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: Hooper coming on strong 

Tight end has 18 catches over past two games 


Good morning! Welcome to the Cover 9@9 blog. It’s our weekly list of nine things at 9 a.m. Wednesday that you need to know about the Atlanta Falcons. 

1. Hooper a weapon?: Tight end Austin Hooper stepped up and turned in his second consecutive strong game against the Buccaneers last week.

“I thought it was another excellent performance by Austin Hooper,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “Sometimes when certain coverage may go to one player, other opportunities are there. He is certainly nailing them.”

The Falcons have been hoping that Hooper would step forward in his third year in the league. 

“I think if you look back all the way through the offseason, I told you about the work that Matt (Ryan) and Austin had put in prior to Matt having the kids and all the time they spent together.”

The two would be seen working out at Pace Academy, near Ryan’s home. 

“He would keep calling him and keep going over to the high school and throwing with him,” Quinn said. “That connection, you see is very strong.”

Hooper caught 9 of 10 targets for 71 yards and a touchdown against the Bucs. 

In the previous game, Hooper caught nine passes for 77 yards in the loss to the Steelers. 

Against the Bucs, Ryan had to lean more on Hooper after wide receivers Calvin Ridley (ankle) and Mohamed Sanu (hip) left the game with injuries.. 

“When guys go down, other people have to step up and fill the void,” Ryan said. “He did that (against the Bucs). But he's done that for us even when those guys are up.”

Ryan believe Hooper could be having an breakthrough. 

“So his talent level, his hard work is paying off,” Ryan said. “He's doing a really good job for us. Then we're being smart and going to where we're supposed to be going with the football and trusting our guys to make plays in those situations.”

The Giants also have a fine tight end in Evan Engram, who played at Cobb County’s Hillgrove High and in the SEC at Mississippi.

The Falcons know Engram well. He was selected with the 23rd overall pick in 2017 and was scouted by the Falcons, who ended up selecting defensive end Takkarist McKinley with the 26th pick in 2017. 

Hooper was selected in the third round (81st overall) in the 2016 draft. 

“A number of those guys we had liked coming out of college,” Quinn said. “We talked about the tight end from Ole Miss (Engram).”

Engram is set to return from a knee injury. He’s missed three games and had 10 catches for 104 yards and one touchdown. 

2. Rested Giants: For the second game in a row, the Falcons will face a well-rested team. The Falcons (2-4) defeated the Bucs after their bye week and will face the Giants (1-5) on Monday Night Football after they last played on Thursday, Oct. 11.

3. Shurmur off to a bad start: The Giants, under first-year coach Pat Shurmur, have dropped three straight games and are marred in controversy after wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. derided quarterback Eli Mannings energy and questioned why the team can’t or won’t throw him the ball deep in an interview with Josina Anderson of ESPN.

Shurmur was ticked by the comments and made Beckham apologize to the team and he was also fined for essentially speaking the truth.

The Giants can’t throw the ball deep because their offensive line is horrendous. 

4. Barkley is a keeper: Giants rookie running back Saquon Barkley is special. The elusive back will be a problem for the Falcons, who miss a lot of tackles. 

“I didn't think (missing tackles)was a unit-wide issue, but man, we still have work to do,” Quinn said. “That kind of lights me up in a good way, especially as a teacher and a coach.”

Barkley has rushed 84 times for 438 yards and four touchdowns. He’s also caught 40 passes for 373 yards and two touchdowns. 

“I do know about Barkley's speed,” Quinn said. “It was he has (identity) on tape coming out of Penn State. Even when a good player had an angle on him, (he’d make them miss.)”

5. Is Eli Manning washed up?  Folks are whispering, but nobody wants to be on record saying that a two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback is washed up.

Manning has completed 158 of 230 passes (68.7 percent) for 1,662 yards, six touchdowns and four interceptions. He has a passer rating of 90.9.

Manning has been sacked 20 times, third most in the league. Only Houston’s Deshaun Watson (25 sacks) and Buffalo’s Josh Allen (21) have been sacked more times. 

Ryan (17 sacks) has been sacked the eighth-most times in the league. 

Manning hasn’t had time to throw deep are get the ball to anyone but Barkley. 

6. Series record:  The will be the 24th regular season meeting. The Falcons lead the series 12-11 and have won two of the last three meetings. 

7. Giants defense: The Giants ranked in the bottom half of the league in scoring defense (27 points per game, 24th of 32 teams) and rushing defense (121.7 yards per game, 25th).

They are ranked in the top half of the league in total yards allowed (358 per game, 14th) and passing yards allowed (236.3 per game, 10th).  

8. Film review report card:  Look at the Falcons’ grades in their win over the Bucs.  

D. LED’S MISSED TACKLE COUNT: 15 

FIRST HALF – 9 

Jack Crawford 2

Desmond Trufant

Brian Poole

Vic Beasley (sack)

Robert Alford

Jordan Richards

Damontae Kazee

Takk McKinley (sack) 

SECOND HALF -- 6

Crawford (sack)

Kazee 2

Richards

Poole

McClain 

9. Depth chart: The Falcons released their official depth chart, with new kicker Giorgiao Tavecchio added, for their game against the Giants, which will be played on Monday Night Football: 

OFFENSE

WR 11 Julio Jones, 14 Justin Hardy, 17 Marvin Hall 

LT 70 Jake Matthews, 74 Ty Sambrailo

LG 71 Wes Schweitzer, 63 Ben Garland

C 51 Alex Mack, 71 Wes Schweitzer

RG 65 Brandon Fusco, 68 Zac Kerin 

RT 73 Ryan Schraeder, 77 Matt Gono

TE 81 Austin Hooper, 82 Logan Paulsen, 85 Eric Saubert 

WR 12 Mohamed Sanu, 18 Calvin Ridley, 83 Russell Gage 

QB 2 Matt Ryan, 8 Matt Schaub 

RB 26 Tevin Coleman, 25 Ito Smith 32 Brian Hill

FB 30 Ricky Ortiz 

DEFENSE

DE 44 Vic Beasley Jr., 90 Derrick Shelby, 56 Steven Means

DT 99 Terrell McClain, 94 Deadrin Senat, 93 Michael Bennett IV

DT 97 Grady Jarrett, 95 Jack Crawford 

DE 98 Takk McKinley, 50 Brooks Reed 

WLB 42 Duke Riley, 36 Kemal Ishmael 

MLB 54 Foyesade Oluokun, 55 Bruce Carter 

SLB 59 De’Vondre Campbell 

CB 23 Robert Alford, 20 Isaiah Oliver, 33 Blidi Wreh-Wilson

CB 21 Desmond Trufant, 34 Brian Poole, 28 Justin Bethel

FS 27 Damontae Kazee, 35 Keith Tandy

SS 29 Jordan Richards, 41 Sharrod Neasman 

SPECIALISTS

K 3 Matt Bryant, 4 Giorgio Tavecchio

KO 5 Matt Bosher 

P 5 Matt Bosher 

KR 17 Marvin Hall, 14 Justin Hardy, 18 Calvin Ridley

PR 14 Justin Hardy, 17 Marvin Hall

LS 47 Josh Harris

H 5 Matt Bosher

Subscribe to “The Bow Tie Chronicles” podcast with the AJC’s D. Orlando Ledbetter on iTunes or on the new AJC sports podcasts page.


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About the Author

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