1) Baker, Biermann Back: Wednesday marked the first time the media could attend the Falcons’ offseason training activities and while there are a lot of players with unfamiliar names on the field, a few familiar ones returned for the first time in a while. Kroy Biermann and Sam Baker both were practicing with their teammates on Wednesday after missing portions of last season with injuries. Head coach Mike Smith said Baker was moving “extremely well” on the field and he’s pleased with the shape his offensive line’s left tackle has returned in.
2) Bigger, Faster, Stronger: Speaking of being in shape, OTAs are the time of year when players return after an offseason of working hard to improve their bodies for the wear and tear of a 16-game season. The Falcons look healthy as they begin OTAs, but there are a few standouts from a physical perspective:
- Joplo Bartu may have edged his linebacker mate Paul Worrilow for most muscle added during the offseason. The second-year LB looks chiseled and is moving very quickly around on the field.
- Steven Jackson has done the impossible: get even bigger. The running back looks determined to make the Falcons run game in 2014 a factor.
- Paul Soliai and Tyson Jackson are newcomers and really large humans. Seeing the two of them line up beside each other along with Jonathan Babineaux on the defensive line is an imposing image of stature.
- Smith said he’s noticed what his players have done from a size perspective: “I think it’s very noticeable if you look at our team from what they’ve done in the offseason in terms of their body weights. Their body weights are up and their body fat is down and that’s a positive.”
3) Freeman Invited to Cali: Rookie running back Devonta Freeman wasn’t at Wednesday’s practice, but not because he didn’t want to be. He was invited to the NFL Players Association’s Rookie Premiere in California. Smith told the media that the rookie told him he didn’t want to attend and miss practice, but Smith told him if he didn’t attend, he couldn’t be at the facility. The invitation wasn’t optional so Smith told his young back to go and enjoy California.
4) Alford-Douglas Faceoff: Practices are generally light in nature during OTAs, but they remain highly competitive. Harry Douglas and Robert Alford had their share of battles on Wednesday. With Julio Jones and Roddy White not at practice, Douglas was running routes from all WR positions, including on the outside opposite Alford. On one play the second-year corner got the best of Douglas, picking off a pass, but Douglas bounced back on the next play for a nice grab over Alford. Last year’s training camp matchups for Desmond Trufant against Jones and White helped the rookie develop into an emerging star and the tough, trial-by-fire training appears to be starting for Alford.
5) Worrilow Sharing Experience: This time last year, Paul Worrilow was a wide-eyed college free agent trying to figure out what comes next. A year later, he’s a linebacker success story with over 100 tackles last season. He’d be the first to say he’s still got a lot to learn, but the rookies on the roster currently see him as a player that’s done what they’re trying to do. Seventh-round linebacker Yawin Smallwood and college free agent Brenden Daley were periodically picking Worrilow’s brain during down times at Wednesday’s session.
6) Safety Getting Comfortable: Dwight Lowery may turn out to be the veteran starter at safety the Falcons need as third-round pick Dezmen Southward progresses. He’s not wasting any time getting to know his teammates and getting comfortable. He was spotted palling around with Alford and Trufant on Wednesday. Lowery is a name that’s been around the NFL for a while, but it’s easy to forget he’s only 28, one year younger than his counterpart William Moore. Between the four of them, the Falcons have some pieces to have a nice under-30 defensive backs club.
7) Do You, Harry: Earlier, we said Harry Douglas will be one of the key under-the-radar storylines for the Falcons this offseason. After a career year in 2012 that saw him eclipse 1,000 yards, things are looking up for the receiver entering his seventh season. With the return of White and Jones, Douglas may not have that opportunity again and that’s fine, according to his wide receivers coach, Terry Robiskie: “Every year that he’s been here, he’s gotten better and that’s what we’re hoping and what we expect. Last year, Harry came on and had a really big year for us. The two big guys were out and he stepped up and did some great things for us. Every day I tell Harry ‘all you’ve got to do is just keep improving, just keep getting better.’ He doesn’t have to step up and be Roddy and be Julio, just be Harry. Keep getting better and keep improving.”