Atlanta Falcons Blog

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

Cover9@9: Is there a method to Les Snead’s madness with the Rams? 


Good morning! Welcome to The Cover 9@9 blog. It's our weekly blog of nine things at 9 a.m. Wednesday that you need to know about the Atlanta Falcons.

1. What are the Rams doing? We spoke to Les Snead and Sean McVay at the NFL scouting combine. Snead again at the owner’s meeting.

McVay let it be known that he was not happy with the 26-13 home playoff loss to the Falcons. The Rams’ special teams dug themselves a hole and they couldn’t dig out of it.

The Rams had a taste of success last season and now they have loaded up to take aim at the powers in the NFC. They are hoping to overtake the Eagles, Vikings, Falcons, Saints and Panthers, who all made the playoffs last season. 

The Rams are stacking up football mercenaries at an alarming rate. The latest was wide receiver Brandin Cooks in a trade with New England on Tuesday. He’s considered an upgrade over Sammy Watkins. 

This offseason, the Rams have also added defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aquib Talib.

"We've shown we're not scared to explore trades," Snead told Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times.

Snead, McVay and Kevin Demoff, the Rams' vice president of football operations, appear to be building the anti-Brotherhood team. The Falcons stress inner peace and competitive toughness in a locker room environment that’s placid and free of outside distractions.

Suh has worked out on his own over his career. Peters and Talib have had well-publicize issues.

Peters was dismissed for the team in college and the Chiefs turned their backs on him after his bizarre behavior.

Talib has a long list of off-the-field issues dating back to his Kansas State days.

But the common thread is that they all can play football.

What a difference one year makes. The Rams appeared headed no where fast when the Falcons pummeled them 42-14 at the end of the 2016 season. 

The hiring of McVay,  Wade Phillips, some shrewd moves and the Rams overtook Seattle in the NFC West. 

“It’s interesting that there’s a difference,” Snead said at the combine. “Obviously, we’re division champs, so that’s different, but you still have the same motivation because you moved the needle per se. You got to this level of the video game, but you want to go farther.”

The Rams want more. 

“So whether you were here last year trying to get to this level or here this year trying to get to that next level, it’s the same,” said Snead, who was with the Falcons from 1997 to 2011. “The same desire to wake up every day and go ‘OK, how do we get better.’ Because yesterday was successful, but not where we want to be.”

The Rams have won the offseason. But will that translate into wins on the football field.

2. Salary cap update. The Falcons have $1,984,282 left under the salary cap, according to NFLPA documents. The Falcons can clear some space when they extend Ryan’s contract and they will pick up $3.5 million with Levine Toilolo’s post-June 1 designated cut. 

3. Worrilow to Eagles. Former Falcons Paul Worrilow, who spent last season with the Detroit Lions, signed a one-year contract with the Eagles on Tuesday. Worrilow started eight games for the Lions last season. 

4. So you want to be a Cheerleader? Chato Hendrix, the director of the Atlanta Falcons cheerleaders, is set to direct her 21st audition for the team, starting with the preliminary rounds on Sunday at Mercedes Benz Stadium. 

“We’ve always tried to promote the ladies being role models, but this year we are going to take ‘Wow Women’ to pushing our whole team to be inspiring on and off the field.”

Hendrix is a high school guidance counselor and her assistant, Jakene Ashford, is a chemist. They’ve worked together over the past 17 seasons putting the team together. They are expecting close to 300 women to tryout for the 2018 squad. Click here for information on the auditions. 

“Our oldest cheerleader (last season) was 38,” Hendrix said. “Our youngest made the team at 19. So, it varies as long as they are 18 by June, they can make the team. There is no cutoff as far as maximum age.

“But the ladies that are outgoing as far as being career-driven, we have the whole spectrum from ladies who are in-school and starting the process of working toward a career, the entrepreneurs, to ladies that are well into their careers as a CPA or what have you.

“We also promote that stay at home Mom. We have a couple of ladies that were full-time Moms that were on the team.”

After the preliminary round on Sunday, those cheerleaders that advance are interviewed and undergo a social media evaluation. 

“On that first day, it is more about seeing if they are physically fit and if they are talented,” Hendrix said. “Do they have showmanship? Are they performing at a level that our fans would want to see them performing. After that, we go deep by interviewing them and getting to know who they are. We ask them a lot of questions and we look at their social media because we believe that social media is your way to promote your brand. So, we look at how they are promoting themselves to see if it’s in line with what we represent and that’s being classy.”

The final squad will have between 30 to 36 members. Hendrix wants professional women to know that the cheerleader squad can fit into their schedules. 

“If you’ve cheered and dance in high school or college, this is the next round for you,” Hendrix said. “But I’m an attorney now. Or I’m an engineer now and that doesn’t fit. It actually does and it will.”

She noted the schedule is structured and the expectations of the team are clear, with practices on Tuesdays and Thursdays. 

“You have the 10 home games and then if there is a game out of the country or the Super Bowl you have to add that to the list,” Hendrix said. “The ladies do hundreds of appearances throughout the year. That’s the entire team and you actually get to select your appearance schedule. You make it work around your work schedule.”

Some cheer and/or dance background is helpful.

“We really want to push to that former cheerleader and dancer that still loves to dance and still wants to perform,” Hendrix said. “This is your platform and the added bonus is that they also serve as an ambassador in the community.” 

5. Locals Day. Today the Falcons are hosting local players with the expected list to include former Georgia running back Nick Chubb, Georgia Tech defensive backs Lance and Lawrence Austin, Georgia wide receiver Jevan Wims and West Georgia center/guard Harley Vaughan. 

6. Offeseason schedule. The Falcons’ offseason program starts on Monday, April 16.

The team’s OTA (organized training activities) will be held on May 21, Mary 23-24, May 30-31, June 1, June 4-5 and June 7.

The Falcons mandatory minicamp will be held Jun 12-14. 

The Falcons “voluntary” nine-week offseason program is conducted in three phases:

Phase One consists of the first two weeks of the program with activities limited to strength and conditioning and physical rehabilitation only.

Phase Two consists of the next three weeks of the program. On-field workouts may include individual player instruction and drills as well as team practice conducted on a “separates” basis. No live contact or team offense vs. team defense drills are permitted.

Phase Three consists of the next four weeks of the program. Teams may conduct a total of 10 days of organized team practice activity, or “OTAs”. No live contact is permitted, but 7-on-7, 9-on-7, and 11-on-11 drills are permitted.

The Falcons can hold a rookie football development program for a period of seven weeks, which in 2018 may begin on May 14. During this period, no activities may be held on weekends, with the exception of one post-NFL draft rookie minicamp, which may be conducted on either the first or second weekend following the draft. 

The dates of each club’s post-draft rookie minicamps will be made available at a later date.

7. Falcons’ draft slots. Atlanta Falcons (7 picks): Round 1, 26 overall; 2-26-58; 3-26-90; 4-26-126; 6-26-200; 7-26-244; *7-38-256 (compensatory). 

8. Smith’s workout. Limestone wide receiver Vyncint Smith had a strong workout for Falcons assistant head coach/wide receivers/passing game coordinator Raheem Morris and offensive assistant David Brock on Monday.

Smith first caught NFL’s scouts attention last season when he ran a 4.4 at the school’s junior pro day without any training. He ran a 4.36 at South Carolina’s Pro Day. 

 Smith is listed at 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds. His older sister ran track at Kennesaw State. 

He’s set to visit the Lions on Thursday and the Jets, on a top 30 visit, on Monday. 

9. Dimitroff trading draft trading record. Falcons general manger Thomas Dimitroff is always ready to make a deal during the draft. He's made at least one trade in every draft since joining the team before the 2008 draft.

The 2018 NFL draft is set for April 26-28 in Arlington, Texas.

Here’s a look at Dimitroff’s draft-trading record:

Atlanta Falcons’ draft picks under Thomas Dimitroff 

    2017:  The Falcons gave up the 31st pick in the draft, a third-rounder (95) and a seventh-rounder (249) to move up to 26 to select defensive end Takkarist McKinley. 
  • 2016: The Falcons sent the 50th pick in the second round to Houston for the 52nd pick and a sixth rounder. The Texans took Notre Dame guard Nick Martin and the Falcons selected linebacker Deion Jones with the 52nd pick and offensive lineman Wes Schweitzer with the 195th overall pick.
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  • 2015: The Falcons traded up nine spots to land defensive tackle Grady Jarrett in the fifth round with the 137th overall pick. They traded with the Minnesota Vikings and gave up their fifth-round pick (146) and sixth-round pick (185). The Vikings used the 146th pick to select wide receiver Stefon Diggs and the 185rh pick to select Oklahoma tackle Tyrus Thompson. Diggs made the PFWA All-Rookie team.
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  • 2014: The Falcons traded their sixth-round pick (182 overall) and one of their three seventh-round picks (220) for the Vikings’ fifth-round pick (168). They selected Syracuse linebacker Marquis Spruill with the pick.
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  • 2013: The Falcons traded up from 30 to 22 in the first-round to land cornerback Desmond Trufant. The Falcons traded with the St. Louis Rams They gave up a third and a sixth round pick. In the fifth round, the Falcons traded up 10 picks to get TCU defensive end Stansly Maponga. They sent a seventh-round pick (236) to the Chicago Bears.
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  • 2012: The Falcons made a trade with Baltimore to move down seven spots in the third round to take tackle Lamar Holmes. They picked up a fifth round pick and selected defensive end Jonathan Massaquoi with the 164th overall pick. The Ravens picked up running back Bernard Pierce with the 84th pick the Falcons sent them. The Falcons gave up a seventh rounder (229 overall) to the Eagles in the Asante Samuel trade. The Eagles used that pick to select running back Bryce Brown.
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  • 2011: There was the 5-for-1 mega-deal with Cleveland to move up 21 spots in order to land wide receiver Julio Jones. Later, in the fifth round after the spotlight was off the Falcons, he sent two picks to St. Louis in order to move up 10 spots to scoop up running back Jacquizz Rodgers.
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  • 2010: Oklahoma cornerback Dominique Franks, who left school a year early, was slipping in the draft. Dimitroff sent two picks to St. Louis to move up 14 spots to acquire Franks.
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  • 2009: Dimitroff felt he could get his guy by going back 13 spots in the fifth round. The Falcons made a deal to send their fifth-round pick to Dallas. They moved back 13 spots and picked up a seventh-round pick for their troubles. They drafted offensive lineman Garrett Reynolds in the fifth and Vance Walker in the seventh.
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  • 2008: There was a run on left tackles. With the Falcons needing protection for Matt Ryan, Dimitroff sent two second-round picks and a fourth-round pick to Washington in order to move back into the first round and pick Sam Baker with the 21st overall pick. They also received third- and fifth-round picks. The Falcons used those picks to select wide receiver Harry Douglas (84th overall) and defensive end Kroy Biermann (154th).

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About the Author

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