Falcons plan to take business approach to Jets’ practices, game

FLOWERY BRANCH — The Falcons are looking forward to their joint practices with the Jets on Friday and Saturday in Florham Park, N.J.

A lot of work went into the two teams getting together for this extra training-camp work. Once the NFL schedule was set, that allowed teams to decide if they wanted to do joint practices.

“You try to have some conversations if we get to pair up you get to work together,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said. “(Jets coach) Robert (Saleh) and I talked months ago, and we were able to get this done. No different than (Jaguars coach) Doug Pederson when we practice with Jacksonville next week.”

ExploreFalcons’ Troy Andersen hoping to make his debut Monday vs. Jets

So, the matchups came down to scheduling logistics and having relationships with the opposing staffs.

“I’ve heard that they are super fun,” Falcons rookie linebacker Troy Andersen said. “They are intense. It’s great work to hit somebody else other than your own team. I’m definitely looking forward to it.”

The Falcons defeated the Jets 27-20 last season at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London.

Jets quarterback Zach Wilson had knee surgery Tuesday and will miss the practices and game.

Veteran Joe Flacco is the Jets’ No. 2 quarterback, followed by Mike White and Chris Streveler.

The Falcons’ young defense could benefit from facing a veteran quarterback such as Flacco.

“Every quarterback that you face, there are different challenges,” Smith said. “We’ll see what they throw at us when we go up there and practice against them. It doesn’t matter. It could change on the first snap of the game.”

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The Falcons will hold their 16th training camp practice Thursday before leaving for New Jersey.

“I think it helps,” Smith said of the joint practices. “It’s about what you’re trying to get out of it. You have the (exhibition games) where you’re competing against other people, and then you get to practice against somebody if there is a certain scheme you want to practice against that may be different than yours that makes sense, and you try to get that done, too.”

There was a spirit of cooperation between the coaches. Fighting will not be tolerated.

“I think we’re pretty cooperative here, especially when you’re going to someone else’s place,” Smith said. “You say, ‘Hey, here’s what we’re thinking, how do you guys do it?’ They send you something over, ‘That’s great,’ and we show up and practice.”

Smith tries to be flexible.

“I don’t try to micromanage as someone’s guest,” Smith said. “If you invite me to your house, I’m not going to sit there and complain about what kind of beer you serve or the lack thereof of food.”

The Falcons’ offensive line will get tested by the Jets, who have a stout defensive front anchored by Quinnen Williams and Solomon Thomas.

“It’s great to go against another opponent, an opponent that defensively will give us a different look in terms of how they play their fronts, some of their structures in the back end,” Falcons offensive coordinator Dave Ragone said. “For training camp, it allows us to go back to some of our base rules and the quarterbacks have to apply them, as well as the rest of the offense.”

Quite frankly, the Falcons are tired of going against the Falcons in practice.

“When you go against a different competitor on a different team in a practice setting, it does bring a different element of energy,” Ragone said.

The Falcons have open competitions at center, left guard and right tackle. Matt Hennessy and Drew Dalman are battling at center. Elijah Wilkinson is leading at left guard, and Kaleb McGary is the leader at right tackle.

“I think from the line’s perspective, and again I’m not the first person up here to say anything about competition, but what you see out there is a bunch of guys going out in different units and playing to the best of their ability and pushing each other,” Ragone said.

Offensive line coach Dwayne Ledford is pushing the players.

“They’re responding,” Ragone said. “We’ve got (a few) more weeks to continue to do that, to jell, but from where they’re at, they’re pushing hard and their challenging themselves.”

Ragone believes the offense can make some strides while practicing with the Jets.

“Yeah, I mean we’re trending,” Ragone said. “We have, obviously, the ability each and every day to work on something fundamentally. We’re, obviously, not there yet. That’s what training camp is for. We’ll have a great challenge this week.”

The Falcons had two joint practices with the Dolphins last season and didn’t play their starters in the exhibition season. They weren’t ready for the season opener and were steamrolled 32-6 by the Eagles.

In his second season, Smith has taken a more aggressive approach to training camp and the exhibition season by doubling the joint practices and playing the starters in the exhibition games.

“This is what you do in training camp,” Ragone said. “You get through the fundamentals. You try to get better at them. There are things – X’s and O’s wise – that you’re seeing how they fit the players, and our job as coaches is to make sure that we highlight their strengths.”

This is an important period because the Falcons don’t want another season-opening clunker. The Falcons open against the Saints at 1 p.m. Sept. 11 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“That’s what we’re trying to find out right now with some of the players and make sure that we’re playing to the best of their ability,” Ragone said.

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