Cover 9@9: Olamide Zaccheaus on Falcons: ‘We can shock a lot of people’

Falcons receiver Olamide Zaccheaus had a taste of being in the playoff chase last season. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

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Falcons receiver Olamide Zaccheaus had a taste of being in the playoff chase last season. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

1. The no-spin zone: Falcons wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus had a taste of being in the playoff chase last season.

The Falcons were not eliminated until the 16th game of the season in 2021 when they dropped to 7-9 with one game to play. They lost the regular-season finale against the Saints at home in the league’s first 17-game season.

“I feel like we’re a playoff team,” said Zaccheaus, who signed his $2.4 million restricted free-agent tender this offseason. “We just (have) to put everything together. Really start fast at the beginning of the season and not get into a hole. I just feel like as a team, we can shock a lot of people.”

Zaccheaus played at Virginia and made the Falcons as an undrafted free agent in 2019.

Zaccheaus, 5-foot-8 and 193 pounds, played 610 offensive snaps (58%) last season. He played in all 17 games and made eight starts. He had career highs in targets (53), receptions (31), yards (406) and touchdowns (three).

“The biggest thing for me is just being healthy and playing in all 17 games,” Zaccheaus said. “I think everything else will take care of itself.”

Zaccheaus is the Falcons’ top returning wide receiver. He also was on the field for 29% of the special-teams plays.

“Just evaluating last season was like a dull period for me in the middle of the season,” Zaccheaus said. “I just had to readjust a couple of things, and then I was just locked in from there. Not that I wasn’t before, but there was another level that I could take it to. I just felt like I was playing better toward the end of the year than in the beginning and in the middle.”

Zaccheaus plans to stand out in training camp by showing that he knows the system.

“I’ve been in the system for a year,” Zaccheaus said. “I’ve been here going into my fourth year. I just kind of know how things go. So just being a resource for these guys. Help them as much as I can and answering any questions that they have.”

With the trade of Matt Ryan, the Falcons will have a new quarterback. The team signed Marcus Mariota and drafted Desmond Ridder in the third round.

“Great competitors,” Zaccheaus said. “Very humble guys. I feel like we have things that we have to work out still, but we have to keep working, keep grinding. I think we’ll be all right if we keep doing that.”

Zaccheaus wasn’t certain if his role will expand in the offense.

“Just being an example for the guys,” Zaccheaus said. “I think that will kind of just handle itself, being that example for the guys will take care of everything else for me.”

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC

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Falcons’ Tyler Allgeier on his rookie offseason

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC

2. Allgeier adjusting to pro ball: Falcons running back Tyler Allgeier had plenty of time to adjust to his new job over the offseason.

“Having so much time with football,” Allgeier said. “It is literally my job now. I think that’s the big (adjustment) that a lot of people don’t understand. Like, it’s literally your job now. I put so much time and effort into this, and that’s what’s going to (show) on the field.”

Allgeier had to ask questions to help him learn the offense.

“I have to ask questions because there might be something in the book that says something,” Allgeier said. “Then I ask someone else, and it’s different. You always have to ask questions. It doesn’t hurt. It doesn’t hurt at all.”

Allgeier, who was drafted in the fifth round from BYU, said the offseason program went well.

“I think we all did a great job,” Allgeier said. “Really just taking it day by day, bringing all of that energy and just competing. I think there is going to be a lot of competition in (training camp).”

3. Ridder on Franks: Ridder had some kind words about backup quarterback Feleipe Franks, who spent most of the offseason working at tight end.

“He has a great body and is a great athlete,” Ridder said. “Coach (Dave Ragone) always jokes with all three of us: Marcus, myself and Feleipe. He’s the best athlete out of all of us. Me and Marcus kind of chuckle.”

The Falcons wanted Ridder and Mariota to get all or most of the reps. They don’t plan to bring in a fourth quarterback.

“He’s a great addition to our team, not only in the quarterback (meeting) room but in the tight end group,” Ridder said. “He’s not only helping our team out, but he’s helping himself out individually as well.”

4. Ridder on starting: Ridder discussed trying to win the starting quarterback job.

“I take it day by day,” Ridder said. “I’m not coming out here trying to win the starting job, right here, right now. My job is to come out here and to make myself better to them, make Marcus better to them and make the team better.

“So, that’s just my job. My role right now is to kind of bring everyone else with me. Bring the rookies with me. Bring all the guys around me with me so that we can become better.”

Ridder and Mariota have laid the foundation for a strong relationship.

“He’s like a big brother to me,” Ridder said. “He’s taken me under his wing. He’s taught me some of the nuances of not only becoming an NFL quarterback but just an NFL player in general. So, I’m excited to keep learning from him and keep growing.”

Ridder is looking forward to getting Mariota on the golf course. They haven’t played yet. Ryan was an avid golfer, too.

5. Hayward’s DB camp: Falcons cornerback Casey Hayward will host his second annual invite-only defensive back camp, showcasing the best high school athletes in Georgia from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Lakewood Stadium.

Hayward will team with Atlanta-based sports-performance trainer and former NFL player Justin Miller for a day of skills training, along with an NFL panel featuring Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts and cornerback A.J. Terrell, the Colts’ Kenny Moore, the Patriots’ Jonathan Jones and others.

Some of the top players in the state have been selected, including Clemson commit Avieon Terrell (A.J. Terrell’s brother), Cedar Grove cornerback Kayin Lee and Milton safety Bryce Thornton.

6. Brandon Ruth attends Stanford program: The NFL recently wrapped up the Stanford League of Leagues executive education program at Stanford graduate business school, which dates back to 2003. The Falcons’ Brandon Ruth, the team’s director of operations, and former Falcons executive Marvin Allen, representing the Dolphins, attended.

In 2012, Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot attended the Stanford Business School’s Executive Education NFL-Stanford Program for Managers, an education program and honor known across the league as training ground for promising executives.

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC

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Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts talks about minicamp.

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC

7. QB poll: Who should start at quarterback in the Falcons’ season opener?

8. Falcons open practices: The Falcons will open 13 training-camp practices to the public. Twelve of the practices will be at team headquarters in Flowery Branch, which will include two joint sessions with the Jaguars, and one will be at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

A limited number of free tickets for each of the 12 open practices at Flowery Branch are available at the following link: https://am.ticketmaster.com/falcons/22trainingcamp. This will include the practices with the Jaguars on Aug. 24-25. The Falcons are also scheduled to have two open practices Aug. 19-20 with the Jets.

The open practice at Mercedes-Benz Stadium will be Aug. 15. More information on the session will be available in July.

Here are the open practice dates:

Friday, July 29, Flowery Branch, 9:30 a.m.

Saturday, July 30, Flowery Branch, 9:30 a.m.

Monday, Aug. 1, Flowery Branch, 10 a.m.

Tuesday, Aug. 2, Flowery Branch, 9:30 a.m.

Wednesday, Aug. 3, Flowery Branch, 9:30 a.m.

Friday, Aug. 5, Flowery Branch, 9:30 a.m.

Saturday, Aug. 6, Flowery Branch, 9:30 a.m.

Monday, Aug. 8, Flowery Branch, 10 a.m.

Tuesday, Aug. 9, Flowery Branch, 9:30 a.m.

Wednesday, Aug. 10, Flowery Branch, 9:30 a.m.

Monday, Aug. 15, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, 6:30 p.m.

Wednesday, Aug. 24, Flowery Branch, joint practices with Jacksonville, 1 p.m.

Thursday, Aug. 25, Flowery Branch, joint practices with Jacksonville, 1 p.m.

9. Falcons’ depth chart: The Falcons signed defensive lineman Jalen Dalton and offensive lineman Jonotthan Harrison to one-year contracts, after mandatory minicamp tryouts.

The team released running back Jeremy McNichols and wide receiver Austin Trammell.

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, Jonotthan Harrison

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, Jared Bernhardt, Tyshaun James

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

FB – Keith Smith

QB – Marcus Mariota, Desmond Ridder, Feleipe Franks

DEFENSE

DE – Grady Jarrett, Marlon Davidson, Jalen Dalton

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