- Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer
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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Atlanta Falcons got going with their rookies Friday during the first of three minicamp practices.
Of course, the center of attention was sixth overall pick Jake Matthews from Texas A&M. The right tackle looked as good as advertised in shorts. The most interesting part of the day was watching him work in drills against second-round pick Ra'Shede Hageman, the defensive end/nose tackle from Minnesota.
"He's a good player. It shows," Matthews said of Hageman. "It's understandable why he went in the second round. I wouldn't have been surprised if he went in the first. He's a hell of a player. Works hard. I actually trained with him all through the draft process. We both have the same agency [Athletes First]. He's a stud. He makes me better. And I know I'm making him better, so it's good for everyone."
Here are 10 other obversations from Day 1 of rookie minicamp:
Hageman (6-6, 318) seemed a little winded midway through practice, but he looked far from out of shape. If anything, he just has to get adjusted to the tempo of things in an NFL practices. He lined up primarily at left defensive end in the 3-4 look. His explosiveness was evident in individual drills.
Third-round pick Dez Southward, the free safety from Wisconsin, seems so eager to learn. He talked about already picking the brain of starting strong safety William Moore. Southward said he watched film of Earl Thomas and Eric Berry on Friday because they are two of the best safeties in the league.
New offensive line coach Mike Tice didn't bite his tongue in terms of yelling a few expletives at the rookies, particularly when they failed to pick up the pace during a sled drill. New defensive line coach Bryan Cox spoke in the same tongue.
Fourth-round pick Prince Shembo (6-0, 253), the outside linebacker from Notre Dame, is powerfully built compared to most linebackers. It particularly shows in his biceps and calves. He packs quite a punch. Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan singled out Shembo during one drill.
Speaking of outside linebackers, Matthews must have felt like he was going up against cousin Clay Matthews from the Green Bay Packers. That's because seventh-round pick Tyler Starr, the tatted-up outside linebacker from South Dakota, has the same dangling blonde hair as Clay Matthews does. And Starr has rush ability, too. He's no slouch by any means.
Undrafted quarterback Jeff Mathews from Cornell, at 6-4, looked like Matt Ryan standing in the pocket. And Mathews' first pass of the day was a dart. He wasn't outstanding, but solid. It was hard to get a read on the quarterbacks, running backs, receivers and tight ends with not much going on during Day 1.
Former practice squad defensive tackle Adam Repogle didn't look lost as the Falcons transition him to offensive guard from defensive line. He played left guard on the same unit that included Matthews at right tackle, William Wright (West Georgia) at right guard, James Stone (Tennessee) at center and Roderick Tomlin (Murray State) at left tackle.
New outside linebackers coach Mark Collins, who was previously a defensive line assistant, seemed detailed in his instruction with his crew of linebackers. His role in getting the players up to speed is crucial this year as the Falcons try to establish a better pass rush.
Running back Braden Wilson from Kansas State and defensive lineman Byron Jerideau from South Carolina, two players in for tryouts, watched Friday's practice with undisclosed injuries. That's a tough way to make a first impression.
General manager Thomas Dimitroff was around for the duration of practice and couldn't sit still while bouncing from position group to position group. Obviously his legs weren't tired from the 40-mile bike ride to work, as part of National Bike to Work Day.
524dEric D. Williams