Stars have frequent dialogue during stadium practice

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and wide receiver Julio Jones are making up for lost time together.

Several times during the practice before a large crowd at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday, Ryan and Jones were seen communicating and working through several plays. Jones stayed away from the team over the offseason in a contract dispute.

“Dialogue back and forth and being on the same page is key,” Ryan said. “It could be about anything: run plays, to pass plays, to body position. We talk about those things all the time.”

Ryan and Jones did get together during a players-only passing camp in California before the start of training camp.

“I felt like we got some good work when everybody got together in California,” Ryan said. “I thought it was a productive couple of days for us.”

That was the only work for quarterback and wide receiver this summer.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn said at the NFL owner’s meeting in March that he was looking forward to having Jones available this offseason. However the star player elected to skip the offseason training program, organized training activities and the mandatory minicamp. It was announced by the team that Jones would report for training camp about 16 hours before the 4 p.m. deadline last Thursday after his contract was adjusted.

Ryan and Jones are working to get in sync.

“Obviously, it’s great to have Julio here,” Ryan said. “He’s the best teammate that you could ask for. He’s a great worker. He’s such a good teach for the young guys. He’s been great.”

Ryan and Jones were working on routes inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, including fade routes.

The Falcons fell off drastically inside the opposition’s 20-yard line, the red zone, last season. They were 64.5 percent in 2016, which ranked eighth in the NFL. Under first-year offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, they were 49.1 percent, which ranked 23rd last year.

The first-team offense went against the first-team defense in the red zone at the end of practice.

Right tackle Ryan Schraeder spiked the ball after Ryan scrambled to his left and completed a touchdown pass to Mohamed Sanu.

“He’s good,” Ryan said of Sanu. “That’s the kind of stuff that’s been a point of emphasis for us, kind of improving in that red area and coming away with more touchdowns than we did last year.”

Jones wants to be a part of the solution, too.

“I thought it was good work for us today,” Ryan said. “That was just the start of it. We’ve got a long way to go and a lot of work to do prior to the regular season getting here, but it’s been a good start.”

Rookie wide receiver Calvin Ridley, after a minor injury scare on Saturday, was back at practice.

Ryan has been impressed with the former Alabama standout.

“It’s not going to be hard,” Ryan said about integrating Ridley into the offense. “He’s a talented player. He can do a lot of different things. Certainly through the offseason and the first couple of days in camp, he’s showcased his talent level. I can see him having a really good year for us.”

Ryan is also looking forward to his second season under Sarkisian.

“Obviously, Sark is a lot more comfortable with the personnel,” Ryan said. “Knowing what guys to use in certain situations. I think that just comes with experience. We all kind of have a feel for his (style) as well.”

Quarterbacks coach Greg Knapp is also helping Ryan.

“Greg Knapp coming in for us, that made us a better football team for sure,” Ryan said. “He’s an experienced guy. He has a long-time stint in the league calling plays, but also coaching the quarterback position.

“He’s been great to work with. He’s also another set of eyes for us quarterbacks, but also for our coaching staff.”

Ryan enjoyed the practice away from Flowery Branch.

“It was also nice to get in the air conditioning and get out of the heat for a bit,” Ryan said. “That was a plus.”

The Atlanta Falcons opened the Mercedes-Benz Stadium roof during a ceremony before practice Sunday, July 29, 2018, in Atlanta. (Video by D. Orlando Ledbetter)

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