FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn said first-round draft pick Takkarist McKinley, who underwent major right shoulder surgery in March, is likely to make his debut in Sunday’s exhibition at Pittsburgh, barring any last-minute setbacks.
McKinley, a defensive end from UCLA, was limited at the start of training camp but gradually saw his workload increase. He was in close to 100 percent of the practice reps this week.
“All systems look good,” Quinn said of McKinley after Friday’s practice.
McKinley had the procedure March 6, and the initial timetable after surgery called for four to six months of recovery. McKinley’s last live action was Nov. 26, 2016, his final game with the Bruins.
McKinley looked strong during Friday’s practice while lining up on both edges. Quinn said the plan is to keep McKinley on one side against the Steelers, without revealing which side. It seems likely for McKinley to get the bulk of his work off the right edge, as he was drafted to rush opposite reigning NFL sacks champ Vic Beasley Jr., who rushes off the left.
McKinley’s quick get-off and powerful bull rushes have been on display daily in practice, particularly during one-on-one drills. He’s working on refining his technique, however.
Quinn is impressed with how McKinley has played the run in practice.
“I think he’s probably a little stronger than I thought,” Quinn said of McKinley’s run defense. “Not saying that I thought [it] was a weakness, but the strength that he’s able to set an edge with, I knew that part of his game was good. But until you see it on film, compared to seeing it live, it’s a big difference.”
Quinn said All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones, who underwent foot surgery in March, will sit out against the Steelers, like Jones did last week at Miami. The Falcons are taking a cautious approach with Jones, who said he’ll be ready for action whenever called upon.
Quinn hasn’t made a decision on wide receiver Taylor Gabriel, who continues to recover from a lower leg injury. Gabriel sat out last week’s exhibition against the Dolphins.