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  1. Hi #Falconsfam, I'd keep an eye on this guy TCU DT Ross Blacklock. Dude is rising. He was mocked 47 pick to our team. My first mock ever. I tweeted out 2 weeks ago on Twitter. And in my mind. Fits what the #Falcons need up front. I think he'd pair well with Grady Jarrett. And is becoming a viable legitimate option for #Falcons at 16. His stock and brand are picking up. http://www.nfl.com/m/share?p=%2Fvideos%2Fnfl-now%2F0ap3000001105458%2FRoss-Blacklock-describes-how-a-college-injury-made-him-a-better-athlete
  2. Hi #Falconsfam, checkout Pound 4 Pound ATL video. As J.R. Clark speaks on why #Falcons need to invest more in the secondary. To help the pass rush. If they can't bolster the d-line in 2020. Share your thoughts. #Riseup #InBrotherhood
  3. https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/28648779/five-2020-offseason-moves-nfc-teams-bill-barnwell-predicts-trades-free-agency-cuts Just posting the Falcons part of the article. Atlanta Falcons Projected 2020 cap space: $6.1 million 1. Clear out cap space. The Falcons don't have much room to work with as they try to rebuild their defense. What's even worse is that they don't even really have all that much flexibility to create room; after converting $12.5 million of Matt Ryan's $20.5 million base salary into a bonus in January, there's no other massive salary they would feel comfortable turning into a signing bonus for space. The best Atlanta can really do is convert $10 million of Julio Jones' $11.2 million base salary into a signing bonus, which would free up $7.5 million in room. Instead, the Falcons are going to have to create room the hard way. They can start by cutting Devonta Freeman, who has failed to live up to the expectations he set while excelling under Kyle Shanahan. The team would be responsible for $6 million in dead money for Freeman, but it would free up $3.5 million in space. Adding Ty Sambrailo to the discard pile would free up an additional $3.7 million in room. Given that they still need to leave space to sign their draft picks, there's just not a clear path for the Falcons to add a couple of stars on the defensive side of the ball. They're more realistically looking at one star or a couple of depth pieces. And even that requires the Falcons to make a couple of tough choices ... 2. Let Austin Hooper follow Vic Beasley Jr. out the door. In a move I've never seen, the Falcons publicly announced before free agency even began that they weren't going to negotiate with Beasley. I was a bit surprised; they picked up Beasley's fifth-year option last year, and the former first-rounder racked up 6.5 sacks over the second half of the season. This is likely the right move, though, given Beasley's inconsistency. As tough as it might be, Atlanta needs to pursue the same track with its starting tight end. Hooper set career highs in catches (75), receiving yards (787) and touchdowns (six) despite missing three games in 2019, but the Falcons already have too much committed on the offensive side of the ball. This is a team that already has four players making top-tier money at their respective positions in Ryan, Jones, Jake Matthews and Alex Mack (plus Freeman if he's not cut) and three recent first-round picks in Calvin Ridley, Kaleb McGary and Chris Lindstrom. This team really needs to take the assets it has left and commit them to fixing the defense, and that means letting Hooper leave. I suppose it's possible the Falcons could franchise Hooper and try to work out a trade for a draft pick or a defensive piece, though it might limit what they can do in the early days of free agency or prevent them from making a move altogether if he signs the tag. The dream would be to negotiate a trade for a pass-rusher; Yannick Ngakoue comes to mind because of how thin the Jags are at tight end, though Atlanta would probably need to throw in a meaningful pick to make that deal work. 3. Find a No. 1 pass-rusher. The Falcons have to be considered candidates for each of the top available edge rushers, though they're going to need to get creative to compete for Jadeveon Clowney. This could be a landing spot for Dante Fowler Jr. or short-term options like Robert Quinn or Jason Pierre-Paul. Atlanta's late-season surge means it will be picking 16th in April's draft. The Falcons could move down and add extra picks, but it wouldn't be the worst idea if they ended up using their pick on an edge defender, too. 4. Add a nose tackle. The Falcons got by with former Saints backup Tyeler Davison in 2019 and could bring back Davison, but there's something to be said for adding an impact defender next to Grady Jarrett. The Falcons were much better against the run (14th in DVOA) than the pass (25th), but there's a chance for them to get even better against the run if they upgrade the nose and finally get a healthy season (or a healthier season) from safety Keanu Neal. The big names in this category could be fun. I'd love to see Jarrett next to Ndamukong Suh, who is among the free agents on the market. Michael Pierce is a brutally effective run defender who could fit in Atlanta. Danny Shelton was great for the Patriots in 2019 and might come at a cheaper price. This is also a spot Atlanta might address in the draft. 5. Draft a running back. If the Falcons cut Freeman, they would be left with one of the league's least-imposing running back rooms. The good news is that there's virtually an endless supply of useful running backs. Atlanta could easily add someone like Lamar Miller or Carlos Hyde on a one-year deal without significantly impacting its ability to address the defense. In the big picture, though, it makes sense for this team to look at drafting a running back in the middle rounds to take over. Atlanta has had success finding guys like Freeman and Tevin Coleman there in the past, and it can use the extra second-rounder it has from the Mohamed Sanu deal with the Patriots to trade down and grab extra selections.
  4. https://es.pn/2sZdDYI 6:00 AM ET Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- In a perfect world, the Atlanta Falcons would bring back tight end Austin Hooper next season as a pass-catching threat alongside wide receivers Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. The salary cap makes matters imperfect -- the Falcons currently have about $200 million in contract commitments for 2020 -- which is why Hooper’s future with the franchise is unclear. Best of NFL Nation Both general manager Thomas Dimitroff and team president Rich McKay said they are not concerned about the team’s salary-cap situation heading into 2020. And there’s been some restructuring already with the contracts of quarterback Matt Ryan and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett to create a little more cap space. But that doesn’t mean the Falcons are prepared to offer Hooper a lucrative deal that resets the tight-end market, like what his camp is expecting. And the team is hesitant to go the franchise-tag route knowing it would mean a cap hit of about $10.7 million in 2020. Just imagine the financial demands Hooper could have made had a sprained MCL not thrown off his torrid pace. Through the first eight weeks of the season, he ranked fifth in the NFL among all receivers with 52 receptions. He finished the season with a career-best 75 catches for 787 yards and six touchdowns despite missing three games. "Austin has improved every single season, earned the first of many Pro Bowls [2018], and is coming off a career season at just 25 years old," said Steve Caric, Hooper’s agent who has yet to discuss an offer with the Falcons. “He’s a top-5 tight end in the NFL right now and his best football is in front of him. I expect an aggressive market for him." We’ll see how everything plays out for Hooper, who told the Atlanta media he would be open to returning to the Falcons depending on whether an offer is made. The chemistry Hooper has established with Ryan through their offseason workouts in California can't be overlooked. Whatever the case, Hooper is arguably the most intriguing of the Falcons’ pending free agents. Here's how things could play out: Austin Hooper, tight end Notable numbers: 75 receptions, 787 yards, six touchdowns, 96 targets, one drop, 313 yards after the catch, 41 first downs in 2019. 2019 earnings: $2.025 million Quoting Hooper: “I’m not going to speak on [the contract situation] too much. It’s a business. Obviously I would like to be here. I’m open to coming back here. But I know that I haven’t received an offer yet. If I do, I’d definitely like to be here." Projecting the outcome: The Falcons, with so much money tied up in top players such as Ryan, Julio Jones, Jarrett, and Deion Jones, will pass on signing Hooper to a lucrative extension and let him sign elsewhere. And Hooper will exceed $10 million per year with his new team. Meanwhile, the Falcons will see what they have in Jaeden Graham, who filled in nicely when Hooper was hurt this past season and is due to make $585,000 in 2020. The Falcons also will look hard at the draft class to find a potential pass-catching threat. Vic Beasley Jr., edge rusher Notable numbers: Beasley, who led the league with 15.5 sacks in 16 games through the 2016 season, recorded just 18 sacks in 46 games from 2017 to '19. He enjoyed a surge in the second half of 2019, with 6.5 sacks and two forced fumbles through eight games. 2019 earnings: $12.81 million (fifth-year option) Quoting Beasley: “I’m excited. I’m at peace. I’m just going to continue to work. We’ll see [about re-signing with Falcons] when the time comes. Right now, I’m going to enjoy this offseason and just take it a day at a time." Projecting the outcome: The Falcons, who dangled Beasley before this past season’s trade deadline with no takers, will let him walk and start over elsewhere as they focus their attention on shoring up the pass rush via free agency and the draft. It might be a little hard to swallow for head coach Dan Quinn, considering Beasley was his first draft pick. Some in the front office actually had sights set on running back Todd Gurley in that draft, according to league sources. But Quinn will swallow the loss knowing Beasley just wasn’t consistent enough to warrant a lucrative extension or even another one-year "prove it" deal. De'Vondre Campbell, linebacker Notable numbers: Campbell led the Falcons in 2019 with 129 combined tackles, including 75 solos. He also led the team with three forced fumbles and had two sacks and six tackles for loss. Campbell also had two interceptions. 2019 earnings: $2.025 million Quoting Campbell: “I would love to be here. I'm used to the city. I just don't want to have to pick up and go figure out a new city, a new coaching staff. But if that's what I have to do, that's what I have to do. I know they appreciate me, but business is business. And sometimes, no matter how much you appreciate somebody, it doesn't always work out like that." Projecting the outcome: Sure, the Falcons would like to have Campbell back, and assistant head coach/linebackers Jeff Ulbrich has a strong affection for a guy he personally scouted during the draft process. But the Falcons would have to re-sign Campbell to a bargain deal, and power agent Drew Rosenhaus is going to get the most for his client and sell teams on Campbell’s size and production. Campbell’s confidence is through the roof but the knock has been his lack of instincts. Younghoe Koo, kicker Notable numbers: In eight games with the Falcons in 2019, Koo made 23 of 26 field goals with a long of 50 yards and made 15 of 16 extra points. He also handled kickoffs and showed a great proficiency with the onside kick -- not to mention he recovered a fumble. 2019 earnings: $570,000 base (prorated over eight games) Quoting Koo: “I’m grateful for the opportunity they have given me -- I think it was Week 8 -- and I just tried to capitalize on my opportunities whenever I got my name called. This is what you dream of. This is what I’ve dreamed about. Hopefully I can stay and just try to do my job as best as I can." Projecting the outcome: In the postseason news conference, Quinn said he would open up the kicking job to competition yet added how Koo made a strong case for himself. The Falcons won’t want to dig around for another leg knowing Koo is capable -- although they did not give his representatives any indication they'd re-sign him immediately. Having Koo return will be the best option for a team looking to rebound and make a playoff run in 2020.
  5. https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/28348064/lessons-six-disappointing-nfl-teams-barnwell-went-wrong-next?platform=amp Atlanta Falcons (6-9) 1. They ignored the preponderance of evidence and believed their defense would be good. While the Falcons' defense was good during the 2016 and 2017 postseasons, Dan Quinn's unit ranked 26th, 22nd and 31st over the three seasons prior to 2019. The Falcons evidently wrote off 2018 as an injury-riddled, wasted season and essentially ran things back in 2019 with the same core of talent. General manager Thomas Dimitroff used two first-round picks on offensive linemen and didn't make any major additions on defense beyond defensive end Allen Bailey, who was signed in late July. You know how things went. Even though the Falcons have improved substantially since their bye, they rank 23rd in defensive DVOA and 25th against the pass. They have the league's worst pressure rate at 21.5%, and when they don't get pressure, they allow the league's third-worst QBR, with opposing quarterbacks going off for an 80.1 mark. Lamar Jackson has the best QBR in footballthis season at 82.1. I would not recommend this as a pass-defense strategy. The Falcons got about every step of this defense's offseason wrong. They let pass-rusher Vic Beasley Jr. play out his fifth-year option at $12.8 million despite the fact that his 15.5-sack season from 2016 looms as an obvious, unsustainable outlier on his career. A run of 6.5 sacks in his past seven games, three of which have come against widely sackedPanthers starter Kyle Allen, have pushed Beasley's 2019 total to eight. That's now his second-highest full-season total as a pro. Dimitroff devoted most of his resources this offseason to fixing the offensive line, first by signing Jamon Brown, James Carpenter and Ty Sambrailo, then by using two first-round picks on Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary. The trade for McGary cost Atlanta its second- and third-round picks, and it didn't use a selection on a defensive back until drafting Kendall Sheffield with the 111th pick. While the Falcons had holes on their line, this was a spot in which they had already spent serious money on retaining Jake Matthews and signing Alex Mack. It's certainly fair to think that the Falcons signed those free agents not knowing they would get Lindstrom, but trading up for McGary with so many needs on defense was probably too aggressive, regardless of how McGary turns out as a player. I can't fault the Falcons for using the summer to re-sign their two best defenders in Deion Jones and Grady Jarrett, but many of their other big moves haven't worked out. Desmond Trufant hasn't been the same player since returning from a pectoral injury in 2016. First-round safety Keanu Neal, who tore his Achilles in September, hasn't been able to stay healthy, while fellow first-rounder Takkarist McKinley was disappointing in his first season as a full-time starter in 2018 before hitting IR himself. Safety Ricardo Allen was last seen being buried on one of the blocks of the year by George Kittle, although the Falcons eventually pulled out a 29-22 victory in one of their best performances of the season. Should the Falcons have seen this coming?Yes. Hoping that the defense would improve without making a significant investment was shortsighted. If they believed in the raw numbers that said that the Falcons were the eighth-best scoring defense in the league in 2017, the Falcons needed to be more curious and do a better job of self-scouting. (They were eighth only because they faced the league's fewest drives and inherited great field position.) How to avoid making the same mistake:Wholesale changes, which include replacing Quinn as coach. The Falcons have to let Beasley leave, late-season run be ****ed, and invest in improving their pass rush. They have their own first- and second-round picks and an extra second-rounder from the Patriots as part of the Mohamed Sanudeal; those selections need to go toward the pass defense. 2. Dirk Koetter didn't fix the offense. The Falcons seemed exhausted of Steve Sarkisian when they fired the former Washington head coach after last season. The offense took a step backward after the Falcons hired Sarkisian to replace Kyle Shanahan, and Falcons fans were certainly intrigued when Atlanta replaced Sarkisian with Dirk Koetter. The former Bucs coach had previously spent three seasons as Falcons offensive coordinator from 2012 to '14, with the 2012 offense finishing seventh in points per game and coming within one trip of making it to the Super Bowl. With Shanahan unavailable, Koetter might have been the next-best option. The most frustrating spot for the Falcons after Shanahan left was their performance in the red zone. After the 2016 Falcons averaged 5.2 points per red zone trip, the Sarkisian-led offenses failed to live up to that standard. The 2017 offense was a mess at 4.5 points per red zone possession and ended its season by failing at the goal line against the Eagles in the playoffs. When the same offense failed at the same spot in the season opener against the Eagles in 2018, the die had been cast. Even though Sarkisian's red zone offense went on a lengthy touchdown streak shortly thereafter and eventually averaged 5.0 points per red zone possession, Falcons fans wanted to see the Shanahan red zone offense make its return with Koetter in the fold. That simply hasn't happened. The Falcons have averaged 4.8 points per red zone possession this season, slightly worse than the Sarkisian offense we saw a year ago. They've done that with Devonta Freeman on the roster for a much larger portion of the season than he was in 2018, when Freeman played only 67 offensive snaps. And while injuries have hit the offensive line, Dimitroff's offseason investments have left the Falcons with a much deeper line than the one they used in 2018. Even so, the offense has been closer to good than great in the red zone. The hidden truth is that Shanahan's genius isn't really in the red zone, where performance is random from year to year. The 49ers, for one, had one of the worst red zone offenses in football under Shanahan a year ago. The San Francisco coach really makes his mark on first downs. The Falcons averaged 7.6 yards per play on first down in 2016, nearly a yard more than any other team in the league and the best first-down performance I was able to find going back through the mid-1990s. There's a good chance the 2016 Falcons were the best first-down offense in NFL history. Guess who leads the league in yards per play on first down in 2019? It's Shanahan's 49ers, who are averaging 6.6 yards per play. Under Sarkisian, the Falcons weren't able to keep up with that historical outlier of a season, but they averaged 6.4 yards per first-down play in both 2017 and 2018, ranking in the top five for offenses in both years. Koetter's 2019 offense is averaging 5.7 yards per play on first down, which ranks 11th. The Falcons fired Sarkisian after his offense finished eighth in DVOA last season, and Koetter's offense subsequently ranked 16th in DVOA this season through Week 15. Should the Falcons have seen this coming?Maybe? We know the ceiling for this offense is astronomical based on 2016, but the Falcons were very good on offense last season! They ranked 10th in points per game, but that was a product of their defense giving up long, methodical drives. They racked up only 165 meaningful possessions on offense, the fifth fewest in football, and inherited the league's third-worst average starting field position. The Falcons were sixth in points per drive and eighth in DVOA. If you assume that the offensive line improvements would have plugged the biggest holes in the offense, I can see a scenario where they do have a top-three offense, but just about everything has to go right for your offense to get there. How to avoid making the same mistake: The Falcons will likely move on from Koetter if they fire Quinn and overhaul their coaching staff.
  6. https://www.espn.com/espn/now?nowId=21-41081830-4
  7. https://www.espn.com/blog/atlanta-falcons/post/_/id/34628/austin-hooper-could-be-the-next-falcon-to-cash-in There haven’t been many bright spots so far for the 1-3 Atlanta Falcons, but tight end Austin Hooper qualifies. Hooper, now in his fourth season, continues to evolve as a top pass-catching threat. Through four games, he leads the Falcons with 28 receptions, which ranks fifth-most among all pass-catchers in the league. Hooper has been targeted 33 times and has 307 receiving yards, two touchdowns, 14 first downs and 131 yards after the catch. Although the attention given to wide receivers Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley opens up underneath opportunities for Hooper, it doesn’t diminish how great a weapon he's been for Matt Ryan. "I think Austin has played really well for us," Ryan said. "He’s been very consistent in the pass game. He’s very reliable. When we target him, he’s coming down and making plays with the ball. We’re happy with what he’s done, and I expect that to be the case all year, with the talented guys we have around." Hooper’s play hasn’t gone unnoticed by the front office, which is why general manager Thomas Dimitroff said signing the 2016 third-round draft pick to an extension is a priority. Austin is one of the next important players in line," Dimitroff told ESPN. "That said, however, we are not sure of the timetable." The Falcons have already rewarded extensions to wide receiver Julio Jones, defensive tackle Grady Jarrett and linebacker Deion Jones this year. The highest-paid tight end by average per year is veteran Jimmy Graham of Green Bay at $10 million per year. Three players average $9 million-plus per season: Jordan Reed of the Redskins ($9.35 million), Travis Kelce of the Chiefs ($9.195 million), and Kyle Rudolph of the Vikings ($9 million), with Zach Ertz of the Eagles right behind ($8.5 million). Taking into consideration that Hooper is 24 and has outgained Graham, Reed and Rudolph over the past two seasons, it wouldn’t be a shock to see the Falcons make Hooper the highest-paid tight end now, before a significant jump in the market, with the possible extensions of the 49ers' George Kittle and Giants' Evan Engram coming after the 2019 season. Hooper, a one-time Pro Bowler in the final year of his rookie deal, isn’t focused on a contract extension. "It’s definitely an honor to even be having this conversation, that something could possibly happen, but I’m not really worried about it," Hooper said. "I’m in the middle of the season, doing my job. All that stuff will sort itself out over time. I’m just concerned about trying to help us win games. Right now, we need to step it up -- everyone, myself included." If the Falcons are going to turn things around, Hooper is expected to be a significant part of it from an offensive perspective. It certainly helps that he’s put in extra work to establish chemistry with Ryan. Connecting with Ryan Sometimes the trip from his home in the Bay Area to Southern California would take six hours, but Hooper never thought twice about it. He’d jump in his Mercedes at the last minute and make the drive, if that’s what Ryan wanted him to do. He catered to his quarterback’s offseason schedule knowing how much he would benefit in the long run. Hooper started having the one-on-one throwing sessions with Ryan in Southern California during the 2017 season, as Ryan worked with Tom House and Adam Dedeaux of 3DQB training. Those workouts intensified his past offseason, when Hooper and Ryan got together there on three separate occasions. "What has gotten me better? I’d probably say it was time I’ve spent with Matt," Hooper said. "You spend 1,000 reps working on the same thing. So, Matt and I are on the same page. I feel like that’s the biggest difference with me now. Like, I didn’t drop 3/10 off my 40 time this past offseason or anything like that." While working with Ryan, Hooper stayed at his younger brother’s apartment on the campus of UCLA. Justin Hooper, a 6-foot-8, 238-pound pitcher, was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 14th round, so his apartment was vacant for the summer. But despite having a place to lay his head, Austin Hooper still bounced between Northern and Southern Cali. Back at home in San Ramon, he worked with the same speed-and-strength coach he’s had since he was 12 years old: Dave Spitz of California Strength. Spitz is the senior international coach for USA weightlifting. "Just working on his athleticism," Spitz said. "He came out [of college at Stanford] so young, he was only 21 years old. We’ve just every offseason tried to improve as an athlete. I think you’re seeing the pinnacle of that expression on the football field now. He’s as good of an athlete as he’s ever been." Striving for perfection While reflecting on last week’s 24-10 loss to the Titans, Hooper didn’t mention catching nine passes for a career-high 130 yards. He didn’t reflect on his 28-yard reception in the first quarter that helped set up running back Ito Smith's touchdown. Instead, Hooper talked about a late first-quarter throw from Ryan that he didn’t come up with, a throw that seemed to be a bit behind him. I dropped a ball I definitely thought I could have had," said Hooper, who wasn’t credited with a drop on the official stat sheet. "That changed the game. And my holding penalty ruined a drive. It’s just one thing here and there. "Offensively, we just have to execute at a higher level. I’m definitely guilty of not doing that, at times. That’s why I’m challenging myself to be better. I’ve made tougher catches before. Every ball that’s thrown to me, I should catch." Hooper also has make a concerted effort to improve his blocking, something that wasn't his strength coming into the league. Focusing on self-improvement is why Hooper has gained the respect of his teammates and coaches alike. "I think Hoop has done a really good job of being where he’s supposed to be, catching the football, and running after the catch," offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said. "Getting vertical and getting those tough, extra yards and splitting two defenders after contact, I think he’s done a really good job." Hooper isn’t content with being good. He strives to be elite. "Honestly, I don’t really concern myself with comparisons," Hooper said. “I just try to be a better version of myself, and let other people talk about [comparisons]. I feel like I’m competing against myself. I feel like if I continue to compete against myself, I’ll continue to develop. I’m not concerned with tight end rankings. I want to be the best version of myself to help us win games."
  8. https://www.espn.com/blog/atlanta-falcons/post/_/id/34600 Ricardo Allen was as emotional as anyone after he saw teammate Keanu Neal suffer yet another season-ending injury on Sunday, but the Atlanta Falcons free safety has learned not to dwell on the uncontrollable. Of course, Allen knows that Neal’s presence will be missed on defense for the remainder of the season following an Achilles tendon tear, which typically requires eight months for recovery. But Allen, who suffered a season-ending Achilles tear last season, isn’t about to let his fellow defenders use Neal’s injury as an excuse. "My message to the defense? Do your job. That’s all," said Allen, a team captain. "Whatever your job entitles, do that. Do it as hard as you can for your brothers. That’s it. We’re not asking nobody to be Superman. Just be who you are and what you’re supposed to be for this team. "Yeah, we understand it’s going to be 'mess-ups' here and there, but you’ve got to do it for everybody around you. If you do your job and they beat us doing your job, they deserve it. But if they beat us and we’re not doing what we’re supposed to, that’s on us." The 1-2 Falcons have to do a much better job on defense now without Neal roaming as the enforcer. The 27-24 loss to the undermanned Indianapolis Colts exposed some defensive flaws that could doom the Falcons if they are not corrected. Players were caught looking in the backfield, as Colts coach Frank Reich masterfully designed misdirection and play-action plays. If the Falcons were fooled by Andrew Luck's replacement, Jacoby Brissett, just imagine what type of issues could lie ahead with Deshaun Watson, Russell Wilson and Drew Brees in the next six games. That's not to mention the variety of looks the Falcons could see from offensive gurus Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan later in the season. The Falcons continue to have penalty issues, which point to a lack of discipline. Four of the 16 penalties they drew against the Colts came against the defense on third down, allowing the Colts to pick up first downs. The Colts had seven first downs by penalty in the game. It makes you wonder if coach Dan Quinn should take sterner action against repeat violators. One of those defensive penalties was too many men on the field, as the Falcons were caught switching personnel, and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett couldn’t get out of the game. Quinn, as the defensive coordinator, didn’t feel good about the lack of communication but vowed to get the penalty issues fixed this week while having officials out for practice. The Falcons have done that regularly, but Quinn emphasized it this week in preparation for Sunday’s matchup with Tennessee. The Falcons are tied for 29th in the league in third-down defense, allowing opponents to convert 52.8% of the time. They are giving up 21.7 first downs per game, which is tied for 22nd. Their minus-five point differential, with the defense yielding 25 points per game and the offense scoring 20 points per game, ranks 22nd. I think it’s about the small details on defense," cornerback Desmond Trufant said. "I felt like [against the Colts], it was more we were inflicting damage on ourselves than them beating us. I mean, they made some plays, but I think we’ve got to start with doing our job first, getting in position. ... We’ve got to make sure we’re doing what we’re supposed to do." This week’s task likely means preparing for what Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota is capable of accomplishing as a dual-threat quarterback and the power Derrick Henry brings in the running game. At the same time, the Falcons can’t be fooled into thinking it’s all about stopping the run because Mariota might try to go downfield to wide receiver Corey Davis or someone else. More thing anything, the Falcons can’t sulk about Neal not being in the lineup. Quinn talked about Kemal Ishmael stepping in to play some strong safety. But filling in for Neal might be by committee, with Quinn looking at all options. Safety Jamal Carter was elevated from the practice squad for depth. Nickelback Damontae Kazee played free safety last season. But it will be difficult for anyone to mirror Neal’s impact when healthy. "Just the way that he brings the pain, man, and the way that people have to account for No. 22," Allen said. "When they know he’s coming, people pull hands down. Tipped balls happen a little bit more. "That’s why I think we ended up winning that game on fourth down against the Eagles -- because they saw 22 coming and pulled that ball back. You understand when 22 is out there, he’s trying to get that ball. And if he’s not trying to get that ball, he’s trying to get you. He’s an enforcer, and we’re going to miss that. It’s a physical presence that’s hard to match when you take a guy like him off the field."
  9. https://www.espn.com/blog/atlanta-falcons/post/_/id/34392 FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Vic Beasley Jr. isn’t oblivious to the criticism. Skeptics wonder why the Atlanta Falcons' defensive end hasn’t been nearly near as productive the past two years (10 sacks combined in 2017-18) as he was during his 15.5-sack 2016 season. His decline has turned the 2015 first-round pick into a punchline on talk radio and the subject of angry rants from fed-up fans. Beasley knows the only way to silence the doubters is to perform at a high level every week, which is what he intends to do. "I know I'm a good player," Beasley said. "There's a lot of things that I can work on, but I know that I'm a good player. For me to remain in this league and to be the great player that I want to be, I have to be consistent. “I just have to do better. Humans make mistakes in life. You have to make it up in your mind that you're going to do better. A lot of times when you strive to be great, sometimes things don't go your way. But you continue to remain optimistic in those situations." Beasley set the bar high in his second NFL season, when he topped his buddy Von Miller (13.5 sacks) of the Denver Broncos for the NFL sack title. Everything appeared to align right for Beasley in ‘16 as he used his speed off the edge to create havoc. Not to mention he drew a couple favorable matchups, such as squaring off against current teammate and former Bronco Ty Sambrailo on an afternoon Beasley recorded 3.5 sacks along with two forced fumbles. Once the calendar flipped to 2017, the buzz around Beasley faded. He didn’t have a sack in the Falcons' three postseason games tied to their Super Bowl run. Then during the ‘17 regular season, Beasley finished with just five sacks in 14 games -- and three of those sacks came in the first six games. Beasley missed time due to an early-season hamstring injury but never used the injury as an excuse for his drop-off -- just like he never pointed to the torn labrum in his shoulder during his rookie campaign. Plus, Beasley took on more coverage responsibilities while playing strongside linebacker in ‘17. Then last season, Beasley, back into more of a pass-rusher role, had just five sacks as the Falcons finished in the bottom 10 of the league with 37 sacks. According to ESPN's pass rush win rate powered by NFL Next Gen, Beasley beat his blocks in 2.5 seconds on 26.9% of pass rushes, which ranked 23rd in the NFL among players with at least 300 pass rushes. He didn’t force any fumbles, something he showed a knack for when he tied Bruce Irvin with a league-high six forced fumbles in 2016. "Again, it’s just consistency," Beasley said of last year’s woes. "That's what keeps you around this league: consistency. You had one great year. You have to get back to that. Any player in this league, if they're not consistent, how do you gain trust with that individual?" The Falcons expressed some amount of trust in Beasley by picking up his fifth-year option worth $12.81 million this season. They have not, however, made a long-term commitment after this season. Irvin, who played with the Falcons last season, thinks Beasley can play. "I think Vic can ball," Irvin said. "I just think Vic needs an older guy to push him. And I think he really needs DQ [Falcons coach Dan Quinn]. DQ is really the perfect coach for Vic."’ So far through training camp, Quinn seems intent on getting the best out of Beasley’s freakish athleticism, whether that means rushing off the edge, setting the edge against the run, or dropping into coverage. Quinn, doubling as the defensive coordinator, vowed to spend more time trying to bring out the best in Beasley. Those one-on-one teaching moments have come during camp since Beasley opted to train on his own during the offseason program. "I thought in the run game, those fundamentals, I thought that's been an improvement," Quinn said of Beasley’s play in camp. "We've worked hard, for him, in the pass rush. I won't get into all the specifics but some things: counters, what to set off with. So we've spent a good bit of time on that. ... He's off to a good start.’’ Now, it’s about the finish. The Falcons need him to be a strong edge rusher along with Takk McKinley on the other side, with tackle Grady Jarrett being one of the best interior rushers in the game and others such as Adrian Clayborn, Allen Bailey, and John Cominsky bringing some pass-rush ability. Beasley wouldn’t reveal exactly what elements of his pass rush he’s working on, but he continues to study the Broncos’ Miller because of their similar builds. Beasley still relies -- maybe too heavily -- on his speed rush yet has shown flashes of counters such as dipping inside or working more diligently with his hands. Asked if he needed to play with a little more nastiness, the soft-spoken Beasley responded, "I feel like everybody has an angry side to them. If somebody was to attack your mom, what are you going to do? Are you going to turn the other cheek? You never know what you're going to do until you're put in that situation. "As far as being an aggressive, angry player, I guess that's not necessarily my mold, my build, my personality. But if someone was to push me, I can't just sit up there and say I'm going to turn the other cheek.’’ Beasley has to worry more about turning the page on those down seasons and becoming the player he expects to be. Those expectations remain rather high: nothing short of double-digit sacks through a full season. "For me, it is about double-digit sacks because I'm not just a guy, you know what I'm saying? I'm a good player," Beasley said. "For me and the person that I am, consistently for me, that's what I need to do."
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