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  1. http://www.espn.com/blog/nflnation/post/_/id/237819/devonta-freeman-plans-to-run-with-more-disrespect-for-opposing-tacklers FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Two-time Pro Bowler Devonta Freeman always runs with a purpose. But the Atlanta Falcons running back wants opponents to feel him even more in 2017. In talking about things he plans to do to enhance his game, Freeman gave opposing defenders a warning. "Just little things like breaking arm tackles, running through," Freeman said. "I feel like that's what I can get better at helping the offensive linemen out because those guys, they bust their butts. They don't get to rotate. The only time they get a break is if we score a touchdown, then when the defense goes on the field. But if we have an 18-play drive, they're on the field all game. So helping those guys out by giving them a blow by breaking a big tackle. "Last year, I left some runs out there. Also in the open field, continue to make guys miss, punishing guys. I just want to be real disrespectful this year when it comes to football." Freeman finished ninth in the league in rushing last season with 1,079 yards on 227 carries with 11 rushing touchdowns. He had 350 yards after contact, which was 18th among runners with 160-plus carries. Miami's Jay Ajayi led the league with 656 rushing yards after contact, followed by Dallas' Ezekiel Elliott with 632. In 2015, Freeman had 404 of his 1,056 rushing yards after contact. But the Falcons had a much better run last season in making it all the way to the Super Bowl.
  2. Facetime will help Falcons' Takk McKinley stay up to speed despite NFL restriction 4:20 PM ET Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons first-round draft pick Takkarist McKinley won't be allowed to stick around after this weekend's rookie minicamp due to an NFL rule. But thanks to modern technology, the defensive end won't fall behind in picking up the playbook. McKinley, like third-round draft pick Austin Hooper of Stanford was last year, is prohibited from participating in any Falcons offseason activities outside of rookie minicamp because classes at his school, UCLA, are ongoing. According to the NFL rule, if final examinations at a player's school conclude after May 9, the player may not participate in any activities other than rookie minicamp. Graduate students are excluded. The rule has been in place since the 1990s. McKinley is not currently taking classes, but UCLA's final examination run until June 16. McKinley won't be able to rejoin his teammates until training camp in late July. That won't be too much of a problem from an on-field standpoint, because McKinley continues to recover from March surgery on his right shoulder, fixing an injury he initially said would sideline him four to six months. Falcons coach Dan Quinn said he expects McKinley to be ready to go, health-wise, by training camp. But to get up to speed with the defense, McKinley will have constant contact with the coaches via Facetime and possibly even Skype while back in California. "I've got a playbook and I'm going to talk to Coach [Bryant] Young and Coach Quinn," McKinley said. "If I have any questions about any plays, I'm just going to call and ask. It's not that hard." Quinn was asked which method he'd prefer to remain in contact with McKinley. "Both Facetime and phone," he said. "He's here until Sunday, then he's not allowed to be with the team until actually after minicamp [June 13-15]. That's when UCLA gets out. "He's got a plan for his rehab, and that's the No. 1 priority with his shoulder right now -- the rehab and the conditioning. The football part of it, the learning, the stuff you learn in the playbook, we're allowed to do a little bit of that over the phone. But it's an important weekend for him to be here getting indoctrinated, getting to meet his teammates. And then it's kind of like, 'Hey, man, you're gone for a month.'" On Day 1 of rookie minicamp Friday, McKinley ran on a side field away from the rest of the rookies during warm-ups. During practice, he worked with a member of the athletic performance staff going through various ladder drills. He's itching to get on the field, of course. "It's very frustrating," McKinley said. "I like to compete. I like football. I don't like to be on the sideline and just watching. I'd rather be out there with my brothers helping make plays. I understand it's a process. Gotta get the shoulder right. And once it's right, I want to help the Atlanta Falcons any way I can to get wins."
  3. Falcons looking even faster on defense after first two picks play May 3, 2017 Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer LOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- One NFL executive made an interesting observation after seeing the Atlanta Falcons select pass-rusher Takkarist McKinley and LSU linebacker Duke Riley on the first two days of the NFL draft. 2017 NFL DRAFT | Philadelphia "They have put together one of the fastest defenses in the league," the exec said. "You'll be hard-pressed to find a defense with that many fast people." Dan Quinn vowed to build a fast and physical defense from the moment he was named the Falcons' head coach in February 2015. Each of his first two draft picks the last three years have been defensive players: reigning NFL sacks leader Vic Beasley Jr. and cornerback Jalen Collins his first year, strong safety Keanu Neal and linebacker Deion Jones last year, and now McKinley and Riley. Folks marveled how fast the Falcons looked during last year's Super Bowl run, with middle linebacker Jones, with his 4.38 speed, orchestrating the defense and Beasley, with his 4.53 speed, chasing down quarterbacks from behind. And that run was completed without injured Pro Bowl cornerback Desmond Trufant (pectoral surgery) and his 4.38 speed on the field opposite fellow cornerback Robert Alford (4.39). Now the Falcons add the 6-foot-2, 250-pound McKinley, who ran a 4.59 at the NFL combine, and the 6-foot, 232-pound Riley, who ran a 4.58. Quinn talked Thursday about the relentless style and passion McKinley brings to the defense as an edge rusher and a perfect complement to Beasley. Then on Friday, Quinn gushed about having Riley in the fold to help enhance the defense. "The toughness, the speed that he plays with, fits terrifically into our style," Quinn said. "We clearly know how to feature him in that role. So we're pumped to have him on board. I can wait to get him here and get started with him." Quinn said Riley "will likely start off" as a weakside linebacker, although the inside linebacker spots in the Falcons' defense are interchangeable. Quinn is all about versatility and getting the best combination on the field. With that in mind, playing Riley alongside former LSU teammate and starting middle linebacker Jones likely would mean a switch to strongside linebacker De'Vondre Campbell, who worked more often at weakside linebacker last season. The trio of Jones, Campbell and Riley certainly would cover a lot of ground. It also would leave open some options in the nickel package in terms of which pair of linebackers plays together, depending on matchups. Although Riley made his mark at LSU on special teams before becoming a full-time starter on defense his final season, Quinn said the Falcons didn't just draft him to run around on special teams. "No, 100 percent not," Quinn said. "I see all three of them playing (on defense)." Maintaining a fast defense is even more imperative now for the Falcons considering some of the offensive improvements teams around the NFC South have made through free agency and the draft. Tampa Bay gave quarterback Jameis Winston two new weapons in speedy veteran wide receiver DeSean Jackson and talented rookie tight end O.J. Howard along with rookie receiver Chris Goodwin. Carolina and Cam Newton added all-everything running back Christian McCaffrey and wide receiver Curtis Samuel. And the Saints gave quarterback Drew Brees a couple more weapons in former MVP Adrian Peterson and rookie running back Alvin Kamara. "This time of year, you definitely look out for your division," Quinn said. "That's what certainly comes across my radar first. All three teams in the division, as you would expect, have (draft picks) that we liked as well. It will be more of that over the next couple days. It's how each of the three teams change and, 'OK, how will they feature that player? What role will he have?' So that's definitely a big part of it." Based on the way Quinn is building his team, the Falcons certainly should be up to speed to defend their division title.
  4. Atlanta Falcons two-time Pro Bowl running back Devonta Freeman vowed to move beyond his team's historic collapse in last month's Super Bowl loss to New England Patriots. At the same time, Freeman knows the empty feeling might stick for a while. "That's like a scar you'll see forever," Freeman told ESPN. "You'll always remember that scar. It's about, 'How can I shake back?' In life, you've got to always learn how to shake back and have another elite year." That the Falcons blew a 28-3 third-quarter lead in a 34-28 loss to the Patriots continues to be a topic of discussion this offseason. Critics still harp on the blunders, including then-offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan declining to run the ball late and Freeman missing a fourth-quarter block on Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower that led to Matt Ryan being sacked and losing a fumble -- resulting in a momentum-swinging touchdown for the Patriots. Freeman was asked if there was anything he would take back from the game. "Nothing," he said. "No play. Even the mistake I made with the missed block. When you look at a football game, you're talking about four quarters. You're talking about the best guys against the best guys on both sides of the ball. Mistakes are going to happen. If you're perfect in the NFL, something is not right. I don't know anybody who's perfect. "My mistake is a scar. I'm going to learn from it. I'm going to get better from that. That's how I look at it." Freeman said the loss will serve as inspiration heading into next season and beyond. The Falcons hope to make another strong run in 2017 behind reigning MVP Matt Ryan, wide receiver Julio Jones, Freeman and a rebuilt defense, led by the addition of two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Dontari Poe. "If I dwell on the Super Bowl like, 'Oh man, we lost,' already, I lost," Freeman said. "I'm worried about something that I can't control that's over with and that's in the past. It's peanuts to me. You just move on from it. But until you win the Super Bowl, ain't nothing else going to feel better than winning that Super Bowl. I guarantee it. I don't care if I get 1,000 yards, 10 Pro Bowls. If I don't win that Super Bowl, I'm going to always remember that one Super Bowl we lost." http://www.espn.com/blog/nflnation/post/_/id/234249/falcons-devonta-freeman-determined-to-shake-off-super-bowl-scar
  5. Dontari Poe is not an Atlanta Falcon, at least not yet. Poe, the top free-agent nose tackle and formerly of the Kansas City Chiefs, visited the Falcons' facility on Tuesday but left without a contract. It was the third stop on Poe's free-agent trek following visits to Indianapolis and Jacksonville. Now Poe is in Miami visiting the Dolphins, as ESPN's Josina Anderson reported. The fact that he hasn't secured a contract yet makes you wonder about his asking price. It also raises questions about his health, with reported concerns about Poe's back. If it is all about the money, it would be surprising if the Falcons get into a bidding war, considering general manager Thomas Dimitroff already implied the Falcons wouldn't make a big splash in free agency. Sure, Poe could have a great impact on a defensive line in need of help, and his athleticism is off the charts for a guy who stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 346 pounds. But giving Poe, let's say, $10-$12 million in a one-year deal doesn't seem like the best option, even if another team is offering the same. His replacement in Kansas City, Bennie Logan, just received a one-year, $8 million deal that included $7.68 million guaranteed. The Falcons don't have a ton of cap space. The latest NFLPA figures have them at around $14.5 million. Meanwhile, the Jaguars have $47 million in cap space, according to numbers obtained by ESPN's Field Yates. The other two teams on Poe's list -- the Colts and Dolphins -- have $37 million and $18 million in cap space, respectively, according to NFLPA figures. We'll see how it all plays out from the Falcons' standpoint. They need to fill a hole at defensive tackle after cutting veteran Tyson Jackson and not re-signing veteran Jonathan Babineaux. They need a game-changing type player who can stop the run and has pass-rush ability. Poe has to the potential to be that guy, but will he consistently be that type of player? His production dropped the last two seasons after Pro Bowl showings in 2013 and 2014. The Falcons have gone the bargain route with their other free-agent signings thus far, so maybe spending big on one wouldn't be all that bad. But again, it's hard to imagine the Falcons getting into a bidding war, especially against the cap-rich Jaguars. Poe's willingness to accept a one-year deal seems to indicate the 26-year-old wants to prove himself and secure a lucrative, long-term deal after the 2017 season. Maybe the Falcons can convince him he'll have his best opportunity to shine playing for a team fresh off a Super Bowl. And maybe the Falcons can convince him to sign -- for the right price. http://www.espn.com/blog/atlanta-falcons/post/_/id/26278/dontari-poe-might-be-out-of-falcons-price-range
  6. Don't know if this was posted. Didn't see it but I love this teams bond. http://www.espn.com/blog/atlanta-falcons/post/_/id/23551/falcons-devonta-freeman-spikes-bond-with-offensive-line
  7. Matt Ryan talks no-huddle again, and again, and again Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan made it clear heading into the season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that the no-huddle offense is something he discusses often with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and has at his disposal. Regardless, Ryan continues to be peppered with questions about whether he nudges Shanahan to run the no-huddle more often. Such was the case again Tuesday during Ryan's weekly radio show appearance on 680 the Fan in Atlanta. Ryan, who thrives in the no-huddle, was asked why the Falcons opted not to utilize the no-huddle earlier during a 31-24 season-opening loss to the Buccaneers. The Falcons trailed 31-13 before going no-huddle. Ryan then converted a 25-yard touchdown pass to Julio Jones with 1:42 left in the third quarter. "I think there's pluses and minuses to it," Ryan said of the no-huddle. "For us, for our run scheme, it really waters down what you can do in the run game. ... With the way that our scheme is set up, it's important for us to get that run game going. It's no question about that. "But also, we play with pretty good tempo in and out of the huddle. I think we move and we operate pretty quickly. But we used (the no-huddle) effectively in this game. We used it a couple different times. You mentioned the one timeout that we forced. The touchdown that we hit to Julio was in a no-huddle situation as well. So, we do some good things with it." So why not more? "It's just different," Ryan continued. "Our coaches feel and believe that getting in that huddle and creating motions and shifts and using some of those things to our advantages to get the fronts that you want is an advantage for us. And again, I thought we did some good things. We moved it efficiently. Had we cleaned up a few of those (procedural penalties) in the red zone, I think you're talking about a really good offensive performances." The Falcons slowed themselves down with three false starts in the red zone, although they overcame two of them on Ryan's 5-yard touchdown pass to Mohamed Sanu in the first quarter. We'll see if the no-huddle becomes more of a weapon for the Falcons in Week 2 against pass-rush demon Khalil Mack and the Oakland Raiders. Wearing down Mack would be ideal before he wears out the Falcons' offensive line.
  8. http://espn.go.com/blog/nflnation/post/_/id/198716/dan-quinn-falcons-monitoring-wide-receivers-closely
  9. http://espn.go.com/blog/nflnation/post/_/id/198691/falcons-coach-dan-quinn-wants-to-retain-adrian-clayborn-obrien-schofield
  10. http://espn.go.com/blog/atlanta-falcons/post/_/id/19119/blank-optimistic-with-falcons-new-look-personnel-evaluation-staff
  11. http://espn.go.com/blog/atlanta-falcons/post/_/id/19095/shaq-lawson-likes-sound-of-clemson-reunion-with-atlanta-falcons
  12. http://espn.go.com/blog/atlanta-falcons/post/_/id/19060/falcons-obrien-schofield-feels-knee-no-issue-approaching-free-agency
  13. Falcoholic article discussion about ESPN/Vaugh McClure thinks Hageman would benefit from a change of scenery. http://www.thefalcoholic.com/2016/2/13/10982972/rashede-hageman-named-by-espn-as-falcon-who-would-benefit-most-from
  14. Vic Beasley Jr., DE, Atlanta Falcons Beasley's combine performance the past February was absolutely ridiculous. At 6-foot-3, 246 pounds, the former Clemson star ran a 4.53 40-yard dash, posted a vertical jump of 41 inches and recorded a time of 6.91 in the three-cone drill. Those are numbers we would expect from a defensive back -- not a 240-plus-pound edge rusher. Oh, and he threw some weight around at the combine, with 35 reps on the bench test. Even with all the buzz Beasley generated, questions lingered. Would his athleticism translate to the field on Sundays? Could he develop the counter moves necessary to get to the quarterback? Beasley recorded only four sacks in 2015, which is low for a top-10 pick. But I caution against looking only at box scores to analyze his production: Beasley progressively improved over the course of the season, based on the tape I watched. That's a sign of development at a position in which rookies often struggle. It's hard to consistently win on the edge in the NFL. Speed, or burst, is one thing -- you need that. But can you set up offensive tackles, use multiple moves at the point of attack, win with your hands and create a positive angle to put a hit on the quarterback? This stuff takes time (and reps) to truly see results. With that one year of experience, tape to self-scout in the offseason and a better feel for the pro game, Beasley will be in position to produce more and become a disruptive edge rusher in Dan Quinn's scheme. Although he needs to improve against the run game (another transition for college players), his development is something to watch in 2016. All that speed and power? A lot of talent here. http://espn.go.com/nfl/insider/story/_/id/14755329/five-rookies-ready-pop-year-2-nfl http://espn.go.com/blog/atlanta-falcons/post/_/id/19027/espn-insider-big-2016-for-falcons-vic-beasley
  15. http://espn.go.com/blog/atlanta-falcons/post/_/id/19000/falcons-need-to-fill-void-at-lb-with-justin-durant-released
  16. http://espn.go.com/blog/atlanta-falcons/post/_/id/18426/falcons-defensive-line-coach-bryan-cox-points-blame-at-himself
  17. http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/14446788/obrien-schofield-says-carolina-panthers-were-sore-losers-was-dabbing-all-their-faces
  18. http://espn.go.com/blog/nflnation/post/_/id/192438/one-years-wonder-about-future-with-falcons
  19. ATLANTA -- Matt Ryan heard the boos, and rightfully so. The franchise quarterback who was rewarded with a $100 million contract just a few seasons ago is not giving Arthur Blank and the Atlanta Falcons their money's worth. Ryan's inexcusable, fourth-quarter interception deep in his own territory was returned for a touchdown by Indianapolis Colts linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, tying the game at 21 and swinging the momentum in favor of the Colts. It eventually paved the way for the Colts' improbable 24-21 come-from-behind win. The Falcons led 14-0 at one point and 21-7 at another. Ryan finished 25-for-46 for 280 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions. Has Ryan lost his mental focus? Does he trust anyone other than Julio Jones in the passing game? Those are fair questions after the Falcons have dropped three consecutive games. Ryan has been off his game for a good part of the season and has talked about needing to be more accurate, make better decisions and refine his footwork. That talk has become tiresome and repetitive. Ryan was booed after a missed fourth-quarter throw to the sideline. He should have been. Matt Ryan threw for three touchdowns and three interceptions, including a critical pick late in the fourth quarter. AP Photo/David Goldman Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan appeared to cater to Ryan's strengths Sunday by going more no-huddle and up-tempo. It worked up until his critical interception in the fourth quarter. Where does it go from here? The Falcons are 6-4 and lost to a Colts team playing with their backup quarterback, Matt Hasselbeck, rather than young star Andrew Luck. A Falcons team once 5-0 and thinking about an NFC South crown now has to be worried about their chances of making the playoffs, with Carolina still undefeated. The Falcons won't go anywhere fast if Ryan doesn't turn it around immediately. Forget all the talk. His actions on the field have to be significantly better over the final six games. What were they thinking? On Ryan's interception in the fourth quarter, there was absolutely no chance for him to hit his intended target, tight end Jacob Tamme. The Falcons had another head-scratching moment when receiver Leonard Hankerson dropped his sixth pass of the season with 47 seconds left in regulation. Hankerson knew the circumstances and how crucial that catch would have been for a team trying to drive the field in the final minute. One reason to get excited: For those fans begging for Roddy White to get more opportunities, he certainly did on Sunday. White was targeted three straight times to open the game, catching one of those passes. And White was targeted six times in the first half, one more than he had been the previous two games. White had four catches for 24 yards on nine targets in the game. One reason to panic: Devonta Freeman left the game with a first-quarter concussion and, of course, didn't return, which magnified his importance to the offense. His replacement, Tevin Coleman, had a bad fumble in Atlanta territory that could have been costly, and Coleman didn't run with the same confidence Freeman has all season long. It will be a shame if Freeman is sidelined for next Sunday's matchup with Minnesota considering it would be a showdown of top rushers, withAdrian Peterson coming to the Georgia Dome. Fantasy watch: Hankerson scored his third touchdown of the season on a 3-yard pass from Ryan in the third quarter. Hankerson should be a goal-line target throughout the rest of the season, if he doesn't drop the ball. Ouch: Aside from Freeman's injury, no one else really appeared to get banged up, although strong safety William Moore seemed to have his reps limited coming off a groin strain. Rookie safety Robenson Therezie didn't play in the game while still recovering from a hamstring injury. http://espn.go.com/blog/nflnation/post/_/id/188745/matt-ryan-deserves-to-be-booed-after-falcons-loss-to-colts
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