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Dissecting 5 Key Falcons vs. Saints Match-ups with SportingATL.com

The 2014 NFL regular season is right around the corner, and is there honestly any better way to start off a fresh, new year than against a most hated rival? No. The answer is no. The Falcons begin their quest for redemption against a team they’ve had trouble putting down as of late: the New Orleans Saints. T. from the fast-growing SportingATL.com and I took a closer look at the five most crucial aspects to a Falcons’ victory on Sunday, and why they may or may not be able to come out on the winning side of these vital match-ups.

Falcons’ Tackles vs. Saints’ Pass Rush

T: In 2012, Matt Ryan had his best statistical season to-date, eclipsing the 30 touchdown mark for the first time in his career while throwing for over 4700 yards.  Sam Baker was healthy for an entire season, and Tyson Clabo manned the right tackle position admirably. Ryan attempted over 600 passes that year while only being sacked 28 times. What a difference a year makes! A large amount of blame for last season’s woes can be attributed to poor pass protection led by Lamar Holmes and a revolving door of other warm bodies, leading to the Falcons’ 6th overall selection of Jake Matthews. Jake will be a stalwart left tackle for Atlanta for years to come, but I don’t expect early success for the young rookie. He’ll be opposed by the likes of Cameron Jordan and Junior Galette in Week 1, a duo that combined for 24.5 sacks a season ago. Additionally, the aforementioned Holmes has played much better at right tackle than on Ryan’s blind side, but I’m not a believer just yet. Rob Ryan will undoubtedly dial up the pressure on #2 on Sunday, and I expect the Falcons to struggle to keep Matt upright.

RUR: Those are all great points, T. Sam Baker going down could be a bad omen for this team, as the Falcons typically struggle in years that Baker isn’t healthy. That being said, let me tell you why I think 2014 will put an end to that trend, starting with Week 1. Sliding Matthews over to the left side did two things: it upgraded the pure talent level at left tackle, and it also put Matthews and Holmes in their best positions to succeed. Matthews is a prototype left tackle, and Holmes plays much more comfortably on the right side. Yes, Holmes was an utter failure last season, but he’s quietly put together a respectable preseason (zero combined sacks and pressures allowed in 116 pass-blocking snaps according to Pro Football Focus) and looks much more technically sound than a year ago. Everyone knows about the sheer potential Matthews possesses; it’s just a matter of time before he gets comfortable and blocks more people than Dikembe Mutumbo. Having said that, Jordan, Galette, and Akiem Hicks will be a tough first test. I fully expect the Falcons to counter the Saints’ pass rush with designed screens, draws, and chip blocks, but don’t be surprised to see Holmes and especially Mathews hold their own on an island. If they can limit the amount of sacks and QB hits to around two or less, Ryan should have more than enough time to find his open man. In my book, that would be considered a big win for the two young tackles.

Falcons’ Rushing Attack vs. Saints’ Front Seven

RUR: All indications are that Steven Jackson will be back on the field for the season opener, but that shouldn’t get anyone too excited. Jackson didn’t play a single down in the preseason due to a hamstring strain, so he’s likely rustier than the Tin Man without a can of oil. In 2013, Jackson said himself that it took a few games to shake off the rust and get into a rhythm after yet another hamstring injury. The Falcons simply can’t afford to let that happen again, especially not with the rival Saints in town. This is somewhat of a must-win game for Atlanta, as a win or a loss will set the tone for the rest of the season. The Falcons should give ‘Quizz Rodgers, Devonta Freeman, and Antone Smith — who have each had very good pre-seasons — plenty of carries to wear out the defense, then let Jackson pound it in on goal-line and short-yardage situations — I just don’t think Atlanta will do that. If the staff tries to force Jackson back into action, I think you’ll see a lot of carries for no gain, and they’ll be making it way too easy for the Saints’ front seven.

T: While Steven Jackson may be a shell of his former self, he’s got enough left in the tank to be an effective back behind Tice’s remodeled offensive line. The theme of the off-season has been toughness, and I fully expect Dirk Koetter to display this new mentality through an early commitment to the running game. As you stated, Koetter has a talented stable of backs at his disposal, and I expect him to ride the hot hand if Jackson sputters out of the gate. Joe Hawley and the newly acquired Jon Asamoah should be able to open holes on the inside, and Falcons backs will be able to get to the second level quickly against New Orleans’ weak run defense. The key to this attack is sticking with the plan if early ground attempts don’t yield explosive gains. After all, the best defense against Drew Brees and his artillery of receivers is keeping him on the sidelines through a balanced, ball control-focused offense. As we all know, however, the Falcons’ game plan tends to go out the door when the team comes out of the tunnel after halftime. If Koetter abandons the ground game in the third quarter, I don’t expect much second half success if it turns into a shootout.

Mike Smith vs. Sean Payton

T: Do you ever truly approach a match-up with the Saints with any real confidence? If you held a gun to my head, I’m picking New Orleans on most occasions, and the headset-wearing weasle patrolling the Saints’ sidelines is the reason why. The man simply has our number, as evidenced by his 9-3 record against Smitty’s Falcons. His on-the-field relationship with Drew Brees can only be described as telepathic, as the two are always on the same page. Each time Atlanta dials up a blitz, they hit us with a screen to the blitzing side. When we sit back in coverage, the Saints’ otherwise mediocre ground game gains confidence and lulls us to sleep. If Nolan dares to stack the box, Jimmy Graham and the New Orleans WRs have field days. As someone who still has full confidence in Mike Smith even after last year’s disappointment, it pains me to say this, but Sean Payton is the far superior coach in this matchup. He’s an offensive mastermind, and if Brees and friends are clicking on Sunday, it will be difficult for the Falcons to match their firepower.

RUR: You’re absolutely right; Sean Payton has had the Falcons’ number for years, and it’s about time Mike Smith does something about it. I think Smith is very cognizant of the Falcons’ abysmal record against the Saints, and with his seat getting much toastier after a disastrous 2013, Smith will do everything in his power to reverse his team’s fortunes in this heated rivalry. He’s had all offseason to prepare for this game, and I believe he’ll have something up his sleeve on gameday. There are a couple of unknowns that could really benefit Smith and the Falcons in this one. Week 1 will be the first time that anyone sees what the new Falcons’ defense truly looks like; the Saints don’t have any 2014 tape to study of Atlanta’s hybrid 3-4 and 4-3 defensive looks, and that should heavily favor the Falcons when the teams hit the field. Additionally, the Falcons have a secret weapon on offense: Devin Hester. How Smith utilizes his wealth of offensive weapons could be the difference between a win and a loss. It’s easy to forget, but the Falcons were a dropped pass away from winning last season’s opener in New Orleans and fought valiantly in a four-point November loss when seemingly everyone but Matt Ryan was injured. These rivalry games are almost always close contests, and the Falcons are certainly due for a win. Since 2008, the Falcons are an impressive 36-12 at home under Smith, and I believe win number 37 will come Sunday afternoon.

Slowing Down Jimmy Graham

RUR: Jimmy Graham has always been a gigantic thorn in the Falcons’ side, scoring seven touchdowns in his past seven games against the Dirty Birds; I honestly don’t expect much to change this week. Somehow, Graham is still an ascending player, and the Falcons still don’t employ anyone on their roster that can match up with him. The Falcons will likely try some sort of double coverage with a linebacker and safety over the top, but that just hasn’t worked in the past. William Moore was abused in coverage by Graham last year, and the Falcons don’t have a linebacker capable of handling Graham’s combination of size and speed. Atlanta’s best option would be to try and limit Graham’s opportunities as much as possible and hope he doesn’t break any more records or goal posts in the Dome. Simply put, start Graham in your fantasy league this week.

T: If there’s anything Mike Nolan has been preparing for during the seemingly endless off-season, it’s stopping Jimmy Graham. He’ll allow Desmond Trufant to mirror Colston in man-to-man for most of the game, allowing a rotating assortment of other DBs and linebackers to key on Graham. I expect William Moore to double Graham early and often with linebacker help, and Kroy Biermann will drop in coverage on #80 at times as well. I think you’ll see some inside pressure from Worrilow and Shembo on blitzes, especially with the lack of experience at the Saints’ center position. Hopefully this forces Brees to rush a throw or two to his tight end, resulting in a game-changing pick.

Hell, Mike, who am I kidding—the only way to stop Jimmy Graham is to tie him up at Hartsfield before he’s got a chance to get on the team bus.

Falcons’ Defensive Front vs. Saints’ Offensive Line

T: Thomas Dimitroff was aggressive in free agency to bolster a defensive line that was terrible last season in both stopping the run and putting pressure on the quarterback. Paul Soliai and Tyson Jackson are gigantic run-stoppers who will occupy space in the middle, and Ra’Shede Hageman is an enigmatic force who can provide inside pressure, but expect Brees to have a relatively clean pocket on Sunday. The Saints have one of the league’s best aerial attacks, and Brees will surgically carve any defense that gives him time. Dimitroff’s efforts to solidify the interior defensive line won’t likely pay huge dividends in 2013, and next off-season’s primary objective will be to find impact edge rushers. I understand that Rome wasn’t built in a day and that the Falcons had many needs to address this summer, but I would’ve liked to see more attention to this need area. I’m not yet on the Massaquoi bandwagon, and Osi and Kroy will not put fear into the hearts of the Saints’ talented tackles. Second year LT Terron Armstead was excellent down the stretch last season. In fact, Pro Football Focus gave him a perfect 100.0 pass blocking efficiency rating against the Seahawks in the NFC Divisional Playoffs. Zach Strief, one of the NFL’s most consistent right tackles, was PFF’s second best RT in all of football in 2013. If the Falcons plan on generating any pressure on Brees this Sunday, I’d expect Nolan to call a few inside blitzes for Shembo and Worrilow. If not, the Falcons’ secondary could have their hands full.

RUR: As we saw throughout the preseason, I don’t think many teams will be able to run on the Falcons this year. The problem will be getting consistent pressure on dangerous QBs like Drew Brees. The Falcons don’t yet have their crown jewel of a pass rusher, but this season’s deep-rotational approach could still bear fruit for Atlanta. The Falcons’ defensive line rotation is so deep, they practically have two separate defensive lines. In 3-4 sets, the Falcons have Tyson Jackson, Paul Soliai, and Jonathan Babineaux up front. In 4-3 looks, Jonathan Massaquoi, Corey Peters, Malliciah Goodman, and Kroy Biermann will likely be the down lineman — not to mention up-and-comers Ra’Shede Hageman and Stansly Maponga, in addition to designated pass rusher Osi Umenyiora. As you can see, the Falcons defensive line is much, much deeper and more talented than a season ago. Atlanta will be able to rotate fresh bodies in at will throughout the game and theoretically tire out the Saints’ offensive line. The newly-acquired big bodies up front should open up plenty of gaps for linebackers to shoot through, as Paul Worrilow’s four combined preseason sacks and pressures can attest to. If youngsters like Massaquoi and Goodman can continue to ascend and develop into bona fide pass rushers in their own right, Atlanta’s front seven — and defense as a whole — should have no problem handling the Saints’ offensive line.

Score Predictions:

Mike (RUR): Atlanta wins 24-21
T: Atlanta wins 30-24

A huge thanks goes out to T. for his excellent work in this collaboration piece. I look forward to continuing to work together in the future! Be sure to check out SportingATL.com and follow T. on Twitter (@SportingATL) for complete coverage of Georgia sports.

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What To Watch For: Titans vs. Falcons

The Falcons enter tonight’s matchup with the Tennessee Titans following a blowout loss to Houston in which Atlanta was outplayed in nearly every phase of the game. The Falcons will be looking to drastically improve across the board as they continue to prepare for the fast-approaching regular season opener. Atlanta’s starters should see plenty of action in this game, as the third preseason contest is typically a dress rehearsal for the games that count. Here are some of the most important things to watch as the Falcons battle the Titans.

New Beginnings, Second Chances

All eyes will be on the Falcons’ two new starting offensive tackles: Jake Matthews and Lamar Holmes. Matthews’ future begins now as he slides over to left tackle following the season-ending knee injury of incumbent starter Sam Baker. Lamar Holmes makes his return to the starting offensive line after an abysmal 2013 display and will try to build upon his promising preseason. The young duo should see plenty of snaps against the Titans’ stout defensive line, a group featuring studs such as Jurrell Casey, Derrick Morgan, and Kamerion Wimbley. How Matthews and Holmes fare could be indicative of their success for the upcoming season.

The Start of Something Great?

The Falcons’ starters will likely see their most extensive playing time of the preseason on Saturday night, and it should be Atlanta’s best chance to rid themselves of the bad taste left in everyone’s mouth after an ugly loss to the Texans. The offense will look to establish a rhythm and put points on the board with what is likely to be a balanced attack, while the defense could show some of the complexity that’s been long awaited for by fans, but without giving too much away. The Falcons could suppress concerns about the lack of a pass rush with a solid showing against a talented Titans’ offensive line.

Cuts Are Coming

The Falcons will trim their roster to 75 players on August 26th, meaning this game could be the last opportunity for certain players on the bubble to impress the coaching staff. After the starters exit, fringe players will be giving everything they’ve got to make it past the first wave of cuts. It’s a time that could potentially make or break careers for players like Kimario McFadden, Jerome Smith, Geraldo Boldewijn, and Jeff Mathews.

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Game Notebook: Falcons vs. Texans Recap

The Falcons’ second preseason game of the year was an utter disaster: a 32-7 loss to the Houston Texans, a team that won just two games last season. This loss looks even worse when considering the Falcons were crushed by a team coming off a 32-0 defeat just last week.

Atlanta was outplayed in every phase of the game and looked nothing like the team we saw just a week before against Miami. Thankfully, this loss doesn’t count, and it’s important to try and keep things in perspective when looking back on this game. Let’s take a look at what stood out the most in Atlanta’s defeat.

Continue reading here. 

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Malliciah Goodman Gunning for Snaps, Tyson Jackson’s Job

Rewind back to last year, when Malliciah Goodman was a wide-eyed rookie just looking to make a good first impression on his coaches. The former Clemson Tiger brought his freakishly long arms and gargantuan hands to Atlanta when the Falcons selected him with one of their fourth-round picks in the 2013 NFL Draft. Goodman’s rookie season was expectedly filled with highs and lows, but there were moments when he flashed run-stopping brilliance, making both coaches and fans salivate over his potential.

Fast forward to the present day, and Goodman has progressed way beyond just impressing his coaches — he’s making a bona fide case for first-team snaps. Per AtlantaFalcons.com, defensive coordinator Mike Nolan had this to say about the second-year stud: “Malliciah has really made a lot of progress,” Nolan said. “He’s worth mentioning. He’s a guy that you need to watch, because he’s really doing a good job. He’s up to almost 290 (pounds) and you can see him out there, he’s got long arms, he’s thick, he’s girthy, he’s not like a spindly tall guy; he’s doing a really good job.”

Goodman’s long offseason of hard work seems to be paying off early for the Falcons in 2014, as he’s been very impressive in two preseason games thus far. But Goodman is currently playing second fiddle to high-priced free agent acquisition Tyson Jackson, a player Goodman has outperformed up to this point. This begs a legitimate question: does Goodman deserve to start over Jackson? Let’s objectively examine both players and determine who would be the better option for the Falcons.

Player A 2014 Statistics: 34 total snaps, 1 total tackle, 0 combined QB hits, hurries, and pressures, 0 run stops, 1 penalty. PFF overall score: -1.8, -0.7 run defense, -0.2 pass rush.

Player B 2014 Statistics: 39 total snaps, 1 combined tackle, 4 combined QB hits, hurries, and pressures, 0 run stops, 0 penalties. PFF overall score: +2.3, +1.0 run defense, +1.2 pass rush.

It may come as a surprise to some that Player B is Goodman, a player making a measly $594k this season compared to Jackson’s $3.1 million. Jackson was given a lucrative deal to provide Atlanta with rock-solid run defense, but he hasn’t shown much in two preseason games to appear truly deserving of his high-dollar contract. Additionally, everyone knows Jackson can’t rush the passer with only nine sacks in five years, so exactly what good is he doing for the Falcons’ defense? If there is one thing Jackson does provide for the Falcons that Goodman doesn’t, it’s a proven track record. As recently as last year, Jackson was one of the better run-stuffers in the league. Unfortunately, last year’s performances don’t help this year’s team.

Goodman, on the other hand, brings youth, affordability, versatility, and a copious amount of potential to the Falcons’ defense, not to mention he’s outproducing Jackson in every way right now. Goodman displayed glimpses last season that he could develop into the same caliber of run-stuffer that Jackson has been, but additionally that he could provide a pass-rush for a team severely lacking it. Put simply, the arrow is pointing way up for Goodman.

The Falcons had a propensity to stick with players that were either highly paid or drafted highly, even if they clearly weren’t performing up to par. 2013 saw a change in that, likely due to a lost season, but the staff nevertheless benched underperforming starters like Akeem Dent and Osi Umenyiora for youngsters Paul Worrilow and Jonathan Massaquoi, subsequently reaping the benefits.

It’d be a tough pill to swallow for Thomas Dimitroff and Mike Smith to admit that Jackson was a poor signing by starting Goodman, but it could be in the best interest for the franchise longterm. It’s possible that the best move for the Falcons going forward would be to get Goodman involved as much as possible to speed up his development, while keeping Jackson in the mix on obvious run downs to play to his strengths and attempt to get the most out of his contract.

What do you think? Has Goodman earned the majority of snaps, or is it too soon to relegate Jackson to backup duty?

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Think You Know the Falcons? Test Your Knowledge Here!

1) In what year was the Falcons inaugural season?

A) 1967

B) 1969

C) 1966

D) 1776

 

2)   Who was the first player ever drafted by the Falcons?

A) Tommy Nobis

B) Jeff Van Note

C) Claude Humphrey

D) Bobby Boucher

 

3)  Who is the all-time leading point scorer in Falcons’ history?

A) Matt Ryan

B) Morten Andersen

C) Mick Luckhurst

D) Alge Crumpler

 

4)  Who owns the Falcons’ record for most rushing yards in a game?

A) Gerald Riggs

B) Jamal Anderson

C) Michael Turner

D) Fred McCrary

 

5) Who owns the Falcons’ record for most career interceptions?

A) Rolland Lawrence

B) Scott Case

C) Deion Sanders

D) Jamaal Fudge

 

6) As of the 2013 season, how many division titles have the Falcons won?

A) 6

B) 5

C) 3

D) None

 

7) Who owns the Falcons’ record for most career passing yards?

A) Steve Bartkowski

B) Chris Chandler

C) Matt Ryan

D) Kurt Kittner

 

8) Who is the older brother of Desmond Trufant and former Seattle Seahawk?

A) Michael Trufant

B) Martin Trufant

C) Marcus Trufant

D) Methuselah Trufant

 

9) Who owns the Falcons’ record for most career sacks?

A) Claude Humphrey

B) John Abraham

C) Chuck Smith

D) Grady Jackson

 

10) Who owns the record for most career receptions in Falcons’ history?

A)  Terance Mathis

B)  Roddy White

C)  Billy “White Shoes” Johnson

D)  Patches O’Houlihan

 

Answers:

1) C

2) A

3) B

4) C

5) A

6) B

7) C

8) C

9) A

10) B

How did you do? Let me know in the comments!

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An Extensive Recap of Hard Knocks: Episode 2

Life is good for rookie fullback Roosevelt Nix-Jones. He’s impressing coaches by showing good hands and strength, even cracking one of the sleds with a powerful hit. But life in the NFL can change in the blink of an eye, particularly for an undrafted rookie, and Nix-Jones found that out rather unexpectedly. After injuries to safeties Dwight Lowery and Dez Southward, the team was forced to bring in safety Tyrell Johnson, and Nix-Jones was consequently waived to open a roster spot. Nix-Jones was called to head coach Mike Smith’s office, where viewers were able to witness one of the most difficult parts of pro football take place. “This is not the fun part”, Smith said as he severed ties. Nix-Jones said that’d he keep working out and wait for a call. “Just roll with the punches”, he said. He was then escorted off the premises. Word about Nix-Jones’ departure spread quickly as teammates could be seen discussing in disbelief about losing a friend to the brutal business that is the NFL. “Sh— just got real for ya’ll, to see the first to go”, running back Jacquizz Rodgers said to a few younger players.

General manager Thomas Dimitroff has come a long way since his first job in the NFL: a groundskeeper. Mountain biking in Aspen, Colorado with Lance Armstrong, Dimitroff reflects on spending summers with his dad at Miami of Ohio, where he first discovered his passion for scouting players. Back in Atlanta, Dimitroff chats with assistant GM Scott Pioli about finding solace on the field and while watching tape. Life can be hectic, but on the football field is where Dimitroff feels the most at ease.

Arms spread out wide, offensive line coach Mike Tice asks Roddy White, “Who can you block like this?” “Nobody”, says White, and the two share a good laugh. In the film room, Tice catches rookie center James Stone with his arms out wide during a scrimmage, and Tice makes him pay for it. “I believe I can flyyy”, sings Stone in front of his fellow lineman. Everyone is cracking up, and they eventually join Stone in the singing.

Continue reading here.

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HBO’s “Meet the Rookies” & “Friends and Rivals” Short Films Recap

“Meet the Rookies”

Brian Cox is in awe of Jake Matthews. “I think Jake is one of the best technicians out there”, Cox says in amazement. “He’s the guy I noticed most. He’s bred to be that (an offensive tackle).” Mike Tice is thoroughly impressed, too. “He’s a man of few words. He goes out and takes care of business. He’s very mature for his age.” Matthews is just taking everything in one day at a time. “I’m realizing that it’s a job now; it’s football everyday. I’m enjoying it, having a good time, and learning a lot.” He’s looked awfully good in the process, as well.

Tyler Starr is checking into his dorm, enjoying the amenities the NFL lifestyle has to offer. He hopes for good roommates, but doesn’t forget about the loved ones he left back home: his family. Starr unpacks his belongings, and among them is a small photo album made for him by his fiancée. Starr slowly flips through each picture, reminiscing on time well spent with his son and soon-to-be wife. The photo album will “keep the motivation close”, says Starr.

Jacques Smith is fighting for his coaches’ attention, among other things, and Outside Linebackers Coach Mark Collins has taken notice. “You want a bunch of tough, competitive guys that want to mix it up on a daily basis. He’s a tough guy that doesn’t back down from anybody.” Smith claims to have one quality that was missing from the Falcons last season. “I’m very, very, very, very, very physical.” Smith is then shown beating Terren Jones with a vicious rip move. On not being drafted, Smith was disappointed, but grateful to be a Falcon. “You wait for your reward after working so hard for so many years, and you don’t get your name called. It’s like, where does reality set me now? I’m glad I’m here.”

Ricardo Allen had a hard time finding his dorm room. “They got me back here in the woods”, he laughed. On the field, Allen is joking with teammates about a “misprint” on his player profile that lists him at 5’9’’; Allen cheekily thinks he’s closer to 6-foot-2. Allen checks with Pat Angerer to get his opinion on the subject, and Angerer agrees. “You’re a good teammate!” chuckles Allen. Exhaustion from a brutal training camp evidently hit Allen pretty hard. “I couldn’t even talk to my girl. I just texted her ‘goodnight baby, too tired.’ ”

Devonta Freeman apparently has a catchword that he uses for everything he likes: “wavy.” If he thinks something is cool or smooth, it’s wavy. Steven Jackson seems to think the rookie is making waves in his first training camp. “He’s very explosive. He gets to his top gear pretty fast.”

“Friends and Rivals”

Roddy White, Harry Douglas, and Julio Jones are inseparable off of the football field. “We’re like family”, said an appreciative White. Douglas calls White the big brother he’s always wanted. “Roddy’s been on my side 100 percent”, he proclaims. But don’t call Douglas the little brother. “I’m the middle child. Julio’s the little brother”, he declares. “They always gang up on the middle child.” Wide Receivers Coach Terry Robiskie gave his opinion, and he may know the triumvirate better than anyone does. Robiskie likened Douglas to a kid that runs and hides after doing something bad, White to a “wild guy” that’s gone off the deep end, and Jones to someone who tries to fit in but is always looking over his shoulder as if his mother were watching. Offensive Coordinator Dirk Koetter may have put it best when he said, “The three stooges come to mind. They’re funny and they’re smart.” Jones further illustrated the group’s tight bond. “We’re not gonna let each other down. If Matt (Ryan) throws one of those guys the ball and I’m open, I’m happy with that decision because I know those guys are gonna make that play.”

William Moore and Roddy White have a fierce, but friendly rivalry. Moore claims White always has excuses, and that he likes to amp White up a little bit. Coach Robiskie claims that Moore and White both talk trash, though they rarely compete against each other. Yet when they do, they both “shut up and be quiet”, snickered Robiskie. When Head Coach Mike Smith asked White to break the team down after practice, White conceded to Moore, and the way their quirky friendship works became more evident.

“Camp time sleepover!” shouted an enthusiastic Gabe Carimi. Carimi and Peter Konz were roommates for a few years at the University of Wisconsin, so it’s no surprise to see the two rooming together once again, this time as Falcons. “We’re like bears. We’re a good family together”, said Carimi. Carimi called Konz during free agency and said that he had interest from some teams. Konz quipped, “There’s only one team to look at.” Carimi then explained how the two compete for everything. “We compete over who gets to put the weights away, because we want to get that extra work”, said Carimi with a smirk. But the pair’s rivalry is more like a brotherhood than anything. “When it comes to family like Gabe, I do care, and we won’t let each other take shortcuts”, stated Konz. Konz and his wife had a child just four days before camp started, and he was visibly thrilled to see them both after a sweltering practice. Carimi and Konz both have infant children to care for, and that bond has brought the two closer. “We’re on the same page in our lives”, Konz said.

It’s not too difficult to guess Jacques Smith’s favorite drill: that’s right, the Oklahoma drill. “Whoever want it!” shouted Smith as he challenged anyone to face him in the mano-a-mano test of will. Ryan Schraeder stepped up to the plate, much to the delight of coaches and teammates. Schraeder proceeded to plow through Smith and was showered in praise by Mike Tice and his fellow offensive linemen. Smith may have lost that particular battle, but he had good things to say afterward. “I just wanted to go out there and look for another competition. We have a very talented offensive line. (Schraeder)’s a tough guy.” Smith reiterated how physical and tough of a player he believes himself to be. “If I get into an altercation with someone, it’s not going to end well.”