Cover 9@9: Could the return of Greg Knapp be upon us?

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, who lost in the divisional round of the playoffs to the Philadelphia Eagles, 15-10, on Saturday in Philadelphia. The Falcons are now 0-3 in playoff games in the City of Brotherly Love.

(The team moved its press conference with head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff to Thursday due to the inclement weather.)

1. QB COACH CANDIDATES: Don't know the other candidates, but with Greg Knapp and Jedd Fisch lined up for interviews, the Falcons are off to a great start.

They must fill the vacancy created by Bush Hamdan returning to the college ranks to become Washington's offensive coordinator.

Knapp and Fisch, both have been coordinators in the NFL, with varying degrees of success. It's always good to have a couple people on the offensive staff, who can call plays and have had NFL experience calling plays.

Knapp, who I'd pick over Fisch, has more experience and success. When Sarkisian got stuck last season, he didn't have anyone to turn to for help. Back in the Coach Mike Smith days, former offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey would lean on former coordinator Terry Robiskie in a pinch. He also had former NFL quarterback Bill Musgrave on the staff.

Knapp, who was on Jim Mora’s staff, is set to interview for the team’s vacant quarterback coaching position, according to Alex Marvez of The Sporting News.

Knapp, 54, a longtime NFL assistant, was the Falcons offensive coordinator from 2004-06. He helped the Falcons get to the NFC title game with Michael Vick at quarterback after the 2004 regular season.

He has also coached at San Francisco, Oakland, Seattle, Houston and Denver.

He coached with Falcons coach Dan Quinn in San Francisco (2001-03) and Seattle (2009). He was Peyton Manning’s position coach when the Broncos won Super Bowl 50.

Fisch, 41, will also interview for the position, according to a person familiar with the situation.

Knapp and Fisch are the only known candidates contending to replace Hamdan.

Both Knapp and Fisch have been coordinators in the NFL and could aid coordinator Sarkisian, who was served in his first year as a NFL coordinator last season and is expected to be retained in that position despite porous statistical results.

Fisch last served as offensive coordinator/quarterback coach for UCLA. He also served as interim head coach after Mora was fired, and he coached the Bruins in the Cactus Bowl loss to Kansas State in December.

Fisch has held numerous assistant positions in the NFL and in college. His NFL experience includes stints with the Texans, Ravens, Broncos, Seahawks and Jaguars. Before joining UCLA, Fisch was the quarterbacks coach, wide receivers coach and passing-game coordinator for two seasons at Michigan.

Fisch is attractive to the Falcons because he has play-calling experience. However, he was fired in Jacksonville over “philosophical differences” with former coach Gus Bradley over the handling of quarterback Blake Bortles.

Under Fisch in 2014, the Jaguars averaged 15.6 points per game, ranked 31st in passing and 21st in rushing.

In 2014, the Jaguars averaged 15.6 points per game which was last (32nd) in the league. They ranked 31st in the NFL in passing (187.6 yards per game) and 21st in rushing (102.1). It must be noted that the Jaguars were playing with a rookie quarterback, three rookie receivers and two rookie offensive linemen as starters.

2. JONES OFF TO PRO BOWL: While wide receiver Julio Jones pulled out of the Pro Bowl, linebacker Deion Jones was named to the Pro Bowl team Tuesday, the NFL announced. Jones will replace Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly, who is unable to participate because of injury.

Green Bay's Devante Adams will replace Julio Jones, who has an ankle injury.

Deion Jones was an alternate when the Pro Bowl teams originally were announced. This is his first Pro Bowl selection.

Deion Jones, a second-year linebacker out of LSU, ranked fourth in the NFL with 138 tackles. He also had three interceptions, including a game-saving pick against the Saints, which was tied for first among linebackers in the league.

Jones will join center Alex Mack in the Pro Bowl, which will be played Jan. 28.

3. WINLESS IN PHILLY: The Falcons have never won in the playoffs in Philadelphia. The Falcons are 0-3 in Philadelphia in the playoffs and 1-0 at home.

4. FINAL SERIES VS. PHILLY: Columnist Mark Bradley had the fine folks at analytics site Football Outsiders break down the final series against the Eagles . It wasn't pretty.

5. INTERIOR LINE HELP NEEDED:  The Falcons can't over react after facing the Rams' Aaron Donald and the Eagles' Fletcher Cox in back-to-back weeks, but the have to look at upgrading the guard positions, according to list on each team's needs.


The Falcons have a solid offensive line but weakness at both guard spots. They could pull off a coup by signing a top lineman like Norwell from a division rival in free agency, but they have little cap room to play with and may choose to keep their powder dry for the draft. Ben Garland and Wes Schweitzer combined to surrender 46 total pressures this season with Garland only playing 341 snaps in relief of an injured Andy Levitre.

6. TV RATINGS DOWN IN ATLANTA: (From Tim Tucker) The much-documented decline in NFL television ratings was reflected in the Atlanta market for the Falcons’ playoff game against Philadelphia.

The Falcons-Eagles NFC Divisional playoff game Saturday posted a 29.3 rating in the Atlanta TV market, down from a 35.0 rating here for the Falcons’ game against Seattle in the same round and same time slot of the playoffs one year ago.

That ratings difference means about 138,000 fewer homes in the Atlanta market watched Saturday’s game than watched the Falcons-Seahawks game a year earlier -- about 707,000 homes vs. about 845,000.  REST OF STORY

7. NINE SIGNED TO RESERVE/FUTURE DEALS: The Falcons signed signed nine players to reserve/future contracts on Monday.

Quarterback Garrett Grayson, safety Marcelis Branch, cornerback Deante Burton (a former wide receiver), offensive lineman Daniel Brunskill, defensive lineman Taniela Tupou, defensive lineman Joey Ivie, defensive end J’Terious (JT) Jones, wide receiver Reggie Davis, and tight Alex Gray, who were all on the practice squad, were retained by the Falcons.

8. DRAFT SLOT FOR THE FALCONS: After the divisional round of the playoffs, the order for the 2018 NFL draft is mostly set through the first 28 positions.

The Falcons are slotted at the 26th position, the same place they traded up to last season to select defensive end Takkarist McKinley.

The 2018 NFL Draft will be held April 26-28 in Dallas.

Last season, the Falcons were slated to pick 31st overall, but traded with Seattle to move up five spots. The Falcons gave up their 31st overall pick, a third-rounder (95) and a seventh-rounder (249) to move up.

Seattle traded the 31st pick to San Francisco, who selected Alabama linebacker Rueben Foster. Seattle selected Michigan safety Delano Hill with the 95th pick and Oklahoma State running back Chris Carson, of Parkview High, with the 249th pick.

McKinley played in all 18 games last season and finished with eight sacks, two forced fumbles and 30 tackles. He played 401 of the defensive snaps (38 percent).

The Falcons currently have six picks in the upcoming draft. They traded their fifth-round pick (154) to Denver for offensive tackle Ty Sambrailo on Sept. 1, 2017.

Here are the Falcons’ projected picks: second round (58 overall), third round (90), fourth round (122), sixth round (186) and seventh round (218).

Here’s the draft order:




    4. CLEVELAND (via Houston)

    5. DENVER


    7. TAMPA BAY

    8. CHICAGO(tie)

    9. SAN FRANCISCO(tie)

    10. OAKLAND

    11. MIAMI



    14. GREEN BAY

    15. ARIZONA



    18. SEATTLE

    19. DALLAS

    20. DETROIT

    21. BUFFALO

    22. BUFFALO (vis Kansas City)


    24. CAROLINA


    26. ATLANTA 



9. KIPER'S TOP 10 GUARDS IN THE 2018 NFL DRAFT:  Here's ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper's list of the top 10 guards in the draft.

1. * Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame

2. Braden Smith, Auburn

3. Will Hernandez, UTEP

4. Isaiah Wynn, Georgia

5. Cody O'Connell, Washington State

6. * Sam Jones, Arizona State

7. Brendan Mahon, Penn State

8. Austin Corbett, Nevada

9. KC McDermott, Miami (Fla.)

10. Wyatt Teller, Virginia Tech


About the Author

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