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Falcons Place WR Drew Davis on Camp PUP List

July 5th, 2014 No comments
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Drew Davis

The Atlanta Falcons announced earlier today that wide receiver Drew Davis would be placed on the training camp or active/Physically-Unable-to-Perform (PUP) list. Davis suffered an unspecified foot injury requiring surgery that will keep him out of practice for the next six weeks, which will include the start of training camp practices on July 25.

The active/PUP list designation means that Davis will be held out of practices in training camp until team doctors clear him. When he is cleared, he will be able to resume practicing immediately. There is a possibility that defensive tackle Corey Peters could go on the training camp PUP list as well, according to a report in June.

There is a distinction between the types of PUP lists allowed for a player. One is strictly used for training camp, which is the active version mentioned above that Davis will go on. The other is the reserve version that is used for the regular season. In that version, a player is barred from playing or practicing for the first six weeks of the regular season. After which, there exists a five-week window in which the player is allowed to return to practice and play. Once a player resumes practicing within that window, there is a three-week period in which they can be returned to the active roster. If the player is unable to return, then he will finish the year on the injured reserve.

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Report: Falcons In Talks with Free Agent LB Will Witherspoon

July 4th, 2014 No comments
Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

Will Witherspoon

Apparently the Atlanta Falcons’ interest in a veteran linebacker was not satisfied with the recent signing of free agent Tim Dobbins, as a report from WHJG, an NBC affiliate in Panama City, Florida, indicates that free agent linebacker Will Witherspoon has been in talks with the Falcons as well as the St. Louis Rams about playing another year of football.

Witherspoon, who will turn 34 in August, is a 13-year NFL veteran that spent last season with the Rams. Originally drafted out of Georgia by the Carolina Panthers in the third round of the 2002 NFL Draft, Witherspoon spent four years with the Panthers before his first stint with the Rams (2006-09). He was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles during the 2009 season and then signed as a free agent with the Tennessee Titans the following spring. He spent three years with the Titans before re-joining the Rams again last summer.

Witherspoon has started 153 of 189 career appearances, and recorded 26 sacks and 14 interceptions over his 13-year career. Last season with the Rams, he began the season as their starting strongside linebacker while incumbent Jo-lonn Dunbar served out a four-game suspension. Witherspoon started three games with the Rams in 2013, recording 12 tackles and an interception.

It is unknown if the Falcons interest in Witherspoon remains or was concurrent with their interest in Dobbins and veterans Jonathan Vilma and Nick Barnett in June. The team was looking for depth to replace injured linebacker Sean Weatherspoon at the time, and opted to sign Dobbins.

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Falcons Add WR Courtney Roby

June 27th, 2014 No comments
Byron Hetzler-US PRESSWIRE

Courtney Roby

As first reported by FOX Sports’ Mike Garafolo, the Atlanta Falcons have announced that they have signed free agent wide receiver Courtney Roby. Roby most recently played for the New Orleans Saints (2008-12), where he primarily played on special teams.

Roby, 31, originally was drafted by the Tennessee Titans in the third round of the 2005 NFL Draft and played two seasons with them before being released. His most productive season as a wide receiver came as a rookie when he caught 21 passes for 289 yards and a touchdown. He was also the team’s primary kickoff returner that season, averaging 22.5 yards on 22 returns. He was cut in 2007, and briefly spent time with the Cincinnati Bengals and Indianapolis Colts in 2007 and 2008 before signing on with the Saints midway through the ’08 season. Over the next three seasons, Roby only caught two passes for 17 yards with the Saints but averaged 25.6 yards on 94 kickoff returns with one returned for a touchdown in 2009. In 2011, he stopped being the team’s kickoff return specialist and was just primarily a specialist on cover teams. He would earn the distinction as the team’s special teams captain in 2011.  He was cut by the Saints prior to the 2013 season and has been out of football since. Roby did work out for the Falcons at the start of last season when the Falcons were exploring depth options with an injured Roddy White.

Roby likely will push for a reserve spot at wide receiver, possibly as a direct challenge to Drew Davis, who serves as one of the team’s gunners on punt coverage. Roby led the Saints in special teams tackles in 2012 with 11, and was among their top performers from 2009 to 2011 with 31 combined tackles. Over the past two years, Davis has combined for 12 special teams tackles.

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Falcons Waive WR Croom

June 24th, 2014 No comments

The Atlanta Falcons announced today that wide receiver Dominique Croom has been waived by the team. Croom spent the last five weeks of the 2013 season on the team’s practice squad and was re-signed to a future contract after the season.

He was expected to compete for a reserve spot at wide receiver, but seemingly did not show enough in the team’s recent organized team activities to merit lasting until training camp, set to kick off on July 25. Croom was originally an undrafted free agent signed by the Cleveland Browns last year after a productive career at Central Arkansas.

Croom’s release leaves the Falcons with three vacant roster spots to fill prior to training camp. NFL teams are allowed to keep 90 players on their roster, and the Falcons currently have 87.

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Motta, Peters’ Training Camp Statuses Unknown

June 20th, 2014 Comments off
David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

Zeke Motta

Vaughn McClure of ESPN reported this morning that the statuses of Atlanta Falcons safety Zeke Motta and defensive tackle Corey Peters are unknown as of yet for next month’s training camp. Both players are coming off serious injuries suffered last December at the end of the 2013 season.

Motta suffered a fractured neck in the Falcons’ Week 14 loss to the Green Bay Packers. He had offseason surgery on the injury, but his recovery has been delayed longer than initially expected. Per McClure, Motta will have a follow-up appointment in July that will determine whether or not he’ll return not just for training camp, but also for the year. It’s clear that Motta’s neck injury is a career-threatening one.

Peters on the other hand suffered a torn Achilles tendon against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 16 last year. Per Falcons head coach Mike Smith, Peters is ahead of schedule in his recovery. But he is still is at risk for missing a large portion of training camp and/or the preseason as he continues to recover from the injury. McClure indicates there is a possibility that Peters could be placed on the team’s Physically-Unable-to-Perform (PUP) list at the start of not only training camp but also the regular season.

McClure notes of two distinct designations that could await Peters. If at the outset of training camp, which begins on July 25, Peters is placed on active/PUP list, he will be eligible to return to practice during camp at his earliest allowance. But if he is placed on the reserve/PUP, then he will be forced to miss the first six weeks of the regular season, but will have a chance to return to practice and the active roster within a month afterwards.

McClure also notes that wide receiver Julio Jones is expected to be a full participant in training camp, despite missing all of the team’s offseason practices. Jones indicated earlier this month that his target date for return is the regular season-opener against the New Orleans Saints, indicating doubt that his usage in camp and the preseason may be extremely limited.

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Falcons Announce 2014 Training Camp Schedule

June 20th, 2014 Comments off

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Thomas Dimitroff (left) and Mike Smith watch a practice

The Atlanta Falcons announced their upcoming schedule for next month’s training camp which kicks off on Friday, July 25 in Flowery Branch, Georgia. The team will break camp on August 12, a few days before traveling to Houston for their second preseason matchup against the Texans.

The team will conduct a large number of practices that will be open to the public most afternoons, including an initial week which will be capped off by their annual “Friday Night Lights” event, sponsored by Kia Motors and will be held at Archer High School in Lawrenceville.

The team will hold joint practices with the Tennessee Titans on Monday, August 4. After breaking camp on the 12th, they will hold joint practices with the Texans in Houston on August 13 and 14 leading up to their preseason game on August 16.

Training camp will have another added feature this year as it will be chronicled by the HBO and NFL Films documentary series, Hard Knocks.

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Falcons Waive Dominique Davis

June 19th, 2014 Comments off
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Dominique Davis

The Atlanta Falcons announced today that they have waived quarterback Dominique Davis from the roster. Davis was pushed out in the wake of the team’s decision to acquire T.J. Yates via trade yesterday. The team was not going to carry more than four quarterbacks into training camp and with the team wrapping up their mandatory minicamp today, it marked the end of their organized team activities schedule until camp opens at the end of July.

Davis was originally signed as an undrafted free agent out of East Carolina in 2012, and had a strong summer to make veterans Chris Redman and John Parker Wilson expendable. Davis sat behind Matt Ryan and Luke McCown that season at quarterback, before being elevated last season to the top spot behind Ryan. Davis garned limited playing time during the 2013 season, and suffered an injury when subbing for Ryan during garbage time in a blowout loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 11. Davis completed five of seven pass attempts for 34 yards in limited duty in 2013.

Davis’ departure leaves Yates, former 2013 seventh-round pick Sean Renfree, and 2014 undrafted rookie free agent Jeff Mathews competing for what may become one roster spot behind quarterback Matt Ryan. Yates is likely the front-runner, however recent reports suggest that the competition is very much an open one.

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Falcons Swap Dent for Yates; Sign LB Tim Dobbins

June 19th, 2014 Comments off
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

T.J. Yates

The Atlanta Falcons announced late on Wednesday night that they had acquired Houston Texans quarterback T.J. Yates via trade and signed free agent linebacker Tim Dobbins. The Falcons sent linebacker Akeem Dent to the Texans in exchange for Yates.

On Tuesday, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reported that the Texans had made the decision to waive Yates, but the transaction would not become official until today. That would mean that Yates would be open to waivers. Given the Falcons’ poor record in 2013, they had high waiver priority but per a report by Pro Football Talk, the team wanted to be sure they got Yates. Negotiations went later into Wednesday, prompting the Texans to delay their official waiving of Yates and the late announcement of the move.

Yates was a fifth-round pick of the Texans in 2011. He started the final five games of the regular season as a rookie for an injured Matt Schaub and posted a 2-3 record. He also started in the Texans first-round playoff win over the Cincinnati Bengals that year. For the season, Yates finished with 949 yards passing, completing 61.2 percent of 134 pass attempts for three touchdowns and three interceptions. The past two seasons, he has earned limited playing time in seven games, combining to pass for 151 yards, two interceptions and complete 59.4 percent of 32 attempts. Yates had fell down the depth chart, getting passed up by former undrafted rookie quarterback Case Keenum for the starting spot after Schaub’s benching and his own poor play in relief during a Week 6 loss to the St. Louis Rams.

Yates was a prospect that the Falcons showed considerable interest towards in the run-up to the 2011 NFL Draft. As a local kid out of Marietta, Georgia, Yates was a participant in the team’s local pro day that year and the team also conducted a private workout with him following watching him at his pro day. You can click here to read my scouting report on Yates as a 2011 draft prospect. Yates will be expected to push immediately for the backup position behind starter Matt Ryan. It is likely that one of the following three quarterbacks currently on the roster will not make it to training camp next month: Dominique Davis, Sean Renfree, and undrafted rookie Jeff Mathews.

Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Tim Dobbins

Dent was a third-round pick by the Falcons in 2011. He played primarily on special teams as a rookie, where he led the team with 17 tackles. Dent stepped into the starting role at middle linebacker in 2012 after the departure of Curtis Lofton via free agency and struggled. He was limited to being a starter in the Falcons’ base defense and finished the year with 61 tackles and a forced fumble while starting 13 games. He began last season in the same role, but was eventually replaced by undrafted rookie Paul Worrilow by midseason. Dent added seven more starts, 46 tackles and 1.5 sacks to his career stat sheet in 2013.

Dent lost favor within the organization, evidenced when the team selected four linebackers on the third and final day of the 2014 NFL Draft. Seventh-round pick Yawin Smallwood was expected to compete with Dent for the reserve spot behind Worrilow. But with recent news that fourth-round pick Prince Shembo would also be making a move inside to bolster depth, it likely hurt Dent’s chances to make the team. However, with the recent injury to Sean Weatherspoon, Dent’s chances of sticking looked to have improved.

Dobbins, 31, has played the past three seasons with the Texans as a reserve inside linebacker in their 3-4 defense. He started six games as an injury replacement in 2012 and recorded 35 tackles, one interception and four passes defended. Dobbins led the Texans with nine tackles on special teams in 2011. Prior to joining the Texans, Dobbins played under current Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan with the Miami Dolphins in 2010. That season, Dobbins also started six games as an injury replacement and had 42 tackles, one sack and a pass defended. Prior to that, he had played four years with the San Diego Chargers before they traded him to the Dolphins in a trade during the 2010 NFL Draft. Dobbins started 10 games over his four-year stint in San Diego, and was a productive special teams performer. He was originally a fifth-round pick of the Chargers in 2006.

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Falcons to be Featured on HBO’s Hard Knocks This Summer

June 12th, 2014 Comments off
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Thomas Dimitroff and Arthur Blank celebrate

The Atlanta Falcons announced today that the team will be featured on HBO and NFL Film’s documentary series, “Hard Knocks,” this summer. The show is set to premiere on August 5, 2014 at 10 p.m. Eastern. The team will be featured in five hour-long episodes every Tuesday night.

Rumors surrounding the team’s interest in being featured on the show have persisted for years. Prior to the 2012 season, the team was considered the favorite in league circles to be featured. Instead, the Miami Dolphins were the featured team. The Cincinnati Bengals hosted the series last summer. During the lockout in 2011, GM Thomas Dimitroff indicated that the team was open to the idea, but again had no immediate plans to be featured on the show.

The NFL instituted new rules this past October, nicknamed the “Hard Knocks Rules,” which would require one team per year to be featured on the documentary series. One rule was that it would still allow for volunteers, but one would be ultimately appointed if one wasn’t found. Another that would have seemingly eliminated the Falcons was the reprieve teams would get if they’ve made the playoffs in either of the past two seasons. Presumably that indicates the Falcons volunteered.

Falcons owner Arthur Blank had the following to say about the news:

“We are excited about the opportunity to give our fans a behind the scenes look at what it takes to prepare an NFL team for the rigors of a 16-game regular season and beyond. This marks the first time that our franchise will be featured on HARD KNOCKS and we look forward to showcasing our great players and coaches to football fans all across America.”

Falcons Sign Southward; Add Kicker Castillo

June 12th, 2014 Comments off
Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

Dezmen Southward

The Atlanta Falcons announced today the signing of third-round rookie draft pick safety Dezmen Southward and also signed undrafted kicker Sergio Castillo. Southward was the lone member of the Falcons’ 2014 draft class that had yet to be signed. Castillo adds another leg in training camp after the team released undrafted punter Matt Yoklic earlier this week. Along with Yoklic, the team dumped tight end Andrew Szczerba, freeing up some roster space. The team has one spot left on their roster, which may be to sign a free-agent linebacker such as Tim Dobbins, who earlier reports indicated was working out for the team today.

Southward is expected to fill a backup role with the Falcons and is likely destined to be their free safety of the future behind starter Dwight Lowery. Southward has also been getting work as a reserve at strong safety in light of the neck injury to Zeke Motta that has him sidelined during the offseason.

Castillo is an undrafted free agent out of West Texas A&M who finished his career as the NCAA’s all-time leader in points scored (437). Castillo won the Fred Mitchell Award, given to the nation’s top kicker outside of FBS play. Castillo is a two-time All-Conference player and two-time Division II All-American honoree. He also finsihed his career as the school’s all-time leader in field goals made (62). Castillo was very accreted throughout his career, connecting on 78.5 percent of his 79 career tries. He also hit on 251 of 255 extra point tries in his career (98.4 percent). As a senior, he had career-highs with 24 field goals made and 149 points scored. He also had 16 career kickoffs with a pair of touchbacks.

As a follow-up to this morning’s report about the Falcons interest in veteran free-agent linebackers, ESPN’s Vaughn McClure reported that the Falcons are working out ex-Houston Texans linebacker Tim Dobbins today. Dobbins has experience playing for Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, having played under him with the Miami Dolphins in 2010. Dobbins entered the league in 2006 and has been primarily a special teams player and reserve with 22 career starts.

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