COVER 9@9: McKinley wants USC quarterback ‘knocked out’

Good morning! Welcome to The Cover 9@9 blog. It’s our weekly blog of everything you need to know about the Atlanta Falcons.

1. McKINLEY WANTS USC QUARTERBACK KNOCKED OUT: Falcons first-round pick Takkarist McKinley played at UCLA and clearly doesn’t have fond memories of facing arch-rival USC.

Behind the passing of quarterback Sam Darnold, the Trojans throttled the Bruins last season, 36-14 on Nov. 19. Darnold led the Bruins to 29 unanswered points as he completed 25 of 36 passes for 267 yards with two touchdowns.

After releasing most of their key veterans, the New York Jets are widely thought to be tanking the 2017 season in order to draft Darnold, who’s projected to be the top quarterback in the 2018 draft class.

But there is no guarantee that Darnold will leave school, according to a NFL Network report. The league-affiliated report cited “several sources close to Darnold” as saying they wouldn’t be surprised if Darnold plays two more seasons at USC.

Either way, McKinley wants is not very fond of Darnold. He took a picture of him appearing on TV and tweeted about it.

“Can someone on the @UCLAFootball (defensive) line knockout him out,” McKinley tweeted.

2. CHEERLEADERS GETTING READY: The Falcons cheerleaders had their squad photo shoot on Tuesday.

3. FALCONS HOSTING YOUTH FOOTBALL CLINIC: Youth Football coaches, who must pre-register for this event, are invited by the Atlanta Falcons to a free coaching clinic on Saturday at the Atlanta Marriott Northwest at Galleria, 200 Interstate N. Circle SE, Atlanta, GA 30339.

The clinic will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and coaches will learn how to properly teach football fundamentals, improve practice organization and be exposed to new offensive and defensive schemes.

While the clinic is free and all attendees will receive a gift, coaches must register: www.atlantafalcons.com/coachingclinic

Mercedes-Benz Stadium lights up the skyline at night. (By D. Orlando Ledbetter)

4. McKAY MAKES TRIP TO SEC MEDIA DAYS: Falcons chief executive officer and president Rich McKay showed a video and discussed hosting the SEC championship game at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium during the league’s media days on Tuesday in Hoover, Ala.

He confirmed that the stadium will ready to open on Aug. 26, after a round of delays.

McKay said the Falcons didn’t want to just improve on the Georgia Dome. If they wanted to do that, they would have elected to renovate.

“We really wanted to change the game and do it for a long, long time,” McKay said. “That’s kind of what was behind the building itself.”

He talked design, digital signage, the bargain food pricing, the halo scoreboard and the SEC graphic logo.

5. McKAY’S TRANSCRIPT: Here’s the transcript from McKay’s appearance:

McKAY: Okay. Good afternoon. I’m happy to be here. We have been talking about bringing and continuing to have the SEC championship in Atlanta for a long time. I think first time I came over to talk about the extension of the SEC agreement was probably in maybe 2014, maybe 2013. So we’re happy to do that.

What I thought I would start with today is a video. We’ve done a video. It’s a long video. So some of us that don’t have the great attention span, like myself, will struggle. But it’s about six, seven minutes. It kind of explains the whole stadium to you. And then I got some slides; I want to get specific on the SEC and what we did to design the building specifically to make sure that we’re ready to host this championship.

So let’s start with the video.

(Video playing.)

McKAY: Okay. So, with that video, yes, we will be ready to open on August 26th, because I figured somebody might have that question.

The building speaks for itself. The architecture, I think, speaks for itself. I think what we try to say in that video and what you’re going to see when you come to the stadium, whether it’s for one of our preseason games, whether it’s for the kickoff game with Alabama-Florida State, Georgia Tech-Tennessee. Whatever it may be. I hope the first time you’re in it, yeah, you’re wowed by the architecture but more wowed by the fan experience and what we’re trying to provide.

We’re trying to truly look at this differently. The Georgia Dome was our home and your home, the SEC Championship for a long time. It was a really good place to play. It was a really functional building that served its purpose very well. We did not want to build a better Georgia Dome. That was not the object. If we would have done that, we would have renovated the Georgia Dome. We really wanted to change the game and do it for a long, long time. That’s kind of what was behind the building itself.

This slide I show you just because I think ultimately when it comes either to the SEC Championship, which in many instances has been a National Championship football game over the years, whether it comes to the College Football Playoff Championship, the Super Bowl, whatever it may be, the way we have sold the big events and the way we have been convincing to them to come to Atlanta is this map.

Really what Arthur did, when we went down this project path, was say: We need to stay in Atlanta. We need to stay in the heart of Atlanta. We need to stay downtown.

So that’s how we ended up 83 feet from the Georgia Dome, which is not very far. Separating the two buildings is a MARTA tunnel. So when we do have the implosion in November, we all want to watch that implosion, because it’s going to be close to our building for sure.

But it’s really cool and good for you and good for the fans of the teams that come to see the championship game, and just everything that goes on downtown. One of the great things about downtown is the Georgia World Congress Center, which, after the Dome’s down, after we built the Home Depot Backyard and we built the parking garage, will basically be attached to the Georgia World Congress Center for the SEC Championship for big events and major events you’ll be able to host indoors, plenty of events and then walk through a covered parking lot and into the stadium. We tried to make the experience as seamless as possible.

You flip to the next slide, I’ll kind of show you one of the things we like to talk about all of the time is we designed this stadium for the SEC Championship. We designed this stadium for Atlanta United. We designed this stadium for the Atlanta Falcons. We didn’t try to make this building a multipurpose building, which in our mind is a building that can do a lot of the things but not great. We tried to make this building specific to all of the tenants that were going to be there.

And the first way you do it, just when you look at this picture, you realize, there’s zero signage in this inner bowl. There’s not one sign there. The only sign that will be in the building at all of a permanent nature will be Mercedes-Benz. All of the rest of it is digital. That’s 83,000 square feet of LED. How much LED is that you ask. Well, at the Georgia Dome, if you took both end zone boards and added them together, you get 4800 square feet. This is 80,000 square feet.

When the SEC Championship is played — and I will not declare two teams that will be in it other than to say I better say Georgia should be one of them or I have a problem back in Atlanta — this building can be whatever colors you want it to be and say what you want it to see. And days before the games, because of the RGB outside, LED lighting, you can turn it any color you want to turn it.

In our mind we wanted the tenants that were going to come in here and play to feel like this was their home field, this was their stadium, and that’s how we designed it. We added two extra auxiliary locker rooms, which were gigantic in nature, really for the SEC Championship. They are both 100-locker locker rooms. We did it because we felt it was a good way to host major events; that way they didn’t end up in some temporary visiting locker room.

We truly tried to design it with the SEC in mind. We tried to design it with the College Football Championship in mind. We tried to design it with all of the major events in mind.

Take it to the next slide. We don’t want any pats on the back for, oh, you’re going to change the game in food and you’re going to change pricing. This is just what it should be, in our mind. In our mind, on a go-forward basis, we have to get to the point where fans come to our stadiums and actually get a bargain and feel treated with respect when it comes to food, and we think in the stadium game that has not gone the way we think it should, so we’re going to take a stand and try to do it a little differently.

Not only will these prices apply — in fact, when Commissioner Sankey — when they sent us their first draft of the contract, it resembled the contract they had at the Georgia Dome and it said that we were not able to raise prices over a certain percent than we did at Falcons games. …. we said, no, we will have the exact same prices as you will at all of our games, just like we will at the Super Bowl, just like we will at any game. Because all of the customers that come in this building are our customers, too, and we’re going to treat them exactly the same way.

So if you see these prices or any of our restaurant partners — we have 12 restaurant partners — all their pricing will be exactly the same as their restaurant. We’re not going to let them come in and up-price people just because they paid to get into the stadium.

Rich McKay, CEO of the Atlanta Falcons, speaks during the Southeastern Conference’s annual media gathering, Tuesday, July 11, 2017, in Hoover, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

I take you now just to look at the dome. The dome is a great building. You have those numbers. You probably got these numbers. We probably gave them you to.

Go to the next page, the next page really probably applies more.

That halo board, the cool thing about that halo board, if you took the halo board, which is — remember, it’s 1100 feet around, if you took it out and stood it straight up, it’s taller than the tallest building in Atlanta. That’s the Bank of America. It’s taller than that building. So it’s a very large board. And it’s really cool.

You’ll see one thing, I would just say to you as media, because I’ve lived my life coming down elevators with you from various press boxes in the country, I think we have 20 elevators in this building. I think we have 25 escalators.

And I will tell you part of the reason is because I’m not happy by the way we all have to fight for the elevator at the end of the game. So we did not allow any value engineering of the elevators, of the escalators for the fans, for the media, or anybody, because in our mind it only leads to frustration.

So that’s kind of the stadium by the numbers and tells you a little built about the differences. We didn’t try, as I said, to make a better Georgia Dome. We tried to create a really completely different fan experience that I hope you will see when you come to see us.

So, with that, I’ll let Kevin — you guys can ask any questions if you (have) questions. That’s kind of the stadium as it sets up at night. That Mercedes button will be — the SEC, Greg, wanted it, but I thought maybe Mercedes might have offered just a little more. That’s 10 1/2 acres. That will be lit up from underneath at night. And, yes, when you fly in on Delta, you will absolutely know Mercedes has the naming rights on that building.

6. VIVA LAS VEGAS: The Falcons, the defending NFC champions, are heavy favorites to return to the playoffs.

Here are the 2017 NFL Playoff Odds (in alphabetical order) courtesy of our friends in Las Vegas at Bovada, (www.Bovada.lv, Twitter: @BovadaLV).

Will the Arizona Cardinals make the playoffs?

Yes +150 (3/2)

No -180 (5/9)

Will the Atlanta Falcons make the playoffs?    

Yes -150 (2/3)

No +120 (6/5)

Will the Baltimore Ravens make the playoffs? 

Yes +120 (6/5)

No -150 (2/3)

Will the Buffalo Bills make the playoffs?         

Yes +600 (6/1)

No -1000 (1/10)

Will the Carolina Panthers make the playoffs?

Yes EVEN (1/1)

No -130 (10/13)

Will the Chicago Bears make the playoffs?      

Yes +1000 (10/1)

No -2500 (1/25)

Will the Cincinnati Bengals make the playoffs?  

Yes +160 (8/5)

No -200 (1/2)

Will the Cleveland Browns make the playoffs?

Yes +2000 (20/1)

No -5000 (1/50)

Will the Dallas Cowboys make the playoffs?   

Yes -200 (1/2)

No +160 (8/5)

Will the Denver Broncos make the playoffs?   

Yes +200 (2/1)

No -240 (5/12)

Will the Detroit Lions make the playoffs?

Yes +300 (3/1)

No -400 (1/4)

Will the Green Bay Packers make the playoffs?

Yes -500 (1/5)

No +350 (7/2)

Will the Houston Texans make the playoffs?   

Yes +120 (6/5)

No -150 (2/3)

Will the Indianapolis Colts make the playoffs?

Yes +130 (13/10)

No -160 (5/8)

Will the Jacksonville Jaguars make the playoffs?        

Yes +350 (7/2)

No -500 (1/5)

Will the Kansas City Chiefs make the playoffs?           

Yes -130 (10/13)

No EVEN (1/1)

Will the Los Angeles Chargers make the playoffs?      

Yes +275 (11/4)

No -350 (2/7)

Will the Los Angeles Rams make the playoffs?           

Yes +650 (13/2)

No -1200 (1/12)

Will the Miami Dolphins make the playoffs?    

Yes +350 (7/2)

No -500 (1/5)

Will the Minnesota Vikings make the playoffs?

Yes +180 (9/5)

No -220 (5/11)

Will the New England Patriots make the playoffs?       

Yes -3000 (1/30)

No +1500 (15/1)

Will the New Orleans Saints make the playoffs?

Yes +200 (2/1)

No -250 (2/5)

Will the New York Giants make the playoffs?  

Yes +110 (11/10)

No -140 (5/7)

Will the New York Jets make the playoffs?      

Yes +2000 (20/1)

No -5000 (1/50)

Will the Oakland Raiders make the playoffs?   

Yes -200 (1/2)

No +160 (8/5)

Will the Philadelphia Eagles make the playoffs?         

Yes +200 (2/1)

No -250 (2/5)

Will the Pittsburgh Steelers make the playoffs?          

Yes -300 (1/3)

No +240 (12/5)

Will the San Francisco 49ers make the playoffs?         

Yes +1000 (10/1)

No -2500 (1/25)

Will the Seattle Seahawks make the playoffs? 

Yes -600 (1/6)

No +400 (4/1)

Will the Tampa Bay Buccaneers make the playoffs?    

Yes +160 (8/5)

No -200 (1/2)

Will the Tennessee Titans make the playoffs? 

Yes EVEN (1/1)

No -130 (10/13)

Will the Washington Redskins make the playoffs?      

Yes +350 (7/2)

No -500 (1/5)

Playoff Odds (in order of most likely to least likely to make the playoffs)

Will the New England Patriots make the playoffs?       

Yes -3000 (1/30)

No +1500 (15/1)

Will the Seattle Seahawks make the playoffs? 

Yes -600 (1/6)

No +400 (4/1) 

Will the Green Bay Packers make the playoffs?    

Yes -500 (1/5)

No +350 (7/2)

Will the Pittsburgh Steelers make the playoffs?          

Yes -300 (1/3)

No +240 (12/5)

Will the Dallas Cowboys make the playoffs?   

Yes -200 (1/2)

No +160 (8/5)

Will the Oakland Raiders make the playoffs?   

Yes -200 (1/2)

No +160 (8/5)

Will the Atlanta Falcons make the playoffs?    

Yes -150 (2/3)

No +120 (6/5)

Will the Kansas City Chiefs make the playoffs?           

Yes -130 (10/13)

No EVEN (1/1)

Will the Carolina Panthers make the playoffs?

Yes EVEN (1/1)

No -130 (10/13)

Will the Tennessee Titans make the playoffs? 

Yes EVEN (1/1)

No -130 (10/13)

Will the New York Giants make the playoffs?  

Yes +110 (11/10)

No -140 (5/7)

Will the Baltimore Ravens make the playoffs? 
Yes +120 (6/5)

No -150 (2/3)

Will the Houston Texans make the playoffs?   
Yes +120 (6/5)

No -150 (2/3)

Will the Indianapolis Colts make the playoffs?

Yes +130 (13/10)

No -160 (5/8)

Will the Arizona Cardinals make the playoffs?

Yes +150 (3/2)

No -180 (5/9)

Will the Cincinnati Bengals make the playoffs?           

Yes +160 (8/5)

No -200 (1/2)

Will the Tampa Bay Buccaneers make the playoffs?

Yes +160 (8/5)

No -200 (1/2)

Will the Minnesota Vikings make the playoffs?

Yes +180 (9/5)

No -220 (5/11)

Will the Denver Broncos make the playoffs?   

Yes +200 (2/1)

No -240 (5/12)

Will the New Orleans Saints make the playoffs?          

Yes +200 (2/1)

No -250 (2/5)

Will the Philadelphia Eagles make the playoffs?         

Yes +200 (2/1)

No -250 (2/5)

Will the Los Angeles Chargers make the playoffs?      

Yes +275 (11/4)

No -350 (2/7)

Will the Detroit Lions make the playoffs?        

Yes +300 (3/1)

No -400 (1/4)

Will the Jacksonville Jaguars make the playoffs?        

Yes +350 (7/2)

No -500 (1/5)

Will the Miami Dolphins make the playoffs?    

Yes +350 (7/2)

No -500 (1/5)

Will the Washington Redskins make the playoffs?      

Yes +350 (7/2)

No -500 (1/5)

Will the Buffalo Bills make the playoffs?         

Yes +600 (6/1)

No -1000 (1/10)

Will the Los Angeles Rams make the playoffs?           

Yes +650 (13/2)

No -1200 (1/12)

Will the Chicago Bears make the playoffs?      

Yes +1000 (10/1)

No -2500 (1/25)

Will the San Francisco 49ers make the playoffs?         

Yes +1000 (10/1)

No -2500 (1/25)

Will the Cleveland Browns make the playoffs?

Yes +2000 (20/1)

No -5000 (1/50)

Will the New York Jets make the playoffs?      

Yes +2000 (20/1)

No -5000 (1/50)

Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, right, talks with general manager Thomas Dimitroff during NFL minicamp football Thursday, June 15, 2017, in Flowery Branch, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

7.  2017 ATLANTA FALCONS 90-MAN ROSTER ANALYSIS

Part 1: Quarterbacks

Part2: Running backs

Part 3: Wide receivers

Part 4: Tight ends

Part 5: Offensive line

Part 6: Defensive line

Part: 7: Linebackers

Part 8: Cornerbacks

Part 9: Safeties

Part 10: Specialists

8. TRAINING CAMP:  The Falcons will report for training camp on July 26.

Training camp will be held at the team’s facilities in Flowery Branch for the 13th consecutive season.

Selected practices will be open to the public, but there is not a “Friday Night Lights” event listed. The team has gone into the community for a scrimmage at local high school since first holding the event during the Jim Mora regime at Grady High in 2006.

9. DEPTH CHART: Here’s the projected depth chart heading in to training camp:

OFFENSE

WR 11 Julio Jones, 14 Justin Hardy, 19 Andre Roberts, 1 Reggie Davis, 17 Marvin Hall

LT 70 Jake Matthews, 66 Kevin Graf, 79 Will Freeman

LG 67 Andy Levitre, 64 Sean Harlow, 72 Cornelius Edison, 69 Marquis Lucas

C 51 Alex Mack, 63 Ben Garland, 61 Travis Averill, 62 Cam Keizur

RG [71 Wes Schweitzer, 63 Ben Garland], 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, 35 B.J. Daniels

FB 40 Derrick Coleman, 39 Tyler Renew

DEFENSE

DE 99 Adrian Clayborn, 98 Takkarist McKinley, 96 Martin Ifedi

DT 92 Dontari Poe, 77 Ra’Shede Hageman, 92 Joe Vellano

DT 97 Grady Jarrett, 91 Courtney Upshaw, 74 Taniela Tupou

DE 44 Vic Beasley Jr., 95 Jack Crawford, 90 Derrick Shelby, 93 Chris Odom

SLB 59 DeVondre Campbell, 44 Vic Beasley Jr., 50 Brooks Reed,  Jack Lynn

LB 45 Deion Jones, 53 LaRoy Reynolds, 52 Josh Keyes

WLB  36 Kemal Ishmael, 42 Duke Riley, 56 Jermaine Grace, 55 J’Terius Jones

CB 23 Robert Alford, 29 C.J. Goodwin, 25 Akeem King, 39 Janor Jones, 38 Taylor Reynolds

NB 34 Brian Poole, 33 Blidi-Wreh-Wilson, 27 Damontae Kazee

CB 21 Desmond Trufant, 32 Jalen Collins, 30 Deji Olatoye, 41 Quincy Mauger

S 37 Ricardo Allen, 20 Sharrod Neasman, 35 Marcelis Branch

S 22 Keanu Neal, 36 Kemal Ishmael, 48 Jordan Moore, 49 Deron Washington

SPECIALISTS

K 3 Matt Bryant, 6 Mike Meyer

KO 5 Matt Bosher

P 5 Matt Bosher

KR 19 Andre Roberts, 14 Justin Hardy, 13 Devin Fuller, 38 Brian Hill

PR 19 Andre Roberts, 14 Justin Hardy, 13 Devin Fuller, 18 Taylor Gabriel

LS 47 Josh Harris

H 5 Matt Bosher

THE FALCONS 2017 DRAFT

MUST READ PROFILE: Falcons top pick McKinley makes name for himself

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

 

 

 

 

 

 


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