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Early Bird Report 1/5: Anonymous NFL players and coaches share thoughts on Falcons

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – The Falcons are making their final preparations for their opening game of the 2017 playoffs, a matchup against the Rams and their high-powered offense. Falcons coach Dan Quinn said the team has had a great week of practice, and it will take nothing short of their best to advance past the wild-card round.

Today's Early Bird Report includes some insights on the Falcons from anonymous players and coaches as well as Rams offensive coordinator Matt LaFluer's thoughts on the similarities between the Falcons and Rams.



SB Nation: Falcons' disrespectful blocking got them into the playoffs

Former NFL offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz has a running piece for SB Nation where he breaks down the Disrespectful Blocks of the Week. In his final edition before the playoffs, a Falcons offensive lineman made the cut. It may not be a player who comes immediately to mind, however, because he entered the game as the sixth lineman for Atlanta. Here is what Schwartz had to say about the Falcons’ portion of his video segment.

"Next, it's the Atlanta Falcons," Schwartz writes. "The Falcons beat the Panthers on Sunday to get themselves into the playoffs. If the Falcons can play to their ability, they can be unstoppable. Here is Ty Sambrailo entering the game as the sixth offensive lineman, and he just crushes this defender. He times up the hips and hands and blasts this guy. Then he comes back for more and finishes the block."

ESPN: NFL playoffs confidential

Ahead of the playoffs, several ESPN reporters headed out to gain some anonymous insights from players and coaches about the teams playing in the postseason. There are plenty of interesting bits of information in the piece, but we'll focus on what the anonymous sources had to say about the Falcons.

Here's what one person had to say about the difference between the Falcons' offense this year and last year:

"They're really trying to establish the run game with the wide zone. They have two very good running backs, powerful backs that can get downhill quick. I would say they're more predicated toward the run. Matt Ryan seemed to have a little more free range to get the passing going [last year]. Now with [Tevin] Coleman and [Devonta] Freeman, they're definitely trying to establish the run game a tad more than we've seen in years past."

When discussing how best to attack the Falcons' defense, this is what one source had to say:

"You have to get them off-balance. You've got to slow down those pass-rushers ... with screens, with draws, with an established running game and then hit them with the play-action. If not, you're working right into what they're game planning for. It's the same thing throughout the whole league. Pass-rushers are high-paid for a reason: to sack the quarterback. If you don't stop what they do best, you're just playing right into their trap."

Here are some more stories on the Falcons:


Associated Press: Rams OC LaFluer sees similarities in Falcons and Rams

After spending the past two seasons as the quarterbacks coach in Atlanta, Rams offensive coordinator Matt LaFluer believes there are a few similarities in his old team and his current one. According to an Associated Press report, the Rams' defensive staff have tried to gain some insights into their upcoming opponent's offense from LaFluer, but he says he doesn't have any magic answers.

"Sure, there are some things that they ask me about in terms of some of the scheme — I can't really get into those specific questions — that I'll share with them, but I kind of leave them alone," LaFleur said, per the report. "If they have a question, I'm here for them and I'll try to do the best I can, but it's not like I'm sitting there studying their tape.

"I feel both of us have two of the more elite groups in this league, so there's going to be a lot of explosive weaponry on the offensive side of the ball, that's for sure." 

Here is some other news on the Rams:


*The Charlotte Observer: *Will Devin Funchess be able to play against the Saints

Panthers wide receiver Devin Funchess has missed the past two days of practice due to a shoulder injury, according to Jourdan Rodrigue of *The Charlotte Observer. *With a big playoff game against the Saints upcoming for the Panthers, they will undoubtedly need their top receiver.

When asked about his injury, Funchess reportedly didn't seem concerned and said his absence at practice was just "precautionary." * *

*The Times-Picayune: *9 reasons the Saints can make the Super Bowl

After being absent for several years, the Saints are back in the playoffs and appear to have a legitimate shot at making a run to the Super Bowl. Unsurprisingly, Saints fans are very excited for the next several weeks, and *The Times-Picayune *is stoking that excitement by providing nine reasons the Saints can make the Super Bowl.

The first reason mentioned in the article is that the Saints play their first game at home in the Superdome, where they are 4-for-4 in the playoffs with Sean Payton and Drew Brees. Some of the other reasons are a bit obvious, like the team's running back duo of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara as well as Payton calling the shots and Brees manning the helm at quarterback.  

Here are some more articles from around the division:


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