Falcons head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff, who both just signed contract extentions, share a laugh during their press conference about wide receiver Julio Jones on the day players report to training camp on Thursday, July 26, 2018, in Flowery Branch. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton

Five things to know about the Falcons 

Teams’ drafting record of offensive linemen is real shaky 

The staff now has three former head coaches on the offensive side of the ball in offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, tight ends coach Mike Mularkey and assistant head coach/wide receiver Raheem Morris. The unit also has three former NFL offensive coordinators in Koetter, Mularkey and quarterbacks coach Gregg Knapp. 

With all of that experience in the offensive meeting room, the Falcons should be able to come up with some much better game plans. 

Here are five things to know about the Falcons, as they get ready to head to the Senior Bowl next week. 

1. Hooper to the Pro Bowl. Falcons tight end Austin Hooper, who’s in his third season in the NFL, was picked to replace Eagles tight end Zach Ertz in the Pro Bowl on Tuesday.

Hooper, who had a breakthrough season, was the first alternate at the position. The Pro Bowl is set for Sunday, Jan. 27 at CampingWorld Stadium in Orlando.

Hooper caught 71 passes for 660 yards and four touchdowns, all career-highs, last season.

“It was great considering all of the hard work that I was putting in over the offseason,” Hooper told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution after being named the first alternate. “So, it’s just gratifying to know that if you make sacrifices and put in the work that it would come.”

Hooper and Ertz both played at Stanford. 

2. Ryan workouts. The California native spent the majority of the offseason in Atlanta working with quarterback Matt Ryan, beginning as soon as the quarterback began throwing in March. The connection between the two players was evident all season long as Ryan posted a 108.3 passer rating when targeting Hooper.

3. Fisher on Smith. We caught up with former NFL head coach Jeff Fisher this morning for a story on Super Bowl XXXIV, the last one played in Atlanta. 

He wants to keep coaching, but discussed former Falcons coach Mike Smith concluding that he’s finished coaching.  

“That’ happens and I wish Mike the best,” Fisher said. “None of us leave on our own terms. But we can make those decisions, what’s best for us. I feel good. Recharged. I miss the relationship with the players and competing on Sundays.”

Fisher, who’s consulting for the Alliance of American Football League, said he’s watching the league closely and is hoping for a return. 

4. Linemen watch. We are monitoring to see if the Falcons and other teams will scout the AAF play more closely for the development of offensive line.

The Falcons and the rest of the league has had trouble developing linemen because of the new contact rules and colleges running more spread offenses.

The Falcons must revamped their line this offseason after starting six different guards and playing five different combinations.

5. Falcons track record on developing drafted linemen under GM Dimitroff. The last offensive linemen the Falcons developed was right tackle Ryan Schraeder, an undrafted player from Valdosta State.

The best lineman the Falcons drafted -- after the first round -- was center Joe Hawley.

You can debate over Jake Matthews and Sam Baker on the best first-rounder picked since 2008. Baker was never selected to the Pro Bowl and Matthews is looking for his first trip. 

The Falcons worked with Wes Schweitzer, a sixth-round draft pick in 2016, and Sean Harlow, a fourth round pick in 2017. Both sat for one year. Schweitzer played with mix results in his second and third years. Harlow was cut and signed to the practice squad.

Tackle Jake Rodgers, a seventh-round pick in 2015, has bounced around the league as a practice squad player. He was with Houston, Pittsburgh and Baltimore in 2018, but has never played a down in the NFL. 

 The Falcons drafted Matthews in the first round with the sixth overall pick. Tennessee’s took tackle Taylor Lewan with the 11th pick and he’s been selected to three Pro Bowls. 

The Falcons acquired center Alex Mack and guard Brandon Fusco in free agency and traded for right guard Andy Levitre. 

The Falcons traded for backup tackle Ty Sambrailo and signed old-timer Zane Beadles in free agency. 

The Falcons tried to develop tackle Matt Gono last season. He was inactive for all 16 games like Schweitzer and Harlow were.

The two previous offensive linemen drafted were center Peter Konz in the second round and Lamar Holmes in the third round of the 2012 draft. 

Holmes played seven games in the CFL in 2017.

Back in 2011, the Falcons picked Andrew “The President” Jackson in the seventh round. He never played in the NFL. Nicest guy ever. Perhaps he’s running for office somewhere in California. 

In 2010, the Falcons drafted Alabama guard Mike Johnson in the third round and Hawley in the fourth round. Johnson’s career was side-tracked by injuries, while Hawley went on to make 26 starts and play 91 games in the NFL.

In 2009, North Carolina tackle Garrett Reynolds was selected in the fifth round. He went on to start 18 games and play in 67.  

In 2008, the Falcons selected USC tackle Sam Baker after trading back into the first round. Injuries side-tracked Baker’s career. He made 32 starts and played in 75 games. 

Subscribe to “The Bow Tie Chronicles” podcast with the AJC’s D. Orlando Ledbetter on iTunes or on the new AJC sports podcasts page.

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