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: Vick and Petrino marriage was going to work

Good morning! Welcome to The Cover 9@9 blog. It's our weekly blog of everything you need to know about the Atlanta Falcons. This week, the Falcons will conclude their OTAs.

1. MARRIAGE WAS OFF TO GOOD START: Back in 2007, before it became apparent that Falcons quarterback Michael Vick was in big trouble with the law, word was leaking out about his transition to coach Bobby Petrino’s offensive system.

Word was that Vick was picking up the offense.

He was throwing darts inside of the team’s practice barn to wide receivers Roddy White, Joe Horn, Michael Jenkins and rookie Laurent Robinson and tight end Alge Crumpler.

Team officials were giddy about their prospects. After one offseason workout in the Flowery Branch barn, Petrino, not known to gushed about much, told an associate, “We’re going to average 30 points a game.”

Vick was elated, too.

“What I will say is this, that year, I could have potentially been the league MVP that year,” Vick told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution after his retirement ceremony on Monday. “Just based on knowing his offense for three months, I was really proud about the fact that I put the time and hard work into learning his system.”

Vick, like other members of the organization, believe the Falcons were ready to fly under Petrino.

The coaching staff was strong. Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and offensive coordinator Hue Jackson would go on to become head coaches.

The defense was solid with defensive end John Abraham, defensive tackle Grady Jackson, linebackers Michael Boley and Keith Brooking, cornerback DeAngelo Hall and safeties Chris Crocker and Lawyer Milloy.

Instead of soaring, the Falcons had to scramble. Instead of opening camp with Vick at the controls in late July, there was a plane pulling a banner in the air over the field on the first day of training camp that read, “New Team Name? Dog-Killers?”

Vick would enter a guilty plea on August 27, 2007 to federal dog fighting charges.

The Falcons tried to salvage things by adding Joey Harrington and then later Byron Leftwich. Petrino would later bench Harrington because he held onto the ball too long. Leftwich was later replaced by Chris Redman.

Vick was only 27 at the time and was maturing as a player and student of the game. If he’d continued to work on the offense and somehow figured out a way to solve his off-the-field legal issues, the Falcons were ready to soar.

“Even though I didn’t get to play for him, he seen that I was one of the top QBs in the game,” Vick said. “Outside of the mobility, just being able to play the game from a mental standpoint. I was proud about that. I wish I could have played for him. That didn’t happen, but it was still a great time in my life.”

2. WHITE CIVIL ACTION: Falcons owner Arthur Blank shared a story about how Roddy White called Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed to offer help during the Black Lives Matters protests of last summer.

3. FACETIME TEACHING: The earliest that Falcons first-round pick Takkarist McKinley can enter the Falcons’ building is Friday, head coach Dan Quinn said on Tuesday.

McKinley, who’s recovering from shoulder surgery, can not attend any team functions because UCLA’s spring quarter is not over until Thursday. The Falcons conclude minicamp on Thursday.

“Well, of course, you’d like to have him here,” Quinn said. “We knew that going in that players from those programs (who are on quarters would be limited.)”

The Falcons don’t believe the absence will hold McKinley back.

“It didn’t really slow down Austin Hooper much last year,” Quinn noted. “He was part of that program at Stanford.”

McKinley was able to attend the team’s rookie minicamp and the team has been using technology to keep him up to speed.

“We are well equipped for that,” Quinn said. “We have a good plan in place on how to get him ready. We’ll execute that plan.”

Defensive line coach Bryant Young is in charge of the plan.

“He has the plays and we just have been able to spend time with him on the phone, just talking about it,” Young said. “He was able to be exposed to some of our installs when he was here for the rookie minicamp.”

Young has one-on-one sessions with McKinley via the Facetime function over their phones.

“That’s been a big plus as well,” Young said. “It’s been a great tool for us to be able to teach some of the coaching points to him and help him understand what we are doing from a scheme standpoint.”

Young can’t wait to get McKinley on the field.

“Absolutely, I kind of hate that he’s not able to be here, so I’m trying to do as much as I can without him physically being here,” Young said. “I think that’s been important for us, to continue to build that relationship and keep him involved on what is going on as much as we kind.”

4. POE EARN HIS BONUS: Falcons defensive tackle Dontari Poe picked up a $125,000 weight clause bonus after meeting his target of lower than 340 pounds on Tuesday.

“We checked in on his weight today and we are pleased with where Dontari is weight wise,” Quinn said. “Workout wise. We’ve got some strong men and he’s one of them. As we are going through some of the testing strength wise, Dontari has certainly been one that has impressed us in that way.”

5. GABRIEL ON THE MEND: Wide receiver Taylor Gabriel has been slowed by a lower leg strain, Quinn said.

“He’s close,” Quinn said. “He’s running, but we are just trying to be extra cautious.”

Gabriel, who signed his second-round tender worth $2.81 million on April 22, emerged as the Falcons’ No. 3 wide receiver last season while making $510,000 after being cut by the Cleveland Browns.

He added a spark to the offense with his speed and toughness. Playing behind Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu, Gabriel finished with 35 catches for 579 yards and six touchdowns. Gabriel averaged 19 yards per catch, on nine catches, in the playoffs.

“Speed guys, we are just waiting until, man is he at full speed and really healthy before we let him go,” Quinn said. “We are just trying to be extra cautious in terms of getting him back. He’s been here. He’s been in the meetings. He’s been able to do some things, but just to let it rip full speed, we are not there yet.”

6. ROBINSON EXCUSED: Falcons guard Trevor Robinson has been excused from the rest of the offseason workouts to deal with a serious family matter, Quinn told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“He’s got a family situation, that’s difficult,” Quinn said. “He’s been excused for the spring and hopefully we’ll have him back for training camp.”

Excluding center Alex Mack and left guard Andy Levitre, Robinson is the only other player on the roster that has started NFL games at one of the interior positions.

Robinson, who played at Notre Dame, started seven games with Cincinnati (2012) and 14 with San Diego (2014-15) as a center.

7. JOHNSON FOUNDATION: Former Georgia Tech and Detroit Lions standout Calvin Johnson is holding fundraiser “Going Purple” Bowl-A-Thon to help fight Pancreatic Cancer on Thursday.

8. DANIELS MOVED TO RUNNING BACK: The Falcons moved quarterback/wide receiver/punt returner B.J. Daniels to running back. Daniels, who played quarterback at South Florida, was signed on Dec. 18, 2016 to the practice squad. He was later signed to a reserve/future contract on Feb.  7, 2017.

Daniels has bounced around the NFL since being drafted in the seventh round of the 2013 draft by San Francisco as a quarterback. He's spent time with 49ers, Seahawks, Texans, Giants and Bears.

He's played in eight NFL games.

9. DEPTH CHART: Here's the updated depth chart,


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

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 (minicamp tryout)

DT 92 Dontari Poe, 77 Ra’Shede Hageman, 92 Joe Vellano, 74 Taniela Tupou

DT 97 Grady Jarrett, 91 Courtney Upshaw

DE 95 Jack Crawford, 90 Derrick Shelby, 93 Chris Odom

LB 44 Vic Beasley Jr., 50 Brooks Reed,  56 Jermaine Grace, Jack Lynn

LB 45 Deion Jones, 53 LaRoy Reynolds, 42 Duke Riley, 46 Chrisitan Tago

LB 59 De’Vondre Campbell, 36 Kemal Ishmael, 52 Josh Keyes, 55 J'Terius Jones

CB 23 Robert Alford, 34 Brian Poole, 29 C.J. Goodwin, 33 Blidi Wreh-Wilson, 25 Akeem King, 39 Janor Jones, 38 Taylor Reynolds

CB 21 Desmond Trufant, 32 Jalen Collins, 30 Deji Olatoye, 27 Damontae Kazee, 41 Quincy Mauger

S 37 Ricardo Allen, 20 Sharrod Neasman, 35 Marcelis Branch, 27 Damontee Kazee

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, 13 Devin Fuller, 14 Justin Hardy, 38 Brian Hill

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

LS 47 Josh Harris

H 5 Matt Bosher


MUST READ PROFILE: Falcons top pick McKinley makes name for himself

2017 Falcons report card: Falcons earn a B-plus

NFC Champs add a pass rusher, quality depth 

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.