FLOWERY BRANCH – Today's Early Bird Report includes the surprise Falcons player fans should be watching this season as well as a redrafting of the 2008 NFL Draft.
When he entered the Falcons' first preseason game at the start of the third quarter, rookie quarterback Kurt Benkert infused a bit of life into Atlanta's offense. In his first three passes of the contest, Benkert had surpassed the total yardage the Falcons gained in the first half.
Falcons head coach Dan Quinn said Monday that he keeps "seeing the arrow going up" for Benkert. As for Benkert, himself, he shared his analysis of the game with Matt Winkeljohn of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
"I made some plays and missed some plays, but I think it's a good starting point and I have a lot to learn from," Benkert told Winkeljohn. "It's just cleaning up what I see, trusting pre-snap that all my reads are there . . . going through them and not rushing and tucking and getting yards with my feet."
Benkert is currently battling Garrett Grayson for the Falcons' third quarterback job; he finished his first preseason game 9-of-17 for 125 yards with an interception while Grayson went 3-of-10 for 30 yards.
Here are some other articles for Falcons fans to check out today:
ESPN: Power Rankings: 32 surprise players to watch this preseason
As a way to spice up its power rankings, ESPN infused them with a prediction from each team's beat writer on who the surprise player is to watch on that team in 2018. The Falcons were ninth in the power rankings, and Vaughn McClure named rookie linebacker Foye Oluokun as the surprise player to watch.
"The rookie seventh-round pick from Yale already has drawn plenty of praise from coach Dan Quinn and special-teams coordinator Keith Armstrong," McClure writes. "Oluokun showed up in the first exhibition game with some sure tackling. He might have a chance to earn a serious look as the third linebacker alongside Deion Jones and De'Vondre Campbell, especially if Duke Riley slips up."
To read the rest of the power rankings, click here.
NFL.com: Week 1 grades for one player on each NFC team
The Falcons, as a whole, didn't put together a great performance in their preseason loss to the Jets, but there were a few individuals who stood out. NFL.com's Bucky Brooks went through the first week of the preseason and handed out grades to one player on each NFC team, giving Falcons safety Damontae Kazee a B+.
"The second-year pro has successfully transitioned to safety in the Falcons' defensive backfield," Brooks writes. "He entered the league as a corner who was viewed as one of the best ball hawks in college football. Since then, Kazee has become a tackling machine with the instincts and range to make plays from numbers to numbers. Although he is likely destined to be the Falcons' third safety, Kazee's strong play -- he finished with 11 tackles against the Jets -- could earn him serious playing time in the team's sub packages during the regular season."
To see who else Brooks graded, click here.
The Ringer: Redrafting the 2008 NFL Draft
The 2008 NFL Draft will always be a memorable one for the Falcons. By selecting Matt Ryan with the No. 3 overall pick, the Falcons ushered in their greatest decade in franchise history during a team that has been defined by superb quarterback play. Now 10 years removed from that draft, The Ringer's Danny Kelly took a look back and used the benefit of hindsight to hold a redraft.
Ryan went No. 1 overall to the Miami Dolphins in a decision Kelly called a "no-brainer." With their quarterback off the board, the Falcons end up selecting tackle Ryan Clady at No. 3.
"With Ryan off the board, the Falcons instead shore up their left tackle spot a little early (the first time around, they chose tackle Sam Baker with their second first-rounder)," Kelly writes. "Clady's career was cut short by injury (he played eight seasons) but he was a top-echelon tackle in his prime, going to four Pro Bowls while being named All-Pro three times."