Cover 9@9: Falcons need to rest Julio Jones

Credit: Atlanta Falcons

Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones comments on his injured hamstring following loss to Cowboys in Week 2.

Credit: Atlanta Falcons

Welcome to the Cover 9@9 blog — our weekly list of nine things that you need to know about the Atlanta Falcons.

1. The no-spin zone. The Falcons need to rest Julio Jones until his left hamstring is better.

The Falcons used him as a decoy for most of the day against the Cowboys when he had just 2 catches for 24 yards and one major dropped pass.

“It’s football, right, so everybody has little nagging injuries here and there,” Jones said. “It’s nothing that I can’t handle.”

He’s going to try to play because that’s who he is. The Falcons have no choice but to let him be limited during the week, just do the walk-throughs and test it Sunday before the game. The Falcons should be able to handle the 2-0 Bears without Jones.

ExploreJulio Jones aggravated left hamstring injury against Dallas

That won’t be the case when they play the Green Bay Packers on “Monday Night Football” on Oct. 5 at Lambeau Field. Any hopes for the Falcons to make it to 2-2 rest on Jones' hamstring getting healthy.

Jones first appeared on the injury report Sept. 11, the Friday before the Seattle game.

Jones, who’s tougher than nails, conceded that the hamstring was a factor in his dropped pass from Russell Gage that could have potentially wrapped up the win in Dallas.

“A little,” Jones said. “I just can run the way I want to run.”

Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said it was a combination of Jones' injury and Dallas coverage that held him to his lowest production in 21 games. He had more than two catches in every game last season. He had two catches for 18 yards in a loss to Baltimore on Dec. 2, 2018.

“Dallas definitely game-planned to try to double Julio,” Koetter said. “They were clouding their coverage, meaning rolling the corner up with the safety over the top a lot of the time to Julio. They were cheating the safety to him in the red zone. Also, I do think there is something to the hamstring bothering him more than he’s letting on.”

>>> Former Falcons DT Mike Tilleman dies at 76

2. Mood of the team. Jones, one of the captains, and believes the Falcons will rebound from the historic loss in Dallas.

“We are definitely a better finishing team than we showed,” Jones said. "We are still a very positive team. But you know, it (hurts) when you lose the way we loss. At the end of the day, we are not going to let it define who we are. We just have to keep getting better.

“We have all of the potential and there’s a lot of upside for our team on both sides of the ball. We just have to put everything together.”

Last season, Jones belatedly gave a speech that lead to the team’s turnaround. Why he waited until they were 1-7 was probably poor leadership.

So, Jones was asked if he’s ready to give another speech after the gut-punch loss to the Cowboys.

“Not at all, we have a very positive team,” Jones said. “Guys come out here and play for one another. They played their (expletive) off. We just didn’t finish the way we wanted to finish. We didn’t execute later on in the game. At the end of the day, we have to control that.”

Jones doesn’t feel the Falcons need any motivation.

“At the end of the day, we don’t need (any) motivation in our locker room,” Jones said. "We know what we’ve got to do. We have grown men in our locker room. We don’t have any little boys or things like that.

“Everyone takes ownership in whatever we need to do and we all understand. … We are sticking together. Like I said, it’s not the front-line guys, the ball guy or the special-teams coach, it’s all of us collectively to make those changes. … We just have to stick together and keep moving forward.”

Jones believes the Falcons will bounce back.

“Nobody likes losing at all,” Jones said. “For our ballclub, we can really put things behind us and keep moving forward. We don’t let things like that define us.”

Jones is not feeling a lot of support for the team.

“Everybody is always against us anyways,” Jones said. “We don’t care. We are all we got. We are all we need. We just have to keep battling and keep working. Once we get going, we (are not) looking for nobody to jump on the bandwagon or holler at us or anything like that. We are good.”

Don’t even mention the onside kick.

“We just have got to move,” Jones said.

3. Series history. This will be the 28th meeting between the Bears and Falcons. The Bears lead the series 14-13. The Falcons won the last meeting 23-17 on Sept. 10, 2017 in Chicago.

4. Georgia connections. The Bears have several players with Georgia ties, including linebacker Roquan Smith, who’s led them in tackles in both games this season. Smith played at Georgia and Macon County High. Other connections are wide receiver Javon Wims (Georgia), defensive tackle John Jenkins (Georgia) safety Kindle Vildor (Georgia Southern, North Clayton HS), cornerback Buster Skrine (Tennessee-Chattanooga, Etowah HS), linebacker James Vaughters (Stanford, Tucker HS) and former Georgia wide receiver Riley Ridley, who has been inactive for the first two games, all play for the Bears. Former Georgia wide receiver Reggie Davis is on the practice squad.

Ridley is the younger brother of Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley.

“The first thing is the speed,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said of the Ridley brothers. “Both play at such an amazing speed of play. That’s what we noticed certainly from Riley in his time at Georgia and he’s continued onto the NFL. That’s probably the first thing is the speed and relentlessness that they play with.”

>>> Matt Ryan’s fundraiser will focusing on helping the youth in the community

5. Fans to return. A limited number of fans will be allowed into Mercedes-Benz Stadium for Falcons and Atlanta United home games, beginning with the Falcons' Oct. 11 game against the Carolina Panthers, the teams said Tuesday.

The teams didn’t specify how many fans will be permitted in the stadium, but they earlier described a possible capacity of 10,000 to 20,000 to accommodate social-distancing guidelines amid the continuing coronavirus pandemic.

The Falcons played in front of 21,708 fans in Dallas on Sunday.

Credit: Atlanta Falcons

Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter addresses the lackluster run attack following losses to Seattle and Dallas.

Credit: Atlanta Falcons

6. Rushing attack lacking. The Falcons stayed with the rushing attack in Dallas, but it was ineffective. The inability to run the ball was a factor in the loss to the Cowboys.

“We need to be more efficient in the run,” Koetter said. “We did a good job of staying balanced. Even though we might not have made the yardage that we wanted, making them defend the run definitely helped our play-action game.”

Running back Todd Gurley was held to 61 yards on 21 carries. Overall, the Falcons rushed 34 times for 113 yards (3.3 yards per carry) against a defense that was missing middle linebacker Leighton Vander Esch.

“Dallas tackled well,” Koetter said. “There were several runs that were close to breaking out, but they just didn’t quite break out. We got tripped up on our shoe tops a couple of times.”

Weakside linebacker Jaylon Smith picked up the slack with 13 tackles and received credit for slowing down the Falcons' rushing attack.

“(Smith), their linebacker, I thought played a hell of a game,” Koetter said. “He was all over the field. We had a tough time getting to him on some of our zone schemes.”

7. Cominsky and Walker: Second year defensive tackle John Cominsky recovered a fumble and had three tackles against the Cowboys.

Rooke Mykal Walker, who was pressed into duty after an injury to Foye Oluokun, finished with seven tackles.

“They were flying around and doing what they had to do,” Falcons linebacker Deion Jones said of Cominsky and Walker. “Honing in on their details, flying around and making tackles. They did a real good job.”

8. Falcons rewind: Fox Sports South will re-air Falcons regular-season games in the Atlanta market for the remainder of the season. “Falcons Rewind” launches 7 p.m. Tuesday with the Falcons vs. Dallas Cowboys game from Sunday and continue weekly at 7 p.m. Tuesdays. Additionally, every replay aired on Fox Sports South will also be streamed on the Fox Sports Go app.

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

Falcons wide receiver Russell Gage discusses the mood of the team the day after their historic collapse against the Dallas Cowboys.

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

9a. Stunning admission. Falcons owner Arthur Blank made a stunning admission during his appearance on Sirius XM NFL Radio on Monday. He doesn’t believe the players knew the onside-kick rules.

9b. Depth chart. After losing four starters to injury against Dallas, the Falcons are hopeful for their return as they didn’t make any changes to their official depth chart that was released Tuesday.

The Falcons (0-2) are set to host the Chicago Bears (2-0) at 1 p.m. Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Right tackle Kaleb McGary (sprained left knee), defensive end Takk McKinley (groin), free safety Ricardo Allen (elbow) and Oluokun (hamstring) did not finish the game against Dallas because of injury. McGary is expected to miss one week.

Matt Gono, who’s listed as the backup left tackle, went in for McGary at right tackle and appears to set to make his first NFL start against the Bears.

Here’s a look at the official depth chart for the Chicago game:

OFFENSE.

QB -- Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub

WR -- Julio Jones, Christian Blake

WR -- Calvin Ridley, Olamide Zaccheaus

WR -- Russell Gage, Brandon Powell

TE -- Hayden Hurst, Jaeden Graham, Luke Stocker

RB -- Todd Gurley, Brian Hill, Ito Smith, Qadree Ollison

FB -- Keith Smith

LT -- Jake Matthews, Matt Gono

LG -- James Carpenter, Matt Hennessy

C -- Alex Mack, Justin McCray

RG -- Chris Lindstrom

RT --Kaleb McGary, Matt Gono, John Wetzel

DEFENSE

DE -- Takk McKinley, Allen Bailey, Charles Harris

DT -- Grady Jarrett, Marlon Davidson, Deadrin Senat

DT -- Tyeler Davison, John Cominsky

DE -- Dante Fowler, Jacob Tuioti-Mariner

LB -- Deion Jones, LaRoy Reynolds

LB -- Foye Oluokun, Mykal Walker

CB -- A.J. Terrell, Darqueze Dennard, Blidi Wreh-Wilson

CB -- Isaiah Oliver, Kendall Sheffield

FS -- Damontae Kazee, Sharrod Neasman

NS -- Ricardo Allen

SS -- Keanu Neal, Jaylinn Hawkins

SPECIAL TEAMS

K -- Younghoe Koo

P -- Sterling Hofrichter

LS -- Josh Harris

KR --Olamide Zaccheaus

PR --Brandon Powell

Holder -- Sterling Hofrichter

KO -- Younghoe Koo

About the Author