Atlanta Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant (21) works during their NFL football practice Thursday, June 16, 2016, in Flowery Branch, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Good morning! Welcome to The Cover 9@9 blog. It’s our weekly blog of everything you need to know about the Atlanta Falcons, which is 9 items published at 9 a.m. each Wednesday morning.
1. FALCONS HEAD TO PENALTY BOX: The Falcons are set to pay their penalty to the league for violating the OTA physical contact rules next week.
The Falcons have rolled through Phase One and Phase Two of the offseason “voluntary” strength and conditioning program, but had three OTA sessions taken away for having “excessive levels of on-field physical contact” last May.
Phase Three consists of the next four weeks of the program. Teams may conduct a total of 10 days of organized team practice activity, or “OTAs”. No live contact is permitted, but 7-on-7, 9-on-7, and 11-on-11 drills are permitted.
The NFL informed the Falcons in October of its penalty for violating the league’s excessive contact rules during organized team activities last season, and announced the club will lose the first three days of OTAs in 2017.
So, basically, for working so hard in OTAs last season, the players get a week off.
The Falcons OTA’s are sent for May 30, June 1-2, June 5-6 and June 8-9. The mandatory minicamp will be held June 13-15.
Training camp is slated to start in late July.
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan before his seventh annual celebrity charity golf tournament at TPC Sugarloaf on Monday, April 10, 2017. He gave his first interviews since the Super Bowl LI collapse. (By D. Orlando Ledbetter/dledbetter)
The Falcons “voluntary” offseason workout program started on April 17, with 100 percent participation.
Phase One consisted of two weeks with activities limited to strength and conditioning and physical rehabilitation only.
Phase Two consisted of three weeks on-field workouts which included individual player instruction and drills as well as team practice conducted on a “separates” basis. No live contact or team offense vs. team defense drills were permitted.
2. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MATT RYAN: Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, who set to play his 10th season with the team, turns 32 today.
3. JONES ON THE DEFENSE: If linebacker Deion Jones and safety Keanu Neal make a big leap in their play from their All-Rookie seasons, the defense will improve dramatically.
“A lot of guys are trying to figure out how they are going to take their games to the next level,” Jones said. “It’s been all of us together. It’s a combined thing in the linebacker room. We have our goals. It’s up to us to make sure we meet our goals.”
Jones is working on being more vocal, footwork and hand placement and keeping his weight up.
“We are always stressing about getting one percent better,” Jones said. “During this offseason we are just taking it one day at a time. Winning the day. Getting one percent better. That’s been pretty much it. All of that is going to carryover when the season comes and we gel together, after us grinding together.”
4. DIFFERENCES ON DEFENSE: Jones hasn’t detected much of a difference under first-year defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel, who hasn’t spoken to the media since being named to the position back in February.
“It’s too early at this point,” Jones said when asked about the differences.
Manuel is tentatively scheduled to speak to the media for the first time during the first week of OTAs.
Mike Smith is back in the NFL as a defensive coordinator and eager to help new coach Dirk Koetter lift the Tampa Bay Buccaneers out of the NFC South basement. (Associated Press)
Feel free to e-mail your questions. All reasonable fan requests will be asked.
5. TAMPA BAY CHALLENGE: While the Falcons had to overtake the Carolina Panthers in the NFC South last season, it looks like their primary challenger in 2017 will be Tampa Bay.
The Bucs had a breakthrough 9-7 record last season and missed the playoffs on a tie-breaker. They’ve had an excellent draft and a year of seasoning on defense under former Falcons head coach Mike Smith.
We’ve been looking at the Falcons’ opponents and are up to Game 14.
6. MENTAL HEALTH CHAT: Former Falcons running back and team owner Warrick Dunn is set to participate in a mental health awareness chat on Thursday.
7. FREEMAN NEGOTIATIONS: Falcons running back Devonta Freeman candidly discussed his contract situation and how he plans to handle things professionally.
It’s clear that he doesn’t want to play on the final year of his rookie contract which is set to pay him $1.8 million when his market value is much higher. However, Freeman said he doesn’t plan to hold out.
AJC columnist wrote about the affable Freeman’s situation.
8. SAUBERT IMPRESSIVE: Rookie tight end Eric Saubert, who was taken in the fifth round out of Drake, had an impressive rookie minicamp.
“He’s a little bigger than I thought,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “We knew he could run just based on times. Getting him acclimated , I was pleased to see him over the last two days not only offensively but teams as well, he can run and that showed up. For a guy who covets that like I do, I was pleased. First two days, arrow definitely up.”
9. DEPTH CHART: Here’s the updated depth chart.
WR 11 Julio Jones, 14 Justin Hardy, 19 Andre Roberts, 13 B.J. Daniels, 84 Reginald Davis III
LT 70 Jake Matthews, 66 Kevin Graf, 79 Will Freeman
LG 67 Andy Levitre, 64 Sean Harlow, 65 Robert Leff
C 51 Alex Mack, 63 Ben Garland, 61 Travis Averill, 62 Cam Keizur
RG 71 Wes Schweitzer, 68 Trevor Robinson
RT 73 Ryan Schraeder, 76 Daniel Brunskill, 75 Andreas Knappe
TE 81 Austin Hooper, 80 Levine Toilolo, 82 Joshua Perkins, 86 D.J. Tialavea, 85 Eric Saubert, 49 Darion Griswold
WR 12 Mohamed Sanu, 18 Taylor Gabriel, 13 Devin Fuller, 15 Nick Williams, 16 Anthony Dable, 87 Deante Burton, 7 Josh Magee
QB 2 Matt Ryan, 8 Matt Schaub, 4 Matt Simms, 4 Alek Torgersen
RB 24 Devonta Freeman, 26 Tevin Coleman, 28 Terron Ward, 38 Brian Hill
FB 40 Derrick Coleman, 43 Soma Vainuku, 39 Tyler Renew
DE 99 Adrian Clayborn, 98 Takkarist McKinley
DT Dontari Poe, 77 Ra’Shede Hageman, 92 Joe Vellano, 74 Taniela Tupou
DT 97 Grady Jarrett, 91 Courtney Upshaw
DE 95 Jack Crawford, 90 Derrick Shelby, 93 Chris Odom
LB 44 Vic Beasley Jr., 50 Brooks Reed, 54 Darius English, 56 Jermaine Grace
LB 45 Deion Jones, 53 LaRoy Reynolds, 42 Duke Riley, 46 Chrisitan Tago
LB 59 De’Vondre Campbell, 36 Kemal Ishmael, 52 Josh Keyes, 55 J’Terius Jones
CB 23 Robert Alford, 34 Brian Poole, 29 C.J. Goodwin, 33 Blidi Wreh-Wilson, 25 Akeem King, 39 Janor Jones, 38 Taylor Reynolds
CB 21 Desmond Trufant, 32 Jalen Collins, 30 Deji Olatoye, 27 Damontae Kazee, 41 Quincy Mauger
S 37 Ricardo Allen, 20 Sharrod Neasman, 35 Marcelis Branch, 27 Damontee Kazee
S 22 Keanu Neal, 36 Kemal Ishmael, 48 Jordan Moore, 49 Deron Washington
K 3 Matt Bryant, 6 Mike Meyer
KO 5 Matt Bosher
P 5 Matt Bosher
KR 19 Andre Roberts, 13 Devin Fuller, 16 Justin Hardy
PR 19 Andre Roberts, 13 Devin Fuller, 16 Justin Hardy
LS 47 Josh Harris
H 5 Matt Bosher
THE FALCONS 2017 DRAFT
2017 Falcons report card: Falcons earn a B-plus
NFC Champs add a pass rusher, quality depth
1st rounder: Meet defensive end Takkarist McKinley
3rd rounder: Meet linebacker Duke Riley
4th rounder: Meet offensive guard Sean Harlow
5th rounder: Meet defensive back Damontae Kazee
5th rounder: Meet running back Brian Hill
5th rounder: Meet tight end Eric Saubert