May 11, 2018 Flowery Branch: Atlanta Falcons safety Tere Calloway (from left), wide receiver Russell Gage, and cornerback Isaiah Oliver walk of the field at the end of the first day of rookie-mini-camp on Friday, May 11, 2018, in Flowery Branch. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton

Oliver learning from his daily messages from Manuel 

Rookie get an ‘earful’ from the defensive coordinator daily

A week into training camp, the second-round pick from Colorado knows that defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel is going to have a “teaching” moment for him.

“He gets an earful from Quan once a day,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said Friday. “I would say (Desmond Trufant) has, (Robert Alford) has. (Brian) Poole has. There is probably some rite of passage that goes along with that. I do like the way that he competes.”

Oliver, who’s being groomed at right cornerback and at several special-teams spots, is fine with the tough coaching.

“He coaches with a lot of passion,” Oliver said of Manuel, the Falcons’ defensive coordinator and a former NFL cornerback. “That’s something that you’ve got to understand. He’ll yell at you and get on you. 

“That’s just because he loves the game and loves the team. He wants to see you do your best. He wants to get that out of you every single day.” 

Oliver entered the NFL draft after his junior season and was the 58th pick. At 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, he’s considered a big cornerback.

Oliver looks forward to playing his first NFL game. The Falcons open the exhibition season against the New York Jets at 7:30 p.m. Friday at MetLife Stadium. 

Oliver is hopeful that his daily messages from Manuel stick with him on the field. 

“Most definitely, we haven’t played a game in the NFL,” Oliver said. “We haven’t proved ourselves out there on the field. We need to get all of the coaching that we can get because when we get on the field we don’t want to mess up or make mistakes. I accept it and everything that he gives me is just knowledge that will make me better.”

During the 11-on-11 session Friday, Oliver, at right cornerback covered the speedy Devin Gray on a deep route. 

Later as the Falcons were working on their red-zone offense and defense, Oliver covered rookie wide receiver Russell Gage. 

“The length, especially down in the red zone when there is a back-shoulder play and you have the length to go defend that,” Quinn said. “We are keeping him mostly on the outside as we are going through camp so that he can get strong at that spot. Then, also having a big role on special teams. We’ve tried him every where from gunner to personal protector on punts and all of the different (spots).”

Oliver made 32 pass breakups, which tied for 10th most in Colorado history. He also had three interceptions. 

The former decathlete started 37 games and made 16 starts. Over his career at Colorado, he played with four defensive backs, who have made NFL rosters: Chidobe Awuzie (Cowboys), Kenneth Crawley (Saints), Tedric Thompson (Seahawks) and Ahkello Witherspoon (49ers). 

“I would say that he probably has better ball skills than I thought, and I thought they were good coming in,” Quinn said. “He can really track it in the air and that probably lends itself to a lot of the punt returning that he’s done. I have been impressed by the ball skills that he has.”

Oliver has been working on jamming receivers at the line of scrimmage. 

“It’s more difficult at this level with the game (being) a lot faster in general,” Oliver said. “That’s something that I’ve got better at over the OTAs and these first few days of training camp.”

After practice, Oliver went to far corner of the field to get in some extra work. He was seen repeating one drill over and over.

“I was just really working on my transitions,” Oliver said. “Just being quicker in and out of transitions. That’s something that comes with our scheme a lot. The corners we have to squeeze different receivers and get in and out of breaks really quickly.”

Oliver is taking to coaching and doesn’t seem to mind putting in some extra work. 

“I’m going to start doing that every day to make sure that I’m up to par on that,” Oliver said. 

It’s just the first week of camp, but Oliver appears headed in the right direction.

“Like a lot of guys, there is some learning and on the job training that goes on,” Quinn said.

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