Cover 9@9: Five Senior Bowl players on the Falcons' radar screen

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. This is the Senior Bowl edition and we're operating on CST, so it's not 9 a.m. over here on the Gulf Coast.

1. QUINN AT THE SENIOR BOWL: Falcons coach Dan Quinn is making the rounds at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.

He’d much rather be getting ready to play in the Super Bowl for the fourth time in five seasons, but the Falcons came up two yards short against the Eagles in the divisional round of the playoffs.

“It’s a sign of the re-set to 2018,” Quinn told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday between Senior Bowl practices. “Likely, somebody here will be on our team. I think of it that way. Although I don’t want to be seeing you this week. I’m going to make the best use of (my time).”

Quinn watched practices with general manager Thomas Dimitroff. The Falcons scouting department is also attending the practices and conducting interviews with prospects.

Quinn has a list of four or five guys that the scouting department has asked him to take an in-depth look.

“We look at a number of guys,” Quinn said. “For me, I can’t look at everybody here, but because of the scouting staff and what they know, I’ve got a number of guys that I can dial in on.

“At this (North team) practice, these are the four or five guys that I want to leave with an evaluation that I really free strongly about. There will be some other guys that catch your eye, but when I leave after a couple of days of practice, I have a very good sense of those players, that they said, ‘Dan, we’d really like you to dig in on these guys.’”

Last season, the Falcons selected linebacker Duke Riley and cornerback Damontae Kazee in the draft after both participated in the Senior Bowl.

“We saw the tapes from here last year,” Quinn said. “The scouts were here. I didn’t come to this one last year (Super Bowl preparation), but there are times like this that you see the competitiveness. You know how important that is to us.”

Kazee and Riley’s competitive nature at the Senior Bowl helped them get drafted by the Falcons.

“You heard about (Kazee) wanting to be the first in line,” Quinn said. “He challenged everybody at receiver. That means something. I’m looking for that here as well."

Quinn is catching up to the work that the scouts have already done.

“Sometimes, for me, I haven’t seen these players on tape yet,” Quinn said. “I want just a fresh first look at them. The scouts are on the tail end of it. They’ve seen them as sophomores, juniors and senior years. Now, this is the last time that we’ll see them play before they get to the physical testing stuff. This is where the scouts are really on it.”

Quinn was looking closely at the one-on-one matchups off the offensive and defensive linemen.

“I like the enthusiasm of the group,” Quinn said. “There are a number of guys that I’d really like to dig-in on both teams.”

2. FALCONS RADAR: Here are five players on the Falcons’ radar screen at the Senior Bowl:

3. SULLIVAN: Chandon Sullivan, cornerback, Georgia State (Winder, Ga. Winder- Barrow High): He’s the first Panthers player to be invited to the Senior Bowl. The four-year starter will also participate in the NFL scouting combine.

“I just have to show them that I’m a complete corner and that I can play coverage,” Sullivan said. “I can play zone coverage. I’m capable of doing whatever teams need me to do at the next level. That’s what I hope to accomplish.”

He plans to make Georgia State proud.

“It’s a blessing just to be here from Georgia State,” Sullivan said. “Building the program from ground zero. Having Phil Savage come down to Atlanta and actually see my talent and invite me here is a humbling experience. I’m ready to go out and show the world what I’m capable of.”

Sullivan interviewed with 15 to 20 teams over Sunday and Monday.

“The common thing is that they are ready to see how I’m going to compete against some of the top group of five receivers,” Sullivan said. “I’m just excited to get out here and show what I’m capable of.”

Sullivan faced NFL caliber talent in practice at Georgia State.

“We’ve got Albert Wilson with the Chiefs,” Sullivan said. “We had Robert Davis last year go to the Redskins. I’m familiar with NFL talent and guarding talent. I just have to come out here and compete.”

Sullivan felt he was under-recruited coming out of high school.

“Because I grew up in Winder, Georgia, it is a small town and it’s such in proximity to bigger schools like Buford and Gainesville where DeShaun Watson went,” Sullivan said. “These are all teams in my region. So, it was easy for college coaches or scouts to overlook me just because of my school.

“Georgia State was a good fit for me. It was only 45 minutes from my house and it worked out for me.”

4. KEEP AN EYE ON WYNN: Isaiah Wynn, offensive guard, Georgia: He started all 15 games for the Bulldogs at left tackle last season. He was selected to the Associated Press’ All-American second-team.

He was working at left guard in practice and dominating in his one-on-one matchups. The Falcons are closely watching Wynn, who’s a projected top-50 pick. He might not be around when the Falcons pick in the second round.

If the Falcons draft need, they’d have to take him in the first round.

5. GOSSETT INTERVIEWED WITH FALCONS SCOUT: Colby Gossett, offensive lineman, Appalachian State (North Forsyth High):  He started all 13 games at right guard last season. He made 46 consecutive starts.

He interviewed with one of the Falcons scouts.

“I just have to prove myself and show my physicality and how I ball,” Gossett said. “I just have to bring that down here to this level of competition.”

He was recruited mostly by Southern Conference schools.

“One of my coaches went down to a recruiting conference down in Atlanta and he met up with Chris Foster, who was the running backs coach at that time,” Gossett said. “They kind of hit it off. I took my visit up the Appalachian State and fell in love with the scenery and the weather. It took off from there.”

6. MATTHEWS DOES BOARD WORK FOR FALCONS: Tray Matthews, defensive back, Auburn (Newnan): He started his career at Georgia, but was kicked off the team.

He’s a middle of the field safety, who must show his range and ability to cover tight ends at the Senior Bowl.

He’s been interviewed by the Falcons.

“I just want to prove that I’m very versatile,” Matthews said.  “I can play free safety, strong safety and can come down in the box at linebacker and guard some tight ends.

“I’m very comfortable with (covering tight ends). I did some that in my junior year and senior year as well. I locked down a couple of tight ends. I can play in the box.”

Matthews felt his interview with the Falcons went well.

“They were asking me questions about the schemes I played in,” Matthews said. “I did a lot of board work. I did extremely well on it. I’ve been coached up hard by (Auburn defensive coordinator) coach (Kevin) Steele.”

We have a feature posting later today with Matthews discussing his dismissal from Georgia.

7. JONES AND CHUBB WENT TO N.C. STATE IN COBB COUNTY PACKAGE DEAL: Justin Jones, defensive tackle, N.C. State (South Cobb): He was second on the team with 8-1/2 tackles for losses and went to the school with Bradley Chubb (Hillgrove).

The Falcons are always looking to add some beef to the defensive line.

If the team gets into a bidding war trying to keep Dontari Poe, they might not have enough cash to win and will need to fortify the defensive tackle position. Jones weighed-in at 311.

(YOUTH FOOTBALL ASIDE: He didn't start playing until middle school, so he never faced Coach Led's Smyrna Spartans.)

8. NOT A SCHEME FEST: The plays will be simple at the Senior Bowl.

“Like I told the guys today, I have a 12-year-old son at home Michael, who can run these plays,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien said. “We are not re-inventing the wheel. You can only be in certain formations. This is not a scheme-fest. This is an evaluation-fest.

“This is a chance for the guys to really go out and compete. You really don’t want them thinking too much. Then, if they are, that might tell you something about them.”

9. MAYFIELD ARRIVES: Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield arrived and immediately addressed his character concerns and the comparisons to Johnny Manziel.


About the Author

D. Orlando Ledbetter
D. Orlando Ledbetter
D. Orlando Ledbetter is the Atlanta Falcons Beat Writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was one of the lead writers in the notorious Michael Vick...