By CHARLES ODUM, AP Sports Writer
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — Takk McKinley’s self-imposed, two-week break from social media ended this week with a two-word announcement on his Twitter account:
“Takk back .”
The rookie defensive end flexed his muscles while wearing his Atlanta Falcons jersey in a photo attached to Monday’s tweet.
That show of strength was fitting, because McKinley’s power game has impressed coach Dan Quinn just in time for the first-round pick from UCLA to make his first start Sunday at Detroit.
McKinley will fill in for Vic Beasley, the 2016 NFL sacks leader who strained his right hamstring in Sunday night’s win over Green Bay. Beasley could miss more than one game, possibly providing an extended audition for McKinley.
“I’m excited,” McKinley said Wednesday. “It sucks it had to happen from a teammate going down. But it’s next man up. I’ve just got to take advantage of my opportunities.”
McKinley has two tackles as a backup in his first two NFL games. Now he’ll be expected to help replace the pass rush provided by Beasley.
Quinn said the rookie has the ability to reach quarterbacks with his speed or power moves that have been a pleasant surprise.
“I knew he had speed,” Quinn said. “I knew he was a tough competitor. What I probably couldn’t tell as well off the UCLA tape but you see now is the power he can generate as a rusher.”
McKinley’s eyes grew wide when told of Quinn’s comment.
“He said that about me?” McKinley asked. “… For him to say that, that’s a huge compliment.”
McKinley said coaches “preach speed” with quick first steps. There were fewer opportunities in college for him to demonstrate the power side of his game, but he said it was hidden in his “dark side.”
“Takk has a little dark side to him and once that bull rush comes out, that’s what that is,” he said. “I’ve always had the bull. I’m still learning how to rush.”
He said he was eager to test his strength “going against grown men” in the NFL.
“If I can power them, I can power anybody,” he said. “… I want to see if I can bull rush these grown men back.”
McKinley (6-4, 230) was the No. 26 overall pick in the draft . He knew he’d have to compete for playing time behind such veterans as Beasley, Brooks Reed, Courtney Upshaw, Adrian Clayborn and Derrick Shelby.
Upshaw also missed Wednesday’s practice with an ankle sprain.
If Upshaw also misses Sunday’s game, it will be an early test for the depth on the defensive line, especially against Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford , who can extend plays by avoiding sacks.
“He does a great job as far as keeping plays alive, moving around in the pocket and being athletic and making big throws downfield,” said defensive tackle Grady Jarrett. “He’s a great leader for them. It presents another challenge.”
McKinley said he took the break from social media because he was “just tired of watching dog videos on YouTube and puppy videos and stuff like that.” He said he returned “to see what was up.”
NOTES: Beasley, Upshaw and RT Ryan Schraeder (concussion) did not practice. Ty Sambrailo, acquired from Denver on Sept. 1 for a 2018 fifth-round draft pick, would start if Schraeder is held out. Quinn said Sambrailo impressed by “getting up to speed” for the regular season in less than two weeks. Sambrailo played after Schraeder was hurt in the first quarter last week against Green Bay. … The Falcons re-signed DL Taniela Tupou to the practice squad. He replaces RB Jhurell Pressley, who was waived.
For more AP NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL
(Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)