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Dan Quinn gives high praise of Falcons' rookie class as offseason concludes

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Falcons head coach Dan Quinn is excited about what he's seen from his rookie class thus far.

So much so that he's mentioned it in almost every press conference he's had since OTAs began.

The rookie draft class consists of the following players: Calvin Ridley, Isaiah Oliver, Deadrin Senat, Ito Smith, Russell Gage and Foyesade Oluokun – all of whom have spent the past six weeks in entrenched in learning the playbook and getting adjusted to the life of an NFL player.

As minicamp wrapped up on Thursday, Quinn shared his final thoughts on the offseason and the rookie class in particular.

"I told you yesterday, I like the rookie class," Quinn said. "I think in seven or eight months from now we'll look back and say, 'Alright coach, who were the ones who had the impact?' Some of the men that are standing here are going to have a significant impact on our team. Which ones those are going to be? That's yet to be determined, but it's a good group – one that there's a number of them [who] are really worth developing."

All eyes have been on Ridley since the Falcons selected him with the No. 26 overall pick back in April.

And although it's still early, he looks like he's going to be a key contributor for the Falcons in the upcoming season. Not only does Ridley bring speed to the Falcons' offense, he can play a number of different roles. They've moved him around from outside to inside in the slot and even gave him so reps at returner.

He's a versatile weapon for Atlanta's offense who not only has impressed his coaches with his work ethic and athletic ability, his football savviness has helped him progress faster than most, according to Quinn.

"Comfort-wise, I think he came in a little bit ahead of the curve," Quinn said of Ridley. "Not only did Alabama use some of the pro-style concepts we feature, some of the terminology had even been the same. So you can imagine how excited he was to see the playbook and see some of the language he's been studying for three years. That was helpful. I'm encouraged, I really am. The speed, the athleticism all of the things we saw on tape came to life. I knew he was a good competitor; I probably didn't know how strong of a football IQ he has. You can tell he's really equipped in that way. He's able to handle concepts, formations, shifts, adjust on the run. I'm looking forward to see all the things he can do."

Oliver is another rookie who has also impressed as well. Free safety Ricardo Allen said Oliver "can run with anyone" and that was on display throughout the OTAs. According to Oliver, the speed of play has been the biggest adjustment.

"The biggest thing is the speed they have … it's really to another level," Oliver said. "The speed of the players and the way they finish on the ball – it's a culture here so that was a big thing to adjust from college to here in Atlanta."

Oliver said he's primarily spent most of his time on the outside but expects to be moved around some in training camp.

During positional work at the start of every practice, Senat was paired with defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, his mentor.

"There are 33 guys who are rookies in this class," Quinn said. "All of them have a mentor that is helping them along. Not all of them are at the same position, but for Jarrett specifically, he's taking Senat along with him and coaching him on some things that have jammed him up in the past.

"I'm really impressed with the younger guys," Freeman said. "They're catching on. They're learning. They're respectful, humble and working hard. It's on us to show them how to work."

Gage is expected to be an impact special teams player for the Falcons and special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong likes what he has seen so far.

Oluokon was the only rookie unable to complete minicamp with his teammates as suffered a toe injury in the first practice and didn't participate the rest of the week.

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