Good morning! Welcome to The Cover 9@9 blog. It’s our weekly blog of nine things at 9 a.m Wednesday that you need to know about the Atlanta Falcons (4-3). The defending NFC champion Falcons are set to face the Carolina Panthers at 1 p.m. on Sunday at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.
1. TRADING DEADLINE: While there was a trading frenzy around the NFL this season at the 4 p.m. Tuesday deadline, the Falcons remained on the sidelines.
There were five trades and a failed one by the Cleveland Browns, who have turned into the gang who can’t shoot straight.
The Falcons looked to make trades to fill holes on the roster during the final cut down period before the season. That approach led to the acquisition of Ty Sambrailo from Denver in a trade because they didn’t have a veteran swing tackle.
The Falcons require a player to be a “scheme fit” and locker harmony is very important. They’ve gone to great lengths to establish locker room harmony in the form of their Brotherhood. The Falcons don’t want to bring in a disgruntled player to wreck havoc on the well-crafted peace.
Two of the deals will have a major impact on the NFC playoff race.
Seattle got our pal Tom Cable, the offensive line coach, some help by trading for left tackle Duane Brown. Now, all of a sudden, quarterback Russell Wilson may not be running for his life.
Brown, 32, a three-time Pro Bowler, wore out his welcome in Houston after a holdout and likely for speaking out about owner Robert McNair’s dislike for former President Barack Obama and the wretched “inmates” comment.
In Charlotte, the Panthers parted ways with former first-round pick Kelvin Benjamin. He was traded to Buffalo for two picks (third and seventh round).
Panthers interim general manager Marty Hurney told Scott Fowler of The Charlotte Observer that the Panthers wanted to get more speed and different skill sets on the field. The team probably wasn’t too pleased with Benjamin’s weight issues over the offseason and they likely didn’t like him walking out of a recent practice before facing the Bears.
Benjamin was quarterback Cam Newton’s closest friend on the team. He’s likely ticked off by the move. If he speaks to the media this week, that could be very interesting.
With Benjamin off to 5-2 Buffalo, speedy rookie wide receiver Curtis Samuel is expected to get more action when the Panthers host the Falcons on Sunday.
Buffalo was ecstatic with the trade.
“I was there when we drafted him,” said Buffalo general manager Brandon Beane on Sirius XM NFL radio. “He was our first-round pick in that receiver heavy draft. Sammy (Watkins) was picked up here. Odell Beckham Jr., Mike Evans, all of those guys and (Brandin) Cooks. We felt fortunate to get him. I think we picked him 28th overall and we had a higher value on him. In Kelvin, you wont find a bigger receiver … the thing I like about him is that he makes the contested catches.”
It looks like Seattle helped themselves while Carolina may have wrecked their locker room with the Benjamin move.
The Falcons standing pat makes a lot of sense.
Here’s a list of the deadline trades:
T Duane Brown
DB Jeremy Lane
Selection Choice — Round 5, 2018 (Conditional)
Selection Choice — Round 2, 2019
NEW ENGLAND TRADES:
QB Jimmy Garoppolo
SAN FRANCISCO TRADES:
Selection Choice — Round 2, 2018
RB Jay Ajayi
Selection Choice — Round 4, 2018 (Conditional)
SAN FRANCISCO TRADES:
DB Rashard Robinson
NEW YORK JETS TRADE:
Selection Choice — Round 5, 2018
WR Kelvin Benjamin
Selection Choice — Round 3, 2018
Selection Choice — Round 7, 2018 (from Los Angeles Chargers)
2. BROWNS BOTCH McCARRON DEAL: The Browns had a deal for Bengals backup quarterback A.J. McCarron, whom Hue Jackson has coveted since the offseason, but failed to get the paper work in on time, according to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
3. SERIES HISTORY: This will be the 45th regular season meeting between the Falcons and Panthers. The Falcons led the series 27-17. The Falcons won both games last season, 48-33 in Atlanta and 33-16 in Charlotte.
4. KEY MATCHUPS: Falcons RBs Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman vs. Panthers LB Luke Kuechly; Falcons TE Austin Hooper vs. Panthers SS Kurt Coleman; Falcons LT Jake Matthews vs. Panthers DE Julius Peppers.
5. THE MAN WHO CAN’T BE MOVED: Falcons defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin played 21 or 61 snaps (34 percent) of the snaps against the Jets last week.
He played mostly on run downs and came up with two tackles.
The 310-pound veteran was stout in the middle of the defense and helped in the defensive tackle rotation. Grady Jarrett and Dontari Poe both played 47 snaps (77 percent).
“He did help with his size and his strength in there,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “I just felt like we were communicating well. Everyone was doing their job. No one was jumping out of their gap. We were just playing good team ball.”
6. TALE OF THE TAPE: The Falcons have the offense. The Panthers have the defense.
It should make for an interesting matchup when the NFC South rivals meet Sunday in Charlotte. It will be the Falcons first division game of the season as they enter a key stretch of the season.
The Falcons (4-3, 0-0) trail the Saints (5-2, 1-0) and the Panthers (5-3, 1-1) in the division. Six of their final nine games are against division opponents.
Here’s a look at some of the statistics ahead of the important game against the Panthers:
Falcons Stats Panthers
No. 5 (374.4) Total Offense No. 21 (311.0)
No. 9 (251.1) Passing Offense No. 19 (213.4)
No. 11 (123.3) Rushing Offense No. 20 (97.6)
No. 11 (320.6) Total Defense No. 2 (264.0)
No. 14 (218.4) Passing Defense No. 3 (182.4)
No. 11 (102.1) Rushing Defense No. 5 (81.6)
No. 27 (minus-5) Turnovers No. 29 (minus-7)
7. FREEMAN, McKINLEY TO BE LIMITED: Quinn said that Freeman had his right shoulder examined and will be limited in practice this week. Also, defensive end Takkarist McKinley will also be limited in practice with an undisclosed injury. He appeared disoriented after a play against the Jets, but is not in the concussion protocol. Freeman couldn’t lift his right arm after he was blasted by Jets defensive back Juston Burris with 5:23 left in the game. A pass to Freeman in the left flat was incomplete, but Burris came up from the end zone and hit Freeman anyway. After the play, team doctors looked at Freeman’s shoulder and neck area on the sideline. Coleman closed out the game.
8. COLLINS DECISION TIME GETTING CLOSER: It’s getting closer for the Falcons to make a decision on cornerback Jalen Collins, who’s been suspended for 10 games.
He’s serving his second suspension after a repeat violation of the league’s performing enhancement drug policy.
Collins has not been paid and will miss out on $546,141 in salary.
9. DEPTH CHART: The Falcons added linebacker LaRoy Reynolds to the 53-man roster on Tuesday.
Reynolds was slotted behind Vic Beasley at strongside linebacker in the depth chart released by the Falcons on Tuesday for Sunday’s game against Carolina, which is set for 1 p.m. at Sunday at Bank of America Stadium.
Reynolds suffered a pectoral injury during the exhibition season and was placed on injured reserve on Sept. 4. The Falcons moved linebacker Jordan Tripp, who was in the concussion protocol, to the injured reserve list.
Reynolds, mostly a speedy special teams player, has played in 59 NFL games and made just seven starts.
He played in all 16 regular-season games last season with the Falcons. He had 23 tackles and one fumble recovery. He also had seven tackles on special teams.
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, 17 Marvin Hall, 15 Nick Williams
QB 2 Matt Ryan, 8 Matt Schaub
RB 24 Devonta Freeman, 26 Tevin Coleman, 28 Terron Ward
FB 40 Derrick Coleman
DE 50 Brooks Reed, 99 Adrian Clayborn, 98 Takk McKinley
DT 92 Dontari Poe, 79 Ahtyba Rubin
DT 97 Grady Jarrett
DE 91 Courtney Upshaw, 90 Derrick Shelby
LB 44 Vic Beasley Jr., 53 LaRoy Reynolds
LB 45 Deion Jones, 56 Jermaine Grace, 54 Sean Weatherspoon
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
S 37 Ricardo Allen, 27 Damontae Kazee, 20 Sharrod Neasman
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