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Takk McKinley has something to prove, but he’s not alone on the defensive line


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In January, coach Dan Quinn had a frank discussion with Takk McKinley about what the Falcons needed from him when training camp rolled around in August. The coaching staff wanted him to be quicker and to be able to use his speed at full capacity at all times in a game.

Weighing in between 265 and 270 pounds wasn’t working for him. McKinley said because of the way his body was shaped for much of the season last year that he wasn’t as fast or as quick as he should have been. He felt fatigued toward the end of games. He was wearing down a lot faster. What the Falcons staff challenged McKinley to do in the offseason was drop some weight as he rehabbed a nagging shoulder injury that he has been dealing with for years.

It was time McKinley worked to get down to what he said was his college weight.

“I had a motor then,” McKinley said. “I was flying off the edge with speed. I didn’t get tired as easy.”

Now well into training camp, McKinley weighs in at 248 pounds after an offseason of intense cardio and dieting.

“It’s definitely the best he’s looked,” Quinn said.

An offseason day for McKinley started at 7 a.m. as he set out to rehab his shoulder after having surgery at the beginning of the year. His workouts were tailored to that shoulder, trying to build its strength and prevent future injuries. By 9 a.m., he was either on the bike or on the track. McKinley said he called up his former high school track coach to give him a cardio plan. Once he was able, McKinley said that every day was spent on the track.

His diet, however, was what McKinley said was the biggest piece of his transformation. He used a meal plan program called Nutrition Solutions. To maintain his current weight, it’s a plan he’s using even now during training camp.

“There’s no reason to work out if you’re still eating McDonald’s, Popeyes,” McKinley said. “Diet has been huge for me, and I’m sticking to it.”

The uptick in cardio and the conscious effort to diet were two things McKinley said he didn’t focus on much during his other stints rehabbing his injured shoulder. But he called the Falcons’ decision to decline his fifth-year option a “wake-up call.”

“It was more motivation,” he said. “It made me hungry. Not saying that I wasn’t hungry in the past; it was just ‘I gotta go prove it.’”
 

Quinn said there are several players in the same position as McKinley, with something to prove. And when you take a look at the entire defensive line, there are a lot of players — Grady Jarrett aside — who fall into that category.

Dante Fowler Jr. has to prove that last year’s success with the Los Angles Rams wasn’t a fluke, that his sack numbers in 2019 will be a consistent achievement. He has said he considers last year to be his rookie year, as he finally earned a full-season starting spot for the Rams and put up numbers that he believes his status as a first-round draft pick (with Jacksonville in 2015) warranted. He knows he has to stay on par, however, as this season creeps closer. And there’s a little extra motivation there for him, too.

“Honestly, if I would have had three more sacks (last year), we would have been talking about it different: a Pro Bowl season, All-Pro type of year,” Fowler said. “But it didn’t happen like that, so I’ve still got some more work to do. I am just going to keep carving my tools and sharpening my knife every day.”

Then there’s Tyeler Davison, who is pretty good against the run but needs to do more in terms of disruptive statistics and could be called upon in more ways this season than he has been previously. Can he be the complement Jarrett needs inside? There’s an untested talent like rookie Marlon Davidson, whom the Falcons are looking to play inside more after Davidson transformed his body before his final season at Auburn to be able to play defensive end for the Tigers. Can he make that transition early in Year 1 to be a needed addition?

Quinn said he and his coaching staff are anxious to see what Charles Harris does the next few weeks as they play him on the left and right sides. What will those weeks of evaluations look like for Harris, and how will he compare with others? And what of Allen Bailey, Steven Means, Deadrin Senat and John Cominsky? Can any of them emerge to help the defensive line?

But back to McKinley, who said he had too many “almost sacks” last year. The key this season is to finish, and maybe that should be the case for everyone as the Falcons’ defense looks to be more disruptive than it was a year ago, especially early.

“If I finish, I don’t think nobody would be talking about the Falcons declining Takk’s fifth-year option,” McKinley said. “Finishing. That’s what the game is all about. You gotta finish.”

Practice observations and notes

• Todd Gurley and Alex Mack did not participate in Saturday’s padded practice. Both were scheduled for another day off to limit their workload and keep them healthy. Also not practicing was Davidson, who also did not practice Thursday. Quinn said Saturday morning that Davidson was working through a knee strain but that it is not serious nor do the coaches think it’s going to be a long-term worry.

• Tackle Evin Ksiezarczyk was back in pads and practicing Saturday. He had missed a few practices, wearing a brace on his left knee, but he was working with the second team Saturday.

• After releasing offensive lineman Scottie Deal on Friday, the Falcons signed tackle Ka’John Armstrong on Saturday morning. Armstrong was picked up by the Cleveland Browns as an undrafted free agent in 2019. He was cut during training camp and spent a part of last season on the Jacksonville Jaguars’ practice squad before moving to Denver to spend the remainder of the 2019 season on the Broncos’ practice squad.

• Matt Hennessy received a large chunk of the reps at left guard with the first-team. While James Carpenter was rotated in periodically, it was definitely Hennessy who remained in that spot for the majority of Saturday’s practice.

• Brian Hill had another good day. With Gurley resting, Hill was the top option at running back. In a protection drill with the running backs and linebackers, Hill looked textbook in a one-on-one matchup with Foye Oluokun. In the very next drill, when the offensive line was working with the defensive line on its run blocking, coaches praised Hill when he made a cut through a hole.

 Hayden Hurst said Tuesday that he really has been trying to use Julio Jones and his knowledge to his own advantage, saying the coolest thing about Jones was how willing he has been to chat with Hurst about various coverages and routes. On Saturday, that budding relationship with the two was easy to see on the sideline. When the second and third teams were making their runs down the field, it was common to see Hurst and Jones having conversations on the side, obviously discussing certain techniques or routes. “Every time I come back to the huddle, I look at him and ask, ‘What did you think on that?’ or if we’re doing routes on air I’m like, ‘Hey, what do you see there?’” Hurst said Tuesday. “I mean why not? Why wouldn’t you pick a Hall of Famer’s brain? It’s cool having a guy like that at our disposal.”

• Quinn said Thursday that while Chris Rowland and Brandon Powell would spend the majority of Thursday’s scrimmage as the team’s designated return men, the Falcons were going to try others in those spots. Ito Smith was working with Rowland and Powell during the team’s special-teams circuit early in Saturday’s practice.

• After a few days spent recuperating a sore foot, Kendall Sheffield seemed back in full swing. With the Falcons using a few different lineups and combinations of defensive backs to evaluate different players, Sheffield was able to get a lot of reps in that second rotation of the first-team defense.

• At one point in practice, the Falcons were playing around with a three-linebacker set with Oluokum, Deion Jones and Mykal Walker in together. Walker has made a number of good impressions in his first training camp, and it would seem the Falcons are trying to get the rookie more involved.
 

 

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10 minutes ago, Atl Falcon said:

Sad it took Takk 4 yrs to figure out being over weight and diet is the key to performance. Just tired of hearing about Takk and what he could be. It’s show time.

Well honestly..all this good talk about takk figuring it out is very misleading...cause as much as I would love for him to play at a high level for us...I just don't trust him after this year.. even if he ball out.

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What a nice read. Good stuff. Love to see Walker carving a role in base D perhaps. Wonder if they’ll play Buccanon in Nickel or who gets the role in sub next to Jones?

Great observation on Hurst picking Julio’s brain while on the sidelines or in the huddle after a play.

Hill stepping up as a pass blocker is encouraging and being back in wide zone 1-cut should help all of the backs. While we all want Gurley to play well here, the reality is we will need him on a pitch count and the RBBC behind him matters a lot to maintained efficiency out of the RBs.

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6 hours ago, Atl Falcon said:

Sad it took Takk 4 yrs to figure out being over weight and diet is the key to performance. Just tired of hearing about Takk and what he could be. It’s show time.

Maybe unfair comparison but he feels like Hageman 2.0 to me. Except maybe a few more people kept expecting Hageman to turn the corner towards the end, I think much fewer people feel that way about Takk.

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1 hour ago, Ergo Proxy said:

What a nice read. Good stuff. Love to see Walker carving a role in base D perhaps. Wonder if they’ll play Buccanon in Nickel or who gets the role in sub next to Jones?

Great observation on Hurst picking Julio’s brain while on the sidelines or in the huddle after a play.

Hill stepping up as a pass blocker is encouraging and being back in wide zone 1-cut should help all of the backs.

 

If Hurst is faster, a better blocker, and gets more polished routes than Hooper...well good luck opposing DC's.

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6 hours ago, IamFRESCO1 said:

Well honestly..all this good talk about takk figuring it out is very misleading...cause as much as I would love for him to play at a high level for us...I just don't trust him after this year.. even if he ball out.

It's on the coaches too. But it's also telling he has this 'awakening' in a contract year. I mean what was DQ saying the last few years? Only 22 quarts of rocky road ice cream per month unless it's the offseason? WTH?!

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2 minutes ago, Pacific_Falcon said:

Maybe unfair comparison but he feels like Hageman 2.0 to me. Except maybe a few more people kept expecting Hageman to turn the corner towards the end, I think much fewer people feel that way about Takk.

I do think Takk has it in him but your spot on with the Hageman comparison. Both needed to grow up....but it would be a big gamble to trust him. He’s done nothing to earn that trust

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32 minutes ago, Pacific_Falcon said:

 

If Hurst is faster, a better blocker, and gets more polished routes than Hooper...well good luck opposing DC's.

Honestly, the chemistry drop off from Hooper to Hurst is the primary hang up to seeing the potential highs Hurst brings over Hooper or not...because there does not seem to be a weakness to Hayden’s game.

Just how he fits into what we do and being on the same page with Ryan, where Hooper especially excelled on 3rd Downs and in the RZ...that’s when we will be seeing his peak and maybe in turn opening the offense/our run game.

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44 minutes ago, Pacific_Falcon said:

Maybe unfair comparison but he feels like Hageman 2.0 to me. Except maybe a few more people kept expecting Hageman to turn the corner towards the end, I think much fewer people feel that way about Takk.

Honeslty tho I think the shoulder injuries have been a harder setback for Takk. Like he said, he spends his offseason getting cut, rehabbing and recovering. Then, he goes all out and is putting it all on himself when the team isn’t doing well? That doesn’t sound like Hageman.

Hageman was not beating his dude like Takk. This board tunnel visions on sacks. That’s often a team rush effort. Did Vic get better after the bye week? Because Takk has been doing dirty work to let him feast. Our coverage improved and we saw cleanup sacks from Vic but it was guys like Grady and Takk setting them up for Vic.

My biggest thing for Takk is health and mentality. If he is open to improving more now and not pushing out help because of issues with self-reliance mentality, that is learning strength through accepting constructive criticism.

Beasley got time with Freeney. Takk got to play with Vic. No comparison. Now DFJ is good timing because Takk doesn’t have that guaranteed option coming. Vic always had the risk of it being rescinded. Things are transparent for Takk. If he gets paid, it’s because he earned it.

Just be healthy...same thing for Neal.

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11 hours ago, Pacific_Falcon said:

Maybe unfair comparison but he feels like Hageman 2.0 to me. Except maybe a few more people kept expecting Hageman to turn the corner towards the end, I think much fewer people feel that way about Takk.

 

10 hours ago, Atl Falcon said:

I do think Takk has it in him but your spot on with the Hageman comparison. Both needed to grow up....but it would be a big gamble to trust him. He’s done nothing to earn that trust

Silly comparison actually....Takk is nothing like Hageman. His issue has been his shoulder, not his mental makeup.

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50 minutes ago, Vandy said:

 

Silly comparison actually....Takk is nothing like Hageman. His issue has been his shoulder, not his mental makeup.

Immaturity is the comparison.....Takk shoulder has nothing to do with it even tho I’m sure it hindered his play. Playing 25 lbs over weight and bad eating habits for 4 yrs is a mental make up. The bottom line is they never reached their potential  because of that immaturity. 

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4 hours ago, Vandy said:

 

Silly comparison actually....Takk is nothing like Hageman. His issue has been his shoulder, not his mental makeup.

Not IMO in terms of the potential vs. underachiever thing. And while Takk gets something of a pass due to injury issues, the fact that he is just now getting his diet in check shows that some of the issue was between the ears - just my .02 that much of Hageman's issues were of that nature as well.

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4 hours ago, Vandy said:

 

Silly comparison actually....Takk is nothing like Hageman. His issue has been his shoulder, not his mental makeup.

Takk has limited in Athleticism and skill set. He is trying to push guys on every snap. The NFL Oline man are not gonna let you bull rush ever snap.

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12 hours ago, Atl Falcon said:

Immaturity is the comparison.....Takk shoulder has nothing to do with it even tho I’m sure it hindered his play. Playing 25 lbs over weight and bad eating habits for 4 yrs is a mental make up. The bottom line is they never reached their potential  because of that immaturity. 

I really think all this noise about Takk’s supposed immaturity is a TAFT misconception. He played big because a Defensive Lineman is supposed to be big.coaches told him to slim down so he can play LEO, and he did it.   
 

You ever played football with a bum shoulder? I did, and especially for a DE who needs leverage in beating an OL, it makes a huge difference if shoulder is messed up.

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10 hours ago, falcons007 said:

Takk has limited in Athleticism and skill set. He is trying to push guys on every snap. The NFL Oline man are not gonna let you bull rush ever snap.

He’s not limited athletically bro, you don’t make it this far with “limited athleticism and skill set”. At all. 
 

His biggest issue has been his bad shoulder. This was like his 3rd time going under the knife for that. A bad shoulder certainly can limit him, but he’s got plenty of athleticism.

 

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10 hours ago, Pacific_Falcon said:

Not IMO in terms of the potential vs. underachiever thing. And while Takk gets something of a pass due to injury issues, the fact that he is just now getting his diet in check shows that some of the issue was between the ears - just my .02 that much of Hageman's issues were of that nature as well.

No, Hageman had some deep and dark off-the-field issues from his broken childhood. I’m sure Takk had his obstacles to overcome too, but few face what R’Sheed did.

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.sbnation.com/platform/amp/longform/2013/11/13/5097150/rashede-hageman-profile-minnesota-football

Takk is what, 24 years old? He’s still a young kid and you guys are calling him out because he’s just now figuring out his diet? Come on, all athletes go through a process in figuring that all out.

https://www.sportscasting.com/tom-brady-used-to-eat-the-worst-foods-before-and-after-football-games/

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10 minutes ago, Vandy said:

Takk’s supposed immaturity is a TAFT misconception. He played big because a Defensive Lineman is supposed to be big.coaches told him to slim down so he can play LEO, and he did it.   
 

You ever played football with a bum shoulder? I did, and especially for a DE who needs leverage in beating an OL, it makes a huge difference if shoulder is messed up.

You can give him a pass but I disagree. Did you ever follow him on Twitter? He convinced many folks he was immature.....just saying. I think he even realized it and that’s why he closed his acct. 

I know his shoulder injuries have impacted his performance but you can’t tell me it takes four yrs to figure out diet being over weight matters. I wish him the best but if he had been in better shape thru diet and keeping his weight under control  maybe he don’t have all the shoulder problems. Sorry I like a lot of others are getting tired of Takks no show 

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1 hour ago, Atl Falcon said:

You can give him a pass but I disagree. Did you ever follow him on Twitter? He convinced many folks he was immature.....just saying. I think he even realized it and that’s why he closed his acct. 

I know his shoulder injuries have impacted his performance but you can’t tell me it takes four yrs to figure out diet being over weight matters. I wish him the best but if he had been in better shape thru diet and keeping his weight under control  maybe he don’t have all the shoulder problems. Sorry I like a lot of others are getting tired of Takks no show 

Twitter? I could care less.

He’s 24 bro, you guys seem to forget that he’s still just a kid. Plenty of athletes ...Roddy didn’t, LeBron didn’t, even Jordan didn’t until he had a few years in the league.....figure out the importance of nutrition until later on in their careers. 

https://www.33fuel.com/blogs/default-blog/news-professional-athletes-nutrition/

https://www.stack.com/a/pro-athletes-horrible-diets

https://www.sportscasting.com/lebron-james-is-still-an-elite-athlete-but-he-apparently-has-an-awful-diet/

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9 minutes ago, Vandy said:

Twitter? I could care less.

He’s 24 bro....plenty of athletes ...Roddy didn’t, LeBron didn’t, even Jordan didn’t until a few years in the league.....don’t figure out the importance of nutrition until later in their careers.

https://www.33fuel.com/blogs/default-blog/news-professional-athletes-nutrition/

https://www.stack.com/a/pro-athletes-horrible-diets

Hate you missed his Twitter part.....dude proved to the world he was mostly hot air. 24 is no excuse...that’s the problem with society in general - excuses and not accepting accountability 

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9 minutes ago, Atl Falcon said:

Hate you missed his Twitter part.....dude proved to the world he was mostly hot air. 24 is no excuse...that’s the problem with society in general - excuses and not accepting accountability 

LOL...I’m sure glad you weren’t judging me when I was 24.

No excuses, I’m just sayin’.....fans and their self-righteousness about athletes tickle me. He didn’t just show up and got selected into the nfl. He worked plenty hard to get there.

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