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Falcons' rookie progress report: Cali cool Austin Hooper gets his turn Nov 1, 2016 Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer Facebook Twitter Pinterest Email print comment FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Tight end Austin Hooper, the Atlanta Falcons' third-round draft pick from Stanford, caught wind of quarterback Matt Ryanreferring to him as "California Cool" following Sunday's victory against Green Bay. "My mom sent me that article," Hooper said with a laugh. "I thought it was pretty funny." Ryan explained how Hooper, a Cali native, expresses a calm demeanor on the field as if he has no pulse. So the "California Cool" reference seems appropriate. Right? "It came from QB 1, so I can't really argue," Hooper said. "So, yeah, that's what I'll go with." Hooper will get a chance to show just how unfazed he is by the moment with his role set to increase. He is expected to be the primary tight end for Thursday night's matchup against Tampa Bay, with veteran Jacob Tamme ruled out because of a shoulder injury. Hooper had a strong performance after Tamme left the game Sunday, finishing with a season-high five catches (41 yards) on five targets. "You pray for (Tamme), because nobody wants to see that happen to him," Hooper said. "But at the same time, that's part of the whole reason the organization brought me here. I've got to step up and do my due diligence and get ready to compete. It's not exactly the best circumstances for Jacob. For me, I just have to step in there, be ready to go, and execute." Falcons coach Dan Quinn believes his rookie draft class has been up to the challenge. The top four picks -- safety Keanu Neal, linebackers Deion Jones and De'Vondre Campbell, and Hooper -- all have started at least one game, with Neal, Jones, and Campbell regulars on defense. Add in undrafted primary nickel back Brian Poole and the Falcons have had quite a youth movement, particularly on the defensive side. "I think it's a very strong class," Quinn said. "They've played a lot of turns. ... The football smarts, the toughness they have, the willingness to work as hard as they can for their teammates, that totally shows how important it is to them." The draft class -- plus one (Poole) -- evaluated its own performance through the first eight games and looked ahead to improvement over the second half of the schedule: Keanu Neal, strong safety, first round (Florida) Associated Press Games/starts: 6/6 (inactive first 2 games following knee surgery) Significant stats: Team-leading 45 tackles, 3 forced fumbles, 1 tackle for loss Best/worst moment: Hard-hitting run stop vs. Chargers; overly aggressive missed tackle vs. Packers leading to 20-plus yard pass play. Self-grade: "I'd say around a C, C+. That gives yourself room to improve. I don't think anyone that plays the game of football would give themselves an A. That's just the mentality that we have." What's next: "There are flashes of good plays, but there's always a lot of things you can work on. I made a few rookie mistakes that I'm built to learn from. Overall, it's been a pretty good first few games. Just continuing to learn from the mistakes." Deion Jones, middle linebacker, second round (LSU) Dale Zanine/USA TODAY Sports Games/starts: 7/6 (missed 1 game with ankle injury) Significant stats: 45 tackles, 2 interceptions, 3 tackles for losses, 2 quarterback hits Best/worst moment: 90-yard, pick-six back home in New Orleans vs. Saints; missed tackle vs. Chargers running back Melvin Gordon. Self-grade: "Maybe like a C." What's next: "I feel like I'm still learning from the older guys. Really day by day, I'm learning the scheme more and more. And week by week, I'm progressing, particularly with communication." Austin Hooper, tight end, third round (Stanford) AP Photo/David Goldman Games/starts: 8/1 Significant stats: 11 catches, 195 yards, 1 touchdown, no drops Best/worst moment: 42-yard TD in win vs. Carolina; missed run-block assignment against Julius Peppers vs. Packers. Self-grade: "I'd say I'm at a C. Most of the time, I'm doing what I need to do, on paper. But you have to put a little more into it. That's a whole part of the learning experience." What's next: "I'm just trying to improve every game. I want to make more plays than I did the previous week, limit the amount of errors, and keep the trend going." DeVondre Campbell, linebacker, fourth round (Minnesota) Jason Getz/USA TODAY Sports Games/starts: 4/3 (missed four games with ankle injury) Significant stats: 22 tackles, 3 tackles for losses Best/worst moment: Tackle for loss vs. Buccaneers' Doug Martin; bad technique on 49-yard pass play surrendered vs. Chargers. Letter grade: "I probably say like a C+, maybe. That's kind of being generous, in my eyes. I'm very critical of myself. If I make a mistake, it kind of disintegrates me." What's next: "Just growing and not making the same mistakes that I made in the past. Just really trying to become a professional." Brian Poole, nickelback, undrafted (Florida) AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt Games/starts: 8/3 Significant stats: 30 tackles, 4 passes defensed, 2 tackles for loss Best/worst moment: The third-down stop vs. Chargers; touchdown allowed vs. Packers. Letter grade: "I'd say C. There's a lot of stuff we can get better at, all of us rookies." What's next: "I feel like I've been playing solid, but I feel like I still have some stuff I could work on." Note: Sixth-round draft pick Wes Schweitzer, an offensive guard from San Jose State, was inactive the first eight games. Seventh-round pick Devin Fuller, a wide receiver from UCLA, was placed on injured reserve before the season with a shoulder injury.