The COVER 9@9 is back every Wednesday at 9 a.m. We are gearing up for the start of the offseason conditioning program on Monday and the NFL draft (April 28-30).
1. Don't forget about Smith. NFL teams are waiting with great anticipation for the medical re-check of Notre Dame All-American Jaylon Smith on Thursday and Friday in Indianapolis.
He is trying to make it back from a devastating knee injury suffered in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 1. The Butkus Award winner was considered the possible No. 1 overall pick for the upcoming draft before the injury. The draft is set for April 28-30 in Chicago.
"I can't tell you when I'll be back, but I'll be back 100 percent," Smith said.
He suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament and lateral collateral ligament.
Smith, a junior, opted to enter the draft early. He participated in Notre Dame’s Pro Day and was measured at 6-foot-2 ¼ and 235 pounds. He benched pressed 225 pounds 24 times. He couldn’t do any of the drills.
The knee is recovering, but the issue will be how long will it take for the nerves to regenerate from the damage. Smith has been surprisingly upbeat.
"It's the game of football and it happened," Smith said. "I have no choice, but to live with it. I'm just moving forward. That's all I'm focused on."
The Falcons, who are on the prowl for defenders, are extremely interested in Smith’s medical evaluation.
If the medical evaluation is encouraging, some team -- perhaps the Falcons -- may take a gamble on Smith.
Smith finished last season with 115 tackles, nine for losses, one sacks and two fumble recoveries.
Would the Falcons gamble on Smith’s recovery and take him with the 17th overall pick?
We don’t think so. Therefore we'll stay with the safe pick of Ohio State linebacker Darron Lee for mock 4.0.
Here's how the Mock 4.0 stacks up:
- Tennessee Titans. Laremy Tunsil, OT, Mississippi
- Cleveland Browns. Jared Goff, QB, California
- San Diego Chargers. Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State
- Dallas Cowboys. Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State
- Jacksonville Jaguars. Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida
- Baltimore Ravens. Myles Jack, LB, UCLA
- San Francisco 49ers. DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon
- Philadelphia Eagles. Carson Wentz, QB, Eagles
- Tamp Bay Buccaneers: Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville
- New York Giants. Leonard Floyd, LB, Georgia
- Chicago Bears. Ronnie Stanley, OL, Notre Dame
- New Orleans Saints. Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson
- Miami Dolphins. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
- Oakland Raiders. Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson
- Los Angeles Rams. Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama
- Detroit Lions. Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State
- Atlanta Falcons, Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State
- Indianapolis Colts. Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State
- Buffalo Bills. Robert Nkemdiche, DE, Mississippi
- New York Jets. A'Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama
- Washington Redskins. Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama
- Houston Texans. Josh Doctson, WR, TCU
- Minnesota. Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor
- Cincinnati Bengals. Noah Spence, DE, Eastern Kentucky
- Pittsburgh Steelers. Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State
- Seattle Seahawks. Germain Ifedi, OG, Texas A&M
- Green Bay Packers. Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State
- Kansas City Chiefs. William Jackson III, CB, Houston
- Arizona Cardinals. Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama
- Carolina Panthers. Vonn Bell, FS, Ohio State
- Denver Broncos. Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis
* There will be only 31 picks in the first round in 2016, with New England’s first-round pick forfeited.
2. Quarterback corner. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan believes having veteran quarterback Matt Schaub will help the offense.
Schaub had one of his best seasons as a pro under offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan while with the Houston Texans back in 2009.
"It's great to have Matt Schaub back,” Ryan said. “His experience, a guy who's been here in Atlanta before, it's fun to be a part of that. He's a guy who can really help me.”
Schaub will have to beat out Sean Renfree or the Falcons will have to carry three quarterbacks. Quarterback Matt Simms is also on the roster.
Ryan had an experienced backup in Chris Redman from 2008 to 2011. In 2012, the Falcons carried three quarterbacks with Luke McCown and Dominique Davis behind Ryan. In 2013, Davis held the backup spot. In 2014, the Falcons released Davis after trading for T.J. Yates. Last season, Renfree beat-out Yates and there was the Rex Grossman experiment.
Schaub, 34, who was selected by the Falcons in the third round (90th overall) of the 2004 draft, has played in 141 games and made 92 starts. The former Virginia star has posted a 47-45 record as a starter.
After playing seven seasons for the Texans, he played a year in Oakland and last season with Baltimore, where he was 1-1 in two starts.
“He's been in the fire and will be able to see some things from a different perspective and be able to help me prepare during the week,” Ryan said. “I'm really excited about Matt being here.”
Schaub believes he can be an asset.
"I'm excited to be back,” Schaub said. “I'm excited to be back in this city and this town… I'm looking forward to contributing and helping out wherever I can.”
Shanahan was Schaub’s quarterbacks coach in 2007. He was the offensive coordinator in 2008 and 2009 before leaving for Washington. Schaub had a mega-season under Shanahan in 2009, when he led the league with 396 completions, 583 attempts, 4,770 yards passing and 298.1 yards passing per game. He also tossed 29 touchdown passes and 15 interceptions and went to his first Pro Bowl. He was also selected to the Pro Bowl in 2013.
“My prior relationship with Kyle and my knowledge of how he operates and functions in this offense (should help),” Schaub said. “I just hope that I can help Matt out and help the young guys come along because we are a young team.”
3. Revising history. In retrospect, the Falcons traded Schaub too early. Back in 2007, he was dealt to the Texans in March for second round picks in 2007 and 2008. The teams also swamped first-round picks in 2007, with the Falcons getting the eighth pick and the Texans getting the 10th pick.
If the Falcons would have waited until the draft to make the trade, they likely would not have made it. The rumblings out of Surry County, Virginia about the federal dog-fighting investigation started and they eventually led to the indictment of quarterback Michael Vick.
4. Cornerback update. With Jalen Collins suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the league's performance enhancement drug policy, Akeem King was moved up to the starting right cornerback spot in our projected depth chart.
5. Draft board. In addition to looking for defenders for the front seven of the defense, the Falcons have heavily scouted safeties and tight ends.
6. Go Sparty. After hosting a round of players workouts last week, the Falcons went back out on the road to do some scouting on Monday.
Coach Dan Quinn sent out a tweet from Michigan State, which has 15 players ranked by CBSSports.com for the upcoming draft.
The top players include offensive tackle Jack Conklin, center Jack Allen and defensive end Shilique Calhoun. The Spartans also have quarterback Connor Cook.
7. ICYMI - Falcons transactions since March 1.
8. CHEERLEADER AUDITIONS: The pre-lims of the Falcons cheerleader auditions are set for Sunday, April 24, 2016. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION.
9. UPDATED DEPTH CHART: Here’s an updated look at the post-free agency depth chart with the King for Collins move:
WR 11 Julio Jones, 16 Justin Hardy, 17 Devin Hester, 18 Jordan Leslie
LT 70 Jake Matthews, 76 Tom Compton
LG 67 Andy Levitre, 64 Collin Rahrig
C 51 Alex Mack, 62 James Stone
RG 68 Mike Person 63 Ben Garland, 67 Adam Replogle
RT 73 Ryan Schraeder, 72 Bryce Harris
TE 83 Jacob Tamme, 80 Levine Toilolo, 86 D.J. Tialavea, 86 Beau Gardner
WR Mohamed Sanu, 14 Eric Weems, 15 Nick Williams, 89 Aldrick Robinson, 89 C.J. Goodwin
QB 2 Matt Ryan, 12 Sean Renfree, 8 Matt Schaub, 1 Matt Simms
RB 24 Devonta Freeman, 26 Tevin Coleman, 33 Terron Ward, 35 Gus Johnson
FB 42 Patrick DiMarco
NICKEL DEFENSE (60 PERCENT)
RDE 99 Adrian Clayborn, 94 Tyson Jackson
DT 95 Jonathan Babineaux 97 Grady Jarrett
DT 90 Derrick Shelby, 77 Ra’Shede Hageman, 74 Joey Mbu
LDE 44 Vic Beasley Jr., 93 Malliciah Goodman, 41 Tyler Starr
LB 56 Sean Weatherspoon, 50 Brooks Reed, Philip Wheeler
LB 55 Paul Worrilow, 91 Courtney Upshaw, 53 LaRoy Reynolds
RCB 28 Akeem King, 32 Jalen Collins
NCB 23 Robert Alford, 43 DeMarcus Van Dyke
LCB 21 Desmond Trufant, 43 DeMarcus Van Dyke
FS 37 Ricardo Allen, 27 Robenson Therezie
S 30 Charles Godfrey, 36 Kemal Ishmael, 40 Damian Parms
K 3 Matt Bryant
KO 5 Matt Bosher
P 5 Matt Bosher
KR 17 Devin Hester, 14 Eric Weems
PR 17 Devin Hester, 14 Eric Weems
LS 47 Josh Harris
H 5 Matt Bosher
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