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Falcons Off Season News

151 posts in this topic

4 minutes ago, WhenFalconsWin said:

That was only with you.  If you want to talk football over there I'd more than welcome it.  

Back to Falcons news, is anyone as disappointed in Jalen Collins as I am right now? 

Hardly!!! That was all encompassing.

You've just been reported dirtbag!

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NBA All-Star Jimmy Butler rooting for 'little brother' on Atlanta Falcons

Apr 15, 2016
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    Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

Jimmy Butler can only watch when the NBA playoffs begin this weekend, but the Chicago Bulls two-time All-Star still will have something to cheer about despite missing the postseason.

No, it has nothing to do with rooting against LeBron James and the bitter rival Cavs. It has everything to do with pulling for the guy Butler calls his little brother; the guy who will start offseason workouts with the Atlanta Falconscome Monday.

Jimmy Butler, right, on Jordan Leslie: "He's extremely fortunate to have the people that he has in his life, and I'm fortunate to have him in mine. ... That's my best friend." Photo courtesy of Jordan Leslie

Jordan Leslie isn’t a household name just yet, but the former BYU and UTEP wide receiver who went undrafted is trying to earn recognition after spending time on the Falcons’ practice squad last season. Maybe Leslie is a longshot to make the roster, but he was one of 27 Falcons who joined quarterback Matt Ryan for workouts in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, recently.

"Atlanta will see, man, if they give my guy a shot, he could turn out the way I turned out," Butler said of Leslie. "Look at me. Nobody thought I’d be where I am right now. But the hard work and the dedication, he’s got that. Somebody’s going to see it and somebody’s going to give him a good chance."

The story has been well-documented how Butler was kicked out the house by his mother at age 13 and, without a father, found himself a homeless teen growing up in Houston. Butler bounced around until the summer before his senior year of high school, when he forged a friendship with Leslie during a shooting contest at basketball camp.

"There’s a lot of discrepancy about who won, but I’m going to say I won," Leslie said with a laugh. "He’ll probably say the other thing, but I definitely won. Just put down the facts.

"From then on, we were just kind of best friends. He was a senior, I was a freshman, but you couldn’t tell the difference with the way we pushed each other."

Leslie immediately became well aware of Butler’s living situation.

"So I was like, 'Just come over,' and he came over and stayed the night just about every night," Leslie said. "I kept asking my mom, 'Can he stay another night? Can he stay another night?' And then finally I was like, 'Can he live with us?' I have a lot of respect for my mom, because that’s kind of a big thing, to take in another person. That’s more bills. That’s more food. But she has a great heart."

Michelle Lambert and Jimmy Butler. Courtesy Michelle Lambert

Leslie’s mother, Michelle Lambert, had three children with Leslie’s father, who died. Then she married Michael Lambert, who had three kids of his own, and the couple had another child. Add Butler to the mix and you had a whole squad.

Butler stayed with the family throughout his time attending junior college in Texas. He went on to star at Marquette and become a first-round draft pick of the Bulls in the 2011 NBA Draft.

Throughout the journey, Butler never neglected the impactful relationship he established with Leslie.

"I love him to death," Butler said. "He’s extremely fortunate to have the people that he has in his life, and I’m fortunate to have him in mine. I think the brotherhood that we have, we’re always there for each other when one of us needs to talk or when one of us needs anything. That’s big. That’s my best friend."

Butler's meteoric rise resulted in a five-year, $92 million contract last summer. Leslie signed a futures contract with the Falcons in January worth a non-guaranteed $450,000 this season and $540,000 next season.

Leslie’s time on the practice squad a year ago included cameos as Allen Robinson (Jacksonville), Ted Ginn Jr. (Carolina), Brandin Cooks (New Orleans) on the scout team to give cornerbacks Desmond Trufant and Robert Alfordgood looks.

"Honestly, I enjoyed it a lot," Leslie said. "I’ve been to several organizations. I was on Jacksonville for a week and was with Minnesota for the whole preseason, minicamp. Atlanta was one of the best places I’ve been. The coaching staff was just relaxed, and you could tell they really care about the players.


"Getting to learn from the greatest receiver in the NFL right now in Julio Jonesis always something I look forward to. One thing about Julio is he’s just God-given. His work ethic is great. Plus he’s really detailed in his route-running. That’s something I can pick his brain about: how to get in and out of cuts better."

Butler, known as a Broncos fan because of his friendship with Demaryius Thomas, has no problem doubling as a Falcons fan -- for now.

"I know Matt Ryan is the quarterback, I know they’ve got a **** of a receiver in Julio Jones, and I know they’ve got a diamond in the rough in Jordan Leslie," Butler said. "My advice to Jordan is just to keep working, trust the process, fall in love with the game, and let God handle everything.

"People overlooked me, too. That’s fine. You’ve got to understand that it happens. But when you get that shot and you get that chance, you make the most of it. Jordan’s always going to compete. I’ve known that since Day 1. And the Atlanta Falcons are going to find that out about him real soon."

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WR Julio Jones on 2015 Atlanta Falcons offense: 'We really didn't have an identity'

But Jones says he believes in Falcons second-year OC Kyle Shanahan

By ARTHUR ARKUSH -- aarkush@profootballweekly.comPublished: April 19, 2016 — 2:38 p.m.Updated: April 19, 2016 — 2:39 p.m.

Pro Football Weekly  


Julio Jones was his usual brilliant self in 2015. The rest of the Falcons passing game left a lot to be desired.

Jones took note of the lack of aerial continuty, saying Tuesday that the first year in offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's offense was too nondescript.

"I believe in everything [Shanahan] puts in, Jones said, via ESPN. "But my thing was being consistent and going out there and knowing what we were going to do."

Jones said the Falcons offense "didn't really have an identity," and although the team stats in passing and total offense don't show a major drop-off from the last year under Dirk Koetter, the red zone was one source of greater futility, as Atlanta fell from No. 5 to No. 17 and tied with the Giants for most red-zone turnovers despite having the physically dominant Jones.

Quarterback Matt Ryan admitted last season to being a bit "overwhelmed" in Shanahan's scheme, but like Jones, he said Tuesday he's fully committed to his coach and thinks the familarity in Year Two will help the Falcons greatly.

"I think, certainly, I'm going to be much more familiar with what we're doing as we head into this next season than I was last year," said Ryan, whose 89.0 passer rating and 21 touchdowns were the lowest totals since his second year in the league.

"That's part of it when you're playing a new offense. There were some things that were different. You don't have quite as much experience with some of those things."

Ryan pointed to better execution and understanding of how to maximize each player's skill set, something Shanahan and his staff are hard at work attempting to correct.

"I'm excited that he's back," Ryan said. "I'm glad to be in Year Two in this system. I think we've learned a lot in Year One — a lot about each other, a lot about the guys that we have in our locker room, a lot about what we can be and a lot about what we don't need to be.

"And I'm looking forward to winning a lot of games with Kyle here as our offensive coordinator. I think a lot of guys in our locker room feel that way."

The way we see it

In fairness to Shanahan, he rarely worked with a full deck last year, when Roddy White was injured and declining, Ryan seemed to struggle in key moments and no other consistent threats in the passing game emerged alongside Jones.

We expect a rebound from Ryan and much better showing from the Atlanta offense overall in Shanahan's second season. His scheme takes time to master and bringing in guys like Alex Mack and Mohamed Sanu should help the Falcons soar again, particularly given Mack's experience in the coordinator's zone-blocking scheme from their days in Cleveland. They'll have to or statements like the one from Jones on Tuesday will be much tougher to sweep under the rug this time next year.

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GM: Falcons not interested in Josh Norman  


Apr 21, 5:44 PM
At least one team can already be crossed off the list of potential suitors for Josh Norman.

Just one day after the Carolina Panthers rescinded the franchise tag from the All-Pro cornerback, Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said Thursday that his team isn't interested in Norman.

"We are not going in that direction," Dimitroff said, according to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Atlanta was considered a fit for Norman's services in the hours after he officially hit the open market. Given the salary-cap constraints, however, it always appeared unlikely the Falcons would be able to match the lucrative offers he'll almost certainly receive elsewhere.

Norman, who is coming off a season in which he earned both Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro honors, is the rare player to become an unrestricted free agent at this stage in the offseason.

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NFL rumors: Are Atlanta Falcons a likely landing spot for ex-New England Patriots DT Dominique Easley?  


Nine days since his release, former New England Patriots first-round pick Dominique Easley has yet to find a new NFL home.

According to The Boston Herald, Easley will likely wait for the draft to play out and then take visits to any teams that are interested.

One potential suitor: The Atlanta Falcons. Easley's defensive coordinator at Florida, Dan Quinn, is the team's head coach.

"He is a fantastic competitor," Quinn said, via The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Honestly, a guy I have great history with. We've talked since he's been released. We'll kind of leave it there. There's nothing to report today. He's someone that I think the world of."

Easley, an explosive interior pass rusher, was cut after just two seasons with the Patriots. He has endured two ACL surgeries since 2010. His attitude has also been under scrutiny for the past week. No teams submitted a waiver claim for Easley, making him an unrestricted free agent.

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Atlanta Falcons: Can they really find three starters in the draft?


by Colin Hubbard5 hours agoFollow @__chubs__

Blogging Dirty  


Atlanta Falcons’ owner Arthur Blank said that he wanted to get three starters out of the 2016 NFL draft. While that’s exactly what they need to happen, it just isn’t feasible whatsoever and here’s why.

At the end of the day, the NFL draft is a lottery. There is never a guarantee that who the Falcons draft will turn out to be a good NFL player. No matter how many tests and tape a scout can watch, they will never be able to see the future and determine how good their career will be.

Let’s take Kam Chancellor for instance. The Seattle Seahawks drafted him in the fifth round of the 2012 NFL draft.  He was never supposed to be as good as he is now and that’s why drafting is never a sure thing.

Realistically the Falcons will get just one starter out of the 2016 draft and that will be from their first-round pick. Whoever Atlanta selects in that round whether they trade down or not will likely get tabbed as the week 1 starter but after that it’s a crap Shute.

If the Falcons draft a safety in the second round then there’s a good chance that they get tabbed as the starter as well but to think that Atlanta will hit three homeruns in this draft with only five picks to work with is absurd.

If drafting three starters a year was as easy as that, everyone in the NFL would be a lot better than they are. There wouldn’t be any bad teams but here we are year after year and we still have the same old bottom feeders as the year before.

If Atlanta trades back, that will give them the best chance to secure three starters. If they don’t trade back, getting three starters won’t happen. And let’s remember something else. Just because the Falcons tab a rookie as a starter doesn’t mean they will be good. It’s never ideal to start a rookie right out of the gate and if Atlanta is starting multiple rookies that won’t be very good.

Atlanta needs a lot of things to fall into place if they want to walk out of this draft with a smile on their face.

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5 Biggest Games On Atlanta Falcons’ 2016 NFL Schedule


Taylor Sturm  


After a 5-0 start to the 2015 season, the Atlanta Falcons finished 8-8. Six of these losses came within a stretch from the start of November to the middle of December, including their bye week. With expectations high once again in 2016, Atlanta will have an opportunity to make it to the playoffs. Here are the five biggest games on the Falcons’ schedule.

Sept. 11 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers


A victory in this NFC South showdown in Week 1 at home could be just what this team needs to set the tone for the rest of the year.

Oct. 2 vs. Carolina Panthers


The road to winning the NFC South starts with at least splitting the series with the Carolina Panthers.

Oct. 23 vs. San Diego Chargers


Although a clearly winnable game, the Falcons’ matchup with the Chargers comes before a tough streak that includes the Green Bay Packers at home and then back-to-back road games.

Nov. 13 at Philadelphia Eagles


One of the aforementioned road games is Atlanta’s road matchup with the Eagles which comes right before their bye week. This is a winnable road game that Atlanta could need to keep pace with the Panthers.

Dec. 24 at Carolina Panthers


The Falcons’ road matchup with the Panthers could see the NFC South crown on the line.

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Five NFL general managers on the hot seat entering the draft  


While the players that are drafted get the majority of the attention during the NFL draft, the executives who draft them are being watched just as closely.

If the general managers take the wrong players and draft a generally unproductive class, they quickly become the least popular people in town.

These general managers have all produced too many bad drafts to get any more slack. Their records put them on the hot seat and if their draft classes don’t pay immediate dividends, it’s hard to see any of these GM’s being around for next year’s draft.

Trent Baalke, San Francisco 49ers

Three years ago, Baalke was the architect of a team that had narrowly lost the Super Bowl and looked poised to be one of the NFL’s best for the better part of a decade.

Things have changed. If we go back only four years, nobody from San Francisco’s 2012 draft class remains on the team. Meanwhile, their rivals (in name only), the Seattle Seahawks, used that draft to acquire Bruce Irvin, Bobby Wagner and Russell Wilson, among many others.

The 49ers are now solidly one of the NFL’s worst teams. And while CEO Jed York deserves plenty of blame for it, he’s not going to fire himself. On the other hand, Baalke is a prime candidate to be fired if the 2016 season goes bad.

A turnaround will start with a good draft. San Francisco has 12 picks in the upcoming draft, which will give Baalke an adequate chance to reload the roster.

Baalke can’t follow his past models of draft players who are injured and need to be red-shirted. His early picks will have to step in immediately and show that they can play to help rebuild a talent-stricken roster.

Les Snead, Los Angeles Rams

Snead became the Rams general manager in 2012 and has not overseen a lot of improvement.

Their three division rivals, the 49ers, Seahawks, and Arizona Cardinals, have all made the playoffs at least twice in that time and won an NFC West championship at least once.

In that same window, the Rams have not qualified for the playoffs and have yet to post more than seven wins in a single season.

They’ve also dealt with instability at the quarterback position, something that no NFL team can realistically win with. This year, he made a bold trade, landing the No. 1 pick from the Tennessee Titans.

That’s certainly a good step, but now he needs that pick to hit. Right now, it looks like the pick will be Cal’s Jared Goff but whether it’s Goff or North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz, he needs to hit. It will look especially bad for Snead if whatever quarterback he does not take ends up being significantly better than the one he does select.

Snead was bold. Now he needs that boldness to pay off.

Ryan Grigson, Indianapolis Colts

Grigson needs a good draft this weekend. And if you don’t believe that, just ask him.

Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star quoted the general manager, saying: “(We’ve) got to really knock this out of the park.”

Keefer also laid out specifically how bad Grigson’s drafts have gone. It’s not pretty:

“Bottom line: They can’t miss as often as they have in years past. For example: None of Grigson’s 12 draft picks on defense before 2015 is currently on the roster. That’ll need to change if this team wants to compete for a world championship any time soon.”

Andrew Luck was the first pick he ever made. That’s worked out, but it was a gimme. Aside from Luck, the best pick Grigson has made was T.Y. Hilton. Unfortunately, those kinds of selections have been few and far between. Instead, disastrous picks like Bjoern Werner in 2013 and Phillip Dorsett last year loom large.

Somehow Grigson needs to improve his defense while also giving Luck adequate protection, something that he has not had since coming to the team.

It’s a tall order but if Grigson doesn’t make significant progress in the 2016 draft, it’s hard to imagine him being around for 2017.

Thomas Dimitroff, Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons posted winning records in each of Dimitroff’s first five years running the team, making the playoffs four times. In the three subsequent years, Atlanta has seen regression and a lot of it, going a combined 18-30. Not surprisingly, they’ve failed to qualify for the playoffs each year.

Even if it came in the form of a complete second half collapse, Atlanta took some steps forward in 2015, going 8-8. Heading into the draft, Atlanta doesn’t have any gaping holes that need to be filled, so it can take the best player available with pretty much no exceptions. The team just needs impact players.

If the Falcons don’t make the playoffs in 2016, it would be awfully hard for Dimitroff to sell Arthur Blank and the team’s fans that the franchise is heading in the right direction under his watch.

Jerry Reese, New York Giants

Of course, no discussion of regression in the NFL would be complete without bringing up Jerry Reese and the Giants. Since winning the Super Bowl in 2011, the team has not returned to the playoffs. Big Blue has failed to even post a winning record since a nine-win campaign back in 2012.

That’s simply not going to cut it. Giants ownership already showed a willingness to move on from the team’s recent glory days when they fired coach Tom Coughlin. By extension, Reese should be next if things don’t get immediately better.

Even in an NFC East that appears to be winnable, it’s hard to imagine the Giants making significant progress if they don’t significantly upgrade their defense.

While a linebacker would be nice, New York needs to improve in all areas of its defense. Reese simply can’t miss again this year. If he does, then the Giants would be easily justified in looking for a different architect.

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Where The Falcons Can Find Pass-Rush Help After The First Round Of the 2016 NFL Draft | April 26, 2016 10:41 AM


The 2016 NFL Draft is just days away as the first round begins Thursday in Chicago. The Atlanta Falcons have five picks and own the 17th-overall pick in the draft. With many holes to fill on the roster, how will they choose to attack the draft?

The Falcons could bolster their linebacker corps, add a safety, continue rebuilding the interior of their offensive line, choose a tight end or even look at the interior of their defensive line. But possibly one of the most glaring weaknesses – remember, Atlanta finished dead last in sacks with just 19 in 2015 – is the need to add pass-rush help.

What happens, however, if the right pass-rusher isn’t available when the Falcons pick at 17? Sure, Atlanta could trade back and add a pick or two to its arsenal. But there are ways to stay at 17, grab a player that fills a different need and then find a pass-rusher later in the draft.

If the Falcons decide to go in a different direction in the first round and don’t select a pass-rusher, here’s how they could fill that need later in the draft:

For the sake of having a placeholder, let’s say the Falcons selected linebacker Darron Lee in the first round at pick No. 17. Lee would fill a desperate need in the middle of Atlanta’s defense, but he’s not enough of a pass-rusher to fix Atlanta’s issue with attacking opposing quarterbacks. Where could the Falcons go later in the draft?

Round 2 (Pick 50)

With the pick of Lee in the first round, Atlanta could turn around in the second and grab former Michigan State defensive end Shilique Calhoun. While Calhoun still needs to add to his pass-rush repertoire and build NFL strength, he notched 10.5 sacks last season after logging eight during his junior season and 7.5 the year prior. He’s a speed rusher that can attack from either side of the defensive line, which adds versatility for head coach Dan Quinn to move pieces around him and let him attack.

Round 3 (Pick 81)

If for some reason the Falcons pass on adding a pass-rusher in the first two rounds, or if they decide to add multiple players who can get after the quarterback, they could look at former Georgia linebacker Jordan Jenkins. If he lands with Atlanta, Jenkins likely doesn’t have the coverage skills to stay on the field every down, but he’s versatile and can be moved around to take advantage of his abilities as a stand-up rusher or a hand-in-the-dirt attacker. Because of his football IQ and multi-purpose skills, Quinn could find a number of ways to ensure Jenkins thrives.

Round 4 (Pick 115)

While waiting until the fourth round would definitely raise questions with the Falcons’ faithful, former Grand Valley State defensive end Matt Judon could eventually make everyone happy. Judon logged 204 tackles, 34 sacks and 51.5 tackles for loss over his college career with 20 sacks coming last year as he led the country (no matter the level). Judon finished fifth among defensive linemen at the combine with a 4.73-second 40-yard dash. He was also seventh with 30 reps on the bench press and tied for fourth with a 35-inch vertical jump. He’s explosive and could be an absolute steal for the Falcons if he can prove he’s able to wreak havoc above the Division II ranks.

Round 7 (Pick 238)

Outside linebacker Ian Seau could end up as a late-round gem for the Falcons. The nephew of NFL great Junior Seau, this former Nevada star led the Mountain West with 10 sacks last season. Seau has shown fantastic burst and seems to have mastered the entire book of pass-rush moves. At 6-foot-2 and 250 pounds, he might not be big enough to last at defensive end for an entire season in the NFL. But Quinn could surely find ways to utilize him as a pass-rush specialist.

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Falcons knew Keanu Neal could hit, but his coverage skills sold them

11:39 AM ET
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    Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

The Atlanta Falcons knew he could hit. That was evident from the film Keanu Neal put out during his time at the University of Florida.

But what about in coverage? How would he fare?

A private workout during the pre-draft process answered any concerns the Falcons had before they made Neal the NFL draft's 17th overall selection.

Florida safety Keanu Neal is a big hitter whom the Falcons will employ in a similar fashion to Seattle's Kam Chancellor. Stacy Revere/Getty Images

As part of a 45-minute session alongside Falcons coach Dan Quinn and secondary coach Marquand Manuel, Neal went through a series of drills that focused on his coverage ability in the Cover 3 scheme.

"They tested my backing and breaking from cone to cone,'' Neal said. "Once I finished that, I did some stuff specific to their defense and what they do with the strong safety. One of the drills was like busting to the flat and being able to get there by knowing the specifics of the defense and reacting to the quarterback -- if he's looking toward me I've got to go a certain place, and if he's looking away I've got to go a certain place. Also, if he's breaking me deep, I've got to turn my hips and open up.

"While they did some stuff in the flat, they also did some stuff with me playing in the hook [zone], playing the strong hook and breaking on the quarterback, just to see how fast I react and how fast I can cover ground.''

Neal obviously impressed, which is why the Falcons felt comfortable selecting him in the first round despite him having a second-round grade, according to ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay. Quinn expects Neal to be an immediate impact starter.

A large part of Quinn's confidence in Neal has to do with the coverage skills Neal displayed during that private workout.

"You love to see the guy play in the zone defense, and he played in the middle of the field a lot at Florida, so it's not the same scheme that we employ here,'' Quinn noted. "So we wanted to make sure the ball skills, the movement stuff -- at the workout, you can ask him to have the exact movements he's going to have.''

Quinn firmly believes Neal should help improve the Falcons' ability to cover tight ends. Remember, former Saints tight end Benjamin Watson, at age 34, had a 10-catch, 127-yard, one-touchdown performance against the Falcons in Week 6 last season. And seven different tight ends -- Larry Donnell (Giants), C.J. Fiedorowicz (Texans), Derek Carrier (Redskins), Cameron Brate (Buccaneers),Garrett Celek (49ers), Ed Dickson (Panthers)and Watson had touchdown receptions against the Falcons a year ago, including two apiece by Celek and Watson.


Moving forward, the Falcons have to contend with one of the league's best tight ends twice a year in Carolina'sGreg Olsen along with New Orleans newcomer Coby Fleener and Tampa Bay's Austin Seferian-Jenkins.

"Tight ends and [running] backs, that strong safety, that's primarily where we feature him,'' Quinn said. "And when we play those kinds of downs, we have to play really tight, aggressive coverage. You've got to know the matchups that you have at tight end. So, you've got to have a guy who has some length -- whether it's arm length or jumping ability -- that length to be able to defend when guys are running option routes. And he has the ability to do that.''

The 6-foot-1-inch, 211-pound Neal has a 38-inch vertical and 32 3/4-inch arm length.

"I'm a bigger safety,'' Neal said. "But I'm as fast as the smaller guys. I'm as quick as the smaller guys. So, just being a bigger body, being able to handle those guys and not be bullied by big guys in the league, that helps me out a lot.''

In terms of defending the run and playing fast and physical, Quinn had no doubts at all about Neal.

"I knew the hitter was there,'' Quinn said. "And you can see that on the tape. You just pop the tape on and it comes alive.''

Quinn was asked how Neal compares to Seahawks strong safety Kam Chancellor, who thrived playing Quinn's defensive scheme in Seattle.


"I won't say ... that's a hard guy to compare to, to live up to that standard,'' Quinn said. "But what I can tell you is that on the field, this is an aggressive player. And I love that style. And I know that's what makes zone defense come to life; where guys who are going to catch the ball down in a zone, they better get hit and [the defender] comes there with some bad intentions. On tape, he brings that.''

Neal, who mentioned guys such as the late Sean Taylor, Earl Thomas, Ronnie Lott and Chancellor as hard-hitting safeties he always liked, doesn't want to pattern his game after anyone specifically.

"As far as modeling my game after, I don't model my game after anyone,'' Neal said. "I'm my own player. I want to be the best `me' I can be.''

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NFC South



Atlanta Falcons 
Draft picks: Keanu Neal (No. 17 overall), Deion Jones (No. 52 overall), Austin Hooper No. 81 overall) 
Day 1 grade: A 
Day 2 grade: A 
Overall grade: A 
The skinny: Keanu Neal is scheduled to be a strong safety for the Falcons, flying all over the field and aiding in coverage. That's exactly what they needed. The team found great values in the speedy Jones and athletic tight end Hooper, meeting two big needs.


Carolina Panthers 
Draft picks: Vernon Butler (No. 30 overall), James Bradberry (No. 62 overall), Daryl Worley (No. 77 overall) 
Day 1 grade: C 
Day 2 grade: C- 
Overall grade: C- 
The skinny: I like the potential of Butler, but depth at defensive tackle in this year's draft and the team's existing talent at the position makes me wonder if picking offensive tackle Germain Ifedi or pass rusher Kevin Dodd wouldn't have been a better move. 

The Panthers picked up two defensive backs in the second and third rounds, both with good traits. Some other need areas were left alone, however, like the offensive line. And trading a couple of Day 3 picks was a handsome price to pay to get Worley.


New Orleans Saints 
Draft picks: Sheldon Rankins (No. 12 overall), Michael Thomas (No. 47 overall), Vonn Bell(No. 61 overall) 
Day 1 grade: B 
Day 2 grade: A 
Overall grade: A- 
The skinny: Everyone knew the Saints needed a dynamic interior force that they haven't had since Sedrick Ellis. Rankins should fill that role well. He'll have to prove he can handle his run-stopping duties, however, to be worth this pick. 

I love, love, love the Saints picking two Buckeyes in the second round. I'm not a big fan of giving up a fourth-round pick in this draft, but Bell was a darn good player at pick No. 61. Thomas will be aMarques Colston-type producer in New Orleans.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers 
Draft picks: Vernon Hargreaves (No. 11 overall), Noah Spence (No. 39 overall), Roberto Aguayo (No. 59 overall) 
Day 1 grade: A 
Day 2 grade: C 
Overall grade: B 
The skinny: The Bucs picked up a fourth-round pick, which in this draft is a potential starter. And they got the playmaker they wanted at No. 9 in Hargreaves! You knew the Bucs would pick a pass rusher in this draft, even after signing Robert Ayers. Spence is a good fit for their defense, and fell in the right spot in the draft given his off-field issues. Picking a kicker in the second round will always be questioned, especially when you give up an early fourth-round pick in a deep draft to do so. But he's a darn good kicker -- a position becoming more important with the recent rule changes.

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2016 Atlanta Falcons draft picks: Analysis for every selection

pl11:04 AM ET
  • mcclure_vaughn_m.jpg&w=80&h=80&scale=cro
    Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

Vaughn McClure breaks down the 2016 Atlanta Falcons draft class.


Round 1, pick 17: Keanu Neal, S, Florida | Highlights

My take: My hunch is that Neal was high on the Falcons' board, but it seemed more likely for him to be targeted in a trade-down scenario since Neal got a second-round grade from ESPN draft expert Todd McShay. But the Falcons clearly felt comfortable enough with him to overlook UCLA linebackerMyles Jack and Clemson pass-rusher Shaq Lawson. Neal is a strong safety who can run but can also hit like a linebacker. It's easy to see him playing a Kam Chancellor-type role in the Falcons' Cover 3 scheme. Quinn believes Neal has the ability to cover tight ends, which has been a struggle for the Falcons. Neal, of course, now has to go out and show he has the footwork to cover, which is something he's never proven. And Quinn also believes having Neal's coverage on third down will aid the pass-rush issues. The Falcons needed to address their defensive holes before anything else, and adding Neal helps at least one glaring need in the secondary. The Falcons cut ties with William Moore because he couldn't run the way he used to. And they didn't have confidence in Kemal Ishmael to step in as the starter.

No place like Atlanta: Neal told Thursday afternoon that he would love to get a call from the Falcons. Well, it happened, and Neal is now headed to his desired destination. Here is what he said about the Falcons about a week ago when asked if Atlanta was the best fit: "For me, schematically, yes. I feel like that's a great fit for me and my style of play. The coaching staff is authentic. I can tell they really care about each other and the program. I feel like [secondary coach] Marquand Manuel can really help me out as a person and a player. And Coach Quinn, he's a tremendous head coach. Getting under him, getting under his wing and learning will skyrocket my career."

What's in a name? Neal is named after actor Keanu Reeves, as you might expect. "Everything he's been through, he's stayed humble and grateful," Neal said of Reeves. "He gave all his 'The Matrix' revenue to a charity. Really good dude."

Stacy Revere/Getty Images atl.png?w=110&h=110&transparent=true

Round 2, pick 52: Deion Jones, LB, LSU | Highlights

My take: The Falcons obviously had an interest in Jones from the start based on how closely they monitored him at the Senior Bowl. Then Jones had a private workout with the team, just another indication of the interest level the Falcons had. Although Jones didn't have a lot of starting experience at LSU, his speed is such an asset and something the Falcons sorely need at inside linebacker. In the Cover 3 scheme, Jones' speed can be utilized as he drops in coverage and closes on the ball. What might hurt Jones is he's not the most instinctive player. But again, a team needing improved speed at linebacker just took a significant step. Jones expects to step into a role at weakside linebacker, where the Falcons are unsettled after cutting veteran starter Justin Durant. You wonder if the Falcons had maybe just a little hesitation after taking another LSU player, cornerback Jalen Collins, in the second round last season then seeing Collins struggle as a rookie. They hope Jones doesn't have the same type of rookie experience. Pro Football Focus gave the Falcons a `D' for drafting Jones, saying he misses too many tackles. And scouts around the league say although he has great straight-line speed, Jones might be a little stiff when it comes to coverage.

In the middle of the rivalry: Jones, who is from New Orleans, told during the draft process that his father is a die-hard Saints fan. So it should make matters much more interesting that Jones now plays for the bitter-rival Falcons. "He'll get over it," Jones said of his father. "He won't have a choice." Jones gets to return home in Week 3 of the regular season, when the Falcons and Saints square off on ESPN's Monday Night Football in the 10-year anniversary of the reopening of the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina.

High praise: Here's what LSU coach Les Miles told's Mike Triplett about Jones after he ran that 4.38 at the pro day: "Not a lot of linebackers in history will run like that. That guy may be the fastest linebacker that I personally have been around that had any size to him at all. He’s absolutely the first. That fits into the NFL game as a guy that can move and make plays and has ball skills. He’s going to fit right into the NFL game." Jones was upset about running a 4.59 at the NFL combine in Indianapolis.


Round 3, pick 81: Austin Hooper, TE, Stanford | Highlights


My take: The Falcons obviously needed another red zone threat, particularly with the added defensive attention given to Julio Jones. The 6-foot-4, 254-pound Hooper gives the Falcons that type of target. Hooper has long arms and big hands. He's a crafty route runner who should provide a great mismatch in favor of the Falcons. Since he was split outside a lot in college, he didn't have the type of blocking responsibilities he'll have in the NFL. So, expect him to improve his blocking with time. The Falcons might have eyed Arkansas'Hunter Henry, but he came off the board earlier. Hooper has the tools to start immediately in offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's scheme, which is likely to have more two-tight ends sets now. Jacob Tamme returns off a 59-catch season.

Stanford connection: Stanford has produced solid tight ends as of late, so the Falcons hope Hooper can follow suit. Those players include Zach Ertz(Eagles) and Coby Fleener (Saints). Current Falcons tight end Levine Toiloloalso played at Stanford. Toilolo can continue to carve out his niche as a blocker, he could stick. Those are not strengths for Hooper and Tamme.

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Devin Hester expects to be an Atlanta Falcon, if healthy

12:28 AM ET
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    Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

Devin Hester, the most accomplished return man in NFL history, expects to return kicks for the Atlanta Falcons this season -- if healthy.

Hester, who underwent surgery on his right big toe in January, realizes his status with the team hinges on whether he makes a full recovery. Although he's been a participant in offseason workouts, the 33-year-old veteran hasn't been cleared to run just yet.

Hester is signed through the 2016 season and is scheduled to make $3 million -- a hefty price if he can't contribute.

"At the end of the day, I feel like it's going to come down to how my toe feels," Hester told "If my toe isn't ready, then I can't fault them for letting me go because it's a business. I can't go around thinking I'm safe if I'm not playing. I do understand that.

"But if I'm healthy, they'd be crazy to let me go. You've got to think about it: I was coming off a Pro Bowl season. It's not like I couldn't do it anymore. I just got hurt preseason last year and that blew the whole season."

Hester, a former second-round draft pick of the Chicago Bears (2006), joined the Falcons in 2014 on a three-year, $9 million contract that included $4 million guaranteed. He made the Pro Bowl in 2014 after leading the NFL with 1,128 kickoff return yards while averaging 13.3 yards per punt return, which would have led the league had he had enough returns to qualify.

Then last year, Hester suffered what was initially labeled a turf toe injury in the third preseason game at Miami. The injury caused the Falcons to place Hester on injured reserve with a designation to return. He ended up playing in just five games, returning nine kickoffs for 235 yards (26.1 yards per return) and eight punts for 34 yards.

After the season, it was determined that Hester broke two sesamoid bones in his right big toe, which led to surgery. All along, he knew it would be a four-to-six month recovery process.

"They said it's going pretty good, and I'm doing some jogging now and ladders," Hester said. "I started that about a week ago. [Running] pretty much depends on what the toe says. I'm looking at it like the games don't start until September. I want to make sure that I'm good. I don't want to aggravate it; have it flare back up so where I have to deal with it again. I want to let it get right and be ready to go by the time the season starts."

Falcons coach Dan Quinn addressed Hester's status.

"He's doing the rehab and he's able to do certain things, but he's not been fully 'Hey, do it all,' so he's not there yet," Quinn said. "I don't know if I have a timeline for it. I would say we are, for sure, hopeful prior to camp [minicamp, June 14-16]. As far as the [organized team activities], I don't know. That toe has got to be right. And we're not going to put him out there until it is. He's got unique stuff to get up and go. When he's ready to do that, then that's when the docs with clear him."

Quinn was asked point blank if he is confident Hester, who was not utilized on offense last season, can be effective for the Falcons.

"Yeah," Quinn said. "We're hopeful. I just don't know the timeline yet."

Quinn said the team's decision to draft speedy wide receiver/kick returnerDevin Fuller out of UCLA in the seventh round was not directly related to Hester's status.

"Let's not start comparing to Dev (Hester)," Quinn said. "[Fuller] is a receiver first, though. I mean he's going to return for us. But that's not the reason."

It does make perfect sense, however, to have backup plan in the return game, even if there's a chance kickoff returns could be deemphasized with the new rules changes.

Hester wasn't bothered by the addition of Fuller.

"To be honest, the only way I feel like I can get beat out in the return game is if I don't come back 100 percent," Hester said. "If he does [beat me out], he's going to be the best returner in this league."

Hester holds the NFL record with 20 return touchdowns, a record he set in September of 2014 against Tampa Bay and then-coach Lovie Smith, Hester's former coach with the Chicago Bears.

Hester said he wants to play at least two more season before considering retirement.

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Falcons linebacker Paul Worrilow welcomes his competition, literally

4:27 PM ET
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    Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

If nothing else, Paul Worrilow always wants to be viewed as a team player.

So when the Atlanta Falcons drafted two inside linebackers this past weekend, Worrilow, the team's starting middle linebacker and leading tackler the past three seasons, didn't cringe. In fact, he welcomed both Deion Jones andDe'Vondre Campbell with open arms via text message.

"Them guys coming in, I'm excited for them," Worrilow said. "It's an awesome opportunity for them to come in here. And I think we have an awesome team. Our linebacker room is second to none in terms of the bond we're developing. And that's something we're taking to the next level to see how close we can get. These guys are a part of it now. I just want to take them in and let them know we're a tight-knit group."

Paul Worrilow welcomed Deion Jones and De'Vondre Campbell to the Falcons, even though the young players may try to take his job at linebacker. AP Photo/John Bazemore

Worrilow didn't want to take all the credit for reaching out to Jones and Campbell, the team's second- and fourth-round draft picks.

"We have a whole linebacker group text message that we have going on, so it's not just me at all," Worrilow said. "It's everybody in our linebacker room. That's something we always keep going, whether it's football-related or we're talking about getting together and doing something, just chopping it up. It's Spoon [Sean Weatherspoon], Philip [Wheeler], LaRoy [Reynolds], [Vic] Beasley, Tyler Starr, and myself. After the draft, we added those two dudes. They are part of the group now. So are the undrafted guys coming in."

Jones was the first one Worrilow had contact with since Jones was drafted Friday. Interestingly enough, it's Jones who is likely to compete with Worrilow for the starting middle linebacker role, while Campbell will compete for a starting spot at the Will. Jones, with much more speed than Worrilow, is the ideal player to help with some of the coverage woes the Falcons have had. But Worrilow, a highly intelligent player who knows the defense, certainly will fight to keep his role.

"Year in and year out, there's competition, man," Worrilow said. "It's just the situation you're always going to be in in the NFL. It doesn't matter. We're trying to take our games to the next level. And that's not done without competition.

"It doesn't change anything. It's not like I'm thinking, 'I'm in the hole, shoot, I've got to turn it on.' That's the situation, so I'm going to keep doing what I've been doing and that's trying to get as good as I can with my game and trying to be the best teammate I can be. Whether that's helping [Jones] get his game right, that's part of it, too for me. That's how I learned."

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Navy SEALS workout part of Falcons' revamped offseason

6:00 PM ET
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    Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn continues to come up with creative ways to challenge his team while preparing it for the 2016 season.

As cornerback Robert Alford revealed to the media Wednesday, members of the United States Navy SEALS were brought in last week to lead the players through a rigorous training regimen. The Falcons posted a video of the exercises.

Alford was asked about the message he took away from those workouts.

"Just pushing through the rough times," he said. "Every game, you're always going to have some downs, and you've got to come together as a group and decide that you want to push yourself up out of it. And you've got to look to push the next person."

Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon appreciated the message as well.

"It was great for developing an elite brotherhood," Weatherspoon said. "It's basically just setting our standard to an elite level and holding each other accountable to the standard. Team over me. It was beneficial."

The Falcons have put together a few bonding efforts this offseason. First, quarterback Matt Ryan paid for players to meet in South Florida for a passing camp. And Quinn gave the locker room a facelift so offensive players and defensive players and older and younger players could be mixed in together.

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Undrafted Falcons LB Ivan McLennan matured after college pellet-gun arrest

May 6, 2016
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    Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

Ivan McLennan was a redshirt junior in June 2014, and the former Washington State outside linebacker freely admitted he still had some maturing to do.

Two years ago, McLennan was arrested and charged with unlawful handling of weapons capable of producing bodily harm. He pointed a non-lethal Airsoft pellet gun at a student after police previously warned him about such antics.

McLennan doesn't believe the misdemeanor arrest had anything to do with him going undrafted. He does believe, however, that it helped him realize not to put himself in such comprising situations.

"I know it was wrong because they were expecting me to be a leader," McLennan said. "We were having BB gun wars. The whole team was playing around, but that's still no excuse. I look back at it, and it shouldn't have happened. I learned from it. I learned there are consequences from my actions. I've always been positive but now I'm more mature."

A matured McLennan is now ready to fulfill his NFL dreams after joining theAtlanta Falcons as an undrafted free agent. He'll be one to watch as the team begins rookie minicamp, considering he brings a pass-rush element that the Falcons -- who finished last in the league with 19 sacks last season -- sorely need.

"It's a surreal, humbling and blessed opportunity to go there to Atlanta and have the opportunity to compete and try to make this 53-man roster," he said.

The 6-foot-3, 238-pound McLennan didn't work out for the Falcons when they visited Washington State to take a closer look at offensive lineman Joe Dahl. McLennan did, however, post impressive numbers at his pro day with times of 4.59 and 4.61 seconds in the 40-yard dash, 17 bench-press reps and a 36-inch vertical.

He then established a relationship with the Falcons.

"I'd say probably 10 or 12 days before the draft, me and [linebackers coach] Jeff Ulbrich talked," McLennan said. "Ever since then, him and I were always in contact. We talked on a daily basis, **** near. We started building a little relationship, a little connection. He wanted me to come to Atlanta, and I want to be in Atlanta.

"[Ulbrich] wants me to play outside linebacker. He wants me to play inside linebacker. He wants me to pass-rush on third down. He wants me to play every special teams. It's a great opportunity over there because he said he likes my versatility."

McLennan, a native of California who transferred to Washington State from El Camino Junior College, played in 25 games in two seasons with the Cougars. Last season, he registered 42 tackles, nine tackles for losses and six sacks. He had three sacks in a victory over Wyoming.

"As a pass-rusher, I just get off the ball really good," McLennan said. "I'd say I'm good at my burst. I have a good burst off the ball. I've got a couple moves, too, with a little shake. I'm still a work in progress because I haven't been in the NFL. I know it's another level, so I've got to work. I've got to watch film. I know sure, I've got to be violent with my hands. But my biggest positive attribute as a pass-rusher is just my get-off. I just get off the ball really fast."

Washington State linebackers coach Roy Manning is confident McLennan can excel as an NFL pass-rusher in time.

"Ivan's just a guy where his first step is really, really impressive," Manning said. "He can really get off the ball. He plays really, really fast. Sometimes, it's a little bit out of control. But he's got all the ability."

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Falcons not ruling out signing veteran CB Leon Hall

Leon Hall, a 2007 first-round Bengals draft pick, tore both of his Achilles in separate incidents during the 2011 and 2013 seasons, respectively. Joe Robbins/Getty Images
May 6, 2016
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    Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn said the team is still considering whether to sign cornerback Leon Hall, who played the previous nine years with the Cincinnati Bengals.

Falcons players said Hall was in the facility this week while the team continued offseason workouts. Hall, 31, did not immediately sign however.

Hall has torn both Achilles since the 2011 season.

"They still went through the medical with Leon," Quinn said Friday. "So we're still getting back and talking with the docs. So, nothing to report on that end yet. But still looking to add, if there's guys we think can compete to make the team better. But nothing to update you on that one."

Quinn was asked if Hall could help the team.

"Certainly he could," Quinn said. "But nothing to update on his scenario just yet."

The Falcons needed more depth at cornerback behind likely starters Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford. The plan going into last season was to have Alford play more of a nickel role as rookie Jalen Collins settled in outside opposite Trufant. However, Collins' first year was a total disaster. And he enters the 2016 season suspended for the first four games without pay after violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

Since Collins won't be available for those four games, it makes sense for the Falcons to investigate other options, particularly after not drafting a cornerback. If the season started today, DeMarcus Van Dyke and Akeem Kinglikely would be competing for time as the third cornerback.

We'll see how things progress with Hall, a 2007 first-round Bengals draft pick. Injuries marked much of the latter years of his time in Cincinnati. He tore both of his Achilles in separate incidents during the 2011 and 2013 seasons, respectively. Although he returned remarkably strong following the first tear, he has been a little slower getting back to form since the second one.

Neither Hall nor his Bengals coaches would say if he had lost a step after the second injury, but his role was scaled back. Hall played strictly at the slot cornerback position in 2015 after splitting more time there and on the boundary at earlier times in his career.

Consistency was the biggest issue for Hall the past two seasons. At times he would make timely defensive stops. At others, he would get badly beaten by opposing receivers for first downs or touchdowns.

For many, the play that defined Hall’s career after his second Achilles tear was the 94-yard touchdown pass he allowed against the Steelers in Cincinnati in 2014. On the play, then-rookie Martavis Bryant got quickly by Hall and completely burned him to go untouched for the long scoring reception.

It’s also worth noting that since his last Achilles tear, Hall has three interceptions and broke up 11 passes.

ESPN Bengals reporter Coley Harvey contributed to this report.

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Falcons' Deion Jones confident about being man in the middle

  • Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Although Deion Jones wasn't originally expected to be an option at middle linebacker for the Atlanta Falcons, the second-round draft pick said he's comfortable with playing that role and competing against returning starter Paul Worrilow.

Jones was in the middle for brief periods of 11-on-11 drills during Friday's rookie minicamp. It was way too early to assess his comfort level, but his blazing speed was evident.

Playing the middle isn't just about being fast -- and he knows it.

"My confidence is coming bit by bit," Jones said. "It's about learning the scheme and adjusting to the speed. It got better as the practice went on."

Last year at LSU, Jones said he played middle linebacker half the time and on the weak side the other half.

"Playing the middle is having the confidence and knowing the calls," Jones said. "And it's getting people lined up and making sure everyone is on the same page."

Such might take a little time for a rookie, and Jones fully understands that reality. Certainly the Falcons want to accelerate his learning curve in order to use his speed to their advantage, particular in coverage situations.

Worrilow, the team's leading tackler the past three seasons, expected the team to bring in competition at his position. In fact, Worrilow immediately reached out to Jones via text message after he was drafted.

"I appreciated it," Jones said of Worrilow's warm welcome. "All these guys, like the coaches said, it's a big family atmosphere. It made me feel good that someone older reached out to me. I want to learn from him and get to know him, and learn from the rest of the guys. Like I said, it's a big family atmosphere here."


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Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer 

Quick observations from Day 2 of Falcons rookie minicamp: First-round pick Keanu Neal almost had a pick covering tight end. Wide receiver Devin Fuller didn't do much. Deion Jones and DeVondre Campbell look good working together at linebacker.


Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer 

Falcons sixth-round pick Wes Schweitzer (71), a guard out of San Jose State, going through position drills at rookie minicamp.


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Falcons coach Dan Quinn won't rule out re-signing O'Brien Schofield

Outside linebacker O'Brien Schofield started 10 games for the Falcons last season, finishing with 28 tackles, four tackles for losses and two sacks. Noah K. Murray/USA TODAY Sports
7:06 AM ET
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    Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn said the team won't rule out re-signing veteran free-agent outside linebacker O’Brien Schofield, unless Schofield signs elsewhere.

The Falcons made an offer to Schofield this offseason, but the sides couldn’t agree to contract terms. Schofield remains on the opener market, although he has several "good" offers on the table.

"As far as opened or closed, it’s never closed with Scho," Quinn said. "There’s never a time where we close it on a player that we’re connected with, if that makes sense. I’m not going to say we will sign him, but we’ll always have conversation because of our respect for him.

"Not only do I understand what he stands for as a ballplayer, I understand what he stands for as a man. That’s the big thing. So whether he’s here or not here, my connection with him is life-long. That’s why my feelings for him are so strong, and my respect for him is that way."

Schofield played under Quinn for two seasons in Seattle when Quinn was the defensive coordinator and the Seahawks won a Super Bowl. Schofield then signed a one-year, $1.7 million contract to reunite with Quinn in Atlanta.

Last season, Schofield started 10 of 16 games and finished with 28 tackles, four tackles for losses, two sacks, 13 quarterback hits, and one forced fumble. He was viewed as a pass-rusher at first, teaming with Vic Beasley Jr., Adrian Clayborn, and Jonathan Babineaux to comprise the Falcons' best pass-rush combination. As the season progressed, Schofield assumed the starting strongside linebacker role in the base defense ahead of Brooks Reed, who supplanted Schofield as a nickel pass-rusher.

Schofield, who emerged as a vocal team leader, firmly believes he can help enhance the Falcons’ weak pass rush, which finished last in the league with 19 total sacks last season. The Falcons brought in Derrick Shelby and moved Grady Jarrett to nose tackle to help bolster the interior rush, but they need help off the edges.

Quinn was asked if Schofield has the pass-rush ability to help enhance the defense.

"For sure he does," Quinn said. "He’s got speed. He’s got extreme toughness. So as we went through the process, he was certainly somebody that we went through. Now we’re going through some guys here, too.

"It’s not really anything to report on it at this point from our end. Whether it’s now or not, he and I are always connected. That’s a man I respect."

Schofield is working out in Hawaii with former Seahawks teammate Michael Bennett. A return to Seattle could be an option, and Schofield also generated interest from the Jaguars, Cowboys, and Giants, among others.

Schofield said there should be no concerns about an arthritic condition in his left knee. He's missed just one game in the past three seasons.

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Atlanta Falcons will pass on veteran cornerback Leon Hall

May 14, 2016
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    Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

The Atlanta Falcons are not going to sign veteran cornerback Leon Hall at this time, a league source told

Hall, 31, visited the Falcons' facility last week. Coach Dan Quinn said Hall was a player capable of helping the defense, but Quinn said the team wanted to fully review Hall's medical history before committing to signing him. Hall tore both of his Achilles in separate incidents during the 2011 and 2013 seasons. He also reportedly had a back procedure this offseason.

Obviously the Falcons felt it was best to go in another direction.

The Falcons weren't comfortable enough with Leon Hall's medical history to sign him. Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Quinn said he'll always be mindful of cornerbacks and pass-rushers while trying to enhance the roster. The team, of course, has the utmost confidence in Pro Bowl cornerback Desmond Trufant and feels fellow starter Robert Alford will flourish as long as he cleans up his technique. The wild card is second-year player Jalen Collins, last year's second-round draft pick out of LSU who had a miserable rookie season.

Collins is suspended for the first four games of the 2016 without pay for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances -- an issue that will stunt his growth. If Collins begins to show signs of the potential the coaches saw in him, he could earn more time outside at corner with Alford moving in to cover the slot in the nickel. The Falcons like Collins' length when it comes to defending taller receivers such as Tampa Bay's Mike Evans and Carolina's Kelvin Benjamin in the NFC South. However, Collins has showed no ball skills at this point.

DeMarcus Van Dyke and Akeem King are the other key figures in the cornerback equation right now in terms of depth. Phillip Adams, who was with the team last season, remains a free agent but wants to return to the Falcons.

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Falcons' Deion Jones sees no red flags regarding repaired shoulder

10:03 PM ET
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    Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

Atlanta Falcons rookie linebacker Deion Jones said there is no reason to be concerned about his surgically repaired left shoulder that drew red flags from at least two teams during the draft process.

The second-round draft pick from LSU, who hails from New Orleans and goes by the nickname of "Debo", was surprised about the attention his shoulder received, considering it was an injury dating back to high school.

"My shoulder is fine; it’s strong," Jones told "I had surgery in high school."

Jones played in 51 games (13 starts) over four seasons at LSU. LSU coach Les Miles told reporters that Jones started to make "big-time plays" once he came to LSU and was able to rehab the shoulder.

So why was the shoulder such a pre-draft issue?

"I have no clue," Jones said.

Did it make Jones angry?

"No, not at all," he said. "I know what it was able to do. It never restricted me in any way. And I’m blessed someone took a chance on me. Like I said, it was something that happened in high school. I didn’t know it would affect me later on, but it’s all good."

Wayde Keiser, Jones’ coach at New Orleans Jesuit High School, said he even received a few calls from NFL teams inquiring about Jones' shoulder. The Falcons weren’t one of those teams, although they reportedly called the LSU trainer about it prior to drafting Jones.

"It was Week 10 of his senior season and two series before (the game-winning drive) on defense, his shoulder popped out," Keiser recalled. "They worked on him on the sideline and put him back in. He also, when we needed him every now and then, we'd put him in at receiver. ... So he catches the pass that sets up the winning touchdown -- with a hurt shoulder. He goes back in and plays. I mean, it's (separated). He was going to have to have it repaired after the season. So we hold him out one week, then he plays the next three weeks.

"What's crazy about it is that many of these NFL teams, they go all the way back to their high school days. It started happening about six or seven years ago when teams would call me about kids who I had coached that were possible draft choices. And I had to let them know that Debo's shoulder was not an issue. He got it cleaned up and went on the play at LSU. He never had a problem in the weight room at LSU. He was phenomenal in the weight room."

Jones had 18 bench press reps of 225 pounds during his Pro Day.

The Falcons expect the 6-foot-1-inch, 230-plus-pound Jones to make an immediate impact with his blazing speed. He’ll compete with Paul Worrilow at Mike linebacker, a position Jones believes he’s can adjust to instantly after being projected more as a Will linebacker.

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Bill Barnwell's offseason report cards: NFC South

I'm only listing the Falcons info!!!  This is his opinion!!

Bill BarnwellESPN Staff Writer

Atlanta Falcons

What Went Right

They secured a massive upgrade at center with Alex Mack. The Falcons have struggled for years to replace long-time center Todd McClure, who retired after the 2012 season. They drafted Peter Konz in the second round that year as McClure's replacement, but Konz never developed and is out of football. Last year, they turned the job over to 26-year-old journeyman Mike Person, who had played all of two NFL games before starting 14 times for the Falcons last year.

The Bill Barnwell Show

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They paid a pretty penny to bring Alex Mack in, but the Falcons have to feel great about finally procuring a useful center. Mack's five-year, $45 million deal pays him $26 million over the next three seasons, which is a premium for a pivot, but Atlanta has been begging for a viable center for years now. Mack also has experience in offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's scheme from their time in Cleveland, which should make for a smoother transition than most new contributors.

They re-upped Adrian Clayborn. The latest defensive lineman to get out of Tampa Bay and suddenly play at a much higher level, Clayborn impressed as an interior pass rusher for Dan Quinn, leading the Falcons with 15 quarterback knockdowns. The Falcons re-signed him on a very reasonable two-year, $8.5 million deal with $5 million more available in incentives. That's a contract that should benefit both sides. Clayborn has missed the better part of two full seasons with injuries during his five-year career, which could come back to bite the perennially thin Falcons, but this was a risk worth taking because ...

What Went Wrong

They didn't do enough to address the pass-rush problem. It's hard to gauge whether this was the best they could have done, given their limited financial resources, but the Falcons aren't much better off with their pass-rush options than they were a year ago, when they produced a league-low 19 sacks. Atlanta pressured quarterbacks on just 23.0 percent of opposing dropbacks, which was also the worst in the league. First-round pick Vic Beasley Jr. flashed at times during his rookie season while playing through a torn labrum, but he went missing for games at a time and finished with just four sacks and five quarterback knockdowns. Those four sacks also led the team. That is dire.

The Falcons didn't add much to that group. They re-signed Clayborn and will naturally hope that Beasley plays better as a sophomore, but the only addition they made to the pass rush was Dolphins reserve end Derrick Shelby, whose best season as a pass-rusher saw him produce 3.5 sacks and eight hits on a line with Ndamukong Suh and Olivier Vernon last year. Shelby's four-year, $18 million deal isn't going to break the bank, and there's no money in 2017 or beyond guaranteed right now, but this feels like a broken piece of Atlanta's roster that still hasn't been fixed.


They overpaid for Mohamed Sanu. This is why I can't say the Falcons completely lacked the financial resources to invest in a pass rusher. It made sense for Atlanta to move on from Roddy White, who wasn't an NFL-caliber receiver at this point of his career, but it's hard to see Sanu making the sort of impact his contract suggests. Sanu's five-year, $32.5 million deal includes $14 million guaranteed and $20 million over its first three years. Torrey Smith got $19.75 million over his first three years on his five-year deal last offseason and had been a far more productive receiver by virtually any metric before hitting free agency.

Even during his two years as a starter before giving way to Marvin Jones last year, Sanu averaged 38.9 receiving yards per game. That's roughly what Robert Woods and Malcom Floyd did last year. Atlanta had some success plucking a receiver off of the scrap heap last year in Leonard Hankerson; the difference between Sanu and somebody like Hankerson, who's now on the Bills, in combination with Justin Hardy and another draft pick just isn't enough to justify Atlanta's outlay. That goes double, given how intensely Kyle Shanahan's offense focuses on its top receiver, which isn't going to change with Julio Jonesaround.

What's Next?

Re-signing Desmond Trufant. One of the hidden superstars of the NFL, Atlanta's star cornerback is in line for a massive contract extension, with Trufant's representation probably hoping to compare the star corner to Arizona's Patrick Peterson. Trufant doesn't post huge interception totals, with six during his three-year career, but he shuts down his side of the field as well as anybody east of Seattle. He's not Richard Sherman, but for Dan Quinn, Trufant is the closest corner he'll find.

Grade: C+

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