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: Matt Ryan to stay on the move

Good morning! Welcome to The Cover 9@9 blog. It's our weekly blog of everything you need to know about the Atlanta Falcons.

1. RYAN TO STAY ON THE MOVE: Despite Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan having the highest passer rating in the league when not using play-action, the team clearly plans to keep using play-action, rollouts and bootleg action.

Ryan’s passing rating off on no play-action throws was 116.7, highest in the league, according to

New quarterbacks coach Bush Hamdan plans to aid Ryan on the finer points of his game, including the bootlegs and rollouts that are required in the offensive scheme.

“When you look at the offense as a whole, one of the strengths of it is that everything looks the same,” Hamdan said. “A lot of the (play) action passes, a lot of the keepers occur from the simple standpoint is that it looks like a run and all of sudden one guy is switching his route and Matt is getting outside and using that.

“It’s intricate. It’s extremely important in the run game as well. Again, we have the ability to keep them honest. To keep on extra guy out of run defense is critical. It’s a staple of this offense and we just have to continue to grow with it.”

Hamdan, echoing the sentiments of Sarkisian, sees just minor tweaks for Ryan and the scheme.

“Obviously, this is a tremendous system,” Hamdan said. “What they’ve done the last couple of years here really probably changed the league in a lot of ways with what they’ve done.

“But I think every year is new. You have different players every year. You have to be able to feature certain guys and play to their strengths, but again, if I were to give a percentage, I’m not really sure. I definitely think that the system in place is a very good system. Obviously Sark brings … a lot of years of calling plays (in the college ranks) and we’ll benefit from that.”

2. MOST FALCONS FANS FINE WITH RING OF HONOR FOR VICK:  Should Falcons put Michael Vick in the Ring of Honor? Yes  52.85%   (278 votes) . . No  46.58%   (245 votes)  Other:  0.57%   (3 .votes)  

4. KLEHA PROMOTED: Former Falcons public relations executive Frank Kleha was recently promoted to Vice President of Marketing & Communications for Atlanta Super Bowl LIII Host Committee. His additional dutie while coordinating Super Bowl LIII tasks also include helping to work on the College Football Playoff National Championship Game on Jan. 8, 2018 from a marketing & communications support in his role under the umbrella of the Championship Division of Atlanta Sports Council.

5. MILITARY TRIP: Falcons owner Arthur Blank, executive Steve Cannon,   president Rich McKay, general manager Thomas Dimitroff, assistant general manager Scott Pioli, coach Dan Quinn, as well as players Ricardo Allen, Daniel Brunskill, Ben Garland and D.J. Tialavea visited the Walter Reed National Medical Center and made a few other stops in and around Washington, D.C.

6. TRUFANT READY TO LEAD: Falcons defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel believe that cornerback Desmond Trufant grew as a leader while out recovering from his torn pectoral injury.

Trufant returned during the team’s mandatory minicamp and appears set to open training camp healthy in late July.

With Trufant, Robert Alford, Brian Poole and Jalen Collins all seasoned now, the Falcons have some options to mix and match their coverages better.

Marquand said all four can play the slot if necessary. All can play outside, too.

“That’s been the most exciting thing,” Manuel said. “I was explaining that to them. We know what we are going to get, by Tru going out, we’ve taken our game another level.”

Trufant stayed with the team and helped in the meeting room.

“Not only for Trufant in a leadership role, but that was the first time that he was in a leadership role,” Manuel said. “That helped him while being with the team and not being able to play. Tru is a competitor. The ultimate competitor.

“Now, he has to take the leadership role verbally, which now helps him in the room. Now, he can pull up the young guy and say hey, ‘come over here and do this.’ ”

Manuel has seen the process before when younger cornerbacks start to get their footing in the NFL.

“I watched (Richard) Sherman do that,” Manuel said. “I watched Earl (Thomas) do that. I watched Kam (Chancellor) do that. So we are in a nice and blessed spot right now with all of them.”

7. COLLINS PROVIDES DEPTH: Falcons cornerback Jalen Collins, who was forced to start down the stretch last season, quietly went about his offseason.

With the return of starting left cornerback Desmond Trufant, the Falcons now have some quality depth at the position.

“That’s the cool part,” Falcons defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel said. “Now you have a guy who can play dime. He can play outside. He has more value to the team.”

Collins slid down the depth chart after being suspended for the first four games of last season. The former second-round pick from LSU stayed ready until Trufant suffered a torn pectoral injury and was placed on injured reserve.

Collins started the final six games of the regular season and three playoff games. He played 428 defensives snaps (38.3 percent) during the regular season.

He compiled 48 tackles, including 10 in Super Bowl LI, 12 pass breakups and two interceptions.

8. SIMPSON BLENDING IN: Georgia high school coaching legend Jess Simpson is blending into life in the NFL.

Simpson, who led Buford to seven state championships and three state runner-up finishes in his 12 years as their head coach, joined Dan Quinn’s staff as a defensive assistant in February.

After retiring from Buford High, he was briefly on the Georgia State staff before getting the offer from the Falcons.

“Man, it’s been a whirlwind,” Simpson told The Gwinnett Daily Post. “Obviously going from when I took that job at Georgia State less than a week after that last game at Buford, and then went through recruiting at Georgia State, it just kind of came out of the blue in February with DQ. So the last three months have been wide open trying to learn a play book, getting to know the coaches, getting to know the players. It’s been a great experience. It’s been a lot of fun.”

Simpson, who helped defensive line coach Bryant Young, has blended into the staff well.

“It’s been real cool,” Falcons defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel said. “It’s been real cool seeing him with the guys as he makes that transition from high school to college for a little bit and then coming right into the league, I think he’s done an awesome job of just trying to pick up on the speed of the game.”

Simpson had to get an NFL course on the OTA rules and the allowable contact. He kidded that he was getting a lot of bruises from the players hitting the dummy pads he was holding.

“Football is football, like we always talk about, but being able to find your niche and find your groove is what we’ve been trying to help him with,” Manuel said.  “He’s adjusting well trying to find his niche. He’s coming from being a head coach and now he’s just in his expertise, helping out and trying to make Bryant Young the best defensive line coach in the league. I think he’s done a great job at it.”

Simpson has been going with the flow.

“Understanding that he takes it with a grain of salt,” Manuel said. “Being that he was a head coach and knows no matter what, he takes it with a grain of salt. Things are going to happen. Not good all the time, so he has to understand how we can adjust and move forward. That’s the cool part about it.”

9. DEPTH CHART: Here's the projected depth chart heading in to training camp.


WR 11 Julio Jones, 14 Justin Hardy, 19 Andre Roberts, 1 Reggie Davis, 17 Marvin Hall

LT 70 Jake Matthews, 66 Kevin Graf, 79 Will Freeman

LG 67 Andy Levitre, 64 Sean Harlow, 72 Cornelius Edison, 69 Marquis Lucas

C 51 Alex Mack, 63 Ben Garland, 61 Travis Averill, 62 Cam Keizur

RG [71 Wes Schweitzer, 63 Ben Garland], 68 Trevor Robinson

RT 73 Ryan Schraeder, 76 Daniel Brunskill, 75 Andreas Knappe

TE 81 Austin Hooper, 80 Levine Toilolo, 82 Joshua Perkins, 86 D.J. Tialavea, 85 Eric Saubert, 49 Darion Griswold

WR 12 Mohamed Sanu, 18 Taylor Gabriel, 13 Devin Fuller, 15 Nick Williams, 16 Anthony Dable, 87 Deante Burton, 7 Josh Magee

QB 2 Matt Ryan, 8 Matt Schaub, 4 Matt Simms, 4 Alek Torgersen

RB 24 Devonta Freeman, 26 Tevin Coleman, 28 Terron Ward, 38 Brian Hill, 35 B.J. Daniels

FB 40 Derrick Coleman, 39 Tyler Renew


DE 99 Adrian Clayborn, 98 Takkarist McKinley, 96 Martin Ifedi

DT 92 Dontari Poe, 77 Ra’Shede Hageman, 92 Joe Vellano

DT 97 Grady Jarrett, 91 Courtney Upshaw, 74 Taniela Tupou

DE 44 Vic Beasley Jr., 95 Jack Crawford, 90 Derrick Shelby, 93 Chris Odom

SLB 59 DeVondre Campbell, 44 Vic Beasley Jr., 50 Brooks Reed,  Jack Lynn

LB 45 Deion Jones, 53 LaRoy Reynolds, 52 Josh Keyes

WLB  36 Kemal Ishmael, 42 Duke Riley, 56 Jermaine Grace, 55 J'Terius Jones

CB 23 Robert Alford, 29 C.J. Goodwin, 25 Akeem King, 39 Janor Jones, 38 Taylor Reynolds

NB 34 Brian Poole, 33 Blidi-Wreh-Wilson, 27 Damontae Kazee

CB 21 Desmond Trufant, 32 Jalen Collins, 30 Deji Olatoye, 41 Quincy Mauger

S 37 Ricardo Allen, 20 Sharrod Neasman, 35 Marcelis Branch

S 22 Keanu Neal, 36 Kemal Ishmael, 48 Jordan Moore, 49 Deron Washington


K 3 Matt Bryant, 6 Mike Meyer

KO 5 Matt Bosher

P 5 Matt Bosher

KR 19 Andre Roberts, 14 Justin Hardy, 13 Devin Fuller, 38 Brian Hill

PR 19 Andre Roberts, 14 Justin Hardy, 13 Devin Fuller, 18 Taylor Gabriel

LS 47 Josh Harris

H 5 Matt Bosher


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1st rounder: Meet defensive end Takkarist McKinley

3rd rounder: Meet linebacker Duke Riley

4th rounder: Meet offensive guard Sean Harlow

5th rounder: Meet defensive back Damontae Kazee

5th rounder: Meet running back Brian Hill

5th rounder: Meet tight end Eric Saubert






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About the Author

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