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Falcons minicamp preview: Five burning questions to be answered

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – The Falcons begin their mandatory minicamp Monday as the final part of their offseason workout program. One minicamp practice is open to the public on Wednesday with gates opening at 1:30 p.m. ET.

Once camp concludes, players will break for the summer. When they return to Flowery Branch in July, training camp begins.

Here are five questions to watch for at Minicamp Built by The Home Depot:

1. How does Ridley and the rest of the rookie class look?

All eyes have been on Atlanta’s first-round pick, Calvin Ridley. The former Alabama receiver has been getting a significant amount of reps in practice with Matt Ryan and the first team offense. Coach Dan Quinn has been on record saying that Ridley is “definitely further along than most” in terms of his comfort with the offensive scheme and his progression in the offense. How different does he look on the field from rookie minicamp to now? Quinn has also said he’s been extremely pleased with his rookie class this year. How are cornerback Isaiah Oliver, defensive tackle Deadrin Senat, wide receiver Russell Gage, running back Ito Smith and linebacker Foyesade Oluokun contributing on the field?

2. Have any wrinkles been added to the offense as Steve Sarkisian heads into Year 2?

You’ve heard Quinn say Atlanta’s offensive scheme isn’t undergoing any major changes. However, he did say new wrinkles would be added. So what exactly are those? Running back Tevin Coleman said he would be featured more. Quinn not only said Coleman would be more involved, but Devonta Freeman also. How are the rest of the offensive weapons like wide receiver Mohamed Sanu being used now with the addition of Ridley?

3. Is the defense better and how will they generate more turnovers?

In addition to the scoring offense and getting more explosive plays, Quinn said the other main area he wanted his team to improve in come 2018 is the turnover margin. Why? Because Quinn and the Falcons saw firsthand how causing more turnovers and winning the turnover margin can change the final outcome of a game. In 2017, the Falcons finished minus-2 in the turnover ratio, a number that doesn’t meet Quinn’s standards. Despite the lack of turnovers created, Atlanta’s defense finished as a top-10 unit in both scoring and total defense, making huge strides from 2016 when they finished as the 25th ranked team in total defense. With majority of their young core returning and another year of experience for defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel, how will this group continue to evolve?

4. How are Quinn’s list of six players he wants to elevate their game coming along?

At the NFL owners’ meetings in March, Quinn named six players he wants to see elevate their games in 2018. Those players are Austin Hooper, Ryan Schraeder, Vic Beasley Jr., Keanu Neal, Brian Poole and Duke Riley. How are they performing on the field?

5. How is QB1 looking under his new quarterbacks coach?

Matt Ryan is playing under his third quarterbacks coach in as many years. Greg Knapp joined the Falcons staff this offseason and brings a wealth of experience with him. Knapp has served as the offensive coordinator for the Oakland Raiders (2012), San Francisco (2001-03) and the Falcons (2004-2006). He also has a wealth of knowledge working with quarterbacks as he’s also spent a large amount of his time in the role of quarterbacks coach with a number of teams, including the Denver Broncos during Peyton Manning’s time (2013-2016) and in Houston when current backup quarterback Matt Schaub was the starter for the Texans (2010-2011). Coach Quinn said back at the NFL combine that Knapp could be an “underrated asset” for the offensive staff to rely on. Does Ryan look more comfortable? How is he communicating with Knapp?

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