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Falcons' first-round pick Takk McKinley (shoulder) could make debut against Steelers

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Falcons' first-round pick Takk McKinley (shoulder) could make debut against Steelers

Vaughn McClure

ESPN Staff Writer

Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn said first-round draft pick Takkarist McKinley, who underwent March shoulder surgery, could make his debut in the next exhibition game Aug. 20 in Pittsburgh.

"We're hopeful that if all goes well this week, that [he'll] get a shot at it in the next preseason game," Quinn said. "He's fully cleared to get going and increase the reps from the doctor's standpoint, so we're encouraged by that. But no setbacks for him."

McKinley was held out of Thursday night's 23-20 loss at Miami. The defensive end from UCLA didn't hang his head about being inactive.

 Quinn said the decision to sit McKinley had nothing to do with the rookie tweaking his right ankle at practice earlier in the week.

"No it didn't," Quinn said. "This one was just, he's been about half the reps for practice that our normal players get. As long as he's moving up to full and makes the progress that he is, then we're looking forward to getting him going. That's the plan for this week -- to see if he can handle the full load coming off the injury."

Quinn wants to see more from the pass rush coming off the first exhibition, when the Falcons had no sacks and one quarterback hit against the Dolphins. The defense moved the opposing quarterback off the spot at times, but never finished.

Getting McKinley back on the field certainly will give Quinn and the staff a better feel for how the pass rush might come together going into the season. The Falcons know what they have in Vic Beasley Jr., who led the NFL with 15.5 sacks last season. The combination of two-time Pro Bowler Dontari Poe and Super Bowl standout Grady Jarrett in the middle should provide a push on the interior to open up rush lanes for Beasley and others. The Falcons have both Adrian Clayborn and Derrick Shelby back from last year's season-ending injuries, and Clayborn certainly appears to have his speed back. Plus, more depth was added with the signing of Jack Crawford, who didn't play Thursday because of a strain suffered in practice.

Courtney Upshaw is another versatile lineman up front. And Quinn singled out the play of unheralded defensive tackle Joe Vellano against the Dolphins.

Regarding McKinley, the initial plan going into the training camp was to have him play in the third exhibition game at home against the Arizona Cardinals (Aug. 26). However, McKinley getting the green light to return to 11-on-11 drills early in training camp was a sign that he was ahead of schedule.

The Falcons had a Friday version of "Tell the truth Monday" to go over film from Thursday night's game. The players have Saturday off before returning to practice Sunday.



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