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Falcons first-rounders Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary want to ‘eat (your) face off’


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https://theathletic.com/972601/2019/05/10/falcons-first-rounders-chris-lindstrom-and-kaleb-mcgary-want-to-eat-your-face-off/

Friday’s rookie minicamp didn’t mark the first time Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary lined up next to each other on the offensive line. Benefiting the Falcons is the fact that Lindstrom and McGary, the franchise’s two first-round offensive linemen, became acquainted on the Senior Bowl North team, shortly after their college football careers concluded.

Their first interaction came on a bus trip to a charity event in Mobile, Ala., with Lindstrom realizing quickly that McGary is a “hilarious human being.” The two furthered their friendship in practice, which included moments of combo blocking future teammate John Cominsky, a Falcons fourth-round selection who played college ball at Division II Charleston (West Virginia).

“I was taking double teams from those two guys,” Cominsky said. “It was a bit of a transition from Division II ball, and now I’ve got Chris and Kaleb McGary wanting to eat my face off.”

Not long after the actual Senior Bowl game, Lindstrom and McGary met up with one another at the NFL Scouting Combine. They went through offensive line drills with the same group, with McGary asking Lindstrom to monitor him as he went through a rep. They helped each other throughout the week and kept in touch afterward.

And on draft day, Lindstrom was just as excited as McGary was when the Falcons made the move to select him.

“It was really cool to build that relationship,” Lindstrom said. “And then when he got drafted I was so happy, I texted him right away. It’s been awesome together.”

After Lindstrom was taken with the 14th overall pick, it would have been tough to find someone who could have predicted the Falcons would trade back into the first round to take another offensive lineman. But feeling like they needed to improve the offensive line for the long haul, Atlanta did just that, trading second- and third-round selections to the Rams to take McGary 31st overall.

With Lindstrom and McGary having established a friendship and rapport with one another, Atlanta will hope this will turn the offensive line’s fortunes around.

“It was actually pretty cool, pretty organic really,” McGary said. “Meeting him and a couple of the other O-linemen, we just kind of jelled instantly. We just hung out together the whole time (at the Senior Bowl and scouting combine). Now I’m here with him, and it’s just awesome.”

The humor Lindstrom described McGary having was on full display Friday once the team’s first rookie minicamp practice ended. McGary was asked about his first impression of Lindstrom, which led him to yell a joke in his fellow rookie’s direction.

“Wow, look at that nerd. Look at that ugly nerd!” McGary said, drawing laughs. “Nah, Chris is an awesome guy. He’s an awesome friend.”

McGary, a jokester, is also an apparent fan of self-deprecating humor. Asked how the two complement each other on the offensive line, McGary then took a deeper shot at his own self.

“I’m a lot uglier than he is so I probably don’t help in terms of TV attractiveness,” he said, drawing additional laughs. “Nah, I think we complement each other well. We’re both really big, really physical. We like to come off the ball. We both know what we’re doing — or at least for the most part. I think we complement each other well.”

Given the fact both linemen were selected in the first round, there is a sense of anticipation that both could start when Atlanta opens its season at Minnesota on Sept. 8. McGary didn’t want to go there yet, saying he was just trying to get through his first day on a football field with his new team.

“I just wanted to not look like an idiot,” McGary said. “That was mostly my goal. I don’t feel like I looked like an idiot. I mean, I look like an idiot. But no, for the most part, I did my job. I did it well for the most part. Film never lies, unfortunately.”

Granted that it’s only a rookie minicamp and that McGary and Lindstrom were two of the best players on the field regardless of position, head coach Dan Quinn came away with a favorable impression of his first-round selections.

He liked what he saw with McGary when it came to his quickness off the ball.

“You see him and you say, ‘That’s a big fill-in-the-blank,’” Quinn said. “When you see him come off the ball at that size, those are things that get you excited about him. He’s got quickness for a big man.”

As for Lindstrom, Quinn said he saw an agile lineman beating his man to the spot.

“What I saw from him right away, which I expected from the tape and sometimes that confirms it, is the quickness and the urgency he has when he really gets off the ball,” Quinn said.

The Falcons surrendered 42 sacks a season ago, which marked the second-highest total quarterback Matt Ryan has endured in a single season. While bolstering the defensive line in the early rounds of the NFL Draft could have made sense, ensuring Atlanta’s $150 million quarterback was protected won out over other strategies.

Lindstrom and McGary very well could be the two players who solidify Atlanta’s offensive line for years to come, which would be similar to the strategy the Indianapolis Colts employed in 2018 by drafting Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith in the first two rounds.

While Lindstrom and McGary aren’t ready to proclaim anything, they seem up to the challenge of stepping in and starting as rookies.

“I think it’s definitely a great thing to have each other,” Lindstrom said. “We’ve been working, studying, and if we have questions, we’re bouncing them off each other. We’re just trying to be great players.”

A rundown of rookie minicamp Friday

The rookie minicamp practice Friday began at 12:30 p.m. and lasted until the final horn sounded at 1:41 p.m. Here is a look at some of the highlights that occurred during the one hour and 11 minutes.

12:32 p.m.: The first movement on the practice field came with two offensive line groups snapping to quarterbacks Kurt Benkert (practice squad in 2018) and Eli Dunne (Northern Iowa, tryout). Joining Lindstrom at right guard and McGary at right tackle on a de facto first-team offensive line were left tackle Devon Johnson (Ferris State), left guard Lanard Bonner (Arkansas State) and center Chandler Miller (Tulsa). The other offensive line grouping featured left tackle Jake Largay (Massachusetts, tryout), left guard Tyler Bowling (Tulsa, tryout), center Curtis Rainey (Georgia Southern, tryout), right guard Tyler Jordan (Florida, tryout) and right tackle Jaelin Robinson (Temple).

12:49 p.m.: While rookie cornerback Kendall Sheffield is limited with a pectoral injury, he did field some punts without any coverage coming his way. Sheffield didn’t return kicks or punts at Ohio State but did do so during his year with Blinn College, a junior college in Texas he went to after transferring out of Alabama.

“I felt great. It’s been a while since I’ve done it,” Sheffield said. “I’m a little rusty right now, but I’ll get in a rhythm.”

Other rookie minicamp participants fielding punts were receiver Devin Gray (practice squad in 2018), receiver Olamide Zaccheaus (Virginia), receiver Shawn Bane (Northwest Missouri State), receiver Shun Brown (Arizona, tryout) and running back Tony Brooks-James (Oregon, tryout).

12:59 p.m.: Roughly 10 minutes after punt return drills began, sixth-round selection Marcus Green was spotted without a helmet and with a trainer. It was revealed after practice that Green is dealing with a strained hamstring. Quinn said keeping Green out of rookie minicamp practice is precautionary to ensure he is ready for OTAs. Green is entering the offseason program as a candidate to return kicks and punts this season.

1:22 p.m.: The team broke into 11-on-11 team drills, featuring this defensive group composed of a 2018 practice squad member, a draft pick, five college free agents and four tryout invitees — defensive lineman Jacob Tuioti-Mariner (practice squad in 2018), cornerback Jordan Miller (Washington, fifth-round pick), cornerback Rashard Causey (Central Florida), linebacker Yurik Bethune (Alabama A&M), linebacker Tre’ Crawford (UAB), linebacker Del’Shawn Phillips (Illinois) safety Parker Baldwin (San Diego State), defensive lineman Jordan Bradford (Louisiana Tech, tryout), linebacker Eric Bowie (Jacksonville State, tryout), safety Sean Freeman (Georgia Southern, tryout) and safety Jalen Johnson (Georgia Tech, tryout).

1:36 p.m.: In what was the best highlight of the day, rookie running back Qadree Ollison took a handoff to his right and ran untouched for at least 10 yards. The linemen on the right side of the line he ran behind? None other than Lindstrom and McGary.

 

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I must say I do like the idea of drafting starters for your position groups together in a draft.

Tru and Rocky had some good games together, and coming in as rookies together could only have helped their transitiom to the pros.

These two were literally friends before the draft, so when they are line-up shoulder to shoulder on gameday, they will be pushing each other to maximize their ability.

Edited by FalconAge
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On 5/11/2019 at 10:15 AM, FalconAge said:

I must say I do like the idea of drafting starters for your position groups together in a draft.

Tru and Rocky had some good games together, and coming in as rookies together could only have helped their transitiom to the pros.

These two were literally friends before the draft, so when they are line-up shoulder to shoulder on gameday, they will be pushing each other to maximize their ability.

 

It seems like an intentional strategy since Quinn has been here.  Many of the rookies brought in have a history or connection with one of the other rookies (like Neal and Poole) or one of the guys already on the team (like Duke Riley and Deion Jones).  I think it is a way in practice to apply the "brotherhood" theory. 

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1 hour ago, Brewcrew said:

 

It seems like an intentional strategy since Quinn has been here.  Many of the rookies brought in have a history or connection with one of the other rookies (like Neal and Poole) or one of the guys already on the team (like Duke Riley and Deion Jones).  I think it is a way in practice to apply the "brotherhood" theory. 

Beasley and Grady as well. 

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