For the Atlanta Falcons, 2013 was an intense wake up call, especially considering a team that was 13-3 in the previous regular season falling to 4-12 the very next year. It was the first real sense of trouble for the Thomas Dimitroff-Mike Smith Regime and the mandated straight from the owner Arthur Blank is that this team needed to get “tougher”. Dimitroff and others translated that mandate into increased size on the offensive and defensive lines and from the 1st day of training camp at Flowery Branch, that is exactly what stands out immediately. Of course, I have been to Falcons Training Camp in previous years and the nature of the athleticism and size is always “mind-blowing” however comparing some of the players in key areas there is indeed a sheer contrast. Paul Soliai, the Falcons free agent acquisition at Nose Tackle, previously of the Miami Dolphins, is a “mammoth” human being at 6’4, 340, alongside Tyson Jackson, formerly of the Kansas City Chiefs at 6’5, 296 and Rookie 2nd Round Pickup Rashede Hageman, 6’6, 310, the “Dirty Birds” got bigger along the defensive line…..no question. The much maligned offensive line for the Falcons also got a boost in acquiring Guard Jon Asamoah, formerly of the Chiefs along with the 6th Pick of the Draft Tackle Jake Matthews. Matthews in particular and as expected looks up to the task to take on the National Football League, even getting into a small scuffle with Defensive End/Outside Linebacker Kroy Biermann during drills. For whatever conclusion you could make from the 1st day of camp, it is obvious that the Falcons “increased the beef”.
In relation to the skill positions, it is always an absolute marvel to see skill, size, and speed displayed in one package. The sheer size of Steven Jackson and Julio Jones, who are hopeful for a season without injury for the Falcons this year, is beyond any comprehension. Both players were able to display full range of motion in every drill without any signs of ill effects. Jones particularly looked outstanding in pass catching drills with Assistant Head Coach Terry Robiske and then in 7 on 7 Drills where he was able to catch passes, cut in one motion, and take it to the endzone very effortlessly. The Falcons will monitor Jones’ progress and take it slow, only practicing every other day, but he for me surpasses perception in relation to his injury. Overall, what can you take from the 1st day of camp……that there will be a second, third, fourth, and so on.
Jamie Walker is a Producer and Blogger for Sports Radio 92.9 The Game. Follow him on Twitter @coachjdub21 or he can be reached by email at Jamie.Walker@cbsradio.com.