Here are five things we learned from the Falcons’ rookie mini-camp that was completed on Sunday:
1. Military training: After the Saturday practice, the rookie draft picks and the undrafted signed rookies started classroom work on the Navy SEALs styled training conducted by the Acumen Performance Group. The players who were on tryouts were released to go home. Also, the team released former Colorado State wide receiver Dietrich Clark, who played at Macon County High.
On Sunday, the players started the training on the field.
The Falcons have been doing the military styled training, which includes carrying wooden logs, have for the past three seasons.
2. Local flavor: The Falcons had players from Georgia Tech, Georgia, Georgia State, West Georgia and Valdosta State take part in the rookie mini-camp.
“There were a bunch of guys from Georgia and that really fired us up,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “Whether if it was high school or college. It was 13 or 14 of the guys, it was good to have some of the local guys. It speaks well of the talent in the state coming all the way up through high school and college.”
3. Panther prowl: Georgia State defensive end Mackendy Cheridor felt he had a strong camp.
“It was a great two days of practice,” he said.
Cheridor is one of seven former Panthers currently on NFL rosters. The others are cornerback B.J. Clay (San Diego), wide receiver Robert Davis (Washington), kicker Will Lutz (New Orleans), offensive tackle John Ulrick (New England), cornerback Chandon Sullivan (Philadelphia) and wide receiver Albert Wilson (Miami).
“It’s great to see how many people that have been put in the league from Georgia State within just a few years,” Cheridor said. “It was a beginning of a program at first and to see all of these guys in the league is great. I’ve taken advice from many of them.”
Cheridor, a four-year starter for the Panthers, knows he has an uphill climb to make the roster.
“You just have to get your foot in the door and make the best of it,” Cheridor said. “That’s what I’m here to do. One of the keys will be to do everything that’s asked. Play every play 100 percent, give great effort and great intensity. “
Cheridor played at Columbia High before going to Georgia State.
“I had a lot of Sun Belt offers,” Cheridor said. “Georgia State was special to me because I could stay home. My mother is a great person in my life and I couldn’t leave her behind. She was going through a lot. I had to step up and be the man of the house and take care of my mom.”
He started out his career as an outside linebacker. He finished his career with 10.5 sacks and 25 tackles for losses.
4. Versatility theme: The Falcons stressed versatility during the camp.
Sixth-round pick Russell Gage played defensive back on Friday and wide receiver on Saturday.
First-round draft pick Calvin Ridley played slot receiver, outside receiver, kickoff returner and punt returner.
The Falcons plan to keep evaluating Gage at both positions throughout OTAs. They will make a decision before training camp on a position.
“I’d like to watch the tape (of him playing receiver),” Quinn said. “I thought he had a good day defensively. I know by the time we leave for training camp, we’ll know for sure.”
The Falcons traded up in the draft to get Gage, who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.42 seconds.
“His ability to make plays with the ball in his hands (was impressive),” Quinn said. “For a receiver, he had a lot of carries.”
Gage, who ran a lot of Jet Sweeps, rushed 49 times for 517 yards and four touchdowns for LSU last season. Former Falcons wide receiver Taylor Gabriel was used on some Jet Sweeps over the past two seasons.
“It’s a speed position,” Quinn said. “You saw him make big plays on that. He’s a guy who impacts the game for sure.”
5. Fullback competition: Quinn is expecting that the battle to replace Derrick Coleman at fullback will be decided after the exhibition games.
Luke McNitt of Nebraska and Daniel Marx of Stanford are the leading candidates. Both players got their first taste of the NFL over the camp.
“These are two really competitive guys,” Quinn said.
The Falcons want to see if they can play in open spaces and if they can sustain blocks on a NFL level.