FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today's Early Bird Report includes Alex Mack's inclusion on an exclusive list of the best players in the NFL as well as the passing of 49ers legend Dwight Clark.
FALCONS HEADLINES FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY
Pro Football Focus: The top 50 NFL players for 2018
Alex Mack isn't just one of the best centers in the NFL, he's one of the league's best football players, period. In his nine NFL seasons, Mack has started every game for which he's been healthy and he's been named to five Pro Bowls, including two while with the Falcons, and three All-Pro teams.
Entering his third season in Atlanta, Mack is undoubtedly an important piece to this Falcons offense but his play isn't just getting noticed from those who watch him on a weekly basis. In their series of the top 50 NFL players heading into the 2018, Pro Football Focus rated Mack as the 45th-best player in the league.
"Since signing with the Atlanta Falcons, Mack has played the best football of his career with overall PFF grades of 88.7 and 88.9 topping anything we saw him do in Cleveland," PFF's Sam Monson writes. "Mack has been instrumental in the Falcons' resurgence as a rushing force on the ground and his ability to execute all of the blocks consistently and reliably in their zone-blocking scheme is vital to their offense. Last season, he surrendered just two sacks and 16 total pressures in the middle of that line."
Mack's appearance on the list came ahead of notable players such as Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green and Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.
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BIGGEST NEWS FROM AROUND THE NFL
NFL.com: San Francisco 49ers great Dwight Clark dies at age 61
49ers legend Dwight Clark passed away at the age of 61 on Monday after being diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in March of 2017.
The two-time Super Bowl champion and All-Pro receiver is most remembered for his iconic game-winning touchdown – known simply as "The Catch" – in the 1981 NFC Championship Game, which propelled the 49ers to their first title in Super Bowl XVI.
"The San Francisco 49ers family has suffered a tremendous loss today with the passing of Dwight Clark," the team announced in a statement. "We extend our condolences and prayers to Dwight's wife, Kelly, his family, friends and fans, as we join together to mourn the death of one the most beloved figures in 49ers history.
"For almost four decades, he served as a charismatic ambassador for our team and the Bay Area. Dwight's personality and his sense of humor endeared him to everyone he came into contact with, even during his most trying times. The strength, perseverance and grace with which he battled ALS will long serve as an inspiration to so many. Dwight will always carry a special place in our hearts and his legacy will live on as we continue to battle this terrible disease."
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