LAS VEGAS, Nevada — The Atlanta Falcons coaching staff arrived at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas’ Fertitta Complex just after 9 a.m., one hour before the start of the second day of practice at the East-West Shrine Bowl.
Team personnel swayed on and off the practice field while the West team, coached by the New England Patriots, completed their morning session.
As the clock struck 10, Falcons coach Arthur Smith, offensive coordinator Dave Ragone and general manager Terry Fontenot all stepped onto the griddle. Smith and Ragone watched the warm ups while Fontenot chatted alongside and later went back into the facility to watch from an elevated view.
The East team, led by Falcons special teams coordinator Marquice Williams, put together a 90-minute workout punctuated with one-on-one struggles, screaming coaches and a great display of talent…
And here’s a recap of the session’s top events.
What would this list be without Ole Miss Safety AJ Finley? Fresh from a first day of telling Falcon Report “nothing crazy happened,” Finley put together a three-interception performance on Day 2 that included a longing, diving grab.
Finley described himself as a “dynamic playmaker” and lived up to the bill – so much so that Smith had to review his roster after one of the interceptions.
Another defender to have had a strong day is Louisville’s Kei’Trel Clark, who had more of it after an impressive first practice session. Clark is, in his own words, “a leader, always honest, trustworthy, dependable … as a player, relentless, quick, physical” – and he made several good plays on the ball on Sunday.
Texas cornerback D’Shawn Jamison ended a trio of outstanding defensive backs that often stayed in phase and mirrored wideouts. Jamison, who also returned punts for the Longhorns, snapped a few snaps at receiver on Saturday but told Falcon Report he’d rather play defense — and with more days like this, he’s on the right track.
Elsewhere on defense, it was a good day for the boys up front as Nebraska’s Ochaun Mathis, West Virginia’s Dante Stills, Texas’ Moro Ojomo, Stephen F. Austin’s BJ Thompson and Campbell’s Brevin Allen produced consistent pressure and/or exploded running plays in the backfield. Mathis and Stills were two of the vocal players throughout the week.
Offensively, Tulsa’s Deneric Prince continues to be the best running back on the east side. Prince was superb at catching the ball on Saturday and more than holding his own Sunday in practice blocking, demonstrating the ability to be a true third at back.
A trio of receivers stood across the field, with Arkansas’ Jadon Haselwood, Fresno State’s Jalen Cropper and Wake Forest’s AT Perry all making their plays. Haselwood had an impressive game on Saturday, working back to the ball while showing Cropper Burst and another top gear. Perry was the best wideout on the field both days.
Two tight ends — Cincinnati’s Leonard Taylor and Michigan State’s Daniel Barker — also had good days, catching most balls that went their way. Taylor was Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder’s college roommate and is considered a powerful blocker, while Barker has impressed with his athleticism.
Falcons inside linebackers coach Frank Bush expressed his displeasure with Tennessee’s Jeremy Banks and Florida’s Amari Burney, encouraging more effort and citing the need to act like it’s the interview that it is.
Sunday was also difficult for the right guards on the east team, as North Carolina State’s Chandler Zavala and Oregon’s Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu were both drawn frequently after pre-snap penalties.
Injury updates and new signings
The East was without several players on Sunday as two receivers — Georgia’s Kearis Jackson and Fresno State’s Nikko Remigio — sat out again, while Illinois’ Alec Palczewski joined Quincy’s BJ Wilson, Clemson’s Jordan McFadden and Pittsburgh’s Carter Warren as offensive linemen.
On the other side of the ball, San Jose State defense attorney Viliami Fehoko was out — he told Falcon Report that he’ll be flying out of Las Vegas Sunday night to continue rehab and that he’ll be ready for the NFL Combine in late February .
Elsewhere, Georgia outside linebacker Robert Beal Jr. and TCU cornerback Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson were added to the injured list. The former attended Saturday practice while the latter said he is still recovering from the season.
Sunday saw two additions to the east team as Penn State wide receiver Mitchell Tinsley and Cincinnati cornerback Arquon Bush both joined the roster. Bush in particular has many fans in league circles.
In the subsequent conversation with players on the East Offense, two players stood out: Jamison and Stills.
Two east receivers named Jamison the hardest to hit, citing his patience on the stretch, while three offensive linemen said Stills was the hardest to stop because he was extremely explosive from the line of scrimmage.
Also of note is that two Falcons assistants had a long chat with Ole Miss offensive tackle Mason Brooks after the West team practiced.
The east team will return to the practice field for the third day of practice Monday at 8:15 a.m.
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