Improving the team’s pass rush is one of the Falcons’ offseason priorities.
With Vic Beasley and Grady Jarrett not attending the voluntary OTA workouts, defensive end Takkarist McKinley has been on hand and has been getting individual attention from coach Dan Quinn, who’s considered one of the top defensive line coaches in the NFL.
McKinley led the team in sacks last season with seven.
However, he made 5.5 of those sacks in the first three games of the season before going seven consecutive games without a sack. He made 1.5 sacks over the last two games after the team was eliminated from the playoffs.
McKinley didn’t want to fully discuss his offseason when he met briefly with the media Thursday.
Here’s how the interview with the local media went:
Good afternoon, how are you doing today?
“I’m good,” McKinley said.
How’s are things going for you in the middle of the OTAs and so forth? How are you feeling about that?
“It’s going good,” McKinley said.
What are some of things that you are trying to focus on here in the offseason program?
“I’m just trying to be good,” McKinley said. “Get good.”
While you’re trying to be good, coach (Dan Quinn) said last week that he has you at some linebacker there, saw you working on some take offs today. How are those things coming? How new and different are they for you?
“It’s going pretty good,” McKinley said.
After McKinley tried to leave, he returned to answer questions from another member of the Atlanta media.
A couple of years into the NFL now, showing back up for offseason workouts, how does it feel different now versus the past few?
“Pretty good,” McKinley said.
There were a lot of Falcons fans that were following the news this summer in California, who were concerned ... What should they know about what you were going through? What’s the message to them?
“I’m good,” McKinley said.
I don’t know if you heard (about) the support. I just saw a lot of it on social media. What was that like for your, hearing your supporters reaching out?
“It was good,” McKinley said.
McKinley was drafted in the first round of the 2017 draft and immediately became a media darling after his raw emotional arrival on the NFL draft stage with a picture of his grandmother, who raised him.
His rookie season, while recovering from shoulder surgery, he played in all 18 games and had eight sacks, including two in the playoffs.
Last season, he started eight of 15 games.
When the Falcons drafted McKinley, they were hoping that he and Beasley would turn into a dynamic pass-rushing duo.
The last time the Falcons had two double-digit sackers was in 2004, when defensive end Patrick Kerney had 13 and defensive tackle Rod Coleman had 11.5 as the Falcons were on their way to the NFC Championship game.
While McKinley, an Oakland native, was short with the media, Quinn said he’s doing well.
“He’s pretty fired up for the Warriors,” Quinn said. “Winning in three (instead of needing four games), that’s his motto.”
He can’t be happy after the Warriors lost Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday.
“But what I have seen from him, he’s lighter,” Quinn said. “That was intentional by him.”
Quinn had McKinley working on a twist stunt with Ra’Shede Hageman on Thursday.
“His edge-setting and the way he runs stunts, he’s got this fantastic bull-rush and now we are adding the other part of rushes with his hands,” Quinn said. “I think when we complete that piece, we are going to have a really difficult player to deal with.”
Since defensive end John Abraham was not re-signed in 2012, the Falcons have had just one double-digit sacker, Beasley in 2016 with 15.5.
Abraham was the Falcons’ last dynamic pass rushing threat. He had double-digit sacks in four of seven seasons with the Falcons, including 16.5 in 2008.
Overall, Abraham had double-digit sacks in 8 of 14 full seasons and had 9.5 sacks twice.
McKinley, who plays in Abraham’s old right defensive end spot, said on social media that he wanted to get double-digit sacks in 2019.
“He’s got strength,” Quinn said. “He’s got this kind of fitness that he has. He’s able to go really harder, longer. He’s really pushing himself to see what kind of conditioning he can take himself to.”
FALCONS SACK LEADERS SINCE 2012 (when John Abraham was not re-signed)
2013 -- Osi Umenyiora, 7.5
2014 -- Kroy Biermann, 4.5
2015 -- Vic Beasley, 4
2016 -- Vic Beasley, 15.5
2017 -- Adrian Clayborn, 9.5
2018 -- Takk McKinley, 7
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