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Twelve notes from Falcons practice

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HYOSUB SHIN / AJC Falcons coach Mike Smith says the rookies are coming along.

HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Falcons coach Mike Smith says the rookies are coming along.

FLOWERY BRANCHThe Falcons finished up the second week of full-squad organized team activities today with a practice that was open to media. Here are 12 quick notes:

  1. Gabe Carmini took some reps at starting right guard in place of Jon Asamoah. “I wouldn’t put anything into who is taking reps with whom and where,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “I think it’s important that we look at different combinations of guys. We are going to move guys in. Like I said when we started this offseason there will be a lot of competition.”
  2. Tight end Mickey Shuler, a member of the practice squad last season, ran some plays with the first-team offense as the Falcons worked on their running game. With the retirement of Tony Gonzalez, a prolific pass-catcher, the Falcons will more often line up their tight ends tight to the formation as blockers. “We have got to create a position that plays to their strengths and they are different than Tony Gonzalez,” Smith said. “Levine Toilolo is more of a ‘Y’ (inline) tight end that has some ability to play some ‘F’ (spread). Mickey is a tough guy who was on our practice squad last year and he’s getting an opportunity to play. We added Bear Pascoe he’s got a lot of starts underneath his belt.”
  3. Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones, out since undergoing foot surgery last October, worked on the side with trainers. Jones did some light running and cutting. Also out because of injury were linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (knee), defensive tackle Corey Peters (Achilles), safety Zeke Motta (neck) and tight end Andrew Szczerba (undisclosed).
  4. Smith said he expects wide receiver Roddy White to participate in team activities next week. White missed last week and this week while mourning the shooting death of his brother.
  5. Smith said offensive tackle Lamar Holmes missed practice because of a death in the family. Kicker Matt Bryant also wasn’t at practice but Smith wouldn’t elaborate on the reason. “These are voluntary workouts,” Smith said. “If Matt wasn’t here, he wasn’t here. We don’t take roll.”
  6. Running back Devonta Freeman, a fourth-round draft pick out of Florida State, was back at practice after missing last week to attend a mandatory rookie symposium in California. Smith on Freeman: “He’s doing a nice job. He’s got great vision, he’s got great stop-and-start ability. The big thing that he needs to work on is the ability to work in pass protection because we ask our backs to do a lot.”
  7. Sam Baker, the projected starter at left tackle, said he feels healthy after undergoing season-ending knee surgery in November. “I feel good right now,” Baker said. “For me with the weight program and the training staff it’s been real beneficial to have this time. AJ and Marty and those guys they’ve seen pretty much every injury and they know how to come back from that and create the environment you are going to be in on the field.
  8. Smith said he’ll know more about rookie defensive end Ra’Shede Hageman once the team is in full pads. Hageman, a second-round draft pick, is expected to play a prominent role as a big end in formations that feature linebackers rushing the edge. “These are non-contact practices,” Smith said. “When you are playing in the line of scrimmage you don’t really get an opportunity to see what the NFL is truly about until you put the pads on and we won’t do that until the fourth day of practice in training camp. The mental part of it he is picking up. But it’s the physical part and picking that up (that’s next).”
  9. Smith continues to resist efforts to label the base defensive alignment. “Everybody has been talking about 4-3, 3-4,” he said. “We are going to be an 11-man defense, I can promise you that. There are going to be 11 guys on the field when we play defense. Where they are going to line up and how we are going to line up, that’s going to be very flexible and very fluid.”
  10. Smith said he expects to see a big improvement in linebacker Paul Worrilow’s play from his rookie season. “Paul is one of the best guys I’ve been around in terms of studying the game,” Smith said. “You saw it in rookie minicamp when he played all three linebacker spots. He advantage of the opportunities and ended up leading our team in tackles. He’s competing again this year. He’s a guy that once you get your spot don’t want to lose it so I know how he’s approaching this offseason.”
  11. Smith felt the rookies were shaky with translating their classroom work to the field last week. This week? “Much better,” he said. “I think the things we are doing with these rookies is really helping. We’ve got a developmental plan for these guys. We are going to spend more time with them on the field. I think the entire class is progressing well.
  12. Safety Dwight Lowery, a new addition as a free agent, played cornerback as a rookie in 2009 before eventually transitioning to safety. Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said he views Lowery as primarily a safety who could play some cornerback in a pinch if the scheme is adjusted to compensate.
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