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Three Falcons who improved their stock this offseason

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Dan Quinn challenged his team to have the best offseason yet and his players apparently heard him loud and clear. Atlanta's head coach said he was pleased with what he sawfrom his group this offseason following the team's final mandatory minicamp practice session last Thursday.

Here are three players who stood out and improved their stock heading into training camp:

1. Grady Jarrett

Grady Jarrett is trying to prove that his dominant performance in Super Bowl LI was no fluke.

Jarrett recorded three sacks in the game, and since then, the defensive tackle has shown he's motivated in a new way.

"That was definitely a highlight of my career as far as the way I played," Jarrett said of his Super Bowl performance. "I feel like the effort I gave on that day was because I wanted that win so badly. It just makes me want even more for this team and this city."

Quinn noticed the work Jarrett has put in this offseason, tabbing him as player who has "totally jumped out" to the coaching staff the past two months.

Not only does Jarrett feel like he's hitting his stride individually, he's also entering his third season with perhaps his best supporting cast yet.

The Falcons return the NFL's 2016 sack leader, Vic Bealsey, Ra'Shede Hageman, a healthy Derrick Shelby and Adrian Clayborn. They also added Pro Bowl defensive tackle Dontari Poe and defensive lineman Jack Crawford to the unit and drafted pass rusher Takkarist McKinley in the first round this April.

In his first two seasons, Jarrett has tallied four sacks and 72 tackles.


2. Justin Hardy

Since his arrival in Atlanta in 2015, receiver Justin Hardy has embraced every role the Falcons have created for him.

Hardy began his career as a core special teams player for the Falcons in his rookie season, and it showed exactly the type of competitor he is. Since then, he's continued to grow as a player and was a key contributor to the Falcons' offensive success in 2016 -- the receiver caught 21 passes for 203 yards and four touchdowns.

The Falcons scored 63 regular-season touchdowns in 2016, 23 of them coming from their receiver group. Of those 23 touchdowns, 13 of those came from players other than Mohamed Sanu, Atlanta's No. 1 and 2 receivers. And with the attention that Jones, Sanu and even Taylor Gabriel are likely to get this year, Hardy could be a real factor for Atlanta's offense in the upcoming season.


3. Damontae Kazee

Versatility is a trait the Falcons covet.

That's why Atlanta was an ideal landing spot for rookie defensive back, Damontae Kazee. Kazee played his career at San Diego State primarily at cornerback where he recorded 17 interceptions, a school record.

When he first arrived in Atlanta, the Falcons featured Kazee at free safety.

During mandatory minicamp, they moved him to nickel – and Quinn liked what he saw.

"Kazee has done a good job," Quinn said. "We've played him at nickel. We trained him at free safety some and he played corner in college. We are looking for the versatility in him. He's a very competitive guy, the more we throw at him, he's ready for that challenge."

The way the Falcons utilized Brian Poole last year and the success he was able to have showed that in Atlanta's defense, the more one can do, the better.

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