Early Bird Report: Arthur Blank counting on Falcons' leaders to find answers

Thomas Dimitroff, general manager, Arthur Blank, owner & chairman
Thomas Dimitroff, general manager, Arthur Blank, owner & chairman

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today’s Early Bird Report includes a new home for Robert Alford and Arthur Blank’s trust in the Falcons’ co-team builders.

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The Falcons decided to release cornerback Robert Alford earlier this week, but the former second-round draft pick has already found a new home.

Alford signed a three-year contract with the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday, joining a secondary that includes All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson.

“He’s played at a high level for the last four or five years,” Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said Thursday on a radio show, per the team’s official site. “He’s long. He can play press coverage. He’s smart. He loves to play football. And he wants the challenge of playing opposite of Pat. And that’s a challenge, because Pat doesn’t get much work.”

Here are some other articles for Falcons fans to check out today:

AJC: Blank counting on co-team builders to lead a turnaround

Falcons owner Arthur Blank still has plenty of faith in the men he’s tasked to lead the football team, and he’s counting on general manager Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Dan Quinn to get things heading in the right direction in Atlanta. But Blank explained in an interview with D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that they aren’t linked together in terms of success or failure.

“They have that much respect for each other,” Blank said. “They are connected at the hip only in terms of their charge to make the team better and roster better and our team to perform better. But beyond that, they are not connected. They have different jobs and different responsibilities. They are not a twin by any means.”

To read the rest of Blank’s interview, click here.

ESPN: Matt Ryan: Winning a Super Bowl ‘motivates me to get out of bed’

Matt Ryan has come very close to winning a Super Bowl, and he’s motivated every day to achieving that goal. In a recent interview with ESPN’s Vaughn McClure, Ryan explained why he’s focused on winning a Super Bowl now more than ever.

"It's the No. 1 goal for me," Ryan said. "It's the ultimate and what motivates me to get out of bed every morning and to try and put in the work as hard as I can, to bring a championship to this city and to our organization. That's what it's all about."

Ryan explained to McClure that it really struck him for the first time during his rookie year that he could succeed in the NFL after the Falcons lost a close playoff game to the Arizona Cardinals, who went on to play in the Super Bowl. Ryan has come a long way since then, and he’s become one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL.

But it’s clear he won’t be satisfied until he achieves his main goal, earning that ring.

To read the rest of Ryan’s interview with McClure, click here.

CBS Sports: NFL mock draft

There will be plenty of mock drafts written between now and April, but that won’t stop us from keeping you up to date on the steady flow of predictions. Recently, CBS Sports’ Will Brinson published a mock draft, and he’s got the Falcons targeting the secondary with the No. 14 pick by selecting cornerback Greedy Williams out of LSU.

“The Falcons just cut Robert Alford and will need to try and reload at the cornerback position,” Brinson writes. “They've shown a willingness to work with SEC players as well.”

To read the rest of Brinson’s mock draft, click here.

Forbes: How the Falcons will approach the 2019 offseason

Super Bowl LIII is officially over, and the NFL offseason is upon us. The Falcons’ plan for this offseason has already been discussed a decent amount, and that talk will continue over the coming months.

In a piece for Forbes.com, writer Patricia Traina offered another primer for the Falcons’ offseason, sharing her thoughts on what the team’s approach could be, who they may target and how they may handle various contract situations.

“It will be interesting to see if the Falcons are willing to give [Grady] Jarrett a big-money deal given how this year’s draft class is widely regarded to be dripping with pass-rush talent, especially among defensive interior players,” Traina writes. “Jarrett’s production and experience are probably a combination the Falcons shouldn’t be contemplating giving up on despite the allure of potential riches in this year’s draft class.”

To read the rest of Traina’s primer on the Falcons’ offseason, click here.

AJC: The Super Bowl stunk, but Atlanta came up roses

While the 13-3 New England Patriots victory against the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII, the lowest-scoring Super Bowl in NFL history, wasn’t the final note Atlanta was looking for, the host city put forth a good showing throughout the week, as Mark Bradley of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes.

For a city known for its eternal traffic jams and unpredictable weather careens, Atlanta’s week of Super Bowl events went off rather smoothly. The game, itself, wasn’t the spectacle NFL fans have come to expect, but, as Bradley notes, Atlanta can feel proud of how it presented itself.

“Among non-blowout Super Bowls, this one rivaled the fifth installment — the one between the Colts and Cowboys in January 1971 pockmarked by 11 turnovers — as the least compelling. Even Patriots fans will find it tough to get the warm-and-fuzzies when recalling this one.

“In a way, though, that’s another victory for Atlanta. The best part of Super Bowl LIII had nothing to do with the game or the forgettable-by-design halftime show. The best part of SB LIII was its host city, which was, believe it or not, us.”

To read the rest of Bradley’s column, click here.

Pro Football Talk: McKay says expanding instant replay ‘very complicated’

According to a report by Pro Football Talk’s Michael David Smith, NFL Competition Committee Chairman and Falcons President and CEO Rich McKay recently told ESPN’s Chris Mortensen that the expansion of instant replay to include challenging penalties could be challenging.

“Anything is possible,” McKay told Mortensen. “We’ve always considered expanding reviewable plays under the replay system . . . but it’s a very complicated discussion.”

This particular topic of debate has flared back up in recent weeks after a no-call on what many believe was pass interference late in the NFC Championship Game played a major role in the Los Angeles Rams emerging with an overtime victory against the New Orleans Saints.

To read the rest of Smith’s report, click here.

AJC: Two Falcons among NFL’s top-selling stars

The NFL, like all sports leagues, is driven greatly by star power. The Falcons have had a few nationally recognized superstars in their history – Deion Sanders and Michael Vick come to mind – and they have two players on their current roster who ranked among the NFL’s top 50 players in merchandise sold.

According to the NFLPA Top 50 Player Sales List, which accounts for all officially licensed NFL player products and merchandised sold from March 1, 2018 to Nov. 30, 2018, Falcons receiver Julio Jones was 24th among all player sales and quarterback Matt Ryan was 50th among all player sales.

Ryan, the league’s MVP in 2016, remains one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL and is coming off another strong season, statistically. And Jones is very much at the forefront of the conversation for the No. 1 receiver in the NFL, consistently making difficult plays look routine.

To see the entire player sales list, click here.

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