Cover 9@9: Monachino sees bright future for Ogundeji

Falcons outside linebacker Ade Ogundeji (center) sprints to the next drill during rookie minicamp Friday, May 14, 2021, in Flowery Branch.  (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)
Caption
Falcons outside linebacker Ade Ogundeji (center) sprints to the next drill during rookie minicamp Friday, May 14, 2021, in Flowery Branch. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@ajc.com

(Here’s our weekly nine items at 9 a.m. Wednesday on the Atlanta Falcons, otherwise known as the Cover 9@9 blog!)

1. The no-spin zone: Falcons outside linebackers coach Ted Monachino recently sat down with the Atlanta media to discuss the development of his group of players.

In previous NFL coaching stops, Monachino has coached some of the game’s top pass rushers in Tyrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Robert Mathis and Khalil Mack.

He has enjoyed working with Dante Fowler and believes that rookie Ade Ogundeji has a bright future.

Here’s what Monachino had to say:

ON HOW THE OLB GROUP HAS BEEN WORKING: “The group has taken on the mindset that they never turn on their high beams. Everything is about what’s next and what’s right in front of them. Which I think is really, a little bit rare. I’ve had mature groups before, but this group fits right in. They want to get better daily. They want to have real football conversations because none of them want to be that guy. Coach I know this is a call that doesn’t happen very often, but I know you’re going to call it in the most critical situation. What happens when this comes up? They want to know those answers, which I think is huge. That’s from top to bottom from our oldest veterans to our youngest guys to the ones with the most experience. I think that they are just all about the process right now. From a progress standpoint, we’ve built it from the very bottom up. But we still are working on those little things every single day in practice. The stance. The start. Technique. Hand placement. Pad Level. All of that stuff gets worked on every day. Then we just apply those techniques to the scheme. We have a lot of variety in what we do. We ask a lot of those guys, which is different than a lot of systems with players that play that position. They can’t wait to get to some of the other calls, where we just line up and sic’ em. But we have enough in our system where that doesn’t just happen all the time. They’ve got to think their way through some things. They’ve got to be able to communicate and hear communications. The process is ongoing, but they are all willing and have done a good job of keeping up with it for the most part. I don’t have any problem repeat questions….A lot of them, they all conversions. They were all defensive ends for most of their life and now they are doing some things that are different. It takes some time, but we are getting there.”

ON DECIDING PLAYING TIME AND THE ROTATION: “It’s built during the week of practice. It’s built based on the length of some series. I do all I can to try to keep as fresh of guys in there as we can keep in there. I try to make sure that the guys are going to be in the game in two-minute situations are fresh and that they can go in there and perform. So, there is not, ….I don’t go in and say the third series, this player is going to go in no matter what. Our starters are going to play the starter’s share of the reps. As series get long and as drives get extended, then we’ll get them out and get them back in when we get to those critical, high-leverage areas. When we get into the red area or we get into some third downs, we’ll get them back in the game.”

MORE ON THE ROTATION: “The thing about it is and Coach (Arthur Smith) has been great and (defensive coordinator) Dean (Pees) doesn’t have a hard and fast rule on any of it. He trusts the veteran defensive staff to control and handle their guys. I know what Steven (Means) and Dante (Fowler) look like when they get tired. I know what they look like when they are fresh. I know when a situation is coming up in the half or in the game that we are going to need them fresher. I know when to put them in and pull them out….You’re the head coach of your group and I expect it to be run that way.”

ON 17-GAMES AND RESTING OLDER PLAYERS LIKE STEVEN MEANS: “Steven is not here to be the veteran presence in the room. Steven is here because he’s one of our best 53 football players. Our best players are going to play in situations they can play as long as they are safe to play and as long as they are fresh enough to play. This may be more snaps than Steven has played in his history, but I think he welcomes that and I don’t have one concern with putting him in there all situations. Number one, he knows our system really well. He’s got some experience with me, which helped. Number two. He’s a big man and we don’t have enough, big man right now at the position group. So, when we need big, he’s in. When we need smart, he’s in and when we need tough he’s in there because of those, those other things that he is.”

ON MANAGING HIS PLAYERS: “I never backed Tyrell Suggs off, right. I never backed Jared Johnson off, because those guys, when they’re not good enough to be your best players anymore they spit him out of his league pretty fast, and he’s still go enough to be one of our top players.”

ON WORKING WITH DANTE FOWLER: “When we went through the offseason, and I had, I just remembered a couple of things, I know that when he came out he was the best prospect in the draft that came out at my position that I evaluated. He’s got all the physical tools that you look for in that position. Not knowing him personally and not being able to say okay to these this type of learner he’s this type of practice player, his habits are thus. That was the biggest thing I was looking forward to….I was looking forward to getting to know him better, to know what buttons to push and how to proceed. The thing with him is to say that I was pleasantly surprised, I think that that’s really unfair to Dante. Because I don’t go down that pre-judge road. I don’t do that. I didn’t do it with the veteran players that we’ve signed as free agents. I haven’t done it with…. I do it a little bit with...I don’t do it with the rookies because I learned enough about. So, to say that I’m pleased with where Dante is right now that’s, that’s a fact. I’m not surprised. I had the expectation, that he was going to come in here and be a good pro and that’s what he’s been since he’s been here.”

New York Jets running back Michael Carter (32) is tackled by Falcons defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. (6) during the first half Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021, at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium in London. (Alastair Grant/AP)
Caption
New York Jets running back Michael Carter (32) is tackled by Falcons defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. (6) during the first half Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021, at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium in London. (Alastair Grant/AP)

Credit: Alastair Grant

Credit: Alastair Grant

ON FOWLER HAVE THE KNACK FOR MAKING SACK STRIPS: “Absolutely, I think that’s what all of us as pass rush coaches try to focus on, on the ball. we understand that the blocker is a speed bump, he’s the obstacle and the ball is the objective. We all understand that we talk about the finish and how we are going to attack the ball based on whichever side we’re on of the quarterback. We talk about all the time. We show them a lot of examples on tape, not only of our own, but historically, how that happens. The word you used was knack. There are guys that have been intercepted passes since they were in Pop Warner. There have been guys who’ve been blocking kicks since they were in Pop Warner. There have been guys who have been sacking quarterbacks since they were in Pop Warner. Dante Fowler is one of those guys. He does have a knack. Right, (former safety) Ed Reed had a knack for getting to football and catching it when they threw it. So, with opportunities, right, we’re going to drive his one-on-one win percentage up. When he wins his share of one-on-ones, we’re going to have a chance to be around the ball and he knows what to do when he gets there.”

MORE ON DANTE FOWLER: “First of all, I don’t think Dante cares a whole lot about anybody opinion of Dante except for the men in that building. I think that he is a guy that comes in and tries to earn it every day. I’ve got a great deal of respect for him as a person, I think that in our building, he’s in-tuned to the things that we are doing. He has taken ownership, not only in his own play, but the player in the room, which I think is great, he’s a, he’s a guy that will say something timely when it needs to be said. He will ask a question that the whole room needs to hear, rather than pull me aside, and try to just simply help himself. He’ll say, this is what happened, what do you think? I’m getting more and more of that with him and I think, as he continues to grow in confidence, and as the relationship continues to grow I think we’ll get only more of that. He knows that it’s built on truth and it’s built on trust. I’m going to tell him the truth. And I can expect him to tell me the truth. And once we have that wired, then that trust part comes in. Now, we can have hard conversations right. I don’t have to stroke Dante’s ego, because all Dante wants to do is be a warrior that helps his team.”

ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF ADE OGUNDEJI: “I’m really pleased with Ade. I think that Ade is an overachiever, which is huge and that’s a that’s a good trait. We all understand that there are people that meet expectations and people that over-achieve and under-achieve…There are some measurables that he has been blessed with. There are some things from an experience standpoint, that he’s still working on. I don’t have one. There’s not one situation that comes up in a practice or a game, that I would be concerned to play Ade. He has completely immersed himself in what we’re doing. It’s all new to him and he’s got a good mind for football. Football makes sense to him. So, I would expect that he continues to grow throughout the year. You can see that every week, his rep count continues to grow. What that does is what we’re talking about before, it allows us to have fresher bodies in those high-leverage situations. He’s in there some on third down. He’s in there some on first and second down. He’s in there with big people. He’s in there some with smaller people. You know what I mean, so Ade is a good football player, and he’s still carving out his niche and his role and that thing is by the end of the year going to be a pretty significant one.”

ON OGUNDEJI BEING MORE THAN A DEVELOPMENT PLAYER: “Right away. It wasn’t, it didn’t take long. And so, this game at the end of the day there’s still an element of toughness in this game and Ade’s got that. So when you see a big man that’s tough and he’s a willing learner that makes it easy to predict some success. And that’s, been really easy. Right away I knew, number one, he was a draft pick and we needed a draft pick and he was going to be on the roster. I wasn’t going to waste, I can’t redshirt a guy that’s one of our top four or five players at the position. He is still a developmental player and sometimes you got to learn under some pressure and under some stress and in real football game. We can baby him and pull him back and say he’s not ready. But I don’t think that’s fair to him. I don’t think it’s fair to our team. I don’t think that that risk-reward that comes with playing a young player, as long as that continuum is in the right place, right, the risk is high but so potentially is the reward. I’m all about playing that young player because I think it’s only going to help him be …. as all these players move in and out of the building, at some point we’re going to ask Ade to be the bell cow in the room. We’re preparing him for that right now.”

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts drags along Atlanta Falcons outside linebacker Adetokunbo Ogundeji for extra yardage during the first half Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. The Eagles won 32-6. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)
Caption
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts drags along Atlanta Falcons outside linebacker Adetokunbo Ogundeji for extra yardage during the first half Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. The Eagles won 32-6. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@ajc.com

ON OGUNDEJI USING HIS LENGTH: “Sure. Well, you know, you look for the Renaissance football players there aren’t many of them left that do a lot of things well. You’re looking for when you evaluate these guys you’re looking for the dominant traits, what are the dominant traits. Ade’s dominant traits are that he’s got great size, and he’s got great length. He uses those to his advantage, all the time, and I didn’t have to convince him to do that. That’s how he’s been a good football players because he’s always understood that. When I, when I see a young player walking out of Dick’s (sporting good store) carrying a football helmet, I stop and asked him, ‘Is that your first football helmet you’ve ever had, he says, Yes, I said start using your hands right now.’ Well Ade knew how to use his hands as young player and he’s good at it. So, we’ll continue to grow him and polish him and at some point, he’s going to be a guy that goes in and impacts games for us. It may take a little longer, because he’s a fifth-round pick instead of a first-round pick, but we still have the same expectation. If he’s good enough to be on NFL roster, he’s good enough to change games in our favor.”

ON FINDING OLBS: “When you’re in the process, you probably don’t think that because there are high picks, I know that’s what you’re getting. But when you learn the character of a man. You learn the Football IQ of a guy and you learn what kind of teammate he’s going to be, it kind of jumps off the screen and that’s what it’s been. The kid keeps his mouth shut. He only speaks when he needs to. And he’s all about learning and helping those other guys in the room. That’s a trait. Eventually, that’s what Steven (Means) was when he was a young player. Steve had absolutely zero selfishness. What can I do. Coach me coach, coach me. Right. And that’s the way this kid is. And that’s encouraging.”

ON JACOB TUIOTI-MARINER AND JAMES VAUGHTERS: “Jacob is doing great. The roles are still being formed and massaged at times and that’s every day. We try to balance the reps out so each guy has enough opportunities to feel like he’s competing. So, but, but, football is really easy for Tewy. He’s a really good, smooth athlete. I think right now, his biggest thing is, is what to do with my body? Right, I was a big guy. Now, I’m not a big guy. I was too big for the position now I’m maybe not as big as some of the other guys position. So, we’ve got to figure that out. And then with James, you know, James is a hammer. That’s James’s dominant trait. He’s tough. He’s strong. He’s an edge setter and he plays with championship effort. So, those are traits that you look for. Would you love it if he was 6-4 and 255 instead of 6-2 and change and 255, sure you’d love to have the extra length. But at the end of the day, it’s not about what you weigh it’s about how you play. The kid is a football player. We were fortunate enough to find him. When I was in Chicago. He was in Canada. We signed him to a futures deal and he was on our active roster for two years. He’s a football guy.”

2. Coach of the Week: Vote: #Falcons Coach of the Week of Week 8

3. Falcons injury report: Wide receiver Russell Gage (ankle), defensive tackle Marlon Davidson (ankle) and cornerback Fabian Moreau (neck) were back at practice Monday.

Safety Erik Harris (calf) and cornerback Avery Williams (hamstring) were not seen at practice during the open media period.

Gage, Davidson and Harris missed the last game in London, while Moreau was injured in the victory over the Jets.

The Falcons' wide receivers group, including Calvin Ridley (from left), Russell Gage and Olamide Zaccheaus give each other a fist bump as they take the field for the first day of practice during training camp Thursday, July 29, 2021, at the team's training facility in Flowery Branch. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)
Caption
The Falcons' wide receivers group, including Calvin Ridley (from left), Russell Gage and Olamide Zaccheaus give each other a fist bump as they take the field for the first day of practice during training camp Thursday, July 29, 2021, at the team's training facility in Flowery Branch. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

4. Series record: This will be the 14th meeting between the Falcons (2-3) and the Dolphins (1-5). Miami leads the series 9-4 and won the last meeting, 20-17, on Oct. 15, 2017.

5. Dolphins disappointed: The Dolphins went 10-6 and narrowly missed the playoffs last season. They were expected to contend in the AFC East.

Dolphins owner Stephen M. Ross is disappointed in the start.

“He wants to see our team have success, but that’s really everybody,” Flores said. “He’s no different than the players, coaches and the support staff and the fans. So, we’ve got to be better.”

The Dolphins opened the season with a 17-16 win over New England. They were not competitive in games against Buffalo (35-0) and Tampa Bay (45-17). They also have a two-score loss to the Colts (27-17) and a one-score loss to Las Vegas (31-28).

“Yeah, there is a slim, slim margin for error,” Flores said. “We’re on the wrong side of that right now. We just need to continue to work.”

6. Tagovailoa back: Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa fractured his ribs in Week 2. He returned against Jacksonville and completed 33 of 47 passes for 329 yards with two touchdowns and one costly interception. The Jaguars needed two late field goals to snap their 20-game losing streak.

“There are times out there when he looks like the best quarterback on the field,” Falcons safety Duron Harmon said. “You see the throws that he makes. The reads that he makes. You see the scrambling ability, which I don’t think enough people talk about and how he can really hurt you with his feet by picking up those first downs on third down.”

Tagovailoa’s top targets are rookie wide receiver Jaylen Waddle and tight end Mike Gesicki.

“I think just with him, you have to see what his strengths are and try to neutralize that and then just in his terms, make him play right-handed,” Harmon said.

Tagovailoa was sharp in the joint practices.

“We practiced against him, so I’ve seen him scramble and run around a little bit,” Falcons defensive end Steven Means said. “It’s definitely a good part of his game that we have to make sure that we maintain. We’re going to have to keep him in the pocket. We are going to have to do everything that we can to neutralize that part of his game and try to make him throw from the (pocket).”

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) runs with the ball against the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021, at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium in London, England. The Jaguars won 23-20. (Ian Walton/AP)
Caption
Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) runs with the ball against the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021, at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium in London, England. The Jaguars won 23-20. (Ian Walton/AP)

Credit: Ian Walton

Credit: Ian Walton

7. Dolphins injury report: While they got Tagovailoa back, the Dolphins were with their top two cornerbacks in Xavien Howard and Byron Jones. Also, wide receivers DeVante Parker and Preston Williams were injured and did not play.

“Byron practiced last week,” said Flores, who didn’t mind giving an early-week injury report. “Preston practiced a little bit last week. X (Xavier Howard) did not. DeVante did not. (Tight end Adam) Shaheed practiced. The guys who practiced are probably a little bit closer more than the guys who didn’t. But obviously we’ll know more later … and through treatment.”

8. Secondary update: With the rash of injuries, second-year safety Jaylinn Hawkins, rookies Richie Grant and Darren Hall and Chris Williamson all were forced into action against the Jets.

Hawkins, who was making his third NFL start, played all 56 defensive snaps. Grant, who played nickel back, with Isaiah Oliver and Avery Williams out, played 28 (50%) snaps. Hall played 17 (30%) and Williamson played 13 snaps (23%).

“They did extremely well,” Falcons safety Duron Harmon said. “Obviously, there (are) always things that you can work on fundamentally. Technique-wise. But for those guys to go out there and play the way that they play, it showed that we’ve got a great group. Teams are really built on the depth that they have. I think those young guys showed when they are to be called on and when it’s their time, we are going to be able to move forward.”

Falcons safety Jaylinn Hawkins (32) celebrates making an interception during the first half  against the New York Jets Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021, at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium in London, England. (Ian Walton/AP)
Caption
Falcons safety Jaylinn Hawkins (32) celebrates making an interception during the first half against the New York Jets Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021, at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium in London, England. (Ian Walton/AP)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

9. Depth chart: Jason Spriggs could start at right tackle in place of Kaleb McGary, who was placed on the COVID-19 reserve list Monday.

Spriggs, a former second-round pick by the Green Bay Packers, was listed as the starter at right tackle in the official depth chart released by the team Tuesday. Colby Gossett is listed as his backup.

With the return of Josh Andrews (broken hand) from injured reserve, the Falcons listed him as rookie Jalen Mayfield’s backup.

Here’s the Falcons’ projected depth chart heading into the Dolphins’ game:

OFFENSE

WR - Calvin Ridley, Tajae Sharpe or Christian Blake

TE - Kyle Pitts, Lee Smith

LT - Jake Matthews, Jason Spriggs

LG - Jaylen Mayfield, Josh Andrews

C - Matt Hennessy, Drew Dalman

RG - Chris Lindstrom, Drew Dalman

RT - Jason Spriggs, Colby Gossett, (Kaleb McGary on Covid-19 list)

TE - Hayden Hurst, Keith Smith, *Feleipe Franks (Was part of TE/QB package vs. Giants)

WR - Russell Gage, Olamide Zaccheaus, Frank Darby

RB - Mike Davis, Cordarrelle Patterson, Wayne Gallman

*FB -- Keith Smith, Cordarrelle Patterson (Added to reflect that they played the position in the opener.)

QB - Matt Ryan, Josh Rosen, Feleipe Franks

DEFENSE

DL - Grady Jarrett, Marlon Davidson

NT - Tyeler Davison, Ta’Quon Graham

DL - Jonathan Bullard, Mike Pennel, John Cominsky

OLB - Steven Means, Jacob Tuioti-Mariner or Brandon Copeland

ILB - Deion Jones, Mykal Walker

ILB - Foyesade Oluokun, Dorian Etheridge

OLB – Dante Fowler, Adetokunbo Ogundeji

LCB - A.J. Terrell, T.J. Green, Darren Hall

FS - Erik Harris, Jaylinn Hawkins

SS - Duron Harmon, Richie Grant

RCB - Fabian Moreau, Avery Williams, Kendall Sheffield

SPECIAL TEAMS

K - Younghoe Koo

P - Dustin Colquitt

LS - Josh Harris

H - Dustin Colquitt

PR - Avery Williams, Olamide Zaccheaus

KOR - Cordarrelle Patterson

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Falcons’ 2021 schedule features trip to London, January trip to Buffalo

Atlanta Falcons Schedule

Eagles 32, Falcons 6

Buccaneers 48, Falcons 25

Falcons 17, Giants 14

Washington 34, Falcons 30

Falcons 27, Jets 20

Bye Week

Falcons at Miami Dolphins, Oct. 24 at 1 p.m.

Here’s the rest of full schedule

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