FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. - It was a relatively cool, breezy Sunday morning day for the Atlanta Falcons training camp, but it was a rookie who heated things up on the field.
Rookie wide receiver Frank Darby struggled a bit on Saturday with two passes dropped that he would tell you he should have caught. He made up for it on Sunday and was the star of the day on a cool, breezy morning at the Falcons Flowery Branch training facility.
Darby was working with the second unit and quickly became a favorite target of second-string quarterback A.J. McCarron. McCarron found Darby early on a quick slant route in 7-on-7's, and later threw a nice out-and-up to Darby, who broke it for a touchdown.
Darby was the Falcons last pick of the 2021 draft. They took him with their sixth-round selection, the Arizona State product having been a standout at the Senior Bowl as well as with the Sun Devils.
He has a real shot to make the roster - and to make an impact.
If Darby wasn’t the star on offense, that designation could have gone to two other wide receivers fighting for a roster spot.
Chris Rowland (5-8/170) is a second-year man out of Tennessee State. He’s been working as a punt returner, but he also has shown good hands and quickness as a slot receiver.
Rowland dropped an early curl route when he tried to turn upfield too quickly, but he made up for it with two of the best catches on the day: diving receptions on the right sideline on out routes.
Similar in size to Rowland at 5-10 and 185 pounds, Austin Trammell has been working similar positions as Rowland: punt returner and slot receiver. The rookie from Rice had a nice contested catch for a touchdown on one of the few throws from the quarterbacks that traveled more than 5 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.
Updated Falcons Injury Report: 2 Key Players Out vs. Giants
The Atlanta Falcons were without two key players at Thursday's practice.
LISTEN: Will Falcons Find Matt Ryan Replacement in 2022 NFL Draft?
Locked On Falcons: Are the Atlanta Falcons Planning to Replace Matt Ryan in the 2022 NFL Draft? Plus Week 3 Keys to Victory
LISTEN: Can Falcons Get First Win This Week?
Locked On Falcons: Falcons vs. Giants Crossover Week 3 Preview with Locked On Giants
It wasn’t all about the receivers, though. Second-year corner A.J. Terrell scoffed at his Madden 22 rating over the weekend, and then went on the field and showed why.
He had two terrific plays from his left cornerback position. He elevated to swat away an out route that showed off his athleticism. Towards the end of the day he showed his anticipation by breaking on another out and undercutting the receiver for an interception.
Running back Cordarrelle Patterson continues to see work with the first-team offense. Mike Davis is the starter there, but Patterson looks like he’ll get a legit chance to be more than just an ace return man for the Falcons.
Patterson gets to the edge quickly and is a versatile target out of the backfield.
Versatility is a common theme on this offense. Tight ends Hayden Hurst and Kyle Pitts line up inside, outside, and together on the same side at times. The only common factor seen today about their pre-snap position, is that it’s likely to change. One of them, Pitts in particular, is in motion on nearly every snap.
*Ball protection has to be a theme early in camp. The quarterbacks are overly cautious with the ball. Virtually every pass is under ten yards from the line of scrimmage. There are downfield threats on this team including Calvin Ridley and Pitts, so the underneath, run after the catch work we’re seeing has to be by design.
*Running back Mike Davis showed why he caught 59 passes last season with the Panthers. He motioned into the slot and caught a quick hitch and quickly became a matchup nightmare for a cornerback trying to being him down in the open field.
*Third-year running back Qadree Ollison could be fighting for a roster spot as well. He’s got 23 carries in his Falcons career. He showed a good burst through the middle when he got his carries, but more importantly for making the roster, he looked terrific on punt return coverage.
*Rookie quarterback Feleipe Franks finished the scrimmage by pulling the ball down and showing his mobility. He picked up roughly 15 yards, and after an awkward slide, got up and pumped a first-down signal.