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Falcons Offseason News

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Report: Falcons “very interested” in free agent tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins

 

By Dave Choate and Matthew Chambers Mar 11, 2018, 5:27pm EDT

The Falcoholic  


 

It’d be an interesting signing by the Falcons, but it fills a big need for a red-zone pass catcher with experience with Steve Sarkisian.

We have been predicting the Atlanta Falcons will look to upgrade their tight ends, and that was before they cut Levine Toilolo. The roster currently includes only two tight ends: third-year Austin Hooper, and second-year Eric Saubert. Hooper did not quite reach expectations in his sophomore season, and Saubert was only occasionally given a shot at blocking.

Atlanta could use another weapon, and they’ve been linked to one that was amazing at University of Washington. That’s right, under head coach Steve Sarkisian. Here’s the blurb from Jason La Canfora of CBS News.


New York very much wants to retain tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. There will be plenty of competition to keep him, however, with the Seahawks and Falcons among those very interested.

Do keep in mind that La Canfora is one of the more scattershot insiders in the NFL, meaning that we have no idea exactly how reliable this report is. As a reminder, La Canfora said earlier this offseason that Sarkisian was expected to be the offensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks. Obviously, that was wrong, along with a long line of other news from La Canfora. His accuracy has been Joe Flacco-esque ever since he left the official NFL Network.

If the Falcons do believe in Hooper, as I think they do, signing someone like Ed Dickson or ASJ to be the second option in the offense is a smart move that won’t come with major costs. Atlanta does not need to sign an elite tight end, but getting a competent second-tier player would help open up an offense that was sadly missing weapons outside of the running backs and Julio Jones.

We aren’t sure exactly what Seferian-Jenkins in the pros. He’s rarely had a competent quarterback, and has run the gamut in stats. Is he the 16.1 yard-per-catch player he was in 2015, or the 7.1 yard-per-catch player he was last year. He was publicly sent off from Tampa Bay after a DUI arrest and some general unhappiness with the team. The New York Jets have since picked him up, he’s reportedly gotten sober, and has had no issues since.

Seferian-Jenkins was considered a potential first-round selection way back in 2014, and Tampa Bay snatched him up early in the 2nd. He has prototypical size and speed at 6-foot-5, and 4.56 40. He struggled with drops early in his career but has cut back on those. He may just be a great complement to Hooper.

 

© 2018 Vox Media, Inc. All Rights Reserved Sports data © STATS 2016

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How can the Atlanta Falcons screw up the 2018 NFL Draft?

 

By James Rael@falcoholicjames Mar 17, 2018, 11:03pm EDT

The Falcoholic  


 

The Atlanta Falcons still have about a month and a half to prepare for the 2018 NFL Draft. That’s a long time, especially given all the work they’ve already put in. They more or less addressed the right guard situation in free agency, so they should be able to focus on bolstering the interior defensive line in the draft. That’s the logical approach, at least if you’re asking the vocal majority.

All this draft chatter begs an important question: how can the Falcons screw this up? By now general manager Thomas Dimitroff has more than enough street cred. But let’s be honest, he’s whiffed on occasion, just as all experienced GMs do from time to time. And scouting is an inexact science, riddled with human error. The Falcons will, of course, do their due diligence, but they could mess this up.

So tell me, Falcoholics, how could the Falcons drop the figurative ball April 26th-28th? What’s their recipe for disaster?

 

© 2018 Vox Media, Inc. All Rights Reserved Sports data © STATS 2016

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Report: Falcons could replace Taylor Gabriel with Marvin Hall or Reggie Davis

 

By Jeanna Thomas@jeannathomas Mar 17, 2018, 6:00pm EDT

The Falcoholic  


 

We could see Hall or Davis as the Falcons’ No. 3 WR next season.

The Falcons aren’t worried about the wide receiver depth chart after losing Taylor Gabriel in free agency. They could move forward next season with either Marvin Hall or Reggie Davis in that No. 3 wide receiver position, according to a report from the AJC’s D. Orlando Ledbetter.

Atlanta’s been quiet in free agency, with the only major move being the signing of guard Brandon Fusco to a three-year, $12.75 million deal. Gabriel, Adrian Clayborn and Dontari Poe were all allowed to hit the market.

But for the Falcons, this is what it looks like when everything goes according to plan. They don’t have many glaring needs on the roster, and so there’s no urgency to overspend in free agency when the Falcons could instead focus on building through the draft.

Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff are confident in this approach.

“That’s where our focus is, continue to hopefully sign the players that are going to help us get back to being a championship football team,” Dimitroff said, via Ledbetter. “I could not ask for a better partner than Dan Quinn through this entire process. We are really honed in on the moves we need to make inside the organization and outside, potentially.”

The Falcons have made some free agency splashes in the past. Some, like Alex Mack, have worked out. Others — Ray Edwards comes immediately to mind — have not.

So instead of looking for veteran wide receiver depth in free agency, the Falcons may just work with guys who are already in the roster. Drafting a replacement is also a possibility. And it’s a less risky move than overpaying for a player who will be, at best, third on the depth chart.

 

© 2018 Vox Media, Inc. All Rights Reserved Sports data © STATS 2016

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Former Falcons DE Adrian Clayborn recently bid farewell, gave Takk McKinley vote of approval

 

By Cory Woodroof@CoryWoodroof47 Mar 19, 2018, 12:00pm EDT

The Falcoholic  


 

It’s bummerino metropolis to see Clay head to New England, no doubt about it.

As you know, Falcons FA DE Adrian Clayborn has signed a three-year deal with the New England Patriots, and it burns. It burns so badly.

Clayborn had a nice contract year, and got paid by one of the greatest teams of all time. Yes, it’s that greatest team of all time, but you can’t blame a guy for wanting to continue his winning ways with a program that’s willing to shell out a big deal for him. Atlanta just didn’t have the resources to this time around, and that’s kind of that.

Some of Falcons faithful has, ahem, slid into poor Clay’s mentions to vent its frustrations, something the former Falcon noticed as he bid farewell to the organization and its fans.

Alright, angry fans, cut it out. Clayborn deserves to get paid as much as he can for his services, and New England was the team to pay him. So be it. Taking team-friendly deals sounds nice on paper, but rarely would any of us fork up a lot of money just to win something. Some might, and that’s their right, but Clayborn will get plenty of reps with the Patriots, and will get compensated for his talents. He’s able to pair winning with zeroes in the bank. Can’t blame him for that.

It’s clear and heartening that Clayborn is leaving on amicable terms, and has a lot of regard for the organization that, as he says, helped him get his career back on track. Even the guys who leave this place speak highly of it, which bodes well for free agents looking into joining, and guys on the roster wanting to stay when their deals are up.

Saying goodbye to a great Falcon like Clayborn stinks, but this is the side of the business that isn’t fun. That’s how the cookie crumbles sometimes.

Before he goes, Clayborn did throw his support behind second-year rusher Takkarist McKinley.

Clayborn’s got a point — his departure will open up a starting opportunity for McKinley, and will grant the latter more snaps. The UCLA pass rusher came on in a big way at the end of the season and in the playoffs, and his illuminating future is the one thing we really do need to be excited about as far as Atlanta’s defensive line goes.

Takk agrees.

Let the #Takkanissance begin!

So, Clayborn, we’ll miss you, and thank you for your time with the team. We wish you all the best with the, uh, Patriots.

If we ever do see each other again where it counts...on a cold February Sunday...well, old friend, it’s just business.

 

© 2018 Vox Media, Inc. All Rights Reserved Sports data © STATS 2016

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Pro Football Focus: Julio Jones had best game by wide receiver in 2017

 

By James Rael@falcoholicjames Mar 20, 2018, 10:19pm EDT

The Falcoholic  


 

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones is a dominant football player. In other news, the sky is blue, grass is green, and Dave smells like hot dog water. If you were among his detractors when the Falcons mortgaged their future by trading up for him, please find a shovel, dig a hole, and climb into it.

Pro Football Focus is an outlet you’re probably familiar with by now. They offer dynamic ratings of players, both in specific games and over the course of the season. Guess who had the highest single game rating of any NFL wide receiver this season?


Squaring up against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 12, Jones caught 12-of-15 targets for 253 yards and two touchdowns en route to a perfect passer rating when targeted (158.3) and a single-game grade of 99.9.

That week 12 game was special. It was particularly memorable for Buccaneers cornerback Ryan Smith, the poor DB Julio eviscerated that day. The Buccaneers only won consecutive games once in 2017, right before they faced the Falcons in week 12. After their Julio-fueled defeat, they rattled off four consecutive losses.

In short, Julio is a beast. Discuss!

 

© 2018 Vox Media, Inc. All Rights Reserved Sports data © STATS 2016

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Nick Chubb says the Atlanta Falcons are “showing me a lot of love”

 

By Matthew Chambers@FalcoholicMatt Apr 2, 2018, 2:08pm EDT

The Falcoholic  


 

We are still trying to figure out what the Atlanta Falcons will do in the NFL draft, just over three weeks away. Based on who they have met with, they are definitely looking at defensive tackles, linebackers, and even running backs.

Luckily, the Falcons do not have to look far to find one. University of Georgia standout running back Nick Chubb. His backup, Sony Michael, is actually expected to be the second running back drafted. That leaves the 5-foot-11, 228-pound Chubb to fall until the 2nd or 3rd round of the draft. Every UGA fan has seen Chubb bowl over defenders his entire career.

ESPN’s Vaughn McClure met up with Chubb after news broke of his visit with the Atlanta Falcons.


“They’re showing me a lot of love,” Chubb said with a wide smile.

McClure points out that selecting Chubb is unlikely, however, I disagree. The Falcons have made improving running back depth a priority, they just have not been successful. They were in the mix for Rex Burkhead last free agency, and drafted Brian Hill in the 5th round last year. Neither player touched the ball for the Falcons.

There is some belief that Steve Sarkisian wants a bigger running back in certain situations, and to be fair, who doesn’t? The Falcons are certainly committed to Devonta Freeman, but the expectation is that Tevin Coleman will leave in free agency next season. At the very least, both backs have dealt with injuries. With so few major needs, upgrading running back depth, and potentially the redzone and short-yardage offense, a more sizable back would be a big improvement.

For what it’s worth, Chubb sounds eager to play for the Falcons.


“You know I’m a Georgia boy, man,” he said. “I like the Falcons. I’m from Georgia. Red and black all the time. It would be good to play for them, maybe later in my career. It would be fun.”

Chubbs could fit in pretty well, but would likely need to fall to the end of the third round to end up in Atlanta. A second round pick sounds a little rich, but Atlanta could jump a couple of spots without it costing too much. Some draft analysts are unsure what to expect from Chubb. He suffered damage to multiple knee ligaments way back in October of 2015, and did not look like the same player in 2016. 2017 showed some serious improvement, but he has not looked quite like the player he was prior to injury.

 

© 2018 Vox Media, Inc. All Rights Reserved Sports data © STATS 2016

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2018 NFL Draft: Falcons to hold local Pro Day on Wednesday

 

By Dave Choate Apr 2, 2018, 10:00am EDT

The Falcoholic  


 

It’s a chance for Georgia’s finest to shine.

Every year, the Falcons have the opportunity to work out local prospects. Considering some of the finest NFLers get their start in Georgia, that’s a pretty good use of the team’s time, and in years past they’ve made good use of it.

After 2017’s local Pro Day, the Falcons wound up signing former Georgia track star Garrett Scantling (who didn’t make the team), Georgia wide receiver Reggie Davis (who figures into the #3 receiver competition next year), Georgia defensive back Quincy Mauger (coming off an injury and competing for a role in camp), and Miami-Ohio defensive end J’Terius Jones (who spent most of the year on the practice squad). Three out of 20+ players doesn’t seem that impressive, but consider that every one of those guys were undrafted free agents and that two seem like decent bets to make the 2018 roster and you’ve got a compelling reason to keep digging close to home.

This year, we don’t have a full list of prospects participating, but I expect we’ll get one after Wednesday’s Pro Day. The Falcons are widely expected to work out Georgia RB Nick Chubb and Georgia WR Javon Wims, with Wims looking like a potential draft target in April. Because they’ll be hosting them at their local pro day, they’ll get a closer look at both players without burning one of their 30 official draft visits. It’s a smart way to get around that particular requirement.

We should hear a little more (but probably only a little) about how the Pro Day went later in the week, so keep an eye out on Wednesday. It would not be astonishing to see a handful of local players make the leap from this Pro Day to Falcons training camp, just as they have in years past, so I’ll be eager to see who shows up.

 

© 2018 Vox Media, Inc. All Rights Reserved Sports data © STATS 2016

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Should the Falcons bring back DT Ahtyba Rubin?

 

By Kevin Knight@FalcoholicKevin Apr 2, 2018, 12:00pm EDT

The Falcoholic  


 

The Falcons are, for the most part, finished making big moves in free agency. They’ve added some worthwhile contributors at several positions of need, but left one spot virtually untouched: defensive tackle. The reason for this appears to be that the team is interested in adding multiple DTs in the 2018 NFL Draft—with DT also the heavy favorite to be the Falcons’ first round pick. But even if Atlanta were to add two players to the rotation, the team would still have only 4 DTs on the roster.

The team is unlikely to roll with only the phenomenal Grady Jarrett, the versatile Jack Crawford, and whatever draft pick(s) they add, particularly with the loss of veteran DE/DT Adrian Clayborn. Instead, we’re likely to see the Falcons bring back an affordable veteran after the draft. A possible candidate for that final roster spot could be free agent DT Ahtyba Rubin.

The 6’2, 310 lb Rubin joined the Falcons midway through the 2017 season after Atlanta’s defensive line suffered some injuries. He provided pretty good run defense as a rotational, base package DT and didn’t break the bank either. Rubin has plenty of experience in Quinn’s defense, having spent two seasons in Seattle (2015-2016) and last year in Atlanta. While he’s a fairly one-dimensional player, Rubin has occasionally provided some pass rushing ability—he has 15.0 sacks in his career, including a 5-sack season in 2011.

Despite playing ten seasons in the NFL, Rubin is still just 31 years old and should be affordable once again. He’s an above-average run defender that fits well in the Falcons’ defense, and would provide a steadying veteran presence for what is likely to be a very young defensive line group in Atlanta. Rubin isn’t a world-beater or an elite player, but he’s reliable, durable, and experienced. You can’t discount the value of players like that on a competitive roster.

To me, this one seems like a no-brainer. The Falcons are thin at DT and could add a proven, affordable player in Rubin to bolster the rotation. But why hasn’t Atlanta made this move already, if it’s such a slam dunk?

Simple: the team wants to see what they get in the draft. If someone like Vita Vea falls into Atlanta’s lap, the need for a pure run-stuffer like Rubin is pretty non-existent. However, if the Falcons select someone like Maurice Hurst instead, Rubin’s skillset will still be needed.

Plus, Rubin—for whatever reason—doesn’t seem to have much of a market. He was cut by the Broncos after two games in 2017 purely due to a numbers situation, and remained un-signed until the Falcons scooped him up a few weeks later. He’s also lingered as a free agent throughout the first weeks of the 2018 league year. Atlanta clearly feels confident that they can wait until after the draft to re-sign Rubin, if they so choose.

What do you think about the prospect of the Falcons bringing back Ahtyba Rubin? Are there any other veteran options out there in free agency you’d like to see Atlanta add? Do you sometimes spell Ahtyba as Ahytba? Because I sure do.

 

© 2018 Vox Media, Inc. All Rights Reserved Sports data © STATS 2016

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Falcons will kick off offseason workouts on April 16

 

By Dave Choate Apr 2, 2018, 5:00pm EDT

The Falcoholic  


 

Strangely, we are closer to the start of offseason workouts than we are the NFL Draft. The year goes by quickly, and time in the NFL flows most strangely.

That said, this is good news, as I’ve had enough offseason that I’m more than ready to see actual football again. The Falcons will kick off offseason workouts on April 16th, which is just two weeks away, but we’ll need to wait until May 21 to see all the incoming rookies in OTAs, and longer still to see everybody show up for mandatory minicamp.

Still, these dates are heartening, because they tell us we are within striking distance of some football-related activities worth talking about, and not just the roster construction discussion we have off and on for six months out of the year. Woohoo, friends.

 

© 2018 Vox Media, Inc. All Rights Reserved Sports data © STATS 2016

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Falcons hosted 2018 local Pro Day Wednesday, second visit for S Afolabi Laguda

 

By Cory Woodroof@CoryWoodroof47 Apr 5, 2018, 10:00am EDT

The Falcoholic  


 

The Falcons are firmly entrenched in draft research, part of which involved the team’s local Pro Day, where prospects from the Georgia area can come in and strut their stuff.

Admittedly, part of this is goodwill for the state’s football community, but then again, you never know what you might find. After all, starting right tackle Ryan Schraeder was a local kid out of Valdosta State.

The team looks to have hosted Georgia RB Nick Chubb, Colorado S Afolabi Laguda, Georgia WR Javon Wims, West Georgia C Harley Vaughn, Purdue DE/LB Danny Ezechukwu, Georgia LB Davin Bellamy, Georgia Tech DBs Lance and Lawrence Austin (who are somehow not related) and Wofford QB Brandon Goodson, with other names not reported as of yet. Watch Dave’s draft prospect tracker to see more names pop up as time goes on.

Of course the marquee name there is Chubb, a fascinating “what if” pick that would only make immediate sense if the team had a deal on the table for Tevin Coleman. There’s no way the Falcons pick Chubb up and sit him for a year behind Devonta Freeman and Coleman, considering the other spots on the roster that need tending to with higher draft picks. But, I guess you can never say never. It’d certainly be an exciting move, if a bit odd for the moment.

The real name to take a hard look at is Laguda, who has now worked out with the Falcons for a second time. He projects as a reserve safety, and is seen as a seventh rounder at most by NFL’s Lance Zierlein.


If he runs well, he could find himself tagged as a height, weight, speed candidate and those guys have a shot of hearing their name called late on Day 3 just for their traits alone. Laguda simply hasn’t put enough ball production or consistent tackling on tape to make him a solid favorite to earn a roster spot as a safety unless he is lights-out on special teams in camp.

The Falcons seem very intrigued by Laguda, who was a Falcons fan growing up, and has let your favorite neighborhood Falcons blog know that first-hand he’d be interested in joining the Brotherhood.

Laguda feels like a strong possibility for one of the team’s sixth or seventh round picks, and could be a candidate for the team’s Mr. Irrelevant choice. We have a feeling Laguda wouldn’t be so, well, irrelevant if he joined his favorite childhood team. He’d be an important reserve if drafted and kept as part of the final 53.

Oh, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s D. Orlando Ledbetter wrote a piece about the Austins from Georgia Tech that’s worth your time, if only to see what it’s like to go through this process as an outside prospect looking in.

Sometimes, those guys end up making quite a difference. Just ask one of the previous attendees.

In the meantime, watch one guy, C Harley Vaughn, go through a drill, just for funsies. The Falcons have done well with highly-regarded D-II linemen from the Peach State in the past...

 

© 2018 Vox Media, Inc. All Rights Reserved Sports data © STATS 2016

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Falcons' Robert Alford Shines in New Cornerback Study

 

Nick Rodriguez

MSN  


 

Music to Atlanta's ears.

Cornerback Robert Alford is a huge part of what the Atlanta Falcons like to do on defense. He's arguably their most underrated player despite making big plays on the biggest stage, and is definitely one of the team's better draft choices over the years.

A new study has now heralded Alford as one of the most underrated corners in the NFL.

An advanced statistical study has shown that Alford was the 11th-best corner in the league in terms of total success rate, and that he only allowed completions on 38 percent of targets that came his way. That's pretty impressive!

Alford seems to agree with the findings, and why shouldn't he? Alford and Desmond Trufant formed an incredible cornerback tandem last year, which is a testament to their work with Dan Quinn. After all, Seattle hasn't developed any impressive corners since Quinn left for Atlanta.

I certainly think this bodes well for Atlanta, as they have Alford for relatively cheap the next three seasons. They have a window where they can win the Super Bowl, and having Alford on an affordable deal is a big part of that.

They have a shot against anyone if Trufant and Alford keep playing this way.

 

© 2018 Microsoft

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Reviewing the top remaining needs for the Atlanta Falcons

 

By Dave Choate Apr 7, 2018, 12:00pm EDT

The Falcoholic  


 

We’re weeks away from the draft, so it’s time for a refresher.

We are, somehow, just a handful of weeks away from the 2018 NFL Draft. That means the months of speculation and scouting reports and mock drafts will be rendered largely irrelevant in a matter of 72 hours, and I am very much here for that.

In the meantime, though, it’s a good time to take stock of this team’s current needs. Because they signed Brandon Fusco to be their starting right guard and have re-stocked depth at a handful of key positions, the picture here is different than it was in, say, early March. With that in mind, let’s look at the top five holes on the roster that still need to be filled, per....me.

#1: Defensive Tackle

This is the slam dunk choice. Besides fullback, a position that plays at most 40% or so of the offensive snaps, it’s the only place on the roster where the Falcons have a shaky starting situation. Grady Jarrett is one of the game’s elite young defensive tackles, but Jack Crawford is a high-end rotational player coming off a major injury, and Tupou and Ivey are practice squad players with unknown upside. Shelby can play on the interior in a pinch, and you could probably cobble together a rotation out of Crawford, Shelby and Tupou if you had to. It would be a significant downgrade from Dontari Poe, however, and the Falcons can’t really afford that.

Getting at least one rookie with upside who can step into at least 25-30 snaps per game and play at a reasonably high level is crucial, and ideally the Falcons would land a first round talent who can offer some kind of immediate impact, turning Crawford into a third down option when the team needs more pass rushing juice. Failing to get that player would leave a major hole on the interior that could impact the rest of the defense.

#2: Fullback

Current Players: N/A

I sort of hesitated to put fullback this high, because the position’s importance to the offense can be overblown. That said, a good fullback helps out the run game and can be very useful in pass protection, and the Falcons currently have zero players under contract who would appear capable of playing the position. Thus, it is in fact a major need.

Derrick Coleman was a significant downgrade from Patrick DiMarco in 2017, so ideally the Falcons would be able to get a road-grading lead blocker for Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman this year, though free agency has already been thinned out. The Falcons will either need to grab a top-flight UDFA or sign one of the better remaining options, like former Saint and Viking Zach Line.

#3: Wide Receiver

Current Players: Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Justin Hardy, Marvin Hall, Reggie Davis

The dropoff from Julio Jones to Mohamed Sanu is massive, which is not really a slight to Sanu. The dropoff from Sanu to the rest of the depth chart also looks pretty huge, though we’ve never seen Hardy in a full-time role and we’ve hardly seen Hall or Davis at all. It’s possible that at least one of those guys is actually very good and will step up and make a major impact in 2018, but that’s a real gamble.

After letting Taylor Gabriel walk in free agency, the Falcons pretty clearly need to add talent to this depth chart, even if it’s just a late round speedster with some upside.

#4: Linebacker

Current Players: Deion Jones, De’Vondre Campbell, Duke Riley, Kemal Ishmael

This is a pretty strong group, potentially, but it’s not a particularly deep one. Debo is an elite player, Campbell is very good, and Riley has loads of upside, while Ishmael is a multi-position thumper as a backup. The team could use another young talent to groom, given that Campbell is not a lock to get a second contract and Ishmael is a year-to-year option at this point. An injury right now would expose the Falcons to playing Ish a lot, and while I’m very fond of the guy, I don’t particularly want him having to cover tight ends for the majority of a game.

#5: Safety

Current Players: Keanu Neal, Ricardo Allen, Damontae Kazee, Quincy Mauger, Marcelis Branch

This is a relatively minor need, all told, but the Falcons do not have a lot of major needs outside of the four above. You could mention edge rusher, but Brooks Reed is a fine third option for this year, or perhaps guard, but the Falcons have starters and reasonable depth. Swing tackle would be the other need of note, if you’re inclined to think the Falcons will sour on Ty Sambrailo and Austin Pasztor.

So that leaves safety, where the Falcons have three capable players and no obvious fourth option. Mauger is coming off an injury and we literally have no idea whether Branch will be any good, while the Falcons have been linked to a few intriguing athletes at the safety position who are expected to go late on the third day. Expect them to address the need with a (very little) bit of draft capital at the end of the month.

What are your top needs?

 

© 2018 Vox Media, Inc. All Rights Reserved Sports data © STATS 2018

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2018 NFL Draft: Falcons do extensive work scouting at N.C. State

 

By Cory Woodroof@CoryWoodroof47 Apr 7, 2018, 4:00pm EDT

The Falcoholic  


 

A large contingent of Falcons front office figures and coaches headed to N.C. State’s campus Saturday to check in on a fair number of draft prospects from the Wolfpack.

That much interest in players from the program must mean Atlanta is giving serious consideration to adding a member of the Wolfpack to the squad.

Let’s lead with DT B.J. Hill, because this is not the first time the defensive tackle prospect has gotten some time in with the team. As draft analyst/Blogging Dirty writer Raekwon Gilbert notes, the defensive tackle has met with the Falcons in all three phases of the cycle -- at the Senior Bowl, at the combine and now, for an on-campus workout with key faces like Dimitroff, Quinn and Pioli in tow. That is a *lot* of focus for a guy at a position Atlanta is assured to spend some draft capital on, and it might mean Atlanta is very keen on getting Hill in a Falcons uniform at some point in the draft.

One of our draft gurus, Eric Robinson, has scouted Hill, and offers these thoughts.


Hill is an interesting prospect. He has good size and is well put together and has more than enough intangibles for the Falcons to add to their talented bunch on defense. His issues are fixable and when watching his film, it is obvious that he has untapped potential. Potential that a head coach like Dan Quinn and defensive line coach like Bryant Young can pull out of Hill.

His Combine and postseason workouts have helped his cause. Hill can be implemented into the Falcons scheme at roughly 315-320 lbs and be a disruptive 1-Tech defensive tackle. Hill’s athleticism will blend right in to what the Falcons are currently building. Currently, he has a late 2nd-3rd round range and has the potential to be a great piece in Atlanta.

He’d certainly meet the kind of qualifications Quinn mentioned in being interested in for the draft’s DTs, so here’s a key name to watch as a non-first round pick for Atlanta.

As for the other guys, RB Nyheim Hines could be the team’s eventual Tevin Coleman successor if the latter is bound for free agency after the season. NFL draft analyst Lance Zierlein compares him loosely to electric Saints RB Alvin Kamara.


Hines has dual-threat talent but doesn’t have the size for full-time work at running back and is in need of much more work as a receiver. Hines’ value to teams could rest upon how they envision using him. It is possible that he benefits from the success of Saints rookie Alvin Kamara with teams looking to plug him into that role, but he’s not on Kamara’s level. Hines is a linear runner whose ability to cut and burst would fit with teams looking for a change of pace back in an outside zone running scheme.

The team also got a look at versatile offensive weapon Jaylen Samuels, who really can play anywhere on the field. He’s taken reps at tight end, running back, fullback and even wide receiver, and we all know this era of Falcons football loves a versatile player. We’re unsure what Atlanta would want to exactly do with Samuels if they drafted him, but they’ve got need at all of those spots. We could see him getting reps at all those spots listed. Here’s what Zierlein thinks.


Some may see Samuels as a valuable hybrid talent, while others may see a player who offers roster flexibility but lacks a position where he can win consistently. Samuels isn’t a tight end and has to prove he can handle blocking duties well enough to be a fullback. He will, however, appeal to teams looking to disguise their attacks with more diversified personnel groupings. Samuels best fit may be with a zone-scheme team as a RB/FB with the ability to play slot receiver and become a core special teamer.

G Tony Adams is less familiar, but Zierlein thinks he’s got the potential to be a solid starter early in his career, and expects him to go somewhere around the fifth round.


Three-year starter who lacks length, but carries a powerful, compact frame. Adams plays with plus balance and body control and it’s rare to see him fall off of blocks. As a youth tennis player until the age of 15, Adams has developed above average footwork for a big and has the play traits to fit into any run scheme. His lack of length will concern some teams, but he’s talented enough to become a solid NFL starter fairly early in his career.

Adams could vie for the right guard spot if Brandon Fusco isn’t as advertised in camp, or could sit for a year and be groomed to replace Andy Levitre at left guard (or even Fusco) in 2019. The team would probably have to throw their fourth rounder to get Adams, which would be the second year the team would take a guard with that pick. The jury’s still out on Sean Harlow.

We should also note the Falcons have met with NC State DT Justin Jones in the past at the combine, and there’s a chance he might’ve gotten in on these workouts as well. Let’s see what Zierlein thinks of this projected sixth-rounder.


Strong player who plays his role along the North Carolina State defensive front, but he doesn’t really shine in any single area. He’s tough enough at the point of attack to give him a shot as a rotational defensive lineman if he’s able to add a little more size, but his shot may come late or undrafted as he lacks the athletic traits and overall production teams will be looking for.

So, there are plenty of guys listed above that could fit in with Atlanta in some way, shape or form. With that much brainpower on the ground, the interest looks real in N.C. State’s crop of draft talent. We’ll see if that comes to fruition.

 

© 2018 Vox Media, Inc. All Rights Reserved Sports data © STATS 2018

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NFL unveils 22 draft attendees; will Atlanta pick one?

 

By Cory Woodroof@CoryWoodroof47 Apr 8, 2018, 8:00am EDT

The Falcoholic  


 

The odds-on favorite to be the team’s first pick is listed.

The NFL draft is going to be here sooner than you know it, and the league has unveiled the list of players set to attend this year’s draft ceremonies. It feels a bit smaller than usual.

Here’s the list (via NFL.com). Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville, Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming, Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State, Taven Bryan, DT, Florida, Bradley Chubb, DE, North Carolina State, Sam Darnold, QB, USC, Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA, Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech, Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama, Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama, Shaquem Griffin, LB, Central Florida, Derrius Guice, RB, LSU, Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa, Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville, Derwin James, S, Florida State, Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA, Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA, Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia, Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State, Vita Vea, DT, Washington, Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State and Connor Williams, OT, Texas.

More could be added to this list as time goes on.

As The Falcons Wire analyst Scott Carasik notes, the Falcons have taken players from this group in the last four draft classes (Jake Matthews, Vic Beasley, Keanu Neal, Takkarist McKinley).

Now, there’s no way to connect this as a definite trend, as plenty of great players have opted to watch from elsewhere in the past, but let’s have some fun and say this pattern continues, and the Falcons continue to take from the guys in this group.

The most popular Falcons draft target, DT Taven Bryan, is listed, and again, of all the players in this class, he tends to make the most sense for Atlanta and what they like. He’s got all the intangibles of a Dan Quinn prospect, he’s an athletic freak and has a good motor. His football IQ and rawness are sincere knocks on his game, and if he’s taken, it’s unlikely he’s a day one impact guy. But, you don’t take a player like Bryan to play to his potential right away. You draft and develop him for more down the road. The Falcons reportedly like Bryan, and he’d make a boatload of sense for Pick 26.

DT Vita Vea is the only other defensive tackle listed, with guys like Da’Ron Payne and Maurice Hurst likely spending time at home for the big day.

LBs Rashaan Evans and LB Leighton Vander Esch met with the Falcons for official visits this week, making linebacker an absolute possibility for the first pick as well.

It’d be great for Atlanta to be the organization to give LB Shaquem Griffin a hat and jersey, but no interest has been reported as of yet. Our Kevin Knight is a big fan of his, and you can read his scouting report on the UCF prospect here. That’ll be a great draft moment, regardless of where he’s picked.

So, if this trend continues (and, again, that’s not really a sure bet), the next Falcon could be one of Taven Bryan, Vita Vea, Rashaan Evans or Leighton Vander Esch. Interesting stuff.

We’ve still got a few weeks to go before we can put this conversation to rest, so let’s open it up while we’re here. Who are you interested in seeing taken with the team’s top pick?

I’m on the fence, to be honest. A defensive tackle like Bryan or Hurst sounds mighty fine, but taking Evans or Vander Esch would give Atlanta one of the strongest linebacking groups in the NFL. We don’t exactly know what Duke Riley’s going to be just yet, so I don’t want to stunt the development of a potentially-sound WLB, but can you imagine Deion Jones, De’Vondre Campbell and Evans flying around in the middle of the defense? That just feels right to me.

I think it’ll still be Bryan when it’s all said and done, but the LB visits are intriguing.

Onward we go to draft day, Falcoholics.

 

© 2018 Vox Media, Inc. All Rights Reserved Sports data © STATS 2018

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2018 NFL Draft: Falcons put DT P.J. Hall through workout

 

By Cory Woodroof@CoryWoodroof47 Apr 16, 2018, 12:38pm EDT

The Falcoholic  


 

Sam Houston DT P.J. Hall is one of the more exciting mid-round prospects in this upcoming draft class, with his athletic traits and testing numbers right where you’d want them for a defensive tackle of his caliber.

So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Atlanta Falcons are keying in on this enticing potential draftee.

So, with Hall being put through a workout, he immediately becomes one of the more exciting players of his draft group to meet with the Dirty Bird big wigs.

Our draft analyst Jeremy Riggs took a look at Hall, who’s been flying under the radar this draft process. He likes what he sees, and notes others are beginning to take note as well.


Hall is 310 pounds, but played on the edge early on into his college campaign, which speaks volumes about his quickness. He did not get a combine invite, and his testing numbers were from his pro day. His pro day has been getting him some buzz, and that truly spectacular college production is finally drawing some real attention from scouts and analysts.

One such analyst is NFL’s Lance Zierlein, who makes Hall’s pro comparison to be none other than Falcons DT Grady Jarrett.


What Hall lacks in height, weight and length, he makes up for with power, quickness, and explosiveness. Hall has the quickness and strength to be disruptive against the run and pass as a shade nose or reduced front three-technique. His level of production in every category imaginable could foreshadow his ability to translate into the NFL, but he will have to prove he can maintain his weight and stand up to the rigors of the interior with bigger men across from him.

For a guy who didn’t get an invitation to the combine, Hall is rising in many a draft analysts’ view. If explosiveness is on Hall’s list of skills, you can bet Atlanta will be interested in him. He’d make a really exciting partner for Jarrett.

Zierlein projects Hall to be a third or fourth rounder, so if Atlanta decides to wait add to defensive tackle with a mid-round pick, perhaps Hall is the perfect sleeper with shining potential to contribute right away. If the team decides to double-dip at the position, well, Hall would be a heck of a second DT to add outside of either the first or second rounder.

We’ll see here soon if Hall joins the Brotherhood, or if he’s, like many of these workout guys, just due diligence in Atlanta’s grander plan.

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DB Tyrin Holloway on the NFL draft and his potential fit with the Falcons

 

By Jeanna Thomas@jeannathomas Apr 25, 2018, 6:00pm EDT

The Falcoholic  


 

Tyrin Holloway started his college career at Liberty University and finished it at Western Illinois. The next step in his football journey may land him with the Atlanta Falcons.

Holloway, a 6’0, 200-pound defensive back, is waiting to see where he lands after the 2018 NFL Draft. He started 22 games at Liberty, notching 103 total tackles, two tackles for loss, seven picks, 12 pass break-ups, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. At Western Illinois, he had 21 tackles, was second on the team with three picks, and he added six pass break-ups.

The Falcons have shown interest in Holloway, and he spoke to The Falcoholic about his preparation for the draft, his potential fit with the Falcons, and what fans can expect from him at the next level.

I spoke to Holloway before his pro day at Northern Illinois. He participated in Northwestern’s pro day, where he ran a 4.64 40-yard dash, had a 10’04 broad jump, and did the three-cone in 7.03. For his Western Illinois pro day, he planned to do more to prove to scouts that he’s ready for the NFL.

“I’ll probably just do the position drills again. Because I felt like I did well on the position drills, but the scouts said I need to do better,” Holloway said. “So I’m going to just prove them wrong, that I can — the position drills are my strength. Definitely my strength. So I think my position’s a lot easier, so it should be my strength.”

So what position does Holloway expect to play in the NFL? He’s open to some possibilities, which makes him an intriguing prospect for the Falcons.

“I’m very versatile. I can play corner and safety and special teams,” Holloway said. “I would love to play special teams. Anywhere you want me to play. I know the defense. I’ve been part of many defenses. I know the game real well, and my height is a good thing for that, and I’ve got great ball skills. I can just bring a lot of turnovers, so definitely a lot of turnovers. When I see the ball, I catch it.”

Those are skills Dan Quinn covets in defensive backs. That versatility is not all that Holloway brings to the table. He’s got other attributes Quinn favors, too.

“My height, obviously, my ball skills and my break on the ball, and I’m very versatile with knowing the game,” Holloway said. “I can play multiple positions, like cornerback — I love cornerback, but I can play cornerback and safety because I know the positions like (snaps) that. In the back of my head, I know both positions.”

He thinks his closest NFL comparison is one of the league’s most talented corners.

“Well, I like a lot, but I’d probably say — let’s see, like my size, probably Marcus Peters. Probably Marcus Peters,” Holloway said.

The NFL carries a learning curve for every rookie. Holloway’s no different, and he recognizes it.

“I’d probably think maybe the knowledge of the game (will be the biggest challenge),” Holloway said. “Some people, like, you can always learn football — keep on learning new things in football. That’s how I love the game.”

Holloway wants to contribute on the field, but he’s ready to be part of an NFL team in a larger sense, too. That’s what he’d like to say to teams that are considering bringing him on board.

“Well, I would say to them I’m a great guy and I love the game and I’ll do anything to make the team better,” Holloway said. “I’m a great guy to get to know. I just want to help the team and be great on the team, so make friends. I can make friends and go out and do charity work, I’ll do anything and everything to fit in with the guys and win championships.”

But when is is on the field, Holloway has a singular focus.

“And if I’m on the field, I definitely can make a play, because every time I’m on the field, I want to try to make a play. That’s my motto: Try to make a play.”

 

© 2018 Vox Media, Inc. All Rights Reserved Sports data © STATS 2018

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Thursday, April 26, 2018
Bond between Falcons coach, GM strengthened by pre-draft road trips


By Vaughn McClure

Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff was caught off guard.

Having spent the past four years alongside coach Dan Quinn, Dimitroff grew accustomed to Quinn toting a bottle of hand sanitizer and passing it over whenever they traveled. So last week, as the duo returned on owner Arthur Blank's private jet from a private workout at the University of Florida, Dimitroff took the bottle from Quinn with the intent to clean his hands.

Too bad it was mouthwash.
 

r361718_576x324_16-9.jpg
Falcons head coach Dan Quinn, general manager Thomas Dimitroff and their crew conducted 20-25 workouts during the pre-draft process this year.

"Q passed me the bottle -- the same size as the sanitizer -- and I popped it," Dimitroff recalled. "It was all over. And I was like, 'What the ****?'"

Quinn laughed. And laughed. And laughed.

"I had it in my mouth, so I thought he saw me," Quinn said. "I took a swig because I didn't want Cuban coffee breath. I was like, 'Sorry, dude.'"

The Falcons still are in the process of washing the bad taste of that gut-wrenching Super Bowl loss to the New England Patriots from their mouths. That's why Quinn and Dimitroff hit the road hard, as usual, to find draft-eligible players capable of enhancing an already talented roster.

This year's draft marks the conclusion of a scouting journey that started at Kansas State's Pro Day back in March and all but wrapped up last Wednesday in Florida when Quinn and Dimitroff got a final peek at Gators defensive tackle Taven Bryan, who could be their first-round pick. Atlanta has the No. 26 overall pick and might have to trade up to land Bryan.

Quinn and Dimitroff traveled as far west as Pullman, Washington, to check out the talent at Washington State. Their shortest trip was about 100 yards from their upstairs offices in Flowery Branch, Georgia -- to the back practice field for their local pro day.

Along the way, they scouted a pack of Wolves in North Carolina and a bunch of dogs in Georgia. They stopped in Seattle with the intent of working out massive nose tackle Vita Vea (6-foot-4, 347 pounds) but Vea's hamstring injury kept that from materializing. And they conducted private workouts with defensive tackles named B.J. and P.J. -- Hill at NC State and Hall at Sam Houston State.

"It was pretty cool, especially them just taking the time out to come down and work me out," said the 6-1, 310-pound Hall, who said his game resembles that of Rams All-Pro Aaron Donald. "It was amazing. It was a blessing. It was 30-45 minutes. They wanted to see how I moved. Coach Quinn was there coaching me, motivating me through the whole thing."

Thank you to @FalconsDQ , GM- Thomas Dimitroff and the @AtlantaFalcons organization for spending today on campus. First Class People!
#EatEmUpKats #KatstotheNFL pic.twitter.com/9xHThHLTUk

— Sam Houston Football (@BearkatsFB) April 16, 2018

Quinn, Dimitroff and their crew conducted 20-25 workouts during the pre-draft process. The longest one, Quinn said, lasted an entire day and included classroom work with prospects. The shortest workouts were 5 to 8 minutes.

"Those trips are worthwhile when we realize very quickly that they're not a fit, and we aren't a fit, because it allows us to move forward and not ruminate on the idea of them," Dimitroff said. "Sometimes it's not a waste of money to go thousands of miles away and come back and say, 'That's not a fit.' That's a good trip."

The Falcons usually don't draft players they haven't had some type of personal interaction with along the way. Dimitroff told the tale of he and Quinn meeting with a player last year at a Waffle House a few towns away from Atlanta and eating pancakes (although Waffle House doesn't serve pancakes). The point was, they're willing to meet with potential draftees anywhere.

The most interesting meeting this offseason was with an unnamed prospect at an airport in Texas before that player headed out to visit another team. For those wondering, there are 117 state and regional airports in Texas.

2018 NFL DRAFT

nfl_kiper_mcshay_608x342.pngRound 1: Thursday, 8 p.m., ESPN/ESPN App
Rounds 2-3: Friday, 7 p.m., ESPN/ESPN App
Rounds 4-7: Sat., noon, ESPN/ABC/ESPN App
Where: Arlington, Texas
NFL draft coverage » | Full order: 1-256 »
InsiderKiper's final Mock Draft: 1-32 »
InsiderMcShay's final Mock Draft: 1-32 »
Kiper and McShay's draft reset »
Draft predictions for all 32 teams »
Draft Herbies: Kirk's best of the best »
InsiderMcShay's draft buzz: What I'm hearing »
InsiderMcShay's top five needs for every team »

"It was about an hour and a half," Quinn said of the meeting, "and totally worthwhile."

Blank's private jet seats 12 and the Falcons' travel party, along with Quinn and Dimitroff, typically includes assistant general manager Scott Pioli, director of college scouting Steve Sabo, one of the coordinators, a position coach, and a member of the athletic performance staff. Quinn and Dimitroff sit next to each other to break down film prior to the private workouts.

"It's not just a free-for-all where we're eating bonbons and looking out the window daydreaming," Dimitroff said. "It's a work trip for us."

On a top draft target, there could be as many as 15 different scouting reports to dissect from the Atlanta staff.

"I would speak for both of us, but we are very involved in the evaluation process," Dimitroff said of himself and Quinn. "We just don't take everyone else's opinion and just run off with it. We spend a lot of time putting our eyes on them."

Quinn scribbles his breakdowns in a red Falcons notebook about an inch thick, and the more technologically advanced Dimitroff types his observations into his iPhone 8. Quinn does have an iPad that includes every game film of a given prospect or position-specific cut-ups such as targets for receivers. In demonstrating how clear and visible the screen is, Quinn pulled up the last film he studied that day: highlights of the Gators' Bryan and his quick get-off.

There is time to breathe amidst the rigors of the evaluation process. After working out top cornerback prospect Isaiah Oliver from Colorado, the Falcons' contingent huddled at Centro Mexican Kitchen in Boulder for a fiesta. Quinn said it was, by far, the best food he had during the pre-draft road trips.

"I would literally go back to Boulder for this meal," Quinn said. "You know when you eat too much, like the chips, the salsa, everything? The whole thing was awesome. It was legit."

Discussing the entire pre-draft process with Quinn and Dimitroff is like sitting down with twin brothers who complete each other's sentences. Their styles contrast -- Dimitroff has spiked hair and a fashion sense that screams Armani while the balding Quinn is more the poster boy for Dickies. But the uniformity between them is clearly evident. They're used to each other's habits, like Quinn downing a Caffe Americano from Starbucks every morning while Dimitroff sips on either tea or Cuban cofee with almond milk.

Dimitroff marvels over the variety in Quinn's musical taste.

"He's got a really interesting, eclectic understanding of music and he loves his heavy metal, but he can also jump over to hip-hop like a mad man," Dimitroff said. "One of the best sessions we ever had was myself, Q, and Pioli in California and we were listening to The Doors. We had it jamming flying through the neighborhoods of L.A. last year. It was so loud, and 80 degrees. Just perfect."

Certainly Quinn and Dimitroff are in tune. They've worked closely now for long enough to really understand each other. Dimitroff just has to be more alert the next time Quinn passes him a bottle.  

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The Atlanta Falcons will have one of the most feared offenses in the NFL in 2018

 

Originally posted on isportsweb.com By Gabriel Cappucci  |  Last updated 4/30/18

yardbarker.com  


 


A former MVP quarterback, a two-time pro bowl running back entering his prime, arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL, the best college wide receiver in 2017, and many other scary pieces is what will put together the Atlanta Falcons offense in 2018. It is appearing to be a perfect storm for Atlanta to return to it’s dominant form from two seasons ago when the team went to the Super Bowl. Speaking of the Super Bowl, this year’s big game is being played in Atlanta. Is that enough motivation for the birds to get back and win this time around? It should be and they have the talent to do so.


Steve Sarkisian had his troubles with the Falcons offense during his first full season as Atlanta’s offensive coordinator. However, with one year under his belt and the addition of Calvin Ridley it should be enough for Sarkisian to lead this Falcons offense back to it’s 2016 form when Kyle Shanahan was the offensive coordinator.

Atlanta also added a couple other offensive pieces through the draft in addition to Calvin Ridley. The Falcons selected running back Ito Smith from Southern Mississippi with their fourth round pick and wide receiver Russell Gage from LSU with their sixth round pick. Smith will provide some stability to the running game in Atlanta. Devonta Freeman has felt with injuries the past couple seasons and Tevin Coleman is entering the final year of his contract. Smith racked up over 1,000 rushing yards and close to 400 receiving yards last year at Southern Mississippi. He has the potential to be a competitor in the NFL and has been compared to Jerick McKinnon. Gage may not see as much time on the offensive side of the football and may appear more in special teams. Although, Gage can also provide some stability if any of the Falcons top wide receivers go down with injuries this upcoming season.

Now, focusing more on the Falcons top selection of the 2018 NFL draft, Calvin Ridley. Many people were surprised, including me, when Calvin fell into the Falcons lap at pick 26 in the draft. Ridley was believed to be the top wide receiver in the draft this year, however Carolina made C.J. Moore the first receiver taken in the draft just two picks before Atlanta took Ridley. Ridley put up 224 catches for 2,781 yards and 19 touchdowns during his career at Alabama. He is a great route runner who can create separation from defensive backs. Ridley is undoubtably a more talented receiver than Taylor Gabriel who departed for Chicago this offseason. His presence alone will open up the passing game for Matt Ryan and Atlanta. Sarkisian also briefly worked with Ridley at Alabama so there should be some chemistry there. Ridley is a clear offensive threat who is added to a team with many of those already.

The Falcons still have Matt Ryan who should return to his MVP form with a healthy Devonta Freeman and three top wide receivers by his side next season. Ryan should throw close to 30 touchdowns, if not more, in 2018 and the Atlanta offense should find more success in moving the chains this year.


This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.

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Which 2018 Falcons undrafted free agents are most likely to hang around?

 

By Dave Choate May 5, 2018, 10:00am EDT

The Falcoholic  


 

Atlanta’s got a handful of undrafted types who figure to be in play for practice squad (or even roster) spots.

Every year, the team at least flirts with the idea of carrying an undrafted free agent or two on their roster. There have been some great ones in this team’s history—Brent Grimes and Jessie Tuggle come readily to mind—but mostly

Why “hang around” and not “make the roster?” Because making this roster is such an uphill battle that the only real contenders at a potential third quarterback, a potential starting fullback, and an ultra deep safety reserve. This is more a list of players who offer some intriguing upside and either will push for a roster spot or at least stick around developing on the practice squad in 2018.

Here are few names to watch.

QB Kurt Benkert

Besides having a name that’s fun to say, Benkert offers some interesting upside. He has an NFL-caliber arm and shows flashes of being the kind of quarterback you’d trust as a clipboard holder and emergency option. Then there are times where he stares down receivers, makes poor, inaccurate throws, and rushes his mechanics. All of that needs to be fixed—or at least improved—before the Falcons will even think about trusting him as the primary option behind Matt Ryan.

Benkert could make the roster outright as the third quarterback, however, with the team trimming the fat off another position to make room for him. There are early signs they like him—including a bonus—and he should get a legitimate crack at that spot.

FBs Daniel Marx or Luke McNitt

One of these players seems likely to make the roster unless both falter badly and the team has to pivot to a veteran. I’m sure the Falcons would like nothing more than to sign a dirt cheap, young, block-first fullback for the next few seasons, and with any luck, Marx or McNitt will prove to be one of them. At the moment, I don’t expect the team to add any veteran options to the competition unless, again, they don’t like what they see on the practice field from these two.

TE Jake Roh

I heard on more than one occasion in the pre-draft process that the Falcons really like Roh, who they view as a potentially useful red zone option down the line. The team is likely to let Eric Saubert make his case for a larger role in 2018, but with Alex Gray returning to the team’s 11th practice squad spot, Roh seems like a strong candidate to be the team’s fourth option this year from the practice squad himself.

DL Jacob Tuioti-Mariner

A former UCLA teammate of Takkarist McKinley, Tuioti-Mariner is joining a depth chart that still has no established, full-time fourth defensive tackle. He was part of a shaky run defense, but he also led the team with 7.5 sacks and has experience as both a defensive end and defensive tackle to draw on. He could very well hang on as the last defensive lineman on the roster, though more than likely he’ll be ticketed for the practice squad as J.T. Jones was in 2017.

S Chris Lammons

Our own Alec Shirkey is a fan of Lammons, a hungry safety who had a fine senior season and a dominant bowl game against Michigan. He compared him to Brian Poole in terms of physicality and ability, and there’s currently a vacancy for the team’s fourth safety spot that Lammons can fill if he proves to be a special teams asset. I’d keep an eye on him.

K David Marvin

The Falcons aren’t in the habit of having a kicker take up a practice squad spot, but it may become a habit. Matt Bryant is simply in largely uncharted waters at this point in his career, and while I don’t expect him to slow down this year, the Falcons might be inclined to hedge their bets by having a strong-legged kicker like Marvin around on the practice squad.

As you’ll note from the list below, it hasn’t been easy to make this Falcons roster as an undrafted free agent the same year you come out, and nobody actually made it a year ago. It’s also worth noting that only two players on this list are still with the team: Long-time long snapper Josh Harris and soon-to-be fourth cornerback Brian Poole.

 

© 2018 Vox Media, Inc. All Rights Reserved Sports data © STATS 2018

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The Falcons need to sign TE Antonio Gates

 

By Cory Woodroof@CoryWoodroof47 May 6, 2018, 8:00am EDT

The Falcoholic  


 

In 2017, the Atlanta Falcons got four touchdowns in total from its tight end position.

That, dear friends, is what we call a problem.

Compare that to 2016, when the Falcons, under OC Kyle Shanahan, had 11 touchdowns come from the mix-and-match tight end group of Jacob Tamme for eight games, a rookie Austin Hooper, Levine Toilolo, rookie Joshua Perkins and D.J. Tialavea.

Historically, when the Falcons get down into the red zone, Matt Ryan loves to utilize the tight end. It’s his safety net, and Shanahan did a wonderful job scheming to get his tight ends open for either long completions in busted coverage, or in pinpointing them to go to the right spot in the end zone.

The problem with 2017 was that Steve Sarkisian didn’t use tight ends much to help spark the red zone production. Hooper was the lead guy last season, and only had three touchdowns, one of them an obvious busted coverage against the Bears that featured Hooper blasting a poor Chicago DB into another realm with a stiff arm.

One nicely brought out play action to get Hooper open on the goal line against the Cowboys, the other one against the Jets shows Hooper getting off a block, and wiggling around a defensive back to get open in the back of the end zone for Ryan to find and hit for the score.

The first highlight was a happy accident; the other two show that Hooper does possess the ability to get involved in goal line offense. It’s rather curious that Sarkisian wouldn’t give Hooper more chances there, though his lack of attacking the ball in that Dolphins loss that led to the game-sealing interception might’ve put him in the doghouse for a bit in terms of trust.

Hooper will be a good tight end in the league; he had 544 yards in total during the regular and postseasons, and again, flashed the kind of play that indicted there is more to work with for his future.

Bleacher Report ranked Hooper 21st among all active tight ends, and summed his year up.


In his second season in the NFL, Austin Hooper nearly doubled his yards tally from 2016. He wasn’t, however, as dominant in the passing game as you would expect from someone as talented as he is. After a massive Week 1 performance against the Bears, in which he totaled 128 yards and a touchdown, Hooper was quiet as a receiver for the rest of the season. He displayed his above-average athleticism, but he had too many drops and wasn’t as dynamic in the passing attack as he should have been. Hooper did drastically improve as a blocker, specifically in the running game, but he has the talent and the potential to be a much better receiver as well. Hooper was better this season than he was as a rookie, but he is nowhere near his ceiling.

Hooper reminds me a little bit of Vic Beasley. You can see the talent and the athleticism, but it’s a little frustrating to see him not quite live up to the potential that’s clearly there. Beasley, as we know, turned it around in 2016, and wound up leading the league in sacks. Some circumstances beyond his control held him back in 2017, but he’s been a different player ever since that 2015 season.

Beasley credits some of that development to the Falcons bringing in veteran pass rusher Dwight Freeney, who all at once played QB mauler and team mentor. Pass rusher Brooks Reed also saw a bump in pass rush ability when Freeney came to town, and credits it thusly.

Hooper needs a Freeney, and the Falcons need a veteran who can come in and play that dual role of contributor and teacher.

So...Antonio Gates?

I break a cardinal journalism rule by burying the lede this far, but the Falcons need to sign Antonio Gates yesterday.

Okay, so maybe after May 8 so those comp picks can settle in, but still, the Falcons need to sign Gates and get him into this offense.

Gates is a future Hall of Famer who played his entire career with the Chargers and nearly that entire stretch with QB Philip Rivers. His numbers stand at 11,508 total career yards and 114 touchdowns, and he’s got a good record of durability to boot. He’s a pro’s pro at the position, and when he’s done, will one of the best to ever play tight end.

He’s also been jettisoned from his longtime team, ironically, in exchange for Hooper’s 2016 draft contemporary, Hunter Henry.

Gates has indicated he still wants to play, and forgive us for connecting the dots here, but this seems awfully Freeney-like.

In 2017 in a reduced role, Gates still had 316 receiving yards and three touchdowns (which is only about 200 yards less than Hooper’s season), and it’s fair to speculate he’d have better numbers if not for Henry’s emergence. In 2016, Gates posted up 548 yards and 7 touchdowns in Henry’s rookie year. 2014 was his last year as a dominant starter, with 821 yards and 12 TDs.

The Falcons don’t need 2014 Gates, though if he happened to still be out there, he’d be welcome. The Falcons need a true TE2, and Gates is the best available person for that role at the moment.

Before you bring up Logan Paulsen, consider that he’s not caught an actual pass since 2016, and has not scored a touchdown since 2014. Paulsen is a good veteran blocker, but that will be his role with the Falcons. It’s a smart move to keep Ryan clean, but not a move in any way, shape or form to give the QB help in the passing game.

Gates can help there, and the greats just don’t disappear. His 2017 stats indicate he’s ready to go, and the clips of his ‘17 TDs show his red zone prowess. Just look at this one he had against the Jets. Or this one against the Dolphins. He’s still got it, and should be on a roster in 2018.

Why not Atlanta’s?

Having Hooper and Gates would give Ryan the pair he needs to get this offense really clicking again in the red zone. Gates’ veteran ability to get open down low would give the team an additional wrinkle for Sark to scheme for, and would give someone Ryan could trust where it matters.

Plus, it gives the team a guy that could mentor Hooper, and help him elevate his game. Just look what Gates did for Hunter Henry. The new Chargers starter counts Gates as a key mentor for his career.

Gates could be that guy for Hooper, too. Now, having Paulsen around now is a smart move for some of that learning. Though, the team also needs that guy to contribute on the field, something Paulsen hasn’t done in some time. Gates could help Hooper tap into his potential, as well as get involved in the passing and scoring games. He could also help a guy like Eric Saubert out, who still has some hurdles to jump before becoming an NFL contributor.

Gates feels like Freeney to me: a guy you bring in on a one-year deal to help out in various roles both on and off the field. That 2016 pickup gave the Falcons reliable veteran snaps at a position of need while also helping a high draft pick realize his potential with veteran mentorship.

The former Charger and future gold jacket-wearer could fill that role for Atlanta in 2018. It’d be a genius signing for the team to make, and one that could help them in a big way on offense. You’d also be getting a player nearing the end of his career without a ring who would be joining a team desperate for redemption in that arena. The motivation speaks for itself.

This is me waving my hands at the Falcons front office for them to make this move. It could be what helps Hooper realize his potential, and what completes this potentially-scary 2018 offense.

 

© 2018 Vox Media, Inc. All Rights Reserved Sports data © STATS 2018

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NFL SUSPENDS SAINTS RB INGRAM 4 GAMES, INCLUDING WEEK 3 CLASH WITH FALCONS

The 2009 Heisman Trophy winner gets disciplined for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing drug policy and could miss the entire first month of the regular season.

 

WXIA | 5/8/2018 8:47:59 PM


 

The New Orleans Saints' loss has become the Atlanta Falcons' gain.

On Tuesday, the NFL announced Saints tailback Mark Ingram has been suspended for four games, the result of violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy.

Ingram, the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner from Alabama, has been terrific in the pros, averaging 1,359 total yards and nine touchdowns over the last four seasons (2014-17). His finest campaign came last year, when Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara became the first backfield tandem to each eclipse the 1,500-yard mark with scrimmage yards.

With Tuesday's bombshell, the Saints might choose to extend Kamara's workload throughout September. Last season, the University of Tennessee product rolled for 81 catches, 1,554 total yards and 13 touchdowns, while collecting Associated Press Offensive Rookie Of The Year honors.

Even if the suspension gets reduced to three games, by appeal, Ingram would still miss the Week 3 road clash with the Falcons. To detail the importance of such an absence, Ingram has registered at least one touchdown in six of his last seven meetings with Atlanta; and the lone so-called scoreless clunker involved 92 total yards.

It's worth noting: The Saints will be the only NFL team to open and close the regular season with back-to-back home games. If Ingram's suspension remains intact, the seven-year veteran would miss home outings with the Buccaneers and Browns and road games with the Falcons and Giants.

 

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Falcons agree to terms with 4 draft picks, including Oliver

 


AP  


 

AP

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — The Atlanta Falcons have agreed to terms with four of their six draft picks, including cornerback Isaiah Oliver, a second-round pick from Colorado.

The Falcons also announced they have agreed to terms with running back Ito Smith, a fourth-round pick, and their two sixth-round picks, wide receiver Russell Gage and linebacker Foye Oluokun.

The Falcons have not announced deals with wide receiver Calvin Ridley, the first-round selection from Alabama, and defensive tackle Deadrin Senat, a third-round pick from South Florida.

Senat is expected to compete for a starting job after Dontari Poe signed as a free agent with NFC South rival Carolina.

Atlanta's rookie mini-camp is scheduled for Friday and Saturday.

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FALCONS' DRAFT PICK RUSSELL GAGE HAS DOUBLE THE WORK AT ROOKIE CAMP

Gage has played two different positions on two different days of rookie mini-camp. Here's when Dan Quinn will make up his mind where he wants the LSU product to play.

 

WXIA | 5/12/2018 7:58:31 PM


 

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Two days of rookie mini-camp, two different positions for Russell Gage.

The Falcons sixth-round draft pick out of Louisiana State played defensive back for the Tigers for two seasons, then moved to the receiving corps for his junior and senior year. The numbers weren't outstanding, but Gage is known for his play-making ability on special teams.

Falcons head coach Dan Quinn is interested in seeing Gage play on both sides of the ball. On Friday, he had Gage at cornerback where he was able to break-up a pass. Saturday, he was out running routes, but there weren't a lot of balls thrown his way.

To Gage, it's all good.

"When you played as a kid, you played everything. It didn't really matter," Gage said after practice. "For me, it's the same mindset every time. I just love to play and I love to win."

Of course Gage won't reveal which position is his favorite. He just wants to make the team.

The Falcons were always interested in Gage's special team abilities, but also made it clear to him during the NFLPA Bowl that they wanted to see how he could fit into their roster, whether it was on offense or on defense.

"It was kind of understood that if they brought me in, it's a good chance that I could go both ways," Gage said.

Quinn wants to take some time to see where Gage can excel. He's made him learn both playbooks and meet with both position groups. He doesn't know exactly when he'll make up his mind.

"I know by the time we break for training camp, it will be long decided by then," Quinn said.

Quinn just appreciates Gage's willingness to be flexible.

"It was encouraging to see from him, 'Hey I can learn both sides of the ball, and hey whatever you want, coach.' What coach doesn't want to hear that?" Quinn said.

Gage had 21 receptions and three receiving touchdowns during his senior season. He also rushed for 238 yards and another touchdown.

As for why his receiving numbers weren't as high as, say, Falcons first round pick Calvin Ridley:

"It was more so the type of offense we ran," Gage said. "Not necessarily the quarterback. Danny [Etling's] a great quarterback."

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