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Falcons looking forward to pass-rush boost from Freeney
AP 16216522226991
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) lies on the turf after being sacked by then-Arizona Cardinals' Dwight Freeney (54) during the second half of a game on Jan. 3 in Glendale, Ariz. - photo by Ross D. Franklin

FLOWERY BRANCH — Pass-rush help for the Atlanta Falcons is on the way.

Veteran linebacker Dwight Freeney was the talk of the Falcons’ training camp on Wednesday, a day after agreeing to a one-year deal with the team. Freeney, who is expected to arrive Thursday, is an important addition to a defense that ranked last in the league in sacks last season.

Coach Dan Quinn said Freeney, 36, will play in nickel packages as a pass-rush specialist. Freeney played a similar role with Arizona last season.

Freeney also could be a mentor for such young players as Vic Beasley Jr., the 2015 first-round pick who led the Falcons with four sacks. Freeney had eight sacks in 11 games with Arizona.

Beasley is still working to improve his pass-rush skills and said he’ll be looking for advice from Freeney.

“Who better to ask than him?” Beasley said after Wednesday’s practice.

Freeney, known for his spin move, has 119½ career sacks, including 107½ in 11 seasons with the Colts. He set a career high and led the NFL with 16 sacks for Indianapolis in 2004 and is a three-time All-Pro selection and seven-time Pro Bowler.

The Falcons have ranked no higher than 28th in sacks since 2012.

Freeney’s decision to sign with Atlanta was big news for players on both sides of the line.

Left tackle Jake Matthews called Freeney a “legendary” pass-rusher and said Falcons offensive linemen will learn from working against him in practice.

“I’m happy he’s on our team,” Matthews said. “I think it’s going to be really good work for me and I think I can learn from it. He’s legendary. He’s obviously proven he’s a really good player over the course of his career. I’m excited to go against him.”

Defensive end Adrian Clayborn said Freeney is “a tremendous pass rusher.”

“I think his track record speak for itself. I’m excited to pick his brain and learn from him.”

Freeney visited the Falcons in May. Quinn said he remained in contact with Freeney, who also considered signing with Cincinnati.

Quinn emphasized the Falcons didn’t pursue Freeney because of his potential to help Beasley.

“We didn’t bring him here to coach. We brought him here to rush,” Quinn said, adding every veteran player is expected to share lessons with younger players.

“That certainly wasn’t the case to bring him in to mentor, but I can tell you that any time a guy has had really good success there’s things to gain from that,” Quinn said. “Some of that comes from the young player asking questions, too.”

NOTES: RB Tevin Coleman was held out after rolling his foot on Tuesday. Quinn said Coleman had a “rehab run” on Wednesday and could return on a limited basis on Wednesday or Thursday. “He’s had a great camp and I envision him being back in this thing really quick,” Quinn said. … WR Julio Jones continues to have full clearance after being limited to individual work the first three days with an apparent left foot injury Quinn only described as a tweak.

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