Cover 9@9: Can Arthur Smith fix Josh Rosen like he did Ryan Tannehill?

(Here’s our weekly nine items at 9 a.m. Wednesday on the Atlanta Falcons, otherwise known as the Cover 9@9 blog!)

1. The no spin zone. How does one go from being a top-10 pick in the NFL draft to getting described as a “camp body” and “slow processor” of defenses?

The Falcons signed Josh Rosen, who was selected 10th overall in the 2018 draft out of UCLA, on Tuesday.

ExploreHistory of Matt Ryan’s backup quarterbacks

The Falcons will be his fifth team and likely his last stop on the NFL train.

His NFL story starts in Arizona. He was selected by the Cardinals and general manager Steve Keim for first-year coach Steve Wilks.

After a season, Wilks, who did a great job with the Panthers in the NFC South for years, was fired and Rosen was traded to make way for quarterback Kyler Murray. Kliff Kingsbury, with no NFL head coaching experience, was hired.

The Dolphins thought enough of Rosen to give up a second-round pick in 2019 and a fifth-round pick in 2020. Adam Gase, who’s since been fired by the Dolphins and Jets, was the coach of the Dolphins at the time.

Gase apparently thought he could salvage Rosen’s career.

Rosen was ineffective with the Dolphins. He couldn’t read defenses fast enough, and those questions about his love for the game resurfaced. Before the draft, his former UCLA coach, Jim Mora (yeah, the former Falcons coach), pointed out that Rosen needed to be “challenged intellectually” and attributed that to Rosen being a “millennial.”

He nearly broke Twitter like the crate challenge is doing right now.

The Dolphins lost their first two games by a combined score of 102-10, and Rosen was given the chance to start. Rosen made three consecutive starts against the Cowboys, the Chargers and Washington, but was pulled late in the third quarter against Washington with the Dolphins down 17-3.

After seeing enough of Rosen, the Dolphins handed the ball back to longtime journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick and tried to trade Rosen.

The Dolphins drafted former Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa with the fifth overall pick in 2020. After finding no takers for Rosen, the Dolphins released him.

The next stop was Tampa Bay where Rosen was signed to the practice squad. He was signed by the 49ers in December. They would later trade up to No. 3 and draft quarterback Trey Lance. After playing in the exhibition opener against Kansas City on Aug. 14, Rosen was released by the 49ers last week.

With the injury to AJ McCarron, the Falcons were in need of a quarterback and brought Rosen in for a tryout Monday. Blake Bortles also worked out of the Falcons, according to NFL Media. Rosen was signed Tuesday.

Some believe he’s just here for a short-time stint and if either Logan Whiteside (Titans) or Trevor Siemian (Saints) are cut, the Falcons will try to claim them on waivers. Falcons coach Arthur Smith worked with both of them in Tennessee.

But if Rosen is here for more than a week, could the Falcons help to save his career?

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Smith is widely credited with turning around quarterback Ryan Tannehill in Tennessee. After six mediocre seasons in Miami, Tannehill, who was 42-46 as a starter, was traded to the Titans.

The Dolphins sent Tannehill and a 2019 sixth-round pick to Nashville for a 2019 seventh-round pick and a 2020 fourth-round pick.

Tannehill was the eighth overall pick by the Dolphins in 2012. The Titans benched Marcus Mariota after a 2-4 start, and Tannehill went 8-5 and guided the Titans to the AFC title game after the 2019 season.

With Smith calling the plays and working to Tannehill’s strengths, the QB went to the first Pro Bowl and was the NFL’s passing leader. He won the league’s comeback player of the year award.

Last season, Tannehill took the Titans back to the playoffs.

So, we’ll have to see if Rosen is just here for a cup of coffee or if the Falcons will try to resurrect his career.

Can Smith at least turn him into a backup who could get the team through a game in a pinch and maybe sub for a couple of weeks if something happens to Matt Ryan?

That’s the job of the backup quarterback.

2. Smith will have Rosen ready to play vs. Browns: Smith said that the Titans were in a similar situation in 2014 when Charlie Whitehurst was the only available quarterback. They signed Jordan Palmer on a Monday and had him ready to be the backup by Thursday against Jacksonville.

“I remember spending that whole Monday trying to teach him protections and all that stuff, and to Jordan’s credit, he had a little box of plays if he had to go in there, and he didn’t,” Smith said. “With the whole week, you can certainly limit it.”

Rosen will at least be ready for emergency duty.

“I just think it’s unfair to throw somebody out there and say here, here’s the entire game plan, you better be able to operate,” Smith said.

Rosen was listed as the co-No. 2 quarterback with Feleipe Franks in the team’s updated official depth chart.

Credit: Jeff Chiu

Credit: Jeff Chiu

3. Rookie report: We got a little busy with the quarterback situation after the 37-17 smackdown in Miami and didn’t get to the rookie report. Rookie first-round pick Kyle Pitts was held out and is set to make his NFL debut on national television when the Falcons host the Browns on Sunday night.

Here’s how the rest of the rookies performed against the Dolphins:

Richie Grant, S, Central Florida -- Second round (40th overall): It was kind of a quiet evening for Grant who had just one pass breakup and one special-teams tackle. He played 37 defensive snaps (54%). He’s apparently still coming along and learning the defense because with Erik Harris out of practice Monday, Jaylinn Hawkins took over at free safety and not Grant.

Jalen Mayfield, G, Michigan -- Third round (68th overall): He continued to get valuable experience in this one. He played some left guard and later right tackle over 45 offensive snaps (88%). “There’s a lot of things to build off of,” Mayfield said. “I thought for the most part I did pretty well, but I know there’s a lot I need to clean up. Technically, I’m not where I want to be yet. Playing both tonight, I felt pretty comfortable doing both.” He now has 72 NFL snaps under his belt.

Darren Hall, CB, San Diego State -- Fourth round (108th overall): He played 18 snaps (26%) and had a tackle.

Drew Dalman, C, Stanford -- Fourth round (114th overall): He started the game at center and played 45 snaps (88). He’s on the same developmental plan as Mayfield and now has 72 NFL snaps.

Ta’Quon Graham, DT, Texas -- Fifth round (148th overall): He had a quiet evening over 47 defensives snaps (68%).

Adetokunbo Ogundeji, OLB, Notre Dame -- Fifth round (182nd overall): He played 37 defensive snaps (54%) and had two tackles, a quarterback hit, a pass breakup and one special-teams tackle.

Avery Williams, CB, Boise State -- Fifth round (183th overall): He put the offense in great field position with a 28-yard kickoff return to start the game. He has three kickoff returns for 79 yards. He now has six kickoff returns for 164 yards.

Frank Darby, WR, Arizona State -- Sixth round (187th overall): He caught both passes thrown his way for 27 yards.


Javian Hawkins, RB, Louisville: He had five carries for 46 yards, but that was not enough to keep him on the roster. He was released Tuesday.

Caleb Huntley, RB, Ball State (Locust Grove HS): He had six carries for 57 yards, including a 30-yard touchdown run. He also had a fumble that was recovered by the Falcons.

J.R. Pace, CB, Northwestern (Woodward Academy): He had four tackles.

Feleipe Franks, QB, Florida/Arkansas: He completed 4 of 9 passes for 46 yards, was sacked four times and tossed an interception. He finished with passer rating of 20.8.

Kion Smith, OT, Fayetteville State: He played 22 snaps, (43%).

Dorian Etheridge, ILB, Louisville: He finished with seven tackles over 30 defensive snaps (43%).

Dwayne Johnson, S, San Diego State: He finished with six tackles and one special-teams tackle.

Zac Dawe, DL, Brigham Young: Was scrappy in the trenches. Finished with four tackles.

5. Local Browns: Everybody knows about Browns running back Nick Chubb (Cedartown/Georgia), but the Browns also have safety Richard LeCounte (Georgia) and tight end Harrison Bryant (native of Macon, and attended John Milledge Academy in Milledgeville) on the roster.

Also, they have former Falcons Austin Hooper and Takk McKinley.

LeCounte, who was taken in the sixth round of the draft, is having a strong training camp for the Browns.

6. Ledbetter update. Dolphins defensive end Jonathan Ledbetter, who played at Tucker and Georgia, played 19 defensive snaps (39%) and made two tackles against the Falcons.

Ledbetter, who was signed as an undrafted free agent after the 2019 draft, is coming off an ACL and didn’t play last season. He made the team in 2019

The Dolphins placed Ledbetter on injured reserve after his surgery and paid him $142,800 of his $610,000 salary.

7. Cut down day: In addition to cutting down to 53 by 4 p.m. Aug. 31, the Falcons will be active monitoring the waiver wire.

“We feel like we’ve had pretty good competition,” Smith said. “I mean some of them are painfully obvious, like Matt (Ryan), Jake (Matthews), Grady. (Jarrett). You’re pretty comfortable with at least a third of it.”

By playing the reserves in two exhibition blowouts (23-3 to Titans and 37-17 to the Dolphins) the team’s depth has been called into question.

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

8. Punter competition: The punting competition between Dom Maggio and Cameron Nizialek is going down to the wire.

“That was Dom’s first game (against the Dolphins),” Smith said. “He didn’t get a (exhibition) season last year. This is his first time punting in the NFL, and again, you hope you don’t have a bunch of punts Sunday night, but if we do those guys will be competing, so that punter competition is still going and still going strong.”

Sterling Hofrichter, last season’s punter, is on injured reserve. Maggio, the first player signed by the new regime, is the favorite.

9. 2021 official depth chart: To reach the league-required roster limit of 80 players by 4 p.m. Tuesday, the Falcons cut running back Javian Hawkins, linebacker Shareef Miller, offensive lineman Willie Wright, wide receiver Austin Trammell, and nose tackle Olive Sagapolu.

Trammell played six snaps against the Dolphins and had a target.

Wright played 22 offensive snaps (43%), Sagapolu and Miller both played 17 defensive snaps (25%) against the Dolphins.

The Falcons, who play the Cleveland Browns at 8 p.m. Sunday night at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, must trim down to the 53-man roster by 4 p.m. Aug. 31.

On Sept. 1, the Falcons may establish a practice squad of 16 players, (teams participating in the International Player Development Program may sign one additional international player to the roster.)

(NOTE: It’s considered official because the team released it. The team, however, considers their own depth chart to be unofficial.)


WR - Calvin Ridley, Christian Blake, Chris Rowland, Juwan Green, Antonio Nunn

TE - Hayden Hurst, Kyle Pitts, John Raine

LT - Jake Matthews, Jason Spriggs, Kion Smith

LG - Josh Andrews, Sam Jones, Ryan Neuzil

C - Matt Hennessy, Drew Dalman, Joe Sculthorpe

RG - Chris Lindstrom,

RT - Willie Beavers, Kaleb McGary, Jalen Mayfield

TE - Lee Smith, Parker Hesse, David Wells

WR - Russell Gage, Olamide Zaccheaus, Tajae Sharpe, Trevor Davis, Frank Darby

RB - Mike Davis, Cordarrelle Patterson, Keith Smith, Qadree Ollison, D’Onta Foreman, Caleb Huntley

QB - Matt Ryan, Josh Rosen, Feleipe Franks


DL - Grady Jarrett, Marlon Davidson, Ta’Quon Graham

NT - Tyeler Davison, Chris Slayton, Eli Ankou

DL - Jonathan Bullard, John Cominsky, Zac Dawe

OLB - Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, Brandon Copeland, Adetokunbo Ogundeji

ILB - Deion Jones, Mykal Walker, Dorian Etheridge

ILB - Foyesade Oluokun, Emmanuel Ellerbee, Erroll Thompson

OLB - Steven Means, Dante Fowler, Tuzar Skipper, Kobe Jones

LCB - A.J. Terrell, Chris Williamson, Kendall Sheffield

FS - Erik Harris, T.J. Green, Richie Grant

SS - Duron Harmon, Jaylinn Hawkins, JR Pace, Dwayne Johnson

RCB - Fabian Moreau, Isaiah Oliver, Delrick Abrams, Darren Hall, Avery Williams


K - Younghoe Koo, Cameron Nizialek

P - Cameron Nizialek, Dom Maggio

LS - Josh Harris, Jake Matthews

H - Cameron Nizialek, Dom Maggio

PR - Chris Rowland, Avery Williams

KOR - Cordarrelle Patterson, Chris Rowland

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