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10 observations from rookie minicamp

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- One of the interesting sights on the final day of Atlanta Falcons' rookie minicamp Sunday was seeing rookie linebacker Marquis Spruill munching on something midway through practice.

At least it wasn't a hot dog, like Mark Sanchez once did during a game with the New York Jets.

Actually, Spruill was instructed to eat a Clif Bar and did so while washing it down with Gatorade Rain. It was part of the fifth-round pick's new diet. He was instructed to put on 15 pounds upon arriving in town.

"Everybody told me to come to camp in shape, so I was running a whole lot and lost at little bit of weight,'' said Spruill, who said he initially checked in at 220 pounds. "Then we got here and it was like 95 degrees outside. We had to practice out there and I was sweating a lot. So I lost a couple more pounds.''

Spruill has no problem beefing up to the targeted weight of 235 pounds.

"I've been there before,'' he said. "At this point in time, I was just in a slump as far as my weight goes. But they've got me on a good weight-gain program. And they're real good at keeping you honest.''

Head coach Mike Smith, who referred to the rookies as a "quiet bunch'' talked about how Spruill and seventh-round pick Yawin Smallwood fared in their roles as inside linebackers.

"Probably of all the positions on the defensive side that has the most on them are the two inside linebackers because they've got to do a lot of the communicating, as well as our safeties,'' Smith said. "They did a good job with the communication. Again, we put a lot on them in three days.We're trying to get these guys caught up as quickly as possible with the veterans so when we start our (organized team activities) a week from Tuesday, we want those guys to be caught up in terms of where we are in our installation with the veterans.''

Here are 10 other observations from the third and final day of rookie minicamp:

1. Outside linebacker Tyler Starr, the seventh-round pick from South Dakota, continued to display a relentless pass rush. And he did so out of a four-point stance. "In college, I went to three-point stance when we went into nickel, and it really wasn't working for me here,'' Starr explained. "One day, I just kind of started thinking the four-point, and it gave me a little more weight in the back of my hips so I could get a little more torque out of my stance. And it also helped me come out at more of a horizontal level so I could play with my hands out in front of me.''

2. The coaches seemed to emphasize tackling with an unfamiliar drill that included a tackling bag attached to a mat where players could throw themselves at the object. Safety Dez Southward immediately was coached up about being more under control with his form and following through with a tighter squeeze.

3. During offensive line drills, offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter was used as an extra body to simulate the action. He actually was lined up against first-round pick Jake Matthews at one point. Don't worry, they didn't engage in contact.

4. Second-round pick Ra'Shede Hageman wore a compression sleeve on his left leg throughout the course of the practice. He didn't appear to be slowed or injured, but the coaching staff obviously gave him a lighter load on Day 3. He and Matthews need to be extremely fresh for the season.

5. Safety Sean Baker, who was on the practice squad last year, dropped an interception that appeared to be in his hands. He still made a good play on the ball, regardless. Not too many plays on the ball were made in three days.

6. Although Cornell quarterback Jeff Mathews showed everyone his strong arm, he might have gotten a little carried away, at times. The coaches have worked with him about putting a little more touch on his passes, which he made a conscious effort to improve on Sunday. Smith praised Mathews for his command and decision-making.

7. The receivers again had a bad day with drops as no one really stood out. Lonnie Outlaw, the tallest of the receivers at 6-foot-7, pulled his right hamstring. He was a tryout player from Miles College. Overall, the tight ends performed much better as receivers, particularly Jacob Pedersen from Wisconsin.

8. Running back DeVonta Freeman looked even faster Sunday as practice was move indoors, a good sign when he plays his first game inside the Georgia Dome. Smith was asked about Freeman looking faster on turf. "It makes the guys look faster, but it makes my back, knees, and now as I get older, my shoulders, feel a lot worse,'' Smith said. "I don't really like coming in and working here inside, but the weather was such that we had to do it today.''

9. Both Smallwood and Starr have tattoos on their lower legs close to the calf. Smallwood's reads "508'' which is the area code of his hometown of Worcester, Mass. Starr's is a picture of Jesus Christ as a testament to his strong religious beliefs and "mad respect'' for his creator.

10. One of the fastest movers on the field Sunday hasn't even reached puberty yet. General manager Thomas Dimitroff's son, Mason, helped with a variety of drills throughout the day. The most impressive thing about it was he didn't get in the way at all. Mason turns 7 on May 25.