Posted in News You Can Use

Back at The Branch

July 31, 2018

Monday was back in Flowery Branch where the team was in full pads and played 11 on 11.  One of the offensive teams scored twice while the other, did not score at all.  Monday was a definite treat for fans in attendance.

Takk McKinley and Ito Smith were on the sidelines working with trainers, just not involved in the full, regular practice.

OC Steve Sarkisian seems more comfortable with the offense (so far) in year 2.  Remember, although their year ones held different issues, the leap that Kyle Shanahan made from year 1 to 2 was huge and there are expectations for the same success for Sark.

Despite some offensive trickery, the always studying and football smart, Ricardo Allen had an interception.  Matt Ryan pitched over to Justin Hardy, who threw up a bomb, but was very contested by 3 defenders and Rico came up with the ball.  Rico was quoted, “True champions do the ordinary things right all of the time.”

Calvin Ridley and Justin Hardy were the returners for each team during the game like scrimmage.  Devin Gray hauled in the first touchdown of the day.  Damontae Kazee picked off Garrett Grayson.

Devonta Freeman commented that “We are getting better every day, striving for greatness.”

Grady Jarrett was getting individual work with assistant d line coach.

Overall, Mohamed Sanu, Sr. is in midseason form.  He continues to make awesome catches, whether high or one-handed, contested or on the sideline, Sanu is catching everything.  Mic’d up, he was heard “All I know how to do is take reps and get better.”  Deadrin Senat is impressing as well.  He is willing and happy to listen to all advice and feedback from the veterans, especially Jarrett, who has been telling him about hip movement and how that varies by different plays.  He is honored to be learning from Bryant Young.  It was noted that Jarrett has come to camp even bigger, but in the good muscular way (as I have reported in the off season).

#RiseUp

FalconAlley Owt

Cover Photo courtesy of the Atlanta Falcons

Posted in News You Can Use

Together We Rise Fan Day

July 29, 2018

On Sunday, we saw the first padded practice of Training Camp.  The first open practice in Mercedes Benz stadium.  AND, the first official, public opening of the roof. 

Videos and pictures can be found on our Facebook page, or just videos from the day on our YouTube channel (Falcon Alley24).  Both links can be found on our home page.

Together We Rise Fan Day was held inside the Benz Nest.  Gates opened at 10 and the roof was set to open at noon, and official practice at 12:30.  First, what a great event!  60,000 fans streamed in to The Benz Nest on a sunny Sunday in July for FOOTBALL!!!  The highlight was, of course, the first official opening of the roof. 

Sunday literally felt almost like a game day.  Most fans had on gear, likely toned down, but shirts, hats, jerseys.  The Porch was open and full before practice started.  Once you entered The Benz Nest, all the music and video boards and concession stands were running as normal. 92.9 The Game was in attendance to cover the pre-game and many of the drills and events of the day.  Harry Douglas was on hand to participate in those discussions, as well as to meet fans.  Wes Durham, typically on the airwaves, was on the field providing commentary for some of the practices.  Wes was announcing what many of the drills were going to be or explaining the mini scrimmages and teams.

image3
Fully Opened Roof

During the 12ish minute opening of the roof process, the video boards told a history of Atlanta and of the Falcons.  It was a great presentation of information while you watched the sun beam in and onto the field.  Freddie Falcon was on the field, basking and moving around in the sun stream.  It was interesting to see what would be covered in sun around 1:00, a normal kickoff time.  Especially since it was hitting the opposite side of the field as my regular seat.  As the opening continued, most of the team came out and started their personal warm-ups as well as some drills.  Eventually, most of the field was under the sun as well as part of one quarter of the stadium. As the team began quick runs and ball handling drills between the goal line and the 20, the roof was closed, with no pomp and circumstance.  Many of us just happened to see it closed and tried to see if anyone noticed as it was closing.  It is a very quiet process and worked to perfection on the opening and closing on Sunday.  It actually opens, only directly exposing the field, sidelines, and lower rows, so if it was raining, straight down, most of the stadium/seats would still be covered.  But to see that blue sky, it was really awesome.

 Takk McKinley and Ito Smith did not practice.   

Sunday’s Together We Rise training camp day was filled with the usual drills, individual team workouts, and 7 on 7 game day situations at both ends of the field.  I have many videos on my YouTube page (link at the bottom of our Homepage) of the practices with my commentary. 

image1
Team Warm Ups

From my training camp experience, this was a typical practice, the variety of drills all over the field.  Most of the day, the offensive line was to the side working on their own stances, drills, and blocking schemes, while the rest of the guys moved in and out of a variety of drills or mini scrimmages.  There were passing drills with all four quarterbacks passing to four different receivers, each being covered.  Some were short passes, others high, others to the edge of the end zone.  Keanu Neal was able to tip a ball and create an interception under Austin HooperDuke Riley in tight coverage was beat by Terrance MageeDesmond Trufant got a big roar by not allowing Julio Jones to haul in a pass.  Tru has looked much better already this year.  He was injured for the second half of the SuperBowl season, but seem either not confident or fully healed last season, but in the off season this year, he has already looked more impressive, from early workouts, to mini-camp, to Sunday

 

Keith Armstrong was working his special teams hard as well.  Not the kickers, but the coverage.  They practiced with Matt Bother or Georgia boy David Marvin running up to kick, and then the coverage team practicing blocking and returning with the new kickoff rules.  Naturally, Matt Bryant came out and kicked a few field goals – most of which went through, he did have one from the 50+ that hit the goal post and popped back in to the field of play, but we all know how rare that is.

In drill mode, the defense went against itself in passing drills, so basically 2 defenders were competing for passes lobbed up by coaches.  The defensive line worked on barrel drills.

During 7 on 7 play, the offensive line started off slow.  While there was a big pass to Julio, in real time, the new 99, Terrell McClain would have sacked Ryan before the ball was released.  The defense definitely came out aggressively.  Brooks Reed caught RB Justin Crawford in the backfield.  Ryan faked the handoff to Devonta Freeman, then passed up to Freeman, who was immediately stopped.  De’Vondre Campbell made a stop in the backfield.  Finally, rookie WR Christian Blake had a good catch and run.  FS Marcelis Branch had a good pass breakup.  The offensive line stepped up for a number of plays after they got into a rhythm. 

Check out the Falcons’ twitter for Ricardo Allen’s mic’d up practice, upbeat and entertaining.

#RiseUp

FalconAlley Owt

 

 

 

Posted in News You Can Use, Uncategorized

FalconAlley at The Draft

 

Article & Photos by Allison Smith

I was not at the actual draft in Dallas, but I was at the Atlanta Falcons’ official Draft party at Mercedes Benz Stadium, “The Benz Nest.”

This was another great event hosted by Falcons’ owner Arthur Blank.  This was a free event for Season Ticket owners, you merely had to register.  Much of the stadium and many food vendors were open, mostly the main level and parts of the 200 level.  Yet another event where you almost didn’t realize there was not a game to be played by the attendance and activity.

Fans were allowed on the field, where the RISEUP sign was displayed, corn hole was set up, along with many football skill games and local radio and other booths were on the field.  Many people stayed on the field the entire time. Several Falcon players were also on the field, signing and taking pictures with fans.

Meanwhile, we were also allowed in the locker room, where my feature photo here was taken.  We followed the tunnel along a short path into the locker room where you could see several jerseys displayed.  Then you could head back out to the field to hang out or back up to the main level to see the sites or grab some food.

I toured the locker room, chatted with several Benz Nest employees and headed back up.  The radio ship of the Falcons, 92.9 The Game was broadcasting the draft and the local commentary leading up to the draft.  Randy McMichael, Carl Dukes, Mike Bell, and Chuck Smith provided insight into the Falcons as well as the other teams ahead of the Falcons.  I was able to chat with Chuck briefly, but had great time with Carl and Mike, speculating, chatting about FalconAlley Football, and about the event overall.  Harry Douglas was on hand for a radio interview, then taking pictures with fans as well.  Many current players were on hand to chat with 92.9 The Game as well.

The players that were on hand, spoke to 92.9 The Game, then signed autographs and took pictures as well. There were some on the field, some in the upper level, and at two stations on the main level of The Benz Nest.  I worked my way back and forth on the main level, so missed some other great guys, but did get some of my favorites.  Unfortunately, the elusive Ben Garland was already in Dallas preparing to announce the 3rd pick, so he was not available, however, there were some big stars at the Falcons Draft event.

IMG_1980
When they say you can have a pic OR autograph….but Grady knows his biggest fan….

Grady Jarrett, Keanu Neal, Takk McKinley, Deion Jones were all on the main level, along with numerous cheerleaders.  I know that De’Vondre Campbell was at one of the special areas upstairs, as I saw his interview, but he was whisked away.  While I missed a picture with Takk, I did see him close up and he seemed like a great guy.  Did get pictures with Grady, Kiki, and Debo.  Got to chat with them for a few minutes, but of course there was a huge line of us fans running around after all of them.

 

Overall, it was a great event.  I did not stay until our pick as it was so late, but did see many of the early picks as they were displayed on the million tv’s throughout the stadium.

Check out my YouTube channel for my announcement and thoughts on the 2nd day picks.  Our FalconAlley Football Facebook page has pictures from the Draft Day event.

Now, we wait and see how the entire draft turns out for our beloved Falcons.

@FalconAlley Owt

#RISEUP

Posted in News You Can Use

Falcons 2018 NFL Draft

Written by Allison Smith

Photos by Atlanta Falcons

So, the 2018 NFL Draft is in the books.  Atlanta Falcon fans seemed very excited and pleased with the first pick of Alabama’s Wide Receiver, Calvin Ridley.  As a Clemson fan, I have seen enough of Ridley across the field, so I know what he can do and am excited to see him play for MY side.

Another 6 picks this year, another even split between offense and defense.  I think the big surprise, however, is that in the first round, Head Coach Dan Quinn did NOT select a defensive player.  I do not know that anyone had thoughts of drafting a wide receiver, much less with the first Falcon pick. It is clear that the Falcons drafted best player available at each time, not just the couple of holes that we needed to fill.  And those aren’t many.

The 6 rounds are listed below:

1 – 26: Calvin Ridley – WR, Alabama – 6’1” 189 lbs

2 – 58: Isaiah Oliver – CB, Colorado – 6’0” 201 lbs

3 – 90: Deadrin Senat – DT, South Florida – 6’0” 314 lbs

4 – 126: Ito Smith – RB, Southern Miss. – 5’9” 195 lbs

6 – 194: Russell Gage – WR, LSU –  6’0” 184 lbs

6 – 200:  Foye Oluokun – LB, Yale – 6’2” 215 lbs

In Calvin Ridley’s senior year at Alabama, he caught 63 balls for 967 yards and 5 touchdowns and was named to the First Team All-SEC.  Ridley waited patiently with family and friends for the draft day phone call, when the phone (finally) rang and Thomas Dimitroff was on the other end, Ridley was very appreciative and polite.  I think Ridley at 26 was a surprise to him and many others, but as he heard that the Falcons were interested he said he “was stoked…(and this) was a blessing in disguise.  He was not smarmy or negative, but I am sure everyone was telling him that he would go earlier.  There was only one other receiver type (TE) that went before him, so clearly this draft was a little different that the norm.

As Ridley’s name was officially announced on television, his family and friends celebrated and Ridley was overcome with emotion.  Early Friday, Ridley with mom and girlfriend in tow, was in Atlanta where he toured the Flowery Branch facility, was presented with his new #18 jersey, and spoke to the media.  After a weekend in the sun, Ridley is ready to work and knows the commitment needed to be an NFL receiver and appears ready to put in that work.

Ridley was well-spoken, very appreciative to be in Atlanta, ready to light it up and bond with others in the Brotherhood.  He noted that being drafted by the Falcons was “The best day of my life.” Ridley can play the slot or outside and will very likely be tested at punt and kick returner as well.

Ridley and Julio Jones were already in touch before the draft and both are excited to be partnered up, along with Mohamed Sanu, Sr. for an explosive 2018 season.  TD said of the Ridley pick, “We wanted to add an extra additional of explosiveness to the offense” and they feel like they have done so with Ridley.

In the second round of the draft, the Falcons selected Isaiah Oliver.  He is a decathlete, so he should be good for endurance; he runs a 4.5 40 and is praised for his speed and explosive leaping ability (hello disruptive).  TD said that Oliver is a “long, versatile athlete than can get his hands on the ball.” Sounds like another ball hawk.  Coming out after his junior year and missing a few games due to a leg injury, Oliver still shined, being named first-team All-Pac-12 with 2 interceptions, 27 tackles and 13 pass breakups.  DQ mentioned his speed and length (33 inch arms) and his ability to play inside or outside and had spent some time on punt returns.  You know how DQ likes versatility.  TD seconded those emotions saying that Oliver “had some of the best skills in the draft” and is very versatile.

Oliver was “beyond excited” to be drafted into the Brotherhood.  He said that he is “ready to work, ready to ball and make plays on the field.”  He is definitely ready to contribute to this team.

Finally, in the 3rd round of the draft, Ben Garland takes the stage to announce the Defensive Tackle we all expected in the 1st round.  Deadrin Senat is another interesting story and looks to be a perfect fit to the Brotherhood.  Quinn noted that with the adversity he has already faced in life, it is obvious that Senat “has tremendous amount of resiliency.”  Senat is definitely motivated.  He grew up in a rough neighborhood, lost both parents before he was 20, helped his older sister with her daughters, but still stayed in college, and finished his 4 years.  He is compared to Grady Jarrett in size and is noted to be strong and active, (big and quick) a real gym nut.  His game tape shows a persistent disruptor, and we know DQ isn’t all about stats and numbers, he knows who is causing havoc in the backfield.  And it looks like Grady Jarrett and Deadrin Senat are going to do just that.

Senat has shown marked improvement each year at USF, successful at both run and pass defense, he has steadily moved his run defense grade from 75 to 86.7 and pass rush grade from 69.2 to 80.1 from freshman to senior year.  He started 36 games for USF with 178 tackles, 23.5 for loss and 7 sacks.  In 2017, Senat had 30 run stops which is the 4th most among the draft DL class.

TD noted that Senat is a “big interior guy that can be very strong holding the point, he moves well inside.” While DQ followed that he is strong, square, and tough and will be in there with Grady and Jack Crawford.  Likely will be in the rotation very early in the season.

Senat is very excited to be in Atlanta, “It is all about my family, I love my nieces.  I am willing to work, eager to soak in knowledge from anyone.”  He also said that “If they want me to play fullback, I will play fullback.”  That is definitely the heart that you want added to your team.  Also, he would make his own hole at FB!!!  He has clearly already bought in to the Brotherhood, already using the “one thing at a time” improvement mentality.

In the 4th round, the Falcons selected running back Ito Smith, likely looking to groom the next RB behind Devonta Freeman.  Thoughts are that Tevin Coleman is too good to be a 2nd or joint back and will move on next season, especially since Free has already been paid.  Clearly Smith could be used at a variety of positions, or even throw 3 backs in there at one time.  Smith ran a 4.45 40 at the combine.  He had 1145 yards on 248 carries and 13 touchdowns while at Southern Mississippi.  He had 7 – 100 yard games as a Senior.  He is “willing to line up in the slot or in the backfield.” And seems excited to be in Atlanta as well.  Falcons new running backs coach, Bernie Parmalee worked him out and clearly had some good insight into this pick.  Smith is a good utility back and, as with Free and Tevin, can run and catch the ball.  He is not a big bruising back, but that is not the Falcons’ current backs either.  He was 1 of 10 players in NCAA history with at least 4000 rushing yards and 1000 receiving yards.

Smith said that when he saw Atlanta back on the clock, then the phone rang and it was an Atlanta number, excitedly, “Oh my God.  Here we go.”  He later noted, “Only 256 guys gets picked.  Coach Quinn gave me a chance.  They are going to get my best….going to give it my all.”

The Falcons skip out of the 5th round and their first of two picks in the 6th round had Atlanta picking another offensive weapon, WR Russell Gage out of LSU. A departure from our 3 years of back to back LSU defenders, but a 4th year of LSU Tigers joining the team.  Gage is recognized for being really fast.  He also (versatility comment coming) played defensive back in high school, so you wonder if he may be converted.  Gage is recognized for being a Special Teams stud, one of the nation’s best kickoff and punt gunners.  Again, make the team, then work.  You never know where that will lead.

And with their second 6th round pick and final pick of the 2018 draft, the Atlanta Falcons select linebacker/safety Foye Oluokun out of Yale.  Oluokun is very athletic and has a proven track record on special teams.  Likely, if he comes in on defense, it will be as depth at the linebacker spot.  Oluokun is smaller than the average linebacker, but his speed and athleticism may make up for his size. Oluokun is very effective against running backs and tight ends coming out of the backfield, but less affective directly against the run.  He is often so fast however, that he does make stops behind the line of scrimmage.

Overall, we need to see everyone in game day action, but sounds like another good draft class; maybe not big names, but I am excited about these guys and seeing what all they can do.  Clearly, Ridley will/should be the star of this class, but Senat is likely going to be a standout as well.

@FalconAlley Owt #RiseUp