Cover 9@9: Falcons to get up close look at Eric Bieniemy

Offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy speaks with Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) during the second half of Super Bowl 54 against the San Francisco 49ers, Sunday, Feb. 2, 2020, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (Lynne Sladky/AP)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy speaks with Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) during the second half of Super Bowl 54 against the San Francisco 49ers, Sunday, Feb. 2, 2020, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (Lynne Sladky/AP)

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: After hiring defensive coordinators as their past two head coaches, Falcons are expected to hire an offensive coordinator during their head coaching search.

The Falcons (4-10) will have a chance to see one of the candidates up close when they face the Kansas City Chiefs (13-1) at 1 p.m. Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.

The Chiefs’ high-powered offense is coordinated by Eric Bieniemy, who’s considered one of the top head coaching candidates.

Under Bieniemy, the Chiefs have the top offense in the NFL this season.

The Chiefs lead the league in scoring (31.1 points), yards (427.9) and passing (311.4). They rank 14th in rushing at 116.5 yards per game.

After an all-American career at Colorado, he played in the NFL with the Chargers (1991-94), Bengals (1995-98) and Eagles (1999).

He’s coached with the Vikings (2006-10) and with the Chiefs (2013 to present). In between, he was the offensive coordinator at Colorado in 2011-12.

The Falcons can’t interview candidates under contract until the season is over, but we’re expecting to hear about interviews with Bieniemy, Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady, Packers quarterbacks coach Nate Hatchett and Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith.

The competition for the new head coach to replace Dan Quinn will be fierce.

Of the teams looking for coaches, keep an eye on Jacksonville. If the Jaguars fire Doug Marrone, they have the best situation for a new coach. They’ve already cleared the deck at general manager by firing former Falcons executive Dave Caldwell.

The Jaguars have draft picks, almost $80 million in salary-cap space, a good defense and possibly the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, which would be used to draft franchise quarterback Trevor Lawrence.

The Houston Texans have a bad cap situation, and Bill O’Brien traded away a bushel of picks. The Texans do have a quarterback to build around in Deshaun Watson. There’s one report that Watson wants to play for Bieniemy.

Currently the Falcons are competing with Houston and Detroit, which has a veteran quarterback in Matthew Stafford and $12.1 million in projected salary-cap room.

The Falcons have draft picks, a 35-year-old quarterback, a bad salary-cap situation and the pressure to quickly rebuild the defense, get back to the playoffs and avenge their Super Bowl LI collapse.

The New York Jets, Jacksonville and the Los Angeles Chargers also could be in the head coach market. Also, the seats are getting hotter in Chicago and Philadelphia.

2. General-manager search: The Falcons have held two interviews so far in Rick Smith and Anthony Robinson in their search to replace former general manager Thomas Dimitroff.

Former Giants general manager Jerry Reese, owner of two Super Bowl rings as the general manager, is conspicuously absent thus far.

Smith has two rings from Denver, but he wasn’t the general manager. He is considered the leading candidate for the Falcons because of his ties to team president Rich McKay. (They made the Matt Schaub trade back in the day, and Smith served on the competition committee with McKay.)

We’re hearing that Dimitroff is a strong candidate for the Detroit job that he and Scott Pioli have interviewed for. If Robinson doesn’t land the Falcons job, look for a reunion with Dimitroff in the Motor City.

The Falcons will set up interviews with Saints executive Terry Fontenot and Rams director of college scouting Brad Holmes when they become available, a person within the NFL familiar with the situation recently told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Also, Miami executive Reggie McKenzie has been linked to the Falcons by ESPN.

Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady throws under pressure from the Falcons during the fourth quarter Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020, in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton /

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

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Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

3. Brady to Mahomes: The Falcons are going from facing Tom Brady to playing the dynamic Patrick Mahomes.

“Anytime I face somebody considered to be a top-tier player I get excited,” Falcons linebacker Foye Oluokun said. “Also, just this game being in Missouri gets me excited, too, because I’m from St. Louis. Him being the caliber guy that he is, makes it more exciting. I definitely want to play up to my full potential.”

4. Studying Kelce: A week after matching up with Bucs tight end Rob Gronkowski, Oluokun looks forward to defending Kansas City’s Travis Kelce.

“He’s definitely a good tight end,” Oluokun said. “I’m looking forward to the matchup. I’ve matched up against good tight ends for most of the year. I think I’ve done a pretty good job on them.”

Kelce was named to the Pro Bowl for the sixth consecutive season Monday. He has 98 catches for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns this season.

“This is a very talented tight end, considered one of the best tight ends in the league,” Oluokun said. “I watched a lot of tape on him this offseason when we got the schedule. He’s very crafty at the line of scrimmage. I’m going to challenge him like I do most tight ends. It will be fun.”

5. Ridley snubbed for the Pro Bowl. Wide receiver Calvin Ridley was snubbed in the Pro Bowl selection process. He has seven 100-yard games and has caught 77 passes for 1,192 yards and nine touchdowns.

He’s ahead in our comparison to the great Marvin Harrison. In Harrison’s third season, he had 59 catches for 776 yards and seven touchdowns. Harrison exploded in his fourth season in the league with 115 catches for 1,663 yards and 12 touchdowns. He made it to his first Pro Bowl and was selected All-Pro.

Oluokun, the Falcons’ leading tackler, was added to the ballot.

“It’s cool to be nominated,” Oluokun said. “I know that Rid has been going off.”

South Gwinnett defensive back Jalavis Wilson. (Photo courtesy of the Atlanta Falcons)

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6. Wilson named Man of The Year: South Gwinnett defensive back Jalavis Wilson, a junior, was named the Falcons’ high school Man of The Year, which goes the player who embodies excellence on and off the field.

Wilson participated in providing free meals and haircuts to the homeless, assisted with his high school’s annual coat drive and participated in several community clean-up projects.

His father was battling an illness and suffered a stroke. He died in October, and days after the funeral Wilson played and made a game-deciding forced fumble for the Comets.

Wilson, his mother, South Gwinnett coach Steve Davenport and assistant coach Cortez Allen were guests of the Falcons at last Sunday’s game against the Bucs.

7. Miller waived: One of the criticisms of Dimitroff was that he kept his draft picks around too long to make his retention rate look better.

When teams find out that players are not going to make it, they need to cut them and replace them with better talent.

So, it was no surprise that Jordan Miller was released Tuesday.

Jordan, who was picked in the fifth round (172nd overall) in the 2019 draft, played in 10 games as a rookie and one game this season after serving a four-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs.

The transition regime, which was looking for help for the 31st ranked secondary, elected to move on from Miller.

8. Series history: This will be the 10th meeting between the Falcons and the Chiefs. The Chiefs lead the series 6-3 and won the last meeting, 29-28, on Dec. 4, 2016. That was the game when Chiefs safety Eric Berry, Creekside High, had a pick-six and pick-two with 4:32 left for the win.

Falcons’ 2021 draft position

1. Jacksonville

2. New York Jets

3. Cincinnati

4. Carolina

5. Falcons

9. Depth chart. The Falcons released their official depth chart Tuesday for their game against the Kansas City Chiefs at 1 p.m. Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.

Here’s the most recent depth chart:


WR 11 Julio Jones, 13 Christian Blake

LT 70 Jake Matthews, 73 Matt Gono

LG 77 James Carpenter, 65 Justin McCray

C 51 Alex Mack, 61 Matt Hennessy

RG 63 Chris Lindstrom

RT 76 Kaleb McGary, 73 Matt Gono, 75 John Wetzel

TE 81 Hayden Hurst, 87 Jaeden Graham, 88 Luke Stocker

WR 83 Russell Gage, 15 Brandon Powell,

WR 18 Calvin Ridley, 80 Laquon Treadwell

QB 2 Matt Ryan, 8 Matt Schaub

HB 25 Ito Smith, 23 Brian Hill, 21 Todd Gurley, 30 Qadree Ollison

FB 40 Keith Smith


DE 93 Allen Bailey, 92 Charles Harris

DT 97 Grady Jarrett, 90 Marlon Davidson, 94 Deadrin Senat

DT 96 Tyeler Davison, 50 John Cominsky

DE 56 Dante Fowler, 55 Steven Means, 91 Jacob Tuioti-Mariner

LB 45 Deion Jones, 59 LaRoy Reynolds, 46 Edmond Robinson

LB 54 Foyesade Oluokun, 43 Mykal Walker

RCB 34 Darqueze Dennard, 20 Kendall Sheffield

LCB 24 A.J. Terrell, 44 Tyler Hall

NCB 26 Isaiah Oliver, 33 Blidi Wreh-Wilson

FS 37 Ricardo Allen, 41 Sharrod Neasman

SS 22 Keanu Neal, 32 Jaylinn Hawkins


K 7 Younghoe Koo

P 4 Sterling Hofrichter

LS 47 Josh Harris

KO 7 Younghoe Koo

KR 15 Brandon Powell

PR 15 Brandon Powell

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