Training Camp Postcard: Falcons
Posted: Wednesday July 27, 2005 11:57PM; Updated: Thursday July 28, 2005 6:56PM
Postcards From Camp
Michael Vick takes a break from the 90-degree heat at Falcons camp.
In aptly named Flowery Branch, Ga., now the year-round home of the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons used to train two hours up I-85 in Greenville, S.C., but owner Arthur Blank said he wanted this to be Georgia's team, and he wanted Georgians to be able to come to training camp easily. There are 11 million Georgians, approximately, and four million Greater Atlantans, and now they're able to come to the complex of fields at the Falcons' training facility 45 minutes northeast of downtown to watch them train.
FIVE THINGS I THINK
1. I think, if I haven't mentioned it before about Jim Mora, that it was fashionable a year ago to say: "The kid's too young. The Falcons really reached for him." Well, Mora's not as much as he's precocious. Really, really smart, and more than ready to be an excellent coach at this level.
2. I think I may have underestimated this team in picking Carolina to win the NFC South. I still like the Panthers, but this could be a really good team -- and the addition of a couple of free-agent linebackers (Edgerton Hartwell and Ike Reese) is going to help on the field and in the locker room, respectively. Hartwell's a beast. I wonder if he'll shine now that he's out of Ray Lewis' shadow.
3. I think, just watching him cover for a half-hour, DeAngelo Hall has a chance to be one of the really good corners in football. He's so smooth, and so confident for a 21-year-old kid.
4. I think the addition of Hartwell and Reese also means the piss-and-vinegar level of the defense has been raised. That defense was maniacal at times this afternoon, much more intense than the offense.
5. I think one of the great things about watching this team practice is the beauty of the ball that Mike Vick throws. Gorgeous pass after gorgeous pass.
The top four Falcons wide receivers caught a total of 105 passes last year. Talk about your need position. These guys can't wait for first-round wideout Roddy White to end his holdout and get here.
FANTASY GEEK NOTE
Speaking of wideouts, you might think: Well, it's not a bad idea in my fantasy draft to pick up Michael Jenkins, last year's first-round pick from Ohio State. Well, problem is he's playing the same side as the perennially disappointing Peerless Price right now, running behind him so far early in camp. And even though Mora moved Jenkins ahead of Price on the depth chart, Mora also said emphatically he was sure this would be the year Price finally justified the heavy price Atlanta paid to get him. Dez White and Brian Finneran are one-two on the other side. Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp told me the best guys will play (what else would he say?) but if I'm drafting wideouts, every Falcon still goes pretty low on my list. I can't see a single one catching 65 balls.
ON THE MENU
Surprisingly good and varied from what I remember about Flowery Branch.
EntrÃ©e: Grilled chicken breast for the second straight day. Average, but just what I wanted. B-minus.
Rice: Brown. Fried. Really good. A-minus.
Vegetable: Carrot-cauliflower-green bean medley. Could have been fresher, and cooked less. But hey, who am I to look a gift cauliflower stalk in the mouth? B-minus.
Salad: Diced carrots, sliced cucumber, a touch of ranch dressing. Absolutely heavenly. A.
Dessert: Sliced cantaloupe. A little too hard, but melon is always welcome on a broiler of a day in Georgia. B-minus.
Overall grade: On a day like this, I am very pleased with the meal, but I realize because I'm early on my trip I need -- just like the Russian judge in the Olympic skating finals -- to leave some grading room for future camps. B.
I only had to see Matt Schaub, the backup quarterback to Mike Vick, make one play here to know he's the genuine item.
Early in practice, the second-year kid from Virginia rolled right, looking deep down the right side for Jenkins. In full rollout mode, he uncoiled a throw 37 yards downfield, a perfect strike, a perfect spiral. I mean, one of the prettiest and most accurate deep throws you'd ever want to see.
And Jenkins dropped it. Right in his hands, and he dropped it.
I see GM Rich McKay and ask: "Did any team come at you in the offseason and try to get Schaub?"
Two, he said. But it never got very far, because the Falcons simply won't trade him. Not this year anyway. They're rightfully concerned about Vick being able to play 16 games and the playoffs, and they don't want to give away one of the best young insurance policies in football.
I'll just say this: I would really like to see Matt Schaub play when the real combat starts. He's going to be good.