Falcons' Dan Quinn: Rookie Duke Riley looked 'comfortable' in debut

From ESPN - August 11, 2017

Although Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn did not get to see first-round pick Takkarist McKinley in action Thursday night, he did get to dissect his third-round pick.

Linebacker Duke Riley played 27 defensive snaps and 11 special-teams plays in the Falcons' 23-20 loss to the Miami Dolphins. The former LSU star had a team-leading four tackles on defense and added another on special teams.

"I thought the first time for him, he looked really aware in the system," Quinn said of Riley. "Some of the time, you are looking for those first-year player mistakes, and he did not have a lot of those, [except for] some leverage issues. So, he looked really comfortable in the system. I felt his speed, and he did play a lot on special teams. That's going to be part of the role for him -- using that speed and that ability to run and hit.

"He did a good job on the communication system, going to the players and relaying that. That was a first for him, as well."

Riley is getting a chance to compete for significant playing time at weakside linebacker, with De'Vondre Campbell transitioning some to strongside linebacker and Deion Jones holding down the middle linebacker spot. The Falcons started Thursday night's game in the nickel defense, with Jones and Campbell as the two linebackers on the field. Riley took the field for the second defensive series, along with Jones and Campbell, in the base defense.

Quinn also praised another rookie defender in fifth-round draft pick Damontae Kazee, the former college cornerback who was converted to free safety for depth behind Ricardo Allen. Kazee played 17 snaps on defense and 15 on special teams.

"Kazee is somebody that jumped out to us both on [special] teams and on defense," Quinn said. "He's a very physical player, and you felt that the way he can track and come out of the middle of the field. I thought he and [linebacker Jermaine] Grace timed up a punt and really covered that well. We talked about that in front of the team today."


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