FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Takk McKinley is back practicing after missing Sunday's game and says he's ready to help elevate Atlanta's pass rush.
"It's pretty obvious … We need to get more heat on the quarterback," McKinley said. "Regardless who is out there, who's down, we have to step up. It's early in the season so we have time to make adjustments, but we have to improve as soon as possible."
The Falcons rank 30th in the league in sacks with five. Cornerback Brian Poole has two, Takk McKinley has two and Vic Beasley recorded his first sack of 2018 against the Saints.
But it doesn't all come down to getting sacks, though. It's about continuously affecting the quarterback and getting him off his spot.
Affecting the quarterback is something Falcons coach Dan Quinn needs his team do more of because of the style in which they play. The Falcons play three-deep system and getting pressure on the quarterback is a big part of it.
"When you play zone defense, if you're not going to get the quarterback to move, it's going to get harder," Quinn said. "So sometimes it's not seen in a sack statistic, but you've heard me say this before, there are games where we have multiple hits on the quarterback, and you don't get a lot of sacks. But that was a good game. And there are games where you don't have a lot of hits and you had maybe three or four sacks. You still in your heart or in your gut, you didn't think you rushed well enough. So usually for us, it's the amount of times we can hit the quarterback, make a move that makes us most effective."
Defensive lineman Jack Crawford agreed with McKinley and says the group can improve in this area.
"I feel like we had a good training camp and then along the first few games we just haven't achieved what we hoped, too. We're just going to spend more time focusing on us. At the end of the day, we're a close-knit group. As a defensive line we have to take the extra step to make sure we do our job in effecting the quarterback and giving the second level a chance."
Creating turnovers is also an emphasis in Quinn's defense and the more chances his defense affects opponents' quarterbacks, there's a greater chance of creating a turnover.
And having McKinley back in the lineup, if he's able to play, will certainly help.
"It helps a lot, he's a big part of our group," Crawford said. "I think everyone would agree he brings good energy."