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 are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, bracing for some staff changes and have a chance to finish 7-9.
1. Stay or Go, Unrestricted Free Agency edition: With the Falcons just playing for pride, here’s an early look at the roster heading into the regular-season finale.
While we’re working on the “Stay or Go” roster evaluation earlier than normal, we’ll look at the potential unrestricted free agents and make our determination.
Grady Jarrett, defensive tackle. Stay. The team stated that he was a priority after the round of contracts were handed out last season. He’s had another fine season. His market value is $15.3 million per year, according to spotrac.com.
Tevin Coleman, running back. Go. There is too much money out there for Coleman not to go into free agency. The Falcons seem to hold out hope that he’ll return and continue to be paired with Devonta Freeman. “For sure everything's on the table,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said when asked about Coleman staying. “Like I said, when we're in the scenario that we're in, which we're not very pleased at, you evaluate anything and everything. So, yeah, we're certainly going to consider every single option in every way.” Two words: Jerick McKinnon. (Four years, $30 million.)
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Bruce Irvin, linebacker/end. Stay. Find some money to keep him.
Andy Levitre, left guard. Go. The same injury two consecutive seasons is a red flag. Maybe as cheap insurance.
Matt Schaub, quarterback. Go. Find the next backup quarterback and use his money on a position player.
Derrick Shelby, defensive end. Go. He hasn’t been able to stay healthy. Wonderful and awesome guy.
Terrell McClain, defensive tackle. Go. Was a place-holder this season.
Ben Garland, guard. Go. He’s been given plenty of opportunities to show he’s not an NFL-level guard.
Logan Paulsen, tight end. Stay. Veteran has been a steadying influence on Austin Hooper.
Justin Bethel, cornerback. Stay. Special-teams mavens are hard to find.
Justin Hardy, wide receiver. Stay. This won’t be a mega-deal, but he’s the type of dependable player as Eric Weems.
Kemal Ishmael, linebacker. Go. Improve the depth at the position.
Ty Sambrailo, tackle. Stay. Has played well down the stretch after taking over at right tackle for Ryan Schraeder.
Bruce Carter, linebacker. Go. Provided quality veteran depth.
Jon Condo, long snapper. Go. Josh Harris should return from injured reserve and was signed to a contract extension.
Jordan Richards, strong safety. Stay. Was a serviceable backup.
Zane Beadles, guard. Go. He should be replaced via free agency or in the draft.
Steven Means, defensive end. Stay. He essentially can take over Shelby’s role in the defensive line rotation.
2. Jones, Coleman updates: Wide receiver Julio Jones played with rib and hip injuries against the Panthers, and Coleman suffered a groin strain. Quinn was not ready to rule out either player for the finale.
“(Coleman) strained his groin in the game, and we’ll take him through the week and he’ll take some of the walk-throughs Wednesday and into Thursday and as we get into that, we'll have a better assessment,” Quinn said.
Jones likely won’t practice much again this week, but is expected to play.
“I suspect that will be the case again this (week) in terms of him battling for it again, but he is a rare competitor and an exceptional leader for us,” Quinn said.
3. Series history: Sunday’s game will be the 51st regular-season meeting between the Falcons and the Buccaneers. The Falcons lead the series 26-24. The Falcons won the last meeting 34-29 on Oct. 14.
The Falcons won the last meeting in Tampa, a 24-21 victory on Dec. 18, 2017.
4. Turnover king: The Bucs don’t take care of the football. They had two turnovers converted into touchdowns in the 27-20 loss to Dallas on Sunday. The Bucs are a minus-18 in turnover differential, which ranks 31st of 32 NFL teams.
5. Interception king: Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston and Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles have both thrown 57 interceptions over the past for seasons to lead the league. Winston has thrown 13 interceptions this season. Tampa Bay coach Dirk Koetter noted that Winston took his check-down receivers 13 times against Dallas. He did force a couple of throws into coverage, but didn’t throw an interception.
6. Yards per play: The Falcons average 6.14 yards per play in 2018, which is the sixth-most in the NFL and currently the second-highest yards per play average in franchise history.
7. Moving the chains: Jones has 73 receptions that have led to first downs, which ranks first in the NFL. Twenty-one of those receptions have come on third down, which ranks tied for the second most in the league. Houston’s DeAndre Hopkins has 74.
8. Film-review report card: Take a look back at the 24-10 win over the Panthers.
9. Depth chart: The Falcons released their official depth chart Monday for the Tampa Bay game.
Some adjustments were made to reflect this actual starters from recent games:
WR 11 Julio Jones, 14 Justin Hardy, 17 Marvin Hall
LT 70 Jake Matthews, 74 Ty Sambrailo
LG 71 Wes Schweitzer
C 51 Alex Mack, 71 Wes Schweitzer
RG 69 Zane Beadles, 63 Ben Garland
RT 74 Ty Sambrailo, 73 Ryan Schraeder, 77 Matt Gono
TE 81 Austin Hooper, 82 Logan Paulsen, 85 Eric Saubert
WR 12 Mohamed Sanu, 18 Calvin Ridley, 83 Russell Gage
QB 2 Matt Ryan, 8 Matt Schaub
RB 26 Tevin Coleman, 32 Brian Hill, 43 Jeremy Langford
FB 30 Ricky Ortiz
DE 44 Vic Beasley, 52 Bruce Irvin, 56 Steven Means
DT 99 Terrell McClain, 94 Deadrin Senat
DT 97 Grady Jarrett, 95 Jack Crawford, 92 Justin Zimmer
DE 98 Takk McKinley, 50 Brooks Reed
WLB 54 Foyesade Oluokun, 42 Duke Riley, 36 Kemal Ishmael
MLB 45 Deion Jones, 55 Bruce Carter
SLB 59 De’Vondre Campbell, 52 Bruce Irvin
CB 23 Robert Alford, 20 Isaiah Oliver, 33 Blidi Wreh-Wilson
CB 21 Desmond Trufant, 34 Brian Poole, 28 Justin Bethel
FS 27 Damontae Kazee, 40 Ryan Neal
SS 29 Jordan Richards, 41 Sharrod Neasman
K 3 Matt Bryant, 4 Giorgio Tavecchio
KO 5 Matt Bosher
P 5 Matt Bosher
KR 17 Marvin Hall, 14 Justin Hardy
PR 14 Justin Hardy, 17 Marvin Hall
LS 46 Jon Condo
H 5 Matt Bosher