“We have decided to not move forward with a fifth-year option for Takk and at this time are taking a wait-and-see approach in terms of future contracts,” the Falcons said in their official statement. “Takk has shown the ability to produce at a high level and we look forward to his production in 2020.’’
This decision was probably for the best since it lit a much-needed fire within McKinley.
“It was a wake-up call,” McKinley addressed the media on Saturday. “It was more motivation, it made me hungry. I’m not saying I wasn’t hungry in the past, but I’ve just got to go prove it.”
McKinley had a $3.25 million cap hit this year and was worth over $10 million.
A New Mindset for 2020
McKinley has new goals in mind heading into 2020. He worked extra hard this offseason and even managed to drop his weigh from 270 to 238 pounds.
His secret wasn’t just hitting the gym or running at the track every day, it was also what he put into his body.
“Obviously, with more money, you get to go out to these fancy restaurants, better food, whatever, whatever,” McKinley said. “Diet was a huge part. I’ve been using this meal plan they call nutrition solution. To this day, I’m still using it. This offseason to maintain that weight. So yeah, there’s no reason to work out if you’re still eating McDonald’s and Popeyes. … Diet has been huge for me and I’m sticking to it.”
Now that McKinley is in the best shape of his life, he’s more than ready to go out there and prove himself—the kind of mindset Atlanta needs this season.
“I still believe in myself. My coaches believe in me. My teammates believe in me. My family believes in me and I believe in myself. At the end of the day, I know what I can do.”
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McKinley Must Prove Himself
Over his three years in the league, McKinley has become known as a competitor over. The former UCLA Bruin was selected with the 26th overall pick of the 2017 NFL draft. He had some shoulder issues that continued when he entered the NFL which is why he hasn’t turned into the pass rusher Atlanta expected.
As a Falcon, McKinley has played in a total of 45 games with 21 starts. He has recorded 16.5 sacks, including a high of 7.0 in 2018. Last season, McKinley tried to play through his shoulder injury and finished with 3.5 sacks, before having to step off the field and get surgery. That marked his third shoulder injury.
The team has high hopes that new defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi could turn McKinley back around into a sack leader.
Lupoi Confident in Turning Defense Around
Atlanta made a new back March, Tosh Lupoi, who will be the defensive line coach/run game coordinator.
Before coming to Atlanta, Lupoi spent the 2019 season as the Cleveland Browns‘ defensive line coach. The Browns ranked 20th in the NFL with 38 sacks that season. Their run defense allowed 144.7 rushing yards per game and 5 rushing yards per play which ranked 30th in the NFL. Prior to that, Lupoi spent five seasons under Nick Saban and Alabama.
With a 7-9 record and only 28 sacks on the entire season, the Falcons ranked second to last in the NFL in sacks. Lupoi is confident in himself in turning the defense around and focusing on McKinley.
“We’re going to make it happen,” Lupoi said when he first addressed the Atlanta media.
“I’m going to tell you right now, I’m not so much going to focus on numbers and end results as much as the process that it takes to get there.”
The Falcons defense absolutely dominated in the first intra-squad scrimmage last week, so he must be doing something right.