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D. Orlando LedbetterD. Orlando Ledbetter

5 things we learned from Falcons rookie minicamp

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FLOWERY BRANCH — The sad news about the killing of Roddy White’s younger brother, Tyrone, kind of hovered over the end of the rookie minicamp.

White spent some time with the team members on Saturday night.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Roddy and his family,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said on Sunday. “It’s a difficult time for Roddy, but he’s had a lot of support. I’ve spoken with Roddy and I know that he was with some of his team mates last night. We’re here to support him, but I know it’s difficult for the entire White family.”

HYOSUB SHIN / AJC May 16, 2014 Flowery Branch - Atlanta Falcons rookie offensive tackle Jake Matthews #70 runs a drill during the first day of Mini-Camp for rookies on Friday, May 16, 2014. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
May 16, 2014 Flowery Branch – Atlanta Falcons rookie offensive tackle Jake Matthews #70 runs a drill during the first day of Mini-Camp for rookies on Friday, May 16, 2014. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Here are 5 things we learned over the three-day rookie minicamp:

  1. FREEMAN’S A KEEPER: Running back Devonta Freeman is a keeper. He caught the ball with his hands and showed a great burst of speed. “Devonta is a fast and quick guy,” Smith said. “He has very good vision and he’s able to stick his foot in the ground and transition into a different direction.”
  2. SMALLWOOD & SPRUILL: They looked the part while playing inside linebacker in the 3-4 and the 4-2-5 defenses. “Probably of all of the positions on the defensive side that have the most on them is the two inside linebackers because they’ve got to do a lot of communicating,” Smith said. “They did a good job with the communications. We put a lot on them in three days. We’re trying to get these guys caught with the veterans as quickly as possible so that when we start our OTAs a week from Tuesday, we want those guys to be caught up in terms of our installation with the veterans.”
  3. ROOKIES TO BE HEAVILY COUNTED ON: At least five of the nine rookies have a chance to earn significant playing time: Jake Matthews, Ra’Shede Hageman, Dezmen Southward, Devonta Freeman and Prince Shembo. The other four could be contributors on special teams. Smith wanted to get the rookies started immediately after the draft because he knew the coaching staff will have a challenge to get them ready. “The rookies that have been with us, our draft class and college free agents, they’ve been working since Monday,” Smith said. “They’ve had a long week. They’ll be off tomorrow. That will be their first day off, then we will start back on Tuesday with our coaching sessions. It will be the same routine that our players went through on Monday through Thursday. They’ll be integrated in with the veterans and then they’ll have a second practice in the afternoon with the rookies only. Again, our focus is to try to get these rookies up to speed. We’re counting on a lot of these guys and we’re trying to get them up to speed with the veterans as quickly as possible.”
  4. BIG ARM: Former Cornell quarterback Jeff Mathews throws a nice spiral. He also has a strong arm. Smith said the Falcons had to work with him on taking some steam off of his passes. They want to see him throw with more touch.
  5. GROUP WORKED HARD: “We got a lot of work done,” Smith said. “We worked extremely long and hard with these rookies and tryout players. The thing that stands out to me is their work ethic.” One of the twitter followers wanted to know about Hawaii linebacker Brenden Daley, an undrafted rookie signee, and Southern Illinois linebacker Bryan Presume (North Cobb High), a tryout player. “Dailey joined us on Friday because of graduation,” Smith said. “He’s a good physical looking outside linebacker. Presume is more of a move linebacker that probably would play behind a three technique that he would be in a bubble.”

DRAFT CLASS STORIES

Jake Matthews brings strength of family to the Falcons

Ra’Shede Hageman could turn into defensive force for Falcons

Dezmen Southward ready to compete for playing time

Warrick Dunn likes the pick of FSU’s Devonta Freeman

Falcons signed 20 undrafted rookie free agents, 5 from SEC 

Falcons invite 24 players in for tryouts

NFL Draft 2014: ESPN’s Todd McShay on the Falcons’ draft class

VIDEO: Reaction to the Atlanta Falcons’ 2014 draft class

THE ATLANTA FALCONS 2014 DRAFT CLASS

Round 1 / 6 — Jake Matthews, RT, 6-5, 308, Texas A&M

Round 2/37 – Ra’Shede Hageman, DE, 6-6, Minnesota

Round 3/68 – Dezmen Southward, FS, 6-0, 211, Wisconsin

Round 4/103 – Devonta Freeman, RB, 5-8, 206, Florida State

Round 4/139 – Prince Shembo, LB, 6-1, 253 Notre Dame

Round 5/147 – Ricardo Allen, CB, 5-9, 187, Purdue

Round 5/168 – Marquis Spruill, LB, 6-1, 231, Syracuse

Round 7/253 – Yawin Smallwood, LB, 6-2, 246, Connecticut

Round 7/255 – Tyler Starr, LB, 6-4, 250, South Dakota

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