A few scattered thoughts, quotes and notes as the Falcons head towards Saturday's 5 p.m. scrimmage ...
"This week is the grind week. The first scrimmage is over, and the novelty of going against one another has worn off. We're still two and a half weeks away from the game. I think for some players their legs are starting to [wear down] a little bit, and they're tired and they're sore. And yet there are so many things we need to work on and improve at.
"You try to be very specific -- whether it's situational football, what types of blitzes you're going to try and run or throw the ball against, what sets you need to defend. A lot of good teaching is going on with a lot of things we're going to face throughout the season. So we want to make sure we expose players to as much as we can throughout camp, so when we play a team during the season there may be a particular thing on offense or defense that it won't be the first time our players have seen it."
When I asked about where the Falcons stood in terms of installing offense and defense, Clawson said:
"In Week 1 we get things in, and in Week 2 we start applying situational football -- whether it's 'red zone' or 'tight red zone' or overtime. [Tuesday] it was a lot of end-of-game situations. You've got to take everything that we've installed and apply it to the situation. ...
"For example, we had a receiver catch an 'out' route with 16 seconds left and cut inside. That's a redshirt freshman who has never played, and his instinct is to make a play. That's something you want to get corrected on the practice field."
I saw that particular play: The problem with cutting back is that you MUST score. If you don't score, the clock continues to run and you may not get another play off.
"I see a lot more confidence, on both offense and defense. For the tight ends and offensive lines, I see guys making the right calls -- and not being timid to make the right call. The skills guys are making plays. We have a young group of receivers but a veteran group of running backs, and I see guys in both groups making plays, and that has been good for us."
Another advantage I have seen is the size of the players. I've had several people remark to me how much bigger Matt Schilz seems, especially when compared to his freshman season. Perhaps a better way to put it is "bulkier" rather than bigger. He looks stronger. And he isn't the only player who has gotten stronger leading up to this season.
3. I asked Clawson to compare where the team is at this point this season compared to last season (and yet another advantage to having an experienced team).
"It's night and day," he said. "There's a lot less 'basic,' how-to-line-up [work] and more real teaching about the formation, the ways you will be attacked, what the objective is and what the goal is. The one thing we try to teach our players is that you're not just playing football: there is always a situation. The situation may affect how deep a safety plays or what depth a route has to go on offense.
"And those aren't things we were able to get through last year. There were so many guys last year who were playing for the first time. I think now those guys can see how situations are important to understand -- and important to win."
4. I want to take a second to reply to people who want stats from scrimmages or details of practices (such as who is making a lot of tackles, catching a lot of passes, running the ball etc.). I think it's a mistake to get caught up in that stuff.
I may note a big play here or there, but making sure I have cumulative totals at this time of year doesn't make sense. I think it's more important to figure out who is playing well (or poorly) and how that affects the team.
Example: At one practice I saw Alex Bayer drop a pass (then run a flight of stairs as punishment), then fail to make a catch later (and run another flight of steps). Do you want me to Tweet the minutes Bayer drops a pass? If yes, why? One dropped pass doesn't change the dozens (actually, hundreds) of good plays he will make during practice. It doesn't affect his status on the depth chart, etc.
And I know what you're thinking: Why did you keep such detailed stats during spring ball? My answer: The spring is for guys to make an impression. One way to do that is with numbers, specifically, compiling big numbers of tackles, big rushing yardage, etc.
In short, I'll try to mix in few more numbers, but I'm trying to focus on figuring out the depth chart, determining injuries, and assessing play in general terms.
A few links for your reading pleasure ...
Click here to read Friday's story, which features TE Alex Bayer. It also includes an injury update on Ronnie Goble and Hunter Maynard.
Click here to read Thursday's story, which features LB Paul Swan. It also includes the departure of LB Erick Hallmon, a freshman from Florida who signed last February.
Click here in read Tuesday's story, which looks at the wide receiver position.