Coming off a disappointing season, Dan Quinn and the Atlanta Falcons are looking to bounce back with one of the best rosters in the NFL. The team saw a great defensive surge last year but also had a small setback on offense. Thankfully, the team stayed relatively intact and added a few pieces through the draft and free agency. For the 2018 season, the Falcons have set their eyes on the Super Bowl and there are a few players poised for breakout seasons to help achieve that goal. The third and final candidate for Falcons breakout player of the year is Takkarist McKinley.
Atlanta Falcons Breakout Player Candidates: Takkarist McKinley
The most obvious player on this list is the second-year defensive end in McKinley. After being selected with the 26th pick and delivering one of the most memorable draft speeches in recent memory, McKinley followed up the hype with a wonderful rookie season. He finished third last year in sacks by a rookie with six in the regular season and two in the playoffs. Despite finishing third among rookies (in the regular season), he had a better sack rate than the two rookies above him.
McKinley came in with a long history of shoulder issues but persevered as he shook off the injury to appear in all 16 games for the Falcons helping the defense become a top 10 unit. Mckinley only took about 400 snaps last season so his 2018 snap count should see a steep increase. He finished with six sacks (eight including the playoffs), two forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery. Although a rookie season like that should get him some recognition, most non-Falcons fans don’t know who he is or how good he is. As his snaps increase and the Falcons defense gets even better McKinley should get the recognition he deserves.
McKinley emphasized recently that he does not want to fall into the sophomore slump that some players fall into. The Falcons have another player in Vic Beasley who avoided the sophomore slump and had the best season in his young career by earning the sack title. Hopefully, that is passed on to McKinley so he can avoid that slump. While we don’t know how high Takk can fly he certainly possesses the speed, power, and technique to get there and maybe even best Beasley and his 2016 season.
Most Falcons fans know ability on the field as a pass rusher but many will be surprised this year when he gets to display his rush defense. Despite only making 15 tackles, McKinley has a nose for the ball and that should be a big part of the game this year.
As for his overall stats, I can see him easily getting to double-digit sacks in the regular season. The problem with predicting a player like Takk’s stats is his injuries. He has had some shoulder problems in the past and they’ve continued over the summer and so we’re not really sure if he’ll be up to 100 percent. As a pass rusher with great hands, Takk’s shoulder will need to be near full strength if he expects to do damage. I think his snaps increase to about 600-700 snaps (Beasley had 671 in 2016) and his sacks reach 12-15.
In 2018, expect Takk to showcase his ability to get to the ball and make plays. I can see him getting 20-25 tackles with about three or four forced fumbles. If Takk can stay healthy throughout the season he could easily hit double-digit sacks giving Atlanta two elite edge rushers.