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Six Falcons minicamp takeaways: Here’s why Dan Quinn is so impressed

Posted Jun 13, 2017

The Falcons' first day of minicamp is in the books and here are six takeaways

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Falcons kicked off the first of a three-day camp on Tuesday, and coach Dan Quinn did something different – and was really happy with the results. Here are the biggest takeaways from the first day of Minicamp Built by Home Depot:

1. Rookies challenged – and pass with flying colors

The Falcons’ first day of minicamp was different than years past -- the players ran the show.

Coach Dan Quinn wanted to test the knowledge of his players, so he asked the coaches to step to the side.

And they all passed the test – including the rookies.

“Man am I impressed by the rookie class and how far they’ve come in one month’s time,” Quinn said. “It’s a good time to assess where they are at in terms of their knowledge offensively, defensively and on teams. We threw a great first day, we’re encouraged by what we see, especially from this young group of guys.”

2. Where’s Takkarist McKinley?

Atlanta’s first-round draft pick, Takkarist McKinley, is the only player absent from mandatory minicamp this week. Per an NFL rule, McKinley is not able to join his teammates in Atlanta and partake in the Falcons’ offseason program until his academic year at UCLA is finished -- which happens to be this Thursday.

Despite McKinley being absent for the past month, Quinn doesn’t foresee it being an issue for McKinley because of the process the Falcons have in place.

The team implemented a similar process for tight end Austin Hooper last spring when he was facing the same restrictions with Stanford University, which is also on a quarter system.

“Of course you’d like to have them here,” Quinn said. “We knew that going in. It didn’t really slow down Austin Hooper much last year, he was a part of that program at Stanford. We are well equipped for that. We have a good plan in place of how to help get him ready, and we’ll execute that plan.”

3. Taylor Gabriel sidelined with leg injury

Taylor Gabriel was unable to participate in minicamp on Tuesday as he is dealing with a lower leg strain.

Quinn said that the team is being extra cautious with Gabriel in terms of his timetable to return.

“He’s close, he’s running,” Quinn said of Gabriel. “But we are just trying to be extra cautious. [With] speed guys, we trying to make sure he’s feeling full speed [and] really healthy before we let him go.”

Gabriel spent the majority of practice doing work on a side field with other injured Falcons, defensive end Adrian Clayborn (biceps) and Pro Bowl wide receiver Julio Jones (toe).

4. Pro Bowl center’s play rubbing off on defensive linemen

Much has been made of Atlanta’s revamped defensive line this offseason, headlined by the duo of Grady Jarrett and Dontari Poe.

And Quinn can sees those two players in particular benefiting from their practice matchups with Pro Bowl center Alex Mack and guard Andy Levitre.

“Grady brings the juice,” Quinn said. “Dontari has been an excellent addition so far so we can’t wait to see him, Mack, Levitre, the way they go after it at training camp. That’s the way we pay our respect to one another. It starts right at the front of this thing with Alex Mack putting his hand on the ball and he lines up across from Dontari and Grady and the other guys and [says] ‘alright, we are going to put in a day’s work today and we’re both going to benefit from it.’ I do admire that approach by both sides of the line of scrimmage.”

5. Dontari Poe makes weight

Tuesday was also weigh-in day for Poe.

It was widely reported that if Poe weighed in at less than 340 pounds, he would receive a bonus of $125,000.

Poe was asked if he made weight following practice, and defensive tackle cracked a smile and said, “I’m where I need to be.”

6. Matt Ryan discusses how much longer he'll play, giving up sweets

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan discussed how he plans to keep his body in shape and how long he thinks he wants to play for.

“I still feel really good,” Ryan said. “I still feel like I got a lot of football in front of me, and hopefully I can play for a long time. … You hope for one of those 15- or 20-year careers for sure – that’s what the hope is. With the one thing that I’ve found during my time in this league is that if you project too far out, it’s tough to do that because things change constantly.”

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