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: Quinn’s new staff taking shape

Good morning! Welcome to The Cover 9@9 blog. It's our first Post-Super Bowl weekly blog of everything you need to know about the Atlanta Falcons, which is 9 items published at 9 a.m. each Wednesday morning.

1. COACHING CORNER: Falcons coach Dan Quinn, before breaking away for a little rest and relaxation, basically finished the hiring for most of the key positions on his staff.

Here’s what the changes look like today. There’s still some minor tinkering to be done:

Offensive coordinator: Steve Sarkisian (Kyle Shanahan to San Fran). Here's how the Falcons might look different under Sarkisian.

Quarterbacks coach: Bush Hamdan (Matt LeFleur to L.A. Rams).

Running backs coach: Keith Carter (Bobby Turner to San Fran).

Assistant head coach/wide receivers: Raheem Morris (added passing game coordinator to title).

Defensive coordinator: Marquand Manuel (Richard Smith to L.A. Chargers).

Defensive line coach: Bryant Young (Bryan Cox).

Defensive backs coach: Doug Mallory (from defensive assistant).

Defensive assistant: Jess Simpson.

Also, offensive assistants Mike LeFleur (to San Fran as wide receivers coach) and Mike McDaniel (to San Fran as run game specialists) left.

2. NEW QB COACH:  Bush Hamdan, a former quarterback at Boise State, is set to be named the Falcons new quarterbacks coach, according to The Sporting News.

Hamdan was the wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator at the University of Washington.

He’ll replace Matt LeFleur, who became the Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator and work under new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian.

Hamdan, who’s never coached in the NFL, also had coaching stops at Davidson, Arkansas State and Florida, where he was the wide receivers coach in 2012, when Falcon coach Dan Quinn was the defensive coordinator.

3. TECH KICKER BUTKER INVITED TO COMBINE: Georgia Tech place kicker Harrison Butker (Decatur, Ga./Marist) was invited to scouting combine from Feb. 28-March 2 in Indianapolis.

The combine gives executives, coaching staffs, player-personnel departments and medical personnel from all 32 NFL teams the opportunity to evaluate the nation’s top draft-eligible college football players in advance of the upcoming NFL Draft. Of the 332 prospects invited to last year’s NFL Combine, only six were place kickers.

Butker, Georgia Tech’s place kicker for each of the past four seasons (2013-16), closed his collegiate career as the Yellow Jackets’ all-time leading scorer with 337 career points.

Here's a look at 10 other players with Georgia connections invited to the combine.

The Falcons Cheerleaders made the trip to Super Bowl LI.

4. NEAL, JONES HONORED: Falcons safety Keanu Neal and linebacker Deion Jones made Gil Brandt’s all-rookie team.

5. A PEAK INSIDE SUPER BOWL PRACTICE: Peter King of the was the appointed pool reporter for the Falcons at the Super Bowl.

Since the team only allows the local media to view the first 30 minutes of practice during the regular season (special teams practice), this was the only time outside media watched the Falcons’ practice since the end of training camp.

King gave his normally thorough pool reports during the week and had a few post Super Bowl observations. It was King who reported the severity of Alex Mack's fibula injury leading up to the big game.

6. UNIT-BY-UNITY ANALYSIS: The Falcons reclaimed the NFC South title and became NFC champions for just the second time in franchise history.

The offense soared to new heights and the young and marauding defense made great strides over the course of the season. We started the unit-by-unit analysis on Monday. Here’s a long at each unit performed:

Monday: The Quarterbacks

Tuesday: The running backs and Wide receivers

Wednesday: The tight ends at 10 a.m. and offensive line at 2 p.m.

Thursday: The defensive line at 10 a.m. and linebackers at 2 p.m.

Friday:  The defensive backs at 10 a.m. and special teams at 2 p.m.

7. RODDY WHITE ALMOST SIGNED WITH THE PATRIOTS: Falcons wide receiver Roddy White had a bad Super Bowl weekend that included losing $60,000 at the blackjack table in Las Vegas and missing the game. He also almost signed with the Patriots and said he would have jumped offsides to prevent the pass play on the second-and-11 from the 23 yard line. Catch up with White's antics in Jeff Schultz and Zach Klein's podcast. 

8. ROSTER DEPTH: The Falcons have signed seven players to either the practice squad or free agent contracts last week.

Guard Blake Muir (Baylor) was signed to the practice squad on Friday. The practice squad currently includes running back Jhurell Pressley, quarterback Matt Simms and cornerback Ryan White.

Tackle Carter Bykowski (Iowa State), wide receiver B.J. Daniels (South Florida), tackle Kevin Graf (Southern California), tight end Darion Griswold (Arkansas State), defensive end Martin Ifedi (Memphis) and nose tackle Jimmy Staten (Middle Tennessee) were signed to free agent contracts on Wednesday.

9. FALCONS FREE AGENT TRACKER: Unrestricted free agents -- The Falcons potential list of free agents include: defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux, quarterback Matt Schaub, linebacker Paul Worrilow, right guard Chris Chester, tight end Jacob Tamme, linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, defensive tackle Courtney Upshaw, returner Eric Weems, defensive end Dwight Freeney, linebacker Philip Wheeler, safety Dashon Goldson, tackle Tom Compton, fullback Patrick DiMarco, linebacker LaRoy Reynolds, wide receiver Aldrick Robinson, cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson, tight end Levine Toilolo and safety Kemal Ishmael. Exclusive rights free agents – Free safety Ricardo Allen, cornerback Deji Olatoye, linebacker Josh Keyes, tight end D.J. Tialavea and wide receiver Nick Williams.   Restricted free agents – Linebacker Tyler Starr, Ben Garland, wide receiver Taylor Gabriel and defensive back Akeem King.

WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE: UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENT (UFA): A player whose contract has expired and has four or more tenured years in the league. He may sign with any other team with no restrictions. If a team loses more UFAs than it signs, they will be awarded "Compensatory Draft Picks" from the league. The value of the pick is determined by the difference of the contracts signed by the players lost and those acquired. If a team has signed an equal number or more UFAs than it has lost, no "Compensatory Picks" will be awarded.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENT (ERFA): A player whose contract has expired and has three or fewer tenured years in the league. His original team must make a contract offer by the league imposed deadline or the player becomes an unrestricted free agent. No compensation is awarded for losing EFAs.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENT (RFA): A player whose contract has expired and has fewer than four tenured years in the league. He may sign an "Offer Sheet" with any other team, but his original team has seven days to match any offer he receives. If the original team does not match the offer, compensation will be awarded in the form of draft picks from the signing team. The round and quantity of picks are determined by the "Qualifying Offer" made by the player's original team. If a RFA is tendered a minimum qualifying offer the compensation is the equivalent of the round in which that player was originally selected. If that player was originally a rookie free agent, no compensation is awarded.



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What quarterback Matt Ryan said after the Atlanta Falcons' collapse

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5 things that changed the outcome in the Falcons' win

The ascendant Falcons make short of Seattle  -- Column by Mark Bradley

Falcons have been transformed into team Atlanta has waited for -- Column by Jeff Schultz

Falcons rock the Dome with a playoff victory -- By Steve Hummer

Falcons' Julio Jones hobbled, but gets best of Sherman

Falcons use 'spies' to corral Russell Wilson

Falcons' offensive line turns in strong game

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