FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today's Early Bird Report includes reactions from the Falcons' end-of-season press conference as well as Vic Beasley becoming a full-time defensive end.
FALCONS HEADLINES FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY
*Atlanta Journal-Constitution: *Position-by-position analysis of Falcons' offense
The Falcons' 2017 offense has long been a topic of discussion and although the team officially concluded the season with the end-of-year press conference on Thursday, the *AJC's *D. Orlando Ledbetter reviewed that side of the football in a position-by-position breakdown.
Ledbetter begins his review with the quarterback position, which he gave a C grade for 2017. Although Matt Ryan did not get much help from his receivers, who led the league in drops, Ledbetter notes that his play was below the MVP level he set in 2016. Interestingly, the grade for the quarterback position was the highest any unit received and matched the one Ledbetter gave the running backs for their performance.
"Freeman was slowed by two concussions and a knee injury," Ledbetter writes. "He missed three games and failed to reach a thousand yards rushing after two consecutive seasons of more than 1,000 yards. He also continued to struggle in blitz pickup.
"Coleman ran much stronger. He had 156 carries for 628 yards and five touchdowns. He also caught 27 passes for 299 yards and three touchdowns. Ward was a steady backup."
To see the rest of Ledbetter's analysis of the Falcons' 2017 offense, click here.
*Atlanta Journal-Constitution: *Beasley moving back to defensive end – permanently
Although the Falcons' sack totals improved to 39 in 2017 from 34 in 2016, Vic Beasley, the league's sack leader last year, had a big decrease in the number of times he took an opposing quarterback to the turf. Beasley recorded 15.5 sacks in 2016, his second season in the NFL, but managed just five sacks in 2017.
Following his last press conference of the season, Falcons coach Dan Quinn told Ledbetter that Beasley would be moving back to defensive end permanently.
"I have re-assessed it," Quinn told Ledbetter. "He played six games at linebacker and two injured. I'm going to put him full-time, all-the-time back at pass rusher. I thought it was best for the team even though some of his production would go down.
"His best role is doing what he does. He won't go back to linebacker."
Quinn has always valued versatility, and Beasley was looked at as a player who could play a couple of different roles depending on packages. He seemed less effective dropping into coverage or spying opposing quarterbacks than flying into the backfield to wreak havoc, which appears to be the conclusion the Falcons arrived at as well.
Here are some more stories on the Falcons:
BIGGEST NEWS FROM AROUND THE NFL
NFL.com: Tom Brady does not practice on Thursday
As the Patriots prepare to play the Jaguars in the AFC championship game, concerns are beginning to mount about Tom Brady's injured hand. The future Hall of Fame quarterback missed Thursday's practice after jamming his throwing hand on Wednesday, according to Edward Lewis of NFL.com.
Despite his absence at practice, many insiders believe there is no real reason to worry about Brady missing such an important game.
"Everything that I have heard, and [NFL Network Insider] Ian Rapoport has heard, over the past 24 hours or so since this injury first came to light is that Brady is expected to play and should be able to work himself into health as we get closer to Sunday here," NFL Network's Mike Garafolo said on NFL Up to the Minute Live. "So maybe he practices tomorrow, maybe today was just cautionary. You did see him out there with the gloves, seemed to be gesturing toward his hand at least a little bit uncomfortable. Certainly, Brady loves to get as many practice snaps as possible to get that communication with his guys, but Tom Brady missing a day of practice is not going to throw everything off for the Patriots."
Here are some more articles from around the league:
- ESPN: Ranking the top 50 potential NFL free agents in 2018
- CBS Sports: 2018 NFL mock draft
- The Ringer: The education of the Vikings defense
MORE FROM ATLANTAFALCONS.COM