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: 5 players for the Falcons to watch at the Senior Bowl

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The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's D. Orlando Ledbetter tells CineSport’s Noah Coslov about what it’s like for a reporter at the Senior Bowl and the positions of the most interest to the Atlanta Falcons.

1. SENIOR BOWL WATCH LIST: Most of the executives around the NFL are off this week.

They are trying to decompress before the road to the draft officially kickoffs at the Senior Bowl with the official weigh-in and measurements on Monday in Mobile, Ala. The game is set for 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 30 at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.

The Senior Bowl has 23 accepted invites from players from the SEC, including Alabama running back Kenyon Drake (Hillgrove), Georgia wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell, Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland, Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott and Alabama quarterback Jake Coker. A total of eight players from the ACC have accepted invitations to the all-star game including N.C. State quarterback Jacoby Brissett.

The Big Ten will be represented by at least 20 players, who have accepted invitations, including Ohio State wide receiver Braxton Miller.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn was asked about the offensive line after the final game and his response was telling.

“It’s going to be a huge emphasis, the line of scrimmage on both sides," Quinn said.

He didn't have to review any film. He didn't have to consult with anyone. He was clear, both lines will get a lot of attention this offseason.

Here are five linemen to watch at the Senior Bowl from the accepted invitees list:

Jack Allen, C, Michigan State, 6-foot-2, 296 pounds:  He's played 41 games at center and five a left guard. He's a two-time first-team All-American. He has more than 280 career knockdowns and he earned All-Big Ten Academic honors four times.

Evan Boehm, C, Missouri, 6-3, 320: Started a school-record 52 straight games at center for the Tigers. He's a solid shot gun snapper and dominates at the point of attack. He's a former high school wrestling champ and knows how to handle himself in tight spaces.

Joe Dahl, OT, Washington State, 6-5, 310: (He's from Spokane and doesn't appear to be related for former Falcons guard Harvey Dahl, who's from Nevada.) Was an All-Pac 12 pick as voted on by the coaches. He played some left guard and left tackle for the Cougars. Started his career at the University of Montana.

Josh Garnett, G, Stanford, 6-5, 321: The school's first Outland Trophy winner. The award goes to the nation's top interior lineman. He helped pave the way for Stanford's outstanding running back Christian McCaffrey.

Connor McGovern, G, Missouri, 6-4, 300: McGovern could add some muscle to the middle of the line. He bench presses over 500 pounds and has lifted 225 pounds, 40 times. He also broke school records in the squat (690 pounds five times) and reportedly squatted 785 pounds. While he won't be pushed around, he'll have to show the Falcons that he can move in space in their outside zone blocking scheme.

2. LET THE MOCK DRAFTS BEGIN!: The Falcons are picking 17th in the first round and ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. has the team selecting Clemson defensive end Kevin Dodd in his first mock draft.

He has Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland, who's training down in Orlando with Chuck Smith, going 11th to the Chicago Bears.

Mississippi defensive linemen Robert Nkemdiche is slotted 13th to the Eagles. He's considered a Top 5 talent, but after the little incident at a downtown hotel, he'll have some explaining to do at the combine.

Georgia outside linebacker Leonard Floyd is slated to go 30th to Arizona by Kiper.

NFL Media's Bucky Brooks has the Falcons selecting Notre Dame outside linebacker Jaylon Smith. "Smith's injury could limit his ability to contribute as a rookie, but Dan Quinn's desire to add energetic playmakers to the defense could make this a worthwhile gamble for the Falcons," Brooks writes.'s Daniel Jeremiah has the Falcons picking Ragland.

CBS Sports Dane Brugler has the Falcons selecting Nkemdiche, who played at Grayson High. "Based on talent alone, Nkemdiche belongs in the top 10, maybe even the top three. But his off-field issues could cause him to tumble, which would be the Falcons' gain," Brugler writes.

3. IRVIN SHOULDN'T TAKE A DISCOUNT: Seattle linebacker Bruce Irvin, of Stone Mountain, has been approached by the team to take a discount.

That's appalling on so many levels. Irvin, who's set to become an unrestricted free agent, needs to find out what he's worth on the open market.

"I was asked that," said Irvin to "Pete (Carroll) and John (Schneider) asked me that when I met with them today. If it came to that, I would definitely come back. $3, $4 million? $3, $4, $5 million? I would definitely come back because I'm established here.

"These are my brothers. I honestly can't even imagine myself playing with anybody else, being in a different meeting room, listening to different pregame speeches. It's just crazy to me. I would definitely come back if they matched or if it was a little less. I would definitely come back to Seattle."

Irvin, the 15th overall pick in the 2012 draft, has told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he wants to play for the Falcons. But if the Falcons don't deliver with a nice financial package, it looks like he'll stay put in Seattle.

Irvin has played 37 games over the past three seasons. He's played linebacker in the base and defensive end in the nickel.

4A. RIP GLENN FREY: Eagles guitarist Glenn Frey passed away this week. During the acting portion of his career, he played Arizona general manager Bob Wilburn. He showed Rod Tidwell the money in the hit movie Jerry Maguire.

4B. FALCONS ROOKIES SHUT OUT: St. Louis Rams running back Todd Gurley, who led all NFL rookies in rushing yards and

rushing touchdowns, was selected as the 2015 Rookie of the Year and 2015 Offensive Rookie of the Year, chosen in voting conducted by the Professional Football Writers of America (PFWA).

Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters, who tied for the NFL lead in interceptions, was selected as the 2015 Defensive Rookie of the Year by the PFWA.

Falcons defensive end Vic Beasley, the eight player taken in the draft, was not selected to the first-team All-Rookie team.

The All-Rookie line was made up of  Malcom Brown, New England Patriots; Eddie Goldman, Chicago Bears; Danielle Hunter, Minnesota Vikings and Leonard Williams, New York Jets.

Brown, a defensive tackle, was selected with the 32nd overall pick in the first-round.

Goldman, a nose tackle, was selected with the 39th overall pick in the second-round.

Hunter, who finished with six sacks, was drafted 88th overall in the third round.

Williams was taken two picks before Beasley in the first round.

Washington's Preston Smith led all rookies with eight sacks. Beasley was tied for fifth in the league with four sacks.

5. HESTER RECOVERING: Falcons wide receiver Devin Hester announced his foot surgery on Instagram on Friday.

While it's unclear if he even fits in the team's plans for 2016, Hester could likely miss the entire offseason.

He had problems with the toe last season and was placed on short-term injured reserve. He came back and played in the final five games, but was unproductive.

The Falcons signed Hester, 33, to a three-year, $9 million contract on March 20, 2014.  He's set to make $3.5 million in 2016.

Turf toe ended the career of the great Pittsburgh linebacker Jack Lambert and may take out the game's best returner of the modern era.

6. ROBISKIE WATCH:  Falcons wide receiver coach Terry Robiskie is one of three candidates interviewing for the open offensive coordinator job with the Titans. There was one report that Robiskie had been hired, but new coach Mike Mularkey acknowledged that there were three candidates.

7. FINNERAN AND SMITTY:  Former Falcons wide receiver Brian Finneran, who's on 680 The Fan's Front Row Show in the mornings, said that former Falcons coach Mike Smith wanted him to join his staff as his wide receivers coach if he landed either the Miami or New York Giants' jobs.

Smith didn't get either of those jobs, but is joining Dirk Koetter in Tampa Bay as his defensive coordinator.

Finneran also said that Mularkey had asked him to join his Jacksonville staff a few years ago.

He's fine with his radio gig and recently signed a three-year contract.

8. SMITH AND RAGLAND: Former Falcons great Chuck Smith interviewed for defensive line jobs with Cleveland, Miami and Cincinnati.

He prefers to remain a consultant at this time. He's currently working with several players, including Ragland, in Orlando.

9. FRONT OFFICE MOVES: The Falcons have started the reorganization of their scouting department with the departure of director of player personnel Lionel Vital, who considered talking a demotion before electing to leave the team. He's well  respected in scouting circles and won't be unemployed long.

We wrote about the personnel department being top-heavy shortly after Scott Pioli was hired in Jan. 2014. Here's the blog: Falcons' front office drama brewing in Flowery Branch.

We should hear about a new hire next week and the reshuffling of scouting duties early in the spring. It's hard to move scouts around in the middle of scouting season. Most teams normally wait to re-shuffle after the draft, which is the scouting department's Super Bowl.

The draft is set for April 28-30 in Chicago.


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About the Author

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