Cover 9@9: Are the Falcons rushing their rookies onto the field?

The AJC’s D. Orlando Ledbetter and Noah Coslov preview Falcons-Bucs by talking about the Mike Smith difference, the biggest source of stress for Dan Quinn and the Falcons’ defensive game plan.

Atlanta Falcons outside linebacker Deion Jones (45) works on his kick blocking skills during an NFL football practice Friday, July 29, 2016, in Flowery Branch, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Atlanta Falcons outside linebacker Deion Jones (45) works on his kick blocking skills during an NFL football practice Friday, July 29, 2016, in Flowery Branch, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

1. Microwave era. Back in the old NFL, teams took the time to develop their rookies before putting them on the field in high-profile positions.

Back in 1997, the Green Bay Packers played rookie defensive back Darren Sharper at nickel back until he was ready to take over at free safety the following season.

The Oakland Raiders are taking their time with rookie safety Karl Joseph. They acknowledge he’s still growing and vow that he won’t play until he’s ready.

The Falcons will have one of the youngest defenses in the league with two starting rookies, two second-year players starting and one player who’s playing his position for the second year.

Rookie linebackers Deion Jones and De’Vondre Campbell are listed with the first-team defense in the first regular season ‘official’ depth chart released by the team on Tuesday. Jones was selected in the second round and Campbell in the fourth round.

Owner Arthur Blank’s request for three starters from this draft was fulfilled by the coaching staff, which preaches about competition. Safety Keanu Neal didn’t have to compete for his starting spot. It’s arguable that Jones or Campbell beat out Paul Worrilow or Sean Weatherspoon.

So, when Neal returns, the Falcons will have their three starters. Rookie tight end Austin Hooper, who contributed to three turnovers in the last two exhibition games, is somehow listed as the No. 2 tight end. He’s clearly not ready for action. Guard Wes Schweitzer, a sixth-round pick was beaten out by veteran Chris Chester.

Wide receiver Devin Fuller, a seventh-round pick, was placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury.

Worrilow and Weatherspoon were listed with the first-team for the exhibition season.

Strongside linebacker Vic Beasley and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett are second-year players.

Also, free safety Ricardo Allen, a converted cornerback, is entering his second-season as a free safety.

The Falcons have quality veteran backs in Philip Wheeler, Worrilow and Weatherspoon. Special teamer LaRoy Reynolds is also on the roster.

The rookies — except for Neal when he returns — will likely be on a short leash.

“All our linebackers will play and we’ll have certain packages that each of them do, but it’s a very deep group, and one that we’re looking forward to kind of finding the best things that they do,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “Some will be a bigger factor on first and second down. Some will be a bigger factor on third down. All of them will have a big role on special teams.”

With a tough schedule, we’ll find out soon enough if the Falcons have rushed the rookie linebackers onto the field.

2. Official depth chart. (The team calls it an ‘unofficial’ depth chart. But if they are releasing it, for our purposes that makes it pretty official.)

ATLANTA FALCONS OFFICIAL DEPTH CHART

OFFENSE

WR  11 Julio Jones, 16 Justin Hardy, 14 Eric Weems

LT 70 Jake Matthews, 76 Tom Compton

LG 67 Andy Levitre, 68 Mike Person

C 51 Alex Mack, 63 Ben Garland

RG 65 Chris Chester, 71 Wes Schweitzer

RT 73 Ryan Schraeder, 76 Tom Compton

TE 83 Jacob Tamme, 81 Austin Hooper, 80 Levine Toilolo, 82 Joshua Perkins

WR 12 Mohamed Sanu, 19 Aldrick Robinson,18 Taylor Gabriel

QB 2 Matt Ryan, 8 Matt Schaub

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

FB 42 Patrick DiMarco

DEFENSE

DE 50 Brooks Reed, 99 Adrian Clayborn, 93 Dwight Freeney

DT 95 Jonathan Babineaux, 90 Derrick Shelby

DT 97 Grady Jarrett, 91 Courtney Upshaw

DE 94 Tyson Jackson, 77 Ra’Shede Hageman

LB 44 Vic Beasley Jr., 41 Philip Wheeler

LB 45 Deion Jones, 55 Paul Worrilow, 53 LaRoy Reynolds

LB 59 De’Vondre Campbell, 56 Sean Weatherspoon

CB 23 Robert Alford, 29 C.J. Goodwin

CB 21 Desmond Trufant, 34 Brian Poole

FS 37 Ricardo Allen, 27 Robenson Therezie

SS 36 Kemal Ishmael, 38 Dashon Goldson, 22 Keanu Neal

SPECIALISTS

K 3 Matt Bryant

KO 5 Matt Bosher

P 5 Matt Bosher

KR 26 Tevin Coleman,14 Eric Weems

PR14 Eric Weems, 16 Justin Hardy

LS 47 Josh Harris

H 5 Matt Bosher

3. Practice squad. Defensive tackle Joe Vellano was signed to the practice squad on Tuesday.

In order to make room for Vellano, the Falcons released defensive tackle Joey Mbu.

The Falcons practice squad is full with 10 members.

The other practice squad members are wide receiver Nick Williams, running back Gus Johnson, cornerback Deji Olatoye, wide receiver J.D. McKissic, defensive end Nordly Capi, cornerback Devonte Johnson, safety Sharrod Neasman, quarterback Matt Simms and tight end D.J. Tialavea.

Vellano, who’s 6 foot-2 and 300 pounds, played at Maryland. He’s spent time with New England and Indianapolis.

4. Parms to Bills.  Safety Damian Parms, who was in camp with the Falcons, was signed to Buffalo’s practice squad.

5. Falcons are longshots. The Falcons are listed at 55-to-1 to win Super Bowl LI by OnlineGambling.lv.

New England Patriots: 8/1

Green Bay Packers: 19/2

Seattle Seahawks: 10/1

Pittsburgh Steelers: 12/1

Carolina Panthers: 14/1

Arizona Cardinals: 16/1

Denver Broncos: 20/1

Kansas City Chiefs: 20/1

Cincinnati Bengals: 25/1

Houston Texans: 33/1

Baltimore Ravens: 35/1

Oakland Raiders: 35/1

Dallas Cowboys: 40/1

Minnesota Vikings: 45/1

New York Jets: 45/1

Jacksonville Jaguars: 50/1

Washington Redskins: 50/1

Atlanta Falcons: 55/1

Detroit Lions: 65/1

New Orleans Saints: 65/1

San Diego Chargers: 65/1

Buffalo Bills: 70/1

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 70/1

Chicago Bears: 75/1

Miami Dolphins: 75/1

Philadelphia Eagles: 80/1

Los Angeles Rams: 80/1

Tennessee Titans: 90/1

San Francisco 49ers: 125/1

Cleveland Browns: 125/1

New England Patriots: 8/1

Green Bay Packers: 19/2

Seattle Seahawks: 10/1

Pittsburgh Steelers: 12/1

Carolina Panthers: 14/1

Arizona Cardinals: 16/1

Denver Broncos: 20/1

Kansas City Chiefs: 20/1

Cincinnati Bengals: 25/1

Houston Texans: 33/1

Baltimore Ravens: 35/1

Oakland Raiders: 35/1

Dallas Cowboys: 40/1

Minnesota Vikings: 45/1

New York Jets: 45/1

Jacksonville Jaguars: 50/1

Washington Redskins: 50/1

Atlanta Falcons: 55/1

Detroit Lions: 65/1

New Orleans Saints: 65/1

San Diego Chargers: 65/1

Buffalo Bills: 70/1

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 70/1

Chicago Bears: 75/1

Miami Dolphins: 75/1

Philadelphia Eagles: 80/1

Los Angeles Rams: 80/1

Tennessee Titans: 90/1

San Francisco 49ers: 125/1

Cleveland Browns: 125/1

6. Jones injury update. All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones (ankle) was limited in practice on Monday. He’s expected to fully participate in Wednesday’s practice. Defensive end Dwight Freeney (back), defensive end Adrian Clayborn (shoulder) and safety Kemal Ishmael (shoulder) all returned to practice.

7. Winston poised for success. One national broadcaster thinks Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston is poised for superstardom and he believes the Bucs could be this season’s “surprise” team.

8. Coach Smith is fired up. Former Falcons coach Mike Smith and Tampa Bay head coach Dirk Koetter will down play their return to Atlanta this week. But Tampa Bay defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said Smith  has “a little fire in his eyes” in the Tampa Bay Times.

“They’re not saying it, but we can sense it,” defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. “Coach Koetter, obviously you want to win for your head coach, but I’m on the defensive side of the ball. Coach Smith isn’t going to admit it, but he has a little fire in his eyes.”

9. Running back split. All of the fantasy owners want to know how the running back carries will be split up between Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. 

Although the Falcons heavily relied on Devonta Freeman to run the ball last season, Coleman is set to get his touches.

“Knowing the different things that they do best as well, both of them are complete backs and can play on all downs and that’s why we’re so fortune,” Quinn said. “We’re going to need them both. We’re going to lean on them both this year and if we can find a way to best feature them in doing the things they do.”

 

Reader Comments 0

0 comments