Atlanta Falcons Blog

Atlanta Falcons blog by D. Orlando Ledbetter, the pro football and Atlanta Falcons reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
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Cover 9@9: Can Oliver challenge Alford for starting spot

Second round pick spent the offseason at right cornerback

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

1.  The Oliver file: Every since Dan Quinn was hired and given final say on the 53-man roster, he’s been looking for a big cornerback.

The Falcons selected Jalen Collins (6-foot-2, 198 pounds) in the second round of the 2015 draft. The Falcons spent two years trying to convert C.J. Goodwin (6-4, 220 pounds) into a cornerback. They are also in the middle of trying to convert former Kansas State wide receiver Deante Burton (6-2, 205) into a cornerback. 

Collins appears to have washed out of the league. Goodwin got his shot last season, but failed. He’s now with the 49ers.

Burton, who caught 84 passes for 1,085 yards and five touchdowns at Kansas State, will get some action this exhibition season.

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But the long-term answer may be Isaiah Oliver, who was selected out of Colorado in the second round (58th overall) of the 2018 draft. 

The Falcons would like to put a big player out at right cornerback who can jam receivers at the line of scrimmage and throw of the timing of routes. Quinn used a big corner like the massive Brandon Browner (6-4, 221) when he was the defensive coordinator in Seattle. 

Oliver would have to beat out Robert Alford, who could slide inside and compete with Brian Poole for the nickel spot. 

“I’m sure I’ll be moving around throughout training camp, but through (the offseason) I was at right corner on the outside,” Oliver said. “That’s probably where I’ll be for the most part.”

Oliver has a reputation for playing the deep pass well. He recorded 32 pass breakups and tied for the 10th most in Colorado history.

He might not be ready to beat out Alford, but eventually he could play outside in a pinch like Collins had to late in 2016 and in Super Bowl XLI.

The defensive backs have welcomed him to the group.

“They are great guys and they are helping me out a lot in terms learning the defense and different techniques and things like that,” Oliver said. “How to play Falcons’ football.”

Oliver, who will likely start his career as a special teamer, knows he’ll have to earn a starting spot.

“So, from a competitive standpoint, we are always going to compete,” Oliver said. “That’s one of the biggest things on the team here, is that battle aspect. So, we are going to compete against each other. Compete against the offense and compete in everything that we do. 

“So, that just kind of comes with it. Then the play of the field is just the play on the field.”

Oliver enjoyed going against the Falcons receivers in the rookie minicamp, during the organized team activities and the mandatory minicamp. 

“It helped a lot,” Oliver said. “In my opinion, this is the best receiving corps in the NFL. So, being able to see that every day in practice, then you go out on Sunday and you know that you kind of have an edge over other teams. That’s going to be big for me, especially in my rookie year, going against guys like Mohamed Sanu and everyone here. That’s going to help me out when I go out there on Sundays and play against those guys.”

The speedy Alford (5-10, 186) has started 61 of 76 regular season games since being drafted in the second round (60th) of the 2013 draft.

2. Oliver draft bio: Here’s Oliver’s draft bio: 

HEIGHT: 6-foot-1. WEIGHT: 190 pounds. ARM LENGTH: 33 ½ inches. HAND SIZE: 9 3/4 inches. 40-YARD DASH: 4.5 seconds. BENCH PRESS: (Had a dislocated finger on his right hand). He said that 12 lifts of 225 pounds was his best. VERTICAL: 36 inches. BROAD JUMP: 10 feet, 8 inches at Colorado Pro Day. THREE-CONE DRILL: 6.94 seconds. OVERVIEW: He entered the NFL draft after his junior season. He recorded 32 pass breakups and tied for the 10th most in school history. He also had three interceptions. In his career at Colorado he played in 37 games and made 16 starts. He has played with four defensive backs, who have made NFL rosters: Chidobe Awuzie (Cowboys), Kenneth Crawley (Saints), Tedric Thompson (Seahawks) and Ahkello Witherspoon (49ers). He earned first team all-Pac 12 from the Associated Press and the league’s coaches last season. He is from Phoenix, Arizona. 

3. Quality depth: The Falcons are in nickel at least 70 percent of the time and if they can get Oliver ready to play that will add to their flexibility in the secondary. 

“You are going to need (defensive backs) and (defensive back) depth because you’re not going to have guys make it all the way through the season,” defensive passing game coordinator Jerome Henderson said. “You can think that we have five guys, that’s our nickel group and we’re good. You better have some depth behind them, some good quality depth so that when guys go down you’ve got guys that can come up and play.”

May 11, 2018 Flowery Branch: Atlanta Falcons cornerback Isaiah Oliver walks off the field after the first day of rookie-mini-camp on Friday, May 11, 2018, in Flowery Branch. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com (ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton)

4. Parker signing: The Falcons signed veteran safety Ron Parker on Monday. Parker most recently played for the Chiefs and will provide some of that quality depth to both safety positions.

Parker, who will turn 31 in August, entered the NFL in 2011 when he was signed as undrafted free agent out of Newberry (S.C.) by the Seahawks. 

Parker, who’s 6-feet and 206 pounds, has spent time with four NFL teams over his nine-year career, playing in 90 games with 64 starts.

» More: Parker coming off his worst NFL season 

He was pursued by the Falcons when he last was a free agent in 2016, but elected to remain with the Chiefs. He was two years into that five-year, $30 million contract when 

the Chiefs released him this offseason.

In 2011, he was with the Seahawks and Raiders.

In 2012, he was with the Seahawks and Panthers.

In 2013, he made the Chiefs as a cornerback and spent the past five seasons with Kansas City.

Parker is versatile and has played cornerback, free safety and strong safety.

He started all 16 games for the Chiefs last season. He had two interceptions, two fumble recoveries and 67 tackles

5. Jones ranked fourth: Julio Jones, or the person who runs his Instagram account,  reacted to Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown being ranked No. 2 in the NFL Top 100 on Monday. Someone posted a photo on his Instagram with the caption, “Congrats! Now one of us got to get that #1.” 

Jones ranked No. 4 in the NFL Top 100, ranking in the top 10 for the third consecutive year. The Falcons wide receiver was No. 3 on the list last year. 

6. Legacy 53 program: The Atlanta Super Bowl Host Committee announced Tuesday a community engagement initiative aimed at creating a lasting legacy from the big game’s visit here next year. 

Super Bowl LIII will be played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Feb. 3, 2019, the event’s third time in Atlanta and first since 2000.

7. T.I. to boycott NFL: Atlanta rapper and Falcons’ fans T.I. (Cliff Harris) says that he’s boycotting the National Football League.

He was just at practice last season. 

On BET’s Genius Talks with host Jemele Hill, the rapper explained why he is boycotting the NFL even though the Super Bowl will be played in Atlanta in 2019. 

8. FREE Youth football clinic: Area youth football coaches who need to learn how to teach proper tackling techniques can attend a free coaching clinic hosted by the Falcons at 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, July 21 and the Decatur Conference Center.

Coaches must register online at AtlantaFalcons.com/coachingclinic

Coaches will learn how to properly teach football fundamentals, improve practice organization throughout the season and be exposed to new offensive and defensive schemes. The clinic will be led by notable speakers and high school coaches from around the state.

They’ll also need to teach the coaches how to handle over-bearing parents, who think they know more than the coaches. Managing the parents is a key component of youth football

9. DEPTH CHART: Here’s the working depth chart: 

OFFENSE 

WR 11 Julio Jones, 18, Calvin Ridley, 14 Justin Hardy, 13 Reggie Davis, 86 Lamar Jordan, 16 Taj Williams

LT 70 Jake Matthews, 68 Austin Pasztor, 76 Daniel Brunskill

LG 67 Andy Levitre, 63 Ben Garland, 64 Sean Harlow, 75 Jamil Douglas 

C 51 Alex Mack, 63 Ben Garland, 61 J.C. Hassenauer

RG 65 Brandon Fusco, 71 Wes Schweitzer, 62 Salesi Uhatafe

RT 73 Ryan Schraeder, 74 Ty Sambrailo, 77 Matt Gono

TE 81 Austin Hooper, 82 Logan Paulsen, 85 Eric Saubert, 89 Alex Gray, 80 Troy Mangen, 87 Jaeden Graham 

WR 12 Mohamed Sanu, 17 Marvin Hall, 83 Russell Gage, 15 Christian Blake, 19 Dontez Byrd, 7 Devin Gray

QB 2 Matt Ryan, 8 Matt Schaub, 9 Grayson Garrett, 6 Kurt Benkert

RB 24 Devonta Freeman, 26 Tevin Coleman, 25 Ito Smith, 41 Terrence Magee, 32 Justin Crawford, 35 Malik Williams

FB 40 Daniel Marx, 43 Luke McNitt, 30 Ricky Ortiz 

 DEFENSE 

DE 98 Takk McKinley, 50 Brooks Reed, 79 Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, 96 Mackendy Cheridor

DT 99 Terrell McClain, 94 Deadrin Senat, 93 Garrison Smith, 

DT 97 Grady Jarrett, 95 Jack Crawford, 92 Justin Zimmer, 99 Jon Cunningham

DE 44 Vic Beasley, 90 Derrick Shelby, 55 J’Terius Jones 

WLB 42 Duke Riley, 54 Foyesade Oluokun

MLB 45 Deion Jones, 52 Emmanuel Ellerbe, 53 Emmanuel Smith 

SLB 59 De’Vondre Campbell, 56 Anthony Winbush, 49 Richard Jarvis

CB 23 Robert Alford, 20 Isaiah Oliver, 28 Justin Bethel, 33 Blidi Wreh-Wilson, 39 Deante Burton 

CB 21 Desmond Trufant, 34 Brian Poole, 35 Leon McFadden, 43 Chris Lammons

NB 34 Brian Poole, 27 Damontae Kazee, 42 Tyson Graham, 30 Joseph Putu 

FS 37 Ricardo Allen, 27 Damontae Kazee, 38 Marcelis Branch, 41 Jason Hall

SS 22 Keanu Neal, 36 Kemal Ishmael, 35 Secdrick Cooper 

SPECIALISTS 

K 3 Matt Bryant, 1 David Marvin 

KO 5 Matt Bosher

P 5 Matt Bosher

KR 14 Justin Hardy, 17 Marvin Hall, 30 Ito Smith

PR 14 Justin Hardy, 16 Reggie Davis

LS 47 Josh Harris

H 5 Matt Bosher  

About the Author

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

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