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Found 14 results

  1. CB Kendall Sheffield reminds me of Panthers CB Donte Jackson in that both of them are track stars who happens to play football. Both uses their speed to stay in the hip pocket of the receiver they are covering. Jackson went in the 2nd round of last year draft and I believe Sheffield would have gone anywhere from the 2nd to the 3rd if he didn't injury himself at the combine. This is what was said about Jackson pre-draft.
  2. FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – In the middle of an early morning workout on Thursday morning, it all clicked for Thomas Dimitroff in terms of what the Falcons will do with the No. 14 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. “I’m thinking, ‘Yeah, this is [the] person we’re going to take,’” Dimitroff said. “It’s kind of interesting when it hits you.” Going into his 12th draft as Atlanta’s general manger, Dimitroff has this down to a science. A week out from the draft, the Falcons’ draft board is pretty much set. The week leading up to the draft is more about the final touches and conversations with other general managers about potential trades. “We like to have our front board quite clean and really dialed in,” Dimitroff said. “That’s where we are right now. We’re putting the final touches on everything.” Sure, there’s the possibility the Falcons could be given new information on a prospect that could change things in the final week, but for the most part, Dimitroff knows exactly who he wants to draft come April 25th. The question on draft night won’t be regarding which prospect the Falcons hope to draft, it’s more about if he’ll be available. If not, where do the Falcons go next? That’s the main question Dimitroff has to prepare for. And that’s why Dimitroff is a firm believer in not entering the weekend stuck on just one prospect. “At times, you might not get exactly who you want,” Dimitroff said. “You hope to have two, three or four guys that you really do want. That’s a big thing for me to be positive about. If you’re only focused on one person and that doesn’t work, that’s a tough thing to be in the room, everyone can feel the energy.” Dimitroff said during his tenure as Falcons’ general manager, there has not been a time where he’s had a “womp womp” moment after not landing his desired prospect. When it comes to the draft, the Falcons don’t operate solely as a “needs-based” team. That’s not to say Dimitroff and head coach Dan Quinn won’t address specific positions of need, but if the highest-graded player on their board is available at a position that might not be viewed as a top need, they’ll take that player over a lower-graded player at the position of need. “Of course, we’re needs based [but with] that said, we’re not just going to go after someone because we need that position,” Dimitroff said. “We need to make sure that talent is matching what is on the board. We’ll never just randomly pick someone because we need a defensive end or whatever position. That’s not going to be the way it is.” Atlanta selecting Calvin Ridley in the first round is an example of Dimitroff’s strategy. Wide receiver wasn’t necessarily the top need for the Falcons heading into the 2018 NFL Draft, but Ridley was too good of a player to pass up. The Falcons’ positional needs are pretty clear to this point: Tackle, defensive tackle, defensive end and cornerback. Three of those positions are viewed as the strengths of the draft. “This is a unique year,” Dimitroff said. “Defensive line is heavy [in talent] as well as [the] offensive line.” The Falcons have nine picks to use in this year’s draft which takes place on April 25th at 8 p.m. ET in Nashville, Tenn.
  3. Early Bird Report: Todd McShay's perfect three-round mock draft for the Falcons Will McFadden Tuesday, Apr 09, 2019 09:59 AM FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today’s Early Bird Report includes Todd McShay’s perfect three-round mock draft for the Falcons as well as the biggest draft question for Atlanta. The NFL Draft is still a few weeks away, but teams already have a very clear notion of how they want to approach draft weekend. What will it take for the Falcons to nail the draft? That’s a question ESPN’s Todd McShay sought to answer in his best-case scenario mock draft, in which he played general manager for all 32 NFL teams for three rounds and selected the player he viewed as the best available selection for each team. For Atlanta, McShay has the Falcons drafting former Clemson defensive tackle Christian Wilkins in the first round, former Kansas State offensive tackle Dalton Risner in the second round and former TCU defensive end Ben Banogu in the third round. “Wilkins is the best player on the board and makes sense for the Falcons with Grady Jarrett on the franchise tag in 2019,” McShay writes. “He has good range for a 315-pounder and displays a high motor as a pass-rusher. Atlanta will also want to get some offensive line depth and find a pass-rusher; it does both in its next two picks. Risner flashes some upside on the line, and Banogu possesses the speed and body control to turn the corner and attack in the pass rush.” To see the rest of McShay’s perfect three-round mock draft, click here. This was likely formulated prior to the signing of Clayborn and possibly Hags. 10AM today. However, it does sound sound, if you get my drift.
  4. Kelsey Conway reporter FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – If you were to ask longtime NFL writer Peter King which team he’d be most inclined to buy stock in at this point in the offseason, his answer might surprise you. Let’s just say the Atlanta Falcons would definitely be in the conversation. “I’d be buying Falcons stock right now because I think they’ve got a chance to rebound and play very well this year in what again is going to be a very tough NFC South,” King said. King detailed several reasons why he’s “bullish” on the Falcons in a 17-minute Q&A from the annual league meetings last week in Phoenix. Here are some of King’s takes: Quinn taking over defense will give Falcons ‘more aggressive’ play, including the secondary With Dan Quinn taking back the reigns of the Falcons’ defense, there’s a newfound excitement surrounding Atlanta’s defense. Based off Quinn’s time as a defensive coordinator in Seattle and when he took over the play-calling in the final quarter of the 2016 season, King laid out his expectations of what he thinks the Falcons’ defense will look like with Quinn calling the shots. “I think by the more active role he has in a week-to-week basis with the defense, you’re probably going to get to see more of an aggressive defense,” King said. “I think he will find more opportunities for Grady Jarrett, I think he’s going to find more opportunities for edge players. I think you’re going to see more diverse secondary play. More guys rushing from the secondary.” Takk McKinley is the player the Falcons need to step up most in 2019 All eyes will be on Takk McKinley this year and there’s no doubt about it. Since being drafted in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, the expectations for McKinley have certainly heightened. Not only has Quinn said he’s expecting a strong offseason from McKinley to prepare for the upcoming season, King explained why it’s vital for the defensive end to have a big year. “He was drafted to be [the] really strong edge presence,” King said. If I’m them, I need 50-to-60 legitimate quarterback disruptions from McKinley this year. I think that is vital because I think they’re secondary [could] get exposed. This is a crucial year for this secondary and for the pass rush.” Falcons draft priorities should be improving the secondary, landing another franchise tackle The Falcons have the No. 14 overall pick in the NFL Draft and King believes they should use it on a player who can improve their secondary. Atlanta’s secondary will look a bit different this season with Isaiah Oliver and Damontae Kazee taking on starting roles full-time. “If I were the Falcons, [my priority] would be the secondary,” King said. “I would want to improve my cornerback depth and I would also draft if I can what I consider to be a long-term offensive tackle. King also believes the Falcons could also benefit from using that pick on one of the top tackles in this year’s draft class, similar to what they did with Jake Matthews in the 2014 NFL Draft when Atlanta selected him with the No. 6 overall pick. Matthews signed a five-year extension with the Falcons prior to the 2018 season. Alex Mack is the ultimate X-factor for Falcons King knows exactly which center he would pick if he had the luxury of choosing one in a must-win game. “I’d take Alex Mack every time,” King said. “I love Mack.” Based on Ryan’s consistent production over the years, King’s not worried about what the Falcons will get from QB1 in 2019. “I always look at Ryan as a guy in my opinion, I just think every year he’s going to be a top-5 quarterback,” King said. “He’s going to be productive enough.” What will help Ryan have another quality year is the play of the guy directly in front of him snapping him the ball and blocking for him. “Any quarterback is going to play better when he’s protected better,” King said. “They just have to do a better job of doing that this year whether that’s scheme or talent. I think it’s vitally important that Alex Mack be healthy and give them one more strong year. You can just see the symbiotic relationship between Mack and Ryan.” Falcons can’t let Deion Jones out of Atlanta The Falcons have reportedly begun contract negotiations with Deion Jones who has quickly become one of the best players in Atlanta’s defense. King believes Jones is a player who could be the heart of Atlanta’s defense for years to come. “I love Deion Jones as a football player and I would want him to be the centerpiece of my defense,” King said. “They can’t let him go. “ The ultimate compliment to Grady Jarrett After defeating the Falcons 34-28 in Super Bowl LI, King sat with Patriots’ star quarterback Tom Brady and to discuss the game in which Brady couldn’t have been more complementary of Grady Jarrett. “Tom Brady had more respect for Grady Jarrett than anybody on the Falcons that day,” King said. “I think the world of Grady Jarrett.” Emphasis added. I like how he thinks, and has at least studied a little..
  5. Terry from Conyers, GA Why do you think so many Falcons fan hate Matt Ryan? Matt is one of the better QB's in the league and the fans don't seem to understand that. If you look at his stats they compare favorably with the top players in the league. In many instances his stats are better than his peers. He has often had the Falcons in the mix for the playoffs while playing with a subpar defense. One last thing, please ask Mr. Blank about going back to those 1980 uniforms. Matt: Wait, are there a lot of Matt Ryan haters out there? I don’t get it. I’m trying to figure out what parts of his game or accomplishments they dislike. The following rankings are among active players:* Most passing yards:* Drew Brees - 74,437 Tom Brady - 70,514 Ben Roethlisberger - 56,194 Eli Manning - 55,981 Philip Rivers - 54,656 Matt Ryan - 46,720 Aaron Rodgers - 42,944 Most completions: Drew Brees - 6,586 Tom Brady - 6,004 Eli Manning - 4,804 Ben Roethlisberger - 4,616 Philip Rivers - 4,518 Matt Ryan - 4,052 Aaron Rodgers - 3,560 Most passing touchdowns: Drew Brees - 520 Tom Brady - 517 Philip Rivers - 374 Ben Roethlisberger - 363 Eli Manning - 360 Aaron Rodgers - 338 Matt Ryan - 295 In 10 playoff games, Ryan has completed 237 of 351 passes for 2,6772 yards and 20 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. For his career, Ryan 65.3 percent of his passes for 46,720 yards and 295 touchdowns. Last year he was just shy passing for 5,000 yards (4,924) despite being sacked 42 times. Whenever Falcons fans call for drafting a quarterback or claim it’s “time to move on” from No. 2, my first response (besides why) is, who are you going to replace him with that’s even remotely close to being as good as he is? When Ryan steps down and decides to call it a career, I’m certain he’ll end up in Canton five years later. So, for the life of me, I do not understand why ANY Falcons fan wouldn’t love seeing Ryan behind center on Sundays. As far as the uniforms go, you guys should know by now which ones are my favorites (see below). AP/Al Messerschmidt
  6. Wednesday, Mar 13, 2019 12:02 PM NFL Draft: 5 defensive end prospects who could help the Falcons Will McFadden Pending anymore signings in the coming days, the Falcons will have just three defensive ends under contract once free agency begins: Vic Beasley, Takk McKinley and Steven Means. It’s clear that they will need to add to that group over the offseason, and the NFL Draft would be a nice way to do that. RELATED CONTENT 3 CB prospects who could help Falcons 5 OL prospects who could help Falcons 5 DT prospects who could help Falcons There is not a ton of depth in this year’s class of defensive ends, though, so it might be difficult to find an early contributor past the first couple of rounds. Continuing with our recent series, I’ve compiled a list – in order from the best fit and value to the least – of five defensive end who could be on the Falcons’ radar come draft night. 1. Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson Clelin Ferrell looks the part of an NFL defensive end. The 6-foot-4, 264-pound Clemson star was highly productive during his four years in college. Ferrell left the Tigers after amassing 27 sacks, 166 tackles, 50.5 tackles for a loss and five forced fumbles. In 2018, Ferrell has 11.5 sacks and 20 tackles for a loss – that’s some serious production for the national champs. Other prospects have shown better quickness at the snap than Ferrell, but like most of his fellow Clemson defensive linemen, he is very polished coming out of college. Ferrell is equally proficient against the run and the pass, and he could be a strong three-down defender early on in his career. AP/Rogelio V. Solis 2. Montez Sweat, DE, Miss. St. If developed properly in the NFL, Montez Sweat has the natural traits to become a very dangerous pass rusher. At 6-foot-6 and 260 pounds, Sweat ran a 4.41-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, the fastest time of all the edge defenders who tested. A tight end coming out of high school, it took some time for Sweat to make an impact on defense, but he ended up doing so in a big way during his final two seasons at Mississippi State. During his junior and senior seasons, Sweat recorded 23.5 sacks, 105 tackles and 30.5 tackles for a loss. Sweat clearly has a ton of potential, and he had the production in college to match. Adding to his arsenal of pass-rush moves would be the next step in helping Sweat really become a nightmare for opposing linemen in the NFL, and he sometimes struggles to bend the pocket and arc to the quarterback. Sweat is an asset against the run, however, and most of his issues can be coached at the next level. And he offers a lot of positives for a coach to work with. AP/John Raoux 3. Brian Burns, DE, Florida State Dan Quinn wants to get after the quarterback, and Brian Burns can certainly do that. During his three seasons at Florida State, Burns recorded a total of 23 sacks, including 10 in his final season. He also racked up 123 tackles, 38.5 tackles for a loss and caused seven forced fumbles. Burns is lightning-quick off the blocks and already has a nice array of pass-rush moves that he employs. The downside for Burns in college was his play against the run. At 6-foot-5 and 249 pounds, which is up a bit from what he was listed at Florida State, Burns could be beaten at the point of attack. While he didn’t win with strength too often, Burns did show good ability to anticipate blocks and slip through creases to knife into the backfield or around linemen. Bottom line, Burns could be an effective addition to a pass rush rotation as a rookie. AP/Paul Sancya 4. Chase Winovich, DE, Michigan There don’t appear to be a number of ends who could become impact starters as a rookie after Day 1 of this year’s draft, but there are some who could be a solid part of a rotation in their first couple of seasons. Chase Winovich fits that bill. Winovich destroyed the three-cone drill at the combine, posting the second-fastest time at 6.94 seconds. That time speaks to Winovich’s mobility, which he put to use at Michigan, earning 18.5 sacks, 166 tackles and 43 tackles for a loss. Winovich, who is 6-foot-3 and 256 pounds, is more of a technically proficient pass rusher than an overly athletic one, but he rarely gives up on a play and is a smart player who could become a savvy one in the NFL. AP/Eugene Tanner 5. Jaylon Ferguson, DE, Louisiana Tech A nightmare off the edge while playing at Louisiana Tech, it will be interesting to see how Jaylon Ferguson’s game translates against far better competition. There’s no doubting he feasted against the teams he played against, however, as Ferguson ended his four-year career with 45 sacks, 187 tackles, 67.5 tackles for a loss and seven forced fumbles. The 6-foot-5, 269-pound Ferguson can get off the ball pretty well at the snap, but he doesn’t have the pure speed or flexibility to beat a lineman around the edge consistently. And Ferguson hasn’t yet developed a variety of other moves and counters that he will need in the NFL. He was a very good run defender in college, however, which will make him valuable early on as part of a rotation while coaches work to develop him as a rusher
  7. NFL Draft: 5 offensive line prospects who could help the Falcons Will McFadden Offensive line is one of the areas many expect the Falcons to address this offseason, and while they may opt to add to that unit via free agency, there are some intriguing early-round draft prospects who could fit what the team is looking for. With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list – in order from the best fit and value to the least – of five offensive linemen who could be on the Falcons’ radar. AP/Michael Woods 1. Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama A three-year starter at tackle for Alabama,Jonah Williams is one of the most experienced and polished offensive linemen in this draft class. At 6-foot-4, 302 pounds, Williams isn’t overly long, which is one of the reasons some believe he could slide over the guard at the next level. There’s no mistake, though: Williams has the tools to succeed wherever teams place him. Williams is a smart player who countered blitzes and stunts effectively in college, and he showed improvement as a pass protector during his final year at Alabama. Most importantly for the Falcons, however, is that Williams was a player who moved well in space and latched onto defenders at the second level. AP/Sue Ogrocki 2. Cody Ford, OT, Oklahoma Cody Ford is among the offensive linemen with the highest upside in this year’s draft. Despite starting for only one season, Ford has a rare combination of size, strength and speed. Ford could likely play either tackle or guard in the NFL, but he might be better suited to start on the interior early on given his relative lack of starting experience. Due to Oklahoma’s offensive scheme, Ford has plenty of reps in space against defenders. More often than not, once Ford got his hands on a defensive player, it was game over. Ford’s biggest weakness at this point seems to be getting set in pass protection, but that would be covered up slightly by moving to guard. Ford confirmed at the NFL Scouting Combine that the Falcons were a team he had met with. He’s a somewhat raw player, but Ford could develop into a really good football player. AP/Orlin Wagner 3. Dalton Risner, OT, Kansas State Another player who could be a candidate to move inside, Dalton Risner bring a lot to the table as an offensive lineman. He is sure-handed and locked down some highly regarded pass rushers while at Kansas State, and Risner is a fluid mover in space and would be an asset in the run game. Risner’s ability to locate the most pressing threat and adjust his angles while on the move is something that would be a great benefit in the Falcons’ offensive scheme. At 24 years old, Risner will be among the older players entering the NFL in this draft class, but that hasn’t stopped the Falcons in the past. In this offensive line class, Risner is a very well-rounded prospect. AP/Michael Conroy 4. Chris Lindstrom, OG, Boston College The first true guard prospect on this list, Lindstrom is a very athletic player who will enter the NFL ready to help a team from Day 1. While he may not have the sheer natural upside of a player like Cody Ford, Lindstrom has very few glaring weaknesses. He’s competent in nearly every facet of his game, and he offers a lot as a run blocker. Given how well he moves in space, it’s easy to envision how Lindstrom would fit in with the Falcons. He’s adept at leveraging players while on the move and he makes solid use of his hands to harass defenders even if they aren’t providing a clean target. AP/Gerry Broome 5. Garrett Bradbury, OG, NC State As with Lindstrom, there are few nits to pick with Garrett Bradbury’s game. He moves very well and has noticeable body control while blocking defenders in space. Bradbury is a refined, technical lineman who didn’t make many mistakes on the interior of NC State’s offensive line. The Wolfpack run a zone blocking scheme, so Bradbury has direct experience that would translate to the Falcons. Bradbury is a former tight end, and it shows in his athleticism. If the Falcons are inclined to address the offensive line on Day 2, Bradbury would be a pretty appealing option.
  8. NDIANAPOLIS – When the Falcons drafted Isaiah Oliver with their second-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, it appears they had one eye on the present and the other on the future. At the time, the Falcons had both of their starting quarterbacks from the 2017 season returning in Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford. Fast-forward a year and the Falcons released Alford on Feb. 5 with all signs pointing to Oliver being the player who could assume the starting job opposite of Trufant. “I think he’s going to really thrive,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “He got reps, he got experience and I think he’s one who is going to take a big step.” Oliver played in 14 games in his rookie season with two starts and recorded 23 tackles. Similar to most rookies, as Oliver got more reps he continued to get more comfortable on the field and his play improved. His first interception of his NFL career came in Week 16 against the Carolina Panthers. Quinn often talks about the “on-the-job training” players will go through when they’re first getting acclimated to a new role. Oliver is a perfect example of someone who embraced the lessons and grew from the experiences, positive or negative. “If you haven’t been beat at cornerback then you haven’t played it very long,” Quinn said. “What I absolutely love about him, the lessons that he learned this year you had to go through some and I call that on the job training.” Standing at 6-foot, 201 pounds with a 33½-inch wingspan, Oliver has the physical traits and athleticism Quinn likes in his cornerbacks. One of the biggest adjustments Oliver had to make in his transition from college to NFL was playing at the line of scrimmage. At Colorado, Oliver primarily played more off-man coverage. He certainly has the makeup and talent to be a key piece of the Falcons’ secondary in 2019 and based off what Quinn and his coaching staff have seen in games and practices, they’re all in on Oliver’s development. “You have to make decisions based on what you think a person can do and what they will develop into,” Quinn said. “It’ pretty rare for a guy to be as good as they’re going to be in their rookie year. I think he and some of the guys from that first year are going to get better as we go.”
  9. ORLANDO, Fla. – To those he worked with prior to his arrival in Atlanta, Dan Quinn is more than just a football coach. He’s a leader, a teacher and someone who respects those around him enough to let them inform his decision making. Those who have spent time working with him still hold Quinn in high regard, as was apparent during this year’s Pro Bowl. Generally, when a member of the media approaches a player or a coach he or she is met with a cautious façade. But at the mention of Quinn’s name, a smile crept across the faces of Bobby Wagner, Kris Richard and Gus Bradley. That cautious façade replaced by a willingness to talk about a man they respect. “He was amazing, man,” said Wagner, a linebacker with the Seattle Seahawks who played for Quinn in 2013 and 2014. “I loved working with him. Every second. He’s so smart. “The way he approached the game, the way he prepared, it was inspiring. It made you want to watch more film and make sure you were doing your job, because you knew he was doing his work. He’s a great leader and a great person. Just a good dude to be around.” Quinn spent two seasons as the Seattle Seahawks’ defensive coordinator, helping the team reach back-to-back Super Bowls and establishing the Legion of Boom, one of the best defenses in modern NFL history. After spending the past four seasons as the Falcons’ head coach, Quinn will once again take charge of the defensive coordinator role in Atlanta. “I think my background in the scheme of what we do and the style exactly like I want to do it,” Quinn said of his decision to take over the defensive play-calling. “I like doing it. I've done it before both as a defensive coordinator and as a head coach some. I just thought that was the best way for us moving forward, and something I'm looking forward to.” Injuries played a key role in what was ultimately a lackluster and disappointing season for a Falcons defense that appeared to be trending upward after a strong finish in 2017. But Quinn’s decision, as he explained it, seemed to be more about a desire to get his style of defense back to exactly where he wants it rather than an indictment of former defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel’s ability in that role. Quinn’s ability to identify and develop a very specific style of play on defense is a strong suite of his, according to those who have worked with him. So too is his ability to communicate that style in an effective way that makes it clear to Quinn’s players exactly what their role is in the defense. “He has a vision of what it should look like and then he does a great job of illustrating that to the players, so it is very clear,” Bradley said of Quinn, who served as the Seahawks’ defensive line coach in 2009 and 2010 while Bradley (shown below) was defensive coordinator. He is a tremendous leader and has great understanding of the defense as a whole.” Falcons fans saw a glimpse of the type of impact Quinn can have when taking a greater role in the defense. During the second-half of Atlanta’s 2016 Super Bowl run, Quinn took over the defensive play-calling and had a defense with four rookie starters peaking at just the right time. The defense surrendered an average of 28 points and 386 yards prior to Quinn taking over and gave up just 20.5 points and 346 yards per game during the rest of the regular season. But while Quinn has a proven track record and a clear vision for how he wants his defense to play, he isn’t a rigid leader who dictates terms to those who work for him. Richard, the Dallas Cowboys defensive backs coach who worked under Quinn in the same capacity for the Seahawks before replacing him as Seattle’s defensive coordinator, remembers how empowering his former leader was. “What’s really special about him is that he utilizes the people around him, and he trusts them to give him the information that he needs,” Richard said. “He recognizes that he’s not in there and it’s not him solely trying to get everything done, it’s a collective effort. And that empowers everyone around him, which in turn, gives him great authority. “That’s so valuable from a leadership standpoint because he’s grooming you, whether you realize it or not. So, he’s putting that trust in everyone around him and in turn everyone around him trusts him to be accurate, and he is.” Relying on help from his assistants, Quinn will seek to realign the Falcons’ defense with the exact style he expects. Quinn discussed constantly throughout the 2018 season his desire to see the team create more turnovers, generate increased pressure on opposing quarterbacks and get off the field on third downs and in the red zone. He will have the ability to have a direct impact on those desires not only in practice but on Sundays moving forward. While the intricacies of defensive play-calling may not be talked about as often as those on offense in this era of high-scoring football, each defensive coordinator has a unique fingerprint. “For us, the defenses always remained the same,” Wagner said of the Seahawks’ defensive scheme. “The difference is there are certain plays that Gus liked to run more than DQ, and coach Richard liked to run more than DQ. It’s just like that vibe. [Quinn] prefers certain fronts more and he prefers certain things more. He blitzed a little bit more, so I loved that. He was really good at scheming the team.” As a head coach and a defensive coordinator, Quinn will have more on his plate than ever before. But this is a scheme that Quinn understands in its entirety and utilized to unassailable success while in Seattle. There will likely be some adjustments to Quinn’s approach during the week, but any NFL head coach is already involved in every aspect of the team anyway. Quinn won’t just be involved with the defense in Atlanta now, however. He’s taking ownership of it. “I think as a defensive coordinator if you know the front, linebackers and the coverage, that’s so important,” Bradley said. “I think that’s what he did when he was at Seattle, he could bring those three together. “For Dan, he’s been so involved from Day 1 that I think it will be a real smooth transition for him.”
  10. Kelsey Conway reporter 4-5 minutes FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – If the Falcons season ended today, it would be hard to argue against tight end Austin Hooper being named Atlanta’s most improved player. RELATED CONTENT Hooper is playing the best football of his career and it hasn’t gone unnoticed by his peers as the third-year tight end was named an alternate for the 2019 Pro Bowl. Ready for the scary part? He’s only 24-years-old and he hasn’t even come close to scratching the surface of his potential. He even said so himself. “Keep working … that’s been my mantra since I got here and I’ve just gotten better and better since I’ve been here,” Hooper said. “I’m just going to keep going on that trajectory because I feel like there’s a lot more I can do and I still feel like there’s another level I can go to.” Since the Falcons drafted Hooper in the third-round of the 2016 NFL Draft out of Stanford, he’s improved every year. The statistics show it. In his first season, Hooper caught 19 passes for 271 yards and three touchdowns. In 2017, he caught 49 passes for 526 yards and three touchdowns. With two games left to play this year, Hooper has already caught 64 passes for 557 yards and four touchdowns. Hooper’s progression didn’t happen overnight and certainly without a commitment to improving his craft more than ever. Following the 2017 season, Hooper made sure to reach out to his quarterback Matt Ryan to let him know when he was going to start throwing again. When Ryan was ready, Hooper was going to be there. No matter the time or the place. Hooper, a California native, previously spent most of his offseason back on the West Coast. That wasn’t going to be the case this time around. One or two weeks with Ryan here and there wasn’t enough. He wanted more. Ryan began throwing in March and who was there to catch passes from him? Hooper. And their improved rapport has been on display all season long. “It’s just repetition,” Hooper said. “It’s not sexy. You’re getting up there at 8 in the morning, going to an empty park, running routes until Matt says, ‘We’re good.’ It’s just a lot of hard work that nobody saw, it’s just between me and him and I’m glad that work came to fruition.” Ryan couldn’t have been more complimentary of the work Hooper has put in and how he’s played this season. “I think Austin has had a really good year for us,” Ryan said. “He’s worked really hard and he’s playing the best football of his career and I think his potential is to keep improving and to get better. I think he’s going to be a really critical and good player for us in this league for a long time.” One of the biggest areas Hooper and Ryan feel their connection has made the biggest growth is their non-verbal communication. Rather than having to tell Hooper exactly where he expects him to be on a specific play, Ryan can just give him a look or not even having to say anything because they’ve repeated it so many times. “It’s come a long way,” Ryan said. “Just his understanding of the offense and what our expectations are for him on certain routes versus certain coverage [and] what we expect him to do. He’s been spot on that this year. He’s been in the right place at the right time, given us good opportunities to convert third downs, to get first downs, catch touchdowns. I think that part of that game has improved.” At 6-foot-5 and 254 pounds, Hooper has the size and athleticism to be an elite tight end in the league. He’s proven his catching radius is something Ryan can benefit from. While his physical attributes certainly make him a tough matchup week in and week out, the thing that could take Hooper’s to the next level has nothing to do with his physical makeup, it has all to do with the mental aspect of his game. “I think his confidence has improved,” Ryan said of Hooper. “You see that when he’s making contested catches and big plays and going up and using his size and his length to his advantage.”
  11. FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – The Falcons made a handful of roster moves Tuesday, including placing longsnapper Josh Harris on the injured reserve list. The Falcons placed the 29-year-old Harris, who signed a three-year extension earlier this season, on IR and signed longsnapper Jon Condo in a corresponding move. Condo, 37, is a two-time Pro Bowler and has played for three teams in his NFL career, including the Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots and most recently the Oakland Raiders. The Falcons also promoted defensive tackle Justin Zimmer, 26, from the practice squad to the active roster and waived safety Keith Tandy. Wide receiver Julian Williams was also signed and he’ll fill Zimmer’s spot on the practice squad. Williams is a native of Suwanee, Ga., and played collegiately at Florida International University. Williams was signed by the Falcons as an undrafted free agent out of FIU in the preseason. He caught one pass for 4 yards in the Falcons’ final preseason game.
  12. Will McFadden FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – When Bruce Irvin agreed to terms with the Atlanta Falcons on Wednesday after being released by the Oakland Raiders at the start of the week and clearing waivers, he was not only reuniting with his former coach Dan Quinn, but he was fulfilling a lifelong dream. “Yesterday it hit me a little bit,” Irvin said during his introductory press conference Thursday. “I know I look scary, but I really was crying yesterday. This is a childhood dream for me, growing up watching Michael Vick, Terence Mathis, guys like that. This was always my dream, so for me to be able to come and live it out it was a surreal moment. I’m just very fortunate to be an Atlanta Falcon right now.” Irvin, 31, has been considered among the more productive pass rushers in the NFL since he was selected by the Seattle Seahawks with the 12th-overall pick in the 2012 draft. In 2013, Quinn arrived in Seattle, where he coached Irvin for two seasons and helped the Seahawks reach two consecutive Super Bowls and earn an Lombardi Trophy. Irvin was a part of a 2013 Seahawks defense led by Quinn that finished the season No. 1 in points allowed (231), yards allowed (4,378) and takeaways (39), which marked the first time a defense finished atop all three of those categories since the famed 1985 Bears. That season cemented the “Legion of Boom” era for Seattle, but Irvin is reuniting with Quinn to be a part of something new in Atlanta. “Me and DQ can’t sit and dwell on what we did in Seattle and going to those Super Bowls and stuff like that,” Irvin said. “It’s about right now. I feel like they needed me and I wanted to be here so I did what I had to do and we made it happen.” The Falcons defense dealt with some major losses due to injuries to several key players early this season, but they’ve rebounded in recent weeks and have begun to find their stride. Better still, Pro Bowl linebacker Deion Jones began practicing for the first time on Wednesday since going on injured reserve after Week 1, and he could potentially return to the lineup for the Falcons’ Week 11 game against the Cowboys. But Atlanta (4-4) didn’t hesitate to add Irvin to bolster their pass rush. The seventh-year defender has recorded 40 sacks and 15 forced fumbles during his career, and he joins a Falcons defense that has just 17 sacks this season, tied for 27th among all NFL teams. “Sometimes the things have to align just right for that to happen,” Quinn said of the signing. “We thought maybe we’d have a chance when he left Seattle a few years ago to join, and he ended up going to Oakland during that time. But sometimes it just has a way to work itself out, so if it was the right fit for him it was going to be the right fit for us. I think for both sides, for our team and for him, it was the right fit at the right time and it just aligned at the right time for us.” The Falcons have talent along the defensive line, and it will be interesting to see how they plug Irvin into the mix. Quinn has said Irvin will start out with Atlanta at defensive end, and he will be a part of the team’s nickel packages. With Vic Beasley and Takk McKinley already in place on the edge, might Quinn and defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel get creative and bump one of them inside? If that turns out to be the case, Atlanta could roll out a pass-rush group that includes Beasley, McKinley, Irvin and Grady Jarrett. That’s a lot of firepower. Irvin is coming in to help a team that’s won its last three games keep that momentum rolling. He knows what it takes to reach the Super Bowl and win it, and he wants to help the Falcons in any way he can. “I’ve got a lot of knowledge,” Irvin said. “I’ve been in two Super Bowls, won one and lost one, so I know the blueprint of it … I think these guys are doing a great job of getting in their zone and getting on a roll at the right time of the year. “I’m just happy to be where I’m at and being a part of something great, and I’m looking forward to contributing.” But, football aside, Irvin is where he wants to be. A native of Georgia, Irvin wants to achieve success in his home town. A lot of different factors can go into a free agent’s decision to sign somewhere, but with Irvin the allure of going home and reuniting with his former coach seemed like a no-brainer. And other NFL teams knew it. “When I talked to my agent he said, ‘You know every team thinks you’re going to Atlanta,’” Irvin said. “And I said under my breath, ‘They’re right.’”