FLOWERY BRANCH — Prior to the start of Friday’s training camp, Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn told the media to look out for wide receiver Leonard Hankerson.
“Hank I thought has really jumped out to me on the offensive side with some big catches throughout the OTAs,” Quinn said in June.
During the first day of training camp Hankerson impressed again. The 6-foot-2, 211-pound wideout made a handful of impressive grabs.
“He did good,” fellow receiver Roddy White said. “He made a lot of plays today. Especially on the bench he caught over (near the sideline) and an over the middle route. He did a lot of good things today.”
Hankerson played in just one game last season for the Washington Redskins as he recovered from knee injury suffered during the 2013 season.
The former University of Miami star said he feels comfortable in Atlanta after signing with the team in March.
“Definitely,” he said. “I’m good, man. I’ve been working. Working hard in the offseason, doing what I’ve got to do, putting in work, and that’s what it’s all about. Coming in and doing your job and doing it consistently and making things happen.”
Hankerson does have a bit of a level playing field when it comes to competing for playing time with the other receivers, in that the Falcons are installing a new offense with coordinator Kyle Shanahan.
The Falcons are playing faster on offense now than they were during the first series of OTAs with the new system Hankerson said.
“Yeah, of course,” he said. “Everybody knows it now, so we can go out there and be comfortable. We complete passes, we can do what we’ve got to do and make the plays.”
New scheme suited for tailbacks
It’s safe to say that Atlanta’s running back corps is a big fan of the offense’s new zone-blocking scheme.
Rookie running back Tevin Coleman said there’s a lot to like about the system for he and his teammates.
“Just the outside-zone scheme, just running stretch plays and things like that,” he said. “That can open up a lot of big runs.”
Coleman, a third-round draft pick out of Indiana, will battle with second-year player Devonta Freeman for the starting running back job. Freeman took the majority of the reps as the starter on Friday.
Coleman said being a rookie during training camp is similar to being a freshman in college, having to earn your spot and show the team you’re ready to compete at that level.
“It definitely feels like I’m a freshman back again,” he said. “So I just have to work my way up.”
Atlanta still interested in Jake Long
Free-agent offensive tackle Jake Long worked out for the Falcons on Tuesday, but left without a contract offer. He’s also worked out for the New York Giants and Denver Broncos this week.
On Friday, when Quinn was asked if the Falcons were still interested in the No. 1 overall pick from the 2008 draft who suffered a torn ACL last season, the head coach said he was one of a few players the franchise was looking in to signing.
“I think we’re interested in everybody,” Quinn said. “Not just one specific player, but anybody that doesn’t have a team that can help us perform better. Jake was certainly somebody that came in and had an awesome workout here. Jake, amongst others, are always guys that we’re going to keep looking, keep finding ways to compete in that way, too. Every way we can try to make our team better, Thomas (Dimitroff, the Falcons general manager) and I are going to constantly do that.”