Early Bird Report: Falcons spoke to Bills, Dolphins about joint practices

Falcons coach Dan Quinn spoke with the media on Tuesday, and among the topics discussed was the possibility of joint practices with both the Buffalo Bills and the Miami Dolphins. For now, things remain up in the air regarding when teams will be able to begin working together on the field, and the Falcons are not going to make any final decisions before hearing guidelines for return from the NFL.

"As far as the timing regarding doing some scrimmaging on some other teams, the two teams that we spoke to way back in the offseason were Miami and Buffalo," Quinn explained. "If those guidelines are in place that we are able to, we will. Obviously, if they're not, we won't. That's where we're at on those."


Under Quinn, the Falcons have not held joint practices with other teams, preferring to compete internally against themselves and touting an "iron sharpens iron" mentality. Earlier in the offseason, however, Quinn said he would be open to adjusting that approach and hinted that joint practices could be part of that altered approach.

"We want to pressure test more as often as we can," Quinn said. "If that includes a team they haven't done before as part of training camp, I'm willing to look at all things."

Vaughn McClure wrote a bit more about the Falcons' considering joint practices with the Bills and Dolphins, which you can read here.

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

The Ringer: The best remaining free agents

With the NFL Draft now in the rearview, most teams are focused on the group they have in place and preparing them for the upcoming season. There are, however, a number of high-profile free agents still left on the market, including players like Cam Newton, Everson Griffin and Jason Peters. In his piece for The Ringer, Danny Kelly listed one free agent – defensive end Michael Bennett – as a potential fit with the Falcons.

"The Falcons' edge rushing unit remains paper-thin even after signing Dante Fowler in free agency, and head coach Dan Quinn is familiar with Bennett from their time together in Seattle in 2013 and 2014," Kelly writes.

To see the rest of Kelly's list of top remaining NFL free agents, click here.

ESPN: Alex Mack focused on season

Falcons center Alex Mack is going into the final year of his contract, and he's solely focused on that final year. In an interview with ESPN's Vaughn McClure, Mack explained where his mindset is heading into the 2020 season.

"Going into Year 12, I feel pretty good and excited for it, ready to take it on,'' Mack told McClure. "I'll play the year out, see how I feel -- how my body works and how much I'm enjoying it -- then make the decision at the end of year if I want to keep going or what. The future is unknown, and that's the way I'm looking at it. Every year is one year at a time: keep going, prepare, and play, and do everything as best as I can. Then I'll see where I'm at.''

A six-time Pro Bowler, including three Pro Bowls with the Falcons, Mack has been among the very best offensive linemen during his 11 NFL seasons. He was recently named to the NFL's All-Decade Team as a testament to his sustained high level of play.

The Falcons drafted former Temple center Matt Hennessy in the third round of this year's NFL Draft, and he has many similar qualities to Mack. Atlanta will give Hennessy the chance to play left guard in his first NFL season, but he could be the future at the center position for the Falcons. Despite Hennessy's presence, however, Mack remains focused on helping the Falcons make it back to the playoffs in 2020.

To read the rest of McClure's piece on the Falcons' talented veteran center, click here.

NFL.com: One player to root for on every team

Every NFL team has players with a great story worth investing in. Fan-favorites earn that status for a reason, and NFL.com writer Adam Rank took a moment to highlight one player from all 32 teams worth rooting for during the 2020 season. His selection for the Atlanta Falcons is a newcomer but someone every Falcons fan will certainly be rooting for during the upcoming season – running back Todd Gurley.

"I've been a big Todd Gurley guy since his days at Georgia," Rank writes. "I never understood why he wasn't given more of a chance in the Rams' Super Bowl loss to the Patriots 15 months ago (10 carries for 35 yards). And even though Gurley got 200-plus carries for the Rams last year, it just felt strange. It was like a couple that you knew was going to break up but they kept telling everyone they were fine. Like Hopkins with the Cardinals, I hope Gurley goes out and crushes it for the Falcons this season."

To see the other player on Rank's list, click here.

NY Daily News: Falcons ruin Jets-Broncos trade

Former Temple center Matt Hennessy, who the Falcons selected in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft, is a player the team is very high on. He has the athleticism needed to play in Atlanta's offensive scheme and the versatility to compete for the open left guard spot next to Alex Mack.

As it turns out, the Falcons weren't the only team who rated Hennessy highly. According to a report by Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, the Falcons' selection of Hennessy ruined a trade between the New York Jets and the Denver Broncos. The Jets, who held the No. 79 pick in the draft, had agreed to trade their third-round pick to the Broncos and move back to Denver's pick at No. 83.

The Broncos were targeting Hennessy with the 79th-overall pick, but Atlanta grabbed him one pick earlier, squashing any plans Denver had to grab the former Temple center. Thus, the Broncos stood pat and selected former LSU center Lloyd Cushenberry at No. 83 while the Jets grabbed former Florida defensive end Jabari Zuniga at 79.

To read the rest of Mehta's report, click here.

CBS Sports: Ranking 2020 strength of schedules

CBS Sports writer Jared Dubin put out a ranking of the strength of schedules for each team in 2020. He explains that the ranking isn't based on last season's win totals, but rather the win total over-unders for the 2020 season assigned to each team by bookmakers at William Hill. Based on those projections, the Falcons have the toughest slate of opponents for the upcoming NFL season.

"At the other end of the spectrum, the Falcons play in the NFL's toughest division (the NFC South has a projected combined winning percentage of 0.547) and play against the best AFC division (the AFC West has a projected combined winning percentage of 0.531); and unlike the Panthers, who get to play against Washington and Arizona by virtue of having finished in fourth place last season, the Falcons have to play the Cowboys and Seahawks after coming in second a year ago," Dubin writes.

To see all of Dubin's ranking, click here.

NFL.com: Ranking NFL's top 10 QB-WR duos

Falcons fans don't need a reminder that Matt Ryan and Julio Jones are exceptional, but NFL Media senior analyst Gil Brandt provided one anyway. The legendary former NFL scout ranked his top quarterback-receivers duos and the Falcons' pair was right there near the top of the list at No. 2.

"Don't overlook this pair coming off the Falcons' disappointing 2019," Brandt writes. "Atlanta is poised to become the first team in the common draft era to start 10 former first-round picks on offense, thanks to the acquisitions of running back Todd Gurley and tight end Hayden Hurst. Between their addition and the continued emergency of No. 2 receiver Calvin Ridley, Ryan and Jones should continue to perform at an all-world level as their prolific partnership -- Ryan is the only player in the NFL to top 4,000 passing yards in each of the nine seasons since Jones was drafted, and no one has more than Jones' 12,125 receiving yards in that span -- stretches into a 10th season."

Atlanta comes in at No. 2 behind the New Orleans pair of Drew Brees and Michael Thomas, but a strong argument could be made that the two should be flipped. Although Brees and Thomas are among the game's very best, Ryan and Jones have been at it for a while longer.

To see the rest of Brandt's ranking, click here.

ESPN: Falcons build defense to slow NFC South offenses

The Falcons went to great lengths to sure up their defense in this year's draft in hopes of better containing the offenses in the NFC South. With the additions of Tom Brady in Tampa Bay and Teddy Bridgewater in Carolina, and the always-dangerous Saints, the Falcons understand they need to field a unit capable of slowing those teams down.

By adding starting-caliber talent like A.J. Terrell and Marlon Davidson, as well as solid depth pieces like Mykal Walker and Jaylinn Hawkins, the Falcons should be better equipped to do that. Dante Fowler, who the Falcons signed in free agency, will also be tasked with adding some extra juice to the team's pass rush.

"Those are both very good players," One NFL defensive coordinator told ESPN's Vaughn McClure of Terrell and Davidson. "I wasn't hoping the Falcons would take those two guys, to be honest with you."

McClure wrote more about the Falcons' efforts to improve their defense, which you can read here.

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2020 Falcons Schedule

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