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Why these three Falcons rookies could end up being difference-makers during training camp

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- There will be more than 20 rookies taking the fields in Flowery Branch come Thursday when the 2017 AT&T Atlanta Falcons Training Camp begins.

So which of those rookies should you be keeping a close eye on? Here are three who could end up being difference-makers.

Duke Riley, linebacker

Riley's speed is the biggest factor in him becoming an impact player for the Falcons. Look at how the Falcons featured linebackers Deion Jones and De'Vondre Campbell during their rookie seasons to see how much speed can benefit a player in Atlanta's defense.

And just in case you forgot, the former LSU Tiger ran the second-fastest 40-yard dash time (4.58 seconds) among linebackers at this year's NFL Combine.

Not only does Riley have the necessary physical abilities in place, his mental make-up could be what sets him apart. Since his arrival in Atlanta, Riley has often expressed his desire to fill any role the Falcons need from him.

And judging from his offseason workout chronicles, it appears he wasn't joking when he said he thinks he could challenge teammate Takk McKinley for the best motor in the class title.

Damontae Kazee, defensive back

One of the main reasons the Falcons were said to be attracted to Damontae Kazee was the versatility he brings to the defense. And since drafting the defensive back in April, he's been featured at a number of positions.

Kazee primarily played cornerback at San Diego State, but during the Falcons' offseason program, he saw time at free safety and nickel.

In addition to his versatility, Kazee's ball-hawking skills make him an intriguing player to watch. Atlanta's defense is predicated on their ability to create turnovers, and Kazee can do just that.

During his collegiate career, Kazee tallied 15 interceptions. His eight interceptions during the 2015 season tied for the second-most interceptions in the FBS.

Takkarist McKinley, Defensive end

Atlanta's first-round pick Takkarist McKinley underwent shoulder surgery this offseason and according to general manager Thomas Dimitroff, the pass rusher will be limited to start training camp. Dimitroff said he is hopeful that McKinley will be ready to go by the third or fourth preseason game.

McKinley plays with the speed, tenacity and energy head coach Dan Quinn likes out of his pass rushers. During his senior season at UCLA, McKinley recorded 10 sacks.

Upon his return to the practice fields, McKinley will get to work with the NFL's 2016 sack leader, Vic Beasley.

The Falcons report for the start of AT&T Training Camp Wednesday with the first practice which is open to the public commencing on Thursday. The team will hold nine practices open to the public, with the full schedule available to view here.

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