Cover 9@9: Ryan, Jones’ bond started at Buford High field in 2011 lockout

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) and quarterback Matt Ryan (2) talk during an NFL football training camp practice Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020, in Flowery Branch, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, Pool)
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) and quarterback Matt Ryan (2) talk during an NFL football training camp practice Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020, in Flowery Branch, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, Pool)

Credit: John Bazemore

Credit: John Bazemore

1. The no-spin zone. In the summer of 2011, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan set up workouts at Buford High during the lockout.

The players had their own minicamp. They would jump out of luxury cars with friends and associates on hand.

Sometimes Jason Campbell of the then-Oakland Raiders would show up, too.

Ryan’s new prized rookie was Julio Jones, who would meet at Ryan’s house to go over formations. Fitting the sixth overall draft pick into the offense would be key to the team’s future success.

Former Alabama and Falcons quarterback John Parker Wilson would be on hand to translate things for Jones.

Back then, the Falcons were coming off getting vanquished from the playoffs, as the No. 1 seed, by the eventual Super Bowl-champion Green Bay Packers.

With Ryan, wide receiver Roddy White, tight end Tony Gonzalez, running back Michael Turner and now Jones, the Falcons figured to be unstoppable.

Those workouts on the high school turf were the beginning of one of the NFL’s more productive relationships over the past 10 seasons.

With no formal training camp, Jones caught 54 passes for 959 yards and eight touchdowns as a rookie. The Falcons reached the NFC title game in the 2012 season, but blew a 17-0 lead to Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers.

Things went bad for the team in 2013 and 2014 and that led to Mike Smith’s firing. In 2016, Jones and Ryan helped land the Falcons in Super Bowl LI.

And on a route that they practiced on the Buford High field, Jones made a spectacular catch along the sideline that should have won the game, but for some delusional play-calling by offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.

But as time has worn on, Jones no longer is happy with the Falcons. He requested a trade in March, and the Falcons appear set to fulfill his wishes.

He went on FS1′s “Undisputed” show and said “I’m outta here” when discussing the Falcons. He also said he wanted to play for a winner.

It would be hard for Jones to return to the Falcons’ locker room after essentially calling them losers.

Now, all that’s left is for the Falcons to pull the trigger on the trade.

Those innocent football days of studying at Ryan’s house and running routes at the Buford High field seems so long ago.

2. Smith mum on Jones. Falcons coach Arthur Smith would not say Wednesday if he’s expecting Jones to attend the team’s mandatory minicamp, which is set for next week.

“We have conversations all the time with all of our players,” Smith said before practice. “We have good communications going back and forth (through) multiple avenues. We’ll see what happens next week with where we are at. I can answer that for you next week.”

3. Trade partners. Seattle is now the favorite team to land Jones, according to sportsbetting.ag.

The Seahawks are followed by the Titans, Patriots, Ravens, Raiders and 49ers.

4. Teaching terminology: During coaching transitions, players often discuss how difficult it is to learn the new terminology for plays. Each staff will have a different spin on how they call a certain play. “I think you have an understanding that everybody learns differently,” Smith said. “Certainly, I learn different from Matt (Ryan) – and that’s no knock on one of us. The good thing about Matt is he’s been in multiple systems. I’ve been in similar systems.”

That will help Smith and Ryan translate calls and get on the same page. That will be important since Smith will call his own plays.

“I think the easy thing to do is to come in there and try to talk over everybody,” Smith said. “Like, I could do that to try to sound really smart and use a bunch of buzzwords. The best teachers are very practical.”

Ryan has played in a version of the West Coast offense that Smith runs. Smith also learned under Mike Mularkey, who was Ryan’s first offensive coordinator.

“It’s nice to have a reference point with Matt and certain things that he may have done in the past that I may have done and then what we’re doing now,” Smith said. “So, it is, everybody’s trying to learn a new language and trying to be practical about it and teaching them what to do.”

5. Andrews at left guard. Free-agent signee Josh Andrews is the early leader in the offseason clubhouse at left guard. He’s spending a lot of time next to Jake Matthews.

However, rookie Jalen Mayfield also is working at left guard.

6. Moreau at right cornerback. Free-agent signee Fabian Moreau is working at right cornerback. He’s played in 60 NFL games and made 18 starts over his four-year career.

7. Davidson update: Second-year defensive tackle Marlon Davidson is off to a good start with the new coaching staff.

“Marlon, he’s done a good job,” Smith said. “He’s been working hard this whole offseason getting healthy. Really happy how Marlon has progressed.

Davidson was a second-round pick (47th overall) out of Auburn last year. He had a disappointing rookie season. He played in only eight games and had eight tackles.

Davidson should not have any sense of entitlement to playing time since he was drafted by the previous regime.

“Everybody will have the same opportunity,” Smith said. “We continue to explain to these guys that the best players will play. It doesn’t matter where you’re drafted, where you come from, the best players are going to play.”

8. Falcons hopeful to see Fowler. Falcons outside linebacker Dante Fowler was not present Wednesday at the second open OTA, but Smith didn’t sound overly concerned.

“We’ve had good communication with Dante,” Smith said. “I think it’s healthy. You have to say what you mean and mean what you say. This is voluntary. That’s what it is. It’s no mixed messages. I think that’s silly. Tell it like it is.”

Fowler is set to move to outside linebacker in the Falcons’ new defensive scheme.

“We have guys – life happens, a lot of things going on,” Smith said. “We’ve got guys in and out of here certain days. A lot of these guys have families, and family issues come up. They should take care of that stuff.

“Some guys are moving. We’ve had great communication with Dante, similar to the question that was asked about Julio (Jones.) We have mandatory minicamp next week, so hopefully, depending on where we’re at next week, we’ll see everybody.”

The other players not seen during the open session included running back Mike Davis, safety Duron Harmon, running back Cordarrelle Patterson, linebacker Erroll Thompson, tight end Hayden Hurst and defensive tackle Deadrin Senat.

Wide receiver Calvin Ridley was in the building, but was not seen at practice.

9. Depth chart: Here’s the depth chart heading into Phase 3 of the offseason program:

OFFENSE

WR 11 Julio Jones, 13 Christian Blake, 86 Antonio Nunn, 17 Olamide Zaccheaus

LT 70 Jake Matthews, 74 William Sweet, 75 Kion Smith

LG 77 Jalen Mayfield, 66 Willie Wright, 64 Ryan Neuzil

C 61 Matt Hennessy, 68 Josh Andrews, 67 Drew Dalman

RG 63 Chris Lindstrom, 62 Bryce Hargrove, 65 Joe Sculthorpe, 71 Sam Jones

RT 76 Kaleb McGary, 73 Matt Gono, 72 Willie Beavers

TE 81 Hayden Hurst, 8 Kyle Pitts, 85 Lee Smith, 87 Jaeden Graham, 46 Parker Hesse, 80 Ryan Becker, 89 John Raine

WR 14 Russell Gage, 16 Greg Dortch, 82 Austin Trammell, 83 Tajae Sharpe

WR 18 Calvin Ridley, 88 Frank Darby

QB 2 Matt Ryan, 5 AJ McCarron, 15 Feleipe Franks

HB 28 Mike Davis, 84 Cordarrelle Patterson, 30 Qadree Ollison, 36 Tony Brooks-James, 25 Javian Hawkins, 42 Caleb Huntley

FB 40 Keith Smith

DEFENSE

DL 55 Steven Means, 95 Ta’Quon Graham, 79 Chris Slayton

DL 97 Grady Jarrett, 90 Marlon Davidson, 94 Deadrin Senat, 93 Zac Dawe, 98 Eli Ankou

DL 96 Tyeler Davison, 99 Jonathan Bullard, 50 John Cominsky, 69 Olive Sagapolu

OLB 56 Dante Fowler, 92 Adetokunbo Ogundeji, 59 Alani Pututau

ILB 45 Deion Jones, 51 Brandon Copeland, 53 Erroll Thompson

ILB 54 Foyesade Oluokun, 43 Mykal Walker, 48 Dorian Etheridge

OLB 91 Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, 52 Barkevious Mingo, 49 Kobe Jones

RCB 20 Kendall Sheffield, 22 Fabian Moreau, 29 Chris Williamson

LCB 24 A.J. Terrell, 33 Tyler Hall, 34 Darren Hall, 38 Marcus Murphy, 41 J.R. Pace

NCB 26 Isaiah Oliver, 25 Delrick Abrams, 35 Avery Williams

FS 23 Erik Harris, 27 Richie Grant, 39 T.J. Green, 37 Dwayne Johnson

SS 32 Jaylinn Hawkins

SPECIALISTS

K 7 Younghoe Koo

P 4 Sterling Hofrichter, 9 Dom Maggio

LS 47 Josh Harris

KO 7 Younghoe Koo

KR 84 Cordarrelle Patterson, 12 Chris Rowland, 35 Avery Williams

PR 14 Chris Rowland, 35 Avery Williams

About the Author

ajc.com

In Other News