Kendall Sheffield Jersey

The Atlanta Falcons used day three of the NFL draft to bolster the depth of specific position groups. Cornerback is one of the most slim positions on the entire Atlanta Falcons roster. Desmond Trufant, Isaiah Oliver and Damontae Kazee are the favorites to start at the position. Blidi Wreh-Wilson is the only other experienced cornerback on the roster, though safety JJ Wilcox is also able to defend the slot. Help is definitely needed at cornerback.

The Falcons decided that Kendall Sheffield from Ohio State University is the help needed in the defensive backfield. Sheffield is a former track star and a 5’11 193 pound cornerback. He was originally a member of the Alabama Crimson Tide, but transferred after receiving a red shirt. Before moving on to Ohio State, Sheffield made a stop at Blinn Junior College. Kendall arrived on the Ohio State campus and immediately found the field. He played in all 14 games, with three of those being starts. He made 40 tackles on the season, with 2 of those tackles being for a loss. Sheffield also forced and recovered a fumble. He also added a solid nine pass breakups in 2017.

This past season Kendall Sheffield earned the right to start all 14 games that Ohio State played in. This time he registered 35 tackles, with two again causing a loss of yards for the opposition. He also forced a fumble. Sheffield earned his first two interceptions as on the major college level in 2018, and he broke up six additional passes. He was an honorable mention for the All Big 10 Team and declared for the NFL draft following the season.

The Atlanta Falcons YouTube channel provides us with some highlights of Kendall Sheffield:

Kendall Sheffield was targeted 58 times in coverage last season. He allowed 32 of those passes to be caught for 553 yards and five touchdown. That’s a catch percentage of 54.2. Quarterbacks had a rating of 100.5 when throwing at Sheffield. In the advanced stat of yards allowed per coverage snap, he gave up 1.22 yards per snap. That ranked him number 87 in the country. When defending slot receivers, Sheffield gave up 2.56 yards per coverage snap. This gave him a ranking of number 148 among NCAA cornerbacks.

Overall Pro Football Focus gave Kendall Sheffield a grade of 74.8 for the 2018 season. His run defense grade was 60.4. In coverage he was awarded a grade of 76.5. That was a nice improvement from a 67.0 coverage grade the prior season.

Kaleb McGary Jersey

This came as a shock to many Atlanta Falcons fans because analysts and the general public were not as high on him as the Falcons were. It will be interesting to see how McGary will play in Atlanta, however, the Falcons front office deserves the benefit of the doubt because of how good their drafts have been the last couple of seasons.

If the Falcons were going to select an offensive tackle many fans assumed the pick would be either Jawann Taylor from Florida or Dalton Risner from Kansas State. Taylor ended up being selected four picks after McGary by the Jacksonville Jaguars and Risner went to the Denver Broncos in the second round, 41st overall.

It turns out Taylor had a knee injury that scared a lot of teams from drafting him in the first round. As for Risner, the Falcons viewed him as a guard and did not see him as a fit after drafting Chris Lindstrom with the 14th overall pick. After being provided with this information, fans should feel a lot better about the Falcons trading back into the first round as McGary, Taylor nor Risner would have been there at forty-five.

McGary is going to be put to the test early in the season. In week one the Falcons will travel to Minnesota to take on the Vikings. Minnesota has two pro bowl defensive ends Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter. McGary will be a huge factor in this game. If he can play well, this could be a huge confidence boost for the rookie, the team and the fan base. If he struggles, it is not the end of the world, but the fan base will prematurely panic. It will be interesting to see what happens his rookie year, but week one seems to be a huge litmus test that will set the tone for McGary.

Another silver lining about this draft class is the fact both offensive linemen were drafted in the first round. If they are both solid pieces on the offensive line the Falcons can chose to exercise the fifth year option and both will be on the team for the next five seasons without having to worry about their contracts and will have their line of future, now.

Chris Lindstrom Jersey

“I taught three classes this morning and that was the buzz – Chris Lindstrom and the new ‘Avengers: End Game’ movie.”

Lindstrom is the first Central Mass. native drafted in the first round since Ron Hallstrom, who was born in Holden, was selected by the Green Bay Packers with the No. 22 pick in the 1982 NFL Draft.

The new Falcon was a T&G Super Team selection, and, as a senior, led the Rams to a Central Mass. Division 4 championship while earning Hometeam Offensive Player of the Year honors.

Police Chief Steven J. Wojnar said he’s known the Lindstroms for years through the father’s coaching, and because their wives are friendly.

The chief sounded ecstatic for both the family and town.

“It’s one of those things where, it’s a source of pride for the entire community,” Chief Wojnar said. “You’re watching ESPN draft night like everyone else. Next thing you see are people you know, or watched grow up, that are now being selected so high and featured prominently.”

ESPN’s coverage included a photo of Chris’s father from his time in the NFL. Chief Wojnar noted the “mustache and curly hair from his 49er days.”

“It was interesting to see a lot of that stuff. Just a great family, and very down to earth, very centered people. They really know their priorities.”

Chief Wojnar credited Lindstrom for working hard to reach his goal.

“He left high school early to go to BC. He had to get all of his schoolwork going, between that and working out, training and everything else, to get to the point he’s at right now. It’s really a great credit to him and his entire family.”

The draft was also a big topic at local businesses.

At Duke’s 21 Sports Bar, a hangout for many in the Shepherd Hill community because it is owned by teacher Shaune Ducharme, bar manager Nancy Shell said its two largest televisions showed the NFL draft Thursday night, relegating the Boston Bruins playoff game to a small screen TV.

Ms. Snell, who also lives near the Lindstroms, said, “This is a big, big thing for Dudley, I believe. It’s just this little town … the focal point is Nichols College.”

The bar manager went on to call the Lindstroms, “A really incredible family unit. They really are. If everybody could be like that it’d be beautiful. Very driven, very focused.”

Seated at a table at Dippin Donuts, Dennis Cregg of Webster, a former umpire who’s a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, said: “I was just glad to see a young man from Dudley have something great happen to him. He’s from a very good family. Everybody’s supportive of that family. I don’t know them, but I know of them. It’s a good thing. Awesome.”

But Mr. Cregg, who called the longest game in baseball history, a 32-inning affair between the Pawtucket Red Sox and Rochester at McCoy Stadium, stated that even though the local kid is now a Falcon: “I hope they don’t beat the Patriots.”

Mark Sutor, owner of Twin City Cleaners, posted a congratulatory message for Lindstrom on a board in front of his business. Mr. Sutor said he watched the first five selections in the draft while flipping to the Bruins game. He said he didn’t learn that Lindstrom had been picked 14th until Friday morning.

Mr. Sutor said he was surprised by how early Lindstrom was selected, given some draft pundits had projected Lindstrom as a second-round pick. He speculated that, because the Falcons’ upper management had ties to the Patriots, the Falcons might have suspected the Patriots wanted Lindstrom.

“I would have loved to see him fall to the Pats,” Mr. Sutor said, before indicating that it could have been a challenge for a Massachusetts kid to play so close to home. “I think that’d be kind of tough,” he said. It will be “good for him to go somewhere else.”

Steve Bartkowski Jersey

Hey Falcoholics, I’m back with another edition of The Falcoholic’s Throwback Thursday series. This weekly segment highlights a former Atlanta Falcons player and discusses what they did for the franchise.

Whether you’ve been a fan since the inaugural season, or just became a fan recently, this series will give insight on players from the past. This week we will be focusing on quarterback Steve Bartkowski.

Steve Bartkowski was born in Des Moines, Iowa, on Nov. 12, 1952. He attended Buchser High School in Santa Clara, Calif., where he was a football, basketball, and baseball star. There, he garnered a lot of attention from college scouts, receiving over 100 scholarship offers from institutions around the country.

Ultimately, Steve decided to attend the University of California at Berkeley, where he could play both football and baseball. During the 1972 season, Steve struggled, throwing for 944 yards, four touchdowns, and 13 interceptions. A year later in 1973, Steve threw for 910 yards, four touchdowns, and seven interceptions. Then came the 1974 season, where Steve’s game mightily improved. Steve threw for 2,580 yards, 12 touchdowns, and seven interceptions, which was enough to award him a consensus All-American. He also was an All-American baseball player, playing first base.

With the first overall pick in the 1975 NFL Draft, the Atlanta Falcons selected quarterback Steve Bartkowski. The team originally had the third selection, but ultimately traded the pick as well as offensive lineman George Kunz to the Baltimore Colts for the first overall pick. During his rookie season, Steve threw for 1,662 yards, 13 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions, and was named the NFL Rookie of the Year.

Five games into the 1976 season, Bartkowski injured his knee, which would eventually lead to a total of 11 lifetime knee operations. The following season, Bartkowski only started 7 games, and was eventually benched during the 1978 preseason. This might have been the best thing to happen to him, as things were put into perspective, and his career changed for the better.

Brett Favre Jersey

Brett Favre knows the upcoming weekend all too well. The NFL Draft begins on Thursday and for a number of young men, their lives will change forever. And while Brett Favre made some mistakes during his rookie season with the Atlanta Falcons, he wanted to make sure the incoming rookies don’t take everything too seriously. The Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback attended Middle Tennessee Christian School’s Legacy of Light Gala, held at the school’s varsity gymnasium in Murfreesboro, Tennessee last week as he was the featured speaker. He was asked about his thoughts on the upcoming draft class and said having fun is key.

“I was accused early in my career of having too much fun and not being serious,” Favre said via Cecil Joyce of the Murfreesboro Daily News Journal. I understand where some of the older guys were coming from. There was no way I would ever step on the football field unprepared. But, if you go out there and are prepared and do all you can do, now it’s time to have fun. If you love doing something and are prepared, by all means have fun. That’s what I did.”

Favre always had fun on the field, but he also made plays when his number was called. In 1991, Favre was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in the second round. The Southern Miss alum only attempted four passes that season and he was intercepted twice. Even though Favre was a high draft pick, head coach Jerry Glanville had no intentions of having Favre be the starter.

That led to the Packers making a big move in 1992. General manager Ron Wolf traded a first-round pick for Favre, and while he played in the game on Sept. 13 of that year, it was the game the following week when Packers fans got to know the future Hall of Famer. Favre came into the game for an injured Don Majkowski and led the team to a 24-23 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. Favre did not miss a game during his entire 16 seasons with the Packers.

Favre reached the Pro Bowl in 1992 after finishing the year with 3,227 yards, 18 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He reached the Pro Bowl again in 1993 despite throwing 18 touchdowns and a league-leading 24 picks. But it was the 1995 season that made Favre a superstar. He won his first MVP award after completing 63 percent of his passes and throwing for 4,413 yards, 38 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He led the Packers to an 11-5 record and lost to the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Championship game. However, the Packers won the Super Bowl in 1996 and Favre won his second MVP award after throwing for 3,899 yards, 39 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Favre won the MVP award for the third time in 1997 after posting 3,867 yards, 35 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. In that season, the Packers reached the Super Bowl once again only to lose to the Denver Broncos. Favre went 25-of-42 for 256 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in the loss.

Favre was the Packers starter until the end of the 2007 season. During his 16 seasons with the Packers, Favre posted a 160-93 record and threw for 61,655 yards and 442 touchdowns. He played for the Jets for one season and finished his career with the Minnesota Vikings where he played two additional seasons. Favre finished his NFL career with 71,838 yards and 508 touchdowns which are the third and fourth-best totals in NFL history.

So Favre is one of the perfect guys to talk to about the draft. However, Favre is amazed at how big of an event the draft has become.

Deion Sanders Jersey

The New England Patriots are coming off yet another Super Bowl win, but that doesn’t mean they won’t still have doubters. Count Hall of Fame cornerback and current NFL Network analyst Deion Sanders among the skeptics.

During a recent appearance on the Rich Eisen show, Sanders declared “I think their run is over.” He’s not alone, as many analysts have looked at New England’s current crop of skill position players and predicted a steep decline.

The franchise made a huge deal out of perceiving themselves as underdogs last year. During their playoff run, Tom Brady made it a point to repeatedly highlight how some in the media had counted them out. As such, you can expect the Patriots to use comments like Sanders’ as even more fuel for their fire in 2019.

People who actually want the Patriots to fall off should probably lay low at this point, since the only thing that can motivate a team that’s had this much success at this point is skepticism of their ability. Observers have been predicting the Patriots’ demise for years now, and it still hasn’t happened.

That being said, there is a legitimate point to be made about the Patriots’ roster heading into 2019. The Patriots lost a ton of talent this offseason, including Rob Gronkowski, Trent Brown, and Trey Flowers, and didn’t do a ton to replace it. As of right now, Austin Seferian-Jenkins profiles as the top tight end, while the team doesn’t have much at receiver beyond Julian Edelman.

Bill Belichick always finds a way to figure it out though, and it would be foolish to discount them this early. The cupboards do look a bit bare right now, but Belichick has never had trouble replenishing them in the past.

Matt Bosher Jersey

After years of shaky performance, the Falcons’ special teams fared quite well in 2018. Matt Bosher had a good year, Matt Bryant and Giorgio Tavecchio were terrific, and coverage improved significantly over an awful 2017. In the end, that wasn’t enough to save Keith Armstrong’s job, especially after yet another year of poor performances in the return game.

That leaves special teams as unsettled as it has been in many, many years. No longer is Armstrong’s philosophy guiding things with new coach Ben Kotwica taking over as special teams coordinator, which means things we’ve taken for granted over the years could change suddenly. Kotwica is a virtual lock to add one or two of his guys if he can, meaning longtime special teamers like Kemal Ishmael may or may not return. Then there’s the situation at kicker, where Matt Bryant is as dependable as ever but faces a legitimate threat to his job for the first time in recent memory from Giorgio Tavecchio.

How will things shake out? Let’s look.

The team has to weigh whether they want to bring back their own free agents, first and foremost. Justin Bethel was just as good as you’d expect him to be, given his outsized reputation, but he’s a noted disaster in coverage and may not be back just to contribute on teams. Kemal Ishmael is a more reliable defender who can play linebacker or safety and has been a core contributor on teams since he arrived as a seventh round pick way back in 2013, but he’s not a lock to return either.

If the Falcons are planning to replace them, keep an eye on guys Kotwica has recently coached. Linebacker Zach Vigil is an unrestricted free agent and spent two seasons working with Kotwica in Washington, leading all players in special teams snaps in 2017 and grading out as Pro Football Focus’s fourth-best tackler on the team that season. The Falcons could very well elect to replace Ishmael (or somebody like Bruce Carter, if they’re not drafting a linebacker) with Vigil, who has shown his reliability and would be very comfortable with what Kotwica will want to do.

Ricardo Allen Jersey

One of the two players that were signed by the Atlanta Falcons is former Kansas City Chiefs practice squad member, Chris Cooper. The Atlanta Falcons and Cooper agreed to a two year deal Friday. This signing helps the Falcons add depth to a position that, last season, saw stars Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen fall to injuries.

The other player the Falcons signed is former Los Angeles Rams safety, Afolabi Laguda. Laguda played at Colorado University, like Falcons rising star, Isaiah Oliver. He, like Cooper, will add depth to a position that needs depth.

The Falcons adding depth throughout the offensive line and defense is important given the amount of key injuries the Falcons had to deal with last season. Both players mentioned had relatively decent collegiate careers at their respective colleges. They are both young guys who are hungry to prove that they belong in the NFL after given very little opportunity to prove themselves by their former teams. Both guys will do just fine with the Falcons and are great signings.

With the Falcons adding depth at certain positions, it opens up more draft opportunities. The Falcons can go after who they want without having to worry about whether a position on the roster is lacking in depth. The Falcons added more depth along the defensive line this week by adding former Falcon and Super Bowl champion, Adrian Clayborn and former Saints DL Tyeler Davison.

The Falcons signings this off-season may not be ‘sexy’, but they are important signings to make sure that, if more key players drop this upcoming season like last season, there will be capable players ready to fill in and help the Falcons.

Ryan Schraeder Jersey

The Atlanta Falcons have taken steps towards correcting their offensive line problems. First, they re-signed offensive tackle Ty Sambrailo to a three-year deal. Then, they added three new guards in free agency with projected starters James Carpenter and Jamon Brown plus backup Adam Gettis.

None of that will matter much if the team’s situation at right tackle does not improve. Their former starter Ryan Schraeder is on his way out on June 1 and the team desperately needs to find an upgrade at the position. Sambrailo may or may not be it. For what it’s worth, owner Arthur Blank says he does not think the unit is complete yet and expects it to be a focus in the draft, per the team website.

“This is my 19th year as an owner and one of the things I’ve learned is that Matt (Ryan) plays much better vertically than horizontally. . . I don’t think we’re complete in terms of the offensive line. I think it’ll be an area of great scrutiny and activity during the draft.”

Ryan was sacked 42 times last year, with many of them coming from the right side of the line. In theory, Brown will plug the right guard spot better than those that tried and failed in 2018. Right tackle is still the key question mark, though.

The Falcons are expected to use one of their early-round picks on an offensive tackle prospect that could help. Alabama’s Jonah Williams, Washington State’s Andre Dillard, Washington’s Kaleb McGary and Florida’s Jawaan Taylor are the top names. Atlanta hosted Taylor for a workout Thursday.

Andy Levitre Jersey

With the start of the offseason program set to start April 15, Falcons coach Dan Quinn is starting to feel re-energized.

He’s moving on from last season, which saw the Falcons go from Super Bowl contenders to 7-9 draft-spot chasers after eight players who started the season opener missed 80 games because of injury.

Quinn is watching the injury reports closely, meeting with his revamped staff and devising plans that he hopes will lead to a quick turnaround in 2019.

With the organized team activities set to start on May 20, the meetings have included five things they are focusing on for the 2019 season.

The coaches are having twice-a-week game-management meetings. They are also plotting new ways to use Vic Beasley and Takk McKinley, securing the interior of the passing pocket for quarterback Matt Ryan, tweaking the rushing attack and retooling the secondary.