Notes, Quotes

The Sports Xchange

July 24, 2018 at 1:10 am.

–The Falcons have been clear that defensive tackle Grady Jarrett and left tackle Jake Matthews are next up for contract extensions.

But he feels he can still improve.

“It’s kind of vague, but every year it’s the same mindset of going in and becoming a better overall player,” Matthews said. “It really starts with the work you put in over the offseason. Just trying to get into the playbook that much more to get an understanding of not just what you’re doing, but what everyone’s job is.”

The Falcons are retooling a bit on offense.

“We definitely added a few more wrinkles,” Matthews said. “We are always trying to improve. We’ve got a lot of big-time players on this offense. So anytime we can add new things to get guys the ball out in space, that’s what we are going to try to do.”

–The Falcons offense sputtered last season mostly because they led the league with 30 dropped passes.

When Julio Jones returns, the spotlight will not only be on him, but on the entire receiving corps.

Here’s the drop count: Jones (seven), Mohamed Sanu (six), Devonta Freeman (four), Tevin Coleman (three), tight end Austin Hooper (three), Taylor Gabriel (two), Justin Hardy (two), Marvin Hall (two) and tight end Levine Toilolo (one).

The drops were perplexing after the team had just 16, the third fewest in the league in 2016.

“We’ve got work to do in that area,” Falcons head coach Dan Quinn said. “It wasn’t just one player, and it wasn’t just one position.”

–Offensive lineman Brandon Fusco started his career with Minnesota and was in San Francisco for one season. He noticed a few things different about the Falcons.

“This team really knows how to work,” Fusco said. “They are really serious about football. I haven’t seen one guy on this team since I’ve been here who hasn’t taken this thing serious. They are always doing extra work. Guys are always staying after practice. That’s what I noticed. The guys are always staying after practice working on something. I’ve never seen that personally on a team. It’s pretty cool and fulfilling. It’s exciting.”

Like Fusco, defensive tackle Terrell McClain, who’s been on the Panthers, Redskins, Texans, Patriots and Cowboys, notices a difference in the Falcons, too.

“The bond is real,” McClain said. “The Brotherhood that they preach here is really real. I like that. Everybody is cool with each other. Everybody comes out here to work and they all have a good time. Having fun and also putting in the work, a lot of people don’t know that can go hand-in-hand. I like how it is around here.”


–Improve scoring in the red zone. The Falcons were ranked 23rd in red-zone scoring last season as teams were able to make their top weapon, Julio Jones, ineffective. The Falcons must figure out a way to spring Jones free inside the opposition’s 20-yard line. Jones caught only six of 22 passes (27 percent) thrown to him inside the 20-yard line for one touchdown. By comparison, Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown caught 13 of 23 (56.5 percent) of his passes in the red zone for six touchdowns.

–Get quarterback Matt Ryan back up to the MVP level. With Kyle Shanahan departed, Ryan’s stats dipped. He completed 342 of 529 passes (64.7 percent) for 4,095 yards, 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 2017. He threw 18 fewer touchdown passes and five more interceptions. His 20 touchdown passes were his lowest since he tossed 16 as a rookie in 2008. New quarterbacks coach Greg Knapp will help Ryan get redirected.

–Find a starting fullback. There are three inexperienced players competing for the fullback position in Daniel Marx, Luke McNitt and Ricky Ortiz. New running backs coach Bernie Parmalee is looking forward to exhibition games to see how they handle the physicality of the position. If the three fail to impress, the Falcons will scan the waiver wire to see if any veteran fullbacks are cut at roster trimming time.


–Right guard. Brandon Fusco, who played with San Francisco last season, will compete for the starting right guard spot against the incumbent Wes Schweitzer. “The scheme is all the same,” Fusco said. “Really just some terminology stuff and just getting used to everybody was the biggest thing for me and getting comfortable with everyone. I’m excited for camp coming up and we’ll take it from there.” Schweitzer struggled at times against more athletic tackles, but the Falcons contend that he got better as the season progressed.




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