Cover 9@9: Falcons rookie Drake London looks ready to contribute immediately

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC

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Falcons rookie receiver Drake London talks about his skills

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC

1. The no-spin zone: When the Falcons went to Los Angeles to work out wide receiver Drake London, wide receivers coach T.J. Yates drew the short straw.

He won the right to throw passes to London over offensive coordinator Dave Ragone. Both are former NFL quarterbacks.

“When I threw to him during the workout, I basically saw and felt everything that I needed to see,” Yates said. “He’s a big guy. He’s got unbelievable range. He plucks the ball with ease and transitions fast. He’s got a lot of the traits that you see a lot of these top receivers across the league and ones that I’ve played with in the past. So, he just confirmed that.”

The Falcons selected London with the eighth pick in the draft.

“He can be very good,” Yates said. “Mainly because of his versatility. He can go inside, and he can go outside. He’s got great ball skills. He’s got good size.”

The question on London was his speed.

“He’s got enough speed to go over the top,” Yates said. “I know that’s a thing that everybody has been questioning, but we feel that he has enough speed to do it all. He can be very, very versatile for us.”

At 6-foot-5 and 210 pounds, London will be a tough matchup for most nickel backs when he lines up in the slot.

“The way we motion and we move guys around, shift and formation and all of that stuff, the more versatility that all of our players can have (the better),” Yates said. “We talk about it all the time. It’s really position-less football. We will line up all of our players in all different positions, whether it’s Kyle (Pitts), whether it’s Drake, whether it’s anybody.”

With the indefinite suspension of wide receiver Calvin Ridley for gambling and the loss of Russell Gage in free agency, the Falcons had to revamp their wide receiver position.

“Everybody talks about the size that we have now and how much different the room is now,” Yates said. “I think one of the main things that’s been great so far is the kind of mentality they have. They come into work every single day. They lift each other up.”

The Falcons, who got Pitts ready to play last season as a rookie, have London on a similar plan.

“He’s a 20-year-old rookie,” Yates said. “He’s going to have growing pains. It’s going to be a process for him just like any rookie. Just like it was for Kyle last year, who was also a 20-year-old rookie coming in. These kids are getting younger and younger coming in.”

London is coming off a broken ankle but hasn’t been slowed over the offseason.

“Whether it’s strength, whether it’s any of the guys, we have to build them up through our program,” Yates said. “Get them to buy into our ethos and our mentality here. Drake’s been great so far in that aspect.”

London has been a good student in the classroom.

“He’s a hard worker,” Yates said. “He comes in every day. He’s got questions. He wants to be quizzed. He wants to work. He wants to run and do all these things. So, you know, aside from all the physical traits that he has, he’s got the right mentality to be good.”

Yates believes London’s basketball skills will be helpful.

“Absolutely,” Yates said. “Not only Drake, but a couple of other guys like (Auden) Tate and some of these other big guys. They’ve got basketball backgrounds. I think it does a whole lot for spatial awareness and for feel.

“Those guys (are) going to get it, going to get those rebounds, all that stuff. They’re used to playing with contact and playing within the space. So, I think that’s going to help us out not only in the red zone but all over the field.”

2. Physical presence: The wide receivers will play a key role in the offense.

“The brand of football that (coach) Arthur (Smith) brings here and what we are trying to preach is a big, physical mentality,” Yates said. “Obviously, then of the size of the receivers that we’ve got coming in here now are really going to help that. Even the guys that don’t have the height or the weight that these other guys have, they are tough individuals.”

The wide receivers’ roles will extend beyond just getting open and catching passes.

“Whether if it’s the run game or the pass game, being physical, strong after the catch, run after the catch, being able to go over the middle, take those hits,” Yates said. “That’s just kind of what we’re trying to preach. The competition between all of those guys is helping breed that.”

Credit: AJC

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Falcons coach Arthur Smith addresses the media after Tuesday's minicamp session in Flowery Branch.

Credit: AJC

3. Can he block? How is London’s blocking?

“That was one of the things that drew us to him in the evaluation process was that he’s a physical, physical guy,” Yates said. “Sometimes you see these guys that are basketball players that come out (and you think) they’re not going to be very physical, but when you see him on tape, you’ll see him take a DB in the run game and run him out of bounds or dump him in the run game. He’s physical in the pass game. Hopefully, that mentality will kind of go throughout the rest of the rookies.”

4. Marcus Mariota on A.J. Terrell: Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota enjoyed going against left cornerback A.J. Terrell in practice.

“It’s tough,” Mariota said. “I hate going against him every day. No, it’s been good. I think it’s really good for receivers. To get work with a guy who I think is one of the better corners in the league is great. We look forward to the challenge every day. We know that it’s going to make us all better.”

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC

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Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota talks about how the offseason has progressed and how the team is looking forward to the 2022 season.

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC

5. Minicamp attendance: The Falcons elected to hold running back/wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson out of minicamp, and defensive back Mike Ford was excused for a family matter.

Fullback Keith Smith (knee surgery), defensive tackle Vince Taylor (knee) and linebacker Deion Jones (shoulder) were also held out.

Several players were limited Tuesday because they are in different parts of their return-to-play plans.

Wide receiver Cameron Batson, wide receiver Frank Darby, tight end John FitzPatrick, wide receiver Auden Tate, wide receiver Austin Trammell, safety Erik Harris, defensive tackle Ta’Quon Graham and safety Teez Tabor all were limited for the first practice that was interrupted by rain.

6. Tryout players: Offensive lineman Jonotthan Harrison (Florida), linebacker Dakota Allen (Texas Tech), defensive lineman Isaiah Buggs (Alabama), offensive lineman Adam Coon (Michigan), defensive lineman Jalen Dalton (North Carolina) and wide receiver Emeka Emezie (N.C. State) took part in the minicamp on a tryout basis.

7. Golf outing: The Falcons will have a team-bonding golf outing Thursday to end their offseason program.

8a. Damien Williams is a big fan of Tyler Allgeier: Veteran running back Damien Williams is a big fan of rookie running back Tyler Allgeier.

“He looks good,” Williams said. “When I was in Chicago, we had Khalil Herbert come in as a rookie (in 2021). I kind of see similarities as far as patience and wanting to learn the game even more. He’s a smart kid. He knows the game. I love his feet when he runs the ball. Very patient.”

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC

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Falcons' Grady Jarrett gives a veteran's view on minicamp

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC

8b. Camp corner: Derrick Brown, a defensive tackle for the Panthers, will host a free youth football camp Friday at E.E. Robinson Park in Sugar Hill. The camp is for boys and girls ages 8-17 and will feature skills and drills led by Brown. To register, visit derrickbrown.eventbrite.com.

Jonathan Greenard, a defensive end for the Texans, will host a free youth football camp Friday at Hiram High School. The camp is for boys and girls ages 10-14 and will feature skills and drills led by Greenard.

The camp runs from 5:30 to 8 p.m. To register, visit greenard.eventbrite.com.

9. Falcons depth chart: The Falcons do not plan to bring in a fourth quarterback for training camp.

They want to give all of the reps to Mariota and Desmond Ridder, while Feleipe Franks tries to carve out a roster spot as a quarterback/tight end.

Here’s our working unofficial offseason depth chart:

OFFENSE

WR – Bryan Edwards, Cordarrelle Patterson, Frank Darby, Cameron Batson, KhaDarel Hodge, Stanley Berryhill

TE – Kyle Pitts, Brayden Lenius, Tucker Fisk

LT – Jake Matthews, Rick Leonard, Tyler Vrabel, Leroy Watson

LG – Jalen Mayfield, Elijah Wilkinson, Colby Gossett, Justin Shaffer

C – Drew Dalman or Matt Hennessy

RG – Chris Lindstrom, Drew Dalman, Ryan Neuzil

RT – Kaleb McGary, Germain Ifedi

TE – Anthony Firkser, Parker Hesse, John Raine, John FitzPatrick

WR – Drake London, Olamide Zaccheaus, Geronimo Allison, Auden Tate, Damiere Byrd, Austin Trammell, Jared Bernhardt, Tyshaun James

RB – Cordarrelle Patterson, Damien Williams, Qadree Ollison, Jeremy McNichols, Caleb Huntley, Avery Williams, Tyler Allgeier

FB – Keith Smith

QB – Marcus Mariota, Desmond Ridder, Feleipe Franks

DEFENSE

DE – Grady Jarrett, Marlon Davidson

NT – Vincent Taylor, Anthony Rush, Ta’Quon Graham, Timothy Horne

DE – Nick Thurman, Bryce Rodgers, Derrick Tangelo

OLB – Lorenzo Carter, Jordan Brailford, Arnold Ebiketie

ILB – Deion Jones, Mykal Walker, Troy Andersen

ILB – Rashaan Evans, Dorian Etheridge, Nick Kwiatkoski, Nathan Landman

OLB – Adetokunbo Ogundeji, Quinton Bell, Rashad Smith, DeAngelo Malone, Kuony Deng

LCB – A.J. Terrell, Darren Hall, Mike Ford, Corey Ballentine, Cornell Armstrong, Lafayette Pitts

FS (Left) – Jaylinn Hawkins, Erik Harris, Brad Hawkins

SS (Right) – Richie Grant, Teez Tabor, Tre Webb

RCB – Casey Hayward, Isaiah Oliver, Dee Alford, Matt Hankins

SPECIAL TEAMS

K – Younghoe Koo

P – Dom Maggio, Seth Vernon

LS – Liam McCullough

H – Dom Maggio

PR – Avery Williams

KOR – Cordarrelle Patterson, Avery Williams, Cameron Batson

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