Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver chases down a ball carrier during his team's game against Arizona.

Cover 9@9: Ed Oliver would look great in Red and Black 

1. Oliver is mean and nasty: With the Falcons officially eliminated from the playoffs, it won’t be utterly disrespectful to take a peek at draft prospects.

Currently, the Falcons (5-9) are sitting on the No. 6 overall draft spot. They could win their final two games and drop out of the top 10.

Win the games. Don’t let a loser’s mentality creep into the locker room.  

The difference from six to 17 or so could be significant, but that should not be a problem if the Falcons just take the best player available with their pick.

The draft is not an exact science as we can cite several needs-based picks that have not turned out well (Jamaal Anderson over Darrelle Revis and Marshawn Lynch -- 2007; Peria Jerry over Clay Matthews -- 2009 and some would contend Vic Beasley over Todd Gurley -- 2015).

Take the best player, improve the team. 

If the Falcons end up picking sixth overall, they need to grab Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver. Some won’t like that he went after his coach over the sideline coat wearing incident, but that’s the type of nasty and mean player the Falcons need. 

Some will also advocate for any of the Clemson defensive linemen.

Christian Wilkins is my favorite. He’s mean and nasty. He does weird things in the pile ups. I’m not sure how that will go over in the NFL. 

But he’s big, fast and mean. 

He’s not going to get pushed around.

The Falcons need offensive linemen (guard), but the college ranks are not producing NFL-ready linemen by the bushel. Quinton Nelson and Ryan Ramczyk are the exceptions.

The draft is a long way off. It will be held April 25-27, 2019 in Nashville. 

Ohio State’s Nick Bosa is projected by many to be the No. 1 overall pick. I’d take Alabama’s Quinnen Williams over Bosa.

Oliver, Mississippi State’s Jeff Simmons, Auburn’s Derrick Brown are the top defensive tackles.  

2. Freeman is done for 2018: Falcons running back Devonta Freeman will not return to play in the final two games of the season, coach Dan Quinn said on his weekly radio show on Wednesday. 

“He won’t make it back,” Quinn said on 92.9 The Game during an interview with John Fricke and Jon Chuckery. 

3. Coordinators on the hot seat: With the Falcons officially eliminated from the playoffs, speculation about the future has started.

“There’s a strong possibility of significant changes to Dan Quinn’s #Falcons staff, including replacing OC Steve Sarkisian,” NFL Network reporter Tom Pelissero tweeted Tuesday.

On the broadcast report which aired on the network, which is owned by the NFL’s teams, both coordinators are mentioned as candidates to be terminated.

“At this point Andrew (Siciliano), it sounds like a strong possibility that there will be significant changes to coach Dan Quinn’s coaching staff,” Pelissero said. “Now, owner Arthur Blank has already said that he doesn’t think Quinn is the problem. My understanding is that Dan Quinn, who got a contract extension through 2022 just last summer, is absolutely going to be back. But this is a possibility here that he could end up cleaning out both of his coordinators. That’s offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian and defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel. I would not be surprised if he overhauls things on both sides of the ball.” 

4. Langford promoted:  Falcons promoted running back Jeremy Langford to the 53-man roster after placing  running back Ito Smith on injured reserve  Tuesday.

Langford, a fourth-round pick (106th overall) by the Bears in 2015, played at Michigan State. He played in 28 games with the Bears in 2015 and 2016, making five starts. 

Langford rushed 210 times for 737 yards and 10 touchdowns and caught 41 passes for 21 yards and a touchdown with the Bears. 

He’s also spent time with the Ravens, Jets and Dolphins. 

5. Practice squad update: The Falcons also waived wide receiver Julian Williams and signed wide receiver Christian Blake and offensive lineman Chris Durant to the practice squad.

6. Will Cam Newton play?:  Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has been playing hurt.

After losing 12-9 to New Orleans on Monday night, the Panthers’ sixth consecutive loss, the franchise is having the tough conversation about whether to bench the former league MVP.

So when the Falcons (5-9) face the Panthers (6-8) at 1 p.m. Sunday at Bank of America Stadium, Newton, a former standout at Westlake High and Heisman Trophy winner from Auburn, might not be in the lineup.

Carolina coach Ron Rivera plans to meet with Newton later in the week before he makes a decision. 

"It's a tough situation right now," Rivera told the Associated Press on Tuesday. "Until I get a chance to visit with him I'm not going to speculate."

Newton has had complications from his 2016 shoulder surgery and that has played a role in the Panthers’ slide.

After the Saints’ game, he discussed his shoulder soreness at length. 

“It doesn’t matter how much you push,” Newton said to the Charlotte media during the postgame news conference. “Ice, anti-inflammatories you take. ... I mean, trust me, I did it. Acupuncture. Massages. It’s just not been a time that (a) night has gone by without me getting some type of work done on my arm. 

“We just don’t have the strength, from the range of motion.”

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 09: Taylor Heinicke #6 of the Carolina Panthers passes the ball during the second quarter against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on December 9, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images

7. Heinicke’s turn?:  Newton’s backup is Taylor Heinicke, who played at Collins Hill High and Old Dominion. He’s completed 2 of 4 passes for 46 yards this season.

Heinicke has spent time with the Vikings, Patriots and Texans. He has played in six NFL games. 

8. McCaffery alert: The Panthers’ offense has been powered by running back Christian McCaffery and a slew of short passes from Newton. 

McCaffery, who leads the Panthers in rushing and receiving, has rushed 194 times for 979 yards and seven touchdowns. He’s caught 94 passes for 768 yards and six touchdowns. 

9. Depth chart: The Falcons released their official depth chart for Sunday’s game against the Panthers on Tuesday.

The Falcons (5-9) are set to play the Panthers (6-8) at 1 p.m. Sunday at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. 

We made the switches based on the last game of who’s been starting at right guard and right tackle. Also, we slotted Bruce Irvin at linebacker, where he’s been spending some time over the past two 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, Jeremy Langford

FB 30 Ricky Ortiz


DE 44 Vic Beasley Jr., 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


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About the Author

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