Falcons Isaiah Oliver Home Jerseys

Cornerback Isaiah Oliver can’t explain the Falcons’ dramatic turnaround the past two weeks on defense.

But he said it’s a little bittersweet.

“This was the defense we expected to be playing from the start of the season,” Oliver said.

If they had, things might be different this season for the Falcons.

Atlanta had one of the worst defenses in the league the first eight games of the season, which played a big role in a 1-7 start. But over the past two weeks the Falcons have been nothing short of dominant, allowing just four field goals and no touchdowns.

On Sunday, Atlanta intercepted Kyle Allen four times and sacked him five times, Kenjon Barner returned a punt 78 yards for a touchdown and the Falcons defeated the Carolina Panthers 29-3 for their second straight lopsided win against an NFC South foe.

The Falcons upset the Saints 26-9 the week before.

The Falcons (3-7) had only two interceptions all season — and none since Week 2 against the Eagles — but intercepted Allen three times in the first half to build a 20-0 lead.

Oliver said the exasperating thing is the Falcons aren’t doing anything different defensively the past two weeks since returning from the bye week.

“Defensively, we have the same players on the field, we’re calling the same calls we have been calling, running the same defense — it’s just working better, honestly,” Oliver said. “Guys are communicating more and getting to the ball quicker. But in terms of the schemes, everything is the same.”

For Matt Ryan, it was business as usual against the Panthers.

Ryan improved to 7-1 in his past eight starts against Carolina, throwing for 311 yards including a 6-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Ridley.

Ridley found huge holes in the Carolina defense, finishing with eight catches for 143 yards and rookie Qadree Ollison added a 2-yard TD run for the Falcons, who won despite playing without running back Devonta Freeman and tight end Austin Hooper.

The Panthers (5-5) appear to be headed in the other direction.

They have lost three of their past four games with Allen under center, who is suddenly struggling with turnovers.

The second-year QB has thrown nine interceptions in the past four games, after not throwing any in his first four career starts. He spent most of the game under heavy duress, as the Panthers offensive line racked up holding penalties nullifying big gains.

“He’s a good young football player, and he’s done some really good things for us,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said of Allen. “But today he got overwhelmed.”

Allen said it boiled down to “poor decision-making” on his part.

He didn’t get much help. Along with the lack of pass protection, the Panthers were penalized eight times for 68 yards which prevented them from mustering any momentum on offense.

Panthers veteran tight end Greg Olsen called his team’s performance a “comedy of terrible football.”

“We stunk. We played terrible,” Olsen said. “We got beat in all aspects of the game. Penalties, turnovers, drops — it was like every single drive. It’s impossible to play football like that.”

BARNER’S RETURN

The Falcons dominated in every phase of the game, including special teams.

Barner, who was drafted by the Panthers in 2013, gave Atlanta the boost it needed when he fielded Michael Palardy’s punt and weaved his way up the field, picking up blockers along the way en route to an early 10-0 lead. It was the first punt return allowed by the Panthers since 2016.

Palardy appeared to outkick his coverage.

“I had a motorcade in front of me,” Barner said with a laugh. “Our guys did a great job of blocking.”

McCAFFREY’S NUMBERS

Christian McCaffrey finished with 191 yards from scrimmage but failed to score for the first time since Week 2. Still, he passed LaDainian Tomlinson (238) for the most receptions by a running back in his first three NFL seasons.

NO SHUTOUT

Trailing 26-0 late in the game, Rivera elected to go for a field goal instead of a touchdown.

“You don’t want to get shutout, especially at home,” Rivera said. “So you kick the field goal and take the points. At the end of the day at least you can keep your head up over something.”

INJURIES

Falcons: Takk McKinley injured his shoulder on a first-half sack of Allen and did not return.

UP NEXT

Falcons: Host Buccaneers on Sunday.

Panthers: Visit Saints on Sunday.

Matt Bryant Jersey

While the rest of the team was practicing inside, Falcons kicker Matt Bryant was outside getting his field-goal kicking practice started Wednesday.

“Matt Bryant will kick on Wednesdays and Fridays for the first part of the year,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “That’s kind of been his routine. Then, later on in the year, we’ll move back to once a week. Usually, we just start at the extra point and start moving our way back.”

Bryant, who’s set to enter his 18th season in the NFL, was re-signed Monday after his potential replacement Giorgio Tavecchio was released.

Deion Sanders Jersey

Deion Sanders doubled down on stupid by taking a shot at the Tennessee Titans on Thursday.

Instead of apologizing to Tennessee Titans safety Kevin Byard after he signed a record-breaking contract extension, Deion Sanders doubled down on stupid.

You may remember back in 2018 that Sanders didn’t know who Byard was, which created a feud between the two. In short, Sanders proved he had no clue who the All-Pro safety was back in 2018, mistaking him for a fan.

It was clear at the time that Sanders had no idea what he was talking about. He looked dumb, plain and simple.

As if that wasn’t stupid enough, Sanders posted this tweet on Thursday morning in response to the news of Byard’s extension.

Where do we begin?

He says the Titans were boasting about signing Byard. Meanwhile the team was just reporting about its record-setting agreement with its top safety. And rightfully so, it was big news.

To make it worse, it seems there’s some kind of insinuation of racism by Sanders on the Titans’ part. It’s truly a facepalm type of statement that can only make you scratch your head.

Instead of Sanders just taking the high road and congratulating Byard, thus turning this into a situation with a happy ending, the Hall of Famer made it worse and far more awkward than it needed to be.

He should have taken his embarrassing 2018 moment like a man and turned it into something positive, but instead he acted like a child by taking a shot at the Titans the way he did.

From what I’ve read, Sanders’ Twitter account may or may not be run by his son, Deion Sanders Jr. If that’s the case, Junior needs to learn how to tweet better and stop making his father look foolish.

If it was in fact Junior, why not act like an adult in the same way he did in his response to Paul Kuharsky that was posted before the tweet from Sanders’ account?

Even if Sanders Jr. is playing on his dad’s account, it doesn’t excuse the nature of the tweet. The account has Sanders’ name on it and everything that comes from it represents the man himself, even if a moronic statement coming from it is typed by his son.

You should be better than this, Deion. Man up, give Byard an apology, and then give the Titans an apology as well. It’s the least you can do to make up for insulting a player, a team, and an entire fanbase the way you did.

Matt Bosher Jersey

The Falcons added some depth at linebacker with the signing of Stephone Anthony on Friday.

Anthony, 26, was drafted in the first round (31st overall) of the 2015 draft out of Clemson by the New Orleans. He started all 16 games as a rookie before falling out of favor after two seasons.

Anthony played the past two seasons with the Dolphins as a reserve. He’s played in 50 games and has made 19 starts.

Here’s a look at the revised depth chart after the first four-day block of training camp:

OFFENSE

WR 11 Julio Jones, 14, Justin Hardy, 83 Russell Gage, 13 Christian Blake, 16 Shawn Bane

LT 70 Jake Matthews, 73 Matt Gono, 75 John Wetzel, 65 Jaelin Robinson

LG 77 James Carpenter, 68 Jamon Brown, 60 Adam Gettis, 73 Matt Gono

C 51 Alex Mack, 71 Wes Schweitzer 61 Chandler Miller

RG 63 Chris Lindstrom, 68 Jamon Brown, 64 Sean Harlow

RT 74 Ty Sambrailo, 76 Kaleb McGary, 67 Devon Johnson

TE 81 Austin Hooper, 88 Luke Stocker, 82 Logan Paulsen, 85 Eric Saubert, 87 Jaeden Graham, 89 Alex Gray

WR 12 Mohamed Sanu, 18 Calvin Ridley, 15 Devin Gray, 19 Kahlil Lewis, 7 C.J. Worton, 17 Olamide Zaccheaus

QB 2 Matt Ryan, 8 Matt Schaub, 6 Kurt Benkert

RB 24 Devonta Freeman, 25 Ito Smith, 23 Brian Hill, 32 Qadree Ollison, 38 Kenjon Barner, 30 Tony Brooks-James, 3 Marcus Green

FB 30 Ricky Ortiz, 88 Luke Stocker, 87 Jaeden Graham

DEFENSE

DE 44 Vic Beasley Jr., Allen Bailey, 91 Chris Odom

DT 95 Jack Crawford, 96 Tyeler Davison, 94 Deadrin Senat, 50 John Cominsky, 77 Ra’Shede Hageman

DT 97 Grady Jarrett, 79 Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, 92 Justin Zimmer

DE 98 Takk McKinley, 99 Adrian Clayborn, 50 John Cominsky

WLB 54 Foyesade Oluokun, 42 Duke Riley, 52 Yurik Bethune, Richie Brown

MLB 45 Deion Jones, 55 Bruce Carter, Stephone Anthony, 49 Tre Crawford, 46 Del’Shawn Phillips

SLB 59 De’Vondre Campbell, 36 Kemal Ishmael, 53 Jermaine Grace, 48 Durrant Miles

CB 26 Isaiah Oliver, 33 Blidi Wreh-Wilson, 23 Jayson Stanley

NCB 27 Damontae Kazee, 28 Jordan Miller

CB 21 Desmond Trufant, 39 Taveze Calhoun, 20 Kendall Sheffield, 32 Rashard Causey

FS 37 Ricardo Allen, 41 Sharrod Neasman, 34 Chris Cooper, 35 Jason Thompson

SS 22 Keanu Neal, 40 Ryan Neal, 43 Parker Baldwin

SPECIALIST

K 4 Giorgio Tavecchio

KO 5 Matt Bosher

P 5 Matt Bosher

KR 38 Kenjon Barner, 18 Calvin Ridley

PR 38 Kenyon Barner, 3 Marcus Green, 16 Shawn Bane

L S 47 Josh Harris, 48 Kyle Vasey

H 5 Matt Bosher

Ricardo Allen Jersey

Coming off of a season in which the Falcons’ defense was sapped by significant injuries to key players early in the year, confidence remains high in what the unit can accomplish with everyone back in the fold.

“When we’re all out there, we’re a top-10 defense, easily,” Falcons safety Ricardo Allen told reporters after Organized Team Activities (OTA) on Thursday. “We’ve shown it, we’ve put it out there. We’ve just got to keep ourselves healthy.”

By showing it and putting it out there, Allen is referring to the Falcons’ 2017 season, when Atlanta finished as the ninth-ranked defense in yards per game and the eighth-ranked defense in points per game. That year marked the first time Atlanta boasted a top-10 unit in both categories since 1998.

As they had in 2016, the Falcons’ defense noticeably improved during the second half of the season and appeared to be playing its best ball entering the postseason. Expectations were high for the defense heading into the 2018 season, but the Falcons lost Allen and fellow starting safety Keanu Neal to season-ending injuries and starting linebacker Deion Jones for 10 games all within their first two games.

While Atlanta’s defense struggled without those players on the field, ending last season ranked 28th in yards per game and 25th in points per game, there were some reasons for optimism moving forward.

“What makes me so hype about it is that we had some players that stepped up last year,” Allen said. “And with the players we had already who got injured and the players who stepped up … they’re still in the mix in between us getting back in. That gave them the confidence and experience to be on the field.

“In the long-run, it’s going to help this team go somewhere and win a championship.”

Second-year players such as Foye Oluokun, Deadrin Senat and Isaiah Oliver saw plenty of actions during their first season in the league and figure to hold sizeable roles for 2019. Dan Quinn has also assumed the role of defensive coordinator in addition to his head coaching responsibilities, and fans can recall what he did with the defense during the second half of the season.

Atlanta’s defense was a cause for concern in 2018, there’s no doubt about that. But Allen, at least, still has high expectations for what his unit can achieve.

Ryan Schraeder Jersey

The 2019 NFL draft is complete. The window where free agents count against the compensatory pick formula has come to a close, which means the Chargers may look to the second foray in free agency to shore up the roster.

An area on depth chart that still doesn’t look that great on paper, even after the draft, is the right tackle position.

Third-round selection Trey Pipkins’ chances of starting over Sam Tevi are slim since he is viewed as a project, which means that Tevi is likely to enter the 2019 season as the starter unless the team brings someone in to offer competition right off the bat.

One player that Pro Football Focus’ Mike Johnson sees as a viable option to solidify the offensive line for Los Angeles is offensive tackle Ryan Schraeder.

However, in seasons 2014-2017, his overall grade never dipped below 70.0. He still has starter-level ability If he’s able to put 2018 behind him with a change of scenery. A team like the Chargers would be an ideal free-agent landing spot for Schraeder where the right tackle position is up for grabs. Last season’s starter Sam Tevi finished with a 53.7 overall grade on 1,009 total snaps and allowed 73 total pressures – the most among all offensive tackles. Schraeder would be an immediate upgrade.

The appeal of an offensive lineman like Ryan Schraeder is just how nimbly and balanced he moves, perfect for a wide zone scheme. Gets all the way around on this reach block and just walls off the edge for a big gain: pic.twitter.com/dCebdwMLCI

— Nick Olson (@NickOlsonNFL) March 15, 2019

Schraeder was signed by the Falcons as an undrafted free agent out of Valdosta State in 2013. In that time, he has made 88 appearances, 73 of which were starts. He was graded as one of the top right tackles in the NFL from 2015 to 2017, but had a down year in 2018, which led to his release.

Schraeder, 30, was making a little over $6 million a year with Atlanta. But the Chargers would likely be able to land him on a one or two-year deal for slightly cheaper deal. Knowing how badly the team needs a serviceable player to keep quarterback Philip Rivers clean in the pocket, this would be a great signing for Los Angeles.

Qadree Ollison Jersey

Qadree Ollison isn’t entering an especially crowded running back situation in Atlanta.

In fact, physically, the former Pitt running back will stand out in the crowd at 6-foot-2, 225 pounds because the other backs are listed at 5-8 (Devonta Freeman and Marcus Green) and 5-9 (Ito Smith).

No question, the Falcons need help at running back after Freeman, a 1,000-yard rusher in 2015 and 2016, was limited by knee, foot and groin injuries to two games and 68 yards last season. They also lost Tevin Coleman in free agency to the San Francisco 49ers.

That’s not to suggest Ollison will supplant Freeman in his rookie season, but there’s room for him to make a quick impact.

Ollison’s competition will come from Smith, a fourth-round pick last year who ran for 315 yards and four touchdowns, and fellow rookie Green, a multi-talented back from Louisiana-Monroe. Green caught 50 passes for 855 yards last season, but he also has five return touchdowns on his resume – four kickoffs and a punt.

The Falcons say Green will be a running back at the outset of the offseason, but he’ll surely end up filling a much different role than what they’ll ask of Ollison, whose physicality attracted the Falcons as much as anything.

“He’s a big back. We’ve been looking for a big back to add to that group,” general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. “We think that, again back to versatility, he’s a big guy, a strong guy. Actually has really nice feet and game-speed ability about him for a bigger back like that. He has pass-pro ability as well and can catch the ball as well, so there’s a versatility element to a bigger guy.”

Kendall Sheffield Jersey

The Falcons didn’t just add a player with speed in Kendall Sheffield, they got the fastest player in college football in 2018.

Chase Goodbread of NFL.com ranked Sheffield as the fastest player in college football when he ranked the top 18 players. Here’s what he had to say about Atlanta’s newest cornerback:

“The Buckeyes’ two-sport star is next in line among the parade of NFL draft prospects from the Ohio State defensive backs room. But on the track, he’s fearsome as well,” Goodbread said. “Sheffield broke OSU’s 60-meter dash indoor record earlier this year with a time of 6.663 seconds. That’s the fastest 60 time of any player listed here. The former Alabama player, who had a one-year stop in junior college in between, broke up nine passes last season. That was the second-most on the team to Denzel Ward, who was selected fourth overall by the Cleveland Browns in this year’s draft. Word from the OSU staff is that Sheffield is every bit as fast as Ward, who tied for the fastest 40-yard-dash time (4.32) of anyone at the NFL Scouting Combine this year.”

Since Dan Quinn arrived in Atlanta, adding players with speed and physicality has been a priority on defense. In Quinn’s scheme, he wants his players to fly around to the ball, exactly what Sheffield can do.

Kaleb McGary Jersey

STRENGTHS

—Four-year starter who has experience at tackle and guard against top-tier Pac-12 defenders.

—Above-average punch to force counter moves from pass-rushers.

—Good lower-body strength to drive and open running lanes

—Finishes one block and immediately looks for another.

—Was asked to swing out on screen plays and proved he could block in the open field, as well.

WEAKNESSES

—Arm length (32 ⅞”) may force him to guard.

—Heavy-footed and will struggle against speed rushers. Gets beat too many times by reaching.

—Leverage against the bull rush could be an issue given his height (6’7″) and lack of bend.

—Limited lateral agility shows up on reach blocks.

OVERALL

At times, McGary was overshadowed by teammate Trey Adams before 2018, but he busted out into the spotlight on his own as a senior. McGary is a prototypical right tackle outside of his shorter arm length, which could mean a move inside to guard. At either position, he has the look of an early NFL starter.

GRADE: 6.80 (ROUND 2—ROOKIE IMPACT)

PRO COMPARISON: Andrus Peat

Chris Lindstrom Jersey

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.

WHY HE FITS

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.

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.