Welcome to the Cover 9@9 blog - our weekly list of nine things on Wednesday that you need to know about the Atlanta Falcons.
1. AFC woes. The Falcons have struggled against AFC teams in recent years under coach Dan Quinn.
The Falcons (5-9) are 0-3 against AFC teams this season, with losses to the Colts (27-24 on Sept. 22), Titans (24-10 on Sept. 29) and Texans (53-32 on Oct.6).
The Falcons (5-9) play the Jaguars (5-9) at 1 p.m. Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the final home game of the season.
The Falcons have lost seven consecutive to AFC teams, with losses to the Browns, Bengals, Ravens and Steelers in 2018.
Their last win over an AFC team was against the Jets, 25-20 on Oct. 29, 2017.
When asked about the recent record against the AFC, Quinn called them “old wounds.”
2. Film review. We went over the game film but need to find out who was the missing player when the Falcons sent just 10 players on the field for the second half onside kick. Click here for the grades.
3. Bradley on Quinn. AJC columnist Mark Bradley has not been overly impressed with the Falcons 4-2 mark since the bye week. He duly notes that in the Falcons’ nine losses, they have trailed by 17 points.
4. Series record. This will be the seventh meeting between the Falcons and Jaguars. The series is tied, 3-3. The Falcons won the last meeting 23-17 on Dec. 20, 2015.
5. Foles situation. With the signing of quarterback Nick Foles, the Jaguars were a sexy preseason pick to return to the playoffs.
They were in the AFC championship game after the 2017 season and were considered a Super Bowl contender if they could just find a quarterback.
The finally cut ties with Blake Bortles and signed Foles as the new savior.
But the Foles’ signing hasn’t worked out and the Jaguars went back to rookie Gardner Minshew.
Foles, who guided the Eagles to an upset victory over the Falcons in the division round of the 2017 playoffs on his way to the Super Bowl LII title and MVP, was signed in free agency to a four-year, $88 million deal in March.
The Jaguars went all-in with $50.1 million in guaranteed money and would face a $33.87 million cap hit if they released him before June 1.
Foles suffered a broken clavicle in the season opener, a 40-26 loss the Chiefs. He returned to start three games, but was benched against the Buccaneers in a loss on Dec. 1.
Minshew, a sixth-round pick out of Washington State, returned to the lineup and is 5-5 as a starter after the win over the Raiders Sunday. He got hot and led a second-half comeback as he completed 17 of 29 passes for 201 yards. Over the final three possessions, he completed 14 of 18 passes for 142 yards and two touchdowns.
“Quarterback wise, he gets out of the pocket and he can rip it,” Quinn said. “He can run. He definitely has that gunslinger mentality when he can get outside to go.”
6. Conley stepping up for Jags. The Jaguars are hoping to get wide receiver D.J. Chark back from an ankle injury on Wednesday. He’s been cleared for running and has caught 67 passes for 956 yards and eight touchdowns.
“I think there’s a good chance he’ll be able to come back and play,” Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said. “That’s what his mindset is, and that’s good. He’s on the field running and cutting, and that’s a great sign.”
Former Georgia standout Chris Conley starts at wide receiver. He caught two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter to help the Jaguars rally over the Raiders.
“From a receiver standpoint, they’ve got real speed from a local guy like Chris Conley, D.J. Chark, and (Dede) Westbrook, all of those guys can really go,” Quinn said.
Conley, who started his career with the Chiefs after being selected in the third round of the 2015 draft, has 42 catches for 681 yards and four touchdowns.
7. Fournette the pass catcher. The Jaguars are leaning heavily on running back Leonard Fournette, who has 250 carries for 1,081 yards and three touchdowns. He’s also caught 73 passes for 488 yards.
“Fournette is probably having his best year,” Quinn said.
8. Pass rushers. On defense, the Jaguars have a stout line that’s anchored by Calais Campbell (6.5 sacks) and Yannick Ngakoue (eight sacks). Also, rookie Josh Allen, who was the seventh overall pick in the 2019 draft from Kentucky, has 10 sacks.
“Yannick’s probably coming off of his best game that he’s had from a standpoint of playing the run, rushing the passer,” Marrone said.
9. Depth chart. Falcons defensive end Takk McKinley (shoulder injury) was placed on injured reserve on Tuesday. The Falcons filled his roster spot by signing defensive end Austin Larkin from the practice squad.
McKinley started 13 of the 14 games this season. He had 29 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 13 quarterback hits.
Larkin saw time against the Buccaneers in Week 12.
Here’s the full depth chart for the Jaguars’ game that was released by the Falcons:
WR 11 Julio Jones, 83 Russell Gage, 13 Christian Blake
LT 70 Jake Matthews, 73 Matt Gono
LG 71 Wes Schweitzer, 77 James Carpenter, 75 John Wetzel
C 51 Alex Mack, 71 Wes Schweitzer
RG 63 Chris Lindstrom, 73 Matt Gono, 68 Jamon Brown
RT 76 Kaleb McGary, 74 Ty Sambrailo
TE 81 Austin Hooper, 80 Luke Stocker, 87 Jaeden Graham
WR 14 Justin Hardy, 17 Olamide Zaccheaus, 15 Brandon Powell
QB 2 Matt Ryan, 8 Matt Schaub
RB 24 Devonta Freeman, 23 Brian Hill, 38 Kenjon Barner, 32 Qadree Ollison
FB 40 Keith Smith
DE 99 Adrian Clayborn, 55 Austin Larkin
DT 97 Grady Jarrett, 95 Jack Crawford
DT 96 Tyeler Davison, 94 Deadrin Senat
DE 93 Allen Bailey, 50 John Cominsky
DE 44 Vic Beasley Jr., 91 Jacob Tuioti-Mariner
LB 59 De’Vondre Campbell, 54 Foyesade Oluokun
LB 45 Deion Jones, 52 Ahmad Thomas
CB 26 Isaiah Oliver, 33 Blidi Wreh-Wilson
CB 20 Kendall Sheffield. 28 Jordan Miller, 43 Jamar Taylor
S 37 Ricardo Allen, 41 Sharrod Neasman
S 27 Damontae Kazee, 36 Kemal Ishmael, 35 Jamal Carter
K 7 Younghoe Koo
KO 7 Younghoe Koo
P 9 Ryan Allen
LS 47 Josh Harris
H 9 Ryan Allen
KOR 38 Kenjon Barner
PR 38 Kenjon Barner
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