FLOWERY BRANCH — It’s the first day of Falcons’ training camp, and I see no reason to hold off asking the same question we’ve been asking since the team decided to let go of John Abraham after the 2012 season, which coincidentally also was the last year they made the playoffs: Who’s going to get to the quarterback?
The Falcons maintain today that improved speed in the secondary and at linebacker, progress by Vic Beasley and overall depth will significantly improve a pass rush that has finishing 30th, 31st and 32nd, respectively, in sacks in the past three seasons. But I suspect they’re going to add one player before the season starts: Dwight Freeney.
There’s a good chance Freeney will be signed in the next couple of weeks, perhaps following the Falcons’ first or second exhibition games (Aug. 11 vs. Washington; Aug. 18 at Cleveland). It’s not a certainty because Freeney has to decide if he wants to accept the deal the Falcons have on the table — likely a contract loaded with incentives. But the veteran has made it clear he wants to play another season, and the Falcons appear to be his first choice.
You might ask: Why isn’t Freeney here now? Answer: He doesn’t need to be. He’s 36 years old. There’s only so much football life left in his legs. There’s no reason to risk injury or wear him out in training camp practices and meaningless preseason games. If signed, Freeney would play on only passing downs and mentor Beasley and other young linemen. He would be a perfect fit for what the Falcons need.
He’s obviously not the player he was in Indianapolis (three All-Pro seasons; seven Pro Bowls; 100-plus sacks). But he had eight sacks in only 11 games with Arizona last season, and those eight sacks would’ve made him the Falcons’ leader in 2015 — by four. The Falcons would take eight sacks again.
3…2…1…TEVIN COLEMAN: The Falcons’ No. 2 tailback will have a bigger role in the offense this season and we got a sneak peek on day one of training camp. There were a few times when the Falcons had Coleman float out of the backfield and then take off down the left sideline, beating a linebacker in coverage on a deep route. Asked if that will be an element of the offense this season, Quinn said: “It’s going to be. It’s based on his speed first to see if we can take some of those shots down the field, see if we can go take advantage of some of those match-ups we’re looking for man to man. We want to exploit that whenever we can.”
BACK IN BLACK (AND RED): Yes, that was Arthur Lynch, the former Georgia tight end, practicing with the Falcons. He was contacted by the Falcons only two days earlier and signed Wednesday. Lynch, a former roommate and best buddy of quarterback Aaron Murray in Athens, has yet to play a game in his two NFL seasons (Denver, New York Jets, Miami) and he’s a long shot to stick here. But he’s happy just to not have to get a real job right now, likely in finance or commercial real estate, in New York. “It feels good to be back in red and black,” he said. Rookie Austin Hooper and returning starter Jacob Tamme are the top two tight ends on the roster but Lynch is among six tight ends in camp.
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