Good morning! Welcome to the Cover 9@9 blog. It’s our weekly dive into nine issues at 9 a.m. Wednesday. Everything you need to to know about the Atlanta Falcons.
1. New Dirty Bird: New Falcons fullback Jalston Fowler was raised in Prichard, Alabama, outside of Mobile, as a fan of his new team.
If Fowler is the answer to the team’s short-yardage woes, expect him to break into the “Dirty Bird” if he plows over some poor linebacker on a touchdown run.
“I’ve been watching them ever since I was a kid,” Fowler said. “I used to imitate Jamal Anderson when he did the Dirty Bird dance.”
But Prichard is close enough to New Orleans to be Saints country?
“I was one of the only kids in my neighborhood that liked the Falcons,” said Fowler, who went on to star at Alabama and pocket a couple of national championship rings. “It was a big, big excitement for me. I love the Falcons.”
2. Some pop: Fowler hopes to add some pop to the Falcons rushing attack, especially in short yardage situations.
“I can get in there, dig them out and blow them up,” said Fowler on Tuesday before his first practice with the team. “They can run right behind me. Just put my head down, shoulder pads down, and get the yardage that we need.”
The Falcons haven’t had a big fullback since the days of Ovie Mughelli, who took his last snap in 2011. The Falcons have been using “tweener” fullbacks who get in the way and maybe can catch the ball out of the backfield.
The Falcons, who elected not to re-signed Derrick Coleman, need to add some power to their attack and may have done so in adding the 261-pound Fowler, who was signed on Monday. Fullback Luke McNitt was released.
Ricky Ortiz, who wore a black jersey for the second practice in a row, is the only other fullback on the roster.
Fowler, who played at Alabama, was a fourth-round pick of the Titans in 2015. He started until former Falcons coordinator Mike Mularkey became the head coach.
Mularkey and offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie wanted to use more tight ends and didn’t have a need for a traditional battering ram fullback, according to Fowler.
After play in 42 NFL games and making eight starts, Fowler was released. He signed with the Seahawks, but was plagued by hamstring injuries. He was released on Aug. 12.
“I went to Seattle and things were going pretty good until I started having hamstring problems,” Fowler said. “In the spring I hurt my left hamstring and I was out for a while. Then I came back in the beginning of training camp and I hurt my right hamstring. I had to fight with those.”
Fowler is over the injuries and believes he be productive for the Falcons.
“I’m just trying to help these guys be explosive,” Fowler said. “Help the running backs gain more yardage. They are already balling out. I’m just trying to help them do more. Give them some more open lanes to run through.”
Fowler has 10 NFL carries for 20 yards and two touchdowns.
“Just give it to me, I’ll try to go forward for about two yards,” Fowler said.
Fowler believes he can play on special teams.
“I can handle that part of it,” Fowler said. “I just want to see what they want me to do. Whatever they want me to do, I’m going to do it to the best of my abilities.”
3. Alabama connection: Fowler received some advice from former Alabama wide receivers Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley before his first practice with the Falcons.
“I just got done talking to Julio and he was trying to tell me about the practice tempo,” Folwer said. “Calvin has just been telling me to just keep working hard, be on time and do everything right.”
Fowler was a four-star running back comin gout of Vigor High. He went on to lead-block for Alabama running backs Trent Ricahardson, Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon.
He caught 19 passes over his college career and seven went for touchdowns.
4. Cornerback corner: Starters Robert Alford and Desmond Trufant has been going about their business and getting ready for the season.
Alford said he spent part of the offseason working out back home with former NFL standout Ryan Clark.
Trufant said that the times spent in the offseason working out with the wide receivers was helpful.
“We were working on our hands stuff,” Trufant said. “Just catching the ball every day. Any chance I get, I’m working on my hands, just trying to improve them any way that I can.”
5. Helmet rule: The league’s competition committee is schedule to meet today and one of the main items on the agenda is the application of the new lowering of the helmet to initiate contact rule.
Falcons coach Dan Quinn doesn’t believe the rule was properly applied to safety Keanu Neal’s hit against the Chiefs in the second exhibition game.
“It’s a pretty popular topic,” Quinn said. “The players are asking about it and I showed some examples in the meeting room (on Tuesday). I showed the ones from last week around the league. There were 22 on defense, none on offense and three on special teams. ... I wanted to show here are some examples that we all could agree that it could be a hit that we could take out and do differently.
“Then I showed some one that maybe in the regular season they wouldn’t be called.”
6. Super Bowl or bust: In the Aug. 27 issue of Sports Illustrated, NFL analyst Andy Benoit predicted the Atlanta Falcons will win Super Bowl LIII on their home field next February.
7. Jones on the Gram: Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones is among just 20 NFL players with over 1 million followers on Instagram, according to a study done by Online Gambling in Canada.
8. Jones, Freeman aiming for opener: Jones and running back Devonta Freeman will not play against the Jaguars in the team’s dress rehearsal exhibition game.
Both did not play in the first two games against the Jets and Chiefs and will not “likely” play in the final exhibition game against the Dolphins.
“Likely,” Quinn said when asked when the two stars would also be held out of the exhibition finale. “Some of it is based on their injury history. If there is something that I felt they needed, I would have adjusted that.”
Jones has a history of soft tissue injuries and Freeman suffered a knee injury late last season that did not require surgery and two concussions.
Also, guard Ben Garland (strain) will not be play against Jacksonville.
Kicker Matt Bryant, who’s not kicked in the two previous games with an undisclosed injury, will test his leg on Wednesday. Last week, he kicked about 15 balls on Wednesday, but was held out of the Friday game against Kansas City.
Linebacker Deion Jones (strain), who didn’t play against the Chiefs, will run this week and is considered day-to-day.
9. Depth chart: In addition to signing Fowler, the Falcons announced signed wide receiver Julian Williams.
To make room for Fowler and Williams, the Falcons waived wide receiver Taj Williams and fullback Luke McNitt on Monday.
Julian Williams played at Collins Hill High and Florida International. Here’s the depth chart:
WR 11 Julio Jones, 14 Justin Hardy, 17 Marvin Hall, 15 Christian Blake, 84 Cody Pearson, 16 Julian Williams
LT 70 Jake Matthews, 74 Ty Sambrailo, 76 Daniel Brunskill
LG 67 Andy Levitre, 63 Ben Garland, 64 Sean Harlow
C 51 Alex Mack, 75 Jamil Douglas, 61 J.C. Hassenauer
RG 71 Wes Schweitzer, 65 Brandon Fusco, 62 Salesi Uhatafe
RT 73 Ryan Schraeder ,68 Austin Pasztor, 77 Matt Gono, 72 Kendall Calhoun
TE 81 Austin Hooper, 82 Logan Paulsen, 85 Eric Saubert, 89 Alex Gray
87 Jaeden Graham, 80 Troy Mangen
WR 12 Mohamed Sanu, 18 Calvin Ridley, 13 Reggie Davis, 83 Russell Gage, 7 Devin Gray, 86 Lamar Jordan, 19 Dontez Byrd
QB 2 Matt Ryan, 8 Matt Schaub, 6 Kurt Benkert, 9 Garrett Grayson
RB 24 Devonta Freeman, 26 Tevin Coleman, 25 Ito Smith, 32 Justin Crawford, 41 Terrence Magee, 35 Malik Williams
FB 30 Ricky Ortiz, 43 Jalston Fowler
DE 44 Vic Beasley Jr., 90 Derrick Shelby, 74 Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, 55 J.T. Jones
DT 99 Terrell McClain, 94 Deadrin Senat, 91 Jon Cunningham, 92 Justin Zimmer
DT 97 Grady Jarrett, 95 Jack Crawford, 93 Garrison Smith
DE 98 Takk McKinley, 50 Brooks Reed, 56 Anthony Winbush, 96 Mackendy Cheridor
LB 42 Duke Riley, 36 Kemal Ishmael, 52 Emmanuel Ellerbee
LB 45 Deion Jones, 53 Emmanuel Smith, 46 Jonathan Celestin
LB 59 De’Vondre Campbell, 54 Foyesade Oluokun, 49 Dewey Jarvis
RCB 23 Robert Alford, 20 Isaiah Oliver, 33 Blidi Wreh-Wilson, 30 Chris Lammons
LCB 21 Desmond Trufant, 34 Brian Poole, 28 Justin Bethel, 29 Leon McFadden, 39 Deante Burton
FS 37 Ricardo Allen, 27 Damontae Kazee, 32 Tyson Graham, 35 Secdrick Cooper
SS 22 Keanu Neal, 48 Ron Parker, 38 Marcelis Branch
K 3 Matt Bryant, 1 David Marvin
KO 5 Matt Bosher, 1 David Marvin
P 5 Matt Bosher, 1 David Marvin
KR 14 Justin Hardy,18 Calvin Ridley
PR 14 Justin Hardy, 17 Marvin Hall
LS 47 Josh Harris
H 5 Matt Bosher