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  1. Falcons WR Leonard Hankerson not caught up in preseason hype Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer He was the talk of Atlanta Falcons' training camp, yet Leonard Hankerson would rather not even talk about it. The fifth-year receiver doesn't walk around thinking he's accomplished anything because he really hasn't. Any whispers of Hankerson being the “X-factor” for the Falcons this season is meaningless to him right now. “I mean, my job is to just go out there and do whatever I can, whatever is possible, to help the team out,” Hankerson said. “Whether it’s making a block, whether it’s special team
  2. Leonard Hankerson rises, Jalen Collins falls during camp Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- In general, Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn was pleased with his first training camp, which concluded Wednesday. Before camp even began, Quinn said he wouldn't have any joint training camp practices with other teams, as the Falcons did last year and in the past. It appears they won't be happening in the immediate future, either -- which might be a positive, considering all the fights at joint practices league-wide. "That's out of my mind right now," Quinn said. "I like the way th
  3. Atlanta Falcons offensive lineman James Stone not caught up in starting role Vaughn McClureFLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- When the Atlanta Falcons broke into situational full-team drills Tuesday, the first-team offensive line continued to be left tackle Jake Matthews, left guard James Stone, center Joe Hawley, right guard Chris Chester, and right tackle Ryan Schraeder. The emergence of Stone is part of the reason former starting right guard Jon Asamoah finds himself working with the backups. However, Stone hasn't approached the situation as if he's won a starting job just yet. "I'm just working in cam
  4. Falcons running back Antone Smith ready whenever number called Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer BUFORD, Ga. -- It was no surprise to see the guy wearing the No. 35 jersey bouncing through defenders like a pinball, finding the hole, the exploding up the field. Yes, Atlanta Falcons fans are used to seeing Antone Smith break off big plays. Remember, he scored five touchdowns of 38-plus yards last season and averaged a whopping 51 yards per scoring play. But Smith's big-play ability has been in hibernation ever since he broke his leg last November at Carolina. Friday's practice at Buford High Sch
  5. Falcons' Paul Worrilow intent on becoming playmaker in new scheme Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer When Atlanta Falcons middle linebacker Paul Worrilow huddled with new position coach Jeff Ulbrich this offseason, the goal was to establish a play-making mentality rather than being satisfied just playing a role. For a guy who led the team in tackles the last two seasons, such a conversation might have seemed a little discomforting. However, Worrilow took Ulbrich’s words to heart, particularly coming from a guy who played 10 seasons at linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers. Worrilow knows his
  6. Falcons RBs Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman sidelined by hamstring woes Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons starting running back Devonta Freeman suffered a right hamstring strain Thursday and was unable to finish practice. Falcons coach Dan Quinn did not immediately provide a timetable for Freeman's return. "Hopefully, for him, it's a quick turnaround," Quinn said of Freeman. "He's such a passionate competitor. You can see how disappointed he was not to be able to finish today. So hopefully, we'll get him back out here soon. He is an absolute competitor.
  7. Matt Ryan looking forward to Falcons establishing run game Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, who has absorbed 75 sacks over the last two seasons along with endless hits, is looking forward to establishing the run under offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. The Falcons continued to work on their new outside zone blocking scheme during Sunday’s initial padded practice of training camp. The goal is to open up holes for quick, one-cut-and-go runs for running backs Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman and Antone Smith. "I feel like any time you
  8. 2015 Atlanta Falcons training camp previewVaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer The Atlanta Falcons open training camp on July 31 at the Falcons' headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia. Here's a closer look at the Falcons camp, which wraps up on Aug. 19: Top storyline: The biggest news going into camp won't be settled on the field. The contract situation of star receiver Julio Jones is certain to grab the headlines. Jones has one year left on his deal and is scheduled to make $10.176 million in 2015. He just saw two other top receivers, Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas, sign five-year, $70 millio
  9. Atlanta Falcons Matt Ryan can prove he belongs in top tier of QBs Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer ESPN's Mike Sando put together a terrific insider piece once again this year, ranking the quarterbacks around the NFL Insider for this season. As for Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, he didn't make the top tier group that includes Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Andrew Luck, Ben Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning, and Drew Brees. Ryan comes in fifth among the second tier of quarterbacks behind Philip Rivers, Russell Wilson, Tony Romo and Joe Flacco. Ryan is 11th overall. He was tied with Eli Manni
  10. Falcons assistant Raheem Morris still believes in Adrian Clayborn Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer Atlanta Falcons assistant head coach Raheem Morris sounded like a proud father in speaking about defensive lineman Adrian Clayborn, and for good reason. Clayborn, in his first year with the Falcons, was the last first-round draft pick Morris selected during his three-year, head-coaching stint with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Back then in 2011, Morris used words such as "alpha male" and "Rambo" to describe Clayborn. Four years later, his feelings haven’t changed. Then-Bucs head coach Raheem Morr
  11. Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn hits home run in creating competitive atmosphere Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer It was far from a clash between Bryce Harper and Giancarlo Stanton, but it had all the intensity of a major league slugfest. Atlanta Falcons starting middle linebacker Paul Worrilow and reserve safety Sean Baker matched each other swing for swing recently in an impromptu home run derby. Coach Dan Quinn, always looking for ways to challenge his players, set up a fence on the practice field. Worrilow and Baker emerged as the top long-ball hitters among a group that included quarter
  12. Still questions about offensive line after Atlanta Falcons' minicampVaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Atlanta Falcons concluded their three-day mandatory minicamp Thursday and there were plenty of positive signs to take out of it. However, the Falcons took a step back along the offensive line, where plenty of questions still remain. Projected starters Jake Matthews, Joe Hawley and Jon Asamoah never saw extensive time on the field, with Matthews and Hawley recovering from surgeries and Asamoah battling a right ankle injury. Although the Falcons signed veteran Chris Ch
  13. Atlanta Falcons rookie Vic Beasley settling into Leo pass-rush roleVaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons rookie first-round draft pick Vic Beasley knew which defensive role he felt most comfortable playing even before mandatory minicamp began this week. "I do feel most comfortable at Leo," Beasley said, referring to the pass-rusher role. "I think it's a good position for me because I played in a four-down front in college. And I think it's just easier for me because I don't have to transition to a different position. It's pretty much the same thing for me."
  14. Falcons left tackle Jake Matthews confident in abilities in new schemeVaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Although Jake Matthews wasn't a full participant during the first day of mandatory minicamp Tuesday, the Atlanta Falcons second year left tackle looked confident on his feet coming back from January foot surgery. Matthews is unlikely to be full speed through the three-day minicamp. The former first-round draft pick, however, expressed no doubt about being back to normal by the time the regular season begins. "I feel like I have that lateral quickness and I can be a b
  15. Catches could give Atlanta Falcons' Devonta Freeman edge at running back Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer Watching Devonta Freeman sprint deep down the left sideline and corral a Matt Ryan pass behind the defense shouldn't have been much of a surprise to observers last week. Freeman, the Atlanta Falcons' second-year running back, takes pride in every aspect of his game, including pass-catching. He showed flashes of sure hands last season, such as an impressive, 36-yard reception in a late-season win at New Orleans. On that particular play, Freeman motioned out wide right against Saints line
  16. Julio Jones wants more in 2015 Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer Atlanta Falcons receiver Julio Jones, who set a franchise record with 1,593 receiving yards last season, was not content with his overall performance in 2014 and is intent on elevating his game this season. "I definitely can improve," Jones said Thursday night during the team's annual state-of-the-franchise meeting with season-ticket holders, streamed live on the team's website. "I don't feel like I did my best last year. I'm bigger, faster, stronger than I ever was, to this point now. Shoutout to the trainers. They helped me ou
  17. Dan Quinn praises pass-rushers on Day 1 of OTAsVaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn singled out several pass-rushers while reflecting on Day 1 of organized team activities (OTAs) Tuesday. Quinn mentioned Adrian Clayborn, Kroy Biermann and rookie Vic Beasley as players who caught his eye in third-down situations. "The big thing that we're going to preach is trying to move the quarterback off the spot; how many times can we get that quarterback to move," Quinn said. "So the speed and the effort and the way that we come off the ball, that's so
  18. Collin Mooney on the true meaning of Memorial DayVaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer Atlanta Falcons fullback Collin Mooney set an Army single-season record with 1,339 rushing yards back in 2008. Mooney, commissioned in the field artillery branch of the Army, completed three years of active duty while stationed at Fort Still, Oklahoma. Memorial Day carries added significance for Mooney. He shared his thoughts with ESPN.com: For those who have lost a friend or loved one in the line of duty, every day is Memorial Day. A day does not go by that the loved ones of the fallen don’t think about those
  19. Falcons fullback Patrick DiMarco welcomes competitionVaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer When the Atlanta Falcons signed fullback Collin Mooney a few weeks ago, it didn't take incumbent Patrick DiMarco by surprise. DiMarco understood there would be competition across the board under new coach Dan Quinn. "It's just going to push me to be a better player," DiMarco said. "When competition comes to you, you've got to step up to the plate and you've got to play good. That's my whole thing. There's nothing that he's going to do that's going to change me. I've just got to continue to work on my craft
  20. Five thoughts after Falcons rookie minicampVaughn McClure, ESPN Atlanta Falcons reporter The Atlanta Falcons concluded rookie minicamp camp Sunday with a closed practice. Although not much was revealed during the 60 combined minutes available to the media on Friday and Saturday, here are five thoughts based on some observations: Seventh-round pick Akeem King, a cornerback from San Jose State, is a player to keep an eye on. Just based on drills, he seems to have solid footwork and just looked like a legit NFL defensive back. Plus King, who played safety for the Spartans last season, is sure to
  21. Falcons' salary pool for draft class set Vaughn McClure, ESPN Atlanta Falcons reporter The Atlanta Falcons' salary pool for their 2015 draft class is $6,212,005. According to the NFL Players Association's updated figures, the Falcons currently stand $17,352,126 under the cap. They should have around $11 million in salary-cap space once their seven draft picks are signed. None have signed as of yet with rookie minicamp set to begin on Friday. Rookie contracts are basically slotted under the collective bargaining agreement, and deals are expected to increase no more than 10 percent over last s
  22. Falcons still trying to upgrade offensive line Vaughn McClure, ESPN Atlanta Falcons reporter The Atlanta Falcons continue to search for ways to enhance their offensive line. As ESPN Insider Field Yates reported, the team had free-agent tackle Joe Barksdale in for a workout on Monday, although Barksdale did not immediately sign. The St. Louis Rams expressed an interest in bringing back Barksdale, last year's starting right tackle, but that might not happen. The Falcons are also one of probably 32 teams waiting to see what happens with LSU undrafted rookie tackle La'el Collins, who met with po
  23. Expert view on Falcons' draft options at pass-rusherVaughn McClure, ESPN Atlanta Falcons reporter Anything can happen from now until the NFL draft actually begins Thursday night. For the Atlanta Falcons, the focus appears to be on improving the pass rush by any means necessary, although late talk has surfaced about the possibility of trading for Seattle's Bruce Irvin, a pass-rusher Falcons coach Dan Quinn had while the Seahawks' defensive coordinator. There is a possibility the Falcons will trade up from the eighth-overall selection to land the guy many consider the most dominant defensive
  24. Open workout should provide more clarity to Falcons' injuries Vaughn McClure, ESPN Atlanta Falcons reporter The Falcons began the offseason workout program on Monday, and coach Dan Quinn will address the media Thursday for the first time since having his team together. After the open workout session, Quinn is likely to provide some sort of update of the players recovering from injuries. A number of key players are coming off major surgeries in preparation for the 2015 season. Left tackle Jake Matthews had surgery to repair a Lisfranc ligament tear in his foot, while fellow offensive linemen Jo
  25. Paul Worrilow ready to elevate his game for Falcons Vaughn McClure, ESPN Atlanta Falcons reporter The Atlanta Falcons started their offseason workout program Monday, because they have a new coach in Dan Quinn. For Paul Worrilow, offseason workouts started as soon as the 2014 season concluded. The former undrafted linebacker from Delaware has been known for his work ethic from the moment he stepped in the building. That hasn't stopped Worrilow from putting forth even more effort to prepare for the 2015 campaign. One of the biggest changes in Worrilow's workout routine? A lot more yoga. "A great
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