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: Knapp happy to be reunited with Quinn

Former coordinator calls Matt Schaub his ‘football son’


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. Knapp’s return: Falcons quarterbacks coach Greg Knapp was at home working the three practices fields with four quarterbacks at Organized Team Activities and the start of minicamp on Tuesday.

Knapp, 54, a longtime NFL assistant, was the Falcons offensive coordinator from 2004-06. He helped the Falcons get to the NFC title game with Michael Vick at quarterback after the 2004 regular season. 

He has also coached at San Francisco, Oakland, Seattle, Houston and Denver.

He coached with Falcons coach Dan Quinn in San Francisco (2001-03) and Seattle (2009). He was Peyton Manning’s position coach when the Broncos won Super Bowl 50.

Jedd Fisch, Ken Dorsey and Darrell Bevell also were considered for the position to replace Bush Hamdan, who left to become the offensive coordinator at the University of Washington. 

Knapp is looking forward to working with Ryan and Schaub, who he calls his “football son.”

“When you are giving them an idea or a thought, they might have recall for that or they may present something to me,” Knapp said. “You know what, I never approached that down and distance or that play in this situation. It invigorates me.”

Knapp had some bumpy times with Vick, who relied on his athletic talents and ignored game plans. He likes working with veteran quarterbacks. 

“I just got done with the previous four years where I was working with Peyton and some other quarterbacks there, there are always new concepts coming at you,” Knapp said. “Sometimes you get them from your peers in coaching, but some of the better ones from the quarterback position is from the players because they get exposed to so many situations.”

Julio Jones’ holdout notwithstanding, Knapp likes the vibe around the team. 

“It’s fun being re-united with Dan,” Knapp said. “My two other experiences with him in Seattle and San Francisco were great.”

Knapp has a different plan for each of the quarterbacks. In addition to Ryan and Schaub, Garrett Grayson and Kurt Benkert are on the roster. 

“With two veteran quarterbacks in Matt and Schaubie and two young guys in Garrett and Kurt there is a constant coaching point that’s going on in the room,” Knapp said. “What goes on with the five of us are together, I’m coaching to the two Matts, and I’m referring to Kurt and Garrett, cause I’ve got keep them into it. But there is extra meeting time, and Dan does a great job here with the Plan D program where I have just the two young guys and I’m going to coach them a little bit differently.”

2. A look back: Knapp reflected on his early career. 

“My first coaching job was with San Francisco with Steve Young and he was five years my elder,” Knapp said. “He taught me at a young age in this profession, he was 36 and I was 31, he said you don’t need to teach me everything about this play. Teach me what I need to know so I can play fast.

“I’ve applied that to these young guys. I want them to build that foundation first.

3. On Benkert: The former Virginia signal-caller will likely get some exhibition season action. 

“Kurt is doing great so far,” Knapp said. “It’s hard with the college kids these days. They come out of the spread offense where there’s no play-calling or it’s a hand signal.

“The biggest challenge for rookie quarterbacks over the last six years, no matter who I’ve had, is just getting to regurgitate the terminology.”

So Benkert is working on just calling the plays correctly.

“You’ve got to call it out over and over again,” Knapp said. “That’s been his first challenge to go through and he’s coming through it pretty good as far as getting the play from (offensive coordinator Steve) Sarkisian and then going to the huddle and giving it to the offense. He’s coming along fine. It’s going to be slow, but he’s coming along fine.” 

4. Minicamp injury update: Falcons wide receiver/defensive back Russell Gage, a sixth-round (194th overall) draft pick, had a ‘tweak’ and was working off to the side with trainers during the open OTA session, but was in full gear for the start of minicamp. Left guard Andy Levitre (arm) and defensive end Takkarrist McKinley (shoulder) were working off to the side with the training staff. 

5. Harlow update: Sean Harlow, who was drafted in the fourth round last season out of Oregon State, is making progress in his conversion from college tackle to professional guard.

“It’s a big adjustment moving a guy (from tackle) to becoming an inside player when he hasn’t really done it a whole lot,” offensive line coach Chris Morgan said. “He’s grown up. He’s maturing. His strength is in a good spot. His understanding of the offense is better. I want to see the best version of him.”

6. Harman on Hooper: Falcons tight ends coach Wade Harman, who coached new talking sports super star and Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe in Baltimore, is expecting third-year tight end Austin Hooper to continue to improve.

“I know his work ethic and mentality has been outstanding,” Harman said.  “He’s spent a lot of time with Matt (Ryan) together doing a lot of one-on-ones, trying to make sure that they’re getting on the same page.” 

7. Rubin to Raiders: Defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin, who provided quality depth as a run stuffer, signed with the Raiders. He played in 10 games and had eight tackles last season. 

8. Upshaw trying out with Jets: Defensive tackle Courtney Upshaw, who spent the past two seasons with the Falcons is getting a minicamp tryout with the New York Jets. 

9. DEPTH CHART: Here’s the working depth chart: 

OFFENSE 

WR 11 Julio Jones, 18, Calvin Ridley, 14 Justin Hardy, 13 Reggie Davis, 86 Lamar Jordan, 16 Taj Williams

LT 70 Jake Matthews, 68 Austin Pasztor, 76 Daniel Brunskill

LG 67 Andy Levitre, 63 Ben Garland, 64 Sean Harlow, 75 Jamil Douglas 

C 51 Alex Mack, 63 Ben Garland, 61 J.C. Hassenauer

RG 65 Brandon Fusco, 71 Wes Schweitzer, 62 Salesi Uhatafe

RT 73 Ryan Schraeder, 74 Ty Sambrailo, 77 Matt Gono

TE 81 Austin Hooper, 82 Logan Paulsen, 85 Eric Saubert, 89 Alex Gray, 80 Troy Mangen, 87 Jaeden Graham 

WR 12 Mohamed Sanu, 17 Marvin Hall, 83 Russell Gage, 15 Christian Blake, 19 Dontez Byrd, 7 Devin Gray

QB 2 Matt Ryan, 8 Matt Schaub, 9 Grayson Garrett, 6 Kurt Benkert

RB 24 Devonta Freeman, 26 Tevin Coleman, 25 Ito Smith, 32 Justin Crawford, 35 Malik Williams

FB 40 Daniel Marx, 43 Luke McNitt, 41 Demario Richard 

 DEFENSE 

DE 98 Takk McKinley, 50 Brooks Reed, 79 Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, 96 Mackendy Cheridor

DT 99 Terrell McClain, 94 Deadrin Senat, 93 Garrison Smith, 

DT 97 Grady Jarrett, 95 Jack Crawford, 92 Justin Zimmer, 99 Jon Cunningham

DE 44 Vic Beasley, 90 Derrick Shelby, 55 J’Terius Jones 

WLB 42 Duke Riley, 54 Foyesade Oluokun

MLB 45 Deion Jones, 52 Emmanuel Ellerbe, 53 Emmanuel Smith 

SLB 59 De’Vondre Campbell, 56 Anthony Winbush, 49 Richard Jarvis

CB 23 Robert Alford, 20 Isaiah Oliver, 28 Justin Bethel, 33 Blidi Wreh-Wilson, 39 Deante Burton 

CB 21 Desmond Trufant, 34 Brian Poole, 35 Leon McFadden, 43 Chris Lammons

NB 34 Brian Poole, 27 Damontae Kazee, 42 Tyson Graham, 30 Joseph Putu 

FS 37 Ricardo Allen, 27 Damontae Kazee, 38 Marcelis Branch, 41 Jason Hall

SS 22 Keanu Neal, 36 Kemal Ishmael, 35 Secdrick Cooper 

SPECIALISTS 

K 3 Matt Bryant, 1 David Marvin 

KO 5 Matt Bosher

P 5 Matt Bosher

KR 14 Justin Hardy, 17 Marvin Hall, 30 Ito Smith

PR 14 Justin Hardy, 16 Reggie Davis

LS 47 Josh Harris

H 5 Matt Bosher 

 


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About the Author

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