FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today's Early Bird Report includes where the Falcons should prioritize their attention at the NFL combine as well as potential rule changes the Competition Committee is discussing.
FALCONS HEADLINES FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY
ESPN: Falcons should focus on both lines at combine
Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Dan Quinn are at the combine to scout out which draft prospects could be the right for the team both on and off the field. Atlanta is among a handful of teams without several glaring needs, but it could seek to add talent and depth to the offensive and defensive lines in either free agency or the draft.
In his preview of the combine, ESPN's Vaughn McClure explained the line of scrimmage should be the Falcons' primary focus. That may not be the only area the Falcons seek to improve with the 26th pick in this year's draft, though, and McClure noted a few other ways they could go.
"The Falcons likely will prioritize the offensive and defensive lines because coach Dan Quinn always emphasizes winning the line of scrimmage battle first," McClure writes. "The debate might be whether to prioritize either a disruptive defensive tackle capable of stopping the run and rushing the passer or an athletic and strong offensive lineman capable of solidifying the guard position. Guards typically don't get selected in the first round, although the Falcons pick late at No. 26. They also could use a speedy deep threat to complement Julio Jones if Taylor Gabriel is no longer part of the plans. They need more depth at cornerback, strong safety and linebacker."
The three players McClure believes the Falcons should focus on at the combine are offensive guard Isaiah Wynn, defensive tackle Maurice Hurst and wide receiver D.J. Chark. While Chark could provide a deep threat option for the Falcons later on in the draft, Wynn and Hurst are expected to go in the first round. Which way the Falcons decide to go could depend on what they do in free agency, but Wynn is a mobile lineman who seems tailor-made for their zone-blocking scheme and Hurst is viewed as one of the best pass-rushing defensive tackles in the draft and could form a ferocious duo with Grady Jarrett.
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NFL.com: Competition Committee reviewing catch rule, other possible changes
Ahead of the NFL combine, the league's Competition Committee is currently reviewing film from this past season and discussion possible changes to several aspects of the rulebook. Among the topics the committee will seek to address is the much-maligned catch rule.
Commissioner Roger Goodell has asked that the rule be tweaked, and NFL.com's Judy Battista reports that the committee's "most likely recommendation, according to one person privy to their conversations, is to eliminate the 'going to the ground' element of the rule, which requires players maintain control of the ball all the way through when they hit the ground."
Any proposal to change the rule would be presented at the annual league meeting during the last week of March. The catch rule isn't the only subject being addressed, though. Per Battista, the committee is also discussing changing a pass interference from a spot foul to a 15-yard infraction as well as a targeting rule in which a player would be ejected from a game if it was ruled he was targeting an opponent's head, similar to the rule that has been implemented in college football.
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