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  1. I played it back @0.5 speed so as to appreciate the violence.
  2. Matt Ryan is expected to be the Atlanta Falcons' quarterback for at least 2021, but his presence shouldn't stop the club from considering adding a potential replacement for down the line. Sitting with the No. 4 overall pick, the Falcons are in a position to snag a future signal-caller in the 2021 NFL Draft, allowing that player to learn for a year under Ryan, then take over in 2022, a.k.a. the Patrick Mahomes method. Ryan's exorbitant salary -- $40-plus-million cap figure this year -- makes him a certainty to remain on the club at least until next year when his dead-money figure would shrink to a more manageable range. New Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot recently joined the Huddle & Flow podcast with NFL Network's Jim Trotter and Steve Wyche. While Fontenot didn't explicitly suggest how the Falcons would buffer the QB room, his comments suggest he's open to using that top draft pick on a signal-caller if it's the right fit. "Whether we're talking about free agency or whether we're talking about the draft, we are going to add to every position," Fontenot said. "We'll build strength. We're not afraid to build strength. We're going to add to every position. It's about adding. We want a culture of competition, and (coach) Arthur Smith has said it: We want to bring in smart, tough, highly competitive football players that are going to fit this culture. And we're going to do that at every position, whether it's QB or whether it's WR. "You look at (former Packers GM) Ron Wolf. You always bring in quarterbacks. You need to bring in quarterbacks, whether it's in the draft, whether it's in free agency, or signing guys off the street. It's so important, bring in quarterbacks a lot, build strengths. (Former Ravens GM) Ozzie Newsome, bring in the best players available. These are men that have had all that success, and it's about having the right 53, but we have to add competition at every position. So we're not going to be afraid to add to strengths. But both (Ryan and Julio Jones) are really good and I'm excited to be here with those players." With Ryan and Jones on the roster, the Falcons could be a contender for a one-year turnaround. If the defense flips the script and the stars stay healthy, Atlanta owns the talent to compete right away. The possibility of the Falcons being one of the teams that go from cellar to contender motivates the club to give it one more go with their two stars. It's Fontenot's job, however, to think beyond one year. In an ideal world, the club would never again be in a position high enough in the draft to grab a franchise QB. It makes the No. 4 overall pick an interesting choice for the first-time GM. Does he add a potential playmaker who could immediately boost the product or a QB who might not see the field in 2021? Echoing Falcons owner Arthur Blank, Fontenot noted that no player is untouchable, including Ryan or Jones, and underscored that adding competition to every position will be essential for a quick Falcons turnaround. "I don't think you'd ever be in a situation where you'd say anybody is untouchable," the 40-year-old said. "That's not the right culture. If you're building a culture, like I said, of competition, then that doesn't make sense to say this person can't be touched."
  3. GURLEY'S REBIRTH? Don't underestimate the back's dynamic potential in Atlanta Don't let Todd Gurley's recent release from the Los Angeles Rams fool you into believing he's a washed-up player incapable of making a resurgence as the Atlanta Falcons' RB1. The 2017 Offensive Player of the Year will not only enjoy a major bounceback season, but he will re-emerge as an MVP candidate while serving as the centerpiece of an offense that will light up scoreboards across the league. I know those are lofty expectations for a running back coming off a disappointing season on a team that was supposed to be a Super Bowl contender, but Gurley is joining the best offense that he's ever played on. The 2020 Falcons have better personnel at the marquee skill positions, and their offensive line is a significant upgrade over the unit Gurley left in Los Angeles. Don't believe me? Take a look for yourself. Would you rather have Matt Ryan or Jared Goff? How about the combination of Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Hayden Hurst vs. Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp and Gerald Everett/Tyler Higbee? What about an offensive line in Atlanta that features five former first-round picks? You want that, or L.A.'s patchwork group that struggled for most of 2019 following the departures of Rodger Saffold and John Sullivan? Unless you're a Rams homer, you'd pick the Falcons' nominees in each scenario. The Dirty Birds have premier players on the perimeter, including one of the best receivers in all of football, as well as a former MVP at quarterback. The mere presence of Jones and Ryan will create more opportunities for Gurley to get loose, and he's proven that he's a monster against light boxes in the recent vintage. According to Next Gen Stats, Gurley faced a light box (fewer than seven defenders) on 43.7 percent of the Rams' offensive snaps in 2017 and '18, compiling a robust yards-per-carry average of 5.8 -- most among running backs with a minimum of 100 rushing attempts in this span. Looking at the Falcons' roster and their potential "11" personnel package (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR), the offense should face plenty of light boxes. Opponents will be forced to largely concentrate on defending the Ryan-Jones connection, with Ridley serving as a high-end complement on the back side. Atlanta will be able to take advantage of those looks by getting the ball to Gurley on an assortment of runs and passes out of the backfield. Before you @ me regarding Gurley's diminishing production in 2019, I think it is fair to ask if No. 30's talents were maximized by Sean McVay and Co. during his final season in L.A. In 2017 and '18, Gurley averaged 22.7 touches, 88.1 rush yards and 135.3 scrimmage yards with 40 total touchdowns. In 2019, those numbers plummeted to 16.9 touches, 57.1 rush yards and 70.9 scrimmage yards with 14 total touchdowns. In addition, Gurley's playtime percentages (75.8 to 74.6 to 71.5) and touch percentage (45.4 to 40.0 to 33.8) steadily decreased over the past three seasons. Did Gurley's health dictate the reduction, or did McVay forget about his top offensive weapon? Remember, McVay pointed the finger at himself in early December. Asked about what caused an uptick in usage for the back, the coach deadpanned, "Me not being an idiot." "Gurley still has it," I was told by an AFC running backs coach who studied the Pro Bowler after his release. "They didn't use him enough, but his speed, burst and running skills are still there. ... He just needs to be featured like he was in 2017 and 2018. If he gets the rock, he will put up big numbers." And as I mentioned before, the Rams' offensive line did not get the job done last season. At the end of the regular season, Pro Football Focus ranked the unit 31st. Tough to run through holes that don't exist. It's easy to dismiss a running back when he has reached a certain point of his career, but I wouldn't underestimate Gurley's chances of re-emerging as one of the top playmakers in football, especially given his upgraded supporting cast in Atlanta. Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks. ------------------------------------------------------------------ Not sure if already posted, Brooks makes some very interesting points.
  4. We always ask if it's the secondary or the pass rush that really makes the defense...so here we have our answer... Now that we know this...the question becomes do you invest more in the secondary or more in the pass rush? NFL.com - 10 biggest disappointing units in the NFL this season. Atlanta Falcons secondary Heading into the 2019 campaign, the Falcons were a pretty popular playoff pick. Then they lost seven of their first eight games. To Dan Quinn's credit, Atlanta did rally to finish at 7-9. But what happened in the first half of the season? And were the problems truly fixed down the stretch? Well, the turnaround reveals some traditional stats that need more context for a real understanding. In Weeks 1-8, the Falcons had just two interceptions (tied for the fewest) while allowing 19 receiving touchdowns (second-most) and yielding a 53 percent third-down conversion rate (highest in NFL). After the Falcons' Week 9 bye, they snagged 10 interceptions while giving up just nine passing touchdowns. And Atlanta allowed just a 25.8 percent third-down conversion rate (lowest in NFL in Weeks 10-17). Did the secondary really step it up in the back half of the season? Well, interceptions can be misleading. Over these same time periods, Atlanta went from notching just seven sacks in the first eight games to 21 over the final eight. Using computer vision, my measurements show that the uptick in disruptions (monitoring the 5-foot halo around the quarterback) went from 9.8 percent of opposing dropbacks to 34.9 percent. Meanwhile, the pass catcher separation allowed stayed pretty similar throughout the whole season. So it appears that the positive difference in the second half of the season came from the front of the defense, not the back. And going through the film with two NFL coaches further supported this notion.
  5. Not saying I'm in favor of McCarthy. It's a good read. http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000001084451/article/expackers-coach-mike-mccarthy-eyes-nfl-return-in-2020?campaign=Twitter_atn Ex-Packers coach Mike McCarthy eyes NFL return in 2020 DE PERE, Wis. -- Mike McCarthy's right thumb bounces back and forth on the remote as he sits in his outsized mancave, controlling the video that plays on a TV in the corner while debate ensues around him about how to cover one NFL team after another's version of the deep cross. When a clip comes up of Aaron Rodgers and the 2019 Packers, McCarthy's expression doesn't change, though he admits later it can be emotional watching his old team at times. Right now, McCarthy's watching like a coach. Studying. Analyzing. Comparing what the Packers are doing now to how he did things the previous 13 years in Green Bay, before an unceremonious in-season dismissal last December. "If you truly want to learn about yourself, you probably need to look at your last opportunity and keep an eye on it, because you have to be transparent," McCarthy told me. "You have to be honest about, how can you do things better? And it's all part of this process. Once you get past the emotion -- the negative emotion of it all -- it's a great opportunity to shine a bright light on it and grow." Yes, McCarthy fully intends to be an NFL head coach again in 2020. And by any objective measure, his resume alone should make him a top candidate in any search. He won over 61% of his games with the Packers, who reached the playoffs nine times (including eight in a row) in 13 seasons, with four NFC title game appearances and a triumph over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV. He has an excellent reputation within the league for his work with quarterbacks, including two Packers legends. Practically the entire history of the West Coast offense lives in tapes and binders at Packers Hall of Fame Inc. (a donation McCarthy made years ago), as well as his garage and the upstairs office of the barn behind his house outside Green Bay, where he chose to spend the first year out of football in his adult life with the family that has never lived anyplace else. Someday, McCarthy sees himself retiring here. But at age 56, he's not looking for a cushy gig or one last payday. The theme of his year away has been self-improvement, in every area, and thus was born The McCarthy Project -- a collaboration with fellow coaches Jim Haslett, Frank Cignetti Jr. and Scott McCurley that McCarthy says has made him "definitely a better coach" than ever before. Together, they've spent months preparing as if they're the NFL's 33rd coaching staff, from studying league trends and rebuilding playbooks to deep dives on analytics and mapping out a calendar for practices and meetings all the way through training camp. McCarthy also did a deep dive on himself, going through boxes dating to his early days as an assistant at the University of Pittsburgh and with the Kansas City Chiefs to study how his philosophies have evolved over the past 30 years and where he needs to go from here. During a wide-ranging recent interview, McCarthy touched on numerous topics, including the bitter moments after his Packers firing, his relationship with Rodgers, the deeply personal meaning to his family of returning to the sidelines and how he intends to go about building another perennial contender. "To do it right and to be in position to win it every year, that's what I'm looking for," McCarthy said. "So that's the opportunity, that's who I want to be paired with. And I'm not trying to just go win one, I'm trying to win them all. And I've always taken that approach. That's always been my outlook. And every decision that's ever been made towards the football team, it was A, number one, what's best for the locker room? And it's about moving that locker room forward, 'cause nothing ever stays the same. You're either getting better or you're going the other way. And that's in life and in football." Better, not bitter To understand how a coach who won more games with the Packers than Vince Lombardi (and everyone else except Curly Lambeau) could have his tenure end the way McCarthy's did, you have to go back to Green Bay's last playoff season in 2016 -- the year Rodgers famously said an injury-depleted team could "run the table" to make the playoffs after starting 4-6, setting the stage for an eight-game winning streak. "I thought that was clearly the best coaching job that I was part of, in maybe my whole career," McCarthy says, steering his truck through the dark on the way home from an early-morning coffee run. "The players were tremendous. We just couldn't stay healthy. That first half of the season was one of the worst stretches that we had, and the team just gutted it out. We got to the NFC Championship Game (a 44-21 loss at Atlanta). That was a very difficult year. And then '17, we were getting hurt up there in Minnesota, and so it kind of spilled into that year." After a 4-1 start in 2017, Rodgers broke his collarbone on a hit by Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr, sending the team spiraling to a 7-9 finish and its first non-playoff season since Rodgers' first year as the starter in 2008. Longtime general manager Ted Thompson -- who for years had almost entirely dismissed free agency and trades in favor of a strict draft-and-develop approach, lumping pressure on Rodgers to cover up the Packers' weaknesses and coaches to play young players -- had been in declining health and stepped down after the season. Then Rodgers suffered a significant knee injury in Week 1 last season, requiring him to wear a brace for weeks and changing the way the Packers could play offense for much of the year. They were 4-7-1 at the time of McCarthy's dismissal. The red-faced coach captured so many times by TV cameras yelling at officials in frustration the past few years looked like a different person than who McCarthy had been throughout his tenure. "I agree with you," McCarthy said. "There was a lot more going on within our organization that I didn't experience the first 10 years. And I think that's a product of being successful. It's part of that challenge. Failure comes more in that arena than any other. (But) we're all fighters. You don't make it in this business if you don't have that part of your DNA." McCarthy doesn't believe the Packers needed a culture change, but they probably needed a climate change -- a break from all the speculation about their coach's future that surely crept into the locker room via social media, along with relentless criticism from fans and media about Rodgers' prime slipping away without a second title, which McCarthy understood. ("You get up past eight, nine, 10 years, you can't just say, 'Hey, let's get back to the playoffs again,' " McCarthy said, chuckling. "I can't even say it with a straight face.") There also were persistent hints and reports of friction between McCarthy and Rodgers, who defended McCarthy after a controversial Bleacher Report article in April took aim at both men, saying in a radio interview with ESPN Wisconsin: "I love Mike McCarthy. Mike has been a huge part of my success in my career, and I've had some amazing moments on and off the field with Mike. We have had issues, no doubt. Any long relationship has issues, but the way that we dealt with those issues, Mike and I, was face to face." Back in McCarthy's office, a baby-faced Rodgers is smiling on the TV screen, taking a snap in his first videotaped session in McCarthy's renowned "Quarterback School" in 2006. Scrubbing around the video, which is intercut with shots of Joe Montana and others as part of his updated QB training tape, McCarthy smiles back, praising the future two-time NFL MVP's natural talent and the way he progressed in other clips from 2010 and 2017. "When you take a step back and you think about how long a relationship that is, and what you were able to accomplish -- in the meeting rooms, on the practice field ..." McCarthy said. "It's the long conversations (with Rodgers), particularly in the early years -- you miss those things. The Thursday meetings where you knew it was going to be an hour or it could be three hours, and it was supposed to be a first-15-play meeting, but it always turned into a life experience meeting." McCarthy empowered Rodgers more and more to take ownership in the offense as the years went on. And the Packers were constantly evolving in other areas, whether McCarthy was shuffling the roles of his assistant coaches (and occasionally regretting it, such as when he handed over offensive play-calling to Tom Clements in 2015, only to take it back by season's end) or overhauling their weekly practice schedule to take care of players' bodies. At this point, McCarthy says, he has to be past his emotions toward the Packers organization and president and CEO Mark Murphy, who curtly informed McCarthy shortly after a home loss to the Arizona Cardinals last Dec. 2 that he was making a change. McCarthy still takes prides in the development of the Packers' young players when he sees them on tape. And McCarthy has praise for new coach Matt LaFleur and his team, saying: "I've enjoyed their balance. I think they've done an excellent job." Still settling into a new offense, the Packers' scoring is up just slightly this season (23.8 points per game vs. 23.5 in 2018) and Rodgers' numbers are similar, too, but they lead the NFC North at 10-3, buoyed by new GM Brian Gutekunst's big-ticket free-agent additions of Za'Darius Smith and Preston Smith to a defense coordinated by Mike Pettine, whom McCarthy hired before last season. "My focus was always to be better, not bitter. And obviously, there was bitter moments, frankly, early in that transition," McCarthy said. "I think that's natural. And I think anybody goes through it, that those are natural feelings. At the end of the day, I'm thinking more about beginnings. And I've had time to think about the whole 13 years and there's been a tremendous amount of positive reflection with that. This has been an extremely healthy time for me, personally." It's impossible to live in the Green Bay area and never drive by Lambeau Field. McCarthy's sons go to high school a short drive down Ridge Road. He underwent knee surgery at a clinic across the street from the stadium, and laughs at one of countless awkward moments over the past year: speaking with a maintenance worker there on a ladder, who said he was really sorry once he noticed McCarthy could see Lambeau's video boards playing highlights from last season behind him. (Replied McCarthy: "****, don't be sorry. I called that **** play.") McCarthy did some traveling the past year with his wife, Jessica, and their kids. They visited scenic Door County during the normal dog days of training camp in July and August and saw his oldest daughter, Alex, an actress and producer in Los Angeles. He spent time on his boat. He attended his stepson Jack's football games on Friday nights. (Jack plays middle linebacker; another stepson, George, a quarterback, missed the season because of an injury.) He picked up his youngest daughters, Gabrielle, 11, and Isabella, 8, from school and developed a strategy for getting the closest parking spot. He underwent an overdue knee surgery and got into a regular workout routine with help from a personal trainer. He gave up his skinny vanilla lattes (no foam) on his early-morning Starbucks runs in favor of blonde roasts with steamed almond milk. "There's days where I thought, 'I could do this. Do I want to go back to the grind of coaching?' " McCarthy said. "And after about the first month, I think my kids were just kind of like, 'So Dad, you need to go to work.' " The vision Cignetti -- a fellow graduate assistant with McCarthy on Paul Hackett's staff at Pitt in 1989 who later joined him on Haslett's Saints in the early 2000s and spent last season as the Packers' QBs coach -- recalls McCarthy telling him in early January he planned to coach again. McCarthy just wasn't sure it'd be in 2019. He received inquiries from several teams last winter and took one interview with the New York Jets, though he knew after that meeting it wasn't the right fit. The idea for The McCarthy Project sprung from a mutual desire to watch tape and stay on top of trends in the NFL and college football in anticipation of a return in 2020, and it quickly expanded into a full-fledged operation. Haslett had connections to obtain "All-22" coaches tape, often faster than even NFL teams get it. The group traveled to Cincinnati for a six-hour meeting at Pro Football Focus, which collaborated on some ideas and provided resources that expedited the process of filtering tape and creating cutups. Justin Rudd, a former DV Sport software executive, pulled together the technology. Most mornings, Haslett (who lives in Cincinnati) and Cignetti (New Jersey) get on the phone together and talk through tape all day. McCarthy does the same in person with McCurley, a longtime Packers defensive assistant. Then for one week each month, Haslett and Cignetti travel to Green Bay and stay in the upstairs living quarters of the barn, which is outfitted with a bed, sofa and kitchenette. Downstairs, there's a full-sized gymnasium, golf simulator and exercise room. A few steps away is the mancave, its pinball machines and pool table covered up by whiteboards and laptops, with the furniture rearranged around tables to face the TV like an NFL meeting room. "I've watched more tape this year than I've ever, ever watched in the offseason," said Haslett, a pro and college coach for over 30 years who had planned to sit out 2019 after undergoing ankle fusion surgery. "We started doing cutups. We started doing games. We started saying, 'What do you want to run? Let's look at the pass concepts.' " How has Andy Reid successfully incorporated college concepts to flood the wide side of the field into his version of the West Coast offense? How do the Cowboys get Dak Prescott in rhythm on the deep cross? How are other teams borrowing the "Fish" concept on deep shots that McCarthy made a staple of his Packers offense? It's all been part of one long conversation throughout the season, and the Xs and Os are just a piece of it. What worked before? What needs to be done better? "It's nice to have time to think about it, to watch, discuss, and you're not (saying), 'Hey, we gotta make this decision by end of March 'cause OTAs start in April,' " McCarthy said. "The whole 360 (degree) view, whether it's watching the games, watching the officiating, game management, scheme, technology, analytics ..." The plan for all of it is laid out on two whiteboards, covered with notes on every scheme project they've completed and every aspect of the football operation they intend to build. No matter where he ends up, McCarthy doesn't envision a total teardown. ("I'm not a believer in [that]," he said. "I think every one of these opportunities that will be available, there's resources in there that you have to make sure you're aware of and try to utilize.") He wants to better use technology and analytics. ("We were definitely on the average side at best in my time in Green Bay there. I've looked at every team in the league and their commitment to analytics, and football technology and video. Because everybody has analytics, but it has to be part of your everyday operation to show up on Sundays.") At the forefront of the program will be player wellness, including dedicated resources for mental health. ("You have to develop the locker room from every possible angle. It can't be a subcontractor. It needs to be part of your everyday operation.") Said Cignetti: "Mike had a vision. Once we had the video and we had each other, the sky's the limit." 'We need football right now' McCarthy says the biggest regret of his time in Green Bay was not having his family prepared for defeat -- his firing, the suddenness of it and the unique conversations it created with his children, such as one of his young daughters asking before a school pride day whether she can still cheer for the Packers. He became emotional in our interview when I asked, why does he need to do this? Why move the family across the country to get back on the sideline? "It's a very selfish profession," McCarthy said, his voice cracking. "Coaching in the NFL, I think that's a given. But what I've found through this transition is ... our family needs this. ... We need to do this ... just 'cause of everything that's happened, and this will be a great opportunity for us." Why does he say, "We need to do this?" "I just think it's how you handle things in your life," McCarthy said. "Coaching in this league's a way of life. And then you think it's a way of life for a coach, but it's for your whole family. We need football right now. We won't need it forever, but we need it right now. "... Jessica's born and raised here. We love it here. But in the same breath, this is not just an opportunity for me to grow as a coach, it's an opportunity for our family to really grow. And there's more out there. And Jessica and I want to give these kids that experience. So, that's what I mean when I say we need football. I'm not talking about the games. I'm talking about the challenges that it gives you as a family." They're challenges McCarthy needs, too. "And there's no doubt in my mind that he'll put another Super Bowl trophy in his case," Cignetti said. "Because I know the type of person he is and I know the type of coach he is. I've got total belief in Mike McCarthy."
  6. http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000964141/article/offensive-line-of-the-week-falcons-unit-boosts-rushing-attack Its early but Jake has a good start ... Earning his money
  7. Myles Garrett among young pass rushers set to break out in 2018 By Willie McGinest NFL.com analyst Published: July 20, 2018 at 11:05 a.m. YOUNG BREAKOUTS: PASS RUSHERS With the 2018 NFL season on the horizon, a number of talented players are still playing under rookie contracts. Now is the time to make some future loot! With that in mind, NFL Network analysts LaDainian Tomlinson, Willie McGinest, David Carr and Nate Burleson examined the positions they respectively manned during their playing days to identify youngsters poised for a breakout campaign. Today, Willie McGinest lists, in alphabetical order, young pass rushers to watch in 2018. Derek Barnett, DE, Philadelphia Eagles 2018 projection: 8.5 sacks. I've been a fan of Barnett since he was drafted in 2017 and was happy to see him become an impact player for the Eagles in Year 1. He plays with great leverage, has strong hands and isn't a one-dimensional bull rusher. He's part of a loaded defensive line that includes the likes of Fletcher Cox, Michael Bennett, Brandon Graham and Chris Long, among others, giving Barnett ample opportunity to get to the passer with his athleticism. A potential starter on the right side, I expect Barnett to be more productive in 2018 after recording five sacks as a rookie. Bradley Chubb, OLB, Denver Broncos 2018 projection: Eight sacks. Chubb is a guy I watched closely in this year's draft process. He has exceptional hands and nice lean. His arsenal is already plentiful coming into his rookie campaign and will only improve as he develops. Not to mention, Chubb will line up opposite Von Miller, which certainly never hurts and will allow him a lot of one-on-one opportunities. Miller, along with the team's new pass-rush coach DeMarcus Ware, will refine the rookie's skill set from Day 1. Chubb's in the perfect position to succeed early and often. Myles Garrett, DE, Cleveland Browns 2018 projection: 12-plus sacks. I don't think there's a player at Garrett's position who has his combination of size (6-foot-4, 272 pounds), strength, speed, explosiveness and athleticism. He can lean and bend like a linebacker in a defensive end's body. He uses his hands extremely well -- he has solid swipe and up-and-under moves. Garrett still recorded seven sacks in an injury-riddled, 11-game rookie campaign. If the 2017 No. 1 overall draft pick can stay healthy and plays a full season, I expect him to have a tremendous year as he gets more experience. Takkarist McKinley, DE, Atlanta Falcons 2018 projection: 10 sacks. The one thing that struck me when I first saw McKinleyplay was his explosiveness off the edge. The 6-2, 250-pound defensive end has a great motor and plays with good leverage. Primarily a speed-to-power guy, McKinley's numbers will improve if he adds more moves to his arsenal -- including long arm, up-and-under and slap techniques. I think he recognizes this is an area where he needs to improve and wants to learn. If he does incorporate new moves to his game, which already includes impressive explosiveness and effort, McKinley could be one of the best pass rushers in the league. Then a break in the action for commercials......................And then the next guy, Alphabet. Yannick Ngakoue, DE, Jacksonville Jaguars 2018 projection: 12-plus sacks. He has had an impressive two seasons already (20 total sacks), but is still raw. Ngakoue, though immensely talented, still has a lot of moves and techniques that he can add to his repertoire. He is explosive, athletic, cat-quick and has great instincts, but I'd like to see him use his hands more. He's a smaller defensive end (6-2, 246) so opponents want to grab him. He can keep those blockers off of him if he learns more hand techniques. Once he learns how to better use his leverage and things of that nature, he'll be more consistent and could become a great pass rusher for years to come. Even with 12 sacks in 2017, he is just scratching the surface of his potential.
  8. Myles Garrett among young pass rushers set to break out in 2018 By Willie McGinest NFL.com analyst Published: July 20, 2018 at 11:05 a.m. YOUNG BREAKOUTS: PASS RUSHERS With the 2018 NFL season on the horizon, a number of talented players are still playing under rookie contracts. Now is the time to make some future loot! With that in mind, NFL Network analysts LaDainian Tomlinson, Willie McGinest, David Carr and Nate Burleson examined the positions they respectively manned during their playing days to identify youngsters poised for a breakout campaign. Today, Willie McGinest lists, in alphabetical order, young pass rushers to watch in 2018. Derek Barnett, DE, Philadelphia Eagles 2018 projection: 8.5 sacks. I've been a fan of Barnett since he was drafted in 2017 and was happy to see him become an impact player for the Eagles in Year 1. He plays with great leverage, has strong hands and isn't a one-dimensional bull rusher. He's part of a loaded defensive line that includes the likes of Fletcher Cox, Michael Bennett, Brandon Graham and Chris Long, among others, giving Barnett ample opportunity to get to the passer with his athleticism. A potential starter on the right side, I expect Barnett to be more productive in 2018 after recording five sacks as a rookie. Bradley Chubb, OLB, Denver Broncos 2018 projection: Eight sacks. Chubb is a guy I watched closely in this year's draft process. He has exceptional hands and nice lean. His arsenal is already plentiful coming into his rookie campaign and will only improve as he develops. Not to mention, Chubb will line up opposite Von Miller, which certainly never hurts and will allow him a lot of one-on-one opportunities. Miller, along with the team's new pass-rush coach DeMarcus Ware, will refine the rookie's skill set from Day 1. Chubb's in the perfect position to succeed early and often. Myles Garrett, DE, Cleveland Browns 2018 projection: 12-plus sacks. I don't think there's a player at Garrett's position who has his combination of size (6-foot-4, 272 pounds), strength, speed, explosiveness and athleticism. He can lean and bend like a linebacker in a defensive end's body. He uses his hands extremely well -- he has solid swipe and up-and-under moves. Garrett still recorded seven sacks in an injury-riddled, 11-game rookie campaign. If the 2017 No. 1 overall draft pick can stay healthy and plays a full season, I expect him to have a tremendous year as he gets more experience. Takkarist McKinley, DE, Atlanta Falcons 2018 projection: 10 sacks. The one thing that struck me when I first saw McKinleyplay was his explosiveness off the edge. The 6-2, 250-pound defensive end has a great motor and plays with good leverage. Primarily a speed-to-power guy, McKinley's numbers will improve if he adds more moves to his arsenal -- including long arm, up-and-under and slap techniques. I think he recognizes this is an area where he needs to improve and wants to learn. If he does incorporate new moves to his game, which already includes impressive explosiveness and effort, McKinley could be one of the best pass rushers in the league. Then a break in the action for commercials......................And then the next guy, Alphabet. Yannick Ngakoue, DE, Jacksonville Jaguars 2018 projection: 12-plus sacks. He has had an impressive two seasons already (20 total sacks), but is still raw. Ngakoue, though immensely talented, still has a lot of moves and techniques that he can add to his repertoire. He is explosive, athletic, cat-quick and has great instincts, but I'd like to see him use his hands more. He's a smaller defensive end (6-2, 246) so opponents want to grab him. He can keep those blockers off of him if he learns more hand techniques. Once he learns how to better use his leverage and things of that nature, he'll be more consistent and could become a great pass rusher for years to come. Even with 12 sacks in 2017, he is just scratching the surface of his potential.
  9. http://www.nfl.com/videos/good-morning-football/0ap3000000938849/Which-defense-is-the-best-with-the-game-on-the-line
  10. 8 FALCONS The offense ranked eighth in 2017 -- and that could be considered a disappointment, given the level of talent on this unit. I think that relative underperformance can partly be blamed on the need to adjust to new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. But Sarkisian is a very good coach who is basically doing the same things his predecessor, current 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan, was doing, with rhythm being the main difference -- I figure everyone will be on the same page this season. The guards also struggled in 2017, so the Falcons went out and got Brandon Fusco, a veteran who can play anywhere on the line. Rookie receiver Calvin Ridley should make the passing game even better. The key for the ninth-ranked defense will be the continued improvement of youngsters Keanu Neal, Deion Jones and Takk McKinley. Vic Beasley will move back to being a 4-3 edge rusher, which is the position he was in when he racked up 15.5 sacks in 2016. After a down year, quarterback Matt Ryan will revert to the mean -- which, for him, means returning to MVP-status. And then there's receiver Julio Jones, who will go down as one of the top 10 receivers of all time. http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000936085/article/nfls-10-most-talented-teams-eagles-jaguars-lead-the-way
  11. http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000931584/article/dez-bryants-future-prospects-matt-ryan-falcons-debunk-myth
  12. The Atlanta Falcons held the NFL's top scoring offense to 13 points Saturday night in Los Angeles, beating the Rams 26-13 to advance to the NFC Divisional Round to play the Philadelphia Eagles. Here is what you need to know: 1. The Atlanta Falcons didn't blow a lead this time. Dan Quinn's team pounced on an early lead thanks to two Rams special teams turnovers and pulled away late on a Julio Jones touchdown catch. Atlanta's offense wasn't pretty, and didn't sport big plays, but moved the chains in the second half to dominate time of possession 37:34 to 22:26. After a season in which he was consistently criticized, offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian called a wonderful second half at the Coliseum, keeping the L.A. defense off balance. The Falcons powered down the field with Devonta Freeman and pecked away with short passes to dice up the Rams' D. A quick screen pass to Mohamed Sanu that went for 52 yards was a marvelous call by Sark, and it set up the game-clinching dagger to Jones. 2. Quinn's defense deserves much of the credit for the win. The Falcons held Jared Goff to 5.8 yards per attempt and bottled up Todd Gurley most of the night. The MVP candidate bested the century mark, going for 101 rushing yards on 14 carries. But 47 of those yards came on one two-play sequence early in the fourth quarter (those two plays were more than Gurley had on every previous carry combined -- 43). Led by speedy linebacker Deion Jones, the Falcons also pinned down Gurley in the passing game. The running back caught just four passes for 10 yards on 10 targets. Gurley averaged more than 175 scrimmage yards in each of his last five games before his 111 Saturday night. With Gurley stymied the majority of the game, the Rams' high-flying offense, which scored 29.9 points per game in 2017, was grounded by the Falcons' speedy defense. 3. The Rams boasted three special teams players on the 2017 All-Pro team. On Saturday night, the return game let them down. The Rams botched a punt early in the first quarter, leading to a Falcons field goal. Pharoh Cooper, an All-Pro returner, then fumbled a kick return that Atlanta turned into the first touchdown of the game. With both teams starting out sluggish (five straight three-and-outs to open the game) the 10 points off turnovers proved to be devastating for Sean McVay's team. 4. McVay's offense came out of the gate listless. Blame the Rams' poor start to playoff inexperience or a bevy of starters sitting in Week 17 if you must. L.A. earned just one first down in the first quarter and didn't score its first points until 2:34 left in the first half. L.A. went the first 27 minutes without a point, its longest scoring drought of the season. The slow start put the Rams behind the eight ball against an experienced Falcons team. With McVay opting to throw 45 passes to just 16 rushes, it wasn't the same Rams offense most of the season. 5. Breaking News: Julio Jones scored a touchdown! The Falcons' No. 1 receiver scored just three touchdowns all season but earned the game-sealing score in this one. Julio ran a drag route behind the line of scrimmage before turning upfield to snag a looping Matt Ryan pass for the TD. Jones beat up Rams corners on a bevy of underneath passes, catching nine of 10 targets for 94 yards. Behind an injured offensive line, Ryan ran a dink-and-dunk offense that proved effective down the stretch, earning points on Atlanta's first three possessions of the second half to put the game out of reach. 6. The Rams need to hand Aaron Donald a blank check. The game-wrecking defensive tackle destroyed the Falcons' offensive line all night, living in the backfield. The Defensive Player of the Year candidate earned just .5 sacks, five tackles and one tackle for loss. The box score does a disservice to how Donald disrupted the game. He constantly beat double teams and was in Ryan's face seemingly every play. Donald deserves to be made the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL this offseason. 7. Robert Woods was the best player for the Rams' offense, totaling 142 yards on nine catches. The big-play receiver made some gorgeous grabs for his quarterback, including laying out for a 38-yarder to set up a field goal before the end of the half to cut the lead to 13-10. Jared Goff threw a few dimes -- touchdown to Cooper Kupp, pinpoint sideline dart to Woods -- but couldn't find a rhythm. The second-year quarterback was under pressure in the pocket much of the night, completing just 53 percent of his passes for 259 yards and a TD. Sammy Watkins had a night to forget as he heads to free agency, catching just one pass for 23 yards on four targets. 8. Long live Matt Bryant. The Falcons kicker carried the scoring load when the Falcons' offense sputtered in scoring range. Bryant nailed all four of his field-goal attempts, two from beyond 50 yards. 9. Atlanta heads to Philadelphia for a Divisional Round matchup versus Nick Foles and the Eagles. http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000903555/article/matt-ryan-falcons-upset-rams-will-play-eagles-next
  13. http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000903630/article/falcons-right-where-we-want-to-be-after-beating-rams
  14. http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000901612/article/opponents-for-each-team-set-for-2018-nfl-season Main differences Atl: vs. Cardinals, at Packers NO: vs. Rams, at Vikings Car: vs Seattle, at Lions TB: vs. 49ers, at Bears NFC South plays NFC East and AFC North, and, as usual, each other twice.
  15. http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000881019/article/matt-ryan-helps-resilient-falcons-regain-swagger SEATTLE -- Matt Ryan stood on the rain-drenched CenturyLink Field turf and surveyed the opposing defense, detecting a gaping-wide gap in the depleted Legion Of Boom. And then the veteran quarterback's eyes lit up, and he prepared to receive a shotgun snap and air-mail a leather package to the NFL's most imposing pass-catching beast. It was third-and-6 at his own 42-yard-line; it was midway through the fourth quarter of Monday night's game, with the Atlanta Falcons holding a 31-23 lead over the Seattle Seahawks; and it was time for the league's reigning MVP to become Matty Ice. "Those are the plays you have to hit," Ryan told me later. "You've got the safety in the center, and one-on-one bump coverage on the outside, and they've got a couple of guys out in the secondary. So yeah, I'm keeping my eyes to the center to freeze the safety and then throwing it to Julio on the outside and letting him go get it." Standing tall in the pocket as the Seahawks blitzed, Ryan executed the play to perfection, looping a glorious pass that All-Pro receiver Julio Jones hauled in over his shoulder just inside the right sideline for a 29-yard gain. With cornerback Jeremy Lane trailing a foot behind him and safety Bradley McDougald closing fast from the middle of the field, Jones made the crucial catch which gave the Falcons a first down at the Seattle 29. Not insignificant was the reality that Richard Sherman, the star cornerback who typically shadows Jones, watched helplessly from the same sideline as he rested his surgically repaired foot atop a medical knee scooter. "It's all about winning matchups," Jones said afterward. "I'm just trying to beat my man. Matt delivered a great ball." A few minutes later, the Falcons had a 34-23 lead thanks to Matt Bryant's 19-yard field goal. And a few minutes after that -- as Blair Walsh's 52-yard field goal attempt fell just short of the crossbar -- Atlanta had survived the Seahawks' frenetic comeback effort and escaped with a 34-31 victory. Suddenly, after a messy first half of the 2017 season, the Falcons (6-4) are back in the NFC playoff chase -- though third in the NFC South, they'd be the sixth seed if the season ended today -- and can harbor non-illusory hopes of defending their conference championship. With consecutive victories over the Dallas Cowboys and Seahawks, Atlanta is starting to regain some of the consistency and confidence that seemed missing through the season's first two months. Given that the Falcons have had to contend with perhaps the most agonizing Super Bowl hangover in football history, having blown a 28-3 lead to the New England Patriots last February in unfathomable fashion, it's not entirely surprising that they started slowly this season. On Monday, in front of 69,026 revved up fans and a thoroughly entertained television audience, Ryan and his teammates reminded everyone that they've still got some juice. "We're getting our swagger back," said Jones, who caught five passes for 71 yards against a Seahawks secondary that was also missing standout safety Kam Chancellor. "Last year's last year -- but you can't win games off last year, and it can't do anything for this year. We're just trying to get it going and get an identity as the 2017 Falcons." For the first time since late September, when Atlanta completed a 3-0 start at the mercy of NFC North opponents before dropping four of their next five, the 2017 Falcons appear capable of soaring. With five of their six remaining games against NFC South foes, catching the New Orleans Saints (8-2) and Carolina Panthers (7-3) is well within the realm of possibility. "There's a lot in front of us in a short amount of time," Pro Bowl center Alex Mack said. "We totally have the ability to play as well as we want to play. We're as good as we want to be. We showed that the last two games." Before Monday's game, Falcons coach Dan Quinn -- a former Seahawks defensive coordinator -- talked to his players about coming out aggressively and setting a tenacious tone. That had not been the case during the two teams' meeting at CenturyLink during the 2016 regular season, when the Seahawks jumped out to a 17-3 advantage before pulling out a 26-24 victory -- an outcome Atlanta reversed in a 36-20 divisional-round playoff triumph at the Georgia Dome last January. This time, even with Pro Bowl running back Devonta Freeman sidelined by a concussion, the Falcons were the ones who thrived from the jump. With Sherman (torn Achilles) lost for the season and Chancellor (neck) soon likely to join him on IR, the Seahawks were ill-prepared to endure the head injury that knocked rookie cornerback Shaquill Griffin from the game on Monday's second play from scrimmage. Though Ryan (19 of 27, 195 yards) didn't put up overly impressive stats, he went after the diminished Seattle secondary early, drawing a 25-yard pass interception penalty on Lane to set up the Falcons' first touchdown, and throwing a two-yard scoring pass to Mohamed Sanu to give Atlanta a 14-0 lead with 7:52 remaining in the first quarter. "We talked about coming out and going," Mack said. "That was important. We did a pretty good job of that -- coming out hot and keeping the pressure on." Said Ryan: "Tonight was good... starting fast, especially in an environment like that. We had execution from the start and sustained it for four quarters. That's progress." The Seahawks (6-4), as is their custom, willed their way back into the game. Seattle trailed 24-17 at the half, a deficit that could have been smaller were it not for an ill-fated fake field goal call by head coach Pete Carroll 10 seconds before halftime: With Seattle facing fourth-and-1 from the Atlanta 17, Walsh came on for an apparent 35-yard attempt, but holder Jon Ryan flipped the ball to fellow Canada native Luke Willson, and the tight end was stuffed by the Falcons' Grady Jarrett for a four-yard loss. It was the most farcical Canadian connection since the heyday of Doug and Bob McKenzie, and plenty of Seahawks fans felt like calling Carroll a hoser during the intermission. In the second half, Russell Wilson (26 of 42, 258 yards, two touchdowns; seven rushes, 86 yards, one TD) threw everything he had at the Falcons' defense, but Ryan answered the challenge. His 25-yard touchdown pass to tight end Levine Toilolo, which gave the Falcons a 31-20 lead midway through the third quarter, was a thing of beauty: after sliding to his right and looking toward halfback Tevin Coleman, he lofted a perfect ball to the left side of the end zone. And on that pivotal third-and-6 play, there was no question where Ryan wanted to go. "If I hadn't thrown to Julio," Ryan said, laughing, "I'd have heard about it afterward." Said Mack: "That's definitely a cheat code. They're a special pair." After Seattle nearly made up an 11-point deficit in the final 3:49, with Walsh's potential overtime-forcing field goal falling just short, Ryan felt a little bit better about a season that -- in his eyes -- hasn't been as sloppy as commonly perceived. "I feel like we've been a lot closer than a lot of people give us credit for," Matty Ice said. "But you've gotta do it, period -- that's the bottom line. There's definitely a sense of urgency to get stuff done, but there's no panic. Every inch counts. We saw that tonight. And I believe it's closer to being really, really good than most people think." The 2016 Falcons will always be remembered as the team that came painfully close to winning a championship, only to let it slip away. On Monday night in Seattle, the 2017 Falcons fended off a furious comeback and kept their title aspirations alive -- and their quarterback lived up to his nickname at a very opportune time.
  16. Falcons 30, Lions 26 1. Matthew Stafford came up a hair shy of another fourth-quarter come-from-behind victory. Trailing by four points, Stafford drove Detroit to the 1-yard-line with 12 seconds to play. Catching a quick slant, Golden Tate appeared to dive into the end zone. After officials reviewed the play, however, it was deemed the receiver was touched down just short of the goal-line, taking the score off the board. With only eight seconds remaining on the clock, by rule a 10-second runoff ended the game. 2. Devonta Freeman showed he was worth the big-money contract he signed this offseason. The bulldozing running back was a menace, trucking defenders to the tune of 106 rushing yards and a touchdown on 21 totes. Freeman powered the offense up and down the field, churning out yards for a Falcons offense that didn't punt until late in the fourth quarter. When the Lions loaded up the secondary to stop Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu, Freeman made them pay. Credit the Falcons' offensive interior for opening huge lanes up the gut, and setting the edge to spring Freeman and Tevin Coleman on a bevy of stretch runs and sweeps. 3. Matt Ryan had gone 309 straight passes without throwing an interception. Then the Falconsquarterback tossed three in 15 throws. The first was a pick-six that safety Glover Quin read the whole way. The latter two were deflected passes that landed in the arms of corner Darius Slay. The turnovers allowed the Lions to stay in a game that Atlanta controlled handily most of the afternoon. The Falcons offense was a balanced force. Outside of two sacks given up by replacement right tackle Ty Sambrailo, the offensive line dominated. It's clear after the last two weeks, Atlanta's high-flying offense will be fine under Steve Sarkisian. http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000850454/article/what-we-learned-from-sundays-week-3-games
  17. http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000830381/article/vernon-hargreaves-tj-watt-among-rising-defensive-players Demontae Kazee. Haven't heard much talk about his progression on the boards. Ike Taylor seems to really like this guy. What do people on the boards think about how he has been progressing in our system?
  18. 3) Atlanta Falcons: Matt Ryan (No. 8 QB), Devonta Freeman (14) & Julio Jones (2) Previous rank: No. 14 Forget about Kyle Shanahan's play-calling in the second half of Super Bowl LI and instead focus on what's ahead: Will the reigning MVP continue to thrive without Shanahan as his offensive coordinator? The answer is very likely yes, thanks to Freeman (and his partner, Tevin Coleman) and the historically transcendent talent of Jones. http://www.nfl.com/photoessays/0ap3000000823246/triplets-rankings-steelers-cowboys-rule
  19. http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000822869/article/atlanta-falcons-sure-dont-seem-prone-to-super-bowl-hangover Atlanta Falcons sure don't seem prone to Super Bowl hangover Print By Tom Pelissero NFL.com reporter Published: July 28, 2017 at 12:32 p.m. 0 Likes | 0 Comments Read FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Until the Atlanta Falcons close out their next big game, the "Super Bowlhangover" questions are going to be there. Until Matt Ryan shows his MVP surge last season wasn't an anomaly, and Steve Sarkisian fills the sizeable shoes of departed offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, and a young defense plays for a full season like it did for 2 1/2 playoff games (hopefully better), there's really nothing the Falcons can do to squash that storyline outside the building. And they get it. That's why coach Dan Quinn tried to tackle the issue head-on in the offseason. He spread messaging weeks after their 34-28 loss to the New England Patriots about prizefighters learning to counterpunch. He opened a vent session at the first team meeting in April for anyone who wanted to get something off his chest about how a 25-point lead infamously slipped away. It's no coincidence players answered those questions from the media in the spring. Quinn didn't want anyone to run from this, even if Super Bowl LI is generally referred to here as "the last game" -- i.e., the one everyone in football uses each week to make corrections, improve and then move on. "Look, I'm extremely confident in how Dan Quinn is approaching this as a head coach, how his staff is feeding off of him and how the players are feeding off of Dan and his staff," Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff told me on reporting day. "It is like this really interesting energy that, we faced it, we talked about it and we are completely focused on '17. We all know the line: 'You win, you win. You lose, you learn.' And of course, that's where our head was and we've learned a lot from the process and that's where we are moving forward." Said Quinn: "I'm real proud of the way the team stepped up. We took ownership of the things and the lessons that we learned from last [season] and through the Super Bowl, through the offseason, and now we get to go apply that. So, it's not a matter of redemption or any of that. This is, how good can we get? And we think we can get a lot better." Here's the thing about hangovers: They're easier to get over when you're young. Yeah, these are human beings, and it hurts when emotions and pride take a hit. I vividly remember Falcons safety Ricardo Allen at a podium back in February, despondent over what had just transpired, saying he was broken inside and the collapse will "always be haunting." So much has to fall right just to have the opportunity to win a title. You might never get that shot again. But Atlanta's window isn't closing. Truth be told, it probably opened a year early. And after a couple days around the team, you begin to understand how the Falcons' leadership can sell the idea they're just getting started ... » Every key player is back from a historically great 2016 offense -- one of five in NFL history to average over 33 points and 415 yards per game. Only fullback and right guard will have new starters. Almost all the skill players are still ascending. And the two most important players, Ryan and star receiver Julio Jones, are in their prime at ages 32 and 28, respectively. » Sarkisian isn't Shanahan, who might be the NFL's best at scheming people open (gripes about his play-calling late in the Super Bowl notwithstanding). After a rocky first year together, Ryan was automatic last season, knowing Shanahan's system enough to anticipate that open man and get the ball there quickly. His numbers (69.9 percent completions, 9.3 yards per attempt, 117.1 passer rating) soared past any from his previous eight seasons. Shanahan's now head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, but the Falcons aren't scrapping the system -- holdovers on the coaching staff taught it to Sarkisian. And so far, word is Sarkisian's personality has fit well in the building and with his QB. "Their relationship has been a good one," Quinn said. "Matt was real specific on things that he really likes, and Sark also did a good job of knowing these are some things [he likes]." » There isn't a projected starter on defense older than 28. Seven are in Years 1, 2 or 3 (eight if you include nickel corner Brian Poole). Built in the mold of Quinn's prior defense in Seattle, Deion Jones is the Falcons' Bobby Wagner, Keanu Neal is their Kam Chancellor and De'Vondre Campbell is their K.J. Wright. Vic Beasley just led the NFL with 15 1/2 sacks in his second pro season. Jones and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, among others, made a ton of plays down the stretch as a defense that finished last season 25th in yards allowed and 27th in points yielded showed signs of coming together -- against the likes of Seattle's Russell Wilson and Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers, no less. The Falcons hope to get instant impact from their top two draft picks, defensive end Takk McKinley and linebacker Duke Riley. They also signed nose tackle Dontari Poe and get back top cornerback Desmond Trufant, who missed 10 games last season with a torn pec. (Think Trufant could've made a play or two as Tom Brady carved up his young replacements during the comeback?) » That young defense improved after essentially going through a midseason coordinator change in 2016 when Richard Smith got benched (but not fired until after the season). Quinn called plays the rest of the way, but then-secondary coach Marquand Manuel helped before getting promoted. The energy Manuel, 38, brings was obvious in Thursday's competition-oriented opening practice. Who knows how it'll work out, but not having another awkward play-calling swap can't hurt. » From his early days as an NFL defensive line coach, Quinn had a reputation for being able to relate to anybody in the locker room: black or white, city guys or country guys, whatever. The "brotherhood" concept the Falcons talk about really does seem to resonate, in every corner of the building. And in the locker room, it helps that guys the Falcons have paid big -- Ryan, Jones, Trufant, center Alex Mack -- also stand tall as examples for their teammates. (The Falcons want to add running back Devonta Freeman to that list, but his agent left town without a contract extension this week. Freeman reported anyway.) People keep bringing up comparisons to the NFC South rival Carolina Panthers, who got shoved around by the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50 and then face-planted to 6-10 last season. But was that the product of some intangible hangover? Or was it fallout from a stunning decision to remove the franchise tag from cornerback Josh Norman, and their MVP Cam Newtongetting beat up from Week 1 behind an undermanned offensive line, and star linebacker Luke Kuechly missing six games because of a concussion, and continued reliance on older veterans entering decline? Sure, things could fall apart for the Falcons, too. Maybe Ryan comes back to earth, or the coordinator changes don't work out, or young defenders don't make the leaps expected, or injuries strike, or some combination of those and other problems nobody can predict in July. That's the nature of the NFL. But there's no reason to think these Falcons aren't capable of picking up where they left off six months ago, in the middle of the third quarter on the game's biggest stage in Houston. Follow Tom Pelissero on Twitter @TomPelissero.
  20. Projected Starters NFC South projected starters: No Super Bowl hangover in Atlanta By Gregg Rosenthal Around The NFL Editor Published: May 17, 2017 at 11:14 a.m. Updated: May 17, 2017 at 04:54 p.m. Gregg Rosenthal will project post-draft starting lineups for all 32 teams with 100 percent accuracy or your money back. Atlanta Falcons QB: Matt Ryan RB: Devonta Freeman WR: Julio Jones WR: Mohamed Sanu WR: Taylor Gabriel TE: Austin Hooper LT: Jake Matthews LG: Andy Levitre C: Alex Mack RG: Wes Schweitzer RT: Ryan Schraeder DE: Vic Beasley Jr. DT: Dontari Poe DT: Grady Jarrett DE: Adrian Clayborn OLB: Duke Riley MLB: Deion Jones OLB: De'Vondre Campbell CB: Desmond Trufant CB: Robert Alford S: Keanu Neal S: Ricardo Allen » The Falcons essentially didn't lose anyone of significance from their NFC championship team. This is a young, deep squad with great continuity. The only new starter on offense is right guard Wes Schweitzer. (There is a change at fullback, but even a Pro Bowler like Patrick DiMarco only played 30 percent of the team's snaps.) If things crumble, it's fair to pin any struggles on the departure of coordinator Kyle Shanahan. This team is loaded otherwise. » The defense also returned all the key parts and added some compelling pieces like free-agent defensive tackle Dontari Poe, first-round pick Takkarist McKinley and third-rounder Duke Riley. The Falcons are set up to make those Super Bowl hangover articles look silly. » Give Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff credit for continuing to aggressively address the pass-rush issues. While Vic Beasley may be the only consistent edge defender who can win one-on-one matchups, the Falcons have depth: Adrian Clayborn, Brooks Reed, Derrick Shelby and McKinley are all versatile talents who can play different positions in three- or four-man fronts. » Beasley and Reed, for instance, could be listed as outside linebackers or defensive ends. Almost every Falcons front-line player can move around. Look for Campbell, who was impressive as a rookie, to move to strong-side linebacker while Riley, Deion Jones' teammate in college, takes the weak side. » The depth extends throughout the defense. Brian Poole and Jalen Collins round out a nice four-pack at cornerback. Almost every position except safety has a solid backup plan. In Year 3 of the Dan Quinn era, the coach has a full complement of his style of players. There's no excuse for the Falcons to finish 27th in points allowed again. » Devonta Freeman is right. He and Tevin Coleman comprise the best running back duo in football. » If Austin Hooper develops as expected, this offense will be even tougher to stop. Carolina Panthers QB: Cam Newton RB: Jonathan Stewart RB: Christian McCaffrey WR: Kelvin Benjamin WR: Devin Funchess TE: Greg Olsen LT: Matt Kalil LG: Andrew Norwell C: Ryan Kalil RG: Trai Turner RT: Daryl Williams DE: Mario Addison DT: Kawann Short DT: Star Lotulelei DE: Charles Johnson OLB: Thomas Davis MLB: Luke Kuechly MLB: Shaq Thompson CB: James Bradberry CB: Daryl Worley S: Kurt Coleman S: Mike Adams » I have Julius Peppers coming off the bench in his return to Carolina. In the end, Mario Addison, Charles Johnson and Peppers should share snaps evenly. Addison is the youngest of the group (29 years old) and is making the most money, so he's the safest bet to play the most downs. » This is the only team listed with two projected starting running backs. But the whole point of taking Christian McCaffrey at No. 8 overall is that he's not just a running back, right? It's easy to imagine a lot of formations where second-round pick Curtis Samuel and McCaffrey are both in the lineup at the same time, whether they are next to each other or across the formation. Jonathan Stewart will still get plenty of carries, but his workload should be diminished. McCaffrey and Samuel should wind up taking snaps from Funchess and even Benjamin. » The transition to a faster, more versatile offense makes it particularly costly that Cam Newton is spending the offseason recovering from shoulder surgery. This is supposed to be the offseason where Newton evolves away from many of the zone-read principles that have helped define the Panthers' offense. » Michael Oher is not listed at right tackle. His concussion issues make his future career prospects uncertain. Second-round pick Taylor Moton is practicing as a tackle and could wind up starting on the right side. » Mike Adams is one of the keys to this defense holding up. The Panthers signed the 36-year-old to start at safety, and there isn't much depth behind him. New Orleans Saints QB: Drew Brees RB: Mark Ingram WR: Michael Thomas WR: Willie Snead WR: Ted Ginn TE: Coby Fleener LT: Terron Armstead LG: Andrus Peat C: Max Unger RG: Larry Warford RT: Zach Strief DE: Cameron Jordan DT: Nick Fairley DT: Sheldon Rankins DE: Alex Okafor OLB: Dannell Ellerbe MLB: A.J. Klein CB: Delvin Breaux CB: Marshon Lattimore CB: P.J. Williams S: Kenny Vaccaro S: Vonn Bell » Adrian Peterson may be on the field to take the first carry of the season in Minnesota, because Sean Payton loves drama and symbolism. But Mark Ingram is a better bet for more snaps during the year, because he knows the system and is more versatile. They should wind up splitting snaps and driving fantasy owners crazy, especially when third-round pick Alvin Kamara comes in to perform Darren Sproles' old role in the offense. » If Kamara is the new Sproles, then Ted Ginn is the new Devery Henderson. In Michael Thomas, Willie Snead, Brandon Coleman and Ginn, Drew Brees has a receiver group with incredible variety. Combine that gang with the deep backfield, and this can be the best Saints offense since 2011. » Ryan Ramczyk was a disappointing first-round pick to many Saints fans (and coaches) who wanted the team to draft linebacker Reuben Foster. Ramczyk, however, could wind up starting at right tackle and provides valuable insurance, considering Terron Armstead's injury history. » The Saints' problems almost never change. They don't know who will start opposite Cameron Jordan, they have few edge rushers and they have question marks at linebacker. They are throwing a lot of players against the wall at linebacker (A.J. Klein, Manti Te'o, Alex Anzalone, Stephone Anthony, Craig Robertson, etc.) in the hopes that someone sticks. This approach hasn't worked in the past. » It's not as if the Saints are embracing their status in the NFL ecosystem as a terrible defensive team. They believe they are better and improved last year under Dennis Allen, becoming a garden-variety bottom-five defense rather than a historically bad group. There is some reason for optimism. Squint hard and you can make the case this is the best secondary in the division. The defensive tackle duo is a plus. (Squinting can stop now.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB: Jameis Winston RB: Jacquizz Rodgers* WR: Mike Evans WR: DeSean Jackson WR: Adam Humphries TE: O.J. Howard LT: Donovan Smith LG: J.R. Sweezy C: Ali Marpet RG: Kevin Pamphile RT: Demar Dotson DE: Noah Spence DT: Gerald McCoy DT: Chris Baker DE: William Gholston OLB: Lavonte David MLB: Kwon Alexander OLB: Kendell Beckwith CB: Brent Grimes CB: Vernon Hargreaves S: J.J. Wilcox S: Justin Evans » In a league full of dinks and dunks, coach Dirk Koetter and Jameis Winston are fixing to go deep with impunity. It's not just Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson who can get vertical. Rookie Chris Godwin and tight ends O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate can all make big plays down the field. » Jacquizz Rodgers is listed as the team's starting running back because Doug Martin is suspended for the first three games of the season. The reports about Martin's return to the field have been glowing. I'd usually be skeptical of such offseason fluffery, but the same was said about Martin all offseason before his career year in 2015. Rodgers and Charles Sims figure to split the work until Martin returns. » The Bucs' best hope for offensive line improvement comes from Ali Marpet transitioning to center with the healthy return of J.R. Sweezy. This is an average tackle combination at best and a group that quietly sunk this offense for much of last season. » Tampa's defensive line looks better than it has since Monte Kiffin's heyday. Noah Spence is primed to break out and the addition of Chris Baker gives the team flexibility. Gerald McCoy has the ability to put together a Defensive Player of the Year season. There is even quality depth up front, with Robert Ayers and Clinton McDonald not listed above. » Kendell Beckwith is coming off a torn ACL, but he was drafted to shore up a trouble spot at linebacker next to Kwon Alexander. » Only two cornerbacks were listed because I have no clue who the team's nickel cornerback will be. This position could sink the Bucs. There is no depth behind 2016 first-rounder Vernon Hargreaves and 34-year-old No. 1 cornerback Brent Grimes, who played well beyond his age last year. It's hard to imagine Grimes backing that season up. » At least the team is deep at safety. With second-round pick Justin Evans already impressing, last year's starters Keith Tandy and Chris Conte could be coming off the bench.
  21. http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000807436/article/texans-cowboys-among-most-vulnerable-division-winners
  22. Here are the top remaining players in the 2017 NFL Draft, based on NFL Media senior analyst Gil Brandt's rankings of the top 150 prospects (number by player's name is where Brandt had them originally ranked). 15. Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama 25. Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State 27. Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida 28. Kevin King, CB, Washington 32. Chidobe Awuzie, CB, Colorado 33. DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame 35. Curtis Samuel, RB, Ohio State 36. JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, USC 38. Marcus Williams, S, Utah 39. Josh Jones, S, North Carolina State 40. Jordan Willis, DE, Kansas State 41. Forrest Lamp, G, Western Kentucky 44. Marcus Maye, S, Florida 45. Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State 46. Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt 47. Tim Williams, LB, Alabama 48. Chris Wormley, DE, Michigan 49. Ryan Anderson, OLB, Alabama 50. Dan Feeney, OL, Indiana 51. Chris Godwin, WR, Penn State 52. Pat Elflein, C, Ohio State 53. Justin Evans, S, Texas A&M 54. Ethan Pocic, C, LSU 55. Budda Baker, S, Washington 56. Dorian Johnson, OL, Pittsburgh 57. Daeshon Hall, DE, Texas A&M 58. Davon Godchaux, DT, LSU 59. Tedric Thompson, S, Colorado 61. Jourdan Lewis, CB, Michigan 62. Zay Jones, WR, East Carolina 63. Cooper Kupp, WR, Eastern Washington 64. Malachi Dupre, WR, LSU 65. Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma 66. Teez Tabor, CB, Florida 67. Dion Dawkins, OL, Temple 68. Tyus Bowser, OLB, Houston 69. Obi Melifonwu, S, Connecticut 70. Desmond King, CB, Iowa 71. ArDarius Stewart, WR, Alabama 72. Dalvin Tomlinson, DT, Alabama 73. Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State 74. Jordan Leggett, TE, Clemson 75. Dawuane Smoot, DE, Illinois 76. Josh Malone, WR, Tennessee 77. Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn 78. Duke Riley, OLB, LSU 79. Alvin Kamara, RB, Tennessee 80. Sidney Jones, CB, Washington 81. Brian Hill, RB, Wyoming 82. Davis Webb, QB, Cal 83. Joshua Dobbs, QB, Tennessee 84. Isaac Asiata, OG, Utah 85. Cam Sutton, CB, Tennessee 86. Zach Banner, OT, USC 87. Jeremy Sprinkle, TE, Arkansas 88. D'Onta Foreman, RB, Texas 89. Josh Reynolds, WR, Texas A&M 90. Vince Biegel, LB, Wisconsin 91. James Conner, RB, Pittsburgh 92. Roderick Johnson, OT, Florida State 93. Alex Anzalone, LB, Florida 94. Shaquill Griffin, CB, Central Florida 95. Jaleel Johnson, DT, Iowa 96. Tanoh Kpassagnon, DE, Villanova 97. Julie'n Davenport, OT, Bucknell 98. Dede Westbrook, WR, Oklahoma 99. Nathan Peterman, QB, Pittsburgh 100. David Sharpe, OT, Florida 101. Caleb Brantley, DT, Florida 102. George Kittle, TE, Iowa 103. Ricky Seals-Jones, TE, Texas A&M 104. Fabian Moreau, CB, UCLA 105. Gerald Everett, TE, South Alabama 106. Ishmael Zamora, WR, Baylor 107. Bucky Hodges, TE, Virginia Tech 108. Chad Hansen, WR, Cal 109. Taylor Moton, OL, Western Michigan 110. Nazair Jones, DT, North Carolina 111. Nico Siragusa, OL, San Diego State 112. DeMarcus Walker, DL, FSU 113. Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami 114. John Johnson, S, Boston College 115. Kendell Beckwith, ILB, LSU 116. KD Cannon, WR, Baylor 117. Kenny Golladay, WR, Northern Illinois 118. Jake Butt, TE, Michigan 119. Danny Isidora, OG, Miami 120. Adam Shaheen, TE, Ashland 121. Cordrea Tankersley, CB, Clemson 122. Carlos Watkins, DT, Clemson 123. Montravius Adams, DT, Auburn 124. Carlos Henderson, WR-KR, Louisiana Tech 125. Amara Darboh, WR, Michigan 126. Anthony Walker, LB, Northwestern 127. Tarell Basham, DE, Ohio 128. Taywan Taylor, WR, Western Kentucky 129. Derek Rivers, DE, Youngstown St. 130. Donnel Pumphrey, RB, San Diego St. 131. Antonio Garcia, OT, Troy 132. Howard Wilson, CB, Houston 133. Kareem Hunt, RB, Toledo 134. Jehu Chesson, WR, Michigan 135. Jessamen Dunker, OG, Tennessee St. 136. Fadol Brown, DE, Ole Miss 137. Collin Buchanan, OT, Miami (Ohio) 138. Avery Gennesy, OT, Texas A&M 139. Larry Ogunjobi, OT, UNC-Charlotte 140. Jonnu Smith, TE, Florida International 141. Shelton Gibson, WR, West Virginia 142. Jeremy McNichols, RB, Boise St. 143. Mack Hollins, WR, North Carolina 144. Tarik Cohen, RB-KR, North Carolina A&T 145. Jalen Myrick, CB, Minnesota 146. Zane Gonzalez, K, Arizona State 147. Brandon Barnes, TE, Alabama St. 148. Ben Gedeon, ILB, Michigan 149. Ahkello Witherspoon, CB, Colorado 150. C.J. Beathard, QB, Iowa
  23. Yea.. It looks like KC and the STeelers are high on him too Again with the round thing... Temas had Keanu Neal as a 2nd or 3rd rounder and had deion jones as a 3rd rounder... The cowboys had both as a 3rd round pick last year and we know how that turned out . http://www.bloggingtheboys.com/2016/7/18/12208248/all-seven-rounds-of-dallas-cowboys-2016-draft-board-possibly-revealed Round 1 (1-16) Round 2 (17-40) Round 3 (41-66) Round 4 (67-92) Player Pos Pick Player Pos Pick Player Pos Pick Player Pos Pick Ezekiel Elliott RB 1-4 Josh Doctson WR 1-22 Maliek Collins DT 3-67 Cyrus Jones CB 2-60 Jalen Ramsey CB 1-5 Corey Coleman WR 1-15 Keanu Neal S 1-17 Kenyan Drake RB 3-73 Laremy Tunsil OT 1-13 Karl Joseph S 1-14 Tyler Boyd WR 2-55 Connor McGovern OG 5-144 Joey Bosa DE 1-3 Kenny Clark DT 1-27 William Jackson III CB 1-24 Pharoh Cooper WR 4-117 Jaylon Smith LB 2-34 Artie Burns CB 1-25 Xavien Howard CB 2-38 Anthony Brown CB 6-189 Myles Jack LB 2-36 Derrick Henry RB 2-45 Jihad Ward DE 2-44 Charles Tapper DE 4-101 Carson Wentz QB 1-2 Kendall Fuller CB 3-84 illegible Jonathan Bullard DT 3-72 Leonard Floyd OLB 1-9 Taylor Decker OT 1-16 Joshua Garnett OG 1-28 Kenneth Dixon RB 4-134 Jared Goff QB 1-1 Vernon Butler DT 1-30 Deion Jones OLB 2-52 C.J. Prosise RB 3-90 Sheldon Rankins DT 1-12 Kevin Dodd DE 2-33 Darian Thompson S 3-71 Jeff Driskel QB 6-207 Shaq Lawson DE 1-19 A'Shawn Robinson DT 2-46 Quinton Jefferson DT 5-147 Dak Prescott QB 4-135 Paxton Lynch QB 1-26 Jarran Reed DT 2-49 Paul Perkins RB 5-149 KeiVarae Russell CB 3-74 Vernon Hargreaves CB 1-11 Laquon Treadwell WR 1-23 Adolphus Washington DT 3-80 Joe Thuney OG 3-78 Eli Apple CN 1-10 Will Fuller WR 1-21 Ronald Blair DE 5-142 Kavon Frazier S 6-212 DeForest Buckner DE 1-7 Su'a Cravens LB 2-53 Shon Coleman OT 3-76 Graham Glasgow OC 3-95 Ronnie Stanley OT 1-6 Darron Lee LB 1-20 Cody Whitehair OG 2-56 LeShaun Sims CB 5-157 Germain Ifedi OG 1-31 Vonn Bell FS 2-61 Isaac Seumalo OG 3-79 Jack Conklin OT 1-8 Jordan Howard RB 5-150 James Bradberry CB 2-62 Emmanuel Ogbah DE 2-32 Nick Martin OG 2-50 Leonte Carroo WR 3-86 Ryan Kelly OC 1-18 Nick Vannett TE 3-94 Braxton Miller WR 3-85 Connor Cook QB 4-100 Devontae Booker RB 4-136 Joe Schobert LB 4-99 Hunter Henry TE 2-35 Mackensie Alexander CB 2-54 Nick Vigil LB 3-87 Reggie Ragland LB 2-41 Jason Spriggs OT 2-48 illegible Austin Johnson DT 2-43 Jacoby Brissett QB 3-91 Andrew Billings DT 4-122 Michael Thomas WR 2-47 illegible Shilique Calhoun DE 3-75 Max Tuerk OC 3-66 We are pciking at the end of each round..... We just have to focus on continuing to add young talent
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