Five random thoughts on OTAs

June, 10, 2014
Jun 10
8:00
AM ET
The Atlanta Falcons will hold their last open session of voluntary organized team activities on Tuesday. Here are a few thoughts as the team progresses toward mandatory minicamp next week (June 17-19).

1) Matt Ryan addresses the media following practice. It will be interesting to hear his thoughts about Julio Jones' progress coming off foot surgery. They'll have to re-establish their rhythm, although Jones won't be doing much field work until training camp. Obviously, Ryan sorely missed his top deep threat last season.

2) Last week, the Falcons tinkered with the offensive line by inserting Gabe Carimi at right guard with the first team as Jon Asamoah rested. It will be interesting to see if the coaches try some other combinations just to get a look. Maybe giving Jake Matthews a few reps at left tackle just in case Sam Baker's knee doesn't hold up through the entire season. And maybe Lamar Holmes gets some first-team reps at tackle as well.

3) Defensive end/outside linebacker Kroy Biermann has quietly worked his way back on the field following last year's season-ending Achilles tear. The coaches haven't really pushed him to the limit, at least not during the two practices previously opened to the media. Biermann's progress heading into minicamp and training camp will be worth monitoring.

4) With so much emphasis on nickel packages against the pass-happy attacks in the league, the role of the nickel corner has become that much more important. Robert McClain showed some ability last year in spot duty. However, it didn't keep the Falcons from bringing in more competition in the form of veteran Josh Wilson. Such competition already has made McClain better. We'll see if he holds Wilson off.

5) One of the rookies on the spot is seventh-round pick Yawin Smallwood, the inside linebacker from Connecticut. Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said the jury's still out on Smallwood, although some considered Smallwood a steal in the draft. Of course, there's a learning curve with the rookies, so Smallwood still has some growing to do. Based on his thick build, he seems ready to contribute. But he has to be up to speed mentally, too.

Vaughn McClure

ESPN Atlanta Falcons reporter

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