FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today's Early Bird Report includes the five players who might have the biggest impact on the Falcons' playoff hopes and some rave reviews for Cardinals rookie quarterback Josh Rosen.
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ESPN: On star-laden offense, Julio Jones determines Falcons' success
The Falcons have among the most talented roster in the NFL, and with a commitment to developing their young players, that talent level may continue to increase. Still, every player in the NFL is talented and succeeding can come down to a select number of impact guys who are around the ball often enough to make a noticeable difference in the outcome of a game.
ESPN's Vaughn McClure recently named the five players who he believes will most help the Falcons contend for the postseason in 2018, and none of the names on the list should come as a surprise. They are: Julio Jones, Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman, Deion Jones and Vic Beasley.
Jones, Ryan and Freeman form a core trio for the Falcons' offense, but they are certainly not alone. Players like Tevin Coleman, Mohamed Sanu, Austin Hooper and first-round draft pick Calvin Ridley are all expected to play big roles for the Falcons this season.
Defensively, the story is similar. Jones is undoubtedly one of the most athletic and rangy linebackers in the league, and he perfectly fits the "fast and physical" mantra head coach Dan Quinn has put into place.
"A dominant defense typically has a strong leader," McClure writes. "Jones, a Pro Bowler last season, has found his voice and made a tremendous impact in just 31 career games. Jones' 4.4-second speed in the 40 and athleticism allow him to dominate in coverage, and he's put more emphasis on being a sure tackler to compensate for being a bit undersized. Jones is the prototypical linebacker in today's up-tempo game, the kind of player offensive coordinators plan against and defensive coordinators covet."
Beasley is only one year removed from an NFL-leading 15.5-sack season, and the team is hoping a full-time shift back to defensive end will help him reach similar totals again. But with players like Keanu Neal, Grady Jarrett, Desmond Trufant, Robert Alford, Ricardo Allen and Takkarist McKinley, the Falcons defense is certainly not a two-man show.
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NFL.com: Patrick Peterson: Josh Rosen's IQ, pocket presence 'off the charts'
Josh Rosen has drawn rave reviews from his teammates and coaches in his short time as an Arizona Cardinal, and that continued Monday when Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Peterson joined "The Rich Eisen Show."
"Honestly since he's been with us, he's been the total opposite of what you hear from the media or you hear from outside people," Peterson told Eisen. "The way he's able to grasp the offense and get guys in line right now, I've been very, very impressed with that. As far as his throwing motion and his quarterback IQ and his pocket presence and all that stuff, it's off the charts. I've never seen a rookie come on a team and do some of the things he's doing."
Rosen was viewed by some a potential problem coming out of the draft, as he was seen as someone who challenged his coaches a bit too often. Thus far, that doesn't seem to be the case at all.
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