Cover 9@9: Don’t expect Julio Jones until Game 3

Good morning! Welcome to The Cover 9@9 blog. It’s our weekly blog of everything you need to know about the Atlanta Falcons, the defending NFC Champions who will open the exhibition season at 7 p.m. Thursday against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium.

1. JONES’ RETURN: At the end of practice on Monday, Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu were playing a game of imaginary catch in slow motion.

Jones, in slow motion would wind up and pretend to throw a pass. Sanu, moving from right to left in slow motion, would then quickly snap up both has and catch the pass.

Sanu would then throw to Jones.

This went on for about 10 to 15 fake catches. Two of the team’s best athletes working in slow motion looked pretty cool.

“We were just working without the ball and on hand placement,” Jones said. “Things like that.”

Sanu has been having a great training camp, while Jones has been limited while recovering from foot surgery. He slated to warm-up, but will not play against the Dolphins at 7 p.m. Thursday at Hard Rock Stadium.

The Falcons don’t appear in any hurry to get Jones back on the field. That makes sense. Don’t expect to see him until the tune-up third game of the exhibition season.

“Everything has been great,” Jones said. “I don’t have any complaints or anything like that. Everything has been great. I’ve been moving well. I feel good.”

2. BONDING WITH GABRIEL. Jones has been getting to know Taylor Gabriel better this season. He was claimed on waivers at the start of last season and didn’t spend the offseason with the group.

“Last year I wasn’t, and none of the guys really were, able to be around Gabriel through OTAs and training camp because he came in so late,” Jones said. “Then when he came in it was just like, ‘Hey, teach him football and let’s go play.’

“Now we have some down time, we can spend some time together. We can go out to eat, and we watch movies and stuff.”

Jones clearly gets a kick out of the affable Gabriel.

“Just seeing what his personality is really like outside of football,” Jones said. “He’s just one of the guys. He’s a great friend and a great brother. He’s just buying in. It’s just been good this year to get to know him better off the field.”

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan receiving some instruction at practice on Tuesday. (By D. Orlando Ledbetter)

3. SITUATIONAL FOOTBALL: The Falcons have been working on improving their situational football awareness in practice.

“To us, 50 percent of the game is non-first and second down calls,” quarterback Matt Ryan said. “You’re in third down and red zone situations. You’re in two-minute and four-minute situations. All kinds of different things come up.”

The work in practice now, helps when they come up in games.

“The better we can be in situational football, the more success we’ll have,” Ryan said. “I think Dan Quinn has done a great job of putting us in those situations every day and forcing us to concentrate not only on just executing the play, but also understanding what scenario in the game we’re working on.”

4. RYAN ON GAME 1: Ryan is set to play against the Dolphins. He’ll likely play one series. Newly signed Jay Culter will not play for the Dolphins.

“For me it’s about going out there and trying to start fast,” Ryan said. “Whenever you get this first (exhibition) game, we’re knocking the rust off when we first get into training camp. You’re doing that same thing the first time you go out there and play.”

Ryan, the league’s reigning most valuable player, is looking forward to playing.

“It’s different when things are live,” Ryan said. “I want to see where we’re at for sure and where I am at from a timing and feel perspective. With whatever opportunity we get out on the field and however long Dan Quinn has us go, I want to make the most of it and compete to try to be the best that we can be.”

5. MANUEL’S HOMECOMING:  Falcons defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel paused and reflected on the milestone.

He’s getting ready to call his first NFL game in his hometown of Miami when the Falcons face the Dolphins at 7 p.m. Thursday at Hard Rock Stadium.

“Blessed,” Manuel said. “Truly blessed. I’ve been blessed to be around this game almost 15 years professionally.”

Manuel, 38, played at Miami Senior High before going on to star at Florida. He played in the NFL for nine seasons before joining the coaching ranks. 

6. UGLY HELMET: As seen in past summers, a designer has reworked all 32 NFL helmets.

Designer Ultimate Effects’ take on the Atlanta Falcons’ logo turned the flying bird into an image reminiscent of the Seattle Seahawks — in black and red.

7. WHERE TO WATCH, LISTEN TO GAME: The Atlanta Falcons will play the first exhibition game of 2017 on Thursday night against the Miami Dolphins.

The game kicks off at 7 p.m. from Miami Gardens’ Hard Rock Stadium.

Stations to watch the Falcons first exhibition game can be found below.

The game can also be watched using NFL Game Pass and can be heard on 92.9 The Game.

  • Atlanta- WUPA (CW-69)
  • Augusta, Ga.- WFXG (FOX-54)
  • Macon, Ga.-WGXA (FOX-24)
  • Columbus, Ga.- WXTX (FOX-54)
  • Savannah, Ga.-WTOC (CBS-11)
  • Albany, Ga.-WALB (NBC-10)

8. FREEMAN UPDATE:  The Falcons have made some progress and we could be close to a breakthrough today.

How much should the Falcons pay Freeman?

9. DEPTH CHART: Ben Garland is listed with the first-team at right guard in the first depth chart released by the Falcons on Monday.

Garland and Wes Schweitzer have been rotating with the first-team offense for all of training camp. The Falcons must replace Chris Chester, who retired over the offseason.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn and offensive line coach Chris Morgan said the battle will continue through the exhibition games.

The Falcons are set to open the exhibition season at the Miami Dolphins at 7 p.m. on Thursday.

Also, Courtney Upshaw and Brooks Reed are listed as the defensive ends on the first-team defense.

Here’s the depth chart:

OFFENSE

WR 11 Julio Jones 14 Justin Hardy, 19 Andre Roberts, 7 Josh Magee, 87 Deante Burton, 84 Reginald Davis III

LT 70 Jake Matthews, 76 Daniel Brunskill, 79 Will Freeman. 68 Marquis Lucas

LG 67 Andy Levitre, 64 Sean Harlow, 61 Travis Averill

C 51 Alex Mack, 72 Cornelius Edison, 62 Larson Graham

RG 63 Ben Garland, 71 Wes Schweitzer

RT 73 Ryan Schraeder, 66 Kevin Graf, 75 Andreas Knappe,74 D.J. Tialavea

TE 81 Austin Hooper, 80 Levine Toilolo, 82 Joshua Perkins, 83 Darion Griswold, 85 Eric Saubert, 89 Alex Gray

WR 12 Mohamed Sanu, 18 Taylor Gabriel, 15 Nick Williams, 17 Marvin Hall, 16 Anthony Dable, 1 Reggie Davis, 88 Bra’Lon Cherry

QB 2 Matt Ryan, 8 Matt Schaub, 4 Matt Simms, 9 Alek Torgersen

RB 24 Devonta Freeman, 26 Tevin Coleman, 28 Terron Ward, 25 Brian Hill, 35 B.J. Daniels

FB 40 Derrick Coleman, 39 Tyler Renew

DEFENSE

DE 50 Brooks Reed, 99 Adrian Clayborn, 98 Takk McKinley, 55 J’Terius Jones

DT 92 Dontari Poe, 95 Jack Crawford, 74 Taniela Tupou

DT 97 Grady Jarrett, 77 Ra’Shede Hageman, 92 Joe Vellano

DE 91 Courtney Upshaw, 90 Derrick Shelby, 93 Chris Odum, 96 Martin Ifedi

LB 44 Vic Beasley Jr., 43 Jack Lynn

LB 45 Deion Jones. 53 LaRoy Reynolds, 56 Jermaine Grace

LB 59 De’Vondre Campbell, 42 Duke Riley, 36 Kemal Ishmael, 52 Josh Keyes

RCB 23 Robert Alford, 29 C.J. Goodwin, 33 Blidi Wreh-Wilson, 38 Akeem King, 39 Jarnor Jones

LCB21 Desmond Trufant, 34 Brian Poole, 30 Deji Olatoye, 48 Jordan Moore, 32 Jalen Collins

FS 37 Ricardo Allen, 20 Sharrod Neasman, 27 Damonte Kazee, 41 Quincy Mauger

SS 22 Keanu Neal, 36 Kemal Ishmael, 35 Marcelis Branch, 49 Daron Washington

SPECIALISTS

K 3 Matt Bryant, 6 Mike Meyer

KO 5 Matt Bosher

P 5 Matt Bosher

KR 19 Andre Roberts, 14 Justin Hardy, 1 Reggie Davis

PR 19 Andre Roberts, 14 Justin Hardy, 15 Nick Williams

LS 47 Josh Harris

H 5 Matt Bosher


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