5 things we learned from Falcons’ rookie minicamp

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC

FLOWERY BRANCH — After two days of practices, the Falcons wrapped up their rookie minicamp Sunday.

The plan was simple for coach Arthur Smith and the massive group of 41 tryout players who supported the six draft picks, the six undrafted rookie free agents and some 2022 practice-squad players who participated.

“Can you take things that we’re implementing in the classroom and when you get to the walk-throughs, if you make a mistake can you correct it, those things,” Smith said. “The way they operate, and the way they adapt. How quickly they learn? All of those are ways to stand out.”

Smith wasn’t trying to ramp things up too high in May.

“We’re not going full pads,” Smith said. “I’m not paying that fine. I like my job.”

Here are five things we learned from the Falcons’ rookie minicamp:

1. Robinson is fast: Running back Bijan Robinson looked great in the individual drills and the stretching periods that were open to the media.

He was moving around a lot within the offense.

“He’s a great player, and he’s really humble,” Falcons guard Matt Bergeron said. “I’ve had the chance to talk to him. We bonded quickly. I’m just excited to go out there and block for him, whether it’s in practice or in a game. He’s a great dude. I’m definitely grateful to be blocking for him.”

2. Tackle to guard: Bergeron played tackle at Syracuse. The Falcons’ second-round draft pick lined up at left guard.

“It’s definitely faster,” Bergeron said. “Everything happens (faster). (Everyone) is on top of you. When you’re at tackle, in a pass set you’ve got maybe three (steps) before things start happening. At guard, everything is happening right now. Guys take one step, and they are on you. You have to be faster with your hands and faster with your feet.”

Bergeron knows it’s a work in progress.

“It’s definitely an adjustment,” he said. “As the days (have gone) on, I feel like I’m getting better and better.”

The Falcons traded up in the draft to land Bergeron with the hope that he can win the starting left guard position.

“I don’t put pressure on myself,” Bergeron said when asked if he expected to start. “I’m going to give my 100% every day and see where that takes me.”

Basically, Bergeron now has three practices at guard, one at the Senior Bowl and two at rookie minicamp. He said he’s watching tape of Falcons guard Chris Lindstrom, Cowboys guard Zack Martin and Cleveland guard Joel Bitonio.

“You just have to be faster with every thing that you do,” Bergeron said. “You don’t (have) time, and the quarterback is right behind you. So, one mistake, and you’re done.”

3. Senior Bowl helped: Bergeron said his time at the Senior Bowl in January helped prepare him for the move.

“My thought process coming here is that I already have one experience at guard, so I knew what to expect coming here,” Bergeron said. “Having a NFL playbook at the Senior Bowl helped me to get prepared for here with the details and stuff with the assignments.”

Another adjustment entails listening to play-calls and making audibles at the line of scrimmage.

“Here in the (NFL), you can flip plays, do all of that,” Bergeron said. “Kill plays. So, you have to get adjusted to that because we didn’t do that in college.”

4. Mean and nasty: Bergeron plays with a mean streak when he’s on the field.

“That’s just natural,” Bergeron said. “I think I was born with it. I don’t know where I got it from. When I get on the field, I just flip a switch and become mean and mad.”

Bergeron played hockey, goalie in soccer, swam and also played basketball in his youth growing up in Canada.

“I feel like all of those sports helped me to be the football player that I am today,” Bergeron said.

He also was mean and nasty in his other sports.

“It was always … even when I was a kid, I was just pushing kids in the school yard,” Bergeron said. “It was just natural. Always there.”

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC

5. It’s hot in May: Cornerback Clark Phillips III, who was taken in the fourth round of the draft, had his own takeaways.

“The intensity, the pace and then the humidity,” Phillips said.

It’s a bit cooler in Salt Lake City, where he was a standout for Utah.

Phillips was asked about his matchups with Falcons wide receiver Drake London, who played at USC.

In a 2021 matchup, London caught 16 passes for 162 yards and a touchdowns. Utah won 42-26 on Oct. 9, 2021. London also had three catches for 45 yards in a 33-17 win over the Utes on Nov. 21, 2020.

“It was a competitive matchup,” Phillips said. “I’m glad that I’m here right now and we get to continue to work together, go against each other and keep competing.”

Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot had a word of advice of Phillips, who was holding court and telling the media that he plays with a chip on shoulder because he’s always been 5-foot-9.

“We, not me,” Fontenot yelled. “We, not me.”

Phillips just laughed and carried on.

Asked if he’s a talker on the field.

“I like to have conversations in games,” Phillips said.

The Bow Tie Chronicles

Atlanta Falcons running back Bijan Robinson (7) runs with a ball during Day 2 of Falcons rookie minicamp at Atlanta Falcons Training Facility, Saturday, May 13, 2023, in Flowery Branch. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

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Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

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