Cover 9@9: Morgan keeping an sharp eye on the offensive line

July 27, 2017 Flowery Branch: Falcons head coach Dan Quinn works with offensive guards Wes Schweitzer and Ben Garland (right) on the first day of team practice at training camp on Thursday, July 27, 2017, in Flowery Branch. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Good morning! Welcome to The Cover 9@9 blog. It’s our weekly blog of everything you need to know about the Atlanta Falcons, the defending NFC Champions who will hold their sixth practice of training camp starting at 9:3o a.m. today.

1. HERE’S WHAT MORGAN IS LOOKING FOR AT RIGHT GUARD: Falcons offensive line coach Chris Morgan is overseeing perhaps the two most important battles of training camp.

He’s watching the daily battle at right guard and swing tackle behind starters Jake Matthews and Ryan Schraeder.

We saw in the Super Bowl that the swing tackle position is very important. When Schraeder went down, the Falcons had to play Tom Compton, who was not re-signed after the offseason.

The Falcons have rotated Ben Garland and Wes Schweitzer daily at the right guard position.

Here’s what Morgan is looking for from the starter:

“The biggest thing is consistency,” Morgan told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Each guy that goes in there has got to show that they can work with the guy next to them. That they can work with the group and then how consistent can they be in both run and pass.”

It’s too early in training camp to declare a leader.

“It’s such a hot competition,” Morgan said. “It’s going to take time. We’ll see these guys in practice. We’ll see these guys in the (exhibition) season (games). It’s a process.”

2. MATTHEWS AND SCHRAEDER: Morgan expects Matthews and Schraeder to continue to develop.

“They are young, but this is our third year together,” Morgan said. “You know what I mean. They’ve really grown. They’ve grown up, matured and are battle tested.”

Matthews has started 47 games and Schraeder has started 46.

“They know what it looks like and they’ve all grown in their routines,” Morgan said. “They’ve both added a couple of things to their repertoire. How they get ready. What they focus on. Their process. They both are taking the next step to this point, it’s pretty good.”

Kevin Graf, Will Freeman, Daniel Brunskill and Andreas Knappe are battling for the backup tackle spots.

The Falcons held their first padded practice of training camp on Saturday. (By D. Orlando Ledbetter/dledbetter@ajc.com)

“That’s no different than that other battle and all of the position battles,” Morgan said. “We’ll move some guys around. We’ve got to see how the guys look when the pads are on in the run game and in (pass) protection when they get a guy bull rushing them, running down the middle of them and show that they can anchor. Those guys are all battling it out. That competition is hot, too. We’ve got to sort it out.”

Morgan didn’t seem overly worried that none of the backup tackles have NFL experience.

“The guys are doing a good job of developing,” Morgan said. “We’ll see how it goes on the move. We have to keep getting better every day.”

3. HARLOW UPDATE: Rookie guard Sean Harlow is grinding away in camp.

“He’s doing a good job,” Morgan said. “He’s working hard. He’s getting a little bit better every day and that’s all that we ask.”

Harlow, a fourth-round pick from Oregon State, is adjusting to the NFL.

“The first day in pads was definitely humbling,” Harlow said. “The last couple of months we just had on helmets and sliders. But it was good. It was fun to finally get back to real football, being able to strap it up and be able to get after it.”

Harlow, the son of former NFLer Pat Harlow, is making the transition from tackle to guard.

“I’m definitely finding out that it’s a lot different, but at the end of day it’s all football,” Harlow said. “It’s more or less the same. Things just happen quicker. It’s taken a little bit getting used to. I’m going to keep working on my craft and hopefully it will all click here pretty soon.”

He’s clearly fighting through issues early in camp.

“Just taking it one day at a time,” Harlow said. “DQ says just be where your feet are, be in the present. That’s really what I’m focusing on.

“That’s all I can really do.”

Harlow will also get some time at backup center.

“I haven’t gotten any live reps at it yet,” Harlow said. “But it’s definitely something that’s coming up for sure. I don’t know when that will happen, but when it happens I’ll be ready for it.”

5. BIG CHUCK SMITH WORKED WITH CAMPBELL: Falcons linebacker De’Vondre Campbell is working through his move to strongside linebacker and playing closer to the line of scrimmage.

“The biggest thing I’m trying to improve on is my line of scrimmage technique,” Campbell said. “I spent the whole offseason training with a (defensive) line coach. Just really working on my hands, my get off, my hip explosion and different things.”

Former Falcons standout “Big Chuck” Smith, a private coach now days, worked with Campbell this offseason.

“Chuck Smith is amazing,” Campbell said. “I worked with him pre-draft. Once I got here I found I wouldn’t really be doing too much on the line of scrimmage stuff so I stopped working with him a little bit.

“But this past offseason, once I found out was playing (strongside linebacker) again, I started back working with Chuck. He’s an amazing guy. He’s helped me out so much.”

6. HOLYFIELD AT PRACTICE:  Four-time heavyweight champ Evander Holyfield spoke to the team after practice on Tuesday and told them to “bounce back.”

Falcons coach Dan Quinn is a big fight fan and had Holyfield break down the team after practice. 

The players got a kick out of meeting Holyfield and took pictures with him.

7. PUTTING McKINLEY’s DEBUT IN PERSPECTIVE: Falcons rookie defensive Takkarist McKinley had a strong debut on Tuesday rushing against Matthews. Most of us were awe of the performance.

I was ready to go do a re-grade of the Falcons draft after the showing.

But one veteran pointed out that it would be unwise to read too much into McKinley’s performance. He was held out of the first four practice and was working on fresh legs and a bundle of nervous energy.

It will be wise to keep watching to see if McKinley can maintain his play at a high level over a period of time.

So, the draft re-grade is hold for now.

8. FREEMAN UPDATE: It’s been quiet on the contract extension front for running back Devonta Freeman since Freeman’s side told NFL Network’s Mike Silver that he has a $10 million insurance policy and sketchy details on a five-year deal with the guaranteed money over the first three years being a hurdle.

The Falcons do play in Miami on Aug. 10 and could easily meet with agent Kristin Campbell.

The Falcons don’t appear too eager to re-set the running back market league-wide.

How much should the Falcons pay Freeman?

9. DEPTH CHART:  Falcons cornerback Jalen Collins, who started in the Super Bowl, was working with the third-team defense on Tuesday.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn told ESPN.com the move was “a coaching decision.” 

The former second-round pick from LSU was also on the special teams knit-cap/scout team.

Left cornerback Desmond Trufant and right cornerback Robert Alford were working with the first-team.

Collins played well last season and some projected that he was ready to contend for a starting position. 

C.J Goodwin was at second-team left cornerback and Deji Olatoye at second-team right cornerback. Brian Poole was the first-team nickel back and Blidi Wreh-Wilson was the second team nickel back in the morning practice.

In the report Collins, who did not immediately return a call to his cell phone, said he wasn’t in any trouble with the league office and that he’d battle his way back up the depth chart.

He was suspended for four games last season for violating the league’s policy on performing enhancing substances.

Here’s the training camp depth chart:

OFFENSE

WR 11 Julio Jones, 14 Justin Hardy, 19 Andre Roberts, 1 Reggie Davis, 17 Marvin Hall, 84 Reggie Davis III

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, 62 Larson Graham

RG [71 Wes Schweitzer, 63 Ben Garland], 61 Travis Averill, 68 Marquis Lucas

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, 83 Darion Griswold

WR 12 Mohamed Sanu, 18 Taylor Gabriel, *13 Devin Fuller, 15 Nick Williams, 16 Anthony Dable, 87 Deante Burton, 7 Josh Magee, 88 Bra’Lon Cherry

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

*Fuller has been lost for the season with a torn ACL.

DEFENSE

DE 99 Adrian Clayborn, 98 Takkarist McKinley, 96 Martin Ifedi

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

DT 97 Grady Jarrett, 91 Courtney Upshaw, 74 Taniela Tupou

DE 44 Vic Beasley Jr., 95 Jack Crawford, 90 Derrick Shelby, 93 Chris Odom

SLB 59 DeVondre Campbell, 44 Vic Beasley Jr., 50 Brooks Reed, 43 Jack Lynn

LB 45 Deion Jones, 53 LaRoy Reynolds, 52 Josh Keyes

WLB  53 LaRoy Reynolds, 36 Kemal Ishmael, 42 Duke Riley, 56 Jermaine Grace, 55 J’Terius Jones

RCB 23 Robert Alford, 30 Deji Olatoye, 25 Akeem King, 39 Janor Jones

NB 34 Brian Poole, 33 Blidi-Wreh-Wilson

LCB 21 Desmond Trufant, 29 C.J. Goodwin, 32 Jalen Collins

FS 37 Ricardo Allen, 27 Damontae Kazee, 35 Marcelis Branch, 49 Deron Washington

SS 22 Keanu Neal, 20 Sharrod Neasman, 41 Quincy Mauger, 48 Jordan Moore

SPECIALISTS

K 3 Matt Bryant, 6 Mike Meyer

KO 5 Matt Bosher

P 5 Matt Bosher

KR 19 Andre Roberts, 14 Justin Hardy, 13 Devin Fuller, 38 Brian Hill

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

LS 47 Josh Harris

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