Currently, 87 days remain until the start of the 2018 NFL Season and the Atlanta Falcons are in the middle of their Championship Window. Star Quarterback Matt Ryan has agreed to an extension (and is the father of twin boys), Julio Jones has not worked out with the team during OTA’s (opting to work in California while communicating with the team) and Head Coach Dan Quinn has brought in former Falcons Offensive Coordinator Greg Knapp to be the team’s QB coach. Although, the Falcons still have three major questions they have to answer (albeit partially) by the end of this Week’s minicamp.

First, can the Falcons improve their red zone efficiency? Last season, the Falcons scored touchdowns inside the red zone at a 49.18% rate. Compare that to the 2016 campaign in which Atlanta scored 64.56% of the time. In addition, Julio Jones caught one touchdown pass inside the red zone last season and was targeted only 25% of the time, according to Pro Football Reference.

“I think the biggest thing for me is just overall comfort level,” Sarkisian said last week. “When I came in a year ago, it was learning the system that was in place. It was learning the players that were in place. In Year 2, I have a year into the system. Now I can make some of the tweaks that I feel like are needed for this offense to continue to grow.

“I’ve got a really good understanding of every player and the things that they’re really good at, the things that maybe they need to work on, the things that I would be wrong putting them in position to do. I think all of those things just put me in a much different level of comfort, where you just feel good every day walking in.”

Secondly, how soon will this year’s rookie class become part of “The Brotherhood?”
Calvin Ridley, Isaiah Oliver, Deadrin Senat, Russell Gage, Ito Smith and Foyesade Oluokun are the members of Atlanta’s 2018 draft class. Quinn has said Ridley has taken to the playbook quickly and made great strides during rookie camp. It will be interesting to see which members of the undrafted rookie class will stand out during minicamp.

Lastly, can the defense raise their game and achieve top-five status?
Nine of the eleven starters are back and only one player is over 30 (Brooks Reed, 31); most pundits believe the Falcons defense can become one of the best in the NFL. Last season, Atlanta finished in the top 10 in both scoring defense (eighth at 19.7 points per game) and total defense (ninth at 318.4 yards per game) for the first time since 1998. They went to Super Bowl XXXIII that year.

“Those are cool things that people can talk about postseason,” Quinn said. “But during the season, the main thing for me is it still comes down to points allowed — and points scored, offensively — and then that turnover margin. When those things are in order, you’ll be a pretty respected defense.

“I hope when people watch us play, they see the speed, they see the toughness, they see that ball-hawking mindset to go after it. I feel like we’re definitely making progress to be the unit that we’d like to be. Put it this way: The goal is to be the best team.”

Itoro Umontuen currently serves as Managing Editor of The Atlanta Voice. Upon his arrival to the historic publication, he served as their Director of Photography. As a mixed-media journalist, Umontuen...

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