- Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer
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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga -- A daily review of the hot topics from Atlanta Falcons' training camp:
The news of the day was the absence of running back Steven Jackson, who apparently tweaked his knee during Monday's first padded practice. Although coach Mike Smith said he fully expects Jackson to be ready for the season opener against New Orleans (Sept. 7), Jackson had a right hamstring injury that lingered longer than expected last season and kept him out four games. Jackson just turned 31 last week so there are obvious questions about his durability. At least the Falcons have a backup plan with veteran Jacquizz Rodgers and rookie Devonta Freeman. Smith said Antone Smith and Josh Vaughan also would get longer looks with Jackson out.
Quarterback Matt Ryan praised the play of rookie right tackle Jake Matthews, who continued his seamless transition to the NFL. Matthews rarely let's anyone get by him with his sound technique and stout frame. "I think Jake, his size and he's very strong, very athletic," Ryan said. "And he's smart. I think that's a great combination. When you talk about a guy who is drafted early and is going to be a cornerstone of the organization for a long time to come, it's a great combination to have. He's done it the way rookies should do it: kind of kept his mouth shut and handled his business the right way." Matthews hasn't shut it completely, however. "But then we got him up there singing last night in front of everybody, and he was pretty good," Ryan said with a laugh. "Probably the thing that has impressed me the most in the first week is his ability to sing. He's not scared to get up there and (let) a little bit of personality show through."
Veteran Osi Umenyiora, who has slimmed down, has shown a lot of speed a good hand movement with his rushes during pass-rush drills and full-team work. He even dropped into coverage on at least one occasion, showing his willingness to step out of his comfort zone to make the team. Umenyiora wondered about his role this offseason as the team transitioned to a 3-4 base defense, but there's plenty of room for him as long as he can get to the quarterback. And he's showing some young legs for a player set to turn 33 in November.
The offense didn't exactly shine on a second consecutive day of padded practice. In fact, there was some noticeable drops and some mistiming between Ryan and his receivers, even with Julio Jones back on the field after a day off. "We need to execute much better than we have," Ryan said. "But the effort's there. And I think that's been encouraging."
Linebacker Pat Angerer left practice early and did not return. Smith did not provide an update. ... Defensive tackle tackle Travian Robertson made his presence known in one-on-one pass-rush drills, obliterating center Peter Konz with a bull rush. Robertson has stood out in drills in an effort to earn a roster spot. ... Rookie defensive lineman Ra'Shede Hageman got some revenge on guard Harland Gunn during one-on-one pass-rush drills, swinging Gunn to the ground a day after Gunn stood him up twice.