Mini-camp and OTA came to a close last week, and as a whole, our team looks to have made great strides in the areas that were weaknesses last year.
I was very pleased and impressed with our new schemes, and the way guys gravitated to them these last few weeks.
Coach Mike Tice has come in and done a really good job of revamping the running game. We’re eager to establish ourselves as one of the more balanced offenses and one of the more aggressive running games in the NFL. I think we’ll be better this year in that area, and there are a number of reasons why.
For one, we’ve placed a greater emphasis on making sure that we can run the ball and become a balanced offense. We have a tremendously capable quarterback in Matt Ryan and our receiving corps, but we don’t want to have to lean on those guys so much
My teammates in the backfield are looking great. Jacquizz Rodgers is an amazing person, and a special athlete. I’ve known him since his days at Oregon State, when I would go back and watch him play. He has an uncanny ability to make guys miss in open space, as well as the toughness to run between the tackles. What Jacquizz doesn’t get a lot of credit for is his ability to pass protect. He’s one of the better running backs I’ve seen when it comes to picking up the blitz and protecting Matt Ryan.
Devonta Freeman is a very humble young guy with an uncanny ability to get to top speed very fast. He can go from zero to 60 in a hiccup. That’s a really special gift. He also has great vision.
But the thing that stood out to me the most is his eagerness to learn not only from the coaches, but from me as well. He tries to find the areas of emphasis that may come up through the course of practice or in game planning, and you can tell that he really prepares himself day-in and day-out to make sure he had a good day on the field.
Personally, I’ve spent these last four weeks working on timing. A lot of times when you have the offseason to mull over what has possibly gone wrong or what you can do better, you can become a little antsy, so I’ve focused on doing the reverse of that. I’ve tried to become a little more patient.
That starts with trusting my offensive linemen, trusting the scheme and trusting that they’re going to do their job, which will allow me to do my job. That’s a big thing. When things fall apart, you tend to press more and stress out over things when sometimes all you need to do is take a step back and relax, and allow for the trust factor to come back in.
That way, the offensive line will trust in me, and I will trust in them as well.
THE DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES
Having a year under my belt here in Atlanta helps tremendously. My teammates and the coaching staff know what it’s like to go through a season with me. They trust me to be where I need to be and to be the leader that I am, and they know what they’re going to get out of me on a consistent basis.
For me, it helps to not have to learn a new offense, new personalities, and to understand the way things work around here. That allows for all the anxiety to move to the side, and for football to be the focus. I can come in and be confident in what I’m doing, and that itself allows me to be more patient and more trusting.
As a group, we know that the level that we played at last year was well below the standard we want to set, and we all feel a great sense of pride to make sure we get those things turned around. I’m the first one to say that last season is not a reflection of who I believe we are as a team, and being a veteran guy on the offensive side of the ball, I’m going to make sure we take great pride in doing our jobs and executing.
Last year was not something that we anticipated, but we went through the fire together, and everyone is eager to get back out there and get that bad taste out of our mouths.
These last four weeks have been exciting. The energy is there. We all missed each other, and that’s a thing that you like to see. The camaraderie and chemistry between guys on a team should feel like a family, not like individuals coming together as co-workers. We have that now. We have that trust.
That is going to send me into July even more excited to get ready for fall camp. I’ve seen what we’re working on. I see how guys are looking right now.
I know we’re all going to come back focused on July 24th.