Cover 9@9: Emanuel on Grady Jarrett: ‘Most unselfish guy I’ve ever been around’

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) and Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett (97) react after a pass thrown by Tagovailoa was intercepted, during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (Hans Deryk/AP)
Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) and Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett (97) react after a pass thrown by Tagovailoa was intercepted, during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (Hans Deryk/AP)

Credit: Hans Deryk

Credit: Hans Deryk

(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: Falcons defensive line coach Gary Emanuel recently sat down with Atlanta media members to discuss the development of his group.

Emanuel, who has been in college and pro coaching for 39 seasons, is Grady Jarrett’s position coach.

“He’s one of the hardest-working, most unselfish guys I’ve ever been around,” Emanuel said. “He’s all about the team, so that makes everybody else all about the team. They all work well together.”

Here’s what Emanuel had to say about the defensive linemen and their thankless roles in the new 3-4 defensive scheme:

On how the group is playing: “Overall, it’s a great group of guys, No. 1. No. 2, they have a good camaraderie, working together. Everybody is a hard worker, and everybody is trying to improve, individually and collectively, so hopefully we can help the team get better as we continued to develop in all areas, stopping the run and the pass.”

On how Jarrett, Tyeler Davison and Jonathan Bullard are doing as a group: “They have a good chemistry together, but they all do because we all rotate so much. I’m firm believer in keeping guys out as fresh as possible so that they have some energy in the fourth quarter, but they work well together as a group.”

On Davison’s play: “I think in general, most defensive linemen don’t show up a whole bunch in the stat column, at less with stats. But Tyeler is working and what all of the guys do is invaluable. I mean, you talked about somebody who’s in there, taking on double teams and you know doing the grunt work. Doing the hard downs. Every down for him is hard down. He’s got two bodies on him all the time, and he never complains about it. (Like) the rest of the guys, he goes out there and gives it everything that he has.”

On the development of Marlon Davidson: “Marlon was off to good start. Unfortunately, injuries are a part of the game and set him back a little bit. But he’s bouncing back from that. He’s working hard and improving on the things he needs to work on, which is all parts of the game like all the rest of the guys. He’s been doing a great job. We’re really happy with where Marlon is headed.”

On how rookie Ta’Quon Graham coming along: “Typical rookies, they all have some work to do. He’s again, another guy who’s a good young man, you know he’s working really hard, learning the pro game. It is different because you’re playing against a lot more mature guys, older guys, a lot stronger guys than what you are right now, currently, as incoming guy. He’s fighting and developing. He’s working at his craft. We’re really pleased with the way he’s headed.”

On Mike Pennel: “He’s a guy who’s coming in learning system. Learning the way we do things, but he’s a guy that should contribute to the defense as we move forward.”

On what are the next steps for Davidson: “With Marlon, and with all the guys ... we’re just trying to work on being consistent. Working with our pad level down. Obviously, the most important thing we do as a group is try to stop the run. He is working on run technique, which includes gap leverage, pad level and using our hands. Getting off blocks and then getting involved in plays, along with just improving ... some pass rush. They’re all the same. Everybody is working on the same things. We all have to get better at the same thing, so you know it’s a good group that works hard, and they’re very professional.”

On John Cominsky, who’s been inactive for games: “John’s a guy that works extremely hard. He does everything you ask of him. He plays to the best his ability. You have to ask the head coach about who’s up and who’s down and who’s inactive and things of that nature. I just coach who ever shows up. ... John is doing a great job.”

On where Cominsky fits in the defense: “I’ll answer this question for him and the rest of the whole group. They are defensive linemen. So they could be playing anywhere. They could be playing nose. They could be playing tackle. They could be playing end because we played so many different fronts. They could be playing anywhere along the line, so he’s a defensive lineman, that should contribute to the team.”

On the versatility of the group: “We have to be because of what the front is that particular play because we play multiple fronts, so you could be playing a three-technique, you could be playing a shade, you could be playing a four-technique or five-technique on any given day. Depending on what the offense does, depends on what you might have to do as far as a lineman goes.

On how the line is play together: “They all work together extremely well, because it all starts with, you know, the leader in group being Grady. He’s one of the hardest working, most unselfish guys I’ve ever been around. He’s all about the team so that makes everybody else all about the team. They all work well together.”

On Jarrett’s skills and talents: “Grady exceeds everything. He’s a better person as a player, which is, which is hard to say. But he’s a great young man. He works extremely hard. He’s extremely coachable. For a guy that has his caliber of player. He takes coaching extremely well. He’s one of the hardest workers out there, so that in turn, makes everybody else works hard. When you’re leader is one of your better workers and better people it forces everybody else to be exactly like he is or try to be like he is. It’s an extreme joy working with a player of Grady’s talent and caliber.”

On how Bullard is holding up: “We call him ‘Bull.’ Bull has done a great job. You know he’s working extremely hard. Again, he’s a guy that understands football. He has a high IQ, football-wise. I always tease him I said, you know, he’s probably going to end up being a coach or something because he’s smart. He’s aware of what’s going on out there. He does things that are unseen. You can’t judge a defensive line in this defense, just based on stats. Everybody’s so hung up on stats and numbers and stuff like that, but somebody has to do the dirty work. Somebody has to take on the double teams. Somebody has to, you know, stay in their correct lanes in pass situations. Somebody has to play gap controls. You don’t want to have a whole bunch of unselfish guys.”

On practice-squad player Anthony Rush: “He’s a guy that has come in, he’s trying to learn the system. Learn everything, but he’s another guy that has a high football IQ. He works extremely hard. He has a good skill set. So, we anticipate him probably helping before the season’s out.”

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC

Falcons rookie tight end Kyle Pitts comments on his catch down the sidelines that helped set up game winning field goal and win over Dolphins.

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC

2. Vote for coach of the week: Riverdale’s Rodney Hackney, Columbus’ Christian Grier and and Duluth’s Cam Jones the candidates for Week 9.

3. Hometown Huddle: The Falcons helped to clean up Maddox Park as a community service project Tuesday.

For the 14th consecutive year, the Falcons dedicated time on their day off to have the entire roster out doing community service in Atlanta.

4. Series record: The Falcons are set to host the Carolina Panthers at 1 p.m. Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. This will be the 53rd meeting. The Falcons lead the series, 33-19.

The Panthers normally play the Falcons tough.

The two teams split their matchups last season. The Panthers won 23-21 on Oct. 11 in Dan Quinn’s last game as coach. He was fired a few hours after the game.

Three weeks later, interim coach Raheem Morris led the Falcons to a 25-17 victory Oct. 29.

“That’s expected in divisional games,” Falcons wide receiver Russell Gage said.

5. Darnold to start: For now, the Panthers are rolling with Sam Darnold as their quarterback. He was pulled in favor of P.J. Walker in the loss to the Giants.

“Sam will start at quarterback this week,” Panthers coach Matt Rhule said to Carolina media members Monday.

Darnold, formerly of the New York Jets, has completed 153 of 249 passes for 1,684 yard and has thrown seven touchdowns and eight interceptions. He has a passer rating of 77.5.

Rhule openly discussed some of Darnold’s problems which include throwing off his back foot. He noted that the Panthers have a system, and he expects Darnold to stay within the system and follow his progressions while reading defense.

“If no one is open, run or check the ball down,” Rhule said.

The Panthers suspect that Darnold has been locking in on certain receivers and not going through his progressions.

6. Hubbard in for McCaffrey: Running back Christian McCaffrey is out with a hamstring injury. McCaffrey, the No. 8 overall pick in 2017, is on injured reserve. He’s missed the last four games and 17 of the past 20 Carolina games.

Rookie Chuba Hubbard, who was drafted in the fourth round out of Oklahoma State, has started for McCaffrey.

He has rushed 84 times for 309 yards (3.7 per carry) and one touchdown. He’s caught 17 passes for 110 yards.

The Panthers also are struggling along the offensive line. Brady Christensen was pitiful at left tackle against the Giants and right guard John Miller suffered an ankle sprain and is expected to miss two to four weeks, according to the Charlotte Observer.

Christensen was starting for Cam Erving, who was out with an illness and a neck injury.

The Panthers gave up six sacks and 10 quarterback hits against the Giants.

“To be quite honest, Brady struggled,” Rhule said. “It was not what we needed it to be.”

Miller has started six of seven games.

7. Panthers on defense: The Panthers do have some defensive talent. Linebackers Shaq Thompson and Brian Burns are playmakers who have given the Falcons fits in the past. Thompson didn’t play against the Giants.

“They can put pressure on you on the edge with Burns, and we know that,” Smith said. “They’ve got good skill guys outside.”

Safety Jeremy Chinn led the Panthers in tackles with eight against the Giants.

Defensive tackle Derrick Brown, who’s from Lanier High and played at Auburn, can be disruptive. He had six tackles, a sack, two tackles for losses and a quarterback hit against the Giants.

“They play hard, you know they fly around,” Falcons wide receiver Russell Gage said.

The Panthers also added cornerbacks C.J. Henderson and Stephon Gilmore since the season started. Henderson played against the Giants, while Gilmore is still battling back from a torn quad injury.

“They like to keep everything in front of them,” Gage said. “So we have to take what we get and move the ball down the field. They’re a really good defense. ... They’ve shown a lot of different things.”

8. Practice-squad moves: The Falcons signed defensive tackle Nick Thurman to their practice squad Tuesday and released wide receiver Keelan Doss.

Thurman, 26, played at Houston. He’s 6-4 and 305 and signed with Houston after the 2018 draft. He has spent time with the Texans, Bucs and Patriots.

He has played in seven NFL games and made one start.

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan walks though the 28-yard throw to tight end that helped set up the game-winning field goal against the Dolphins.

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC

9. Depth chart: Right tackle Kaleb McGary went back to the No. 1 right tackle spot after spending a week on the league’s reserve/COVID-19 list in the depth chart released by the team Tuesday.

The Falcons (3-3) are set to host the Carolina Panthers (3-4) at 1 p.m. Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Jason Spriggs played at 64 snaps against the Dolphins in the 30-28 victory Sunday.

Also, Mike Davis remains listed as the No. 1 running back a week after the Falcons had Cordarrelle Patterson rush a season-high 14 times for 60 yards. Davis had only four carries for 10 yards.

With Dante Fowler on injured reserve, Ade Ogundeji is listed as the top left outside linebacker and is backed up by Jacob Tuioti-Mariner. Linebacker Brandon Copeland is listed as the backup for right outside linebacker Steven Means.

“We went through a lot of different guys at outside (linebacker),” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said. “Ade played well. Means, (Brandon Copeland). There’s a lot of ways to do it, you know, so, that’s what it is.

Fowler’s injury was not announced during the game in London. He turned up on the injury list the Wednesday after the bye week and then went on IR on the Friday before facing the Dolphins.

“I mean Dante played that whole game in London, and we feel like that’s the best thing for him and then for the team, so we’ll see where we’re at after New Orleans.” Smith said about Fowler’s potential return.

Here’s the Falcons’ official depth chart heading into the Panthers’ game:


WR - Calvin Ridley, Tajae Sharpe or Christian Blake

TE - Kyle Pitts, Lee Smith

LT - Jake Matthews, Jason Spriggs

LG - Jaylen Mayfield, Josh Andrews

C - Matt Hennessy, Drew Dalman

RG - Chris Lindstrom, Drew Dalman

RT – Kaleb McGarry, Jason Spriggs, Colby Gossett

TE - Hayden Hurst, Keith Smith, *Feleipe Franks (was part of TE/QB package vs. Giants)

WR - Russell Gage, Olamide Zaccheaus, Frank Darby

RB - Mike Davis, Cordarrelle Patterson, Wayne Gallman

*FB - Keith Smith, Cordarrelle Patterson (Added to reflect that they played the position in the opener.)

QB - Matt Ryan, Josh Rosen, Feleipe Franks


DL - Grady Jarrett, Marlon Davidson

NT - Tyeler Davison, Ta’Quon Graham

DL - Jonathan Bullard, Mike Pennel, John Cominsky

OLB - Steven Means, Brandon Copeland

ILB - Deion Jones, Mykal Walker

ILB - Foyesade Oluokun, Dorian Etheridge

OLB – Adetokunbo Ogundeji, Jacob Tuioti-Mariner (Dante Fowler on IR)

LCB - A.J. Terrell, T.J. Green, Darren Hall

FS - Erik Harris, Jaylinn Hawkins

SS - Duron Harmon, Richie Grant

RCB - Fabian Moreau, Avery Williams, Kendall Sheffield


K - Younghoe Koo

P - Dustin Colquitt

LS - Josh Harris

H - Dustin Colquitt

PR - Avery Williams, Olamide Zaccheaus

KOR - Cordarrelle Patterson

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