Cover 9@9: Dan Quinn hoping to have fans by October

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

Falcons coach Dan Quinn discusses how the defensive backs are breaking up more passes and the implementation of the rushing attack.

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

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. Falcons coach Dan Quinn took the news in stride that there wouldn’t be any fans for at least the first two home games.

The Falcons are scheduled to play the Seattle Seahawks at home Sept. 13 and the Chicago Bears on Sept. 27.

“For us, the No. 1 rule is protecting the team, and the fans are certainly part of our team,” Quinn said. “Let’s hope that’s just for the month and then we can – kind of like we’re doing with the team here – kind of ramp up, the same thing with the fans as the season goes on and we gain more information as we’re going.

The Falcons are scheduled to host the Carolina Panthers on Oct. 11 in their NFC South opener and the Detroit Lions on Oct. 25.

“Hopefully, from October on, that will be the case, but always protecting the team first,” Quinn said.

2. The Wright Stuff: Former Falcons running back Jason Wright became the first African-American to be named a team president in 100 years of the NFL by the Washington Football Team on Monday.

“The Fritz Pollard Alliance commends the Washington Football Team for their selection of Jason Wright as president,” said Rod Graves, executive director of the Fritz Pollard Alliance which champions the hiring of minorities in coaching and executive positions in the NFL. “It is an historic event as Wright becomes the first Black team president in NFL history. The selection is the result of an inclusive process that recognizes the talents that people of color can offer. We hope that it signifies a true change for the manner in which leadership is chosen in the NFL.”

Wright, a running back, spent seven years with the Falcons, Cleveland and Arizona as a player in the NFL.

Wright was a member of the Falcons’ practice squad when he made his NFL debut in the 2004 season, appearing in two games. He was waived by the Falcons the following year. He went on to join the Browns, where he gained 578 yards with two touchdowns in four years. Wright was a captain for the Cardinals and their NFLPA representative during labor negotiations in 2010-11.

Wright, who played at Northwestern, earned a master’s degree from the University of Chicago’s business school.

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

New Falcons tight end discusses how he fits in the offense after the first padded practice.

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

3. Stocker is back: Tight end Luke Stocker is back and wearing No. 88 (Tony Gonzalez’s old number!)

Stocker’s re-signing was not related to the performance of newly acquired tight end Hayden Hurst.

“We’ve certainly had an eye on him for a while as we were going,” Quinn said. “The versatility, really, was what made the biggest difference for us. Here’s a guy who could play in the backfield as a fullback (and) a blocking tight end.”

Quinn said the team is pleased with Hurst.

“It was just an opportunity that we could add Luke into the group, so when the moment presented itself, we pounced on it,” Quinn said.

Stocker was released by the Falcons in March after one season with the team. He played in 15 games and made eight starts in 2019. He caught eight passes for 53 yards. Stocker, 32, was drafted by Tampa Bay in the fourth round (104th overall) of the 2011 NFL draft. He has played in 114 NFL games, including 77 starts, and caught 76 passes for 630 yards and five touchdowns.

4. Big boys get work: Quinn said the padded practices will focus on the offensive and defensive linemen getting in some work.

“(Those are) the position(s) that change so much when you put on shoulder pads because their game is different and how they will play,” Quinn said. “Line of scrimmage play, they don’t get the same work as a receiver or quarterback or defensive back.”

The Falcons gave center Alex Mack a scheduled off Tuesday. Backup guard Jamon Brown missed his fourth practice with an illness that wasn’t COVID-19.

“So, it’s an important part for the big guys, especially, to get our run game going, to get our pass rush going,” Quinn said. “Those are things that, when you have pads on, you’re more able to fully express how you’re going to play.

“That’s the big part of that. Then, overall, team-wise, I would say we’re looking for consistency. They’ve gone through the install virtually. We’ve gone through it in a walk-through. Now, at full speed, are they really able to nail their responsibilities?”

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

Falcons rookie defensive lineman Marlon Davidson discusses his first padded practice as a professional.

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

5. Lindstrom being careful: Right guard Chris Lindstrom said the new normal of trying to play football in the coronavirus pandemic requires a lot of personal accountability.

“Socially, you want to be responsible, but it’s been taken to a new level,” Lindstrom said. “Guys are so …. everyone is wearing a mask outside of the building, sanitizing, not trying to be in groups because the costs of sitting out is too much.”

The Falcons have had seven players go on the reserve/COVID-19 list. All have been activated.

“Everyone is trying to be accountable to the team, I think for myself to, make sure my family is safe, everyone is safe,” Lindstrom said. “Just the decisions that go into everyday life. I think there is a lot of accountability to ourselves, towards the team and then to other people.”

Lindstrom has been pleased with the regular testing.

“It’s different from a normal routine, but it’s awesome,” Lindstrom said. “I feel safe in the building every day. It’s great coming to work. I love being here. I know the team loves being here.”

6. Harris played tight end: At Kansas City Lincoln Prep High, Falcons defensive end Charles Harris had 15 catches as a senior.

“I was playing tight end and sometimes would go out to wide out,” Harris said. “I was able to play anything. Linebacker, defensive end. I did a lot of things.”

7. Sheffield returns: Cornerback Kendall Sheffield, who is competing for as starting spot, returned to practice Tuesday. Sheffield missed the previous three practices with a foot injury.

Sheffield, who was taken in the fourth round of the draft last year out of Ohio State, played nickel back in 2019. The Falcons have a vacancy after cutting top cornerback Desmond Trufant, who went on to sign with Detroit in free agency.

The team signed veteran Darqueze Dennard in free agency and drafted A.J. Terrell in the first-round. Isaiah Oliver is the incumbent at right cornerback. That’s four cornerbacks for three spots.

Sheffield played in all 16 games and made 11 starts. He finished the season with 46 tackles, three passes defensed and one forced fumble.

Sheffield played 708 defensive snaps (67%) and 142 snaps on special teams (23.8%).

8. McCord’s death: Several fans have emailed inquiring about the recent death of former Falcons wide receiver Quentin McCord. We’re making a few calls with the hopes of getting an update.

McCord, who played at Kentucky and was a native of LaGrange, died Aug. 13.

McCord played at Kentucky from 1996-2000. He drafted in the seventh round by the Falcons in 2001.

He played for the Falcons from 2001-03 and caught 23 passes for 427 yards and a touchdown.

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

Falcons coach Dan Quinn previews the first padded practice and discusses no fans attending the first two home games and new DE Charles Harris.

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

9. Depth chart: Falcons activated safety Jamal Carter from the reserve/COVID-19 list Tuesday.

The Falcons are not permitted to comment on a player’s medical condition other than to refer to roster status. Clubs may not disclose whether the player is in quarantine or tested positive for COVID-19.

In his first season with the Falcons, Carter saw action in 11 games, with nine tackles (five solo) and one special-teams tackle in 2019.

Carter was the last of seven Falcons to be activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list.

Carter, fullback Keith Smith, safety Chris Cooper, rookie safety Jaylinn Hawkins, defensive tackle Tyeler Davison, quarterback Danny Etling and linebacker Foye Oluokun all served stints on the reserve/COVID-19 list. The Falcons released Etling on Monday.

Here’s the projected depth chart for training camp:

OFFENSE

WR -- 11 Julio Jones, 13 Christian Blake, 19 Devin Gray, 80 Laquon Treadwell, 14 Chris Rowland, 12 Juwan Green

LT -- 70 Jake Matthews, 75 John Wetzel

LG – 73 Matt Gono, 61 Matt Hennessy, 77 James Carpenter, 64 Sean Harlow

C -- 51 Alex Mack, 65 Justin McCray, 64 Sean Harlow, 61 Matt Hennessy

RG -- 63 Chris Lindstrom, 68 Jamon Brown, 65 Justin McCray, 66 Justin Gooseberry

RT -- 76 Kaleb McGary, 72 Evin Ksiezarczyk

TE -- 81 Hayden Hurst, 88 Luke Stocker, 86 Khari Lee, 87 Jaeden Graham, 89 Jared Pinkney

WR -- 18 Calvin Ridley, 83 Russell Gage, 17 Olamide Zaccheaus, 15 Brandon Powell, 1 Jalen McCleskey

QB -- 2 Matt Ryan, 8 Matt Schaub, 6 Kurt Benkert

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

FB -- 40 Keith Smith, 44 Mikey Daniel

DEFENSE

DE -- 56 Dante Fowler, 95 Austin Edwards

DT -- 97 Grady Jarrett, 50 John Cominsky, 99 Hinwa Allieu

DT -- 96 Tyeler Davison, 90 Marlon Davidson, 94 Deadrin Senat, 79 Sailosi Latu

DE -- 93 Allen Bailey, 55 Steven Means

DE -- 98 Takk McKinley, 92 Charles Harris, 91 Jacob Tuioti-Mariner

LB -- 54 Foyesade Oluokun, 36 Deone Bucannon, 46 Edmond Robinson

LB -- 45 Deion Jones, 59 LaRoy Reynolds, 43 Mykal Walker, 48 Ray Wilborn

RCB -- 26 Isaiah Oliver, 29 Josh Hawkins, 42 Delrick Abrams, 44 Tyler Hall

LCB -- 24 A.J. Terrell, 33 Blidi Wreh-Wilson, 28 Jordan Miller

NCB -- 38 Darqueze Dennard, 20 Kendall Sheffield, 34 Chris Cooper

SS -- 37 Ricardo Allen, 22 Keanu Neal, 48 J.J. Wilcox 32 Jaylinn Hawkins, 35 Jamal Carter

FS -- 27 Damontae Kazee, 37 Ricardo Allen, 41 Sharrod Neasman

SPECIALISTS

K -- 7 Younghoe Koo

KO -- 7 Younghoe Koo

P -- 4 Sterling Hofrichter

LS -- 47 Josh Harris

H -- 4 Sterling Hofrichter

KOR -- 15 Brandon Powell, 17 Olamide Zaccheaus

PR -- 15 Brandon Powell, 17 Olamide Zaccheaus

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