FLOWERY BRANCH – The Falcons start phase three of their offseason program when they kick off the organized team activities (OTAs) today.
After going 4-12 last season, the Falcons have been proactive internally, in free agency and in the draft. Now, the coaching staff, which includes new offensive and defensive line coaches, must start pulling all of the pieces together with a goal of being ready for training camp in late July.
Somebody is going to ask, what’s an OTA? CLICK HERE — DESCRIPTION OF WHAT HAPPENS AT AN OTA SESSION. Allen Iverson, the old basketball player, wouldn’t like OTAs, because they are too much like “practice!”
Here are 10 things to watch at OTAs:
How’s offensive tackle Sam Baker looking? The Falcons are banking on Baker holding down the left tackle position in 2014. When Baker has played all 16 games, the Falcons have gone 13-3. He’s coming back from knee surgery.
How’s defensive end/linebacker Kroy Biermann looking? He’s coming back from Achilles surgery. He should be close to ready to go. Former cornerback Brent Grimes injured his Achilles in the first game of 2012 and was expected back last May. Biermann was injured in the second game of 2013.
How does veteran safety Dwight Lowery look? The veteran could be the Falcons best option at free safety while defensive backs coach Tim Lewis and Joe Danna groom third-round pick Dezmen Southward. Lowery, 28, was an under the radar free agent signee. He’s started 41 games in the league and is set to enter his seventh season.
How does Bear Pascoe look at tight end? It looks the Falcons are going to replace the great Tony Gonzalez with a blocking tight end. The Bear has just 38 career catches. His real name is “McKenna Sean” Pascoe. He’s also played some fullback.
How does running back Steven Jackson look? After not rushing for 1,000 yards for the first time in eight seasons, Jackson, who turns 31 on July 22, plans to return with a vengeance. The Falcons appear to have a lot of faith in the running back bouncing back from an injured-marred campaign. He hasn’t been participating in the offseason program, but no one seems too concerned.
How will offensive line coach Mike Tice whip the unit into shape? Tice and assistant offensive line coach Wade Harman were hired to help the unit win the line of scrimmage and protect quarterback Matt Ryan much better. With the addition of guard Asamoah and first-round pick Jake Matthews, they have a couple of new pieces to work with.
How will defensive line coach Bryan Cox help to create a pass rush? The Falcons are counting Cox to help generate a pass rush. They added some beef along the front line this offseason in nose tackle/defensive tackle Paul Soliai, defensive end Tyson Jackson and rookie defensive end/defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman.
How will Osi Umenyiora fit into his designated pass rusher role? The veteran has been a class act since coming to the Falcons. He accepted the role of designated pass rusher last season and was retained throughout the upheaval of the offseason. He’s a veteran who could be a big influence on some of the younger players, while producing in a rotational role.
Any Julio Jones’ sightings? The Falcons have a policy of hiding injured players from the media. Jones has done a commercial photo shoot and tweets periodically, but hasn’t talked to the media since being injured in the fifth game of the season. Perhaps, he’ll stick his head out of the training room to give the fans an update on how he dealt with the injury and how the rehab is coming.
How assistant coach Mark Collins is doing in his new spot? Collins, a former defensive line assistant, was moved to outside linebackers coach. He will be in charge of the hybrid defensive ends/outside linebackers. That’s been a position of weakness in the Falcons’ 4-3 and 3-4 defense over the past two seasons. The team is clearly expecting to generate some pass rush from these spots when in the 3-4 and hope to do a better job of covering tight ends.
PHASE THREE OF OFFSEASON PROGRAM
–Today – OTA No. 1.
–Wednesday – OTA No. 2.
–Thursday – OTA No. 3.
–Friday – Strength and Conditioning plus a rookie practice
–Monday– OTA No. 4.
–Tuesday, June 3 – OTA No. 5.
–Wednesday, June 4 – OTA No. 6.
–Thursday, June 5 – Rookie Practice.
–Monday, June 9 – Hacks vs. Jocks golf tournament. Defending champs – Team Scelfo.
–Tuesday, June 10 – OTA No. 7.
–Wednesday, June 11 – OTA No. 8.
–Thursday, June 12 – OTA No. 9.
–Friday, June 13 – OTA No. 10.
–Monday, June 16 – Physicals.
–Tuesday, June 17 — Day One: Mandatory minicamp (5 practices over three days)
–Wednesday, June 18 – Day Two: Mandatory minicamp.
–Thursday, June 19 – Day Three: Mandatory minicamp. (Offseason program ends for veterans).
TBA – Rookie Symposium
TBA – (Late July) – Report to Training camp.
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