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T.J. Yates on Kirk Cousins and Michael Penix Jr.'s similarities, quarterback room heading into 2024 season

From their style play on the field to their demeanor off the field, Kirk Cousins and Michael Penix Jr. share symmetry. 

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — There's symmetry in the Atlanta Falcons current quarterback room.

Quarterback coach T.J. Yates said during media availability last week that veteran quarterback Kirk Cousins and rookie Michael Penix Jr. have more in common than one might think.

"People might view them as different players on the outside, but for our offense and how we want to do things here," Yates said, "they both extend plays from inside the pocket with their vision, with their anticipation, the field and the ability to make those subtle movements in the pocket and still deliver the ball downfield while keeping your eyes up."

While their quarterback styles mirrors each other on the field, so does their leadership qualities off the field. Both have the mindset of taking the extra steps necessary to learn and develop.

That quality was evident to Yates as soon as Cousins signed with Falcons in March.

One of the first things the two did together was gather tape on all the wide receivers. The goal in doing so was simple: When the Falcons reached this point in the offseason training programs, Cousins would be so acquainted with each pass catcher that he knows exactly where to throw the ball with precision unique to each receiver. Along with Cousins' demeanor, the quarterback's accuracy stuck out to Yates most.

"He is the definition of a professional," Yates said. "Everything he does, how he carries himself, everything has a purpose."


It's the same for Penix.

The Falcons knew what they were getting in the rookie as a passer after watching his Washington type, and in the scouting process they were high on his character, but his professionalism came to life the moment he got to the Falcons' facility this spring.

For example, during rookie minicamp earlier this month, long after practice ended, long after most coaches and staff had left the facility for the night, Penix was still on the field running walkthroughs with other rookies.

"He's a hard worker," Yates said. "He's a guy who's coming in eager to learn. He's humble, he's gracious. Everything about him is exactly what we expected the guy to be."

That's something Penix can continue to learn from Cousins as he steps into his first NFL season.

Yates credits former Falcons player and coach Matt Schaub for mentoring him when Yates was drafted to the Houston Texans. He understands that dynamic with a veteran quarterback is invaluable for a rookie signal caller. When it comes to that dynamic of learning from a veteran quarterback, though, head coach Raheem Morris said the onus to do so is on the younger of the two. In this case, that's Penix.

"Kirk is trying to win a Super Bowl," Morris said. "Kirk is in full-blown preparation mode to set the Atlanta Falcons up for the best success that they can possibly have. And I think you get no better person to sit behind than a Kirk Cousins type of guy. ... I think (Penix) will learn a lot from watching him move and move in silence with his guys."

However, that learning process is not limited to Penix. Yates said the quarterback room is continuously learning from each other through the leadership of Yates but along with former quarterbacks coach, now offensive coordinator, Zac Robinson.

It's something of value the Falcons didn't have last season. They did not have a coach on staff with the official title of quarterbacks coach. Yates served as the Falcons' wide receivers coach. Now, there's voices and experience levels of all kinds around Cousins, Penix and journeyman Taylor Heinicke.

"Sometimes a lot of cooks in the kitchen (can) create something new and get some new ideas in there," Yates said. "It's working out well for us."

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