The Falcons, the defending NFC champions, finished their mandatory minicamp and offsesason program Thursday. The team will reconvene in late July for the start of training camp.
Here are the five things we learned from the minicamp:
1. Functioning on the field. Coach Dan Quinn wanted to see how the team would operate with the coaches on the sidelines throughout the minicamp.
“That was as important as anything, to see us function as a group,” Quinn said.
Also, the younger players received most of the repetitions.
“Not just the rookies, but guys who maybe don’t have a lot of experience going into Year 2 or 3,” Quinn said. “We wanted to get to know them more. We wanted to get to know some of the free agents we added in the offseason more. That’s the Jack Crawfords and Dontari (Poes). We were trying to check those boxes.”
2. The return of Julio Jones. Although wide receiver Andre Roberts suffered a back injury Tuesday, Quinn expects a healthy squad for training camp.
“Looks like, for the most part, we are going to have everybody for camp,” Quinn said. “That part I’m excited about barring any setbacks over the next few weeks. It’s a good strong and healthy group.”
First-round pick Takkarist McKinley is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery.
“I know he’s been working really hard with the therapist back in L.A., but we’ll get a better update as we get closer to camp,” Quinn said.
Wide receiver Julio Jones (left foot surgery), defensive end Adrian Clayborn (biceps surgery) and wide receiver Taylor Gabriel (lower leg strain) and Roberts are expected to be healthy for camp.
3. Defensive line remake. Defensive line coach Bryant Young is overseeing the remaking of the defensive line. It was clear at the minicamp, even with McKinley out, that he has several options.
Crawford, who was signed as a free agent from Dallas, had a great minicamp.
“Jack is relentless in his pursuit,” Young said.
Also, the Falcons welcomed back defensive end/tackle Derrick Shelby from his Achilles surgery.
“I think the progress for him has been good,” Young said. “He’s been able to get in to some of our individual stuff and group work as well.”
With Shelby and Crawford in the defensive end group, the Falcons will have some deep when you count Vic Beasley, Clayborn, McKinley and Brooks Reed. Also, Ra’Shede Hageman and Courtney Upshaw played some end last season, too.
“We have some guys that can play,” Young said.
4. Daniels football journey. Quinn caught some people off-guard when he talked about how well B.J. Daniels was playing at running back.
The former quarterback and wide receiver, who’s thrown passes, returned kicks and caught passes in the NFL, was moved to the backfield.
Daniels, who played quarterback at South Florida, signed with the Falcons Dec. 18 and was placed on the practice squad. He later signed a reserve/future contract Feb. 7.
Daniels, 28, has bounced around the NFL since he was drafted in the seventh round of the 2013 draft by San Francisco as a quarterback. He’s spent time with 49ers, Seahawks, Texans, Giants and Bears.
He’s played in eight NFL games and rushed for 2,068 yards and a dual-threat quarterback in college.
“It’s been an interesting journey,” said Daniels, who’s 5-foot-11 and 217 pounds.
The Falcons are deep at running back with veterans Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman and Terron Ward. They also drafted Brian Hill in the fifth round from Wyoming.
Daniels is a long shot. Even if a roster spot or a long-term career remains elusive, Daniels seems to be enjoying his NFL experience.
“It’s been nothing, but fun,” Daniels said.
5. International players. The Falcons, with an exemption for English rugby player Jake Gray, will carry 91 players into training camp.
In addition to Gray, the Falcons have wide receiver Anthony Dable, who’s from France and offensive tackle Andreas Knapppe, who from Silkeborg, Denmark.
Gray, who’s a bit raw, will also get a look at fullback.