Dennard’s addition to the Falcons brings him closer to home for the first time since he was a high school standout at Twiggs County High. Upon graduating, he played college football at Michigan State and was selected in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft by the Cincinnati Bengals.
Thursday marked the first time reporters got to see Dennard and his teammates go through an actual practice with helmets and jerseys on. A week ago, the Falcons were only doing conditioning workouts.
During Thursday’s practice, the Falcons ran through some plays, albeit with the offense and defense running against scout-team groups. Dennard, who is entering his seventh NFL season, has played both outside corner and at the nickel during his career. While a person familiar with the situation told the AJC that the Falcons see Dennard best used as a nickel, coach Dan Quinn wasn’t ready to publicly designate a specific role for him just yet.
“He’s got experience both outside and inside so over the next two or three weeks we’ll feature him in both spaces,” Quinn said. “The fact that he’s played nickel, that’s been a big help for us, but he’s made his living playing outside. As we are going through it, I think we probably need a few weeks to make sure we got him in the right space and feature him. Certainly glad to have another good player on the team.”
Dennard said he feels comfortable at either position in the defense backfield.
“I’m an overall total DB. I can play outside, inside,” Dennard said. “I can play the ball. I can also come up and tackle. I’m an all-around DB. I want to help the team and try to show the league I’m still that player from when I came out. I’m super-excited for the opportunity. Whatever position I end up playing, I just want to play at a high level and show everyone I’m still that player.”
Another element Dennard brings is veteran leadership. In the secondary, A.J. Terrell is a rookie, Kendall Sheffield is entering his second season and Isaiah Oliver is preparing for his third. With 77 games and 24 starts under his belt, Dennard should be able to lend a veteran voice in meetings.
At the same time, Dennard remembered being in his first few years in the league. He doesn’t want to approach this situation as if he knows more than the younger defensive backs just because of his years in the NFL.
“I think the best thing about the young talented guys we have is they make the whole group better,” Dennard said. “I was once that young, hungry rookie, second-year, third-year player along with the vets. The only thing that made it come together was that everybody competed. I’m here to help better the team, of course. The young guys help me as well as I’m helping them. It all goes hand in hand. I’m super excited to be with this group. I’m surrounded by talented guys.”