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  1. https://www.atlantafalcons.com/news/takeaways-falcons-defense-impresses-again-in-second-scrimmage The Falcons held their second scrimmage of AT&T Atlanta Falcons Training Camp on Monday, and similar to the team's first scrimmage, the defense was the standout unit. All three levels of Atlanta's defense – across both the starters and backup squads – had moments of brilliance. The Falcons' defensive line, led by Grady Jarrett, knifed into the backfield against the run and didn't give up much room on the ground. There were also some notable pass-rush moments. Takk McKinley showed off his speed around the edge, beating Kaleb McGary for what would likely have been a clean sack in a game. Former first-round pick Charles Harris had two good rushes that could have potentially been sacks, and linebacker LaRoy Reynolds probably would have gotten home on a blitz late in the scrimmage. The defensive communication at the second level was apparent and led to some really good moments in pass coverage. Rookie Delrick Abrams had an interception in the back of the end zone on the only threatening offensive drive of the scrimmage. Blidi Wreh-Wilson also came up with a pick late in the scrimmage, and Isaiah Oliver was in position to grab an interception but couldn't hang on. Kendall Sheffield, Keanu Neal and Deion Jones had some really nice pass breakups during the scrimmage as well. It's tough to tell just how much to make of the defense's play in camp, because the level of talent on the field can vary from snap to snap. There's no question, though, that Atlanta's defense has been sharp for many of the practices, and that continued on Monday. Matt Hennessy continues to work with starters Although no official declaration has come from Dan Quinn about Atlanta's left guard competition, rookie Matt Hennessy seems to be getting every opportunity to prove he's up to the task of starting in 2020. He was once again working with the first-team group on Monday, something he's been doing since Atlanta's third practice of camp and first team scrimmage. While Hennessy has been working with the starters, James Carpenter has been handling the second-team left guard duties and Matt Gono has spent the past couple of practice at the backup left tackle position. Younghoe Koo goes 2-for-3 on Monday The Falcons have not given Koo many reps during camp practices to kick in a live situation, but they did so on Monday. He drilled his lone extra-point attempt of the afternoon, and he was 2-for-3 on his field-goal attempts, which occurred around the 35-yard line. Koo hit his first attempt through the uprights, but it was fairly close to the left pole. Perhaps overcorrecting a bit, Koo's second attempt went wide left of the uprights. Quinn simulated icing the kicker, but Koo still got a practice kick off and that was right down the middle, as was his third official kick of the day. Brandon Powell and Chris Rowland locked in as returners In most years, the Falcons have a handful of players rotating at kick and punt returner during training camp. This year, they've only got two. Perhaps the condensed nature of this year's camp led Atlanta to focus on getting Powell and Rowland all of the reps at returner, but that has been the case through the first six practices. Powell is in his second year with the Falcons and handled punt and kick returns while in college at Florida. Rowland, an undrafted rookie out of Tennessee State, has extensive experience returning kicks from his days in college. He returned 46 punts for 543 yards and one touchdown for Tennessee State while also returning 74 kicks for 1,689 yards and one touchdown. Quinn also named Ito Smith and Olamide Zaccheaus as players who could also handle kickoff return responsibilities if needed. More camp observations Deion Jones showed just how elite his coverage range and instincts are during the scrimmage. The offense ran a deep crossing play for Julio Jones, something they've been very successful with in the past, and Jones sniffed it out and adjusted the depth of his coverage to come out of nowhere and break up the pass. Mykal Walker got some reps with the starting defense on Monday. He's made some nice plays in camp already, including a pick in the last scrimmage, and he showed his acceleration while closing in on a receiver to prevent any yards after the catch and force a fourth down. John Cominsky has had a great camp so far, and Quinn gave him high praise before Monday's practice: "John Cominsky, from the first practice with pads all the way up through today, he has seemed like somebody that's taking that jump." Keanu Neal looked like his old self during the scrimmage. There were audible pops heard when he shoulder bumped an offensive player to simulate a tackle, and he punched the ball out of Hayden Hurst's hands to deny a catch on a third-down during a two-minute drill. Laquon Treadwell has struggled with some drops thus far in camp. He's got nice size for the position and moves around well enough, but he needs to show more consistency catching the ball.
  2. https://www.atlantafalcons.com/news/takeaways-takk-mckinley-explains-how-wake-up-call-is-motivating-him The Falcons returned to the field for their fourth practice of AT&T Atlanta Falcons Training Camp, but the biggest takeaway didn't occur until well after the final whistle sounded. For the first time after Atlanta declined to pick up his fifth-year option, defensive end Takk McKinley addressed the media. He was open and forthright, giving thoughtful answers to nearly every question, and it's clear McKinley has a new perspective on the game and his career after the Falcons opted not to take the fifth-year option on their first-round pass rusher. "It was a wake-up call," McKinley said. "It was more motivation, it made me hungry. I'm not saying I wasn't hungry in the past, but I've just got to go prove it." McKinley dedicated himself to becoming the best version of himself this offseason, working out Monday through Saturday with his trainers and making big changes to his diet. Those efforts appear to have paid off and McKinley showed up to camp noticeably leaner and well-defined than in years past. He declared Saturday that he now weighs 248 pounds after playing around 270 pounds last season. With a lighter frame, McKinley believes he will be able to tap into his speed this fall. He's demonstrated a lot of power as a rusher in previous years, but this would be a new element to his game that should make him a more versatile player. McKinley also hopes that playing at a lower weight will help him prevent future shoulder injuries, something that has plagued him throughout his career, and he said he's taken greater care with his rehabilitation of his shoulder this offseason. The physical and seemingly emotional changes McKinley has gone through are impressive, but they won't mean much if they don't lead to production on the field, something he's well aware of. Still, this is the most determined and focused version of McKinley we've ever seen. "You don't realize time flies," McKinley said. "I'm going into my fourth season, I feel like yesterday I just got drafted. Sometimes, being a pro, you kind of forget like '****, OK.' You feel like you've got time, but once I realized they declined my fifth-year option it's like, 'Man, if I want to be in this league, I've got to do something better.'"
  3. Without preseason games the Falcons are relying on intra-squad scrimmages to get them prepared for the season, and they held their first one on Thursday, the third day of AT&T Atlanta Falcons Training Camp. After splitting into their usual position units for the first half of practice, the Falcons' offensive and defensive units gathered on opposite sidelines for the scrimmage. Starters competed against starters, while the second- and third-strings groups were mixed in to compete against one another. Overall, it was a strong showing for the defense. The starting defense did not give up any points and only ceded a handful of big plays – most of them coming courtesy of Julio Jones. The second- and third-team defense only gave up one big run that resulted in the only touchdown scored by either team. For fans hoping that Atlanta's defense takes a step forward in 2020, and it will need to if the Falcons are to be serious playoff contenders, Thursday's scrimmage was a great start. That's why turnovers are so important Dan Quinn has always stressed the importance of having a defense that forces turnovers, and Thursday's scrimmage illustrated exactly why he feels that way. During the final moments of the scrimmage, both defensive units forced turnovers to get off the field. Each offensive group gained possession in its own territory with just over one minute left in the first half and only one timeout. The starting group began marching downfield thanks to some precise passes from Matt Ryan, but their drive came to an end near the red zone after Calvin Ridley lost control of the ball while trying to cut upfield on a screen pass. Foye Oluokun was there to scoop up the loose ball, ending the threat and getting the defense off the field. The second-team offense began in the same situation, but they couldn't manufacture much of a drive thanks to good play by the secondary. That strong defensive effort culminated in a tipped pass by Blidi Wreh-Wilson that rookie linebacker Mykal Walker intercepted. Walker has shown a knack for getting his hands on the ball thus far in camp, securing at least three interceptions. In both two-minute-drill scenarios the defense not only prevented a touchdown, it prevented any points and gained possession back for Atlanta to potentially strike before the half. If those moments translate to the regular season, the Falcons will be in good shape. Matt Hennessy gets run with the first-team offense Perhaps the most notable observation for today's scrimmage was that rookie Matt Hennessy was playing left guard with the first-team offense. Previously, Hennessy had been working mostly with the second-team offense in practice while James Carpenter and Matt Gono were splitting reps with the starters. While out there with the starters, Hennessy performed well. He held his own against players like Allen Bailey and Tyeler Davison, and the running backs had some big plays while running behind Hennessy. As for Carpenter and Gono, they were both working with the second-team offense for much of the scrimmage – Carpenter playing left guard and Gono playing left tackle. It's worth noting, however, that Carpenter was with the first-team offense during the two-minute drill, while Hennessy was next to Gono with the second-team offense. Big day for Brian Hill Although it was the defense that shined during the scrimmage, Brian Hill was a notable standout on offense. He single-handedly led the second-team offense during their lone scoring drive, carrying the ball three straight times, including a goal-line touchdown run. "I would say Brian came back in fantastic shape," Quinn said Thursday. "He is 100 percent a guy on a mission. You see his speed at practice, his ability to catch has certainly improved." Hill bounced his first carry of the drive out to the left end of the offensive line and broke contain, racing down the sideline for a huge pickup. This run alone put the offense inside the 10-yard line, and his next carry took them down to the 1-yard line. From there, he punched the ball in, showcasing his vision and power. The Falcons have a lot of depth at running back entering the fall, and players like Hill, Ito Smith and Qadree Ollison should each have roles on this offense. Hill has shown the ability in the past to break off some big runs, and Thursday was a reminder of how that can change a game. More camp observations Isaiah Oliver continues to perform well and was step-for-step down the left sideline with Calvin Ridley before breaking up a pass early in the scrimmage. Younghoe Koo made his lone extra-point attempt during the scrimmage, but he missed a 48-yard field goal, his one field-goal attempt of the afternoon. John Cominsky continues to show improvement as a run defender and was rotating in with the first-team defense at times during the scrimmage. Kurt Benkert was mostly given some short throws on rollouts during the scrimmage, but he made a couple of downfield throws on the run after avoiding some pressure in the pocket. The Falcons like the versatility and talent in their safety group. Julio Jones doesn't show any signs of slowing down, and he was the most effective offensive player for either side on Thursday. The Falcons had coaches standing in as refs during the scrimmage, and there were a lot of penalty flags thrown. Of course, now is the time for all of that to get corrected. Quinn has said he wants the team to run more outside-zone plays and marry that to their play-action passing game, and that approach was on display a lot in the scrimmage.
  4. https://www.atlantafalcons.com/news/chris-lindstrom-i-want-to-win-a-super-bowl-and-be-the-best-guard-in-nfl When running through each rep at practice or a workout, Chris Lindstrom asks himself two questions: Is this decision making me a better football player? Is it helping make my team better? The 23-year-old is serious about his approach to the game and his quest to bring a Lombardi Trophy to Atlanta. He also has an ambitious personal goal, too. "I want to try and be the best guard in the NFL, I want to try and be the best player that I can be," Lindstrom said. "We want to win a Super Bowl; we want to be a great team." His intent combined with this physical skill set are the main reasons why the Falcons selected Lindstrom with the No. 14 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft out of Boston College. After allowing 42 sacks on Matt Ryan in the 2018 season, the Falcons were desperate to bring in players who could improve their offensive line. So much so that Atlanta's general manager, Thomas Dimitroff, traded back into the first round to select right tackle Kaleb McGary with the No. 31 overall pick. There was no question about the expectations for Lindstrom and McGary. Both were brought in to help shore up the right side of the offensive line right away. "Chris is a special football player for a lot of reasons," said Falcons' offensive line coach Chris Morgan. "His intent, demeanor and accountability to his teammates makes him special." Lindstrom looked the part from the minute he arrived at the team's facility in Flowery Branch. He impressed his coaches and teammates in rookie minicamp and through training camp. He was named the starting right guard in early part of training camp. He started his first NFL game when the Falcons traveled to Minnesota to take on the Vikings and everything appeared to be going the right way. It wasn't long before the Falcons realized not only had they lost their first game of the season; they would also now be without Lindstrom for an undetermined amount of time. Lindstrom played 45 snaps before injuring his foot and missing the remainder of the game and was placed on the injured reserve list shortly after. Although things were now going the furthest way from how Lindstrom imagined they would in his rookie season, his mentality never changed. It didn't matter if he was taking the field with his teammates or not. Lindstrom would prepare each week as if he was going to play. Lindstrom would write down his plan of attack starting with how he would handle his assignments. "The whole time I was injured I was preparing like I was playing a game every week," Lindstrom said. "I would write down notes [and say] 'OK, this is what I want to do against this guy.' I felt like mentally I was on it." Morgan, who's been an offensive line coach in the NFL for 10 years, said it is "rare" for a player to stay that engaged and focused during the rehab process. Lindstrom was able to return to action in early December and played the final four games of the season. The Falcons went 4-0 during that span. After starting the season 1-7, Atlanta finished the year with six wins to finish 7-9. "He made a big difference," said NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger. "I thought he played really well in the middle. I thought him and Kaleb finally getting a chance to play together [was important because] you could see the makings of a really good right side for the Falcons. I thought he brought a lot of toughness and tenacity to the position and they really needed it." Although he wasn't able to play a full season, Lindstrom still found significant value in the games and practices he was able to participate in. Lindstrom and Falcons coach Dan Quinn think the reps he was able to get will help him immensely in the upcoming season. The Falcons need the best version of Lindstrom in the upcoming season, plain and simple. Atlanta's offensive line allowed a career-high 48 sacks on Matt Ryan and finished with the 30th-ranked rushing offense averaging 85.1 yards per game in 2019. "You can't replicate live reps against great players like Grady [Jarrett] and the opponents we played against," Lindstrom said. "The work we were able to do last year really gave me the right mindset going into the offseason of what it supposed to look like. I think those reps I got at the end of last year were invaluable." Given the limitations the COVID-19 pandemic brought in terms of the training NFL players would be able to get with no on-field work with his teammates, Lindstrom knew he had to get creative to ensure he would be ready. Kynan Forney, who spent seven years with the Falcons playing right guard, reached out to Lindstrom asking if he wanted to train with him. Lindstrom and Forney began training at the end of June at DASH Performance in Lawrenceville, Ga. In just a few moments of working with Lindstrom after watching him play, Forney was even more impressed. "What jumps out to me is his aggression when you watch him on gamedays and playing," Forney said. "What I noticed in our training sessions is he's in incredible shape. There were times we were supposed to work for an hour and then we would look up and it's been two hours later. He's also one of those guys who brings the juice to the workout. Working with him made me want to come out of retirement just to come play with him." Forney knows firsthand what it takes to be successful in the NFL at right guard and he thinks Lindstrom has all of necessary tools and more. The duo worked on improving Lindstrom's hand placement and footwork with the goal to become more "technically sound" all the way around. Lindstrom wasn't just committed to improving his game this offseason, he wanted to help his close friend and teammate, McGary. Atlanta's starting right guard asked McGary to join him for a week of training with Forney and he did. Only time will tell how Lindstrom's quest for greatness will shake out but there's no denying the Falcons don't just have a talented player starting at right guard, they have someone who's capable of making the entire offense better. "He's a leader and I can see why they love him up there," Forney said.
  5. https://www.atlantafalcons.com/news/dan-quinn-explains-falcons-plan-if-he-tests-positive-for-covid-19 As the world continues to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, NFL teams must develop contingency plans for any conceivable scenario that could unfold. In terms of importance, a backup plan in case a team's head coach tests positive is right there near the top. New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton and Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson are the only two head coaches to test positive thus far, but they show that it isn't just players who are at risk of contracting the virus. Dan Quinn and the Falcons have a plan in place if he were to test positive for COVID-19. During a press conference with local media on Friday, Quinn explained that assistant head coach and linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich would assume his duties if he were to miss time and that senior defensive assistant Bob Sutton would also have a supporting role. "You have to talk about it, No. 1, and then even it can go down a lot of layers," Quinn said. "Jeff Ulbrich would be the one that would be able to take on that role, certainly. Bob Sutton would support him on some of the things needed from game management as well." Ulbrich has been praised by Quinn and others during his time as linebackers coach with the Falcons, and he's had a big role in developing players such as Deion Jones and De'Vondre Campbell. Last season, Ulbrich was given greater responsibilities amidst the Falcons' coaching shuffle at the bye week and had a hand in Atlanta's defensive turnaround during its 6-2 finish. Sutton has an extensive coaching history that spans nearly five decades, and he was added to the Falcons coaching staff in 2019 to help with game management. That would be the Falcons' primary contingency plan if Quinn were the only coach to test positive. As Quinn explained, however, there are countless situations that could occur, meaning the Falcons must have a plan in place for any conceivable possibility. "Each of them have a contingency, where you go into it," Quinn said. "What if it's multiple people? Those are the ones that you get into, because it was easy, I think, if it was one for one. And then what about if both Jeff and I [test positive]? Those are the ones where you double up."
  6. https://www.atlantafalcons.com/news/early-bird-report-todd-gurley-is-still-among-nfl-s-most-explosive-runners There's been a lot of talk this offseason about Todd Gurley’s health and how much the Falcons will be able to get out of the former All-Pro running back, but there are a few stats from last season that indicate he still has a bit left in the tank. Using advanced metrics, NFL.com writer Nick Shook ranked the 10 most explosive runners in the NFL last season. He used a variety of criteria for this list, looking at the total number of 10-plus-yard runs a player had, the percentage of his carries that went for 10 yards or more and the percentage of carries in which a player reached a speed of 15 miles per hour. Based on that data, Shook determined that Gurley was the eighth-most explosive runner in the league last season, even ranking ahead of Panthers star Christian McCaffrey. "Here's where the numbers are peculiar," Shook writes. "Even if we don't quite agree with this result (based on the recent events that saw Gurley fall out of favor in L.A.), Gurley does indeed meet the criteria to land on this list, which suggests that, even during his down year, he was still among the league's more explosive runners. Only one of Gurley's 10 fastest touches over the last two seasons came in 2019, yet he still managed to reach or exceed 15 mph on nearly 20 percent of his 223 attempts. His 21 runs of 10-plus yards show he can still gain significant yards, even if he hasn't been the home-run hitter he once was. Will we see him here again in 2020 as a member of the Falcons? Unlikely, but he's still got at least some juice, or he did in 2019." Shook seems a little reticent about Gurley's future upside, but the numbers indicate that the Falcons' newest running back still has enough burst to give defenses some headaches. Against Atlanta, defenses might not be able to stack the box consistently for fear of Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley beating them outside. To see the rest of Shook's list, click here. Here are some other articles for Falcons fans to check out today: CBSSports: Teams with five most difficult stretches We already know the Falcons have one of the toughest schedules in the league, and that includes one of the hardest stretches that any team will have to face in 2020. CBSSports write John Breech believes Atlanta's final three-game run, in which they face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers twice with a trip to Kansas City sandwiched in between, is the second-hardest stretch that any team will have this season. "If the Falcons want to make the postseason in 2020, they better have a playoff berth wrapped up by the time Week 14 ends, because there's a good chance that things are going to get ugly for Atlanta starting right around that point," Breech writes. "Over the final three weeks of the season, the Falcons will be facing Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes and then Tom Brady again. That's definitely a nightmare stretch for a team that struggled to stop the pass last year. The good news for the Falcons is that they've dominated the Buccaneers over the past few years, winning six of their past seven against Tampa. However, that streak came against Jameis Winston, who's not going to be around to hand the Falcons free wins, like he did in Week 17 last season when he threw an overtime pick-six that allowed Atlanta to win." That stretch could actually be widened a little bit, because the second half of the Falcons' schedule is no joke. With two games against the Saints, two against the Buccaneers and three AFC matchups, Atlanta will have to be playing its best football after the bye week. To see the rest of Breech's list of tough NFL stretches, click here. CBSSports: Ranking NFL offensive triplets With Matt Ryan and Julio Jones in place, the Atlanta Falcons already had elite options at two of the three key offensive skill positions. By signing Todd Gurley this offseason to take over for Devonta Freeman, the Falcons solidified the third part of that trio, and CBSSports writer Jared Dubin likes the group they've assembled. In a recent ranking of the NFL's best offensive trios – an area the Falcons have often ranked highly over the past several seasons – Atlanta was right up there near the top. The Falcons were tied for sixth with the Green Bay Packers, boasting an aggregate grade of 8.30. Dubin graded each piece of the offensive trio on a scale of 1-10, and he gave the quarterback a higher weight than the other two positions. Ryan earned an eight from Dubin, Gurley received a six and Jones received a perfect 10. Here's what Dubin had to say about the Falcons: "Ryan is remarkably durable, remarkably productive, and until last season, consistently above average across the board. He took a step backward last season, falling short of league averages in yards per attempt, touchdown rate, and passer rating, each for the first time since 2013. … "Gurley was just cut by the Rams, so even though he was slightly more effective last season than popular consensus would have you believe, we can't justify giving him too high a grade. Jones is arguably the best wideout in football, more efficient on a per-route basis than just about everybody in the league, just about every year. He's also now got 14 touchdowns across the past two seasons, so hopefully we can dispel with the silly notion that he simply cannot score." Atlanta doesn't just boast a formidable trio, offensively. Calvin Ridley has emerged as one of the top young receivers in the NFL in just two seasons, and the Falcons have high hopes that tight end Hayden Hurst can be an effective option for Ryan in his first season. To see the rest of Dubin's offensive trio rankings, click here. ESPN: FPI projections for NFL teams The 2020 football season is still a ways away, but there are enough known factors with each NFL team that predictions can start being pieced together. ESPN's Football Power Index (FPI) is one such prediction model, and it has offered its predictions on which teams will make the postseason this year and how the standings will shake out. It does not place the Falcons in the former category, giving Atlanta just a 31-percent chance to reach the playoffs. ESPN's FPI ranks the Falcons No. 18 among the league's 32 teams and projects 7.5 wins for Atlanta. The model has two NFC South teams ranked in its top 10 – the New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Saints are projected to reach 10.2 wins and have an 83-percent chance to reach the playoffs, while the Buccaneers have a 63-percent chance to play past the regular season and a projected to reach 9.1 wins. If Atlanta is going to buck the FPI projections, it will need to play well right out of the gate and finish strong in one of the toughest divisions in the NFL. To see the rest of ESPN's projections, click here. NFL.com: NFL's top 10 deep passers As is the case with many aspects of his play, Matt Ryan doesn't get the credit he deserves for his ability to throw the ball downfield. Even a portion of Falcons fans like to criticize Ryan for, what they believe, is a weak arm. Well, the stats have a different story to tell. NFL.com writer Nick Shook, using Next Gen Stats, listed the 10 best deep passers from the 2019 season. The primary metric used in his piece is completion percentage above expectation, but there were several other factors weighed as well. In this particular ranking, Ryan measured out as the ninth-best deep passer in the league last season. "Welcome to the weeds. Some quarterbacks had higher passer ratings on deep passes, but the completion percentage above expectation still reigns supreme here, despite Ryan's negative TD-to-INT ratio. Look, it wasn't the best campaign for the Falcons, but Ryan still gave it his best, dropping six DIMES while throwing into tight windows on 34.5 percent of his deep attempts. That might have been what produced his five interceptions, of course, but the positive completion percentage means he was still more effective going deep than he wasn't, even when incomplete stats like interceptions tell a different story. Don't overlook his pressure percentage of 32.7, either." To see the rest of Shook's list, click here. CBSSports: 2020 QB tiers Ryan earned the first NFL MVP Award in franchise history after a stellar 2016 campaign, but he's played at a very similar level since that season. In fact, No quarterback in the league has topped Ryan's 18,429 passing yards since 2016, and his 119 touchdown passes are tied with Drew Brees for second most in that time, just behind Russell Wilson's 121. Ryan also has the most completions in the NFL since the 2016 season – 43 ahead of Brees, who is second in that metric – and he has the fifth-best completion percentage as well. Yet despite that sustained high level of play, CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora does not believe Ryan is a "Bona Fide Franchise Quarterback." In his recent revisiting of NFL quarterback tiers, La Canfora has the following players listed as franchise quarterbacks: Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Carson Wentz and Ben Roethlisberger. He has Ryan listed on the tier below in what he calls, "Top Pros, Proven Winners." "Ryan isn't getting any younger either, and the cast around him is not what it once was," La Canfora writes. "At his price point, Ryan just sneaks into the top-10." It's hard to understand what role money plays in La Canfora's reasoning, but that can be set aside. There's no arguing with probably half of his top-tier group, but the inclusions of Watson, Wentz and Roethlisberger at this point raise some eyebrows. Watson is undoubtedly a good player, but he's yet to put together the type of statistical resume or on-field success that Ryan has. Wentz looked well on his way to an MVP season of his own in 2017, but he's yet to regain that level of play due to injury. And Roethlisberger's best days are far behind him, and he missed most of last year with an injury of his own. That Ryan is considered a cut below those players is a bit of a head-scratcher. Then again, La Canfora did have Cam Newton as a franchise quarterback in every edition of this list, dating back to 2016, prior to this recent edition. He has never, by the way, included Ryan in that top group – even the year after Ryan's MVP season. You have to wonder if something else is in play here. To see the rest of La Canfora's quarterback tiers and how it all shakes out, click here. NFL.com: Most underappreciated players in NFC During his time with the Falcons, Grady Jarrett has developed into one of the best interior defensive linemen in the NFL. He was finally rewarded for his play in 2019 with his first trip to the Pro Bowl, and Jarrett's future looks bright. Falcons fans don't need any explanation of just how good Jarrett is on a snap-by-snap basis, but he still isn't often in the same national conversation as some other top defensive tackles like Aaron Donald or Fletcher Cox. Perhaps that's why NFL Network analytics expert Cynthia Frelund named Jarrett as the most underappreciated player on the Falcons' roster. "Jarrett's ability to stop the run made him an extremely efficient member of the Falcons' defense, as he tied for the NFL lead with 20 run stuffs last season (per Next Gen Stats)," Frelund writes. "My spatial models show that his ability to pressure opposing quarterbacks ranked fifth (in pressure-rate percentage) among interior defenders." Now an important leader both on and off the field for the Falcons, Jarrett will need to play a vital role for the defense if Atlanta is to make another trip to the postseason in 2020. To see the rest of the NFC players who Frelund believes are underrated, click here.
  7. https://www.atlantafalcons.com/news/dirk-koetter-on-russell-gage-i-think-we-will-see-a-jump-in-his-game The Atlanta Falcons traded trusted veteran slot receiver Mohamed Sanu in late October of the 2019 season opening up a path for second-year receiver Russell Gage to emerge as one of the pleasant surprises of the year. Showcasing some polished route-running and impressive speed, Gage made some tough catches last season when the opportunities arose. That experience should greatly benefit him heading into his third year with Atlanta, and offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter thinks Gage's best football is ahead of him. "I think Russ is very very talented, and I think we will see a jump in his game," Koetter said. Gage started four of the final six games of the season, and he saw a drastic uptick in production during the nine games after Sanu was traded. Prior to Sanu's trade to the New England Patriots, Gage saw just eight targets and caught four passes for 44 yards. Gage topped each of those marks in just the Falcons' first game without Sanu, snagging seven balls for 58 yards on nine targets. Over the final nine games of the Falcons' season – when Atlanta went 6-3 – Gage was targeted 66 times and caught 45 passes for 402 yards and a touchdown. He finished the year with four 50-plus-yard games and caught at least five passes in six games. "When Russ got more opportunities, his talent started to show up," Koetter said. "I think part of it is his confidence grew, and as his confidence grew he got better. Just for any player that goes from a role player to at least a part-time starter, I think consistency is the next phase." That Gage blossomed so quickly as a receiver in 2019 is quite impressive, given his past production at LSU and in his rookie season. Gage finished his college career with just 347 receiving yards and four touchdowns on 26 catches; he did not have any receiving stats during his first two years at LSU. In fact, he had nearly as many rushing yards (232) as he did receiving yards (285) during his senior season. The Falcons used Gage sparingly as a receiver in his first season as well, and he caught just six passes, mostly on shorter routes. Instead, he became a standout on Atlanta's special teams coverage units. But Gage's emergence in his second season indicates there's much more potential as a receiver for the team to tap into. Since the Falcons signed former first-round pick Laquon Treadwell in free agency, there have been some who have penciled him in as the team's de-facto third receiver. Despite his high draft status, Gage appears to be the player who offers more upside and has built chemistry with Ryan. In none of his four season with the Vikings did Treadwell match the production Gage showed during the second half of 2019. Gage's skillset also translates nicely to the slot position, where the Falcons will need someone to replace Sanu over the long term. During his audition, Gage showed everything he needed to get the first crack at that job and impressed head coach Dan Quinn in the process. "I thought [Russell] Gage was another one that could play in the slot and be effective, and you saw the production that took place into that one," Quinn said. In just two NFL seasons, Gage has shown immense growth. With even more opportunities potentially in line for him next year, it's very possible that we see him take his gam
  8. https://www.atlantafalcons.com/news/why-the-lsu-game-endeared-a-j-terrell-to-raheem-morris-the-most One game shouldn't overshadow an entire career, but A.J. Terrell's performance against Ja'Marr Chase in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game had a massive impact on the public's perception of him. It also had a pretty big impact on Falcons defensive coordinator Raheem Morris, who knows a thing or two about coaching cornerbacks at the highest level. But while public opinion soured on Terrell because of his play against LSU, Morris came away with an entirely different reaction. "The things that people didn't like about him was his LSU game that he got beat on a couple of times, but that was what made me like him probably the most," Morris told AtlantaFalcons.com. "In that game, I saw a guy go out there and challenge a guy. Get beat, not be afraid, make a play. Get beat, not be afraid, make a play." It's true that Terrell did get beaten by Chase, who finished his sophomore season with 84 catches for an NCAA-best 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns, in the title game, but practically everyone did in 2019. A mere glance at Chase's stat line from that game – nine catches, 221 yards, two touchdowns – might leave Falcons fans anxious, but there are two important things missing from those raw numbers. The first, Clemson had so much faith in their top corner that they tasked Terrell with shadowing Chase around the field and often asked him to cover him one-on-one. Seeing how Terrell didn't back down from that challenge and seemed to relish it gave Morris even more belief in the player he can become. "That's kind of our game, that's kind of the life we live, especially when you live at corner," Morris said. "People call it an island, but when you have the ability to go out there and play in a big-time game and be competitive that way and not be afraid to lose sometimes, which is going to happen, to be able to come back that next play to really make a play, those are the kind of guys that I love." The second aspect of Terrell's performance against LSU that's important to consider is that he played much better than the stat line reflects. Terrell was in position to make a handful of plays against the nation's leading receiver, who also benefitted from having Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow throwing him the football. On a couple of occasions, Terrell was in the right place at the right time only to have a Burrow dime make the difference. When you're playing in the title game, that's how life is sometimes. However, that performance doesn't change what the Falcons like about their newest first-round corner, namely: his speed, length and competitive attitude. It's not as though Terrell hasn't proven he can play against top competition, either. If he had ended his college career after returning an interception for a touchdown against Alabama in the 2019 College Football Playoff National Championship Game, Terrell would have been riding high heading into draft season. Instead, he enters the NFL coming off that LSU performance, but it might work out in the Falcons' favor. Terrell now has a chip on his shoulder that will motivate him to prove he's more than one game. "You know, I always carry a chip on my shoulder, but that one game definitely gave me a chip on my shoulder," Terrell said after the draft. "… For me, that game was definitely a learning experience of just never being satisfied. I'm just ready to get back to work, get back in the lab." That's the kind of mindset Morris can't wait to work with.
  9. https://www.atlantafalcons.com/news/how-each-falcons-2020-opponent-fared-offensively-defensively-in-2019 The Atlanta Falcons face one of the hardest schedules in 2020, regardless of how you measure it. Whether basing strength of schedule on last year's win totals or Vegas win projections for 2020, the Falcons will be going up against a high level of talent in the fall. Now that the order of the Falcons' schedule has been revealed, let's take a closer look at the offensive and defensive talent they will face each week. Week 1 vs Seattle Seahawks (2019 record: 11-5) 2019 offensive ranks: No. 8 total (374.4 yds/game), No. 9 scoring (25.3 pts/game) 2019 defensive ranks: No. 26 total (381.6 yds/game), No. 23 scoring (24.9 pts/game) Led by quarterback Russell Wilson, the Seahawks had more of an offensive identity in 2019. Wilson didn't have to shoulder the load by himself, however, as Chris Carson led a ground game that ranked fourth in rushing yards per game. Defensively, Seattle wasn't as stout as it's been in years past, but the Seahawks forced 32 turnovers, which were the third-most in the NFL. Week 2 at Dallas Cowboys (2019 record: 8-8) 2019 offensive ranks: No. 1 total (431.5 yds/game), No. 6 scoring (27.1 pts/game) 2019 defensive ranks: No. 9 total (327 yds/game), No. 11 scoring (20.1 pts/game) The Cowboys had a top-10 offense and defense in 2019, but they didn't perform well enough to save Jason Garrett's job. Now, Mike McCarthy takes over in Dallas and has a ton of talent to work with. Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore adds first-round draft pick CeeDee Lamb to an offense that features weapons all over the place. Defensively, Mike Nolan will replace Rod Marinelli to try to get the most out of a relatively young unit. Week 3 vs Chicago Bears (2019 record: 8-8) 2019 offensive ranks: No. 29 total (296.8 yds/game), No. 29 scoring (17.5 pts/game) 2019 defensive ranks: No. 8 total (324.1 yds/game), No. 4 scoring (18.6 pts/game) Bears head coach Matt Nagy is known for his offensive background, but the Bears have been a defense-oriented team during his tenure. Chicago acquired Nick Foles this offseason to compete with Mitch Trubisky at quarterback, and the team has loaded up at the tight end position. Khalil Mack, one of the best pass rushers in the NFL, leads a defense loaded with playmakers. Week 4 at Green Bay Packers (2019 record: 13-3) 2019 offensive ranks: No. 18 total (345.5 yds/game), No. 15 scoring (23.5 pts/game) 2019 defensive ranks: No. 18 total (352.6 yds/game), No. 9 scoring (19.6 pts/game) In Matt LaFleur's first season, the Packers reached the NFC Championship Game despite not having elite production in most offensive or defensive stats. Green Bay was 8-1 in one-score games last season, aided by the third-best turnover differential in the league. Aaron Rodgers leads an offense that is thin at receiver, and the Packers curiously spent their first-round pick on quarterback Jordan Love. Green Bay's defense is led by a quality secondary and a talented defensive line. Weeks 5 & 8 at/vs Carolina Panthers (2019 record: 5-11) 2019 offensive ranks: No. 19 total (341.8 yds/game), No. 18 scoring (21.3 pts/game) 2019 defensive ranks: No. 23 total (374.5 yds/game), No. 31 scoring (29.4 pts/game) The Panthers are undoubtedly a team in transition. Gone are coach Ron Rivera, quarterback Cam Newton and star linebacker Luke Kuechly. Matt Rhule is taking over for his first NFL head coaching job, and he added Joe Brady, who helped orchestrate LSU's 2019 national title-winning season. Carolina also signed Teddy Bridgewater to take over at quarterback and it gave running back Christian McCaffrey a lucrative extension. The Panthers used every one of their draft picks on the defensive side of the ball, trying to plug a number of holes. Week 6 at Minnesota Vikings (2019 record: 10-6) 2019 offensive ranks: No. 16 total (353.5 yds/game), No. 8 scoring (25.4 pts/game) 2019 defensive ranks: No. 14 total (341.6 yds/game), No. 6 scoring (18.9 pts/game) Minnesota earned double-digit wins with one of the league's top scoring offensive and defensive units. Offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski left to become head coach in Cleveland, but Gary Kubiak will take over that role and the offensive scheme will remain the same. Defensive coordinator George Edwards also departed this offseason. The Vikings have one of the NFL's most talented rosters with playmakers on offense and defense. They forced the fourth-most turnovers in the league in 2019 and also recorded the fifth-most sacks. Minnesota drafted Justin Jefferson in an attempt to replace Stefon Diggs' production and Jeff Gladney to bolster a cornerback group that had some key departures. Week 7 vs Detroit Lions (2019 record: 3-12-1) 2019 offensive ranks: No. 17 total (346.8 yds/game), No. 19 scoring (21.3 pts/game) 2019 defensive ranks: No. 31 total (400.4 yds/game), No. 26 scoring (26.4 pts/game) The Lions had one of the worst defenses in the NFL last season, but they've made several offseason moves to attempt to correct that, including signing former Falcons corner Desmond Trufant. Detroit also signed linebacker Jaime Collins and drafted cornerback Jeff Okudah, who figures to replace top corner Darius Slay. Offensively, the team has weapons and drafted D'Andre Swift to add to their backfield. The health of quarterback Matthew Stafford is ultimately the most important thing for the Lions, however. Week 9 vs Denver Broncos (2019 record: 7-9) 2019 offensive ranks: No. 28 total (298.6 yds/game), No. 28 scoring (17.6 pts/game) 2019 defensive ranks: No. 12 total (337 yds/game), No. 10 scoring (19.8 pts/game) In Vic Fangio's first season, the Broncos took a step forward defensively and a step back on offense. Denver appears to be confident in Drew Lock as its quarterback of the future as it took steps to upgrade its offensive line in free agency and drafted a number of receivers, including former Alabama star Jerry Jeudy, to join Courtland Sutton. The Broncos also added former Chargers running back Melvin Gordon in free agency and trade for cornerback A.J. Bouye. Weeks 11 & 13 at/vs New Orleans Saints (2019 record: 13-3) 2019 offensive ranks: No. 9 total (373.9 yds/game), No. 3 scoring (28.6 pts/game) 2019 defensive ranks: No. 11 total (333.1 yds/game), No. 13 scoring (21.3 pts/game) New Orleans has been one of the top teams in the NFL over the past few seasons. The Saints were second in turnover differential in 2019 with a plus-15 difference, which helped them finish the year with the third-best time of possession on offense. New Orleans had 51 sacks last season and allowed only 25, both of which were the third-best marks in the NFL. With Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas leading the way on offense and Cameron Jordan, Malcolm Jenkins and Marshon Lattimore on defense, the Saints are in good shape once again. Week 12 vs Las Vegas Raiders (2019 record: 7-9) 2019 offensive ranks: No. 11 total (363.7 yds/game), No. 24 scoring (19.6 pts/game) 2019 defensive ranks: No. 19 total (354.8 yds/game), No. 24 scoring (26.2 pts/game) Rookie running back Josh Jacobs was one of the league's top first-year players last season, and he became the focal point of the Raiders' offense. Las Vegas signed Marcus Mariota and it remains to be seen what the dynamic at quarterback will be with David Carr still on the roster. The Raiders added some serious speed at receiver by drafting Henry Ruggs in the first round, and they added to their defense by using another first-round pick on cornerback Damon Arnette. Week 14 at Los Angeles Chargers (2019 record: 5-11) 2019 offensive ranks: No. 10 total (367.4 yds/game), No. 21 scoring (21.1 pts/game) 2019 defensive ranks: No. 6 total (313.1 yds/game), No. 14 scoring (21.6 pts/game) Despite losing star defensive playmaker Derwin James for the first 11 games of the season, the Chargers fielded one of the better defenses in the league, and they added Kenneth Murray, one of the top linebackers in this year's draft. Pass rusher Joey Bosa is becoming one of the league's top defensive ends but didn't have much help as Los Angeles had just 30 sacks in 2019. Offensively, the team parted ways with longtime quarterback Phillip Rivers and now have Tyrod Taylor and rookie Justin Herbert there at the position. Also gone is running back Melvin Gordon, although the Chargers drafted Josh Kelley to pair with Austin Ekeler in the backfield. Weeks 15 & 17 vs/at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2019 record: 7-9) 2019 offensive ranks: No. 3 total (397.9 yds/game), No. 3 scoring (28.6 pts/game) 2019 defensive ranks: No. 15 total (343.9 yds/game), No. 29 scoring (28.1 pts/game) Don't let the raw defensive stats fool you, the Buccaneers were absolutely playing like one of the league's best defenses by the end of last season. Tampa Bay ranked fifth in defensive DVOA last season after finishing dead last in the same metric in 2018. Of course, the additions to the offense with Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and rookie tackle Tristan Wirfs can't be overlooked, and Bruce Arians always knows how to get the most out of his offenses. But a defense that is no longer put into bad situations by Jameis Winston might be the most dangerous thing about the Bucs in 2020. Week 16 at Kansas City Chiefs (2019 record: 12-4) 2019 offensive ranks: No. 6 total (379.2 yds/game), No. 5 scoring (28.2 pts/game) 2019 defensive ranks: No. 17 total (349.6 yds/game), No. 7 scoring (19.3 pts/game) Failing to repeat as the league's top offense in 2019 did not stop the Chiefs from earning the Lombardi Trophy. Kansas City was a better overall team last season with its improvements on defense, and Patrick Mahomes continues to make his case for being the best quarterback in the NFL. The Chiefs are absolutely loaded on offense and were the best unit on third downs in the league last season. They've now added former LSU star Clyde Edwards-Helaire to the mix, giving them a true No. 1 running back. No team is as equipped to win in a shootout, but the Chiefs proved last year that they don't always have to. Final Analysis: Given the caliber of team the Falcons will face next season they will need to maximize the talent on their roster, particularly on offense, to keep pace. Atlanta has played its best ball late in the season under Dan Quinn, and it has the second-best winning percentage over the final four games of each season since his arrival. That will need to continue to be the case in 2020, as the back part of the schedule figures to be the hardest.
  10. https://www.atlantafalcons.com/news/marlon-davidson-s-versatility-makes-him-a-perfect-fit-with-falcons The Atlanta Falcons sought to improve their pass rush and interior defensive line depth in this year's NFL Draft, and they did both by drafting one single player. Former Auburn defensive lineman Marlon Davidson is one of the most unique players entering the NFL. The 6-foot-3, 303-pound Davidson played defensive end for the Tigers, despite his size, and was also sturdy enough to shift over to defensive tackle. Even while he was out on the edge, Davidson played the game like a penetrating defensive tackle, which is the role the Falcons envision for him in Atlanta. "He's been a defensive end," Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. "He's been stand up and down. We're going to try to feature him over the defensive tackle spots, at the guards, as often as you can. With a guy with that versatile, we're going to try to partner him up inside as often as we can." Saying that Davidson played like a defensive tackle on the edge is by no means a slight. He possesses surprising athleticism and explosiveness that allowed him to get around opposing tackles quicker than they expected. Davidson also has jarring flexibility for someone his size. It's his play strength and ability to set the edge that earn him those comparisons. The Falcons struggled at times last season to dictate the edge against opponents, most notably in the season opener against the Minnesota Vikings, but that shouldn't be the case if they do task Davidson with playing defensive end at times. That inside-outside versatility is exactly what makes a player like Davidson attractive to Atlanta, which has valued that type of dual ability in players like Jack Crawford and Allen Bailey. Although Quinn has stated they would like to play Davidson primarily at defensive tackle and allow him to compete against opposing guards instead of tackles, it would not be surprising to see the Falcons shift him outside on early downs. Atlanta re-signed defensive tackle Tyeler Davison this offseason, who was arguably the team's top run defender on the defensive line in 2019. It would make sense for the Falcons to want to keep him on the field in running situations while also utilizing Davidson's size on the edge. It's in passing scenarios that shifting Davidson inside makes the most sense. Grady Jarrett, who was named to his first Pro Bowl in 2019, is one of the top pass-rushing defensive tackles in the league despite not consistently having a fellow interior pass rusher that teams have to worry about. Nobody yet knows if that's what Davidson can become in the NFL, but the tools are there. As a bonus, Davidson's experience rushing off the edge should make him an effective player to use on stunts, which the Falcons like to do with their defensive line. Davidson ran the 40-yard dash in 5.04 seconds, and he isn't a speed rusher. That won't matter on the interior, however. What will matter is his technique, and he displayed good hand usage throughout his college career to help him win in pass-rush situations. A four-year starter at Auburn, Davidson improved with each successive year. As a senior, he recorded 48 tackles, 11.5 tackles for a loss and 6.5 sacks; he finished his career at Auburn with 14.5 sacks. Jarrett is incredibly proficient with his technique, and he'll certainly provide Davidson with a great mentor early in his NFL career. However, the most impressive thing about Davidson has absolutely nothing to do with his skills on the football field – It's his unshakable self-confidence. "I knew when they pulled me out of the womb I was destined for greatness," Davidson said after he was drafted. "I'm 100 percent Marlon Davidson. I'm 100 percent proud of Marlon Davidson. I'm the best. I'm going to continue to be the best. Whenever you see Marlon Davidson come up in the spot, man, know he's one of those type of guys. You know he's coming here to bring havoc." Davidson growth while at Auburn is a testament to his commitment to back up the talk. He has an infectious personality that should be welcome in the Falcons' locker room. He was a team captain as a senior in college, and it might not be too long before he emerges as a leader in Atlanta.
  11. https://www.atlantafalcons.com/news/dirk-koetter-falcons-offense-played-its-worst-game No **** Sherlock! The Falcons’ offense appeared to be hitting their stride heading into the Week 7 matchup with the Rams. That changed on Sunday afternoon at Mercedes-Benz Stadium when Wade Phillips and the Rams’ defense gave Atlanta all they could handle. “We didn’t play well in any areas of the game on offense,” offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said on Monday. “We played our worst game of the year. We didn’t execute well across the board.” The Falcons were averaging 22.5 points per game through six weeks. Atlanta mustered just 10 points against the Rams, the second time they’ve done that all season. Atlanta’s offensive line struggled to protect Matt Ryan as he was sacked five times and pressured nine times. The Falcons also couldn’t get the run game going, finishing the day with 38 yards on the ground. Defensive end Dante Fowler had three of the Rams’ five sacks. “We got beat on the edge,” Koetter said. The Falcons were 3-of-12 on third down, an area they had worked to improve over the past few weeks to improve. Across the board, it wasn’t a performance you’d expect to see from the Falcons’ offense led by Ryan and wide receiver Julio Jones. The only touchdown of the game came from Matt Schaub in the final minutes of the fourth quarter after Ryan left the game with an ankle injury. Falcons coach Dan Quinn said they don’t know how much time Ryan will miss and they won’t put him back out on the field until he’s fully ready.
  12. 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.
  13. https://www.atlantafalcons.com/news/thomas-dimitroff-on-the-moment-he-realized-who-the-falcons-will-take-in-2019-nfl 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.
  14. Early Bird Report: Todd McShay's perfect three-round mock draft for the Falcons Will McFadden AtlantaFalcons.com 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.
  15. https://www.atlantafalcons.com/news/peter-king-talks-falcons-who-needs-to-step-top-draft-priority-and-the-x-factor-i Kelsey Conway AtlantaFalcons.com 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..
  16. https://www.atlantafalcons.com/news/questions-about-falcons-draft-needs-the-matt-ryan-debate-grady-jarrett 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
  17. Wednesday, Mar 13, 2019 12:02 PM NFL Draft: 5 defensive end prospects who could help the Falcons Will McFadden AtlantaFalcons.com 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
  18. https://www.atlantafalcons.com/news/dan-quinn-believes-isaiah-oliver-is-ready-to-thrive-in-bigger-role 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.”
  19. https://www.atlantafalcons.com/news/cowboys-kris-richard-seahawks-bobby-wagner-among-those-heaping-praise-on-dan-qui 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.”
  20. https://www.atlantafalcons.com/news/how-the-falcons-austin-hooper-worked-his-way-to-becoming-a-pro-bowl-alternate-in Kelsey Conway AtlantaFalcons.com 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.”
  21. https://www.atlantafalcons.com/news/falcons-place-josh-harris-on-injured-reserve-promote-justin-zimmer-to-active-ros 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.
  22. https://www.atlantafalcons.com/news/for-bruce-irvin-signing-with-the-hometown-falcons-was-a-childhood-dream 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.’”
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