Atlanta Falcons Blog

Atlanta Falcons blog by D. Orlando Ledbetter, the pro football and Atlanta Falcons reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

COVER9@9: Ryan expecting smooth transition to Sarkisian

Good morning! Welcome to The Cover 9@9 blog. It's our 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. Transition at OC spot. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan will have his fourth offensive coordinator of his career next season.

After Ryan did his radio interview with 680 The Fan, we sat down in the green leather chairs in the media room of the clubhouse at TPC Sugarloaf and discussed the direction of the offense.

Steve Sarkisian was hired to takeover for Kyle Shanahan, who left to become San Francisco’s head coach. Ryan has played for Mike Mularkey, Dirk Koetter and Shanahan. All went on to head coaching jobs.

Ryan is expecting things to run like they did when Koetter took over. It was a smooth transition with Koetter adjusting to what Mularkey already had in place. Sarkisian will be doing the same thing, adjusting to what Shanahan and Ryan turned into the league’s top scoring offense last season.

“I’ve gotten to talk to him a little bit and I’m looking forward to next week when we get started,” Ryan said, referring to the start of the strength and condition program on Monday.  “We can spend some more time together. I had the opportunity to talk to him. I think he’ll do a great job for us.”

Ryan confirmed what coach Dan Quinn already said, that there wouldn’t be any major changes on offense.

“I think things are going to remain very similar for us,” Ryan said. “I think that will be a good thing.”

The Falcons must replace fullback Patrick DiMarco and right guard Chris Chester.

“Patrick did such a great job for us,” Ryan said. “It will hard to replace him. That’s obviously a tough lost for us because he was so productive for us. Chris is going to be tough to replace, too. I’m just happy for him and with where he’s at in his life.

“I’m happy for Pat, too. He signed a great deal in Buffalo.”

The Falcons signed fullbacks Derrick Coleman and Som Vainuku and veteran guard Hugh Thornton, who’s started 32 games in the NFL.

“Hopefully, we’ll do a great job replacing those guys,” Ryan said of DiMarco and Chester. “Obviously, I trust Thomas (Dimitroff) and Dan and the front office to fill those spots accordingly. That’s what this time of the year is for. It’s to try and plug in some pieces that are going to help us win games.”

STORY on how Ryan is coping after Super Bowl LI loss

2. Projected Pass rush I: The Falcons continue to scout the top pass rushers in the upcoming in NFL draft, which is set for April 27-29 in Philadelphia.

The Falcons recently had a private workout for Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett , according to NFL Media and Houston outside linebacker Tyus Bowser, according to Andy Caplan of ESPN.

We have Barnett projected as the third best pass-rusher in the draft. He likely won’t be available with the Falcons select with the 31st overall pick.

Bowser is the fourth best outside linebacker according to and is projected to go in the first or second round.

3. Project Pass Rush II: Here are the other defensive ends that the Falcons have scouted during the pre-draft process:

  • Keion Adams, DE, Western Michigan
  • Mikey Bart, DE, North Carolina
  • Tarell Basham, DE, Ohio
  • Darius English, DE/3-4OLB, South Carolina
  • Tanoh Kpassagnon, DE/3-4DE, Villanova
  • Derek Rivers, DE, Youngstown State
  • Isaac Rochell, DE/DT, Notre Dame
  • Ryan Watson, DT, Purdue
  • Kermit Whitfield, WR, Florida State
  • Darrell Williams, OT, Western Kentucky
  • Stanley Williams, RB, Kentucky

4. Project Pass Rush III. After consulting with three NFL scouts, here’s our list of the top 10 pass rushers in the NFL draft:

  1. Myles Garrett, Texas A&M: He’s considered the No. 1 overall player in the draft. “I think Myles Garrett has the most upside of any pass-rusher in this draft,” Mayock said. “When healthy, he’s easy to do on tape. He’s (6-foot-5), 262 pounds. He’s got outside edge (rushing) ability.”
  2. Tim Williams, Alabama: He had nine sacks, 16 tackles for a loss and 31 tackles for the Crimson Tide. He may drop because of off-the-field issues.
  3. Derek Barnett, Tennessee: He had 33 sacks over 39 game career for the Volunteers.
  4. Solomon Thomas, Stanford: He made 62 tackles with 15 for a loss, eight sacks and one forced fumble.
  5. Takkarist McKinley, UCLA: Most believe that he’s best suited to be an outside linebacker for a team that runs a 3-4 defensive alignment.
  6. Taco Charlton, Michigan: He mainly was a backup until last season, when he recorded 9.5 sacks, 43 tackles and 13 tackles for a losses. Teams like his speed and strength.
  7. Charles Harris, Missouri: He made 61 tackles, 12 tackles for a loss, nine sacks, two passes batted and two forced fumbles in 2016 for the Tigers. Harris had one of his better games against Georgia, when he had seven tackles and three sacks.
  8. Carl Lawson, Auburn: He’s lightning fast off the edge and is strong enough to stay on his path to the quarterback. His medical evaluation at the combine will be key. He has experienced major knee and hip injuries.
  9. Tarell Basham, Ohio: He was the Mid-American Conference’s defensive player of the year. He made 50 tackles with 16 tackles for a losses, 11.5 sacks and two passes broken up for the Bobcats in 2016.
  10. DeMarcus Walker, Florida State: “With 45 tackles for loss over his career, Walker has first-round production,” Dane Brugler of said.

5. Parents clinic: The Falcons are hosting a free parents clinic to provide them with helpful information about

football player safety, including concussions, equipment fitting, proper tackling techniques and on-field drills from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday, April 20 at the team’s facilities.

Parents must register for the free clinic.

6. Camp Brotherhood underway. The Falcons opened their players-only passing camp in Miami on Tuesday. The team felt it bounded last season after they held a players-only camp in Fort Lauderdale. This year, the entire team, including the offensive linemen and special teamers, are at the camp.

7. Salary cap update. The Falcons are $2,521,065 million under the $167 million salary cap. They'll need part of the room from Tyson Jackson's post June 1 designation to help pay for the rookie class.

8. Shark week. Falcons guard Ben Garland spent the last few days of the offseason hunting sharks in Miami.

9. Post-Free Agency depth chart. Here’s what the depth chart looks like after free agency and heading into the NFL draft, which is set for April 27-29 in Philadelphia:


WR 11 Julio Jones, 16 Justin Hardy, 19 Andre Roberts, 13 B.J. Daniels

LT 70 Jake Matthews, 66 Kevin Graf

LG 67 Andy Levitre, 64 Blake Muir

C 51 Alex Mack, 63 Ben Garland

RG 72 Hugh Thornton, 71 Wes Schweitzer, 68 Trevor Robinson

RT 73 Ryan Schraeder

TE 81 Austin Hooper, 80 Levine Toilolo, 82 Joshua Perkins, 86 D.J. Tialavea, 49 Darion Griswold, 85 Brian Vogler

WR 12 Mohamed Sanu, 18 Taylor Gabriel, 87 Devin Fuller, 15 Nick Williams, 16 Anthony Dable, Garrett Scantling

QB 2 Matt Ryan, 8 Matt Schaub

RB 24 Devonta Freeman, 26 Tevin Coleman, 28 Terron Ward

FB 40 Derrick Coleman, 43 Soma Vainuku


DE 99 Adrian Clayborn,  98 Martin Ifedi

DT Dontari Poe, 77 Ra’Shede Hageman, 92 Joe Vellano, 96 Jimmy Staten

DT 97 Grady Jarrett, 91 Courtney Upshaw, 74 Chris Mayes

DE 95 Jack Crawford, 90 Derrick Shelby

LB 44 Vic Beasley Jr., 50 Brooks Reed

LB 45 Deion Jones, 53 LaRoy Reynolds

LB 59 De’Vondre Campbell, 52 Josh Keyes

CB 23 Robert Alford, 29 C.J. Goodwin, 33 Blidi Wreh-Wilson, 25 Akeem King

CB 21 Desmond Trufant, 32 Jalen Collins, 34 Brian Poole, 30 Deji Olatoye

S 37 Ricardo Allen, 20 Sharrod Neasman

S 22 Keanu Neal, 36 Kemal Ishmael


K 3 Matt Bryant, 6 Mike Meyer

KO 5 Matt Bosher

P 5 Matt Bosher

KR 19 Andre Roberts, 16 Justin Hardy

PR 19 Andre Roberts, 16 Justin Hardy

LS 47 Josh Harris

H 5 Matt Bosher


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About the Author

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