FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today's Early Bird Report includes expectations from the Falcons' defensive players on what they're capable of as well as punishment for the Baltimore Ravens.
FALCONS HEADLINES FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY
ESPN: Why the Falcons expect to be top-5 defense in 2018
The Falcons' defense may be one of the most promising units in the NFL. With young, promising starters at every level of the defense surrounded by experience veterans in the prime of their careers, the Falcons have an advantageous blend of talent, knowledge and upside.
Atlanta ended a nearly two-decade long drought last season when the Falcons finished with a top 10 defensive unit in both scoring and total defense for the first time since 1998. After the promising end to last season, the Falcons have their sights set on accomplishing even more.
"We're well capable of being a top-5 defense," linebacker told ESPN's Vaughn McClure. "I think last year was just a glimpse of how good we can really be. I think we kind of started to put it all together toward the end of the season, and we've got something to build on now. We're all getting very comfortable with each other, day in and day out. This time of the year, this is when we really become close and get communication and all that stuff down pat. So, I think we definitely can be a top-5 defense. That's on us to make it happen."
With players like Campbell, Deion Jones, Keanu Neal and Grady Jarrett among the players who have now developed a strong level of comfort with and understanding of the Falcons' defensive scheme, they have begun to demonstrate their ability as leaders both on and off the field.
"I just feel their intent," Falcons head coach Dan Quinn said after Tuesday's OTAs. "I knew it right when we came back; I could see their intent to go for it. I saw it with Vic [Beasley]; I saw it with Grady; I certainly saw it with De'Vondre, [Deion Jones] and Keanu, amongst others. Their ability to now lead I think is getting pretty powerful. We've had this spring different presentations they present to the group, now that they know some of the issues.
"I'm very encouraged by that group and the way that they can grow together – their toughness, their attitude for competing, how close they are. Yeah, it's really cool to see."
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BIGGEST NEWS FROM AROUND THE NFL
NFL.com: Ravens lose two OTA sessions after rules violation
The Baltimore Ravens are being disciplined by the NFL for the second time in three years for violating the league's offseason workout rules set by the collective bargaining agreement, according to NFL.com's Chris Wesseling.
For their violation, the Ravens will forfeit their final two organized team activities and NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported that owner Steve Bisciotti and head coach John Harbaugh have been fined $100,000 and $50,000, respectively.
In a team statement, Harbaugh commented on the infraction, saying the team was "singled out for pass coverage contact during the early portion of OTAs."
"We have heavily emphasized these CBA pass coverage rules in meetings, and coached them diligently on the practice field," Harbaugh also explained in the statement. "It has also been our priority to include our veteran players, along with new Ravens who have practiced and played for other teams, in the process and use their input and ideas. Even with consistent and repeated teaching, these rules pose considerable adjustments for the young players."
"We have tried very hard to eliminate contact in pass coverage during OTAs, even so far as to pull players out of practice who struggle with these adjustments. I am confident we have done everything within our power and ability to practice within the rules, and we will continue to focus on preparing, teaching and practicing the right way."
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