5 things we learned about the Falcons this week

Linebacker Reggie Ragland runs drills during Alabama's NFL football Pro Day, Wednesday, March 9, 2016, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The event is to showcase players for the upcoming NFL football draft.  (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Linebacker Reggie Ragland runs drills during Alabama’s NFL football Pro Day, Wednesday, March 9, 2016, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The event is to showcase players for the upcoming NFL football draft. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

FLOWERY BRANCH – The Falcons continued to give off signals this week that they will focus on improving the defense in the upcoming NFL draft, which is set for April 28-30 in Chicago.

1. Schedule is a beast. The Falcons have two prime-time games. They will play at New Orleans at 8:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 26 on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” and at Tampa Bay at 8:25 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 3 on NFL Network’s “Thursday Night Football.” The Falcons and the 49ers have the highest-strength of schedule rating (.555 based on opponents’ records from last season.

2. Ragland to visit: Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland, who would add some nastiness and attitude to the defense, is set to visit the team Sunday and Monday.

Linebacker Reggie Ragland runs drills during Alabama's NFL football Pro Day, Wednesday, March 9, 2016, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The event is to showcase players for the upcoming NFL football draft. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Linebacker Reggie Ragland runs drills during Alabama’s NFL football Pro Day, Wednesday, March 9, 2016, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The event is to showcase players for the upcoming NFL football draft. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

3. Big Chuck Smith vouches for Nkemdiche: Former Falcons great Chuck Smith, who trains defensive line players, gave NFL prospect Robert Nkemdiche his stamp of approval. “I have trained (and) consulted Robert Nkemdiche,” Smith wrote on twitter. “He’s a great guy, and I believe in him. We all learn and grow! Gonna be a beast!” Nkemdiche, of Grayson, who was considered the top player in the nation coming out of high school, but is getting mixed reviews after his career at Mississippi. In review of his Ole Miss film, several NFL scouts have noticed his inconsistent play. Teams are also concerned about an arrest after he fell out of window from a Buckhead hotel.

4. The return of Mike Smith: The Falcons will open the season at home against Tampa Bay at 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11. It will be the return of former coach Mike Smith, the winningest coach in franchise history. He was hired as Tampa Bay’s defensive coordinator over the offseason.

5. Offseason spotlight on Hardy and Jarrett.  We took a look at wide receiver Justin Hardy and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett this week.

Here’s our exclusive interview with quarterback Matt Ryan from Monday. After the players-only camp, he went to Cabo San Lucas and went Marlin fishing. He didn’t catch one, but his friends and family folks on the boat did.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s D. Orlando Ledbetter joins CineSport’s Noah Coslov to discuss the Falcons options in the first round of the NFL Draft and to identify who is making the ultimate decision.

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