From early on in his career, we’ve felt like Takk McKinley’s talent and effort have not been matched by his production. He has had a habit of driving Falcons fans nuts by liking tweets about the Cowboys trading for him and whatnot, but for all the fire he drew for not putting up elite sack numbers, you could at least count on Takk to be around the quarterback.
That didn’t do much to convince the Falcons they had to keep him around, though. After picking up Vic Beasley’s fifth year option and watching him flail for half a season before picking up steam in the second half and earning a solid one-year pact from the Titans, the Falcons decided not to go that route with Takk. The question was how the fifth-year pass rusher would handle that.
If you are familiar with Takk, though, it’s never really been about effort, or even the shadowy doubts about effort we saw with Beasley. He saw the writing on the wall and has showed up to training camp for the Falcons looking ripped and ready to go.
Takk McKinley says that once the Falcons declined his fifth-year option he had the realization that "if I want to stay in this league, I've got to do better." He's begun to realize how fast time can fly in this league. Calls the Falcons' decision a "wake-up call."— William McFadden (@willmcfadden) August 22, 2020
Takk’s documented troubles with converting pressure into sacks is something he’s focused on, as well. He’s lost weight in an effort to be lighter on his feet (which hopefully will not impact his power) and seems to be doing his best to soak up all the lessons new Falcons free agent signing Dante Fowler Jr. can impart. Like me, he’s also avoiding the clubs and sticking to Call of Duty, though I’m sure he’s faring better on that front than I am.
We’re weeks if not months away from knowing whether Takk is going to have his true, long-awaited breakout season. What we do know is that the Falcons were taking a risk in not giving Takk his fifth-year option—what if he does breakout?—but were clearly both scarred by Beasley and hoping to light a fire under Takk’s butt. I don’t know if the first item was justified, given that Takk is a very different player and person than Beasley, but the latter appears to have worked as intended, because McKinley’s showed up in The Best Shape of His Life and seems ready to land his next big contract.
If he balls out in 2020 and other things break right for Atlanta, they may have a real shot at a deep playoff run this year, which they need to save jobs and declare this franchise is on the right track. Regardless of whether that happens or not, upcoming cap woes and Takk’s hunger to be great this year means there’s a good chance he won’t return in 2021, making this a year we hope will be stellar for both parties.