Here are five big things we learned from HBO’s Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Atlanta Falcons.
1. Mike Smith is a good man – We got more insight into the Falcons head coach with him being miked up all during training camp. He’s competitive. We all knew that. But he seems like a genuinely nice man. He seemed to treat his players with respect. He seemed to have good relationships with the players. They seem to respect him. It’s not like we saw a bunch of players mumbling under their breath about what a schmuck they had as a head coach. Maybe they are and we just didn’t see that, but they seem to like him. Do they want to win for him? Well, we’ll see. But you have to come away from that show with a good feeling about the type of man leading this Falcons franchise.
2. The additions of Mike Tice as offensive line coach and Bryan Cox as defensive line coach looks like a home run so far. They have a tough-guy approach that seemed to work. Cox worked diligently with rookie Ra’Shede Hageman in camp to make him realize his potential. While Tice stayed on rookie Jake Matthews to let him know what the franchise expects of its franchise tackle. Regardless of technique or scheme, it looks like the approach of these two coaches is just what the doctor ordered for the line of scrimmage.
3. The coaching staff is doing everything possible to make this a more physical football team. Not only did Cox stay on Hageman, but we saw special teams Coach Keith Armstrong cuss out his young players when reviewing game film of the game against Houston. He wants them mentally tough, as well as physically tougher. There also seemed to be a tolerance of the altercations early in camp. Sure, the coaches pretended they didn’t like it, but it was obvious they think it will help make this team tougher.
4. The players seem to get along well. We saw camaraderie between Julio Jones and William Moore, who like to give each other the business on the field. We saw Jones and his other receivers interact, with a trip to the bowling alley that was rather entertaining. Sure, we only saw glimpses behind the scenes, but what we did see presented a team who has players that get along. Plus, it is obvious they were embarrassed by last season and want to correct what made them 4-12. That’s a good sign.
5. Arthur Blank stayed out of the way. Truthfully, when it was announced Hard Knocks would focus on the Falcons, I thought it would be five weeks of The Arthur Blank Show. He’s barely been on the show. The fact he got out of the way and made this about the team is a positive step. It could have really backfired if Blank had pretended to be Jerry Jones. The fans would have been turned off by that. But instead, Smith was the star of the show with general manager Thomas Dimitroff clearly in charge of the organization, with Scott Pioli at his side.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and e-mail him at email@example.com.
Bill Shanks talks about Atlanta's offensive line as we prepare for 2014…