Atlanta Falcons: Dan Quinn impressed with rookie performances in preseason finale


There were plenty of positives to take from the Atlanta Falcons’ 20-19 victory over the Baltimore Ravens, but it was the rookies who were heaped in praise from head coach Dan Quinn.

Among the standouts was fifth round pick Grady Jarrett. The defensive tackle was considered to be great value when the Falcons drafted him on day three back in May, and he certainly proved his supporters right against Baltimore.

“Number one I thought he was really disruptive,” Quinn said. “We’ve really been wanting to see that, the movement he can make.”

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Disruptive he was. Jarrett made seven tackles, three for a loss, a sack and a quarterback hit. His most impressive play was early in the fourth quarter when he powered his way through his blocker at ease to sack quarterback Bryn Renner for a loss of 12 yards.

“He’s got real initial quickness off the ball so it’s great to see him really battle for it. He’s comfortable, got the scheme down so it’s great to see him have a night like tonight.”

On offense, third round pick Tevin Coleman and fourth-rounder Justin Hardy were impressive. Coleman, coming off the back of a tough debut against Miami, rushed eight times for 58 yards including an explosive 26-yard run to the outside. His performance could be enough to lock down the starting job in Week 1 ahead of Devonta Freeman.

“I was pleased to see from the line of scrimmage getting our feet running. I thought Tevin had some nice runs in there and the speed from him.”

Not only was Coleman’s performance impressive, but it also highlighted the importance of balance on offense this season.

“The runners did a good job of finding some creases. We’re still developing it in terms of the line of scrimmage and how we play,” Quinn said. “We’re looking for that balance offensively. We know we’ve got some weapons outside and how we feature those guys in the run game as well.”

Rookie receiver Hardy has impressed throughout preseason. Against the Ravens, he caught two passes for 16 yards, but it was on special teams he really stole the show. Put on punt return duty, Hardy took one 70 yards and almost to the house. The run came after breaking a tackle and spinning away from the tackler. Quinn was impressed.

“One of the things when you evaluate is the versatility a player has. It’s great to see it with Nick [Williams] and Justin [Hardy].

“Here’s another challenge for you, we know the offensive part is a big challenge but where are you on the return game? It’s a huge part of it and we’re thrilled to see those guys keep grinding.”


The biggest concern from the rookies has been with second round cornerback Jalen Collins. Collins has struggled to get up to speed this offseason and was beaten deep on a 41-yard completion in the first quarter against Baltimore. Despite that, Quinn thinks he will turn it around.

“First one went over the top, there was some technique issues we can clean up. The thing I’m most excited about is the effort and the intensity we are now seeing. That’s what it takes to play outside at this position in the scheme.”

It’s too early to say, but so far the overall performance of the rookies has been encouraging. The next challenge is to go and perform at the same level in the regular season. And it doesn’t get much tougher than the Philadelphia Eagles on the Monday Night Football curtain raiser.

The Falcons are ready. Are you?

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