The highlight of Saturday was tight end Feleipe Franks catching the ball and trucking cornerback Teez Tabor into the end zone. Franks was visibly amped, and his teammates responded with cheers and yells. Franks and Tabor are former college teammates who overlapped at Florida in 2016. Franks is having a productive camp as a tight end and part-time quarterback.
“You have to give Feleipe a lot of credit,” Smith said of Franks’ position change. “Feleipe is a special guy. You saw today what he does. Going in there playing multiple positions, that’s rare. I try to temper my expectations, but we’ll see where it goes.”
Tight end Kyle Pitts stood out Saturday, hauling in two touchdowns near the left corner of the end zone with safety Richie Grant trailing in coverage. Pitts is the Falcons’ most talented player, and he showed why throughout the practice, from his hulking physical presence to his ability to separate despite his size (6-foot-6, 245 pounds).
Quarterback play on the day
Marcus Mariota made some nice throws in 7-on-7s and 11-on-11s, including the touchdowns by Pitts. He had some misses – safety Jaylinn Hawkins secured an interception on one, the defense’s only pick Saturday – but was the better of the two signal-callers. He also showed his mobility on bootlegs, evading rushers to find an open target. Rookie receiver Drake London made a nice sliding catch on one play.
Desmond Ridder showed his inexperience, at times taking too long to get rid of the ball. His placement also was a bit erratic, resulting in some incompletions and missed opportunities. He rebounded to make some decisive throws later in the day, so it was the usual growing pains with encouraging flashes for the third-round rookie.
First-team offensive line
The Falcons’ starting offensive line was left tackle Jake Matthews, left guard Elijah Wilkinson, center Matt Hennessy, right guard Chris Lindstrom and right tackle Kaleb McGary. With guard Jalen Mayfield dealing with a lower-back issue, Wilkinson can further establish himself the favorite for the vacant guard spot. Hennessy is competing with Drew Dalman for the starting center nod.
How long is Smith comfortable with waiting to announce his starting offensive line? “As long as it takes,” he said Saturday. “At some point, somebody will emerge. But I’m not really worried about the timeline.”