pick Prince Shembo lined up at RDE in the nickel package. He looked good coming off the edge as a rusher.
Former defensive tackle Adam Replogle has been moved over to the offensive line. He played some left guard.
The defense drilled in the 4-3, 3-4 and 4-2-5.
Veteran cornerback Jordan Mabin, safety Sean Baker and Replogle, who were all on the practice squad last season, participated in the drills.
Running back Braden Wilson (Kansas State, tryout), cornerback Devonta Glover-Wright (Campbell High, Utah State, undrafted rookie), and defensive lineman Byron Jerideau (South Carolina, tryout) were injured and watched most of the drills.
Please check back later. We’ll post a video, coach Mike Smith’s comments on the practice and a story on third-round pick Dezmen Southward.
- See more at: http://atlantafalcons.blog.ajc.com/2014 ... exTLi.dpuf


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 Post subject: Re: First Day of Rookie Camp Notes
PostPosted: Sat May 17, 2014 5:52 pm 
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Here's a short post practice interview from Mike Smith.

http://atlantafalcons.blog.ajc.com/2014 ... e-minicamp

Here's the sporting news' observations from day 1

http://www.sportingnews.com/nfl/story/2 ... mike-smith

A piece from a paper in Wichita. Hageman admits we play in a 3-4 here. Not groundbreaking but Smith denies it so I thought I'd point it out. A few other good tid bits on mini camp in here too.

http://www.kansas.com/2014/05/16/346076 ... -look.html


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 Post subject: Re: First Day of Rookie Camp Notes
PostPosted: Sat May 17, 2014 8:56 pm 
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Thanks for the updates guys.

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 Post subject: Re: First Day of Rookie Camp Notes
PostPosted: Mon May 19, 2014 9:57 am 
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* * *

Good life lesson for the Falcons.

When coach Mike Smith and GM Thomas Dimitroff looked at their team in the last couple of years, there were things they didn’t like much. When you coach and manage a team for five years, and you win 56 games and lose just 24, and you make the playoffs four out of five years, you tend to say, “We’re okay.”

Said Smith: “Human nature, when you’re getting positive results, is not to stress the negative. But when you get humbled, which happened last year, you’ve got to be realistic about your team.”

As the house-collapsing 4–12 season of 2013 proved, the Falcons were most definitely not okay. The pass-rush stunk. The offensive line stunk. The secondary leaked. And every time they got into the playoffs—Smith’s playoff record: 1–4—a team with a strong pass-rush and good secondary frustrated Matt Ryan and sent the Falcons home early.

And so, the night before the first round of the draft, Dimitroff sat in his Buckhead home, watching NFL Network with his son Mason (Mason: “DAD!!! They’re saying your name wrong!”) and pondered the mess his team was in.

“We have gotten to the realization we were able to win a lot of games, but not the Super Bowl,” Dimitroff said. “And we realize how quickly a 4–12 season can change the perspective of a team-builder like me and a coach like Mike. For us, 4–12 has been productive vulnerability. We’re very confident in our ability to bring our team back, but this draft is crucial to getting us there.”

Atlanta had a boring draft, but a lucky draft. The night before the draft, Dimitroff thought he had a deal with old friend Dave Caldwell, the GM of the Jaguars, to move from six to three … but it would have been a stupid deal in retrospect. Dimitroff had his heart set on Texas A&M tackle Jake Matthews, and he was fortunate Caldwell called him on draft morning and said, “We’re out. We’re staying put and picking our guy.” Blake Bortles. Forget the speculation. Dimitroff wasn’t going to pick Kahlil Mack. He was going Matthews all the way.

Dimitroff, here in his Flowery Branch office, hopes his draft day haul can propel the Falcons back to contender status.
Dimitroff, here in his Flowery Branch office, hopes his draft day haul can propel the Falcons back to contender status. (Peter King/The MMQB)

Now came the next piece of drama in the Atlanta draft room. New assistant GM Scott Pioli was a voice of calm in the room; he’d been urging Dimitroff to not be too eager to move back into the first round. Atlanta sat at 37, and wanted a pass-rusher—either a defensive end or outside linebacker. The Falcons really wanted Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier, who went to Pittsburgh at number 15. That was too high for Atlanta. Then the object of their affection was defensive end Dee Ford, and he would have cost a third-round pick for Atlanta to move into the mid-twenties. But Kansas City grabbed Ford at 23, and there went the two rushers Dimitroff liked. Instead of overpaying for a player he didn’t love, Dimitroff sat and took high-risk/big-reward defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman of Minnesota. He didn’t get a pass-rusher until pick 139 in the fourth round: Notre Dame outside linebacker Prince Shembo, whose career was clouded by an encounter with a girl he met at Notre Dame who later killed herself. The circumstance around her death—Shembo was never charged with a crime—caused many teams to steer clear of him, and he’s a risk for the Falcons. But they were confident in the vetting of Shembo, and in his potential. So he’s the man Atlanta hopes can be the edge-rush help for the aging Osi Umenyiora that the quarterbacks of the NFC South will grow to fear. But Shembo’s the 139th pick. That’s not exactly Jadeveon Clowney territory.

The night before the draft, it was clear Dimitroff wanted one more impact out of this draft that he just wasn’t able to get. “This league is about now, and it’s about impact players,” he said. “What did Marv Levy say? ‘Depth is great until you’ve got to use it?’ ”

Soon after the season, Dimitroff and Smith had a summit meeting with owner Arthur Blank. “We have been the hardest on ourselves, and Mr. Blank was hard on us too,” said Dimitroff. “But I welcome that. We deserved it. I’ll be damned if I ever say adequate is okay.”

Blank, the former Home Depot scion, told me: “In the NFL, what we’ve learned is a pat hand doesn’t work. From my days at Home Depot, I learned good is the enemy of great. I told Thomas and Mike I was going to have faith in them, because they deserved it after five good years. But they worked at it. They had my plane for 322 passenger hours, not including the combine, going all over the country to find players we need. They’ve been very analytical.”

Dimitroff added several analytics tools to the Falcons’ offseason. The Force Plate, which measures athleticism and lower-body muscle usage, was important in an effort to gauge the strength of draftees … and to help the team teach offensive linemen to fire off the line in a slightly different way than they had been doing, to help decrease the Lisfranc and calf injuries. Instead of firing out on the balls of the feet, linemen are firing out with the lower part of their feet, to even out the pressure on the foot and whole leg. Dimitroff has also used Fusionetics, which educates players about which of their movements increase the chance of injury.

“This is not in any way a quest to find excuses for why we went 4–12,” Dimitroff said. “It is just us being mindful to try to do everything we can to keep our players healthy and at a top performance level. And give credit to Smitty—he’s been on board with everything to try to be sure our players are playing at their peak.”

Mike Tice and Brian Cox have been imported as assistants on the offense and defense, respectively, in part to instill a toughness that has been missing. “We’ve got to get back to winning the line of scrimmage,” said Smith. Matthews at right tackle, Hageman in the interior of the defensive line, and Shembo as an outside rusher … if those all work, the Falcons will be back strong in 2014. But if Matt Ryan gets whacked around like last year, and if Smith’s defense can’t pressure the quarterback, it’ll be a battle again to stay out of the NFC South basement. And Blank won’t be so patient then.

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