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The Falcons signed…a fullback? Of course they did.

This is actually not a stunner for many reasons. Ricky Ortiz was one of the big surprises of the 2019 roster, given that he had a solid but unspectacular 2018 season and was lightly utilized. The Falcons have talked a lot about running more effectively (which, ominously, may mean one of the game’s best passing offenses running more often), and they had interest in Keith Smith as recently as last offseason. They didn’t end up getting him—he went to Oakland instead—but when he became available in final cuts Dan Quinn’s eyes must have lit up.
Ian Rapoport

@RapSheet
The #Falcons have signed former #Raiders fullback Keith Smith to a 1-year deal, source said. He was a surprise cut in Oakland over the weekend.

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Smith has three carries and 13 receptions in five NFL seasons, but it’s his blocking that has earned him accolades throughout his career, and it’s the reason he’s likely coming to Atlanta. He’s a powerful, fearless blocker who will be counted upon to pave the way for Devonta Freeman, with Luke Stocker and Jaeden Graham potentially spelling him in that role on obvious passing downs. I’m not a massive fan of using a roster spot on a pure fullback given the team’s other needs, but if they’re going to use one, it may as well be a blocker of Smith’s caliber.

This isn’t official from the team just yet and there’s no corresponding move, but it’s safe to assume that Ricky Ortiz will be looking to latch on elsewhere shortly. His athleticism should get him a role, and we’ll hope Smith fits in well here.

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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Fast and physical are two words that are heavily ingrained in the Falcons’ brand under Dan Quinn.

In all aspects of the game, Quinn expects his team to play with an identity that starts with physicality at the core.

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Atlanta’s 2018 season didn’t meet Quinn’s standard in that regard by any means.

Quinn believed the “compass” was off in all three phases of the game and in order to recapture the identity he envisions for his team, he parted ways with all three of his coordinators following the season. Dirk Koetter was hired to take the reins of the offense, Ben Kotwica will lead the special teams unit and Quinn will take over as defensive coordinator.

If you look at any defense Quinn has ever been in charge of, you can tell within moments the style he demands from his players. The words “run” and “hit” are plastered all over the walls of the Falcons’ team facility.
And Quinn expects those words to come to life every time his players step on the field.

“We’re going to capture that style,” Quinn said this offseason.

The Falcons finished in the bottom half of the league in almost every defensive category in 2018: Points allowed (25th), yards allowed (28th), pass yards allowed (27th), rushing yards allowed (25th) and sacks (22nd).

Quinn hopes by building a defense that embodies more of a physical style, those statistics will be better in 2019.

Personnel and scheme changes are how Quinn believes his defense will get back to playing the style he wants.

“More than anything the tweaks in the scheme along with the tweaks in the style to make sure we recapture that, I’m going to make sure the things are the most important stay at the front of our thinking and the physicality and the ball-hawking will certainly be some of those,” Quinn said.

One of the main areas Quinn believes the Falcons can be better in is creating turnovers. Atlanta generated 19 turnovers in 2018.

Keanu Neal is one of the Falcons’ best players in this area and Atlanta’s defense surely missed his presence when he suffered a torn ACL in Week 1. Quinn believes having Neal back on the field in addition to Damontae Kazee switching positions and the signings of Adrian Clayborn and Tyeler Davison will help recapture their identity.
“Keke brings a lot of that,” Quinn said of Neal. “He’s one of the ring leaders of our style. Putting Kazee by the line of scrimmage will do that, his fearlessness will be a part of that. Adding Adrian Clayborn and Tyeler and his toughness those are small tweaks that are going to pay good dividends.”

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With the No. 14 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, the Atlanta Falcons selected guard Chris Lindstrom from Boston College on Thursday night. With the addition Lindstrom, the Falcons have completely revamped their guard positions.

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WHY HE FITS

Chris Lindstrom Atlanta Falcons
Kaleb McGary Atlanta Falcons
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Falcons owner Arthur Blank, head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff have all stated the importance of continuing to bolster Atlanta’s offensive line. With the addition of Lindstrom, the Falcons have solidified both guard positions with starters and depth players. Lindstrom has the versatility and athleticism the Falcons want in their offensive linemen. He’s played guard and tackle, giving Atlanta options of where they could use him.

SCOUTING REPORT

Lindstrom is one of the most athletic offensive linemen in this year’s draft class. His biggest strengths are his lateral quickness and the motor he plays with. Lindstrom has starting experience at both guard and tackle, but his home will likely be at guard in the NFL. Lindstrom impressed many with his sub-5.0 second 40-yard dash time at the combine given his 6-foot-4, 308-pound frame.

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#BostonCollege OG Chris Lindstrom with some great recovery to win this 1-on-1 on Khalen Saunders

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DRAFT GRADES

Pete Prisco, CBSSports.com

Grade: B
Comment: “I like the pick. When Matt Ryan is not protected from the interior, he has real problems. They got a guy that’s going to be a fixture on the interior there for a long time. I think Lindstrom is a feisty guy. Good solid pick by the Falcons.”
Mike Tanier, Bleacher Report

Grade: C-
Comment: “Lindstrom is an athletic guard who excels on the move. He has the quickness to be an effective pass protector, and he competes past the whistle. He has some leverage and technique issues, including a tendency to lean too far forward, but they can be smoothed out. The Falcons are getting someone who will compete with newcomers Jamon Brown and James Carpenter to immediately start and replace last year’s revolving door at guard. That said, Lindstrom is far from the best player on the board, or even the best interior line prospect (hello, Cody Ford). This is a reach from a team with other needs, particularly on defense.”
NFL COMPARISON

Joel Bitonio: NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein compares Lindstrom to Joel Bitonio of the Cleveland Browns. Bitonio is 6-foot-4 and 305 pounds and has been a consistent starter at left guard for six years.

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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Bryant Young has resigned as the Atlanta Falcons defensive line coach, saying he wants to spend more time with his family.

The Falcons have rehired Jess Simpson, who was a defensive assistant with the team in 2017, to coach the defensive line. Simpson was defensive line coach at the University of Miami in 2018.

In a statement released by the team on Tuesday, Young also cited health concerns as a reason to leave the Falcons.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn says Simpson’s “knowledge of our scheme and familiarity with our players” will help his transition.

Simpson was the defensive line coach and assistant head coach at Georgia State in 2016 following 12 seasons as the coach at Buford (Georgia) High School.

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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – The Falcons announced Monday that they’re bringing back a familiar face and signing running back Brian Hill to their practice squad.

The Falcons selected Hill in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, but he was released by the team during their roster cuts at the end of the preseason and then subsequently signed to their practice squad. Midway through the season, the Cincinnati Bengals signed Hill off the practice squad, and he had been with their organization until they released him over the weekend.

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In the preseason, Hill ran for 87 yards on 17 carries, averaging 5.1 yards per carry. Hill was ultra-productive during his time in college at Wyoming, running for 4,287 yards and 35 touchdowns on 775 carries, including a combined 3,491 yards and 28 touchdowns in his final two seasons.
By signing Hill, the Falcons have now fully filled out their 11-man practice squad, which includes an extra spot for tight end Alex Gray who does not count against their practice squad roster limit as part of the International Player Pathway program.

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – The Falcons have trimmed their roster down heading into the 2018 season, ending up with a 52-man active roster on Saturday afternoon. The team’s 52-man roster is one spot below the NFL maximum of 53, leaving room for another player to be added at some time in the future.

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The following players were waived Saturday afternoon:
QB, Kurt Benkert
WR, Christian Blake
FS, Marcelis Branch
OT, Daniel Brunskill
DB, Deante Burton
WR, Dontez Byrd
LB, Jonathan Celestin
DE, Mackendy Cheridor
DB, Secdrick Cooper
RB, Justin Crawford
DT, Jon Cunningham
WR, Reggie Davis
G, Jamil Douglas
LB, Emmanuel Ellerbee
FB, Jalston Fowler
TE, Jaeden Graham
S, Tyson Graham
TE, Alex Gray
WR, Devin Gray
QB, Garrett Grayson
G, Sean Harlow
C, J.C. Hassenauer
DE, J.T. Jones
WR, Lamar Jordan
DB, Chris Lammons
RB, Terrence Magee
TE, Troy Mangen
K, David Marvin
DB, Ryan Neal
LB, Emmanuel Smith
DT, Garrison Smith
K, Giorgio Tavecchio
DT, Jacob Tuioti-Mariner
G, Salesi Uhatafe
WR, Julian Williams
LB, Anthony Winbush
In addition to the players listed above, the Falcons waived/injured running back Malik Williams on Saturday. Atlanta also waived safety Ron Parker and offensive lineman Austin Pasztor on Friday as well as agreed on an injury settlement with cornerback Leon McFadden.

“For sure the last day-and-a-half is the toughest part of being the team builders here,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said Saturday. “We’ve got a really unique crew that we’re heading into 2018 with, and we’re pumped to get rolling, which kind of gets into full effect today for us.”

Beginning at approximately 1 p.m. ET on Sunday, NFL teams can start creating a practice squad. The Falcons can designate 11 players to the practice squad, including tight end Alex Gray who is a part of the NFL’s International Player Pathway program.

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After peeling back prices on some of their most popular items last year to unprecedented levels, the Atlanta Falcons are ready to shock the sports world again with a $5 craft beer.

The Falcons will sell the $5 craft beers at their regular-season games — starting Sept. 16 against the Panthers — and any home playoff games. The craft beer price, along with all other concession prices, will remain the same next February when Atlanta hosts Super Bowl LIII at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, despite the traditionally elevated concession prices at Super Bowls.

The Falcons aren’t saying who is making the beer, but it’s produced in small batches locally and costs $5 for 12 ounces and $7 for 20 ounces, the lowest price for a craft beer offering in the four major North American sports.

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The Hawks will reduce the price of some popular concession items after they saw the same program work for the Falcons.

The beer, a pale ale, was the winner of a taste test among Falcons and Atlanta United season-ticket holders. The $5 price tag matches what the team charged for a regular domestic beer on draft last year. A premium 20-ounce beer previously cost $9.

When compared to beer prices for other teams, the new price is roughly half of what others charge for craft beer on draft.

A large 25-ounce cup of craft beer will cost a fan at Nationals Park $16. The San Francisco Giants charge $19.25 for 22 ounces of craft beer. At 88 cents an ounce, it’s the highest in all of sports.

Falcons and United owner Arthur Blank surprised many last year when he opened up new Mercedes Benz Stadium with food prices that put all others to shame.

The move paid off. Although food prices — which included water, hot dogs, pretzels and unlimited Coca-Cola for $2 each — were 50 percent lower than at the Georgia Dome, fans spent 16 percent more.

“One year in, our food and beverage pricing has absolutely resonated with our fan base,” said Steve Cannon, president of the AMB Group, Blank’s holding company. “We were No. 1 in the food and beverage category in polling of NFL and MLS fans by a ridiculous margin.”

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While Blank has gotten the attention of many fans, other pro teams have been slow to adopt lower pricing. The Atlanta Hawks recently announced that they, too, would slash prices, and the Washington Redskins will have value pricing this year for the first hour after the gates open.

But after so many years of being able to charge their captive audience big prices, teams have found it hard to adjust.

Cannon says he will talk to any team looking into the concept.
“This isn’t our secret,” Cannon said. “Arthur was thrilled to do this, and we are willing to show any team our playbook and hope this has a trickle-down impact across the industry.”

For their final preseason game, which will be played against the Dolphins next Thursday, the Falcons will drop prices of six food items, each by a dollar. Chili cheese fries, for example, drop from $10 to $9, and the stadium’s Italian sausage drops from $8 to $7.

AMB also surveyed fans to rank the food and beverage concepts around the stadium in Year 1. In March, 20 underperforming concepts were changed out in favor of new ones. Since then, Cannon said, sales of the new concepts, compared to the old ones, are up 23 percent.

Even though the stadium’s Chick fil-A is closed on Sunday, missing many Falcons home games, Cannon said that the restaurant’s outpost inside the stadium finished the first year as one of the highest in revenue.

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On September 6th the Atlanta Falcons will open their season against the NFC favorite Eagles. They will face the same team who ended their season in 2017. The Eagles played well but the Falcons should have won the game.

With better playcalling, the Falcons assuredly would have won. Even with the poor playcalling decisions the Falcons still came a Julio Jones missed catch away from winning and advancing.

A revenge game to open the season in prime time is a great chance for the Falcons. It will be a big test for Matt Ryan and the offense against one of the better defenses in the League.

A win in the opening week against a favored team like the Eagles would be a huge confidence boost for a team who needs to get off to a fast start in 2017.

Carson Wentz or Nick Foles will be the starting quarterback for the Eagles it isn’t quite clear if Wentz will be ready for the season opener. If he is, the Falcons will have a huge challenge on defense.

Wentz is mobile and hard to get to the ground. Foles isn’t an easy task either coming off of a Super Bowl win but the Falcons would rather see Foles then Wentz.

The Falcons are going to have to be better on offense this season. They have so many weapons capable of breaking big plays. They are going to have to utilize them better and more consistently if they hope to beat teams like the Eagles.

Next: Braves News
Opening week for the Falcons cannot get here soon enough for the team or its fans.

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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – We are still a couple of months away from the start of NFL training camps, but with the draft now complete the latest batch of power rankings are emerging.

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ESPN was among those to release and updated list, and its power rankings take into account how well a team addressed their perceived needs through free agency and the draft, and they are ordered by which team would win in a head-to-head matchup. In other words, a higher-ranked team would beat a lower-ranked team.

In this new edition of ESPN’s power rankings, the Falcons have dropped one spot from No. 7 to No. 8, switching spots with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

“The Falcons drafted wide receiver Calvin Ridley in the first round,” ESPN writes. “Their past two first-round receivers? Roddy White and Julio Jones, who currently sit first and second on the franchise’s all-time receiving list.”

Atlanta is the second-highest NFC South team on the list, behind the New Orleans Saints at No. 4. Three spots behind the Falcons at No. 11 are the Carolina Panthers, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers landed at No. 24.

CBS Sports senior writer Pete Prisco also released his updated power rankings, and he also has the Falcons in the top 10. Atlanta landed at the No. 9 spot in Prisco’s rankings, one spot ahead of the Panthers and four spots below the Saints. Prisco doesn’t seem to think the Buccaneers are far behind after the draft, placing them at No. 15.

“The Falcons gave Matt Ryan a new mega-deal, so the pressure is up on this team and him to get back to the Super Bowl,” Prisco says of the Falcons. “The talent is there.”

The Falcons finished with a 10-6 record in 2017, and they were the only NFC team to return to the postseason.

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He was happy with his decision to leave Florida for a college football career at the University of Alabama, however, Calvin Ridley is more excited about what happened on Wednesday.

A week after the Atlanta Falcons selected him with the 26th overall pick of the NFL Draft, a report came from Zach Klein of WSB (ABC- TV) in Atlanta on Ridley’s rookie contract.

The former five-star wide receiver totaled 63 catches for 967 receiving yards with five touchdowns last season – including a pivotal score against Georgia in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. He earned first-team All-SEC honors for his performance, while ending his tenure with 224 receptions (second all-time) and 19 scores.

According to an article via the Falcoholic (SB Nation), Ridley’s contract actually helps Atlanta tend to the needs of other playmakers — especially Mohamed Sanu. The base salary for Ridley will be $2.725 million, despite him also pulling in a signing bonus that’s a little over $6 million.

He turns 24 in December and is overjoyed to learn from Julio Jones.

With the supporting cast quarterback Matt Ryan has around him and signing a $150 million contract, there is no excuse for the Falcons to not have the most explosive offense next season.

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In case you missed it, a total of three Atlanta Falcons players will be competing in this year’s annual Pro Bowl. Safety Keanu Neal and linebacker Deion Jones were recently added to the NFC roster as replacements – and they’ll join center Alex Mack in Orlando this week.

Like Mack, Falcons receiver Julio Jones was also named a Pro Bowl starter, but he will not be participating. Green Bay Packers receiver Davante Adams has replaced Jones on the NFC roster. Both Mack and Jones are four-time Pro Bowl selections.

Deion Jones, who will be making his first appearance, is replacing Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly on the NFC roster. Neal will replace Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, who is playing in Super Bowl LII.

Before AFC and NFC teams clash on Sunday, players from both squads will participate in three practice sessions during the week as well as the NFL Skills Challenge, which will air Thursday night on ESPN. Here’s the schedule:

Wednesday

AFC practice: 10:45-11:45 a.m.
NFC practice: 10:30-11:30 a.m.
Thursday

AFC practice: 11:45-12:45 a.m.
NFC practice: 11:30-12:30 a.m.
NFL Skills Challenge

TV: 8 p.m. ET on ESPN
Friday

AFC practice: 11:45-12:45 a.m.
NFC practice: 11:30-12:30 a.m.
Sunday

AFC vs. NFC in 2018 NFL Pro Bowl
Where: Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Fla.
TV: 3 p.m. ET on ESPN
Live stream: WatchESPN
Series: Whichever team wins Sunday will take the series. The NFC and AFC is currently tied at 22-22 since returning to conference vs. conference format last year. Teams were determined by player drafts from 2014 to 2016.

Rosters: Current AFC and NFC rosters can be found here, including the latest replacement players.

Coaches: Mike Tomlin and the Pittsburgh Steelers staff lead the AFC team and Sean Payton and the New Orleans Saints staff will lead the NFC team.