It’s not clear exactly how much help the Falcons will receive from their highly touted rookie draft class halfway through the exhibition season.
The Falcons have not seen much promise early from what was considered a strong class by many of the draftniks.
First-round pick Vic Beasley, a defensive end/outside linebacker, started with the first-team defense against the Titans and the Jets. He hasn’t recorded a sack, but had a nice spin move and a quarterback hurry against the Jets.
Beasley is being counted on to make a major contribution. He’s being moved around on the defense and is getting a shot at the featured Leo spot, a hybrid defensive end/linebacker position.
Beasley and defensive tackle Adrian Clayborn, who had a sack against the Jets, are working together nicely on stunts.
“Now, is the time to start building that,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “What a great asset for Vic to have in a guy like Adrian, who’s played a lot of football and can communicate maybe some alerts that Vic may not know yet that are about to happen.”
Quinn has been pleased with Beasley’s play and the combination with Clayborn.
“I definitely feel the juice from both of the guys in terms of their initial quickness, beating a guy to the punch,” Quinn said. “Then as far as the pass-rush techniques go, I think we’re working hard at that.”
Second-round pick Jalen Collins, a cornerback, is struggling in coverage. He’s coming off foot surgery that limited his play over the offseason. He gave up a touchdown pass in the exhibition opener.
The Falcons are not too worried about Collins.
“He’s coming along,” senior secondary assistant coach Marquand Manuel said. “Now, expediting the process (after) him missing the OTAs, he’s now getting in that groove of understanding how to compete on this level. The sky is the limit. I’m encouraged, and I will continue to push him in that fashion.”
Third-round pick Tevin Coleman, a running back, has been out since Aug. 5 with a hamstring injury after impressing early in training camp. He returned to practice last week and could make his debut against Miami on Saturday.
Fourth-round pick Justin Hardy, a wide receiver, had a bobbled ball that turned into an interception against the Titans. He came back and led the team in receiving against the Jets, with four catches for 53 yards.
Fifth-round pick Grady Jarrett, a defensive tackle, has not distinguished himself over 51 snaps.
Sixth-round pick Akeem King, a converted cornerback, played safety at San Jose State. He has played 32 snaps and gave up a deep pass against the Jets.
Seventh-round pick Jake Rodgers, an offensive tackle, has played 59 snaps. He was called for a penalty against the Jets and appears headed for the practice squad.
The Falcons are hopeful that Beasley, Collins and Coleman will continue to improve and are able to help this season. Hardy is at perhaps the most talented position on the roster and could be inactive for most games.
Quinn had a special message for the late-round draft picks. He pointed to right tackle Ryan Schraeder, middle linebacker Paul Worrilow and running back Antone Smith, all undrafted players.
“In our league, those guys who are the relentless competitors, there’s a place for you,” Quinn said. “That was the message that I wanted to get out to some of those guys who are right in that spot. … The examples are all over the league for us.”
Running back Terron Ward, defensive tackle Joey Mbu and cornerback Kevin White are Falcons players who have contributed in the exhibition games.
“We know the guys who are undrafted or who’s the late pick,” Quinn said. “How did that guy make it? How did that happen? It’s that relentless competitor. That’s part of our league is one of the coolest things. There is a spot for you if you’re willing to go for it.”
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