FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — Falcons coach Dan Quinn is feeling better about his team’s injury situation coming out of a bye week.
The long break gave All-Pro receiver Julio Jones and All-Pro defensive end Vic Beasley time to recover and allowed right tackle Ryan Schraeder and free safety Ricardo Allen to come back from concussions.
That’s four starters the Falcons (3-1) didn’t have at the end of a Week 4 home loss to Buffalo. A fifth starter, receiver Mohamed Sanu, left the game with a hamstring injury and seems doubtful for Sunday’s home game against Miami (2-2). Sanu was the only player unable to practice in some capacity Monday, but the Falcons got some good news with defensive end Courtney Upshaw returning to the field as he recovers from ankle and knee injuries.
“It’s a perfect time for us to reset,” Quinn said. “For whatever reason, the bye hit us at the right time based on some injuries. It was great to have those guys back.”
Jones, recovering from a hip flexor suffered against Buffalo, and Beasley, sidelined since Week 2 with a sore hamstring, are two players Atlanta can’t replace talent-wise. Jones leads the NFL in average yards receiving and catches per game since he debuted in 2011. Beasley was the league’s sacks leader last season.
But playing without Schraeder and Allen wasn’t easy either. Schraeder has started 46 of his 58 career games. Allen has started 33 of his 34 games. Ty Sambrailo took Schraeder’s spot and did a good job in the run game but struggled occasionally in protection. Damontae Kazee filled in for Allen but he’s a rookie.
“There will be other opportunities for them throughout the year,” Quinn said. “That’s just the nature of the game and how it goes, but it was great to have a more full roster back. It was a good start to the week.”
The Falcons’ coaching staff spent part of last week doing a “self-scout” to see how each position could improve. Quinn cited third down as needing improvement even though his offense and defense are doing well statistically in both categories. Turnover margin, though, is the biggest concern.
Atlanta ranks 28th at minus-4. The defense has one interception and one fumble recovery. The offense has five picks and one lost fumble.
Quinn likes the team’s intensity in practice. Now he wants to match it with executing plays and technique correctly.
“Not only are we hard to beat when those things really come to life we’re a lot of fun to watch, we’re a lot of fun coach and we’re a lot of fun to be around,” he said. “We are going to work like crazy to get those parts of your game, the battle, the prep, the competition and all of the practice things we want to improve upon.”
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