Atlanta Falcons Blog

Atlanta Falcons blog by D. Orlando Ledbetter, the pro football and Atlanta Falcons reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Cover 9@9: Falcons must fix the defense quickly

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The AJC’s D. Orlando Ledbetter and Noah Coslov preview Falcons-Saints on Monday Night Football by getting into the Falcons offensive rhythm and how to fix the defense.

(Before we get going here in the blog this week, I'd like to thank CBS Sports and Kevin Harlan on behalf of the family for mentioning the passing of my sister Altionette Ledbetter-Bush and sending along their "thoughts and prayers." She waged a courageous battle against lung cancer and was an inspiration to the family before going home on Sept. 1.)

1. Fix this defense.  At least one of the televisions in the house is apparently locked – at all times – on the OWN channel, which is the Oprah Winfrey network.

One of the shows that has caught my attention, while running by that television to get to the other television that’s locked on the NFL Network, is called “Fix my life.”

This nice lady, Iyanla Vanzant, goes round and listens to the disturbing life problems of folks and then she tries to fix their lives with some tough love and some new age spiritual uplift.

There was the one show where the father moved in like about 20 family members without consulting the wife. She was just a little upset with the ungrateful slackers who went on to trash and disrespected her house. She was about to leave.

Not really sure how that one turned out as I eventually made it to the other television.

With the extra time this week, head coach Dan Quinn, defensive coordinator Richard Smith and the rest of the defensive staff  were certainly at work trying to fix the defense.

The defense has given up EIGHT touchdowns drives of 75 yards or more over 23 possessions to start the season.

They have only had four three-and-outs and have forced just nine punts.

Of the eight long scoring drives, four of them were aided by penalties: Adrian Clayborn jumping offsides on third down, Robert Alford being called for unnecessary roughness, Alford on a pass interference and Dashon Goldson and Justin Hardy miscommunication which led to a 12 man on the field penalty.

There have been some highlights like Desmond Trufant's interception and the defense stopping the Raiders on a fourth-and-2. Two drives ended as time expired. There has been one made field goal and one missed field goal.

It’s going to be a long season if the defense continues to give up the long drives and make penalties.

2. The return of Schofield. The Falcons are likely to re-sign linebacker O'Brien Schofield today. He had 28 tackles, four tackles for losses, two sacks and 13 quarterback hits last season with the Falcons. He over estimated his value over the offseason when the Falcons, Jets and Patriots showed interest in signing him.

3. Pro personnel department busy. Also, defensive end Nordly Capi and cornerback Devonte Johnson had their practice squad contracts terminated on Tuesday. The Falcons held tryouts for five players on Tuesday. Tackle Carter Bykowski (Iowa State), defensive tackle A.J. Francis (Maryland), defensive tackle Justin Hamilton (La-Lafayette), tackle Kyle Roberts (Nevada) and defensive end Davis Tull (Chattanooga).

4. Freeman on Julio. Falcons running back Devonta Freeman expects wide receiver Julio Jones, who has a calf injury, to answer the bell against the Saints on Monday. “He’s a competitive player,” Freeman said on his weekly radio appearance on The Dukes & Bell show on 92.9 The Game. “I’ve seen him injured in so many places and he’s just got that extra fight in him. . .  If he’s on one leg, he’s going to go out there and fight for you.”

5. Take Uber to the Georgia Dome. The Falcons have continued their partnership with Uber. Two Uber zones have been created to help alleviate traffic congestion and allows for easy drop-off and pick up for Uber customers.  New Uber riders can receive $20 off their first ride to/or from the game by entering the code ATLFalcons.

6. Air award nominee. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is a finalist for this week's FedEx Air player of the week award for his play against Oakland. Ryan completed 26 of 34 passes (76.5 percent) for 396 yards, three touchdowns and an interception in the end zone. He finished with a passer rating of 131.5.

Ryan is up against Carolina’s Cam Newton and San Diego’s Philip Rivers.

Newton completed 24 of 40 passes (60 percent) for 353 yards and four touchdowns for a 111.8 passer rating in the Panthers’ 46-27 win over the San Francisco 49ers.

Rivers completed 17 of 24 passes (70.8 percent) for 220 yards and four touchdowns for a 138.9 passer rating in the Chargers’ 38-14 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Every week, following the Monday Night Football game, through Thursday at 3 p.m., fans can visit or tweet using #AirandGround and the nominees’ last name to cast their vote.

FedEx and the NFL will announce the winners every Thursday afternoon and then FedEx will award a $2,000 donation in the winning players’ names to The USO.

7. Freeman on the Saints. Freeman acknowledge that the Saints game is a rivalry game, but he treats every team and defense the same.

“My mindset is to go out there and dominate,” Freeman said.

He looks at every defense as the enemy.

“It’s like they are trying to stop me from feeding my family,” Freeman said.

8. Ice Man Show. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan will do his weekly show on 680 The Fan today at 11:20 a.m.

9. Falcons official depth chart. Keanu Neal, who’s recovering from knee surgery, is listed as the third strong safety. Neal will likely make his NFL debut against the Saints on Monday Night Football.

(The team calls it an ‘unofficial’ depth chart. But if they are releasing it, for our purposes that makes it pretty official.)


WR 11 Julio Jones, 16 Justin Hardy, 14 Eric Weems

LT 70 Jake Matthews, 76 Tom Compton

LG 67 Andy Levitre, 68 Mike Person

C 51 Alex Mack, 63 Ben Garland

RG 65 Chris Chester, 71 Wes Schweitzer

RT 73 Ryan Schraeder, 76 Tom Compton

TE 83 Jacob Tamme, 81 Austin Hooper, 80 Levine Toilolo, 82 Joshua Perkins

WR 12 Mohamed Sanu, 19 Aldrick Robinson, 18 Taylor Gabriel

QB 2 Matt Ryan, 8 Matt Schaub

RB 24 Devonta Freeman, 26 Tevin Coleman, 28 Terron Ward

FB 42 Patrick DiMarco


DE 50 Brooks Reed, 99 Adrian Clayborn, 93 Dwight Freeney

DT 95 Jonathan Babineaux, 90 Derrick Shelby

DT 97 Grady Jarrett, 91 Courtney Upshaw

DE 94 Tyson Jackson, 77 Ra’Shede Hageman

LB 44 Vic Beasley, Jr. 41 Philip Wheeler

LB 45 Deion Jones, 55 Paul Worrilow, 53 LaRoy Reynolds

LB 59 De’Vondre Campbell, 56 Sean Weatherspoon

CB 23 Robert Alford, 29 C.J. Goodwin

CB 21 Desmond Trufant, 34 Brian Poole

S 37 Ricardo Allen, 27 Robenson Therezie

S 36 Kemal Ishmael, 38 Dashon Goldson, 22 Keanu Neal


K 3 Matt Bryant

KO 5 Matt Bosher

P 5 Matt Bosher

KR 26 Tevin Coleman, 14 Eric Weems

PR 14 Eric Weems, 16 Justin Hardy

LS 47 Josh Harris

H 5 Matt Bosher

GAME TWO: Falcons 35, Raiders 28

5 things we learned from the Falcons' win over the Raiders

Trufant's heads-up play saves the day

Tight ends help to power offense

Weatherspoon plays strong in first start since 2013

Matthews, Schraeder held Mack sack-less

JEFF SCHULTZ: Falcons put on offensive show and win

What Matt Ryan had to say after beating the Raiders

What Dan Quinn had to say after the win over the Raiders

GAME ONE: Buccaneers 31, Falcons 24

5 things we learned from the Falcons' loss to the Bucs

No sacks for new-look Falcons pass rush

Julio Jones not worried about his ankle injury

Falcons have a case of the "no-huddle" blues

REPORT CARD: Falcons can't 'gift' opponents 17 points

FILM REVIEW: Beasley missing in action

AJC'S NFL POWER RANKINGS: Where are the Falcons?

Hageman charged is domestic violence case

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About the Author

D. Orlando Ledbetter is the Atlanta Falcons beat writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.