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Atlanta Falcons

Leftover Mailbag: Pre-Training Camp Edition



Dec 3, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons defensive end Takkarist McKinley (98) reacts after a sack on Minnesota Vikings quarterback Case Keenum (7) (not shown) during the first half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

After a Q&A episode of the Locked on Falcons podcast, there are usually a couple of listener questions that I’m unable to answer. Those unanswered questions get resolved here on a “leftovers” mailbag post on the website.

This week we only have one leftover question, but it’s a good one. So let’s get started!

Keep Three, Cut One of the Falcons Emerging Young Defenders

I’ll give you 4 names; Takk McKinley, Grady Jarett, Keanu Neal, Deion Jones and you keep 3, cut 1. Don’t look at roster depth or team needs, just look at players and choose. Also explain why?
— Zamir Sabanovic

This is a great question, Zamir. Although I will let you know now up front that I’m going to weasel out of giving you a direct answer. Instead, I will make a case for choosing all four players you mentioned as the cut ones. And I’ll let you readers decide which is the most compelling argument.

The Case Against Takk McKinley

If I were to choose to cut Takk, the argument against him stems from the fact that he’s the least known commodity among the quartet of players chosen. We already have a good idea that Grady Jarrett, Keanu Neal and Deion Jones are Pro Bowlers, but we don’t know that yet with Takk. And one can argue that the former three are also already or on the verge of being among the best players at their positions.

Takk certainly has the skill and potential to get to a high level and many people expect big things out of the former first-round pick in his second season in Atlanta.

However, one could argue that Takk is not an especially talented defensive end to think that he’s going to be among the premier players at his position. A good one? Yes. But a great one? No. And thus, relative to his position, Takk might be the least talented of this group.

Yet given the fact that he has the ability to directly affect the quarterback with his pass-rushing skills, which is widely considered to be the most valuable role on any defense, it’s hard to eliminate a good pass-rusher even if he doesn’t have the potential to be great.

The Case Against Grady Jarrett

The argument I would levy at why Jarrett is the best choice to cut is probably due to the fact that among this group, he potentially has the least amount of impact against the pass.

Jarrett shined as a run defender in 2017, but as a pass-rusher, he wasn’t anything exceptional. Certainly, Jarrett was good, but Aaron Donald he is not.

Given that it is a “passing league,” one could argue that among this group he is the one that impacts there the least.

The Case Against Keanu Neal

Probably the way I would approach the case to cut Neal would center on the fact that he plays the safety position. And as such, he has probably the shortest shelf life among this group.

Thus if we’re framing this as the player that is least likely to be playing for your team in five years as the most expendable, then Neal is probably the safest choice given the position he plays and his physical playing style probably won’t help matters (although we can always hope that he is the next Lawyer Milloy).

The Case Against Deion Jones

Similar to Neal, playing inside linebacker doesn’t necessarily lead to longevity given that it too is a physical position, so that’s one mark against Jones.

The other argument for why Jones should be the player cut is that one can say that he is not the most complete player among this group. The things that Jones is good at, he is exceptional at. But there are some things that Jones is not so great at, and so one could make a case that he is only “half of a great” player and therefore is expendable.

Although even as I type that, I become less convinced of its legitimacy.

So there are four cases against each player, although you be the judge of how compelling they are. I feel like all four players are core pieces to not only the building of the Falcons defense, but would be on any defense, so it’s hard to choose which player is the “least essential.”

All the arguments made against each player, I’m not sure I buy them myself, so it’s hard to choose which one makes the most sense and thus I won’t make a choice and instead deflect them back to you, the readers, to see which one you buy.

By all means, make your own cases against one or more players in the comments below.

I hope you enjoyed this leftover mailbag. We’ll be sure to do another once we get several practices under our belt once training camp starts later this week.

Aaron has covered the Atlanta Falcons since 2006 on his website He is the host of the Locked on Falcons podcast and co-host of Falcons Central Radio podcast at Pro Football He’s also contributed in the past for draft website, The Huddle Report, and been a featured columnist at Bleacher Report. He currently resides in North Carolina, is an alumnus of the University of Pittsburgh and has a deep abiding passion for chicken wings.



  1. Zamir Sabanovic

    July 22, 2018 at 6:03 pm

    I thought I had you cornered with that question to give me a direct answer, but once again you managed to weasel out. Bravo, Aaron! However, you did give me a valid argument against or for each of the mentioned players, but I still don’t know who I would choose to cut in that scenario. I don’t know if the Falcons front office will ever have to make that decision, but if they do, that is a very good problem to have. It just shows that the Falcons current roster is full of young talent which I don’t remember if we ever had before. At least not on the defensive side. Do you agree?

    • Aaron Freeman

      July 22, 2018 at 8:41 pm

      Ha, yeah I knew you wouldn’t be happy with me slipping out of answering that one. But if you put a gun to my head, I’d probably choose Takk. But that’s probably again only due to the fact that at this point he’s the least known commodity. A couple of months from now, there’s a very good chance I’d choose someone else. Then a few months after that, it’d be a different answer. That tells you it’s a great question that really one can answer in a number of ways, and purely boils down to preference and your thoughts on the skill and value of each player.

      • Zamir Sabanovic

        July 22, 2018 at 11:38 pm

        Again, you didn’t answer the question in the comment! Lol but thanks for commenting because I do too change an answer almost every day on who to cut. I’m actually thorn between 2 players and that’s a Tek and Keanu. Keanu only because of position he plays. Safeties are not really highly valued these days even though he’s one of top safeties in the NFL and in my opinion he can even get better!

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Atlanta Falcons

Preseason Week 2 Q&A



Aug 17, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett (97) and defensive tackle Deadrin Senat (94) look at the sideline before a play against the Kansas City Chiefs in the first quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron reviews the Falcons vs. Chiefs preseason action from last week and answers listeners questions. He discusses:

  • Damontae Kazee pushing Ricardo Allen as a starter
  • Standout undrafted rookies like Anthony Winbush and Jon Celestin
  • Grady Jarrett’s Pro Bowl potential
  • Duke Riley’s progress
  • Marvin Hall’s role
  • Steve Sarkisian’s play-calling
  • How Calvin Ridley matches up with corners in the NFC South
  • Making adjustments to his practice squad and 53-man roster projections from earlier this summer.
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Atlanta Falcons

Rapid Reaction to Preseason Loss to Chiefs



Aug 17, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley (18) reacts after catching a touchdown pass against the Kansas City Chiefs during the first half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron reacts to the Falcons 28-14 loss to the Chiefs in their second preseason game. He goes position by position, breaking down the standouts and struggles including Calvin Ridley’s breakout performance and potential to impact as a returner, the battles at tight end and right guard, the improvement from Duke Riley and thoughts on the new helmet penalty.

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Atlanta Falcons

Preseason Week 2 vs. Chiefs Preview



Aug 10, 2018; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley (18) is tackled by New York Jets defensive back Buster Skrine (41) during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron previews tonight’s preseason action between the Falcons and Chiefs. He goes position by position, discussing the team’s QB rotation, seeing more of Calvin Ridley, the battle at right guard, tweaking the DT rotation, potential shifts in secondary roles and more.

Check out and use the offer code LOCKEDON for 10% off your first ticket order.

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