Cover 9@9: Falcons not fighting for every blade of grass

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. I must admit that I’ve lost track of some of the “principles of the program” under Falcons coach Dan Quinn.

Protect the team was one of them as the “founder of the Brotherhood,” as Darqueze Dennard anointed Quinn.

Protecting the team, I think meant be available to play Sunday. Basically, don’t get in trouble, don’t get arrested, don’t get suspended and play through injury if possible.

The Falcons have done a relatively good job of not getting into trouble, there have been a couple of suspensions (Jalen Collins and Jordan Miller) and a couple of players who haven’t tried to play through injuries, including running back Devonta Freeman, cornerback Desmond Trufant and cornerback Kendall Sheffield, (word is he’s been babying his foot injury, but he needs to play now.)

I think another principle was to fight for every blade of grass.

That sounds cool.

In football, a game of inches, there really should be a fight for every blade of grass. Very few teams are playing on grass, but why worry about the semantics. Fight for every inch on the field.

Well, the Falcons are not doing a good job of fighting for every blade of grass/turf. They are giving up grass/turf at an alarming rate through three games of the coronavirus pandemic season. They are pretty close to giving up 500 yards (463.3) of grass/turf per game.

That’s too much.

The Falcons must get to the quarterback faster, get tighter in coverage and contest more balls in the air.

Cornerbacks 3 and 4, Darqueze Dennard and Blidi Wreh-Wilson, both came up with interceptions against the Bears. But Dennard, who was having a strong game at left cornerback against the Bears, is out after going on injured reserve with a hamstring injury.

CB1, A.J. Terrell is out after being place on the reserve/COVID-19 list. CB2, Isaiah Oliver has no interceptions in 21 starts and 33 games and has just 22 pass breakups. He has been unspectacular and look overmatched at times.

The Falcons are giving up 350.3 yards of passing per game, which ranks 31st (of 32) in the NFL.

The cornerbacks have been a problem as they are giving up bushels of blades of grass.

The Falcons' shaky pass defense is getting ready to face Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers at 8:15 p.m. Monday at Lambeau Field.

Blades of grass by the bushel will be at stake.

2. What’s wrong with the defense. Falcons assistant coach/linebackers Jeff Ulbrich and secondary/passing game coordinator Joe Whitt addressed what’s wrong with the Falcons defense.

Not sure what “we have to finish” means.

3. Injury report. The Falcons could be without 8 of 22 preferred starters (36.3%) against the Packers. Preferred starters who could miss the Packers game are in boldface:

QB -- Matt Ryan

WR -- Julio Jones

WR -- Calvin Ridley

WR -- Russell Gage

TE -- Hayden Hurst

RB -- Todd Gurley

LT -- Jake Matthews

LG -- James Carpenter

C -- Alex Mack

RG -- Chris Lindstrom

RT -- Kaleb McGary

DEFENSE

DE -- Takk McKinley

DT -- Grady Jarrett

DT -- Tyeler Davison

DE -- Dante Fowler

MLB -- Deion Jones

WLB -- Foye Oluokun

LCB A.J. Terrell

RCB -- Isaiah Oliver

FS -- Damontae Kazee

NS -- Ricardo Allen

SS -- Keanu Neal

4. Series history. This will be the 31st meeting. Green Bay leads the series, 16-14.

The Packers won the last meeting 34-20 on Dec. 9, 2018. The Packers raced out to 34-7 lead and put it on cruise control. The Falcons scored a couple of meaningless touchdowns to make it look like it was a close game.

5. Stat corner: In 1978, the NFL went to a 16-game schedule. From 1978 to 2020, 192 teams started the year 0-3, the average finish of those teams was 5-11. A total of six have made playoffs (3.1%) and zero have won the Super Bowl.

The best finish was 11-5 by two teams, including the 2018 Houston Texans. The worst finish was two teams that finished 0-16, with the 2017 Cleveland Browns being the most recent.

6. Miller is back: Falcons cornerback Jordan Miller, who was suspended four games for using performing-enhancing drugs, was activated to the 53-man roster on Monday.

Cornerback Delrick Abrams, cornerback Tyler Hall and linebacker Edmond Robinson, per 2020 roster rules, returned to the practice squad from the active roster.

Miller, who was a fifth-round pick from Washington, played in 10 games last season.

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Russell Gage (83) works with Jordan Miller (28) and Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Christian Blake (13) during an NFL football practice Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Flowery Branch, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, Pool)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Miller played 24 defensive snaps (2%) and 93 snaps on special teams (21.%).

Here’s Miller draft bio:

Fifth round (172nd overall) Jordan Miller, CB, Washington

Height: 6-foot-1 Weight: 186 pounds 40-yard dash: 4.49 seconds Arm length: 32 7/8 inches. Hands: 9 5/8 Bench: 6 reps of 225 pounds Vertical: 37 inches 10-yard split: 1.56 seconds 20-yard: 2.61 seconds 3-Cone Drill: not available Broad Jump: 10 feet, 5 inches Overview: Had an injury-riddled career for the Huskies. When healthy, he made spectacular plays. Does a poor job in run support as he lunges at ballcarriers and doesn’t break down before tackling which missed tackles. He was a standout on special teams. He played 302 passing snaps last season. He was targeted on 32 plays and gave up 20 catches for a 62.5 catch percentage. He played has a 569 snaps overall and had a 70.7 grade by profootballfocus.com. He’s from Oceanside, Calif.

7. Falcons are heavy road dogs. The Falcons (0-3) are set to face the Green Bay Packers (3-0) at 8:15 p.m. Monday at Lambeau Field in Wisconsin.

The Falcons are 7.5-point underdogs and the over/under is 57.5 points, according to betonline.ag. The line for the game opened with the Falcons as six-point underdogs on Monday.

Thursday, October 1

· Denver (-2½) at New York Jets

Over/Under 40½

Sunday, October 4

· Indianapolis (-2½) at Chicago

Over/Under 45

· Jacksonville at Cincinnati (-3)

Over/Under 44½

· Cleveland at Dallas (-4½)

Over/Under 56

· New Orleans (-4) at Detroit

Over/Under 54.5

· Pittsburgh at Tennessee (-1½)

Over/Under 47½

· Seattle (-6½) at Miami

Over/Under 55

· Los Angeles Chargers at Tampa Bay (-7)

Over/Under 45½

· Baltimore (-13½) at Washington

Over/Under

47

· Arizona (-4½) at Carolina

Over/Under 51½

· Minnesota at Houston (-4)

Over/Under 51½

· New York Giants at Los Angeles Rams (-11½)

Over/Under 48

· New England at Kansas City (-7)

Over/Under 54

· Buffalo (-2) at Las Vegas

Over/Under 49½

· Philadelphia at San Francisco (-6)

Over/Under 43

Monday, October 5

· Atlanta at Green Bay (-7.5)

· Over/under 57.5

8. Vegas on Quinn. Quinn is now the odds-on favorite (-200) to be the first NFL head coach to be fired this year, according to SportsBetting.ag.

“Arthur Blank and Thomas Dimitroff have proven to be a forgiving men, but how do you let something like this continue to happen and allow your team to become the laughingstock of the league,” said Robert Cooper, odds manager at SportsBetting.ag. “The Falcons schedule does ease up after Monday night, but the back half is absolutely loaded, and it’s difficult to envision any scenario where Quinn makes it through this season with job intact.”

Quinn moved to the top of the list after the Falcons blew a 16-point fourth-quarter lead to the Bears on Sunday. The offense, inexplicably went pass-heavy instead of running the ball with the late lead. The Falcons didn’t try to protect a defense that was playing without five starters.

Quinn moved ahead of Jets coach Adam Gase, who is followed by Detroit’s Matt Patricia, Houston’s Bill O’Brien and Minnesota’s Mike Zimmer on the dubious list.

First Head Coach Fired

Dan Quinn (1-2)

Adam Gase (3-1)

Matt Patricia (5-1)

Bill O’Brien (9-1)

Mike Zimmer (9-1)

Doug Marrone (10-1)

Vic Fangio (12-1)

Anthony Lynn (16-1)

9. Depth chart. After losing two of their top three cornerbacks, the Falcons are hopeful for the return of Sheffield, who’s been out with a foot injury and has missed all three games this season. He was listed with the first-team defense on the official depth chart released Tuesday.

Quinn has been close-to-the-vest with the injury updates, but will have to release the first official injury report Thursday.

We’ve put the names of the expected starters for the injured players and some other comments in bold.

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

OFFENSE

QB -- Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub

WR -- Julio Jones, Christian Blake

WR -- Calvin Ridley, Olamide Zaccheaus for Jones/Gage

WR -- Russell Gage, Brandon Powell

TE -- Hayden Hurst, Luke Stocker, Jaeden Graham (Team actually list Graham ahead of Stocker, but Stocker plays more)

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 -- Kendall Sheffield (has not played this season), Blidi Wreh-Wilson

CB -- Isaiah Oliver, Jordan Miller (Team will likely call up practice-squad players Delrick Abrams and Tyler Hall again)

FS -- Damontae Kazee

NS -- Ricardo Allen, Sharrod Neasman

SS -- Keanu Neal, Jaylinn Hawkins

SPECIAL TEAMS

K -- Younghoe Koo

P -- Sterling Hofrichter

LS -- Josh Harris

KR --Olamide Zaccheaus, (Brandon Powell has been returning kickoffs)

PR -- Brandon Powell

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