After a nearly five-week break, the Falcons reunited as a group at team headquarters in Flowery Branch in preparation of their first training-camp practice Friday.
Coach Dan Quinn set the tone by wanting to see an aggressive mentality from the players. He wants the team to attack and be fast toward the football.
“We’ve got to make sure the turnover ratio comes to life for us,” Quinn said in a news conference Tuesday. “We’re going to be about the ball, and it has to be both ways in terms of the offense taking care of it and defensively, the way and attitude and style that we go after it. Adding speed to our team certainly helps that, but you have to play fast, too.”
So at Wednesday’s player check-in, there was a different atmosphere around the facility. Many players arrived excited, but also focused on getting started. The players want to establish an identity in the NFC South. Last year, the team went 8-8, but struggled to a 1-5 record against their divisional opponents.
“As a team, we can’t reach our ultimate goals without taking care of our divisional goals,” Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon said. “We look forward to working hard and being productive.”
The Falcons will have decisions to make at numerous positions, especially right guard and two linebacker spots. Several rookies will compete for playing time, such as second-round pick Deion Jones.
Jones will battle incumbent Paul Worrilow for the inside linebacker position. However, he doesn’t plan to dwell on the pressure that the competition brings.
“I’m letting the competition part take care of itself,” Jones said. “I am really good friends with (Paul) Worrilow and all the other linebackers. I’m just trying to enjoy the time we have together, and hopefully the best turns out.”
Other players, such as rookie safety Keanu Neal, are already receiving advices from veterans on what to expect.
“They told me to never get too high or get too low,” Neal said. “It is just staying consistent and not letting good or bad things affect my play.”
Neal is slated to start at strong safety for the Falcons. He recently worked out with Seattle Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor over the break. He said that he was able to get pointers on how to attack certain situations on the field.
“I learned about body control and being able to control my energy and physicality,” Neal said. “Being overly aggressive can hurt you at times. So I want to control that and be in a power position.”
Getting into a power position falls right in line with the team’s new mindset. The team wants to get more physical on offense, defense and special teams.
The players know that to stop quarterbacks such as Carolina’s Cam Newton and Tampa Bay’s Jameis Winston, they will have to be in peak shape. So, they plan to work on conditioning, to get stronger in their core.
They feel that that will be an important factor as they try to win and prove themselves to the NFL in 2016.
“It’s a new year and a new season, and you got to prove yourself all over again,” cornerback Desmond Trufant said. “What you did last year really doesn’t matter. We got to make plays this year and keep it pushing.”
Falcons training camp will be open to the public Friday. The practice starts at 10 a.m.