In Week 8, the Falcons ran more plays with three receivers than any other week so far this year. This was no coincidence. The inclusion of Justin Hardy, whom Atlanta activated for the first time of his career, gave Matt Ryan another valuable option—one capable of moving the chains. Thanks to his reliable hands and ability to maneuver around Tampa Bay's zone defense, the rookie from ECU came down with a pair of first down receptions and caught another pass negated by a chop block penalty.
Seven days later, fellow Rookie Club members Grady Jarrett, Vic Beasley, Jr., Robenson Therezie and Jalen Collins all chipped in on defense. Jarrett made the most of his 23 snaps by earning two stops near the line of scrimmage; Beasley registered a team-high five QB hurries and came down with a crucial fourth-quarter interception, one that made a strong impression on head coach Dan Quinn.
"I think any time you come through for the guys, when you make a play—whether it's a fumble, interception, sack, a big block, whatever it is—as you're trying to prove (your worth) to your teammates all the time, that was a good example," said Quinn.
When Atlanta departed Chicago following this year's NFL Draft, most analysts agreed the Falcons left with a tremendous haul. It's still too early to know if that's true, but the first-years have collectively impressed and grown steadily since training camp.
The aforementioned players, along with Tevin Coleman, Terron Ward and Akeem King, have shown they are able to contribute in Atlanta—not just to the current playoff push, but to many more down the road, as well.
"It's a great feeling, just knowing that we can help this team out the best we can," Beasley said. "Whatever (the coaches) have for us to do, we're willing to do it."