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 regular season at 1 p.m. Sunday against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field.
1. SAMBRAILO RECALLS HIS BATTLE WITH BEASLEY: Tackle Ty Sambrailo had the roughest day of his young career against the Falcons.
However with the Falcons looking for offensive line depth, that showing last season against Vic Beasley and the Falcons didn’t stop the team from trading for him.
Beasley finished with 3.5 sacks and Sambrailo, a former second-round pick, was pulled from the game in the third quarter. He was playing after recovering from a hyper-extended elbow.
“I was coming off a couple of injuries, but I didn’t play at the level I wanted to play at,” Sabrailo told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I didn’t execute at the level I wanted to execute at. Unfortunately, I had not the best game. I learned from it and I’ve gotten better.”
The Falcons are using Sambrailo to back up left tackle Jake Matthews and right tackle Ryan Schraeder. They hope he’s an upgrade from last season’s backup swing tackle Tom Compton.
Sambrailo was not shocked by the trade.
“You kind of don’t know what’s going to happen in this business and luckily I got traded to a fantastic team,” Sambrailo said. “Coming into a new system, and having two days to learn it, is always a challenge.”
He felt his first practice went well on Monday.
“Today was a good day, a bonus day, to luckily see where I’m at with the way we practicing here and the tempo we work at,” Sambrailo said. “A lot of the guys here are in great shape. There are a lot of great athletes.”
Sambrailo is fine with learning both tackle spots.
“In this league, the more you can do the better,” Sambrailo said. “I have to sharpen my skills at every position, help contribute and help the Falcons win a Super Bowl.”
Sambrailo hopes to put the bumpy start to his career in his past. He’s hoping that he’s a better fit for the Falcons’ outside-zone blocking system.
“To play anywhere you’re fortunate, but this is a great organization with great people and a great winning attitude,” Sambrailo said. “I’m lucky to be here.”
The Falcons traded their 2018 fifth-round draft pick to the Broncos for Sambrailo, a second-round pick in 2015 who was thought be in danger of being released.
The Falcons, who are 31st on the waiver claim list, can’t risk trying to claim a player this season.
Sambrailo, 25, opened his rookie season as the team’s left tackle with Ryan Clady out injured. The 6-foot-5, 315-pounder played in 10 games and made four starts last season.
“We felt his quickness coming off the ball,” Quinn said. “It was good that we got him right in the group off the bat. He put some time in over the weekend to get ready and get acclimated. For a first day, we were pleased with it.”
2. GLENNON VS. FALCONS: Bears starting quarterback Mike Glennon has faced the Falcons four times in his career with two starts in Tampa Bay. In those four games, he completed 71.6 percent of his passes (73 of 102) for 683 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions and a 109.2 passer rating.
3. KEY MATCHUP NO. 1: Falcons LT Jake Matthews vs. Bears OLB Leonard Floyd: Matthews is striving to become more consistent and elevate his play. Floyd had seven sacks in 12 games and comes off the edge with speed and power.
4. KEY MATCHUP NO. 2: Falcons MLB Deion Jones vs. Bears RB Jordan Howard: Jones is the heart and soul of the Falcons speedy defense. He has big tackles in front of him and chases plays from sideline to sideline. Howard, a fifth-round pick, had a spectacular rookie season. He rushed for 1,313 yards and six touchdowns last season.
5. ROSTER MOVES: The Falcons filled out their 53-man roster and 11-man practice squad with two moves on Tuesday.
To replace linebacker LaRoy Reynolds, who suffered a torn pectoral muscle, the Falcons signed linebacker Jordan Tripp to the roster. They also signed guard Jamil Douglas to the practice squad.
Tripp, a journeyman, was drafted by the Dolphins in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL draft out of Montana. He’s played in 34 games and made two starts. In addition to the Dolphins, he’s also played with the Jaguars, Seahawks and Packers.
Douglas was drafted by the Dolphins in the fourth round of the 2015 draft. He’s played in 17 games and made six starts are right guard for the Dolphins.
6. SERIES HISTORY: This will be the 27th regular-season meeting between the Falcons and the Bears. The Bears lead the series, 14-12. The Bears won the past two meetings including a 27-13 victory on Oct. 12, 2014. The two teams opened the season in 2011 in Chicago and the Bears won 30-12.
7. REYNOLDS TO IR: Reynolds, who suffered a pectoral muscle injury, was placed on injured reserve on Monday.
Reynolds, mainly a contributor on special teams last season, started the first two exhibition games at weakside linebacker. He also played some at middle linebacker.
8. RUNNING BACK DEPTH: Falcons running backs Brian Hill and Terron Ward were both working off to the side with the trainers on Monday.
Hill has an ankle injury. Ward has an undisclosed injury.
Quinn said Ward is closer to returning and should be ready for backup duty against Chicago.
“We’re hopeful to have Terron at least taking a good bit of the reps on Wednesday,” Quinn said. “Today was more getting him back and acclimated. He could do a little bit of the special teams stuff. Then we’ll hopefully get him full into everything on Wednesday.”
9. DEPTH CHART: The Falcons released their official depth chart for the season opener against the Chicago Bears at 1 p.m. Sunday at Solider Field.
About the only surprise is that Brooks Reed and Courtney Upshaw are listed as the first-team defensive ends in the base defense. However, the Falcons, like most teams, spend much more time in the nickel package and those rush defensive ends will be Vic Beasley, Adrian Clayborn and Takkarist McKinley.
Also, wide receiver Justin Hardy is listed as the backup kickoff returner and Taylor Gabriel as the backup punt returner.
“Taylor has certainly earned that through his time here,” Quinn said. “It was something that we went into the offseason hoping to have a chance to have Taylor compete for it as well. Due to the (lower leg injury) he had in training camp, he wasn’t able to. It’s purely for Andre Roberts right now, but we’ll keep Taylor ready just in case.”
Wes Schweitzer won the starting right guard battle with Ben Garland, who’s listed as the backup right guard and center.
Here’s the depth chart:
WR 11 Julio Jones, 14 Justin Hardy, 19 Andre Roberts
LT 70 Jake Matthews, 74 Ty Sambrailo
LG 67 Andy Levitre, 64 Sean Harlow
C 51 Alex Mack, 63 Ben Garland
RG 71 Wes Schweitzer, 63 Ben Garland
RT 73 Ryan Schraeder, 68 Austin Pasztor
TE 81 Austin Hooper, 80 Levine Toilolo, 85 Eric Saubert
WR 12 Mohamed Sanu, 18 Taylor Gabriel, 15 Nick Williams
QB 2 Matt Ryan, 8 Matt Schaub
RB 24 Devonta Freeman, 26 Tevin Coleman, 28 Terron Ward, 25 Brian Hill
FB 40 Derrick Coleman
DE 50 Brooks Reed, 99 Adrian Clayborn, 98 Takk McKinley
DT 92 Dontari Poe, 95 Jack Crawford
DT 97 Grady Jarrett
DE 91 Courtney Upshaw, 90 Derrick Shelby
LB 44 Vic Beasley Jr.
LB 45 Deion Jones, 56 Jermaine Grace
LB 59 De’Vondre Campbell . 42 Duke Riley, 36 Kemal Ishmael
CB 23 Robert Alford, 29 C.J. Goodwin, 33 Blidi Wreh-Wilson
CB 21 Desmond Trufant, 34 Brian Poole, 30 Deji Olatoye
S 37 Ricardo Allen, 20 Sharrod Neasman, 27 Damontae Kazee
S 22 Keanu Neal, 36 Kemal Ishmael
K 3 Matt Bryant
KO 5 Matt Bosher
P 5 Matt Bosher
KR 19 Andre Roberts, 14 Justin Hardy
PR 19 Andre Roberts, 18 Taylor Gabriel
LS 47 Josh Harris
H 5 Matt Bosher
ATLANTA FALCONS 2017 EXHIBITION SEASON
GAME FOUR: JAGUARS 13, FALCONS 7
GAME THREE: CARDINALS 24, FALCONS 14
GAME TWO: STEELERS 17, FALCONS 13
GAME ONE: DOLPHINS 23, FALCONS 20