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: A look at the Falcons pre-combine depth chart


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The COVER 9@9 is back every Wednesday at 9 a.m. after a short end-of-season and Super Bowl week break. We are gearing up for the NFL scouting combine (Feb. 23-29), which will lead right into free agency (March 7-9) and that will set things up for the NFL draft (April 28-30). 

1. THE ROSTER CHURN 2016:  The Falcons have started their offseason roster purge.

2. UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: These players are set to become unrestricted free agents on March 9.  There isn't anyone in the group that the Falcons need to keep off the open market. Chris Chester, RG; Adrian Clayborn, DE/DT; O’Brien Schofield, OLB/DE: Philip Wheeler, LB; Charles Godfrey, SS; Tony Moeaki, TE; Shayne Graham, K; Kroy Biermann, DE; Gino Gradkowski, C/G; Jake Long, OT; Bryce Harris, OT.

3. RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: Paul Worrilow, LB; Ryan Schraeder, RT and Nate Stupar, LB.

4. EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: Ricardo Allen, FS and Ben Garland, OG.

5. BULLDOGS AT THE COMBINE: Running back Keith Marshall, outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, strongside linebacker Jordan Jenkins, receiver Malcolm Mitchell, offensive tackle John Theus, fullback Quayvon Hicks, defensive linemen Sterling Bailey and defensive lineman Chris Mayes were all invited from Georgia.

THE COMPLETE COMBINE INVITE LIST

6. YELLOW JACKETS AT THE COMBINE: Georgia Tech defensive tackle Adam Gotsis and cornerback D.J. White also received combine invites.

7. WOLVES AT THE COMBINE: West Georgie offensive lineman Dominique Robertson received an invite.

8. SMITH LEAVING TO RUN BUCKEYES ALUMNI ASSOCIATION: Falcons marketing chief Jim Smith is leaving the franchise to direct The Ohio State University’s alumni association, according to the school.

Smith, who’s worked for the Falcons since 2004, has been the team’s executive vice president and chief marketing and revenue officer.

Smith will replace the legendary Archie Griffin.

Before joining the Falcons, Smith was the general manager of the Columbus Crew and held previous marketing positions at Ohio State’s athletic department and the World Wrestling Federation.

Griffin, the two-time Heisman Trophy winner, announced that he would return from the position in April.

9. ICYMI -- CAN BEASLEY BECOME THE FALCON'S VERSION OF VON MILLER?: There were a couple of major takeaways from Super Bowl 50 for the Atlanta Falcons.

The Denver Broncos showed the Atlanta Falcons nation what a real pass rush looks like and made the point that sacks are indeed very important.

Getting the ball off of Carolina quarterback Cam Newton led to two touchdowns in a 24-10 win.

Sacks are indeed important. Just getting the quarterback off the mark is not a enough.

In addition to the pass rush, the burning post-SB50 question was can Vic Beasley turned into the Falcons’ version on Von Miller? Miller dominated the Super Bowl and was named the most valuable player.

Miller had 11.5 sacks as a rookie to Beasley’s four. But Beasley played with a torn labrum that will not require offseason surgery.

CLICK HERE: Falcons hope they have a Von Miller-clone in Beasley.

Miller gave Falcons defensive coordinator Richard Smith a "shout out" at his most valuable player press conference after the game.

Miller has amassed 60 sacks over five seasons and has been named to four Pro Bowls and first-team

All-Pro twice.

Over the past 11 drafts only two players selected in the top 10 in the NFL draft have posted double-digit sacks in their rookie seasons.

In 2011, Miller, who was taken second overall, had 11.5 sacks. San Francisco’s Aldon Smith, who was selected seventh overall, had 14 sacks.

There have been some colossal pass-rushing busts taken in the top 10 over the past 11 drafts including Jamaal Anderson (eight overall by the Falcons in 2007), Dion Jordon (third by the Dolphins in 2013) and Aaron Curry, (fourth by Seattle in 2009).

John Abraham (68.5), Chuck Smith (58.5) and Patrick Kerney (58) sit atop the franchise’s all-time sack list and all had slow starts as rookies.

Abraham had just four sacks over an injury-married rookie season with the New York Jets after being selected 13th overall in 2000.

Smith, a second-round pick in 1992, had two sacks in his rookie season.

Kerney, who was selected 30th overall in the first-round of the 1990 draft, had 2.5 sacks his rookie season.

Kerney shared his thoughts on Beasley's rookie season with Andrew Hirsh, in a piece for team's website. It's not too critical, but he does provides insight to how coach Dan Quinn mentors his pass rushers and what Beasley must do to continue to develop.

Back in July, we asked you all, in a blog post, how many sacks will Vic Beasley have in 2015?

Most fans (43 percent) predicted “less than 10.” A total of 37 percent of the voters selected that he’d get “10” sacks.

Here's how players selected in the top 10 have fared as rookies rushing the passer:

2015 draft

  1. Dante Fowler Jr., Jacksonville 0 (Spent season on injured reserve.)
  2. Leonard Williams, New York Jets, 3
  3. Vic Beasley, Atlanta Falcons 4

2014 Draft

  1. Jadeveon Clowney, Houston Texans, 0
  2. Anthony Barr, Minnesota, 4

2013

  1. Dion Jordan, Miami ,2
  2. Ezekiel Ansah, Detroit, 8
  3. Barkevious Mingo, Cleveland, 5

2012

No edge rushers selected in the top 10. Bruce Irvin was selected 15th by Seattle and had eight sacks.

2011

  1. Von Miller, Denver, 11.5.
  2. Aldon Smith, San Francisco, 14

(Wisconsin’s J.J. Watt was selected 11th by the Houston Texans. He had 5.5 sacks as a rookie and 20.5 in his second season.)

2010

  1. Tyson Alualu, Jacksonville, 3.5

2009

  1. Tyson Jackson, Kansas City, 0
  2. Aaron Curry, Seattle, 2

2008

  1. Chris Long, St. Louis 4
  2. Derrick Harvey, Jacksonville, 3.5

2007

  1. Gaines Adams, Tampa Bay, 6
  2. Jamaal Anderson, Atlanta, 0

2006

  1. Mario Williams, Houston, 4.5

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About the Author

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