Goober Pyle

Five Falcons storylines as training camp nears

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https://theathletic.com/1084338/2019/07/18/five-falcons-storylines-as-2019-training-camp-nears/

 

In four days, the Falcons will begin training camp with its full roster. 

While rookies reported Thursday, veterans have until Sunday to do so. On Monday, the first full practice will take place, which will mark a somewhat official return of football for the 2019 season. 

There will be a lot to learn and discover from that first training camp practice through the end of the preseason. With that in mind, here are five storylines to keep an eye on once training camp begins. 

Focusing on the pass rush

In 2018, Takk McKinley led the Falcons with seven sacks. His number factored into Atlanta’s 37 sacks, which tied for 22nd in the NFL. That number didn’t sit too kindly with head coach Dan Quinn, who would like to see that rise quite a bit. McKinley, too, would like to see his own numbers leap, stating on Twitter that he will cut his dreadlocks off if he falls short of recording 10 sacks. 

 

Ideally, the Falcons will be able to get after the quarterback primarily with four-man pressures. By getting pressure with four men, the Falcons would prevent the quarterback from releasing the ball quickly. In recent years, NFL offenses have opted for the quick passing game more than ever. Releasing the ball in less than three seconds is a great answer against any pass rush. Therefore, if four men can get pressure while seven cover, the odds of releasing the ball in less than three seconds decreases. 

Last year, getting to the quarterback proved problematic at times. That stated, the Falcons lost a slew of players due to injury early, which certainly played a significant role. They will hope the bulk of their primary contributors remain healthy to stave off those kind of issues. 

In addition to McKinley, Vic Beasley, playing under a fifth-year option worth $12.8 million, will need a huge year if he is to see a payday next offseason. Beasley led the NFL with 15.5 sacks in 2016 but has only totaled 14 in his other three NFL seasons. Beasley, who acknowledged his production wasn’t up to par at the end of last season, believes he will fare better in year five. 

“I just wanna ball out and play my heart out for my teammates,” Beasley said. 

Coaching the pass rush up close will be new defensive line coach Jess Simpson, who returned to Atlanta after one year in the same role at the University of Miami. Simpson is a firm believer in improving get-off to rush the quarterback. Simpson studies elite sprinters to see how they cover ground as fast as possible when getting out of the blocks. 

Secondary improvements

A solid pass rush is a secondary’s best friend. At the same time, Atlanta’s defensive backfield will also be looking to improve upon a season that saw it allow 259.6 yards per game through the air. It will also play a new starter while another shifts to a different position. 

Isaiah Oliver will be tasked with stepping in as a starter in just his second season. Oliver replaces Robert Alford, who was released. Oliver has the tangible makeup of today’s NFL cornerback. He has a near 7-foot wingspan, even though he is just a little over 6 feet tall. He has great upper body strength, which allows him to reroute receivers at the line of scrimmage. Oliver will need to ensure he stays on top of receivers after the initial jam so he’s not beaten deep. That’s been a big focus this offseason. 

Damontae Kazee tied for the NFL lead in interceptions with seven as a free safety last season. However, Kazee will be Atlanta’s starting nickel this year. There is a lot to like about this move, considering he was a standout corner at San Diego State. Kazee has good speed, great ball skills and is a fierce tackler. Those are the kinds of traits needed at the nickel position, considering the space slot receivers are able to start with compared to outside receivers. 

Returning in their familiar spots are Desmond Trufant, Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal. Trufant has had a tremendous offseason, which has seen him work more on being physical and patient against receivers at the line of scrimmage. Allen (Achilles) and Neal (ACL) are still on schedule to return from injuries. It will be interesting to see how much they can do during training camp. Neal was able to do some individual work during mandatory minicamp. 

Neal’s physicality changes Atlanta’s defense for the better. He can play down as a box safety against the run but is just as solid against the pass. If everything goes well with Allen and Neal, and both don’t suffer any setbacks, the Falcons should enjoy a much-improved pass defense. 

New-look offensive line 

It’s no secret that the coaching staff and front office were unhappy with how the offensive line performed in 2018. Quinn, who let a number of assistants go after last season’s end, remained confident in offensive line coach Chris Morgan. This indicates those inside the building felt the offensive line’s struggles were more of a personnel issue than a coaching problem. Morgan’s squads have performed well in previous seasons, so a track record exists when the talent is present. Therefore, the Falcons did everything they could to upgrade the offensive line. 

They brought in free agents James Carpenter and Jamon Brown, and re-signed Ty Sambrailo, who proved to be an upgrade over Ryan Schraeder down the stretch last season. And of course, the Falcons went further to improve the group by drafting Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary in the first round of this year’s NFL draft. 

In addition, it will be interesting to see how offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter’s preferred play calls mesh with the style Quinn wants to see from the group. Atlanta should still run plenty of outside zone plays, which ideally sets up some inside zone runs for big gains. 

As for the starting lineup, that progression will be something to watch throughout the preseason. When camp opens, the line figures to feature Carpenter at left guard, Brown at right guard and Sambrailo at right tackle. It would be safe to assume, however, that both Lindstrom and McGary will get their shots to prove why they should start as rookies. And if they both win starting spots, Carpenter, Brown and Sambrailo would then battle it out at left guard. 

Quinn calls plays again

This isn’t the first time Quinn will be calling defensive plays as a head coach. When the Falcons reached Super Bowl LI, it was revealed that Quinn usurped play-calling from then-defensive coordinator Richard Smith during the year. Clearly, the Falcons responded well down the stretch when Quinn began calling plays as the team got hot en route to a Super Bowl berth. 

With Marquand Manuel not working out after two seasons, Quinn decided to put the defense’s successes and failures on his shoulders this year. Considering the extra work this entails, getting five preseason games should actually bode well for the coaching staff when it comes to preparation.

The players, especially the younger ones, will get great experience from an extra preseason game. But so will Quinn and company when it comes to the new faces and responsibilities.

Ridley’s second season

Based on how 2018 went, Calvin Ridley could be in for a huge second NFL season. He put forth a great offseason and noted how much he learned in how to prepare weekly during a long season. An area Ridley said he’ll do better this year is ensuring he’s fresh for each game.

During the week in practice, Ridley said he would go all out and actually be somewhat fatigued by Sunday. At Alabama, Ridley earned a reputation for out-working his teammates in practice and in the weight room. That kind of work ethic hasn’t changed as a professional. But in order to stay healthy, he knows there are times he will need to force himself to dial it back. 

As a rookie, Ridley caught 64 passes for 821 yards and 10 touchdowns. The fact that he shares the field with Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu is rather ridiculous when you think about the star power at the position group. Considering the attention Jones draws, Ridley could see a huge bump in both usage and statistics this year. How he performs during training camp should be fun to watch. 

 

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Just now, Yo_Lover said:

If you watch him play you'll see.

Ive got really high hopes for him, believe his breakout(and Foye) can really push D to new level, just curious what pro guys call "great" for a corner. Never really thought of it, as don't think any of our CBs have ever been mentioned as such..

Im thinking 15 reps? For sure a guy with a 7 foot wing span that would be incredible

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2 minutes ago, OrthoPTSD said:

Ive got really high hopes for him, believe his breakout(and Foye) can really push D to new level, just curious what pro guys call "great" for a corner. Never really thought of it, as don't think any of our CBs have ever been mentioned as such..

Im thinking 15 reps? For sure a guy with a 7 foot wing span that would be incredible

There's a lot more that goes into rerouting a WR than bench press. Honestly I imagine bench has very little to do with it. It'll be more shoulders, core, arms, than it will be chest. 

Tim Mazetti likes this

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2 hours ago, Goober Pyle said:

Carpenter, Brown and Sambrailo would then battle it out at left guard. 

I don't think he has played guard in the NFL?  And has never played the position....But versatility/coaching?

vitaman likes this

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11 minutes ago, Sun Tzu 7 said:

So their focusing on the pass rush?  How are they doing that again?

Is resigning Claiborne the answer?

Are the HOPING for the emergence of Beasley and McKinnley.... again?

So doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?  

It is not insanity. LOL!

They are thinking coaching and individual attention maybe?

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8 minutes ago, Tim Mazetti said:

It is not insanity. LOL!

They are thinking coaching and individual attention maybe?

They're thinking with Deion Jones back full speed for 16 games, they'll be just fine.

Tim Mazetti likes this

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I think the article really sums up our off season, and story lines to watch. My plus minus opinions of these would be:

Focusing on pass rush- (Neutral) Seeing the 37 number of sacks is shocking number wise(seems less). 22nd ranking still yuck, figured worse.

I know Beasley has zero respect on here, take him for what he is, a young edge who has produced at high level, playing at a 12 million market salary. 12 million(for a young edge) gets you a bout 5-6 sacks, and is what I expect of him. No growth, any thing extra out performs his contract.

If Grady had got the 3 4 more of the sacks he wiffed on his contract would not had been as friendly. Havent heard anybody mention his wiffs. I love the guy, can really see some breakout from him which nullifies Crawford probably going back to norm.

Takk  can be the biggest breakout. I'm hoping to hear on Twitter he shaved his head and will not grow his dreads until he gets 10 plus sacks. He seems crazy enough for this to work, and would be a media darling. Hope his crazy comes out properly this year.

Secondary improvements- (Positive)  (1) Neal being ahead of schedule being first and foremost. The guy is a machine and have to think this puts a chip on his shoulder with season taken away (2) Oliver as a starter. Alfred was a must release who tease with athletic gifts galore but made way to much money. His legacy should be the return TD in SB, but the respect gods stepped in and defense was gassed afterwards. Curious if Bellicheck was like "YESSS, he returned it for TD, its all coming together.. Oliver breakout along with Kazee( is it possible for him to breakout this year? 7 int mighty impressive?) Rico? Worried he might have issue, with not able to start season. Rookie depth should push starters just with upsided gifts, cant ask for more with unproven mid rounds

New look offensive line -(Positive and no doubter) What a weak showing interiorly last year. Carpenter and Brown signing were solid and piled on depth with Lindstrom who probably starts over either for one spot. This subject deserves its own thread for discussion...

Quin calls plays again -(Negative) Only because he is head coach. Could he have changed anything last year? Well what stopped him. Really putting himself out there.

 

Ridley second season (Positive) Not as much as Foye and Olive second season jump importance. He was electric last year and should be a storyline.

 

 

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PASS RUSH

Takk is a WarDaddy and plays hard every snap. Still needs the same effort on the other side and Vic just looks confused after the speed move fails. Lack of depth at DE is a real problem. Can Quinn overcome it? Not without talent. Try-hard guys with experience are gone from the team, this is our most glaring need.

 

SECONDARY

Trufant owns his position but needs to be more consistent, Oliver has yet to prove anything and I am surprised he is named starter already. Kazee could easily be moved to his position if Oliver gets exposed and becomes a liability. Neal is a monster against the run but cannot cover a TE or RB to save his life. Neal is a liability in man to man and we have seen OCs take advantage of the matchup (KC, NE, NO, etc). New talent (Sheffield) makes camp interesting and I believe we will see some changes before the Vikings game.

 

OFFENSIVE LINE

Nobody knows what this is going to be yet. The talent is there we hope, but in all honesty these 2 FAs were available for a reason, Lindstrom looks like the real deal but  McGary may be a bigger project than his selection position suggests. I hope he proves everyone wrong and becomes the beast he seems to be capable of becoming. IF this line can improve on its performance last season and provide a menacing run game, the offense has a real chance to be elite.

 

BOTTOM LINE

Quinn has to field the nastiest linemen on both sides of the ball if the Falcons are going to excel. With the mix of rookies, FAs and vets reporting, he has a chance to make this team very different from last season. Here's hoping he will be bold and will feature athletes in their natural positions without thought to where they were drafted and by whom.

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16 hours ago, OrthoPTSD said:

Oliver has great upper body strength? I guess for a corner? What was his 225 rep?

I dunno, but reps of 225 is more related to muscular endurance than overall strength

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15 hours ago, Sun Tzu 7 said:

So their focusing on the pass rush?  How are they doing that again?

Is resigning Claiborne the answer?

Are the HOPING for the emergence of Beasley and McKinnley.... again?

So doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?  

Claiborne is a corner.

Shelley#37 likes this

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16 hours ago, Tim Mazetti said:

I don't think he has played guard in the NFL?  And has never played the position....But versatility/coaching?

Played half of the @TB game at LG last year. Got whipped pretty bad by Vita and McCoy. 

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17 hours ago, Sun Tzu 7 said:

So their focusing on the pass rush?  How are they doing that again?

Is resigning Claiborne the answer?

Are the HOPING for the emergence of Beasley and McKinnley.... again?

So doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?  

Takk was drafted in 2017.  I am not hoping for his emergence again.  I am hoping for his emergence.

DQ is a great defensive coach.  He knows the issues.  Despite Beasley working on his own instead of getting himself to FB where he needed to be, I hope DQ will still have enough time to get him back on track.  If Beasley responds to coaching and develops additional pass rush moves and Takk develops as expected, we can have a very good DL.

That is 2 big "ifs".  But, things are quite different now.  Why do you think the Falcons are doing the same thing and expecting different results?

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12 minutes ago, NaGaBoy said:

Takk was drafted in 2017.  I am not hoping for his emergence again.  I am hoping for his emergence.

DQ is a great defensive coach.  He knows the issues.  Despite Beasley working on his own instead of getting himself to FB where he needed to be, I hope DQ will still have enough time to get him back on track.  If Beasley responds to coaching and develops additional pass rush moves and Takk develops as expected, we can have a very good DL.

That is 2 big "ifs".  But, things are quite different now.  Why do you think the Falcons are doing the same thing and expecting different results?

Ok so last season they went into it losing Clayborne, Poe, and others on the Dline and their plan was to replace that talent with a 3rd round pick.  As the season went on they were forced to add players to the d-line because they had to.

But the plan, initially, was to hope for the emergence of Beasley, McKinnley, and Jarrett and have most of the pass rush come from them.  That didn't happen.

"If Beasley responds to coaching and develops additional pass rush moves and Takk develops as expected, we can have a very good DL." - This is the EXACT same thought process going into last season.... that's my point.

To be honest I keep forgetting they brought back Hagemen but he's been out of football for a couple of years and is a longshot.

If you're a long time Falcons fan you've been here before.  Hoping they really address the dline and pass rush... they don't but you hope guys emerge... but in the end the results are very similar to the year(s) before.

The last year they had a really good pass rush with multiple guys bringing heat was probably 04-05 when you had Rod Coleman ripping up the middle of the dline and Kerney and B Smith going crazy on the edges.  When Abraham got here it was a one man show... which would catch up to them in the postseason.

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2 hours ago, Sun Tzu 7 said:

Yeah iphone auto correcting for me.

Clayborne

Clayborn.  But i get the gist 

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4 hours ago, Sun Tzu 7 said:

"If Beasley responds to coaching and develops additional pass rush moves and Takk develops as expected, we can have a very good DL." - This is the EXACT same thought process going into last season.... that's my point.

I am not getting into a long debate with you.  You seem to continue to submit half truths on different points.  But, on this point, DQ has a different plan for this season.  He stated many weeks ago that he was going to work closely with Beasley, so closely, that Vic would love him or hate him before the season starts.  DQ also is taking over the defense.  He is dissatisfied with the results to date.  He has replaced much of the staff he had last season. 

Back to Takk, he is showing development.  He has not reached his potential yet.

In my opinion your statement that the Falcons are just doing the same old thing and hoping things get better is without merit.  I asked you why you said that because I wanted to understand how you concluded that.  I see your debate expanded into Claiborn, Poe, and Hageman.  To get this back on track, it is my opinion that Takk needs to continue to develop.  He is getting better.  Beasley is not getting better and we are stuck with him for a while.  So, what are the Falcons to do?  Well, the head coach has vowed to get close and personal with Beasley.  Beasley has responded by staying away as long as he can.  When they do get together, I expect DQ will be attempting to help him develop additional moves while analyzing both his mental and physical readiness.  DQ needs to know if he can train Vic Beasley.  DQ planned to go all in with this guy and Beasley backed away.  Things are very different from what was going on this time in 2018 with Marquand Manuel running the defense. 

Why do you think things are exactly the way they were 1 year ago?

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