FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today’s Early Bird Report includes the important work offensive line coach Chris Morgan has ahead of him.
By selecting Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary with their first two picks in the NFL Draft, the Falcons have made a clear statement that they are investing in their offensive line and the protection of franchise quarterback Matt Ryan.
They have also given offensive line coach Chris Morgan two new and important pieces to work with. Morgan has been with the Falcons since 2015 and also serves as the team’s run game coordinator. Morgan was mic’d up during the team’s rookie minicamp practice this past weekend, providing a first glimpse of him working with Lindstrom and McGary.
D. Orlando Ledbetter wrote a bit more about Morgan working with the Falcons’ two first-round rookies, which you can read here.
Here are some other articles for Falcons fans to check out today:
The Ringer: The best player and team fits from the draft
With their first pick of this year’s NFL Draft – No. 14 overall – the Falcons believe they got a player who can really improve their team in Chris Lindstrom. Given recent reports that Lindstrom would have been taken by the Minnesota Vikings at No. 18, it’s hard to consider the pick a reach anymore.
The value discussion should be tabled at this point, anyway. If Lindstrom turns out to be a solid, reliable offensive lineman for the next decade it won’t matter when he was selected. And one thing is clear: He is a really solid fit for what the Falcons do offensively.
The Ringer’s resident draft expert Danny Kelly agrees, including Lindstrom in his recent piece about the best player-team fits from this year’s draft.
“I didn’t love the overall value the Falcons got with Lindstrom, as using the 14th overall pick on my 44th-ranked player felt a little bit rich,” Kelly writes. “But there’s no denying his near-perfect fit for the Falcons’ outside zone–heavy run game: Lindstrom is one of the premier athletes at the guard spot in this class—he tested out in the 96th percentile in SPARQ among NFL offensive linemen at the combine—and his quick feet and ability to keep his balance will be crucial for the types of blocks he’s asked to make in Atlanta. This wasn’t a super sexy pick, but Lindstrom brings toughness, reliability, versatility, and most importantly, elite athleticism to the team’s offensive line.”
To see the rest of Kelly’s best team fits from the draft, click here.
NFL.com: NFL’s top 10 offenses entering the season
For much of Matt Ryan’s tenure as the Falcons’ starting quarterback, Atlanta has been one of the top offensive teams in the league. Entering the 2019 season, that again appears to be the case.
Most of Atlanta’s key offensive pieces, including Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman and Jake Matthews are back in the fold for the upcoming season and that continuity should once again be worth trusting in. NFL.com’s Chris Wesseling trusts in the Falcons’ offense, and he named them the fourth-best offense in the NFL heading into the 2019 season.
He breaks down and assigns a grade to each position group on the Falcons’ offense, and Atlanta’s receiving corps leads the way, earning an A entering the fall.
“Ridley was an instant-impact player, recording 821 yards and 10 touchdowns on 64 receptions as a rookie,” Wesseling writes of the Falcons’ receivers. “If he takes another leap in his second season, Ryan might have the luxury of throwing to the NFC's most unstoppable receiving corps. Sanu has been a model of reliability since leaving Cincinnati, while Hooper emerged as a dangerous outlet receiver in his third season.”
To see the rest of the grades Wesseling assigned to the Falcons’ offense, as well as the rest of his top 10, click here.
ESPN: 2019 NFL power rankings
Draft season is complete, as is the bulk of free agency, so we’ve got our clearest picture of what NFL teams will look like heading into the 2019 season to date. Under that frame of thinking, ESPN has released an updated set of power rankings that includes projected wins for each team as well as playoff chances.
ESPN is using its Football Power Index ratings to determine these power rankings, which is a metric that combines predicted efficiency for each phase of the game as well as other analytics such as expected points added per play. It might sound confusing, but that’s fine. You’re really just here to see where they ranked the Falcons, aren’t you?
Well, ESPN ranks the Falcons ninth in their recent power rankings, and Atlanta is the fourth-highest NFC team on this list below the Saints, Rams and Bears. The Falcons are projected for 8.4 wins and have a 41.8 percent chance to make the postseason. Beat writer Vaughn McClure provided his thoughts on where the team improved the most this offseason.
“Offensive line. The Falcons really invested in the line both through the draft and via free agency,” McClure writes. “They drafted Chris Lindstrom No. 14 overall as a guard with toughness, then followed by trading back into the end of the first round to select tackle Kaleb McGary. The Falcons also signed a dependable veteran guard in James Carpenter along with guard Jamon Brown. Lindstrom and Carpenter should start at the guard spots, and McGary has the opportunity to start at right tackle if he outperforms Ty Sambrailo.”
To see the rest of ESPN’s power rankings, click here.
NFL.com: Projected 2019 All-Rookie NFL Team
For the first time since 2008, when Atlanta selected both Matt Ryan and Sam Baker in the first round, the Falcons made two first-round picks in the NFL Draft. By drafting Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary, the Falcons are hoping to sure up their offensive line for years to come.
NFL.com draft analyst Chad Reuter believes Lindstrom and McGary could make an early impact for Atlanta as well. In a recent piece in which Reuter projects his 2019 NFL All-Rookie Team, both Lindstrom and McGary were listed for the offense.
“McGary and Lindstrom will work together to solidify Atlanta's offensive line, much in the same way (Quenton) Nelson and second-round pick Braden Smith did for the Colts in 2018,” Reuter writes.
If that does indeed turn out to be the case for the Falcons’ two first-round rookies, Atlanta’s offense could once again become a dominant unit in the NFL. Despite averaging less than 100 yards per game on the ground in 2018, the Falcons still had a top-10 total and scoring offense. Even a small boost on the offensive line could make them even more dangerous.
To see the rest of Reuter’s projected All-Rookie team, click here.