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2018 is Huge for Takk and Duke

Jarrett Smith
June 18, 2018 - 9:22 am

If you could draw a Venn diagram of 2017 for Takk McKinley and Duke Riley it probably would not be two circles on opposite sides of the room that way some people expect.

Both players were drafted with high expectations and both dealt with injuries going into the 2017 season. Where the separation happens, obviously, is the production and perception during the season.

McKinley had his snaps limited but made a great impression in limited time while wrestling with injuries before and after the season.

Head Coach Dan Quinn is optimistic about McKinley’s immediate future after a quieter offseason for the former UCLA lineman.

“Takk is setting himself up to be a really excellent pass rusher,” said Quinn. “He has toughness, he’s got speed and now from a technique standpoint he really feels equipped to do it.”

McKinley collected six sacks and forced two fumbles 2017 while playing 401 snaps, according to Pro Football Reference. It will be interesting to see if Takk’s development impacts the way the team approaches long-term plans with Vic Beasley after picking up Beasley’s fifth year option in the spring.

Riley meanwhile was drafted after filling the Deion Jones role at LSU and had high expectations as a depth piece in one of the youngest and most exciting linebacker groups in the NFL. Riley struggled with injury as well and appeared to struggle with the speed of the game, making 2018 look like a pivotal year in his young career. A step forward would do wonders for depth but another year treading water could have Atlanta looking at next year’s draft for potential pieces, especially with so many defensive playmakers expected to seek contracts in the foreseeable future.

According to Quinn, Riley is certainly doing his part to make an impact in 2018.

“One guy who I thought has thrown a hell of an offseason is Duke Riley,” said Quinn. “I’d always admired his work ethic but then he took his training from a technique side as a ball player to another level.”

Riley’s development would give Atlanta another fast linebacker who could take some of the pressure off the starting linebackers. He took about a third of his snaps on special teams as well and could be asked to keep making improvements in that area of his game.

The jury is still out on the impact of the 2017 draft and going into year two we could end up with some interesting answers, or possibly even more questions.