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  1. MOBILE, Ala. - Few people are as plugged in to the inner workings of the NFL than Ian Rapoport. The NFL Network insider has his finger on the pulse of trade talks, pending deals and organizational decision making across the league. Rapoport was among those in attendance at the 2020 Reese's Senior Bowl, and he took a few minutes to share his thoughts on the Atlanta Falcons' upcoming offseason, which he believes could be busy. "They definitely addressed the offensive line in the draft," Rapoport said. "Can you go spend a little, probably a little more than you'd like to spend, in free agency to get some edge help and probably a corner, I think you could. They don't need a ton, it's more just plugging a couple of holes. I would think the offseason would be pretty active." Atlanta has a few notable players set to hit free agency, including tight end Austin Hooper, defensive end Vic Beasley and linebacker De'Vondre Campbell. Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff offered an update on Hooper at the Senior Bowl, essentially saying there was no update and the two sides would pick up talks after the Super Bowl. Hooper, who was named to his second Pro Bowl this season as an alternate, is coming off of a career year and has emerged as one of the most reliable young tight ends in the league. If he does hit free agency, Hooper is expected to be highly sought after. Dimitroff did not rule out using the franchise tag to keep Hooper in the fold for next season, although that salary number would be high as well. "They definitely have a decision to make with Hooper," Rapoport said. "Do you franchise him? It's possible. It's a big number, but he's a very good player. Do you try to sign him? Once a guy becomes a free agent, he can obviously go anywhere; it's harder to re-sign those guys at this point." Whatever they decide to do with Hooper, the Falcons are expected to make a few moves on the defensive side of the ball this offseason. Whether that is in the draft or free agency remains to be seen but adding firepower to their pass rush is a primary concern, and Dimitroff believes the team can also bolster its secondary in this year's draft. "We feel good where we are with our interior [defensive line] moving around, and we need to continue to bolster that outside rush," Dimitroff said. "... After Super Bowl Sunday we'll start really looking at where we're going in that direction. Yes, there are some people that are going to be coming available, and we'll have to make some tough decisions on that." Atlanta showed marked improvement during the second half of the season after Raheem Morris and Jeff Ulbrich began to split defensive play-calling duties. Morris is now the full-time defensive coordinator, and Rapoport believes he was great after moving to the defensive side of the ball during the team's bye week. Despite some of the notable positions that need to be addressed this offseason, Rapoport credits the shifts on the coaching staff for the team's turnaround, and it's why he thinks the second-half success could carry over. If the Falcons have indeed found the right coaching formula, he thinks only some slight personnel adjustments are required. So, while an active offseason might be in store for Atlanta, it might be more akin to preciseness of a surgery than the wide-spread destruction of a wrecking ball. "It's much more of a situation where you probably need to tinker rather than something that needs a full overhaul," Rapoport said. "Had they moved on from Dan Quinn, it would have been a big overhaul, rather than where they're at now." —Sidenote: kudos to the media team for the Falcons, the mobile app is full of videos/articles that actually provide information and exclusive content that I want to watch. Impressed.
  2. It is something I have been thinking of for a while, and while watching First Take this morning they kinda touched on it and really got me thinking. What is the identity of the Atlanta Falcons? Specifically with Dan Quinn? What is the one or two things we always know we can hang our hat on? I ask my children, "What is your default setting?" When you have the world crumbling around you, when things are going to crap, what is your default setting? What will be there for you to lean on through the good times and bad? New England - Doesn't make mistakes, will let you bury yourself. KC - Prolific offense Baltimore - Rushing offense and excellent defense New Orleans - Consistently efficient and excellent offense Dallas - Run game Chicago - Defense etc, etc I know what Quinn preaches. He preaches flying around, fast and physical! But the product on the field doesn't always reflect that...at least not often enough to etch that in stone as our "identity". It seems to me we do not know what our identity is from week to week. It seems to me our default setting is inconsistency and unpreparedness. Letting teams back into games that we are winning comfortably, playing down to our opponents we should beat handily, making poor decisions in critical moments seems to be our default setting. Now, if you ask me, the Dan Quinn defense we were promised all along? We were fed a line of ****. The defense just isn't where it needs to be, and really for the entire tenure of Dan Quinn, hasn't been close to where it needs to be which leads me to the following article on what I think our identity should be, what our default setting should be. A prolific passing offense that utilizes the pass to setup a run game. Ryan, Julio, Ridley, Sanu, Hooper...in a pass happy league, we have a wealth of talent in the passing attack. We should be a prolific passing offense, and yet we continue to kill ourselves with mistakes. But could the 2nd half from Indy be a insight into things to come? I am not 100% giving up on this defense, as I do think DQ knows his stuff, but after 5 years you gotta call a spade a spade imo. The identity of this team, at least under Dan Quinn, will never be an excellent defensive and disciplined team. History tells us otherwise. What we do know is we have future Hall of Famers, in their prime, on offense. It's their time, yet again, to lead this team. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- https://www.atlantafalcons.com/news/after-further-review-matt-ryan-gives-potent-offense-much-needed-jump-start Atlanta’s numerous penalties and second slow start on the road have been the center of attention in the aftermath of the Falcons' 27-24 loss to the Colts, and rightfully so. But there’s something else from Sunday’s game that deserves some focus from the fan base – an offense that was as red-hot in the second half as an NFL offense can possibly be. The Falcons had three possessions in the second half, each of which resulted in touchdowns. Each of those drives covered over 70 yards and spanned at least eight plays; the longest drive covered 78 yards and lasted 16 plays. The point is, the Falcons’ offense showed the ability to sustain drives and make plays in crucial moments. After halftime, the Falcons were a perfect 8-of-8 on third down, despite facing an average distance of 5.9 yards such downs. As offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter later noted, that level of production is unsustainable, but it proved the Falcons could hit that gear when needed. Quarterback Matt Ryan completed his first 18 passes of the second half and would have been a perfect 23-for-23 after halftime but for a pass that running back Devonta Freeman bobbled and dropped. Ryan shook off a forgettable first half and another ill-advised throw that resulted in his sixth interception of the season to look like the player who took home the NFL’s MVP award in 2016. Jacoby Brissett, the Colts’ quarterback who was thrust into a starting role following Andrew Luck’s surprise retirement before the season, was also incredibly efficient and completed his first 16 passes of the game on Sunday. But, as the passing charts below indicate, Brissett completed just five passes that traveled at least 10 yards in the air. Ryan, on the other hand, doubled that number and completed 10 such passes. So, while Brissett was also incredibly efficient during a long stretch of the game, his degree of difficulty was lower than Ryan’s. That’s not to take anything away from Brissett, who did a great job of taking what the Falcons’ defense gave him, but it’s rather to highlight just how impressive Ryan’s run was in the second half. Ryan also spread the ball around and utilized the entirety of the Falcons’ weapons with eight different players catching passes in the second half. Atlanta also didn’t have to rely entirely on throwing the ball against the Colts. Devonta Freeman turned in his best performance of the season, carrying the ball 16 times for 88 yards and showcasing the burst and cutting ability that make him a dangerous runner.“I thought that when we ran the ball, we ran it really well,” Ryan said. “I thought our offensive line did a good job. Again, when you fall behind you’re going to have to throw it some more to get back into the game. But when we did run the football, we ran it very efficiently.” Offensively, the Falcons showcased a mixture of explosion and sustainability in the second half. That Sunday’s game felt like it would come down to whichever team had the ball last is a testament to just how well Atlanta’s offensive played after falling into a 20-3 hole leading into halftime, and it sure didn’t feel like the Falcons would be stopped if they got the ball back a fourth time. And this is where it comes back around to penalties. The Falcons’ defensive penalties helped sustain the Colts’ lone scoring drive of the second half, and their offensive penalties chipped away at precious time on the clock, leaving them with no opportunity to get the ball back at the end of the game. Yet, the Falcons’ offense succeeded in spite of those penalties. In previous games such penalties would have stalled the types of long scoring drives Atlanta put together against the Colts. That wasn’t the case on Sunday, and it’s a reason for optimism with 13 games left to play. The Falcons may be 1-2 after three games but all is hardly lost. Far from it. Of the 12 teams to reach the playoffs in 2018, six of them had the same record through three games that the Falcons do right now, including the eventual Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. How these early games unfold is important. It’s not as important as a win or a loss, but with such a small sample size it provides some context for how things may play out moving forward. Given how Atlanta’s offense kicked into gear on Sunday, this thing might be just getting started.
  3. Several players made impressions as the Falcons' two-day rookie minicamp concluded Saturday. FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – The Falcons’ rookie minicamp is officially in the books. A total of 67 players – including six draft picks, free-agent signees and about two dozen tryout players – tried their best to make lasting impressions on the coaching staff during the two-day event. And while some definitely did, Falcons coach Dan Quinn said it doesn’t make the roster decisions any easier. “It’s a good day and, also as a coach, it’s a tough day,” Quinn said. “There’s 60 men here today and some are under contract, what I told him, and some aren’t. So for the ones that aren’t, sometimes you don’t get the ending that you want.” Still, Quinn said, “a very large number” of those players helped themselves and that a number of them – specifically, players that the coaching staff didn’t know a whole lot about before minicamp – “are now on our radar” as the Falcons head into OTA’s and training camp. “There’s some guys that proved that they could play,” Quinn said. Falcons looking for speed, effort and versatility One word Quinn repeated several times the last two days was “speed.” “We wanted to see the guys move, we wanted to see their speed,” Quinn said. “Whatever speed they have, we want all of it. And that included the kickoff drill you saw at the beginning, full-speed routes, full-speed bursts.” It’s clear the Falcons have a pretty good idea in what they have in receiver Calvin Ridley and on Day 2 of minicamp, Quinn said they wanted to feature some other guys to better evaluate them. Speaking of Ridley, Quinn said the first-round pick out of Alabama will be looked at in a number of positions including kick returner, punt returner, slot, outside receiver – and that will continue through the OTA’s. Another speedster who was moved around quite a bit during minicamp was sixth-round pick Russell Gage. On Friday the LSU product played cornerback. On Saturday, the Falcons lined him up at receiver. When he asked if he had a prefeerence for one side of the ball or the other, Gage said he didn't. "I'm asked that a lot and it's hard to pick," Gage said. "Just when I played as a kid, you played everything; it didn't really matter. For me it's the same mindset everytime. I just love to play and I love to win." So where will the Falcons ultimately line Gage up? Quinn said that it’s too early to tell and wants to watch more tape of him in practice but added that he’ll probably know by the time training camp rolls around. “I thought he had a good day defensively yesterday and I didn’t get a chance to look at the tape yet, I know by the time we leave to break before training camp it will be decided well before then,” Quinn said. Battle at fullback ‘is going to be a big one’ The Falcons have two rookies in camp vying for the starting fullback position – Luke McNitt out of Nebraska and Stanford product Daniel Marx – and Quinn said it’s definitely not too soon to start breaking down that competition. “Let’s be honest, that’s one of the real competitions that we’re going to have,” said Quinn, who added that it could be a while before that one is decided. “The things I’ve learned in two days is that these are two really bright, competitive guys,” Quinn said. “We felt their urgency out of the stance, both can catch well, and special teams is going to be a factor in that as well. It’s going to take all the way through the games at that position. … That’s going to be a big one.’ Quinn excited about addition of McClain On Friday, the Falcons turned some heads when they agreed to terms with veteran defensive tackle Terrell McClain. The 29-year-old has played seven seasons in the NFL and will work into a defensive line rotation that includes Grady Jarrett, Jack Crawford, and third-round pick Deadrin Senat. “Sometimes it seems like the right guy at the right fit at the right time and that certainly feels like the case here,” Quinn said of McClain, who also visited with the Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers and Miami Dolphins before signing with the Falcons. The 6-foot-2, 302-pound McClain played for the Washington Redskins in 2017, recording 20 tackles, two sacks and a fumble recovery. “I know he did his research, too, to make sure it would be a good fit for him and we’re really pumped to have him as part of our group,” Quinn said. To make room for McClain, the Falcons waived receiver Detrich Clark on Saturday. http://www.atlantafalcons.com/news/article-1/Dan-Quinn-on-conclusion-of-Falcons-rookie-minicamp-A-good-day-tough-day/7af9b281-d564-46a1-b8ba-5c507931faaf
  4. He is one of my all time favorite Falcons, Congrats Warrick
  5. Michael Ford - RB - FalconsFalcons signed RB Michael Ford, formerly of the Bears. 25-year-old Ford spent 2014 out of football after being cut by Chicago. He ran 4.5-flat at 5-foot-10, 210 coming out of LSU in 2013, but still went undrafted. Ford is needed with Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman on the shelf. Aug 7 - 1:52 PM vaughn mcclure ‏@vxmcclure23 11m11 minutes agoFalcons signing RB Mike Ford with Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman nursing hamstring injuries vaughn mcclure ‏@vxmcclure23 9m9 minutes agoFord, out of LSU, last played for the Bears. Expected to be with the team for Friday Night Lights but might not suit up
  6. Q: After being able to watch a full practice, what is your impression of the 2015 Falcons? 
 AM: Not to knock the energy level of last year, but this is at a complete other level. It’s very different. I know that Seattle has been using a DJ before, but in 21 years of covering NFL practices; I have never actually seen a DJ spinning music at practice. When I talked to O’Brien Schofield and he said that guys ask him everyday, “Is this real, is this really happening?” I think players are really buying into the energy that Dan Quinn and his staff have here in Atlanta. And I think that is one of the biggest differences, as well as the depth on this team. It is a much deeper team based upon what they did in free agency. It’s a more talented team than the one that the Falcons had last year. Q: Speaking of free agency, what are your thoughts on the offseason efforts to improve the pass rush with the additions of guys like, Adrian Clayborn, Vic Beasley Jr. and Justin Durant? And how do you think they fit with Dan Quinn’s defensive scheme? AM: It is a rotation system. That’s the reality of it. And you know, you have to start somewhere. And Vic Beasley is that guy. He is going to be the cornerstone rusher for this team. But I think you needed some complementary pieces —that’s where Brooks Reed, Adrian Clayborn and O’Brien Schofield. Guys who can rotate in, and keep Vic Beasley fresh. What you want are bodies in this system and you look at the type of deep defensive line that Seattle had, same type of philosophy here and the numbers are there for the Falcons to have success and be better than they have been the past couple of years. Where as you know, the past two years, no team in the NFL has fewer sacks than Atlanta. 
 Q: Who do you see as the Falcons breakout player of 2015? AM: Devonta Freeman really has a chance for that, provided that he can stay healthy. I think he will be pushed by Tevin Coleman, so I think that is one of those real competitions to watch, and don’t discount Antone Smith because this guy just keeps shocking people. But a player who has been around the NFL who I think may be able to post some pretty impressive numbers, is Jacob Tamme. In a Kyle Shanahan type offense, the tight end really ends up catching a lot of passes. So I think Tamme really has a shot to get a bulk of the passes thrown this way. So I think this might be a breakout season for Jacob Tamme as his career unfolds. Q: The zone-block scheme puts emphasis on the run game, and that will provide a more balanced attack. What are your expectations for Matt Ryan— knowing that with the help of the run game, he won’t have to carry the offense in this new system? AM: The hope is that the Falcons are less predictable on offense. The problem last year was straight drop backs. As Joe Hawley told me, it was putting too much pressure on the offensive line, the way the system was being run. You need a running game to complement. Plus, you want Matt (Ryan) mobile. That is one of the things the system will do. He will roll out and take some more snaps under center and be a little less predictable on the offensive side of the football and get a better run-pass ratio. I also think that the offensive line on these zone-blocking teams, some of the parts can be better than the individuals. This is a type of system that requires everyone to be in unison but when you are and it’s clicking, and the running back makes one cut and goes and doesn’t delay, I think this team really has a chance for success. Matt Ryan has a chance to feed off that running game and become even more lethal in the passing game. Q: In your opinion, how do the Falcons maximize Julio Jones’ production? AM: Keep throwing him the football. He is going to end up catching it. When you can get the double teams away from him and you can draw attention away from him, that is the really the best way to get him open. Of course that means everyone else needs to be able to compliment him. Julio is great at running the deep routes, but I think he can run any type of route. Julio is absolutely one of the best. Q: Justin Hardy has been very impressive throughout camp. What did you see from the rookie as you watched camp? AM: The guy catches everything. He is so effective at that and I believe he set the NCAA record for receptions with the Pirates of East Carolina University and I think this guy can come in and play quickly. It has been interesting because there is so much passing going on in the NCAA now, a lot of times these players need a little less time to make the transition from the college ranks to the NFL. When you are surrounded by guys like Roddy White and Julio Jones who have been here and know Matt Ryan, it really helps accelerate that learning process. I think there is a real legitimate scrum right now for snaps between Devin Hester and Justin Hardy. You also can’t discount Leonard Hankerson coming over from the Redskins knowing the Kyle Shanahan system, and Eric Weems, is there anyway he can touch the football beyond special teams? This is a good problem to have when it comes to depth. http://www.atlantafalcons.com/news/blog/article-1/QA-with-FOXSportscom-Alex-Marvez/2612df86-4d6c-4315-a6c3-2ae684a5ca84
  7. KC: What are some of the specific things you are looking for from Dan Quinn and the Falcons as you watch practice today? PK: I think one of the interesting things when a new coach comes in, especially a coach particularly on one side of the ball, is that I want to see Dan Quinn’s defensive personality. I really thought that there was a disconnect between the coaching staff and a lot of the players in terms of how aggressive an NFL defense should be and has to be. And I think that Dan Quinn has come in and basically said to these guys, ‘we are going to be the most attacking team in football.’ At least that is what he and Pete Carroll built in Seattle and I will be looking for that. It is hard to tell when you are not in mid-season, full-padded mode all the time. But, I will be looking for a lot of the aggressiveness on defense. And then, it’s funny, the way the Seahawks practiced was very high-tempo, very loud. Pete Carroll was the first guy to my knowledge who always had music from the start of practice until the end. Most of the songs, I had no clue what they were, but the players seemed to love it and it seemed to make them practice a lot harder and be more involved and intense. I have always thought you know, if you put that crowd noise up in the loud speakers around practice, it accomplishes the goal of being so noisy it is hard to think, like it is during a game. But, I also think that players will like it a lot more if you are playing music that they like. KC: There has been a lot talk across the media that the Falcons walked away with one of the best draft classes of 2015 with guys like Vic Beasley, Grady Jarrett, and Jalen Collins. What are you expecting to see from them as they adapt to Dan Quinn’s defensive system? PK: I cannot believe that Grady Jarrett was picked so far down the line. There are some fluke-like things that happen every draft. I don’t think anyone can give you good reason to why a guy who was to me a mid-second or third-round pick was taken so low. People will say, well you know, ‘he might not going to be a three-down player, or maybe he doesn’t have enough speed to play in a lot of defense.’ But, I just think that is baloney. I think he is going to be a big factor eventually for this defense. As far as the top of the draft goes, if I am Vic Beasley and I get taken by Dan Quinn and a team that has been desperate for a pass rush, you have died and gone to heaven. Plus, he stays in the south, he is in familiar surroundings and he is with fans that already love him. It is the perfect spot for him. I think this is going to be a really good comeback draft class for Thomas Dimitroff and the Falcons. KC: In your offseason power rankings released in June, you have the Falcons ranked third in the NFC South, behind New Orleans and Carolina. What in your opinion needs to happen for the Falcons to get back to dominating this division and getting back on top of that list? PK: Defensive attitude more than anything else. People like Justin Durant to come back from being hurt at the end of last year in Dallas, and new acquisitions injecting new life to this team. That is what needs to happen more than anything else. It can happen and I don’t know who to like in this division. I can see any of the three teams winning the division. I could see the Falcons being 6-10, I could see them being 12-4. This is a very strange division because so many teams are sort of teetering on the edge. The Saints, it seems to me, might have one more year left. Where as Carolina is the first team in the history of this division to have won back-to-back division titles. Which is one of the weirdest stats you can imagine. But, then again they win it with a lousy record last year so you don’t know if that is really meaningful or not. I think it is totally up for grabs. I don’t love any team in this division and I think any of the teams could win it. KC: Kyle Shanahan is implementing a zone-blocking scheme here in Atlanta. Do you think this bodes well with the current players on the roster? PK: To be a zone-blocking scheme on an offensive line, you have to have really smart players, and I do think they have a very intelligent group on that line. So, I think that it is going to work. I think what is really important when you do zone-blocking is that everyone gets on the same page. In the course of time, a lot of times when you are looking at the way zone-blocking works, you sometimes look at that and say, ‘well just be aggressive and go knock a guy off the ball.’ It is a different way of learning how to play the line. And it’s going to take some time; there is no question. Training camp is probably the most important position group to learn that is the offensive line. But, look they have time. I think Kyle Shanahan gets the teaching gene from his father. I think he is a very, very good teacher. I think they will be able to learn it and I think it is good for this good. A quarterback’s best friend is the running game. I think it’s most important that they create the kind of holes that didn’t exist last year. They have the ability to run, they have the talent to be able to run. Zone-blocking is one of these classic things. If you have four guys who play a particular play perfectly and one who doesn’t, you could get killed on the play - the running back or the quarterback. I think that is why it’s an important next month for this team. KC: Lastly, what are you most excited to see from the 2015 Falcons? PK: The music selection. I just love coming to a place where there is a new coach because you want to see the new vibe. (Quinn) brings in O’Brien Schofield from Seattle. Schofield is really sort-of a Swiss army knife type of player. He plays about nine different positions andplays all over the map. I just like seeing the changes that a new coach brings in. It’s fun to watch, particularly this year because, look, you don’t want to waste the prime ofMatt Ryan’s career. You don’t want to waste another possible great year and tandem from Roddy White and Julio Jones. I mean, receivers don’t last forever. They have invested a lot to make (Roddy) White and (Julio) Jones the tandem for five, six, seven years. They have sort of wasted two of those years, so now, this is really an important yearjust from the standpoint you think there is enough talent here, and you think this team is a 13-3, 11-5, 12-4 type team, but the last two years haven’t shown that. So at some point, it is the old, you are what your record says you are. So I think this whole summer is about proving they are what they were in 2012 and not what they have been the last couple of years. http://www.atlantafalcons.com/news/blog/article-1/QA-With-Sports-Illustrateds-Peter-King/b59bb58a-249e-48f9-a65b-c2039128443c
  8. The Falcons wrapped up the second day of XFINITY® Training Camp in front of a large crowd of fans Saturday morning. Although the team will not be in full-pads until Monday’s practice, head coach Dan Quinn showed excitement about what he has seen thus far. While implementing a new high-tempo practice style, the energetic coach puts his players in different situations that allows him to make specific evaluations. When asked who the biggest surprise of camp has been, Quinn didn’t just mention one or two names. Instead, he changed the format of the question to key-in on a group of people that he was excited to see out on the practice fields. “I think it’s great to have some of the guys who have been injured so not necessarily a surprise, but, it’s so nice to see Jake Matthews, Joe Hawley, Pete Konz andBrooks Reed and some of the guys who missed such a big portion of our OTA’s,” Quinn said. “To have some of those guys back and playing, I knew how good some of those guys were from watching tape, but I didn’t have a chance to be out on the field with them. So, I think the biggest surprise is not necessarily a surprise, but having some of back.”
  9. Hankerson Impresses: Leonard Hankerson was Atlanta’s best wide receiver on Friday. The former Miami Hurricane who signed a one-year deal in March, hauled in more than a handful of impressive catches, appeared comfortable in his new surroundings. He displayed versatility by flourishing out wide and in the slot and his teammates certainly noticed. “(Hankerson) did good, man,” Roddy White said. “He made a lot of plays.” Health Improving: Some of the guys were limited, but the only notable face missing wasLamar Holmes, who is on the PUP list with a broken foot. Offensive linemenJake Matthews and Joe Hawley participated in all activities, and neither appeared hurt. Running back Antone Smith looked sharp and didn’t seem to be affected by the broken leg he suffered in November. Smith believes he’s at 100 percent health and is almost in regular season shape. William Moore, Jalen Collins, Peter Konz,Malliciah Goodman, Marquis Spruill and Jon Asamoah all participated, too.Ryan Schraeder strained a muscle at one point during practice and was held out, but Quinn said the right tackle is fine. Health on the offensive line is especially important after last year, when the unit was decimated by a glut of injuries. Well aware of this, Dan Quinn and his staff are trying to build player chemistry while avoiding any physical setbacks. Of course, it’s a difficult balance to find. “The first thing is for the players first,” Quinn said. “Let’s make sure that we’re going to ease them back in terms of a rep count. So they’ll go just as hard on the plays — they may not go as many. Then we’ll add to them as we go.” RBs Involved in Passing Game:Back in minicamp, Dan Quinn said running backs would be important to the passing game, and so far, that appears to be the case. Atlanta's quarterbacks consistently utilized their running backs — namely Antone Smith and Devonta Freeman — and were able to gain a lot of yards that way. Freeman was a reliable target in college, and Smith, who is a home run threat every time he touches the ball, can collectively change the dynamic of Atlanta’s offense. Players Happy with Shanahan’s System: Speaking of the running backs, Antone Smith, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman all expressed delight with the new playbook, which includes an outside-zone blocking scheme known for enhancing the ground attack. Smith went as far as to say the offense is “a running back heaven.” The wide receivers, including Rhoddy White, are encouraged as well, and believe a greater sense of equilibrium will benefit everyone. Goal is to Win Now: With a new head coach in place following two consecutive losing seasons, many around football expect the Falcons to be in a rebuilding mindset. This is not the case. Although long-term success is undoubtedly the most important goal, Quinn stated that he's focused on prospering in 2015. “This is not a rebuild in any way,” he said. “Everything we’re doing is about right now.” http://www.atlantafalcons.com/news/blog/article-1/Camp-Report-5-Things-to-Know-From-Day-1-/dc2a6027-99a0-4613-b8fc-9b5e6c2afc36
  10. A new culture: The environment at Flowery Branch has transformed considerably since Dan Quinn took over, and it’s palpable on the field. Quinn said he doesn’t want to have “clean” practices in which everything goes smoothly; instead, he wants to foster an intense atmosphere similar to what they’ll experience on Sundays. So far, the players seem to be embracing this change. “[Practice is] definitely fast,” safety Charles Godfrey said. “That’s what we’re going to be. When people watch us, they’re going to be like, ‘Golly, they run. They run to the ball and they get the ball.’ That’s our focus; that’s what we pride ourselves on. The practice speed is fast so when we get out to the game everything is slow, but we’re still fast because we’re used to practicing that way. It’s good for us.” Applying new knowledge: After months of meetings and playbook study, the Falcons were excited to get on the field and immerse themselves in game situations. “It takes time when you’ve got some new concepts and new things,” Matt Ryan said. “Obviously you want to get those reps under your belt. You can work in a meeting all you want. There’s nothing like getting actual reps in practice … It’s a progression to each thing as you learn new concepts, but I thought it was a good start.” Embracing competition: There will be a number of intriguing position battles to monitor during training camp, and OTAs are giving us a small preview of these contests. Devonta Freeman, who will compete against rookieTevin Coleman at running back, believes these situations help him reach his potential. “I’ve been in competition my whole life — especially with great athletes, even in little league,” Freeman said. “I was going to elementary class and there were guys who were real good, faster than me, stronger and bigger. I feel like it developed me. It gives me that drive knowing there’s another guy just as good.” Pass rush a focus: The Falcons ran a lot of third down plays Tuesday and placed a heavy emphasis on rushing the passer. Quinn mentioned that Vic Beasley, Adrian Claybornand Kroy Biermann fared particularly well during these drills. "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 added. "So the speed and the effort and the way that we come off the ball, that's some of the things that you try and implement on third down.” Injury Update: Injured players Joe Hawley (knee), William Moore (shoulder),Brooks Reed (groin), Jake Matthews (foot), Antone Smith (leg), Jalen Collins(foot) and Peter Konz (knee) were sidelined during practice. Sam Baker (knee) andDezmen Southward (knee) rehabbed indoors. http://www.atlantafalcons.com/news/article-1/5-Things-We-Learned-From-Day-1-of-OTAs/9a31d7b6-e029-4603-aaa6-923de5c1ca34
  11. 1. The Fun Begins: Falcons head coach Dan Quinn couldn't wait to connect with his players from the moment he signed with the team in February, followed by hours of film study, player evaluation, interviews and scouting trips. Allowed to hold his team's first on-field practice of the offseason Tuesday, Quinn was very pleased with the energy and efforts of his players, provided with further evidence of the speed and attitude each brings to the field. The Falcons' new head coach has had a lot on his plate lately, preparing for the voluntary minicamp, followed by the 2015 NFL Draft, beginning Thursday. "Isn’t it awesome?" Quinn said about his busy week. "I’ve been looking forward to this week for a long time. I knew we had the (voluntary) camp coming, leading into the draft, (and) it's been an absolute blast, especially the highlight of today." 2. Well-Officiated Practice: There were many noticeable changes in Tuesday's voluntary minicamp, compared to years past, including continuous music, competitive drills and an officiating crew. Quinn is a big believer in creating a competitive culture to bring out the very best in each player and coach on the team, and the officials serve as part of the plan, simulating game situations as much as possible. "I wanted to make sure that if we can play at our best, it’s doing it without grabbing or holding," Quinn said. "The officials here are an important part of that to make sure we’re not grabbing or maybe taking the easy way out as a defensive back holding or an offensive lineman holding and grabbing. It’s all part of the general atmosphere of practice, making every scenario as competitive as we can." 3. Ryan's Review: Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has participated in several minicamps throughout his previous seven years as the team's franchise quarterback. Following Tuesday's fast-paced workout, Ryan was impressed by the way Quinn ran the practice and the remarkable turnout by his Falcons teammates. "I think it speaks to the guys on our team," Ryan said. "I think it speaks to the kind of guys that we have in our locker room. Guys have been here right from the start in meetings, paying attention, trying to do things the right way, and I think that's going to bode well for us, moving forward." 4. Ready-to-Run Receivers: Among the veteran Falcons joining Ryan at practice Tuesday were some of his prime targets in the passing game, including receivers Roddy White,Devin Hester and Julio Jones. White and Jones worked out together in Arizona during the offseason, preparing each for a new scheme run by Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. "You definitely have to be in shape, more so than we were last year," Jones said. "There's going to be a lot demanded out of us, and we have to go out there and play for the guy next to us. In the past, I don't think it was emphasized a lot, but now it's 'Hey, you have to go out, no matter what your play is on the backside, if you're getting the ball, if you're not getting the ball, you have to go full speed and pull the defense and pull the coverage.' " 5. Turnaround Season Planned: Falcons third-year cornerback Desmond Trufant has been an outspoken leader in the locker room and now on the practice field in 2015. Embracing the challenge of learning a new defensive scheme, Trufant is motivated to seize such a role, thanks to Quinn and his coaching staff. The excitement and competition at each practice and during meetings is fueled by goals to make the 2015 season unforgettable. "We’re trying to get this thing in the right direction," Trufant said. "The last two years have been rough, and we’re trying to have a 360 year off that. We’re out here competing. Everybody’s happy to be here. Everybody’s going hard, and you see guys after practice, getting extra work; we’re just trying to get better." http://www.atlantafalcons.com/news/article-1/5-Things-Quinns-First-Fast-Paced-Falcons-Practice/9f44d4d1-2f5c-44ed-a5f2-d5d8471ea2d8
  12. 1. Overtime Victory Keyed by Moore, Bartu: Entering overtime of the Week 1 matchup between the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons, the Saints won the coin toss and elected to receive, but two plays into the drive, Falcons S William Moore forced a fumble, recovered by Falcons LB Joplo Bartu. Falcons K Matt Bryant did the rest, calmly taking the field, nailing a 52-yard game-winning field goal, topping the Saints 37-34. 2. Ryan Leads Game-Tying Drive: With 1:20 to play in the game, trailing by three points to the Saints, and one timeout remaining, Falcons QB Matt Ryan led his team on a game-tying drive that covered 47 yards to the Saints' 33-yard line, when Bryant came onto the field for his second clutch kick of the day (earlier nailing a 40-yard FG), tying the game with a 51-yard FG as time expired, sending the game into overtime. 3. Falcons RB Committee: Trailing 27-24 to the New Orleans Saints in the fourth quarter, Falcons RB Jacquizz Rodgers dropped jaws on his way to the end zone for a 17-yard TD run. The phenomenal run gave the Falcons a fourth-quarter lead, 31-27. Also effective on Sunday were other Falcons RBs, including Antone Smith; trailing the NFC South-rival Saints 20-17, Smith lit up the Georgia Dome, capping off a five-play scoring drive that covered 80 yards in 2:31, when he took a short pass from Ryan and didn't stop running until he hit the end zone, 54 yards later. The score electrified the crowd and gave the Falcons their first lead of the game, 24-20. Falcons RBs Steven Jackson and rookie Devonta Freeman were also a big factor in the team's rushing attack, combining for 14 carries for 67 yards. 4. Historic Second Quarter: Ryan and Falcons WR Roddy White continued adding to their already-remarkable career stats in the second quarter; trailing the Saints 13-0, Ryan found White for a two-yard TD pass to tie former Falcons QB Steve Bartkowski as the franchise-record holders for most-career passing TDs (56). Ryan finished the day 31 of 43 for 448 yards and 3 TDs, also setting the franchise record for single-game passing yards. White's TD was the 56th of his career, tying former Falcons WR Andre Rison for the second-most receiving TDs in franchise history, one behind the current record, held by former Falcons WR Terance Mathis. White finished Sunday with five receptions for 72 yards and the two-yard TD. 5. Strong Second-Half Start Fueled Comeback: Whatever Falcons head coach Mike Smith said to the team at halftime worked as the offense took the ball right down the field on the first drive of the second half, using 12 plays to cover 80 yards in 5:38, when Ryan found Falcons TE Levine Toilolo for a 1-yard TD, giving Ryan the record for most career-passing TDs (155) in franchise history. EXTRA REPS: Falcons WR Julio Jones finished his season opener with seven catches for 116 yards, while fellow Falcons WRs Harry Douglas and Devin Hester combined for 11 receptions for 168 yards. Falcons LB Paul Worrilow led the team with 15 tackles, followed by S Dwight Lowery (11 tackles) and Bartu (10 tackles). http://www.atlantafa...6e-6a62edae2490
  13. 1. Ryan Efficient in Opener: The Falcons’ offense looked sharp in a 15-play opening drive that saw the entire first-team sans Julio Jones getting snaps. It took 77 yards but the Falcons got into the end zone on a 2-yard run byJacquizz Rodgers, but it was Matt Ryan’s prowess that got them there. Ryan was 7-for-7 on the drive for 53 yards and found Roddy White for three third-down conversion passes to keep the drive going. The scoring drive lasted 9 minutes, 16 seconds. Ryan was pulled in favor of TJ Yates after the drive. 2. Antone Smith Racks Up Yards — Sort Of: If the NFL was a penalty-free league, Antone Smith’s yardage Friday night would have been off the charts. Alas, that’s not the world we live in and Smith was plenty of his efforts being called back due to penalties — 100 yards, in fact. Smith caught a pass from Ryan on the opening drive for 36 yards but was called back due to illegal formation. On the next drive, he took off for a 76 yards touchdown run that caused fans to ooh and ahh, but the only sound by the end was that of the head official announcing a hold on the play. Still, for those Smith fans who want to see more of him this year, his looks during the first-team snaps and his progress regardless of penalties should be encouraging. 3. Defense Struggles Then Responds: The first-team defense had a slow start out of the gate as the Dolphins' offense led by QB Ryan Tannehill stormed down the field for their first touchdown of the preseason. In 12 plays, the Dolphins were able to convert two third downs as the Falcons defense tried to get its footing. On the next Miami drive, the Falcon defense stood tough, forcing a three-and-out with most of the first crew still on the field. 4. Rookie Roundup: It was a first chance to see some exciting rookies on the field Friday and they didn't disappoint. Offensive tackle Jake Matthews looked solid, but had a few rookie hiccups with two penalties in an altogether good first performance, especially against Pro Bowler Cameron Wake. Devonta Freeman stood out in the second half as he got more chances, dancing up the middle on a pretty 14-yard gain and taking an over-the-shoulder pass fromSean Renfree 57 yards to put the Falcons in scoring position. Ra'Shede Hageman had two tackles and LBPrince Shembo added two assists along with the only sack of the night for the Falcons. Undrafted wideoutGeraldo Boldewijn was targeted a lot during his time but caught one pass. Fellow undrafted wide receiverBernard Reedy had two catches for 61 yards. 5. Under-the-Radar Standouts: Cornerback Javier Arenas, mired in the tight competition at nickel, had a strong night, leading the team in tackles with three and getting in on a couple of breakups. Backup quarterbacks TJ Yates and Sean Refree each looked promising after they settled in, and while the Falcons didn't get into the end zone the rest of the night, the two looked stoic in the pocket and made some good decisions. Second-year safety Sean Baker, who spent much of 2013 on the Falcons practice squad, also had a nice night, and while it won't show up in the box score, he was markedly physical on his opportunities. http://www.atlantafa...85-2c58b280ef10
  14. Take a numerical look behind the storylines that punctuated Atlanta's 16-10 preseason opening victory over Miami Friday night at the Georgia Dome. 0 -- Starts for second-year safety Kemal Ishmael, preseason or regular season, before getting the nod with the first team tonight against the Dolphins. Ishmael didn't record a tackle or pass defensed on the night. 1 -- Number of series for each starting offense in the game, both of which ended in touchdowns. After Miami and Atlanta's opening drives, only 45 seconds remained in the first quarter. 1 -- Turnovers in tonight's game, and it was a big one. Though a lot of yellow laundry was flying, as would be expected in a preseason opener, both the Falcons and Dolphins took good care of the football on offense...until 2:27 remained in the game with the Dolphins threatening inside Atlanta's 10-yard line and trailing by just 6 points. Miami QB Seth Lobato bobbled a wayward snap in shotgun formation, and a wave of Falcons defenders converged on what became a scrum for the loose ball. Falcons rookie DE Nosa Eguae came out of the pile with the football, and the game's first turnover proved crucial to the final outcome. A couple minutes later, Atlanta had their first preseason opener victory since 2010, emerging with a 16-10 victory. 2 -- Holding penalties for rookie starting right tackle Jake Matthews, one of which negated a second-quarter 76-yard touchdown jaunt by Antone Smith. (The infraction seemed pretty questionable when shown on replay.) The Falcons' first round draft choice from Texas A&M showed flashes of dominance in his first NFL action, playing the first two series along with the rest of the starting offensive line. Head Coach Mike Smith appeared pleased with Matthews' performance after the game, stating he believes the rookie is "on a fast track to be a very good player in this league." 4 -- First down receptions for starting wide receiver Roddy White in one series of action on the night. The prolific Pro Bowler made each of his four receptions for 27 yards count, helping sustain the Falcons' long first-quarter touchdown drive. 4 -- Total tackles for rookie LB Prince Shembo, which included a sack, a tackle for loss and a QB hit. Shembo led the team in tackles. Coach Smith singled out Shembo in his postgame press conference when asked about specific players who impressed him during the first preseason game. 11 -- Combined penalties for both teams in the first half, five for the Birds and six for the Fins. The clubs finished the game with a combined 19 penalties, 9 for Atlanta and 10 for Miami. 14 -- First downs for Atlanta's offense in the first half, compared to just five for Miami. 17 -- Rushing yards allowed by the Falcons' defense in the first half. The stingy dee also held Miami to just 92 yards passing, 76 of which came on the Dolphins' opening drive. 100 -- Completion percentage for Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill on the game's opening drive, as he went 6 for 6 for 62 yards during a 10-play, 73 yard drive that culminated in a 6-yd TD pass to Dolphins starting wideout Brandon Gibson. 100 -- Completion percentage for Falcons QB Matt Ryan (7 of 7 for 53 yards) as he answered Miami's opening volley and engineered a long touchdown drive to even the score at 7-7. Jacquizz Rodgers punched the ball into the end zone from 2 yards out to cap off a 17-play, 77 yard scoring drive that ate up over 9 minutes of the first quarter. Ryan's night was over after that, as backup QB T.J. Yates - acquired from Houston this past offseason - took over QB duties and played all of the second quarter. 107 -- Total yards from scrimmage for rookie running back Devonta Freeman in just over two quarters of action against Miami. The dynamic Florida State product hit his running lanes as quickly as any back in the game tonight, rushing for 50 yards on 10 carries for an impressive 5-yards per carry average. Freeman also proved lethal in the passing game hauling in a 57-yard reception on a fade route from second year QB Sean Renfree. On the play, Freeman blew past a Dolphins corner who had the unenviable task of trying to contain him in single coverage 191 -- Yards amassed by the Falcons offense in the first half - 52 on the ground and 139 through the air. 222 -- Days since the Falcons last took the field for an NFL game (on December 29, 2014 in a season-ending loss to the Carolina Panthers at the Georgia Dome) before tonight's preseason tilt. The organization and its fans couldn't wait to put last year's disappointing campaign in the rear view mirror and begin the process of returning to championship contention in 2014. http://www.atlantafalcons.com/news/article-1/By-The-Numbers-Dolphins-vs-Falcons/0250f259-a963-47c8-9346-d53342ecb8ff
  15. Good interview with "Paul Worrilow!!! The most interesting linebacker in the world". http://www.atlantafalcons.com/media-lounge/videos/Worrilow-Emerging-As-Leader-on-Defense/4aa95da7-3e09-46e3-8daa-3b7a6d0bc37f
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