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  • Potential Falcons Pro Bowlers in 2021
    by Adnan Ikic on January 27, 2020 at 1:00 pm

    Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images A tiered list of potential Falcons who could find themselves in Orlando next year. Happy Pro Bowl season! It’s always an honor when a player from your team is selected to play in the Pro Bowl, and it’s a good feeling seeing that player get recognized for his accomplishments. Beyond just good feelings, a Pro Bowl selection matters to a player’s leverage in future contract negotiations and for legacy purposes when it comes to things like Hall of Fame voting. The Falcons had three players selected to partake in the festivities this season — Julio Jones, Austin Hooper, and Grady Jarrett. Since the Falcons haven’t been played football in late December, and because the draft is still three months away, let’s take a look at some of the players who could find themselves being Pro Bowl candidates for the Falcons in 2021. Please note: I am not saying that all of the following players will be Pro Bowlers next season. This is merely an analysis of players who may be looked at for the game. The No-Brainers Definition: Players on the Falcons roster who are the odds-on favorites to be Pro Bowl selections next season. Julio Jones You can pretty much take this one to the bank, barring injury of course. Jones has been selected to six straight Pro Bowls and to seven in the past eight seasons (had it not been for the 2013 foot injury, he would have been a selection eight years straight). Despite hitting age 30 last February, Jones has continued playing at an elite level and has remained the best wide receiver in all of football. He was second in the NFL with 1,394 receiving yards last season and his career 96.2 receiving yards per game is the best mark in NFL history. Grady Jarrett Jarrett finally got the recognition he deserves by being selected to his first career Pro Bowl this season. He has been among the best players at his position for a number of years, and people had no choice but to recognize his dominance in the 2019 season. Jarrett’s 90.1 Pro Football Reference grade this season was good for third among all defensive lineman, behind only Aaron Donald and Cameron Heyward. His 40 run stops were second among all defensive lineman and his 8.0 sacks were good for sixth, showcasing that Jarrett is more than just a one-trick pony. Jarrett earned an even higher PFF grade last season — 90.4, with higher pass rush and run defense grades as well — indicating that he was robbed of a Pro Bowl appearance in 2018. Better late than never for that recognition I suppose. Guys Who Have Been There and Can Get Back Definition: Players on the Falcons roster who have been selected to the Pro Bowl in the past, are still in their prime, and whom you would not be surprised to see making it back to the game. Matt Ryan Ryan has been selected to the Pro Bowl four time in his career — and he was a blatant snub in the 2018 season when he threw for 4,924 passing yards and TD/INT ratio of 35/7 and was passed up for Mitch Trubisky among others. Ryan puts up Pro Bowl caliber stats nearly every season and is an iron man who has missed just three games in his 12-year career. The key for Ryan — as with a lot of players in this category — will be whether or not the Falcons win enough games in 2021. Quarterbacks and offensive lineman especially are chained to the performance of their teams and can be anchored down if their roster doesn’t win enough, even if it’s not their fault (see: Ryan in 2018). Ryan will likely put up over 4,500 passing yards and around 30 passing touchdowns next season. If the Falcons get to the playoffs those numbers will get him in. Austin Hooper Hooper is a free agent this season but is very likely to return as a Falcon one way or another. He made his first career Pro Bowl appearance this season, and has improved every year of his career — his receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns have all steadily increased year over year. Hooper is a pass catching threat and plays one of shallowest positions in football. Both of those things bode well for his chances of making it back to the game in 2021. His rapport with Matt Ryan will only help his growth. Jake Matthews Matthews made it to his first career Pro Bowl in the 2018 season, and an argument can be made that he got snubbed this season. Out of players who played at least 50% of snaps in the 2019 season, Matthews ranked fifth among all left tackles in PFF score, and sixth in pass blocking grade. Matthews’ overall grade was actually higher in 2019 than it was in 2018, but two really bad games to start the season may have shaped a narrative that the Texas A&M alum couldn’t shake in the process of a 7-9 team record. Matthews is Atlanta’s franchise left tackle and more Pro Bowl appearances are in his future. If the team wins 9 or 10 games this upcoming season, then Matthews will likely be a lock to make it back to the game in 2021. Deion Jones Jones was a Pro Bowl selection in his sophomore 2017 season. He missed most of 2018, and took a small step back in 2019. The definition of the modern day linebacker, Jones has all of the tools needed to recreate his dominant 2017 campaign and to find himself in Orlando in 2021. Alex Mack Mack had been selected as a Pro Bowler in four straight seasons, and five times in six years, before missing out on the honor this year. He still has the talent and veteran savvy to make it back to the game for a potential final time in his career in 2021; but going into his age 34 season, Mack is undoubtedly on the decline. Desmond Trufant Trufant made it to the game in the 2015 season, and was in the process of potentially making an argument for a second career appearance before lingering injuries shut him down for the year after just nine games played. What works in Trufant’s favor is his newfound ballhawking ability. In those nine games he procured a career high four interceptions. If a cornerback can generate enough pics on a playoff team he’ll almost automatically get in. Potential First-Timers Definition: Players on the Falcons roster who have never been Pro Bowl selections in the past, and who are good enough to make their first appearance next season. Calvin Ridley Ridley is one of the most talented young wide receivers in the game, and he would have made the decision makers think long and hard about inserting him as a Pro Bowl alternate this year had he not missed the last quarter of the season due to injury. Ridley was on pace to go for 1,065 receiving yards and about eight or nine receiving touchdowns in his second season had he not missed that time (his final totals were 866 yards and seven TDs). Ridley has a nose for the end zone, catching 17 receiving TDs in 29 career games as a rookie and a sophomore. His role within the Falcons offense will only grow with each passing year. Damontae Kazee I’m actually still not sure how Kazee didn’t make it to the game in the 2018 season after leading the league in interceptions, but that may have been a case of him getting hurt by his youth and the fact that he’s not a brand named defender. Kazee showcases special abilities at the free safety position, and his only chance of making it to Orlando next year is if Dan Quinn and Raheem Morris let him start in that position all season. With true ballhawking ability, Kazee will be a Pro Bowler if he secures enough interceptions and if the Falcons make it to the playoffs (see: Thomas DeCoud in 2012). Chris Lindstrom Selected in the 2019 draft as the most polished guard prospect, Lindstrom missed all but five games of his rookie season due to a foot injury. He helped provide some stability to the interior part of the offensive line down the stretch, and is expected to take a big step going into his second season — as most young lineman often do. Lindstrom’s Pro Bowl credentials will almost certainly be determined by the Falcons’ record in 2020 — if the team makes the playoffs he’ll have a good chance of making the game; if they finish below .500 again it would be shocking if he was a Pro Bowler. Such is the life of an offensive lineman who doesn’t already have fame and notoriety. Kaleb McGary McGary falls in the same exact boat as Lindstrom — a rookie lineman who is expected to take a big step going into year two, especially coming off of a campaign where he missed almost the entire preseason. McGary struggled after being thrown into the flames at right tackle, much like how Jake Matthews struggled at LT in his rookie year. I would give Lindstrom a higher chance of being a Pro Bowler next year because of his polish, but McGary certainly has the raw talent to make it to the game eventually. If the Falcons win enough, he’ll get a look no matter what (Andrus Peat has been a disaster for the Saints in back to back season and made the Pro Bowl both times because his team won enough). Takk McKinley Going into year four already, McKinley is running out of time to put it all together. There is hope that if the Falcons add some reinforcements along the defensive line that Takk will be able to have an easier time of getting to the quarterback. For McKinley to make it to the Pro Bowl, he will have to register at least 10 sacks, and the team will have to be good. He was 22nd among all edge rushers with 10 QB hits in just 298 pass rush snaps played this year, which shows that he’s getting to the QB. However, with only 4.0 sacks to his name, he’s getting there late. Maybe this is the year where things finally click. Wildcards Definition: Players who wouldn’t stick out as potential Pro Bowlers, but who could put it all together and find themselves in Orlando. Kenjon Barner Barner was actually a reserve selection at kick returner, and would have been in Orlando had the Saints made it to the Super Bowl (I’m sure we’re all glad he’s not in Orlando). He had a career high 35 punt return opportunities for a career high 267 return yards and his first career return touchdown this past season. Barner is a free agent, but the Falcons will likely be interested in bringing him back as the team’s punt returner. He’ll definitely have his shot at the Pro Bowl next year. Keanu Neal Neal was a former Pro Bowl selection, but after suffering back to back devastating season ending leg injuries, it felt more appropriate to make him a Wildcard. Nobody knows what we’ll get when Neal returns, but if he can get back to being the player we saw in 2016 and 2017 he’ll be more than capable of making it back to the Pro Bowl. What a story that would be.

  • Falcoholinks: All the Falcons news you need for Monday, Jan. 27
    by Carter Breazeale on January 27, 2020 at 11:00 am

    Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images Links: They’re for Mondays. We’re a little under a week until Super Bowl LIV in Miami, which means free agency and the 2020 NFL Draft are right around the corner. The Senior Bowl took place last weekend, so we’ve got notes on prospects and more Falcons news and notes in today’s edition of Falcoholinks. Draft history and 2020 The Atlanta Falcons will be selecting 16th overall in the 2020 NFL Draft, and as in recent years past, the team’s largest needs are in the trenches. So if past is prologue, what can we glean from Thomas Dimitroff’s previous first round picks as general manager of the Falcons? And while we’re waxing nostalgic about past drafts, what would a redo of the 2019 NFL Draft look like for the Falcons? Scouting the Senior Bowl Some of the 2020 NFL Draft’s top prospects participated in the Senior Bowl on Saturday, and the Falcons were of course in attendance getting an eye on some potential draft additions. They conducted a formal interview with South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, who might be available when Atlanta selects at 16. The Falcons are reportedly looking for “game wreckers” in the draft, and Kinlaw certainly fits that bill — but who were some other names at the Senior Bowl that could be on their radar? Post 2019 roster review: Defensive tackles Grady Jarrett is an all-world defender along Atlanta’s defensive front, but how does the talent around him stack up, and what’s the outlook heading into 2020? Younghoe Koo to return Younghoe Koo stabilizing an extremely shaky kicking situation in Atlanta, and as such, he will reportedly be tendered an offer to return in 2020. Competition must be brought into camp of course, but bringing Koo back is a definite no-brainer.

  • 2020 NFL Pro Bowl Recap: AFC defeats NFC 38-33
    by Evan Birchfield on January 26, 2020 at 11:51 pm

    Two Falcons’ players took part in this year’s game The 2020 NFL Pro Bowl took place today in Orlando, Florida. Although the game has quickly lost its’ importance over the years, by way of the selection process and the questionable effort that takes place, it’s still an accolade that sticks with players for the rest of their careers. Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett were originally voted in, although Jones decided not to participate this year. Tight end Austin Hooper was selected as an alternate and was added to the NFC roster later after San Francisco 49ers’ tight end George Kittle dropped out due to his team making Super Bowl LIV. The game itself had a different tone, especially if you watched on television via ESPN. News broke just before the game that NBA legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and several others were killed in a helicopter crash just outside Los Angeles. Players were constantly asked throughout the game what their thoughts and stories on Bryant were, and the commentators Joe Tessitore and Booger McFarland could barely hold back their emotions during multiple segments of the game. Fans at the Pro Bowl broke out in "Kobe" chants when he was honored during a timeout.— ESPN (@espn) January 26, 2020 The game was still played, with Falcons’ stars Grady Jarrett and Austin Hooper participating. Jarrett had a pretty quiet day in the defensive line rotations. He finished with 1 tackle. Hooper finished his 2nd straight Pro Bowl with one reception for 3 yards, which came from Seattle Seahawks’ quarterback Russell Wilson. What was interesting was the NFL used the Pro Bowl to try out multiple rule changes, which could affect the way onside kicks occur, if ever implemented. After scoring a touchdown and going for a 2-point conversion, the NFC was allowed to go for a 4th & 15 from their very own 25-yard line instead of attempting an onside kick. This experimental rule change would make it easier for teams who are in-need of an onside kick, which is typically only 10 percent successful, to instead let their offense try and keep the ball. If they fail, as the NFC did during the Pro Bowl, the opposing team starts wherever the unsuccessful attempt failed. It’s a pretty interesting rule, and figures to come when the Falcons have themselves an onside kick specialist in kicker Younghoe Koo. The AFC went on to win the game, 38-33. The Pro Bowl itself is being played annually just for fun at this point. The game has no real meaning, but only to attempt to honor the best of the best in the NFL today. What does matter is today we received another reminder of how unpredictable life is. Kobe Bryant is an NBA legend, and his accolades are a mile long. Kobe, his daughter Gianna, and several others who passed in the terrible accident were human beings, who are now gone far too soon. Some things are bigger than sports, and I hope that all of you reading this reflect on those that you care about and cherish the time you spend with them.

  • 2020 Pro Bowl key information and open thread
    by Dave Choate on January 26, 2020 at 5:00 pm

    Don Juan Moore/Getty Images Austin Hooper and Grady Jarrett are playing in this glorified, but typically enjoyable, exhibition. It’s Pro Bowl day, so soon after the Senior Bowl. While the latter is aimed at helping teams discover future stars, the former is aimed at recognizing them. This time out, the Falcons will have two players in the actual game. Julio Jones declined to play this time out, but Austin Hooper and Grady Jarrett will be in it, and both are mighty deserving choices. With any luck, we’ll get to see Hooper reel in a touchdown, as he did several times this year, and see Jarrett take down a quarterback, as he did with so efficiently in 2019. The rest is gravy, as these games are rarely more than entertaining exhibitions, but at the very least we can hope it’ll be a lively one. Go Falcons, as it’s the last we’ll see any of them in game action until August. Pro Bowl info Where: Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Florida When: Sunday, January 26, 3 p.m. EST TV: ESPN, ABC

  • 5 Senior Bowl prospects to watch for the Falcons
    by Dave Choate on January 26, 2020 at 1:00 pm

    Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images Players who fit what the Falcons like, and ones they’ve shown interest in. The Senior Bowl is over, but no doubt the Falcons will occupy themselves with the conversations and closer looks at prospects they got over the last week until the Combine, and perhaps beyond. For those who have missed all the talk about the Senior Bowl in recent days, the Falcons have drafted at least one Senior Bowler in each season Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff have worked together. Last year, they drafted two in the first round, which means you really do want to pay attention to any reports of the team’s interest following this game. Those reports will be relatively scarce, because Atlanta moves pretty quietly through these events. So let’s look at five Senior Bowl participants who might be on the team’s list of draftable prospects in April. This is not intended to be a comprehensive list and I welcome you to add your favorite players, but all five of these players fit a need and look like they’ll be of legitimate interest to the team. TE Adam Trautman Trautman was a man amongst boys at Dayton, putting up a gaudy 70 catch, 916 yard, 14 touchdown campaign in 2019. On top of that, he’s a pretty polished blocker already, one who seems enthusiastic about his craft. Dayton TE Adam Trautman has gotten a lot of buzz as a potential Patriots target this week. He just put a D-end on his first series in the Senior Bowl.— Zack Cox (@ZackCoxNESN) January 25, 2020 With ESPN’s Vaughn McClure writing that new tight ends coach Ben Steele had a long meeting with Trautman, with the uncertainty currently looming regarding Austin Hooper’s upcoming free agency, and the enduring long-term need for more talent at the position, Trautman is a player to watch. The blocking would get him on the field early and the upside as a receiver would make him interesting in an offense where he’d have a large role. The Falcons actually drafting him, though? That’ll probably depend on whether Hooper’s back or not, given that Trautman is probably going on the draft’s second day. DT Javon Kinlaw It would likely be simpler to list the teams that weren’t interested in Kinlaw, a South Carolina game wrecker (there it is) that figures to go around when the Falcons select, if not even earlier. Kinlaw pulled out of the actual game, but teams saw what they needed to see from him in practice and during his final season. The Falcons have struggled, again and again, to get elite pass rushers off the edge. I’m not saying they should give up that dream, but I do think that interior pressure is mighty effective, and pairing Kinlaw with Grady Jarrett would make it much easier for the rotation the team cobbles together at defensive end. I hope they at least seriously consider it, given that Kinlaw and Jarrett could be game wreckers (there it is again) for the next 4-5 seasons together. LB Logan Wilson The Falcons are almost certainly looking for a linebacker, even if De’Vondre Campbell comes back, and Wilson could fit the bill. The team reportedly met with him this past week, and the part of his game that gets the most love is his coverage, something that hasn’t always been Campbell’s (or Foye Oluokun’s, for that matter) strength. Wyoming LB Logan Wilson’s natural feel in pass coverage will make him a higher pick than some might realize He’s #good— Eric Edholm (@Eric_Edholm) January 23, 2020 He’s a good athlete with great instincts, and those four picks he managed in 2019 certainly look good for a defense still a little starved for playmakers. It also gives Dimitroff a chance to draft another guy from Wyoming, and you know he’s been waiting to do that. S Kyle Dugger As is the case with Trautman, there’s some easy and obvious dot connecting here, paired with some legitimate interest from the Falcons. Dugger’s drawn favorable comparisons to Keanu Neal, and like Neal, might be a riser in the draft. He’s a tremendous athlete with an extremely well-rounded game, and he blew the doors off Senior Bowl practices all week. That could very well put him in the early day conversations. The Falcons, unfortunately, have both an immediate need and a long-term need at safety. Keanu Neal is recovering from another serious injury and may not be 100% for a bit—if at all—and he, Ricardo Allen, and Damontae Kazee are all free agents in 2021. It’s noteworthy that The Athletic’s Jason Butt, a pretty plugged-in reporter when it comes to the Falcons, has written about Dugger more than once as a potential target for Atlanta. If he’s there in the second round—and if the Falcons can resist the temptation to move up—I would not be at all surprised to see him wind up in Atlanta. WR Jauan Jennings, Tennessee This one’s more speculative than the rest, but Jennings is unquestionably a player to keep an eye on for Atlanta. Thoams Dimitroff alluded to the team’s potential choice at receiver, where they need a #4 guy at worst and could go for game-changing speed or a big body with sure hands to replace Mohamed Sanu. If they’re aiming for the second role—and if they actually give Russell Gage a chance to go downfield, they should—Jennings is a strong choice. He’s a physical, capable player who is plenty fast enough to outrun defenders and plenty good enough to become a needed red zone threat for Atlanta. Jauan Jennings doing Jauan Jennings things and catching touchdowns in the Senior Bowl.Beautiful throw from Jalen Hurts.— Ben McKee (@benmckee14) January 25, 2020 Count on the Falcons drafting a receiver. Jennnings may go a little early for their tastes, but there’s little question he’d be a good pick. Who’s on your list?


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