The AJC's D. Orlando Ledbetter and Noah Coslov talk about the spot the Falcons are in facing the Rams in week 14 and how Julio Jones' turf toe will impact things in Los Angeles.
Good morning! The Cover 9@9 is a weekly blog of everything you need to know about the Atlanta Falcons, we published 9 items at 9 a.m. each Wednesday morning.
1. Jones should get rested. Julio Jones is one of the toughest football players in the NFL.
Everyone knows that.
He ran the 40—yard dash at the NFL scouting combine with a stress fracture in his foot.
He had the stress fracture fixed before his rookie season and had a bigger screw placed in his foot during the 2013 season.
But turf toe is nothing to play around with.
If not treated properly, it can be a career-threatening injury.
Several players, including the great Deion Sanders and Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, have had nasty bouts with turf toe. Legendary Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Jack Lambert was forced to retire in 1984 because of turf toe.
Ryan has played all 16 games in seven of his eight previous seasons. He missed two games in 2009 for turf toe.
On Monday, Falcons coach Dan Quinn said that Jones would practice on Wednesday. On Tuesday, during his Sirius NFL Radio segment he said that Jones would not practice and that two of the three injured players would be expected back on Thursday.
The other injured players are wide receiver Mohamed Sanu (groin) and left tackle Jake Matthews (sprained knee).
Quinn, like most coaches, will want Jones to attempt to play. That way the Rams will have to plan for him.
But he knows he doesn’t need Jones for the 4-8 Rams nor the 1-11 49ers, the following week.
“I have a good relationship with him and that’s something we discuss together,” Quinn said about Jones being a fierce Warrior. “When he can perform at a level that he’s capable with he knows he’s not going to feel 100 percent much like a lot of the guys in the locker room.”
Quinn wants to know his pain level and what he can and can’t do on the field. With turf toe, Jones will be robbed of his leaping and cutting ability. Route running would be difficult.
“You ask them what hurts and there will be a long list if you asked them,” Quinn said. “However, there’s a level he knows he can play with of where he’s at. He’s an extremely fast healer all the work that he puts in off the field to get right so when he gets to that spot we’ll know.”
Jones leads the league in receiving yards with 1,253 and has 72 catches.
“He was off to a terrific start (against the Chiefs) before he was injured,” Quinn said. “The first three plays of the game especially, he was kind of the one that helped set if off for us, but knowing what he’s capable of and knowing what he’s capable of playing with that’s a conversation that he and I will have together.”
Quinn is not going to tell the Rams or the 49ers that Jones is not going to play, but it’s foreseeable that Jones is not playing against until the Falcons are in Charlotte to the see the Panthers on Christmas Eve.
2. Ryan on Julio Jones’ turf toe. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan suffered a turf toe injury and missed two games back in 2009.
Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones has a turf toe injury that limited his action against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.
Some believe the Falcons should rest Jones against their next two opponents, the 4-8 Rams and 1-11 49ers.
Ryan, on his weekly show on 680 The Fan, was reluctant to play team doctor for Jones, but discussed history with the injury.
“There are varying levels and degrees and all that kind of stuff,” Ryan said. “So, I don’t want to speculate about anything that’s going on with Julio. But, for me, it was a tough injury. It was the tearing of a ligament that connects the two sesamoid bones in your foot to the toe. You can tear that in a lot of different ways. You can stretch it or strain it. There are varying degrees.”
After missing two games, Ryan return to lead the Falcons to three victories and post the first-ever back-to-back winning seasons in franchise history back in 2009.
“For mine’s, it was painful,” said Ryan, who played with a steel plate in his shoe. “It was probably one of the toughest injuries that I’ve had and I’ve been fortunate and lucky throughout my career, but that one was tough. There are varying degrees. For me, it was a difficult one to go through.”
The cautious Ryan wouldn’t weigh-in on if he thought Jones, who was at the Hawks and OKC Thunder game on Monday night, should be rested.
“I can’t answer that,” Ryan said. “It’s not my foot and I’m certainly not a doctor.”
Host and former wide receiver Brian Finneran spoke up for his former quarterback.
“It is painful and it does take some rest,” Finneran said. “If you can get through it, you get through it. You put a steel plate in your shoe and try to battle through it. If not, when you play teams like the Rams and the 49ers you take some rest off of it.”
3. Misalignment on defense. Quinn admitted that the defense was misaligned on Spencer Ware's touchdown pass. The Chiefs have an unbalanced line to their left. The Falcons are all stacked on the right side of the formation. Ware flared out and went in untouched.
4. On why Julio Jones is a nonfactor in the red zone: The Falcons have only targeted Jones six times in the red zone.
“He gets a lot of attention when we move down closer they certainly know where 11 is and some of the doubles go to him," Quinn said. "That was certainly one of the coverages we were expecting there at the end when you do get a double onto one person Austin Hooper becomes open if a double takes place. There’s a lot of tension that goes towards his way. I’d say that’s probably a factor in those numbers.”
Back when I covered the Packers, head coach Mike Holmgren and offensive coordinator Sherman Lewis would move Sterling Sharpe around in order to get him favorable matchups. They even put him in the backfield at times.
Quinn seem to indicate that the Falcons have discussed moving Jones around.
“Inside is sometimes a spot you can do that with a guy," Quinn said. "Oftentimes in the red zone you work in bracket coverages whether it’s an inside and out or whether you’re aligned at the outside receiver or the inside receiver. Definitely part of our thinking knowing who he is and how he plays. He’s definitely in our thinking for sure down there.”
5. Peek-a-boo, I see you. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, again, accepted responsibility for the pick-two interception that he tossed to Eric Berry on Tuesday.
Former Falcons wide receiver Brian Finneran asked Ryan about the play on his weekly show on 680 The Fan. Ryan admitted to peeking at Eric Berry and perhaps tipping of the play.
“It’s a concept that everybody uses across the league,” Ryan said. “You have a shallow cross coming the right side and a dagger or in-cut, whatever you want to call it, in-line, coming back into your vision on the left side.
“So, Al (Aldrick Robinson) got an outside release…I made the mistake. I kind of peeked at Eric Berry from the start. Right away he looked outside and goes to double-team (Austin Hooper) and that’s where I took my eyes off of him. It’s a lesson for me. You’ve got to keep your eyes in the right spot for the entire portion of the play. I kind of moved on a little too fast.”
6. Helping the police. Ryan and local attorney Ken Nugent have partnered this season to help police officers who are attending college while working full-time. For every yard Ryan passes for, Nugent donates $2. Ryan passed for 297 yards against the Chiefs and Nugent donated $594.
For the season, 3,813. Do the math.
7. Ryan on the Rams. Ryan likes Rams' front seven on defense.
“L.A. is pretty good," Ryan said. "This is another defensive line that is as deep and physical as we’ve seen all year. Their defensive linemen are really, really good. We have to play well up front first and foremost. If we can hold up, we like our matchups with our skill guys."
Falcons are 1-4 when they don’t score 30 points.
"We take pride in what we do offensively," Ryan said.
8. Tale of the tape. Here's how the Falcons and Rams matchup statisically:
9. Depth chart. Defensive end Malliciah Goodman, a former Falcons draft pick, and offensive tackle Kevin Graf were signed on Tuesday.
To make room from Goodman and Graf, the Falcons released defensive end Cliff Matthews and center Trevor Robinson.
Goodman, who was taken in the fourth-round of the 2013 draft, played in 34 games and made 11 starts. He was cut by the team in September. He played in one game with Seattle this season before being released.
With the knee injury to Adrian Clayborn, the Falcons are down a defensive end and starting left tackle Jake Matthews has a knee sprain.
WR 11 Julio Jones, 16 Justin Hardy, 14 Eric Weems
LT 70 Jake Matthews, 76 Tom Compton
LG 67 Andy Levitre, 63 Ben Garland
C 51 Alex Mack, 63 Ben Garland
RG 65 Chris Chester, 71 Wes Schweitzer
RT 73 Ryan Schraeder, 76 Tom Compton, Kevin Graf
TE 81 Austin Hooper, 80 Levine Toilolo, 82 Joshua Perkins
WR 12 Mohamed Sanu, 18 Taylor Gabriel, 19 Aldrick Robinson
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
DT 97 Grady Jarrett, 91 Courtney Upshaw
DE 94 Tyson Jackson, 77 Ra’Shede Hageman, Malliciah Goodman
LB 44 Vic Beasley Jr., 41 Philip Wheeler
LB 45 Deion Jones, 55 Paul Worrilow, 53 LaRoy Reynolds
LB 59 De’Vondre Campbell
CB 23 Robert Alford, 29 C.J. Goodwin, B. W. Wilson
CB 32 Jalen Collins, 34 Brian Poole, 30 Deji Olatoye
S 37 Ricardo Allen, 27 Robenson Therezie, 20 Sharrod Neasman
S 22 Keanu Neal, 36 Kemal Ishmael
K 3 Matt Bryant
KO 5 Matt Bosher
P 5 Matt Bosher
KR 14 Eric Weems, 16 Justin Hardy
PR 14 Eric Weems, 16 Justin Hardy
LS 47 Josh Harris
H 5 Matt Bosher
GAME 12: Chiefs 29, Falcons 28
GAME 11: Falcons 38, Cardinals 19
GAME 10: Eagles 24, Falcons 15
GAME SEVEN: Chargers 33, Falcons 30 in OT
GAME SIX: Seahawks 26, Falcons 24
GAME FIVE: Falcons 23, Broncos 16
GAME FOUR: Falcons 48, Panthers 33
GAME THREE: Falcons 45, Saints 32
GAME TWO: Falcons 35, Raiders 28
GAME ONE: Buccaneers 31, Falcons 24