The Falcons are banking on Takkarist McKinley breaking out

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Since the Falcons once again ignored their pass rush this offseason, all the talk has been about whether Vic Beasley can regain his 2016 All-Pro form. That would be ideal, but after four years of watching Beasley, I’ve come to the conclusion he is what he is. If you’re waiting for him to rack up 12+ sacks again, don’t hold your breath. He’s yet to develop any secondary pass rushing moves, and it’s challenging to sack quarterbacks with speed when there aren’t many teammates that can push the pocket. If the Falcons don’t want to get shredded again defensively; they need Takk McKinely to start putting up first-round pick numbers.

McKinely is about as wild of a character that you will find in the NFL. On draft night, he took over the stage with an incredibly passionate speech capped off with an emphatic F-bomb. Over this past offseason, he was hospitalized with mental illness, and when asked about it at OTAs, his response was “I’m good.” Actually, that was his response to every question the media threw at him, providing another example of Takk being Takk.

Looks like the Falcons found themselves a heavier Marshawn Lynch, and I’m all for it, as long as he takes the next step on the football field.

McKinley had six sacks as a reserve in 2017 and added two more in the postseason, extremely promising for a rookie. Pass rushers tend to take a giant step forward in their second season – just look at the careers of Justin Houston, Khalil Mack, and even Vic Beasley Jr. to name a few. McKinley didn’t have that type of meteoric rise, at least not in the sack department.

He battled injuries early in the season, missing a week three matchup against New Orleans. Oddly, however, the first half of the season is where Takk did most of his damage. In the first three games, he recorded 4.5 sacks and only had 2.5 the rest of the season, including a seven-game stretch, where he went sackless.

That’s far from what the Falcons were looking for when they drafted him 26th overall, but sacks don’t always tell the whole story. According to Next Gen Stats, McKinley had the second overall pressure rate in the NFL last season, and he’s surrounded by some quality company.

The one player in front of him – Jerry Hughes – has long been among the most vaunted pass rushers in football, but the three players behind him might be regarded as the three best defensive players in the game. Sacks are sexy, but pressures are equally as important. In year three, McKinley needs to work on making the most out of every one of those opportunities because it is unlikely he gets much help from his teammates.

A couple of weeks ago, when speaking to the media, Dan Quinn said McKinley has intentionally leaned out and been working on his conditioning. As far as what he and Quinn will be working on leading up to the season – developing more pass rushing moves.

“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,” D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC reports.

The Falcons haven’t had a reliable pass rush since 2004. Glancing at their roster, that isn’t going to change in 2019. Atlanta is going to have trouble sacking quarterback – with McKinley being the one legitimate hope on the edge. The Falcons need him to continue to ramp up the pressure and rack up double digits sacks this year, or this defense is going to be plagued by the same problems from a year ago.

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