INDIANAPOLIS – Dan Quinn is looking for more "edginess" on defense this year and there's one player he's got his eye on to help set the tone: defensive end Takk McKinley.
McKinley, Atlanta's first-round draft pick in 2017, had an up-and-down season in 2018. After starting the year with 4.5 sacks in the Falcons' first five games, McKinley went through a four-game stretch without any sacks. He finished the season with seven sacks.
"I think like a lot of players, he hit a rut," Falcons coach Dan Quinn said of McKinley. "You [have] to get yourself through it and get out of it. When you get into those spaces, what do you lean back on?"
When the Falcons drafted McKinley, the passion and energy he played was displayed instantly.
Whether it was his celebrations after sacks or when he or one of his teammates made a big play, the Falcons' defense feeds off McKinley's energy.
Following a season where the defensive performance was not up to the standard Quinn expects, the lack of a pass-rush proved to be an issue the Falcons struggled to overcome. Atlanta finished the year with 37 sacks, which was 16th in the league.
In order for the McKinley to have the year the Falcons are expecting of him in his third season, Quinn said it will come down to "consistency in his preparation and practice to get to the game and really feel right."
Although McKinley can help lead by example in terms of the "edginess" Quinn is looking for simply by his physical style of play, he'll need help from his teammates to make sure the style the Falcons want to play with is visible in every aspect of the defense.
It all starts up front and creating pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
And that starts with McKinley and Vic Beasely, another player Quinn is expecting to have a big year as he is going into his final season of his contract with the Falcons.
All eyes will be on McKinley and Beasley as the Falcons' defense looks to re-capture their identity on defense.
"[I want] real edginess from those two guys," Quinn said. "The relentlessness that it takes to play, both guys are really aware of what they want to do. I think sometimes that's when you're at your best when you got stuff to prove and both of them do. I love the speed they both have, not it' a matter of putting the whole thing together. If you can really be consistent, that determines how good you can be. We're looking for that."