5 Things We've Learned from Atlanta Falcons Minicamp

Knox Bardeen@knoxbardeenNFC South Lead WriterJune 22, 2012

5 Things We've Learned from Atlanta Falcons Minicamp

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    The Atlanta Falcons wrapped up their 2012 minicamp on Thursday after running through five sessions in three days. The feeling around the facility is upbeat as the team welcomed new players and coaches and got to work installing their new 2012 playbook.

    Cornerback Asante Samuel and linebacker Lofa Tatupu could make instant impacts on this team after being brought in prior to the NFL draft; Samuel via trade and Tatupu through free agency. However, those weren't the only new additions.

    Both coordinators are new to the Falcons in what is the first time in the Mike Smith era that he's replaced either. Mike Nolan on defense and Dirk Koetter on offense will bring their own twists and wrinkles to an established Falcons scheme, and try to push the franchise to new levels.

    The Falcons will start training camp in July and don't have any organized activities until then. That said, here are five things we've learned from the Atlanta Falcons' minicamp.

Matt Ryan and Julio Jones Are on the Same Page

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    Not only was Julio Jones making catch after catch after catch during this week's minicamp sessions, he and Matt Ryan appear to be clicking as the two work with each other extensively for the first time during an offseason program.

    Due to last year's lockout, Jones was unable to get in lots of time with Ryan and the rest of the offense. While he still hauled in eight touchdown passes, he is looking for more in 2012.

    Ryan said Jones has been focusing on a few aspects of his game that will help the two get on the same page.

    “Really just to work on technique, work on route running and try to understand our offense a little bit more in-depth," said Ryan. "He’s done a great job. He’s worked really hard. He seems really confident out there."

The Falcons Defense Will Bring Pressure

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    The Falcons' defense is still going to be run from a 4-3 scheme in 2012, but pressure is going to come from a lot of different looks this year.

    Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said that pressure didn't have to come from just one or two sources, it could come from anywhere on the field and probably should when trying to find ways to get to the opposing quarterback.

    The linebackers and secondary were very active during minicamp in blitz packages, but the front-four still have to work.

    Ray Edwards has a year under his belt in Atlanta and said he's finally 100 percent healthy. If he can return to the form of his Minnesota days and John Abraham is still a double-digit sack guy, Atlanta could disrupt a lot of passers.

The Offensive Line Competition Will Last a While

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    There are a number of position battles lurking on the Falcons depth chart, but none as up in the air or as jumbled as the offensive line.

    Head coach Mike Smith said that the team would have a better idea of just who would be competing and where, but opened up the entire line to competition earlier in the offseason.

    Justin Blalock and Tyson Clabo are likely safe at left guard and right tackle, respectively. However, the other three spots on the line are open. Since Mike Smith has had some of his linemen cross-train, multiple guys could compete at multiple positions.

    The left tackle position could come down to Will Svitek or Sam Baker. At right guard, there are a number of competitors, including Joe Hawley, Garrett Reynolds, Peter Konz and even Mike Johnson. If neither Konz nor Hawley win that job, they could both compete with Todd McClure at center.

Asante Samuel Has Revitalized Atlanta's Secondary

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    When the Falcons traded a seventh-round pick to Philadelphia for cornerback Asante Samuel, they got more than just a former Pro Bowl corner. Samuel brings with him confidence and an air of superiority that's become infectious, and that's a very good thing.

    Samuel is a talker and a motivator on the field and he'll challenge anyone to get better. That's what's been happening in Atlanta as he fires up the team and brings a high-energy atmosphere to the defense, according to the Falcons' official website.

    Samuel and Brent Grimes will play on the outside of this secondary while Dunta Robinson moves inside to a position of comfort.

    “It’s what I did pretty much for six years in Houston and it’s something I’m very used to,” said Robinson. “It’s going to give us a chance to get all three of our corners on the field at the same time.”

Kerry Meier May Be Ready to Explode onto the Scene

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    Atlanta has two holes to fill on its wide receiver depth chart after Roddy White, Julio Jones and Harry Douglas. Kerry Meier has been impressive through minicamp and might just be ready to take one of those spots.

    Meier was drafted in 2010 and was in the middle of a very impressive training camp two years ago before a knee injury derailed his season. He missed the entire 2010 season.

    Meier played in 2011 but didn't make a catch. He found that the first year back from injury—not to mention the lack of an offseason program because of the lockout—was an obstacle-laden journey.

    “What I like to think I’m capable of doing is being versatile and being able to step in and fall in behind Harry (Douglas), Roddy (White) or Julio (Jones) and not miss a beat if one of them needs to come off the field,” he told Daniel Cox of AtlantaFalcons.com.

    If he continues through training camp like he played in minicamp, that job is his.

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