FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta continues its preparation for Sunday's matchup with the Miami Dolphins and their top-10 defense. It remains to be seen who will be available for that game, but the Falcons look to be in better shape injury-wise than they were prior to their week off.
Today's Early Bird Report goes over the Falcons' standing in some of the major power rankings as well as a positive review of the offensive line's performance so far.
FALCONS HEADLINES FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY
After their early bye week, the Falcons largely stood pat in the power rankings. There is still plenty of optimism about Atlanta's chances this season, but injuries have become a concern amongst the national media. As coach Dan Quinn explained Monday, however, the team appears to be a good bit healthier at this point than it was entering the bye week. For our own Wildly Important NFL Power Rankings, click here.
"Getting back to good health was the main objective for this 3-1 outfit in the bye week. That's the position all organizations want to be in during the bye week: sitting pretty in the standings, with time off to heal some bumps and bruises. The injuries at wide receiver certainly cost Atlanta down the stretch against the Bills. While some made a stink about Matt Ryan's protection (or his holding the ball too long), how do you unload when your receivers have negative-six inches of separation -- which is to say, none? Right."
"They come off their bye needing to get the offense playing like it did last season. Injuries could be an issue at receiver."
"The Falcons have a strong chance of making the playoffs as is, but they need to take advantage of a struggling Dolphins team at home this week. Why? Because after that, they play four of the next five on the road, with trips to New England, Carolina and Seattle."
"They got a chance to let Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu heal a bit during the bye week, and at the same time, it was key for Matt Ryan to get out of his slump."
Pro Football Focus: Ranking all 32 NFL offensive lines by average grade
The fine people at Pro Football Focus has made it their job to help quantify everything that plays out on Sundays during the NFL season by assigning grades up to 100 based on player performances. Now through five weeks of the 2017 season, PFF released their ranking of all 32 offensive lines.
Despite missing starting right tackle Ryan Schraeder for nearly three full games, and breaking in a new starting right guard, the Falcons' offensive line is graded as the sixth-best in the league by PFF with an average lineman grade of 71.5.
Here is what Pro Football Focus had to say about the Falcons:
"The Falcons offense remained one that relies heavily on outside zone runs – and play actions off of it – even with the departure of former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. They have run 54 such plays, tied for the sixth-most in the league. They average the ninth-most yards before contact on these runs with 1.98 yards, which is largely due to center Alex Mack. The former Cleveland Brown is having his best season to date, which says a lot after the type of season he had in 2016. He ranks first among centers with an overall grade of 93.9, and he has surrendered just one pressure all season to lead his position with a pass blocking grade of 85.4."
NEWS ON THE FALCONS' OPPONENT: Miami Dolphins
The Palm Beach Post: Dave DeGuglielmo rejoins Miami Dolphins' coaching staff
One day after Chris Foerster resigned from his job as Dolphins offensive line coach, *The Palm Beach Post's *Hal Habib reported that former offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo would return to the Miami coaching staff. Habib writes that DeGuglielmo is not expected to resume his previous role as offensive line coach, but he will assist in coaching the line.
BIGGEST NEWS FROM AROUND THE NFC SOUTH
NFL.com: Saints trade RB Adrian Peterson to Cardinals
One of the biggest stories from Tuesday was New Orleans' decision to trade veteran running back Adrian Peterson to the Arizona Cardinals. The NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported that the Cardinals are sending the Saints a conditional 2018 sixth-round pick in the deal. New Orleans signed Peterson over the offseason in a move that left many wondering how he would fit in with the offense. The former Minnesota Viking had just 27 carries for 81 yards in his four games with the Saints.
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