FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today's Early Bird Report includes the shared history between Lamar Jackson and Calvin Ridley.
The Falcons will face one of the most intriguing rookies in the league on Sunday when they face Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens. Of course, Atlanta has a pretty exciting offensive rookie of its own in Calvin Ridley. Turns out the two have a pretty strong history with one another.
As ESPN's Vaughn McClure writes, Ridley and Jackson grew up playing alongside of each other down in Florida, and that connection has carried on as the two rookies continue to make plays on Sundays.
"Just seeing him when we were younger, it was always hard to guard him because he's got moves, he's got speed," Jackson told McClure. "His acceleration, you can't catch him. I haven't seen anyone catch him from behind, like running him down. His explosiveness that he brings to the game is ridiculous. One man can't lock him down. I've never heard of it; not with Calvin."
Jackson has started the last two games for the Ravens, throwing for 328 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. He's also run the ball 65 times for 329 yards and two touchdowns this season. Meanwhile, Ridley has caught 47 passes for 625 yards and eight touchdowns.
To read the rest of McClure's piece on the history between Jackson and Ridley, click here.
Here are some other articles for Falcons fans to check out today:
AJC: Senat's inactive status was 'unexpected'
Deadrin Senat missed the first game of his NFL career on Thursday when the Falcons made him inactive prior to taking on the New Orleans Saints. When asked about the decision, Senat said it was unexpected but that he respected the coaches' decision.
"I mean, it was unexpected," Senat said, according to the AJC's D. Orlando Ledbetter. "I wanted to play. I don't think I missed a college game in my career without being injured or hurt or being kicked out of a game. So, it was different.
"[Coach Quinn] came to me and told me the same thing. He wanted pass rushers in the game and I said 'Yes sir' and that was it."
To read the rest of Ledbetter's report, click here.
AJC: Five things Falcons must focus on down the stretch
At 4-7, the Falcons have the slimmest of chances to reach the postseason. With the playoffs a long shot at this point, what should Atlanta focus on in its final games of the season?
D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a list of five things to pre-occupy the Falcons down the stretch. First on his list: getting the run game going.
"After rushing for 154 yards in a win over Washington on Nov. 11, the Falcons have been held to 178 rushing yards in the three losses to Cleveland, Dallas and New Orleans," Ledbetter writes.
The run game was a topic of conversation during Dan Quinn's conference call the day after the Falcons' loss to the Saints.
"So it was well below the line," Quinn said. "Obviously, when you have a run game performance like we did, there's a lot to look at and a lot that needs our attention and our work because that was considerably below the line."
To read the rest of Ledbetter's areas for the Falcons to focus, click here.
ESPN: Falcons need to start looking ahead to next season
While Ledbetter provides five things for the Falcons to lean into over the last five games, ESPN's Vaughn McClure believes it's time to look past 2018, altogether.
"The final five games of 2018, beginning with next week's home contest with the Baltimore Ravens, should be used as an evaluation for coaches and players alike," McClure writes. "Despite the 4-7 record, Quinn doesn't appear to be on the hot seat with a three-year extension in hand through 2022. But like Ryan said about the players, Quinn will have to look at himself in the mirror, too, to see where he can coach better …
"In other words, there are a lot of problems the Falcons need to fix. Not being in the playoff field will give them a jump on resolving those issues."
To check out the rest of McClure's piece, click here.
ESPN: Falcons owner Arthur Blank supports Dan Quinn
Although this season has not lived up to the Falcons' lofty expectations coming into the fall, owner Arthur Blank firmly believes the system is in place for future success. Per McClure, Blank expressed his belief in Quinn following the team's loss on Thanksgiving.
"Absolutely. We love our coach," Blank told ESPN. "Our coach is not the problem."
Blank told ESPN that he believes the six starters lost for much of the season due to injuries was a reason for the lack of success on the field but not an excuse. To read the rest of he had to say, click here.