FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today's Early Bird Report includes a nice recognition for three Falcons defenders as well as reports that Jameis Winston faces a three-game suspension.
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NFL.com: NFL's top five defensive triplets
It isn't enough just to have a star on each side of the ball in today's NFL. Successful teams often have a number of impact players on a given unit who can make plays at any point in a game. NFL.com's Bucky Brooks recently ranked the league's top five defensive triplets – a trio of players anywhere on the defensive side of the ball – and the Falcons' group of Vic Beasley, Deion Jones and Keanu Neal claimed the fifth spot.
"The Dirty Birds have a young-and-hungry unit with swift defenders at every level," writes Brooks. "Beasley is an explosive sack specialist with an outstanding combination of first-step quickness, snap-count anticipation and finesse moves off the edge. The fourth-year pro led the NFL in sacks in 2016 (15.5) and flashed disruptive potential overwhelming offensive tackles with his speed and quickness. Although opponents seemingly caught up to his fastball in 2017 (Beasley recorded just five sacks, but he did miss time with a hamstring injury), the 25-year-old remains a threat to take over the game at any point.
"Jones is a disruptive playmaker with the speed, athleticism and burst to track down runners and receivers between the numbers. No. 45 is a new-school linebacker capable of impacting the game on blitzes or in coverage -- a critical component for a championship-caliber defense in 2018. Neal is the Falcons' heavy hitter roaming between the hashes. He punishes receivers venturing over the middle, while also dropping into the box to be a stout run stopper. Neal's aggressive style and menacing ways complete a defense that's ready to emerge as one of the league's top units."
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ESPN: Sources: Bucs' Jameis Winston faces suspension for first three games
The Buccaneers could be without their starting quarterback for the first three games of the 2018 season, according to an ESPN report. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Friday that the league is planning to suspend Winston following an alleged incident with an Uber driver in Arizona in 2016.
According to Schefter, Winston is expected to be notified in the next week or so about the NFL's decision, which would put the Bucs in a tough position to start the upcoming season. If Winston is indeed suspended, Ryan Fitzpatrick would presumably start the year at quarterback.
A three-game suspension wouldn't have any impact on the Falcons, as they aren't set to face the Buccaneers until Week 6.
Here are some more articles from around the league:
- NFL.com: Schein's final 'top 100' ranking
- CBS Sports: Can Bucs deal with Winston's absence?