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Falcons flying high again after rough start, face Browns
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Falcons flying high again after rough start, face Browns

Falcons flying high again after rough start, face Browns
Photo Credit: Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

FILE - In this Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018, file photo, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) fakes a handoff to running back Ito Smith (25) during an NFL football game against the Washington Redskins, in Landover, Md. Ryan is playing like he did as an MVP in 2016, throwing 10 touchdown passes and just three interceptions. (AP Photo/Mark Tenally, File)

FILE - In this Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018, file photo, Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) reacts during an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs in Cleveland. The Browns have dropped four in a row going into Sunday’s matchup with the Atlanta Falcons. (AP Photo/David Richard, File)

Falcons flying high again after rough start, face Browns

CLEVELAND (AP) - Quietly, steadily and with little fanfare, the Atlanta Falcons have gotten off the ground.

They're flying again - under the radar.

Despite numerous injuries at vital positions, the Falcons have shaken off a 1-4 start and carry a three-game winning streak into Sunday's matchup with the Browns (2-6-1). Cleveland has changed coaches, dropped four in a row and is trying not to let another season spiral completely out of control.

The Falcons (4-4) are coming off their best performance this season, a well-rounded 38-14 thrashing of the Washington Redskins that has pushed them back into contention in the wild-card race. Atlanta coach Dan Quinn said the key to the team's turnaround has been persistence.

"The main thing for us was the message to be real consistent, to stay the course," Quinn said this week. "Although we got knocked down, defensively especially from the communication standpoint, we had to work hard to increase on that. There might be some new voices leading the way. We just tried to stay consistent with the guys. Make sure that we knew what we were doing was right and we had to do what we did better."

Nobody's doing it better than Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, who is playing like he did as the league's MVP in 2016. Ryan has thrown 19 touchdown passes, only three interceptions, and is completing 71 percent of his passes. The 33-year-old leads the NFL with 335.6 yards passing per game, and he recently went 213 attempts between interceptions.

Matty Ice is on fire.

"He really is playing well. He is executing very well," said Browns interim coach and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. "You can see the comfort zone that he has with (Falcons offensive coordinator) Steve (Sarkisian) in Year 2. That usually is the way that it is in our league."

Last week, Ryan passed for 350 yards and four touchdowns, one to star receiver Julio Jones, who ended a 12-game scoreless drought and finished with seven catches for 121 yards.

Cleveland's defense will get another stiff test one week after dealing with Kansas City's high-flying aerial circus. Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs scored 34 in three quarters before coasting through the final 15 minutes.

Williams knows Ryan's capabilities after facing him twice a season while he was defensive coordinator in New Orleans. Back then, Williams could take chances and blitz a young Ryan. Those tricks don't work as well on a savvy veteran.

"I look at it as an older quarterback - you start to get into the double-digit years, plus years and stuff - the influence of whoever is coordinating him and whoever is coaching him, he is having some say in some things and doing some really, really good things," Williams said. "He is very accurate. Our work is going to be cut out for us. You can't fool those kinds of guys that many times."

BROWNS DOWN

Cleveland's task of stopping Ryan, Jones and Co. got harder when starting linebacker Christian Kirksey and cornerback E.J. Gaines were lost to season-ending injuries.

The Browns should have rookie cornerback Denzel Ward and safety/corner Damarious Randall back from injuries. Randall may draw the assignment of covering Jones, who presents problems with his size and speed.

"Big, fast, strong. I mean, you name it," Randall said when asked to describe Jones. "He's pretty much what you want in your typical receiver nowadays. He's the guy that if you had to pick a receiver No. 1 in the league, I'm pretty sure probably all 32 teams would pick Julio Jones."

NEW RUNNING BACK TANDEM

With Devonta Freeman on injured reserve for at least six more weeks, Atlanta's distribution of carries has been unexpectedly balanced. Tevin Coleman is starting, but rookie Ito Smith's role is expanding. Proof came in last week's win when Coleman had 13 carries for 88 yards, and Smith added 10 for 60 yards and a touchdown.

"He's gotten better for us every week," Ryan said of Smith. "I've been really impressed with his growth from game to game. It's really cool to see that from young players, particularly rookies."

GO, BAKER, GO

The Browns want rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield to cut it loose.

Mayfield was tough on himself after some missed throws last week, but Williams' said his message to the No. 1 pick this week was to only look forward.

"We have his back. Now, let's go," Williams said. "You're a smart enough quarterback, instinctive enough quarterback. We understand that mistakes are going to be made. Don't be afraid of making mistakes. Just cut it loose and play, and make faster and faster decisions.

"That's the No. 1 thing that I've tried to convey to him."

PERFECT FIT

Newly signed defensive end Bruce Irvin is expected to make his Falcons debut. Quinn said Irvin will play as a pass-rush specialist in the nickel package.

Quinn was Seattle's defensive coordinator for two seasons when Irvin played for the Seahawks. That familiarity, along with Irvin's desire to return to his hometown, helped the Falcons reach a deal when Irvin said he was offered more money elsewhere.

"I know Bruce," Quinn said. "I've known him for a long time. He'll fit in really well with this group."

___

AP Sports Writer Charles Odum contributed to this report.

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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Georgia Sports News

  • ATHENS Former Georgia football receiver Jeremiah 'J.J.' Holloman has entered his name into the NCAA transfer portal after being dismissed from the Bulldogs team last Friday. Holloman was set to be the go-to target on a Georgia team expected to compete for the SEC championship this season before a police report surfaced in which he allegedly admitted to striking an ex-girlfriend following the 2018 UGA G-Day game. The victim did not file a report of the incident that allegedly occurred on April 22, 2018, with the University of Georgia Police Department until June 2, 2019. The police report states that the victim 'did not want to pursue an investigation for this incident' and 'wouldn't want him to be subject to criminal charges.' Due to that, the police report lists the case as 'inactive.' Georgia coach Kirby Smart issued a statement after the police report surfaced in the media, first in Holloman's hometown paper, the Covington News. 'We expect every member of our team to uphold the highest standards and values of the University of Georgia and Georgia football,' Smart said. 'It is disappointing when this does not happen.' RELATED: Georgia title hopes take hit, transfers must step up The Bulldogs lost three receivers to the NFL Draft along with their top receiving tight end from the 2018 season. Holloman's dismissal leaves Georgia without its top five pass catchers from last season. Georgia will likely lean heaviest on incoming Miami graduate transfer Lawrence Cager, along with 2018 transfer Demetris Robertson and returning senior Tyler Simmons at the start of fall camp. UGA also added Tennessee graduate transfer tight end Eli Wolf. The Bulldogs also lost three players to transfers during this offseason. Backup freshman quarterback Justin Fields elected to transfer to Ohio State, freshman tight end Luke Ford chose to transfer back to his home state of Illinois, and reserve linebacker Jaden Hunter transferred to Western Kentucky. Fields was granted immediate eligibility with the Buckeyes, but Ford's request for a waiver to play immediately has been denied. Ford had high-profile attorney Tom Mars helping him make his case, leaving some surprised by the result. Mars helped paved the way for Fields' successful bid to gain immediate eligibility. Hunter played in only four games last season, which constitutes a redshirt under new NCAA rules. Former Georgia defensive back Deangelo Gibbs was suspended indefinitely when he transferred to the University of Tennessee, where he will be eligible to play this season. Former UGA reserve safety Tray Bishop, once a 4-star U.S. Army All-American recruit from Dawson, Ga, is also in the transfer portal. Bishop took part in the 2018 G-Day Game before being arrested in May of 2018 as a result of a 2017 incident. He did not appear in any games for Georgia. The post Former Georgia WR Jeremiah J.J.' Holloman enters NCAA transfer portal, his case inactive appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS Georgia basketball freshman Anthony 'Antman' Edwards has yet to play a second in a college game, but already, he's a legend in the making. RELATED: High-flying Antman' dazzles in McDonald's All-American Game Edwards, who's expected to start for Coach Tom Crean's Bulldogs this season, is being projected as the No. 1 overall pick by Bleacher Report in its 'Way-Too-Soon 2020 NBA Lottery Mock Draft.' 'He's a scoring 2-guard with secondary playmaking ability in the mold of Victor Oladipo,' writes Jonathan Wasserman, comparing the UGA freshman to the top-five NBA pick Crean developed at Indiana. 'Edwards has developed into a ball-screen weapon who can also create his own shot with drives, pull-ups and step-backs.' Edwards recently sat down with the WSB Bulldogs Game Day show and made it clear his mindset is to make it about 'team' at Georgia. 'I came to Georgia where we're a team, we were all highly recruited,' said Edwards, a consensus top-five national recruit out of Atlanta's Holy Spirit Prepatory School. 'We're in this together, no one is separate, and I love all my guys,' he said. 'We're all gelling together, getting to know each other, spending time with each other, building our chemistry and trying to get better as a team.' How's life at @UGABasketball with all the new recruits now in Athens? Here's Ant Man, Anthony Edwards! Go Dawgs! More on the Dawgs Saturdays at 10am on @WSBbulldogs on @wsbtv. pic.twitter.com/Gx2fUcZ4Ek Bulldogs Game Day (@WSBbulldogs) June 25, 2019 Some of that time together has been spent on the football field for conditioning, pushing sleds. DAWG SLEDS pic.twitter.com/SscBZ1PPCL Georgia Basketball (@UGABasketball) June 25, 2019 'We're gonna really kick the training up this offseason after this mandatory seven-day break,' Crean said after last season. 'This is not going to be business as usual.' The post WATCH: Georgia basketball's Anthony Antman' Edwards already projected No. 1 in NBA draft appeared first on DawgNation.
  • Former Georgia baseball players have made their professional debuts.
  • ATHENS It has been said that perception can overtake reality, and while in some instances that's true, it doesn't apply to SEC football. So while it's always a fun read to pick up the preseason magazines, people do so knowing the season will bear out where teams really stand, and how good players and position groups really are. That said, it's worth reviewing how Nashville-based Athlon Magazine editors Steven Lassan and Mitch Light view Georgia, from their preseason rank, to how they think the Bulldogs' position groups stack up. Georgia is the magazine's preseason No. 3 team, and Athlon is predicting the Bulldogs run the table in the regular season before losing to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. That seems to be the most common narrative across the country: Until the Bulldogs finish the job and beat the Crimson Tide, people won't be convinced. RELATED: Tebow says Kirby ahead of schedule, but needs to beat Bama Never mind that Georgia has led or been tied with the Tide118 minutes and 54 seconds of 120 minutes and 281 of 290 plays of the past two meetings in the CFP title game and SEC title game. Here's where Athlon has the Georgia position groups ranked among the top five, and a quick take on whether it's too high, or too low: Running backs 1. Alabama; 2. Georgia; 3. Florida; 4. Vanderbilt; 5. Auburn About right. If the UGA backfield stays healthy QB Jake Fromm and D'Andre Swift the Bulldogs will beat Alabama in the SEC Championship Game and can claim the best RB unit. Wide receivers 1. Alabama; 2. Florida; 3. Texas A&M; 4. LSU; 5. Missouri Too low. The rankings go seven deep, and Georgia is among those seven. It's understandable, but considering how transfers Lawrence Cager and Demetris Robertson project, UGA should be top 5. Offensive line 1. Georgia; 2. Alabama; 3. Missouri; 4. Auburn; 5. LSU. Spot on. Georgia has six offensive linemen returning with starting experience, including three former FWAA Freshman All-Americans. Four of the five projected starters are likely top 100 NFL Draft picks in 2020. Defensive line 1. Auburn, 2. Alabama; 3. Florida; 4. Texas A&M; 5. LSU; 6. Georgia About right. Sophomore Jordan Davis ranks is a rising star, but this is UGA's weakest group, and that's alarming considering there are five seniors in the rotation. Linebackers 1. Alabama; 2. Georgia; 3. LSU; 4. Mississippi State; 5. Florida Too high. Tae Crowder leads unsettled group. Can Monty Rice stay healthy? Sort out: Azeez Ojulari, Nolan Smith, Brenton Cox, Jermaine Johnson, Adam Anderson, Walter Grant, Nakobe Dean, Channing Tindall, Robert Beal Jr., Quay Walker and Nate McBride. Defensive backs 1. LSU, 2. Florida, 3. Alabama, 4. Georgia, 5. Auburn. Too low. Richard LeCounte and J.R. Reed are the best safety duo in the league, and Eric Stokes and Tyson Campbell rank among the league's best cornerbacks. There's quality depth, as well, with Otis Reese, Divaad Wilson, and Tyrique McGhee pushing, and newcomers DJ Daniel and Tyrique Stevenson impressing. The post Georgia football position groups SEC ranking with Athlon, too high or too low appeared first on DawgNation.
  • Welcome to Good Day, UGA , your one-stop shop for Georgia footballnews and takes. Check us out every weekday morning for everything you need to know about Georgia football, recruiting, basketball and more. The best former 3-star, 4-star and 5-star prospects on the Georgia football team All recruiting rankings are based on 247Sports Composite rankings 3-star recruit: J.R. Reed, senior safety Despite all of Georgia's recruiting success over the past three cycles, Georgia will still be getting a number of contributions from 3-star recruits in 2019. On the offensive side of the ball, Solomon Kindley will be holding things down at left guard. He's started double-digit games in each of the last two seasons, and barring an injury will do so again. Running back Brian Herrien also figures to play an important role, as does wide receiver Tyler Simmons, following the dismissal of Jeremiah Holloman. But it's on the defensive side of the ball where there is even more 3-star talent. Monty Rice is expected to be a starter at one of the inside linebacker spots. Cornerback Eric Stokes had an excellent spring after a strong close to the 2018 season. And he might not even end up being the best 3-star prospect in the secondary, with senior J.R. Reed entering his third season as a starter. Reed wasn't highly thought of as a recruit or as a transfer from Tulsa. But he's become a key piece in the Georgia secondary. After bypassing the 2019 NFL Draft, Reed is expected to be a leader for the Georgia defense in 2019. And it's a challenge that the former No. 1856th ranked prospect in the country is ready for entering his final season in Athens. 'I have to take my role more seriously,' Reed said of his senior season. 'It is a different role than I have had in the past. Now, a lot of it comes on your shoulders. We just have to get everybody leaning in the same direction.' Related: Georgia safety J.R. Reed puts NFL dream on hold to pursue championship goals with Bulldogs 4-star recruit: Andrew Thomas, junior offensive tackle In the four recruiting classes that Kirby Smart has signed, he's landed a total of 58 4-star prospects. Some of them have played well above that already high ranking, as several multi-year starters on Georgia's 2019 team were 4-star recruits. Perhaps the most important 4-star recruit Smart has landed is quarterback Jake Fromm. He was ranked as the No. 44 overall player in the 2017 class, just missing out on 5-star status. In his two seasons at Georgia, he's racked up 23 wins as a starter and thrown 54 touchdown passes. Defensively, nose guard Jordan Davis proved to be a huge difference-maker on the defensive line last season, while outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari has been pegged as a possible breakout player by ESPN. But in terms of pure talent and how they rank amongst their peers, there is no better 4-star recruit on Georgia's 2019 roster than left tackle Andrew Thomas. As a freshman, he started every game at right tackle for a team that played for a national championship. As a sophomore, he started 13 games at left tackle and earned First Team All-SEC honors in doing so. As a recruit, he was the No. 45 overall prospect in the 2017 class, one spot below Fromm. Next April, he's got a very realistic chance of being the first offensive tackle taken in the NFL draft. And while Thomas might not grab or garner a ton of headlines, he might end up being the most talented player on Georgia's team, regardless of their high school recruiting ranking. 5-star recruit: D'Andre Swift, junior running back Georgia has signed 18 5-star recruits under Smart, the most in the country. He's signed a 5-star prospect at every position group and in 2019 signed the No. 1 overall player in the country in Nolan Smith. Guys like offensive tackle Isaiah Wilson and safety Richard LeCounte are both entering their second seasons as starters. Linebacker Nakobe Dean and Smith had standout springs for Georgia. And given Holloman's dismissal, there's a chance we're talking a lot about freshman wide receiver George Pickens come the end of the 2019 season. But running back D'Andre Swift like he often does against opposing defense has put a healthy gap between himself in the field. After rushing for over 600 yards in his freshman season, he topped the 1,000-yard mark as a sophomore. Swift was rated as the No. 33 overall prospect in the 2017 class and just barely earned his 5-star status. Related: NFL draft expert explains what 2 traits really help D'Andre Swift shine Swift is expected to be the focal point of the Georgia offense heading into his junior and possibly final season in Athens. If he can improve off of what he did in 2018, there's going to be a very good chance that Georgia has an incredibly special 2019. UGA WR commit Marcus Rosemy wins Rivals Five-Star Challenge MVP Georgia wide receiver Marcus Rosemy isn't a 5-star prospect. But after his performance in Atlanta on Tuesday, he might be headed that way. Rosemy was named the wide receiver MVP of the Rivals Five-Star Challenge, which featured some of the top wide receiver prospects in the country. The Fort Lauderdale, Fla., native showed off some of his impressive ball skills in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. #UGA commit Marcus Rosemy comes to #Rivals5StarChallenge against a field of the nation's best and walks away as wide receiver MVP. Earned it. pic.twitter.com/hUvSuBOCio Jake Reuse (@ReuseRecruiting) June 25, 2019 Recent 4-star UGA commit WR Marcus Rosemy and QB Brock Vandagriff have been on the same page so far in the #Rivals5StarChallenge 7-on-7 tournament. This was 1 of 3 connections this drive. @ReuseRecruiting @SmallwoodTrent @patrickgarbin @UGASportscom pic.twitter.com/WbqP9AastQ Jack Austin (@jackaustin663) June 25, 2019 #UGA WR commit Marcus Rosemy pulls down the tough grab. #RivalsChallenge pic.twitter.com/4Iy9qPceBw Trent Smallwood (@SmallwoodTrent) June 25, 2019 Rosemy committed to the Bulldogs last week, as he ended up picking Georgia over the Florida Gators. He is rated as the No. 6 overall wide receiver in the class and the No. 39 overall prospect. If he were to just remain at those rankings, he would be the third highest ranked wide receiver Georgia has signed in the past decade, behind only 2019 signees George Pickens and Dominick Blaylock. Related: Expectations rise for freshmen George Pickens, Dominick Blaylock following Jeremiah Holloman dismissal Rosemy is the highest rated of the three wide receiver commits in Georgia's 2020 recruiting class. The other two wide receivers in the class are 4-star prospect Justin Robinson and 3-star prospect Corey Wren. Like Rosemy, Wren also committed to the program last week. Georgia has the No. 4 overall recruiting class in the 2020 cycle, behind only Clemson, Alabama and LSU. Best Georgia football stories from around DawgNation Clock running on Jake Fromm, Georgia receivers, to get in championship form WATCH: Carson Beck shares his connection to Georgia's 1980 national championship team The 5 most important games on Georgia football's 2019 schedule Numbers show if Georgia is to make the College Football Playoff, it will need new No. 1 receiver to emerge 4-star OL Akinola Ogunbiyi explains his flip to Texas A&M Greg McGarity addresses Kirby Smart's feelings about UGA-Florida venue and more Tim Tebow: Georgia football was ahead of schedule,' but needs to beat Alabama Jake Fromm, Cade Mays to play against brothers in SEC showdowns Dawgs on Twitter Looks like #DawgCountry to me! pic.twitter.com/3U9nAo4DtX Todd Hartley (@coach_thartley) June 25, 2019 DAWG SLEDS pic.twitter.com/SscBZ1PPCL Georgia Basketball (@UGABasketball) June 25, 2019 Hard work pays off Congrats @Tyefagan on being named this week's Dawg of the Week pic.twitter.com/yvUt9sIaJC Georgia Basketball (@UGABasketball) June 25, 2019 Good luck to @Awood45 as he begins rehab assignment Thurs in Louisville, been out all season due to back spasms; ready to see him back on field again with @kFarm17 and the Reds. #DGD Georgia Baseball (@BaseballUGA) June 25, 2019 Good Dawg of the Day I wish I loved doing anything as much as my dog loves rolling in grass pic.twitter.com/GWWUvHdYnU Amina Akhtar (@Drrramina) June 25, 2019 The post The best former 3-, 4- and 5-star prospects on Georgia's 2019 roster appeared first on DawgNation.