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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 young Falcons to evaluate down the stretch

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Who would you rather have this week and going into next season, Blake Bortles or Matt Ryan? The AJC’s D. Orlando Ledbetter joins CineSport’s Noah Coslov to answer that question.

FLOWERY BRANCH – There are no indicators that the Falcons are going to awaken from their slump and they could be eliminated from the playoff picture with another loss.

The coaching staff must start making some evaluations of the young talent to see who’ll be moving forward with the team and who they’ll need to replace.

Here are five young players the Falcons need to get solid game-time evaluations of over the final three games of the season:

1. GRADY JARRETT: The rookie defensive tackle started and played 29 of 65 snaps (45 percent) against the Panthers. He was very active and finished with six tackles.

“It was good,” said Jarrett, who was a fifth-round draft pick. “I did what I did. Nothing new. Nothing different.”

Jarrett was one of the few bright spots in that game.

“Absolutely, unacceptable we are a better team than that,” Jarrett said. “It hurts for us more than anybody. We just expect more

out of each other.”

2. JOEY MBU: The undrafted rookie from Houston was promoted from the practice squad to the 53-man roster on Friday.

He played 24 of 65 (37 percent) of the defensive snaps against Carolina and he had one tackle for loss.

“It’ was great to get him started,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “It was his first play-time, getting going. I think he had about 20 to 25 plays. He had one of them behind the line, so I thought for the first outing for him, it was great to get his feet wet and get his first NFL experience under his belt.”

3. JUSTIN HARDY. The fourth-round pick from East Carolina spent the first seven games on the inactive list.

He has caught at least one pass six straight games. Hardy has 12 catches for 109 yards. He made a nice catch on a crossing route against Carolina.

The Falcons need to know if he can be a play maker out of the slot.

4. JALEN COLLINS. It’s been a bumpy rookie year for the second-round pick.

But you can see his athletic skills. If the can make through these rough patches and turn into strong cornerback, the secondary could be improved moving forward.

5. TYLER STARR. He’s had two seasons to develop. It’s time to see if the former seventh-round pick from South Dakota can play defensive end at 6-foot-5, 250 pounds.

The other defensive end on the practice squad, Stansly Maponga, a former fifth-round pick in 2013, was signed by the New York Giants.

6. GENERAL MANAGER STATUS: After going 4-12, 6-10 and 6-7 and fading fast, Falcons owner Arthur Blank is expected to demand some changes after the season.

Esteemed colleague and columnist Mark Bradley addressed this issue: Major changes surly are coming.

All of which is to say: Thomas Dimitroff is surely gone. Blank should have fired him when he canned Smith, but the GM was unaccountably retained. We see now that Quinn can do no more with these resources than his predecessor. Only five players from Dimitroff’s first five drafts remain, one being the punter. That’s an epic managerial fail.

Also, Peter King broached the subject in TheMMQB note.

Re: Dimitroff, who is a very good personnel man, I can’t see Arthur Blank coming back after 4-12, 6-10 and whatever this disaster of a season ends up being without making changes. He’s not firing the rookie coach. I don’t know if he’ll fire Dimitroff, but he’s got to be thinking of it.

7. WHO'S TRENT KIRCHNER:  Seattle's pro personnel director Trent Kirchner is a name we'll hear if the Falcons move on from Dimitroff. CBS's Jason LaCanfora also believes the Falcons are ready to shake up the bird's nest.

There were rumblings about Seattle exec Trent Kirchner possibly headed to Atlanta since before training camp. It would come as no surprise to me should he end up the Falcons' next GM.

Kirchner is considered a talented scout, who helped build one of the more talented rosters in the league. He interviewed for the New York Jets' general manager's job last season.

Kirchner joined the Seahawks as an intern in the communications department. He spent a season with Washington as a college scouting coordinator and eight seasons (2002-09) as a scout with the Carolina Panthers. He moved up the ranks quickly in Seattle and was promoted from assistant director of pro personnel to director in 2013.

8. SERIES RECORD: This will be the sixth regular-season meeting with Jacksonville. The Jaguars hold a 3-2 advantage. The Falcons won the last meeting, 41-14 on Dec. 15, 2011 at the Georgia Dome. The Jaguars won the last meeting in Jacksonville, 13-7, on Sept. 9, 2007.

9. DEPTH CHART: The Falcons decided not to continue carrying two kickers and moved Matt Bryant to injured reserve last week. Mbu was promoted to the 53-man roster. Shayne Graham will handle the field goal kicking for the rest of the season.   OFFENSE

WR 11 Julio Jones, 16 Justin Hardy, 17 Devin Hester

LT 70 Jake Matthews, 75 Jake Long

LG 67 Andy Levitre, 63 Ben Garland

C 68 Mike Person, 66 Gino Gradkowski

RG 65 Chris Chester, 62 James Stone

RT 73 Ryan Schraeder, 72 Bryce Harris

TE 83 Jacob Tamme, 80 Levine Toilolo, 81 Tony Moeaki

WR 84 Roddy White, 14 Eric Weems, 15 Nick Williams

QB 2 Matt Ryan, 12 Sean Renfree

RB 24 Devonta Freeman, 26 Tevin Coleman, 33 Terron Ward

FB 42 Patrick DiMarco


DE 44 Vic Beasley Jr., 99 Adrian Clayborn, 71 Kroy Biermann

DT 77 Ra’Shede Hageman, 97 Grady Jarrett

NT 96 Paul Soliai, 95 Jonathan Babineaux, 74 Joey Mbu

DE 94 Tyson Jackson, 93 Malliciah Goodman

LB 52 Justin Durant, 51 Philip Wheeler

LB 55 Paul Worrilow, 54 Nate Stupar

LB 50 O’Brien Schofield, 56 Brooks Reed

CB 23 Robert Alford, 32 Jalen Collins

CB 21 Desmond Trufant, 20 Phillip Adams, 28 Akeem King

FS 37 Ricardo Allen, 27 Robenson Therezie

SS 36 Kemal Ishmael, 30 Charles Godfrey


K 6 Shayne Graham

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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The AJC’s D. Orlando Ledbetter joins CineSport’s Noah Coslov to go inside the Falcons 38-0 loss to the Panthers and to describe what it was like in the locker room after the game.


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About the Author

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