Last season, the Falcons relied heavily on their draft class, with Matt Ryan being named the rookie of the year and several others contributing. While there may not be a rookie of the year candidate in the most recent draft crop, the 2009 picks will have chances to land major and supporting roles.
The team's first four or five picks could earn playing time on at least a rotational basis, but will have to prove the team's initial evaluation correct in training camp to lock in their spots on the depth chart.
Here's Dimitroff's view of the rookie class after a few months with the team:
--Peria Jerry, DT: "He's got his ears pinned back and he's ready to play some football. I like his focus and energy."
--William Moore, S: "He's a physical presence. He will continue to refine his footwork and skills. We're encouraged by what he's done so far.
--Chris Owens, CB: "(A few days) ago when he was coming up to support, he almost collided with one of our very tough and very big offensive lineman because he was coming to support with so much authority. That was impressive."
--Lawrence Sidbury, DE: "He can get off the mark and bend around the corner. He's showed that in a number of practices. It's going to take him some time, but we are encouraged by his development thus far."
--William Middleton, CB: "He's an incredibly smart guy and fast."
--Garrett Reynolds, OT: "He has some good flexibility in his legs. Sometimes when you have a player that tall (6-foot-8), they don't bend as well."
--Spencer Adkins, LB: "He's a fast run-and-hit guy. I've seen him a couple of times where, if you know that if we were in pads, he would have blown up the ball carrier."
--Vance Walker, DT: "He's another guy that's focused and we feel very comfortable after talking to people that we know over at Georgia Tech."
Defensive end John Abraham made his first appearance at Organized Training Activities (OTAs) last week. Abraham had not attended any of the team's workouts following minicamp in May. Falcons coach Mike Smith said he was glad to have Abraham back, but understands that the veteran needs time away from football to recover and refresh.
Quarterback Matt Ryan concurred. "You need to take time to freshen up before the real grind starts," he said.
--Wide receiver Roddy White and place-kicker Jason Elam were not at last Wednesday's workout. In attendance but unable to practice were wide receiver Khalil Jones, offensive lineman Alex Stepanovich, defensive tackle Vance Walker and defensive backs Von Hutchins, David Irons and William Middleton.
--The Falcons refused to make offensive tackle Quinn Ojinnaka available for comment following Wednesday's workout. Ojinnaka was arrested last week after a fight with his wife about a Facebook friend. Ojinnaka, 25, was booked into the Gwinnett County Jail at 1:40 a.m. last Wednesday on a misdemeanor charge of simple battery. He was released about four hours later after posting a $2,400 bond.
The Falcons said they would not comment further than the release the team issued following the arrest: "Because this is an ongoing legal matter, the Falcons will have no further comment at this time."
--Starting right tackle Tyson Clabo signed his restricted-free-agent contract. Clabo started 37 games for the Falcons over the past four seasons, including all 16 games last season at right tackle.
--In another roster move, the Falcons signed undrafted free agent wide receiver Brandon Godfrey. The 6-foot-3 Godfrey, had 128 receptions for 1,440 yards in a 36-game career at Utah. To make room for Godfrey, the Falcons released linebacker Brock Christopher, an undrafted free agent from Missouri.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I really have felt that it's a settling feeling knowing that we have such experienced football coaches on this team that can help
a relatively young football team come together. They did a very nice job with it last year. It puts our mind at ease." -- General manager Thomas Dimitroff on the Falcons' coaching staff.