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 turnaround 1-5 NFC South record in 2016

(The COVER 9@9 is here for you every Wednesday at 9 a.m. The mandatory minicamp is in session before the teams takes a six-week break. Training camp starts with players reporting on July 27th.)

1. NFC South turnaround needed. If the Falcons are going to become a playoff contender in 2016, the rebound will need to start in the NFC South division.

Last season, the Falcons were 1-5 in the NFC South with the only victory coming against Carolina in Game 15. Two of the defeats were by 10 points of more. The other three games were lost by three, four and three points.

If the Falcons had pulled out the close games, they would have been 11-5 and likely headed to the playoffs.

This partially explains why Falcons coach Dan Quinn has been putting so much of an emphasis on the end of halves and the end of games this offseason.

Those periods in practice have been fierce, even by offseason standards.

“We had a big emphasis on move-the-ball and a two-minute at the end,” Quinn said on Tuesday. “We wanted to specifically put that two-minute at the end so we could really tax the guys when it was the most difficult. There was good back and forth.”

The day ended with cornerback C.J. Goodwin making a big interception to stop a potential game-winning drive.

With that in mind, we’ve been keeping a closer eye on the teams around the NFC South this offseason.

2. What’s going on in Carolina? The Panthers have won the past three division titles, but history suggest their reign is over and that they’ll be falling back to the pack.

The offseason has already been tumultuous with the bizarre handling of cornerback Josh Norman’s free agency. That has to be a morale drainer in the locker room.

They developed the player and then when it was time to pay market value they cut him. Certainly, the Norman situation led to the brief holdout of defensive tackle Kawann Short.

But here’s why the Panthers are  primed to fall off of their throne.

Since 1993, no Super Bowl losing team has made it back to the big game and nearly 30 percent of the teams have not made it back to the playoffs. Buffalo (1990-93) was the last runner-up to return to the Super Bowl.

So, maybe Cam Newton knew about these stats when he decided to retire the dab.

3. What’s going on in Tampa Bay? Our fav offensive coordinator turned head coach Dirk Koetter tossed tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins out of practice which led to social media firestorm.

Jenkins publicly admitted to shamming in practice and not being prepared to perform. He even apologize. Our pal Gary Shelton has the details in his blog.

Defensive coordinator Mike Smith was elated that the Bucs drafted four defensive players after not selecting any in each of the past two drafts.

The Bucs selected cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, linebacker Noah Spence, cornerback Ryan Smith and linebacker Devante Bond.

Running back Doug Martin signed a five-year extension earlier this offseason.

Also, former Falcons wide receiver Bernard Reedy, a promising prospect from Toledo, is in camp with the Bucs.

4. What’s going on in New Orleans? Wide receiver Robert Meachem, who played for the Saints from 2007-2011, is with the team in minicamp as a tryout player.

He played for the Chargers in 2012 and returned to the Saints for 2013 and 14. He was out of football last season.

Meachem, 30, was the 27th overall pick of the 2007 draft.

Saints defensive end Hau’oli Kikaha is likely out for the season after suffering a potentially career-ending third ACL injury to his left knee.

5. Ryan likes David Glidden. Falcons wide receiver David Glidden, an undrafted rookie from Oklahoma State who’s also been catching kickoffs, has impressed quarterback Matt Ryan.

“Dave Glidden has done a really good job for us as a young wide receiver,” Ryan said. “Coming in, he’s a little slot guy. I’ve been very impressed with him.”

6. Toilolo improving.  Falcons tight end Levine Toilolo was one of the unsung stars of the team’s rushing attack last season as a blocking tight end.

He set the edge and cleared paths from running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman to break outside.

When he was drafted the Falcons were hoping that he could develop in to a red zone pass-catching threat. He appears to be catching the ball more fluidly this offseason.

“Levine Toilolo is doing a great job,” Ryan said. “He’s rock solid in the run game and he’s continued to improve in the pass game. I feel like he’s had a really good offseason.”

He caught seven pass on just 12 targets last season. Since being selected in the fourth-round out of Stanford in 2013, Toilolo has 49 career catches on 81 targets.

7. Allen working with Neal. Falcons free safety Ricardo Allen has taken rookie strong safety Keanu Neal under his wing.

“He’s interacted a lot,” Neal said. “As soon as I got here, he was the guy who pulled me aside and pretty much told me that he was going to show me the ropes, show me the way and that we were going to end up working together and really getting to know each other.”

Neal, who the Falcons tabbed with the 17th overall pick of the 2016 draft, appears comfortable working with the first-team defense.

“It’s really cool everything that he’s done for me through this short amount of time,” Neal said.

8. Goodwin’s hard to miss.  Cornerback project C.J. Goodwin is hard to miss at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds. He’s a former wide receiver.

Goodwin, of Wheeling, W.Va., played basketball at Bethany College for two seasons. He went on to play football at Fairmont State and California (Pa.) before he signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“The instincts and the ball skills are what you’d imagine are there,” Quinn said. “He’s got terrific speed. The next phase for him, he’s put the work in during the OTAs, now it’s the tackling.

“That’s the part that has to come to life and we really won’t know about that until we get into the (exhibition) season games. He’s somebody that has caught our eye for sure.

“We are anxious for him. We’ve taken him to a certain step and now for him (tackling) is going to be the next step as we go to training camp and get to go and compete in games.”

9. Minicamp depth chart. Here's  a looking at our revolving minicamp depth chart. The Falcons are at 89 players, one under the 90-player offseason limit. The coaches are moving players around with different units on a daily basis.

Tom Compton and Wes Schweitzer were working at right guard with the first-team offense while rookies Deion Jones and De'Vondre Campbell are working with the first-team defense on Tuesday.


WR 11 Julio Jones, 16 Justin Hardy, 17 Devin Hester, 87 Devin Fuller, 18 Jordan Leslie

LT 70 Jake Matthews, 76 Tom Compton

LG 67 Andy Levitre, 71 Wes Schweitzer, 79 Shabaz Ahmed

C   51 Alex Mack, 63 Ben Garland, 69 Jake Reed, 62 James Stone (injured)

RG 68 Mike Person, 64 Collin Rahrig, Michael Huey, 65 Chris Chester (injured)

RT 73 Ryan Schraeder, 72 Bryce Harris, 66 Laurence Gibson

TE 83 Jacob Tamme, 80 Levine Toilolo, 81 Austin Hooper, 86 D.J. Tialavea, 82 Joshua Perkins

WR Mohamed Sanu, 14 Eric Weems, 15 Nick Williams, 19 Aldrick Robinson, 85 J.D. McKissic, 89 Daje Johnson, 7 David Glidden

QB 2 Matt Ryan, 8 Matt Schaub, 12 Sean Renfree, 1 Matt Simms

RB 24 Devonta Freeman, 26 Tevin Coleman, 28 Terron Ward, 35 Gus Johnson, 20 Brandon Wilds

FB 42 Patrick DiMarco, 39 Will Ratelle


RDE  99 Adrian Clayborn, 50 Brooks Reed, 91 Courtney Upshaw, 94 Tyson Jackson, 71 Brandon Williams

DT 97 Grady Jarrett, 95 Jonathan Babineaux, 98 Cory Johnson

DT 90 Derrick Shelby, 77 Ra’Shede Hageman, 92 Joey Mbu, 74 Chris Mayes

LDE 44 Vic Beasley Jr., 93 Malliciah Goodman, 52 Tyler Starr

LB 56 Sean Weatherspoon,  41 Philip Wheeler, 59 De'Vondre Campbell, 46 Torrey Green

LB 55 Paul Worrilow, 45 Deion Jones, 53 LaRoy Reynolds, 54 Josh Dawson, 48 Ivan McLennan

RCB 25 Akeem King, 32 Jalen Collins, 29 C.J. Goodwin, 33 Devonte Johnson, 38 David Mims II

NCB 23 Robert Alford, 43 DeMarcus Van Dyke, 34 Brian Poole

LCB 21 Desmond Trufant, 43 DeMarcus Van Dyke, 39 Jordan Sefon

FS 37 Ricardo Allen, 27 Robenson Therezie, 20 Sharrod Neaseman

SS 22 Keanu Neal, 30 Charles Godfrey, 36 Kemal Ishmael, 40 Damian Parms

4-3 – UNDER

RDE  94 Tyson Jackson, 99 Adrian Clayborn, 91 Courtney Upshaw, 71 Brandon Williams, 96 Nordly Capi

DT  77 Ra'Shede Hageman, 95 Jonathan Babineaux, 98 Cory Johnson

NT 97 Grady Jarrett, 92 Joey Mbu, 74 Chris Mayes

LDE  90 Derrick Shelby, 77 Ra’Shede Hageman, 93 Malliciah Goodman, 52 Tyler Starr

WLB 56 Sean Weatherspoon, 59 De'Vondre Campbell, 46 Torrey Green, 48 Ivan McLennan

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

SLB 44 Vic Beasley, 41 Philip Wheeler, 50 Brooks Reed, 91 Courtney Upshaw,

RCB 25 Akeem King, 32 Jalen Collins, 23 Robert Alford, 29 C.J. Goodwin, 33 Devonte Johnson, 38 David Mims II

LCB 21 Desmond Trufant, 43 DeMarcus Van Dyke, 39 Jordan Sefon, 34 Brian Poole

FS 37 Ricardo Allen, 27 Robenson Therezie, 20 Sharrod Neaseman

SS 22 Keanu Neal, 30 Charles Godfrey, 36 Kemal Ishmael, 40 Damian Parms


K 3 Matt Bryant, 1 Nick Rose

KO 5 Matt Bosher

P 5 Matt Bosher

KR 17 Devin Hester, 14 Eric Weems, 16 Justin Hardy, 7 David Glidden, 85 J.D. McKissic

PR 17 Devin Hester, 14 Eric Weems, 16 Justin Hardy, 7 David Glidden, 85 J.D. McKissic

LS 47 Josh Harris

H 5 Matt Bosher


Shanahan thinks offense will change thrive with cut in turnovers

Matt Ryan's film session with AJC columnist Jeff Schultz

Alex Mack, Falcons looks good for one another


Dan Quinn pressing all buttons to create a pass rush

How does drafting Keanu Neal help the pass rush?

DL line coach Bryan Cox: Hageman needs to improve his play

LB coach Jeff Ulbrich: 'Cream will rise' at linebacker for Falcons

Defensive coordinator Richard Smith pleased with early progress of the defense

Falcons still have a spot for DT Jonathan Babineaux

Dwight Freeney 95 percent certain that he will play in 2016

Falcons working 80 percent of time on pass rush

Weatherspoon on Freeney: 'He still has it'


Atlanta Falcons 90-man roster analysis: Linebackers

Atlanta Falcons 90-man roster analysis: Running backs

Atlanta Falcons 90-man roster analysis: Specialists


Falcons' offseason spotlight: OG Wes Schweizter, sixth round pick

Falcons offseason spotlight: LB De'Vondre Campbell, fourth round pick

Falcons' offseason spotlight: TE Austin Hooper, third round pick

Falcons' offseason spotlight: LB Deion Jones, second round pick

Falcons' offseason spotlight: SS Keanu Neal, first round pick

Falcons' offseason spotlight: DE/SLB Vic Beasley

Falcons' offseason spotlight: DT Grady Jarrett

Falcons' offseason spotlight: FS Robenson Therezie

Falcons' offseason spotlight: CB Jalen Collins

Falcons' offseason spotlight: RB Tevin Coleman

Falcons' offseason spotlight: WR Justin Hardy

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