Early Bird Report: Falcons will rely on drones to clean stadium after games

The top Falcons headlines from around the country 

With limited fans returning to Mercedes-Benz Stadium beginning on Oct. 11 for the Falcons' Week 5 matchup with the Carolina Panthers, team officials have determined a solution for disinfecting the venue in the safest possible way. In light of the coronavirus pandemic, the Falcons will turn to drone technology to clean the stadium following games, according to an ESPN report by Vaughn McClure and David Newton.

"Mercedes-Benz Stadium partnered with Charlotte-based Lucid Drone Technologies for D1 disinfecting drones to sanitize areas," McClure writes. "The drones use electrostatic spraying nozzles for even distribution of medical-grade disinfecting chemicals that include an inhibitor that prevents bacteria and virus from adhering to surfaces without leaving a residue. The nontoxic hypochlorous acid solution is in compliance with Environmental Protection Agency standards, according to the company."

The Falcons have been working with top healthcare officials throughout the pandemic to ensure the safety of its fans, players and associates. With fans set to return to the stadium, the organization is once again on the front lines of health and safety and appear to be the first professional sports team to implement drone technology to clean their stadium.

Kendall Sheffield back to help save secondary

Second-year cornerback Kendall Sheffield was on the practice field for the first time this season on Thursday after a foot injury forced him to miss the first three games. He was expected to have a big presence this year for Atlanta after showing improvement throughout his rookie season. For a secondary that is now without Darqueze Dennard, who was placed on injured reserve, and first-round pick A.J. Terrell, who is on the reserve/COVID-19 list, the return of Sheffield is needed. D. Orlando Ledbetter wrote in greater detail about Sheffield's return for the Falcons for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

"With Sheff, I think everybody knows it's the speed," Dan Quinn said. "He's got extreme ability in speed on the outside. He can stay on top of routes. The matchups allow you to put him in a number of different spaces. He's got experience both at nickel and at corner, so we're looking forward to him getting back into practice today fully and then we'll have a better sense of where he's at leading up into the game. He's excited – we are too – to get him back into the mix."

Ranking the NFL's winless teams

Atlanta is still searching for its first win of the 2020 season, hoping that it will come this weekend against the Green Bay Packers. Through three weeks there are seven teams that remain winless. In a piece for NFL.com legendary scout and senior analyst Gil Brandt ranked the teams that don't have a win, and he places the Falcons fourth among that group.

"The Falcons 'beat' astronomical odds to get to 0-3, becoming the first team in NFL history to blow two fourth-quarter leads of 15-plus points in consecutive games," Brandt writes. "Atlanta's epic collapses against the Cowboys and Bears in Weeks 2 and 3 continued a pattern of being unable to seal the deal under head coach Dan Quinn, most famously represented by the 28-3 implosion in Super Bowl LI. I'm pulling for Quinn to instill a killer instinct in this club before it's too late -- but it'll be tough to turn things around unless an injury-riddled defense finds some answers."

10 highest-graded cornerbacks entering Week 4

The Falcons' receivers, particularly Calvin Ridley, have gotten off to a fast start to the 2020 season. Ridley has caught 21 passes for 349 yards – second in the NFL – and four touchdowns, which are tied for the most in the league through three weeks. Despite missing Atlanta's third game, Julio Jones has caught 11 passes for 181 yards. Russell Gage, who left the game against the Bears due to injury, has 17 catches for 186 yards and a touchdown.

Atlanta's next opponent, the Green Bay Packers, boast the league's highest-scoring offense through three weeks. The Packers average 40 points per game and have one of the game's most dynamic quarterbacks leading the way.

The Packers have several other top-tier players on their roster, though, including cornerback Jaire Alexander. Now in his third year, Alexander is playing like one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. He's allowed just 10 completions on 16 targets for 91 yards and a touchdown. When opposing quarterbacks target Alexander, they have a 72.7 passer rating. According to Pro Football Focus, Alexander is the second best cornerback in the league heading into Week 4.

"Mike Pettine has had the Green Bay Packers' coverage unit operate in a far more diverse scheme than it did in 2019," PFF's Anthony Treash writes. "They are one of five teams so far this year to not run at least 25% of their coverage snaps out of one specific coverage concept. Whether playing press-man or in a zone concept, Alexander has excelled in coverage for the Packers to the tune of top-10 coverage grades in both man and zone coverage. That combines to form an 88.6 coverage grade on the year."

When the Falcons face off against the Packers on Monday night, they won't just play one of the best offenses in the league. Their receivers, arguably the best unit on the roster when at full health, will match up with one of the best young corners in football. It will be a true contest of strengths.

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