COVER 9@9: Falcons can’t open the Benz with Julio Jones on the sidelines

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones runs an agility drill during NFL football training camp on Thursday, July 27, 2017, in Flowery Branch, Ga. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

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 play their third exhibition game at 7 p.m. Saturday  against the Arizona Cardinals in the new $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium. It will the first event in the iconic stadium. (We were a little behind schedule today. Got caught up doing some transcription.)

1. EXPECT TO SEE JONES: Falcons coach Dan Quinn said he’ll “consider” playing All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones in game three on Saturday.

But there was an extra pep in Jones step at practice on Tuesday.  Jones looked like he was getting ready for action.

He made a nice strong move on an inside route and zoomed past the safety.

On another play, he ran past the coverage and tracked down a deep throw from backup quarterback Matt Schaub, who can still get it out there. Jones looked good and was moving well.

The Falcons can’t open up the new $1.5 BILLION  Stadium with Jones coaching on the sidelines.

2. FREEMAN UPDATE: Falcons running back Devonta Freeman is in the final stages of the NFL concussion protocol and could return to the team soon, Quinn said Tuesday.

“Freeman is toward the end of the protocol,” Quinn said. “He’s in the hard workout phase and that’s today. Hopefully, we’ll get him back practicing on the field. Not for today, but hopefully, that’s coming up soon.”

3. SO, YOU REALLY WANT TO RISE-UP? Our Jill Vejnoska tells you how you can do that on the bird statue at the stadium.

4. TAKK LISTENING TO THE VETS: Veterans Beasley, Adrian Clayborn and Jack Crawford have given rookie defensive end Takkarist a lot of good advice.

“The biggest thing has been ‘don’t over-think,’” McKinley said. “When I first got here, I was in the UCLA mindset where we kind of read and then react. Here, it’s more attack.

“Those guys keep preaching to me ‘just use your speed and keep going. Your power and keep going.’ It took a while for me to understand what they were talking about, but they preach that to me every day. Attack, attack, attack.”

5. MEET LUKE PASZTOR:  Falcons offensive tackle Austin Pasztor is recovering for a

Luke Pasztor

pectoral injury and will not play against Arizona on Saturday.

Pasztor has made 43 starts and played 58 games over five seasons in the NFL.
Pasztor, who’s 6 feet 7 and 305 pounds, played three seasons with Jacksonville and two with Cleveland since coming out of Virginia in 2012.

We checked in with him after his first practice with the team and here’s what he had to say:

Q: What was it like getting the call from the Falcons?

A: “It’s a wonderful opportunity. I told my wife from the outset of free agency that I’d love to come to Atlanta. I’m so happy that they likewise wanted me to come here.”

Q: Did know Alex Mack help in that decision?

A: “Definitely. When I came here to have visit I had lunch with him. We chatted and he definitely makes the transition easier. I can bounce questions off of him. It makes things easier. So yeah, it was definitely helpful.”

Q: Has he been able to help you learn the offense? 

A: “It’s an offensive combination of the offenses that I’ve played in the past with some new additions as well. So, a lot of it, I’m able to pick up. I’m just reaching back in that memory bank. It’s been good.”

Q: How’s your pectoral injury?

A: “I think it’s doing great. I just taking it day by day to see where we are. I’m just hoping for the best.”

Here’s where to watch and listen to the game:

TV:  Atlanta’s CW69 (WUPA-TV). AT&T U-Verse 1069. Charter 709. Comcast 810. DirecTV 69. Dish Network 6376. Play-by-play: Justin Kutcher. Color: Coy Wire. Sideline: D.J. Shockley.

LOCAL RADIO: 92.9 The Game — Play-by-Play: Wes Durham. Color Analyst: Dave Archer. Sideline: John Michaels.  Here’s a listing of Falcons Radio Network around the state and in Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee.

SATELLITE RADIO: Click here for Sirius and XM listings.

STATEWIDE TV: Albany, Ga. –WALB (NBC-10), Augusta, Ga. – WFXG FOX 54), Columbus, Ga. WXTX (Fox 54), Macon, Ga. – WGXA (Fox 24/16), Savannah, Ga. (CBS 11)

Watch Online: The exhibition game can be found live on NFL Game PassFull replays of every NFL exhibition game are also available On Demand to the NFL Game Pass subscribers.

7. JACKSON WORKED OUT FOR 49ERS:   Former Falcons defensive lineman Tyson Jackson, who was the consummate professional with the media during his days here, worked out for the San Francisco 49ers on Tuesday, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media.

Jackson was released by the Falcons in March after playing three years for the team. He signed a five-year, $25 million contract with the Falcons in 2014. He started 35 of 48 games he played for the team.

8. ON THE HOT SEAT:  Here’s are five players who’s arrow is pointing downward for the Falcons (We’re giving rookie tight end Eric Saubert a break since he’s trying to make the jump up from Drake. But by the fourth exhibition games he needs to show something. These guys need to step it up. Grace returned to practice yesterday so he’s on the right path.

–Deante Burton, wide receiver. He missed tackle on the punt return for a down and has dropped two passes.

–Brian Hill, running back. Hasn’t shown much in two games. Has has 24 yards on 16 carries. Don’t know if  it’s him not hitting the holes or if the third-string line can’t block. We’ll discretely find out for y’all if it’s him or the blocking.

–Jermaine Grace, linebacker. He missed the game against the Steelers with a hamstring injury. He’s in the “can’t make the club in the tub” group for now.  He returned to practice on Tuesday. Love his speed.

–Marvin Hall, wide receiver. He dropped a potential touchdown pass on a nice throw from backup quarterback Matt Simms. He was targeted eight times and caught just two passes. He looks like an NFL player, but this is his third stop.

–Deji Olatoye, cornerback. Had a pass interference call and he lined up in the neutral zone in the third quarter to eliminate a team sack. The competition for the fourth corner spot — to replace Jalen Collins — is real.

9. DEPTH CHART:  Ben Garland remains listed with the first-team at right guard in the official depth chart released by the Falcons on Monday.

Garland and Wes Schweitzer have been rotating with the first-team offense for the offseason and training camp. The Falcons must replace Chris Chester, who retired over the offseason.

The Falcons are set to play the Arizona Cardinals at 7 p.m. Saturday in the first game in the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Garland started against Miami and Schweizter started against Pittsburgh.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn believes the battle is too close to call.

(The team calls it ‘s depth chart ‘unofficial,” but since they release it, that makes it official.) 

Here’s the depth chart:

OFFENSE

WR 11 Julio Jones 14 Justin Hardy, 19 Andre Roberts, 7 Josh Magee, 87 Deante Burton, 84 Reginald Davis III

LT 70 Jake Matthews, 76 Daniel Brunskill, 79 Will Freeman, 68 Austin Pasztor

LG 67 Andy Levitre, 64 Sean Harlow, 61 Travis Averill

C 51 Alex Mack, 72 Cornelius Edison, 62 Larson Graham

RG 63 Ben Garland, 71 Wes Schweitzer

RT 73 Ryan Schraeder, 66 Kevin Graf, 75 Andreas Knappe,74 D.J. Tialavea

TE 81 Austin Hooper, 80 Levine Toilolo, 82 Joshua Perkins, 83 Darion Griswold, 85 Eric Saubert, 89 Alex Gray

WR 12 Mohamed Sanu, 18 Taylor Gabriel, 15 Nick Williams, 17 Marvin Hall, 16 Anthony Dable, 1 Reggie Davis, 88 Bra’Lon Cherry

QB 2 Matt Ryan, 8 Matt Schaub, 4 Matt Simms, 9 Alek Torgersen

RB 24 Devonta Freeman, 26 Tevin Coleman, 28 Terron Ward, 25 Brian Hill, 38 Kelvin Taylor, 35 Jhurrell Pressley

FB 40 Derrick Coleman, 39 Tyler Renew

*Pressley was not listed in the released. He was added.

DEFENSE

DE 50 Brooks Reed, 99 Adrian Clayborn, 98 Takk McKinley, 55 J’Terius Jones

DT 92 Dontari Poe, 95 Jack Crawford, 74 Taniela Tupou

DT 97 Grady Jarrett, 77 Ra’Shede Hageman, 92 Joe Vellano

DE 91 Courtney Upshaw, 90 Derrick Shelby, 93 Chris Odum, 96 Martin Ifedi

LB 44 Vic Beasley Jr., 43 Jack Lynn

LB 45 Deion Jones. 53 LaRoy Reynolds, 56 Jermaine Grace

LB 59 De’Vondre Campbell, 42 Duke Riley, 36 Kemal Ishmael, 52 Josh Keyes

RCB 23 Robert Alford, 29 C.J. Goodwin, 33 Blidi Wreh-Wilson, 38 Akeem King, 39 Jarnor Jones

LCB21 Desmond Trufant, 34 Brian Poole, 30 Deji Olatoye, 48 Jordan Moore, 32 Jalen Collins

FS 37 Ricardo Allen, 20 Sharrod Neasman, 27 Damonte Kazee, 41 Quincy Mauger

SS 22 Keanu Neal, 36 Kemal Ishmael, 35 Marcelis Branch, 49 Daron Washington

SPECIALISTS

K 3 Matt Bryant, 6 Mike Meyer

KO 5 Matt Bosher

P 5 Matt Bosher

KR 19 Andre Roberts, 14 Justin Hardy, 1 Reggie Davis

PR 19 Andre Roberts, 14 Justin Hardy, 15 Nick Williams

LS 47 Josh Harris

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