FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today's Early Bird Report includes the value of Julio Jones as a mentor and Grady Jarrett's comments on his contract negotiations.
Julio Jones has been many things during his time with the Falcons: Sensational, productive, tough and uniquely uninterested in stats. Jones rarely talks about the many achievements he's had during his eight-plus seasons in the NFL, and he has been a good mentor to Falcons rookie Calvin Ridley this year.
Jones, who was named to his sixth Pro Bowl this week, has had another incredible season for Atlanta, but he isn't focused on that, which Matt Winkeljohn wrote about in a piece for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
"When I first came in, Roddy (White) had me. I took a little bit from (tight end) Tony Gonzalez," Jones said Thursday. "Just at the end of the day trying to be me, finding my way, just taking what they know, some veteran guys having a lot of success in the league and incorporating it into my own lifestyle, and the way I play and my views and things like that.
"My role on mentoring the younger guys is we need everybody. ... It doesn't matter their role, what year they are . . . and what they think of themselves. You've got to let them know we need everybody. It's not like, 'Oh, you're a rookie,' or 'You play offensive line or fullback' or something."
Here are some other articles for Falcons fans to check out today:
ESPN: Jarrett has put in work deserving of a new contract
Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett is having one of the best seasons of his NFL career, which has been largely good to this point. He's a player Atlanta would like to keep around long-term, but his rookie contract will be up after this season. ESPN's Vaughn McClure believes Jarrett, who was named the NFC's Defensive Player of the Week after his two-sack performance against the Cardinals, has played well enough to warrant a new deal.
"I mean, it's going to play itself out," Jarrett said of his contract talks. "But at the end of the day, I've got a job to do right now and an obligation to fill through my current situation. Anything that I've been going through has been by plan. Ain't been no frustration my way. But I know when the time comes, I know that I've put in work. And I'm not blind to that. And I'm not settling. That's all I have to say."
To read the rest of McClure's piece on why Jarrett should get a new contract, click here.
Week 16 power rankings
"Welcome back, Falcons. Everybody missed you. After five weeks of bad football (and losing) -- when Atlanta lost by fewer than 10 points just once -- Dan Quinn's team showed up to play Sunday. Tevin Coleman stands front and center in the Falcons' triumphant return to existence, rambling through the Cardinals' front seven for 145 yards on just 11 carries, with a 65-yard scamperto set up a field goal and a 43-yard touchdown run to put the game out of reach for Arizona. Honorable mention to Grady Jarrett, who was all over the place with seven tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble that set up a touchdown. Despite the poor overall campaign from Quinn's defense, Jarrett has resumed his high level of play. This is an interior lineman with six sacks, 47 tackles, 11 QB hits and three forced fumbles. Maybe not in the Aaron Donald stratosphere, but there are about, oh, 32 organizations that'll take those numbers from a DT."
"The early injuries on defense proved to be too much to overcome. But they will be fine next season."
"Biggest breakthrough: DB Damontae Kazee. He is tied for second in the league with six interceptions. Kazee did not have an interception in 156 snaps last season; he has played six times as many snaps this season after replacing the injured Ricardo Allen (Achilles) at free safety. Coach Dan Quinn said he sees Kazee's future at either safety or nickelback."
NFL.com: Strong possibility Falcons could fire both OC and DC
On NFL Network's "Up to the Minute Live" Tuesday, Tom Pelissero reported that Falcons coach Dan Quinn is expected to make significant changes to his coaching staff.
Those who have been paying attention in recent weeks know that Quinn is taking a long and hard look at every aspect of his team after the Falcons went through a five-game losing streak after climbing back to .500 at the midpoint of the season.
Still, Pelissero's report is the first major indication that serious changes could be coming this offseason.
"At this point...it sounds like a strong possibility that there will be significant changes to coach Dan Quinn's coaching staff," Pelissero said. "Now, owner Arthur Blank has already said publicly he does not think Quinn is the problem. My understanding is Dan Quinn, who got a contract extension through 2022 just last summer, absolutely is going to be back. But this is a possibility here that he could end up cleaning out both of his coordinators -- that's offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian and defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel. It would not be a surprise if they overhaul things on both sides of the ball."
To see what else Pelissero had to say, check out Kevin Patra's recap for NFL.com.
ESPN: Matt Ryan discusses playing into his 40s
NFL quarterbacks are winning the race against time and have begun to extend their careers into their 40s. Tom Brady is currently 41 years old while Drew Brees is in the conversation at 39 years old. Given the way the game has changed to better protect quarterbacks and the advancements in nutritional and medicinal sciences, it's possible this will become more of the standard. As for Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, he told ESPN's Vaughn McClure that he believes it's possible for him to keep going at that age.
"Yeah, I think so," Ryan told McClure. "I think, No. 1, I've got a long way to go until I get there. But if you can stay healthy, and you're still playing at a high level and all those things, I don't see why not."
To read the rest of McClure's piece on Ryan, click here.
ESPN: Alford says he's a top-10 CB with room to improve
Matt Ryan wasn't the only Falcons player who recently spoke with Vaughn McClure. Cornerback Robert Alford has had a tough year on the field, but he remains extremely confident about his abilities. Some of the difficulties he's faced could be linked to Atlanta losing its two starting safeties at the beginning of the year, but Alford feels strongly about his talent.
"I feel like I'm top 10 [cornerback] in this league," Alford told McClure. "Last year, I was doing my thing. Came into this year, I did my thing. At the end of the day, I just have to get back to my style of play and make those plays that the team needs me to make that I've been making in the past.
"I haven't made those plays this season, but we have [two] games left. All I have to do is show my worth and go out there and ball my tail off."
To read the rest of what Alford had to say, click here.