Cover 9@9: Dungy -- Falcons must ‘take some pressure off Matt Ryan’

1. Dungy believes Falcons can make some noise in NFC South. Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy, a NBC analyst, was at the Falcons' last exhibition game against the Miami Dolphins in Orlando.

He was hoping to see his old pupil Dwight Freeney play, but the sackmaster was held out with a back injury.

Dungy went on 92.9 The Game’s Dukes and Bell show and discussed what he thought of the Falcons on Tuesday.

He believes Freeney can still play.

“I’ll tell you this, coach (Dan) Quinn is really fired up about the speed he’s getting on defense,” Dungy said. “Those young linebackers and secondary people that he’s drafted, he wants to be a fast team. I think Dwight is going to help him in that regard.”

The Falcons didn’t play well against the Dolphins and were defeated 17-6. But Dungy was impressed.

“I liked the energy level,” Dungy said. “I think the players believe in what (Quinn) is really (teaching).  (I) watched them play with energy and enthusiasm the other night. I think that mindset is going to be there.

“He doing things a little bit differently than perhaps Mike Smith did. I know that he loves the way the Seahawks defense was fast and aggressive. He’s building that in.”

Dungy believes the key for the Falcons is their rushing attack.

“Offensively, I think the really have to continue to do some things to take some pressure off Matt Ryan,” Dungy said. “Matt is a tremendous quarterback. They had success in the passing game, but they are going to have to be complete and run the football well. …I think he’s bringing that mindset in. Very much like what they did in Seattle, have a strong physical running attack, throw the ball very well and very efficiently and then fly around on defense.”

Overall, Dungy stopped just short of saying the Falcons will dethrone the Carolina Panthers in the NFC South.

“I think you’re going to see some good things out of the Falcons,” Dungy said. “This is a great year to be in it. Carolina is a good football team, but I don’t know if they are really a 15-1 team. I think the Falcons are sitting in good shape in this division to make some noise.”

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

2. Quinn on anthem, protests. Falcons coach Dan Quinn addressed the protest of San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick with the team.

“We had a nice meeting about that, actually,” Quinn said. “We know that we are one team. We would hope that if anybody wanted to demonstrate in any way for any cause that they’d consult their teammates on that. We want to make sure whatever we are doing we represent our team.”

Kaepernkick has been protesting the treatment of African-Americans during the exhibition season by sitting down during the national anthem. His actions have caused a firestorm league-wide.

Quinn message didn’t address the merits of the protest

“It’s our team,” Quinn said. “Our city. Our owner and the organization. They are one group. One team and one fight.”

Away from the team, players may have their own protests.

“What we do outside of that, we support our brothers,” Quinn said. “But we’d hope that if we are all together that we’d use that with our best intentions to make sure that everything is about the team especially when we are at a ball game.”

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The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s D. Orlando Ledbetter and Noah Coslov talk about cutting down the preseason, the two players to focus on Thursday night and the preparation for the regular season opener.

3. Fuller to injured reserve. Quinn said rookie wide receiver Devin Fuller, who suffered a shoulder injury, and will be placed on injured reserve on Tuesday.

The Falcons are set to add running back to fill his roster spot.

Fuller suffered the injury during the exhibition game against the Dolphins Thursday in Orlando.’

The Falcons selected Fuller in the seventh round of the draft out of UCLA with the hope he might provide value as a kick returner. But fellow rookie wide receiver J.D. McKissic has been the star kick returner in exhibition games. That development, plus the depth at wide receiver, made Fuller a long shot to make the final roster.

4. Practice squad poaching.  In addition to the competition for roster spots, several players will be auditioning for the practice squad positions when the Falcons (2-1) play the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-2) at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Georgia Dome.

The 15 players released in the cut down to 75 players are generally no under consideration to be brought back as practice squad members.

Quarterback Sean Renfree was released because Matt Schaub won the No. 2 spots and Matt Simms has practice squad eligibility.

The players the Falcons want to keep, they don’t want them out on the open market, right away.

“If we are thinking about bringing them back, we’d like to have them through the final cut and then make the decision fairly quickly after so that another team doesn’t poach,” Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said.

5. Right guard update. Quinn stopped short of naming Chris Chester as the winner of the raging right

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

guard battle.

“We’ll go with Chris Chester going into this week and we’ll make a decision once this week is done,” Quinn said.  “Both guys have done a good job battling.”

The Falcons have been working rookie Wes Schweitzer at right guard. Mike Person and Ben Garland have also been in the mix.

Chester, 33, started 16 games at right guard last season for the Falcons.  The Falcons attempted to replace Chester in free agency with guard J.R. Sweezy, but were out-bid by Tampa Bay. The Bucs paid Sweezy $32.5 million over five years.

After missing on Sweezy, the Falcons re-signed Chester on April 20 to a one-year contract. With Chester needing offseason shoulder surgery, the Falcons had to look to upgrade his spot.

“I really commend Chris on the way that he’s come back,” Quinn said. “He had a shoulder injury and just the amount of work that he’s put in has been impressive.”

Schweitzer, a sixth-round pick out of San Jose State, appears to be the future at the position and would probably be better served by playing the backup swing guard spot as a rookie.

“But you have to say the same for Wes Schweitzer too, in terms of his battle and his commitment to playing physical in the run game so we’ll have a tough decision on that one,” Quinn said.

6. Goldson to play. Falcons safety Kemal Ishmael will miss the final exhibition game because of a shoulder injury while recently-signed veteran safety Dashon Goldson will make his debut.

Ishmael is the projected starter at strong safety until Keanu Neal’s expected return from knee surgery in three to four weeks.

The Falcons signed Goldson on Sunday for added depth in the wake of Neal’s injury. They had two rookie free agents, Sharrod Neasman and Damian Parms, at strong safety behind Ishmael before adding Goldson.

Goldson is a nine-year veteran but his late signing means he’ll have to quickly absorb the intricacies of the Falcons’ defense.

“He’s done a nice job this week in terms of learning and applying,” Quinn said. “We won’t overload him but we definitely want to get him some work and get him back into the action.”

7. Free rides to the game. Miller Lite is partnering with MARTA and United Distributing to provide fans with a safe and free way to the season opener on Sept. 11. Miller Lite and Falcons representatives will be onsite at H.E. Holmes, Indian Creek, College Park and Lindbergh MARTA stations ahead of kickoff on Sunday, September 11, and Sunday, October 2, between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. giving away free, round-trip Breeze cards.

8. Falcons are longshots. The Falcons are 50/1 longshots to win Super Bowl LI and are 3/1 to make the playoffs in 2016, according to

Carolina is 9/1 to win the Super Bowl. Tampa Bay and New Orleans are 60/1 to win the Super Bowl.

Quarterback Matt Ryan is 95/1 to win the most valuable player award and is 9/1 to lead the league in interceptions.

Dan Quinn is 75/1 to be the first coach fired during the season. San Diego’s Mike McCoy is the favorite at 4/1.

9. Depth chart. Here's the Falcons official depth chart for the Jacksonville game.


WR 11 Julio Jones,16 Justin Hardy, 14 Eric Weems, 87 Devin Fuller, 6 Corey Washington

LT 70 Jake Matthews, 76 Tom Compton,66 Laurence Gibson

LG 67 Andy Levitre, 71 Wes Schweitzer, 64 Collin Rahrig

C 51 Alex Mack, 63 Ben Garland

RG 65 Chris Chester, 68 Mike Person

RT 73 Ryan Schraeder, 72 Bryce Harris

TE 83 Jacob Tamme, 81 Austin Hooper, 80 Levine Toilolo

86 D.J. Tialavea, 82 Joshua Perkins

WR 12 Mohamed Sanu,19 Aldrick Robinson,15 Nick Williams, 85 J.D. McKissic

QB 2 Matt Ryan, 8 Matt Schaub, 4 Matt Sims

RB 24 Devonta Freeman, 26 Tevin Coleman, 28 Terron Ward, 20 Brandon Wilds

FB 42 Patrick DiMarco


DE 99 Adrian Clayborn, 50 Brooks Reed, 93 Dwight Freeney, 96 Nordly Capi

DT 94 Tyson Jackson , 95 Jonathan Babineaux, 98 Cory Johnson

DT 97 Grady Jarrett, 91 Courtney Upshaw, 92 Joey Mbu

DE 90 Derrick Shelby, 77 Ra’Shede Hageman, 54 Malliciah Goodman

LB 44 Vic Beasley Jr., 41 Philip Wheeler, 52 Tyler Starr

LB 55 Paul Worrilow, 45 Deion Jones, 53 LaRoy Reynolds, 46 Matt Wells

LB 56 Sean Weatherspoon, 59 De’Vondre Campbell

CB 23 Robert Alford, 32 Jalen Collins, 29 C.J. Goodwin

CB 21 Desmond Trufant, 25 Akeem King, 34 Brian Poole, 43 DeMarcus Van Dyke, 33 Devonte Johnson

S 37 Ricardo Allen, 27 Robenson Therezie, 20 Sharrod Neasman

S 22 Keanu Neal, 36 Kemal Ishmael, 38 Dashon Goldson, 40 Damian Parms


K 3 Matt Bryant, 17 Shayne Graham

KO 5 Matt Bosher

P 5 Matt Bosher

KR 26 Tevin Coleman,14 Eric Weems, 87 Devin Fuller, 85 J.D. McKissic

PR 14 Eric Weems, 87 Devin Fuller, 85 J.D. McKissic

LS 47 Josh Harris

H 5 Matt Bosher


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