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Falcons Re-Sign Eric Weems; Davis to Start Season on PUP

August 21st, 2014 No comments

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Eric Weems

The Atlanta Falcons announced today that they had re-signed wide receiver Eric Weems and waived wide receiver Jabin Sambrano. Weems returns to the Falcons after signing as an unrestricted free agent with the Chicago Bears in 2012. Earlier today, Vaughn McClure of ESPN also reported that wide receiver Drew Davis would begin the regular season on the team’s reserve/Physically-Unable-to-Perform (PUP) list. Davis was placed on the active/PUP list before the start of training camp and was supposed to mix six weeks due to foot surgery, but his recovery has been delayed. Davis will subsequently miss the first six weeks of the regular season.

Weems spent five seasons with the Falcons after joining the team as an undrafted free agent out of Bethune-Cookman in 2007. He played primarily on special teams where he returned both kickoffs and punts from 2009-11. He also shined on coverage teams, earning a bid to the Pro Bowl with 16 tackles along with a touchdown each as a punt and kickoff returner.

The Bears signed Weems to return kicks and allow Devin Hester to concentrate on offense in 2012. But that decision did not work out, and Hester played exclusively as a return specialist in 2013 before signing with the Falcons this past offseason. Instead, Weems’ primary value with the Bears was his ability to cover kicks.

During his Falcon career, Weems also received some reps on offense, catching a total 24 passes for 205 yards and two touchdowns, and also rushing for 53 yards on eight attempts. McClure reported that Weems was set to sign with the Tennessee Titans earlier this week, a team the Falcons play on Saturday in their third preseason action of the summer. But McClure indicated this afternoon that the Falcons swooped in last night to sign Weems to a one-year deal after his Titans deal hit a snag.

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Falcons 2014 Training Camp: Day 17 Report

August 18th, 2014 No comments
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Jake Matthews

The Atlanta Falcons finally broke training camp with a morning practice today. Let’s take a look at the various tweets, articles, reports, news and rumors that surfaced from the last day of camp this morning:

ESPN’s Vaughn McClure hits several things in his recap of the day. First among them is the fact that rookie Jake Matthews is moving from right tackle to left tackle, which was reported first by D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC this morning. Matthews played left tackle his final season at Texas A&M after spending three years at right tackle. He was slotted in immediately at right tackle by the Falcons due to the presence of Sam Baker on the left side. But Baker injured his knee in this past Saturday’s preseason action and will miss the entire 2014 season.

Matthews is working through the change, saying this about the adjustment between the two sides:

“Yes, the stagger changes. You go for a long time used to bracing a guy with one leg back. And now you’ve got to flip it around. It’s like almost going from writing with your right hand to your left hand. But I did it in college. I feel pretty comfortable on both sides.”

However, Falcons head coach Mike Smith remain confident:

“I don’t think he’ll blink. We’re not.”

With Matthews moving to the left side, it leaves a void on the right side. That void, for the time being, is expected to be filled by offensive tackle Lamar Holmes. Holmes had been serving as the reserve behind Baker this preseason at left tackle, but the Falcons always envisioned Matthews as a long-term solution on that side of the ball.

However offensive line coach Mike Tice did not express the same degree of confidence in Holmes as Smith did in Matthews.

The team signed free-agent offensive tackle Pat McQuistan earlier today to shore up depth on the right side.

In addition to McQuistan, the Falcons can expect the return of offensive tackle Gabe Carimi to the lineup in next week’s final preseason action against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday, August 28. Carimi has experience at right tackle, having played that position under Tice during their shared two seasons with the Chicago Bears from 2011-12.

The Falcons also welcomed back defensive tackle Corey Peters to practice today. Peters has been recovering from a torn Achilles tendon suffered last December. He had been held out of practice on the training camp version of Physically-Unable-to-Perform (PUP) list. Peters had a light workload in his first time back in nearly eight months.

In other news, cornerback Javier Arenas is expected to earn the start at nickel cornerback on Saturday against the Tennessee Titans. Per premium website Pro Football Focus, Arenas has earned the least amount of reps among the trio of corners competing for the nickel cornerback spot. Arenas has played 38 snaps through the first two preseason games, with Josh Wilson (65) and Robert McClain (53) earning the most of any defensive back on the team.

Rookie linebacker Prince Shembo is seeing increased reps with the starters, putting him well on track to leapfrog Joplo Bartu as the starter at weak-side inside linebacker by the regular season opener against the New Orleans Saints on September 7.

Injured linebacker Sean Weatherspoon was on hand to cheer on teammates:

Coach Smith indicated that the Falcons will follow tradition and play their starters for the entirety of the first half, and likely for a series into the second in Saturday’s game against the Titans.

AtlantaFalcons.com’s Jay Adams provides his usual five things from the final day of camp, including notes on Matthews, Holmes, Peters, the nickel cornerback spot and the coaching staff’s emphasis on avoiding penalties.

Corey Peters Returns to Falcons Practice

August 18th, 2014 No comments
Andrew Weber- US PRESSWIRE

Corey Peters

ESPN’s Vaughn McClure reported earlier today that Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Corey Peters returned to practice Monday, prompting his removal from the team’s active/Physically-Unable-to-Perform (or training camp PUP) list. Peters is currently recovering from a torn Achilles tendon suffered last December.

After rehabbing all offseason, Peters was placed on the training camp PUP list before the start of camp at the end of July. Peters indicated earlier in July that he had set a target date that he would be able to play Week 1 in the regular season against the New Orleans Saints on September 7. His return to practice today should make that target date a possibility.

Peters is the first of three training camp PUP players that have been eligible to return to practice due to improved health. The other two are wide receiver Drew Davis (foot surgery) and safety Zeke Motta (neck). The list is designated for players that are injured heading into camp too injured to practice. Once players are medically cleared to return to practice, they are removed from the list.

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Falcons Sign Pat McQuistan; Put Baker on IR

August 18th, 2014 No comments
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Pat McQuistan with the Arizona Cardinals in 2012

The Atlanta Falcons signed offensive tackle Pat McQuistan to replace offensive tackle Sam Baker, who was also placed on injured reserve today. Baker suffered a torn patellar tendon in Saturday’s preseason loss to the Houston Texans and will miss the entire 2014 season.

News of the signing came after reports surfaced earlier today that the Falcons would be moving rookie Jake Matthews from right tackle to left tackle to replace Baker. Lamar Holmes, who has been backing up Baker this preseason on the left side, will be plugged in for the time being at right tackle.

A veteran of eight years, McQuistan is the twin brother of Paul, who played with the 2013 Super Bowl-winning Seattle Seahawks. In total, Pat has appeared in 72 career games, starting 11 of them.

He finished last season with the Tennessee Titans, after being added mid-season when injuries hit the interior of their offensive line. He spent two weeks on the roster before earning his release after the Titans replaced him with Kevin Matthews, the older brother of Jake.

In 2012, McQuistan played with the Arizona Cardinals as an injury fill-in, starting three of six games at right guard. He was picked up by the Cardinals after spending training camp with the Dallas Cowboys. In 2011, he was a reserve with the New Orleans Saints, where he served as a blocking tight end and worked on special teams. He was with the Miami Dolphins in 2010, starting eight games mostly at right guard.

McQuistan began his career as a 2006 seventh-round pick out of Weber State with the Cowboys, spending four seasons there as a reserve swing tackle. He earned no starts with the Cowboys, but did appear in 40 games mainly on special teams. The Cowboys traded him to the Dolphins at the start of the 2010 season.

McQuistan is currently listed at 6’6″ 317 pounds. He will compete against Holmes, Ryan Schraeder and Terren Jones for a chance to earn a reserve spot at right tackle. Holmes currently is being given the first crack at replacing Baker in the starting lineup, but by no means has a final decision been made according to the Falcons coaching staff.

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Report: Sam Baker Done for Year With Torn Patellar Tendon

August 17th, 2014 No comments
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Sam Baker leaves the field with knee injury

NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports that the early diagnosis for Atlanta Falcons left tackle Sam Baker’s knee injury is a torn patellar tendon. Baker was carted off the field in the second quarter in Saturday night’s loss to the Houston Texans after suffering an injury to his right knee. Rapoport reports that the Falcons will conduct tests to confirm the diagnosis, but it looks likely that if the initial one is correct, Baker will miss the entire 2014 season.

A torn patellar tendon could be a costly injury for Baker, and possibly end his career as a Falcon. The Falcons clearly took their left tackle of the future with 2014 first-round pick Jake Matthews and whether he is slotted to the left side this season remains to be seen. Matthews has played the majority of his snaps thus far at right tackle, and the Falcons plugged Lamar Holmes into the lineup after Baker’s injury on Saturday.

Baker carries a cap hit of $7.3 million in 2015 and turns 30 next May. A torn patellar tendon was the same injury that cost Tampa Bay Buccaneers right guard Davin Joseph his entire 2012 season. Joseph returned in 2013, to earn one of the worst grades on premium website Pro Football Focus’ offensive linemen rankings. Joseph ranked 80th out of 81 guards in 2013 after earning a trip to the Pro Bowl in 2011.

 

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Falcons Roughed Up in 32-7 Loss to Texans

August 17th, 2014 No comments

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Jadeveon Clowney lowers the boom on Antone Smith

The Atlanta Falcons looked lackluster in their second preseason action of 2014, losing in a one-sided road game against the Houston Texans by a score of 32-7. It was a sloppy night for the Falcons, particularly on special teams where they had both a punt and field goal blocked. The Texans were able to score off the blocked punt, as well as on a pick-six thrown by T.J. Yates in the fourth quarter. Both teams were heavily penalized, with 25 combined penalties being called. The Falcons accounted for 10 of them.

Matt Ryan led the way but was not particularly sharp on the night. He completed just three of seven passes for 37 yards on four short series of action. He gave way to Sean Renfree, who completed seven of 10 passes for 49 yards and a touchdown. Yates struggled, completing just four of 11 passes for 63 yards with two interceptions. Jeff Mathews saw his first action of the preseason late in the game, completing just one of three passes for 18 yards. Devonta Freeman once again led the team on the ground, rushing for 31 yards on six carries, and should have had more if not for penalties calling back a few runs. Antone Smith added eight carries for 27 yards, with starter Jacquizz Rodgers rushing three times for 13 yards. Julio Jones saw his first action of the summer, catching a pair of passes for 20 yards. Devin Hester caught two passes as well for 15 yards, and the team’s lone touchdown on a 12-yard screen pass. Julian Jones had the longest reception of the night, his lone catch going for 29 yards. Matt Bryant had his lone field goal attempt of 51 yards blocked and Matt Bosher punted seven times for an average of 41.4 yards, with a blocked punt as well. The Falcons managed to convert just three of 11 third-down tries for a total of 248 yards on the night. The starters failed to convert any of their four third-down attempts while they were in the game.

Defensively, the Falcons started fairly well but gave up a total of 386 yards to the Texans. Including the points off the interception and blocked punt, the Texans were able to generate a total of 16 of their 32 points off turnovers, with Atlanta’s defense deserving credit for limiting Houston to just 16 points on three scores. Paul Worrilow led the team with eight tackles, including one for a loss. Robert Alford (one tackle, two passes defended); Pat Angerer (five tackles, one for loss); Joplo Bartu (three tackles); Kemal Ishmael (three tackles; one for loss; one interception); William Moore (six tackles); Travian Robertson (three tackles, one for loss); Prince Shembo (three tackles) and Dezmen Southward (three tackles) all had noteworthy games.

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Falcons 2014 Training Camp: Day 15 Report

August 13th, 2014 No comments
David J. Phillip/From AJC.com

Roddy White, Arian Foster (middle) and Andre Johnson. From AJC.com

Let’s take a look at the various tweets, articles, reports, news and rumors that surfaced from the 15th day of Atlanta Falcons training camp earlier today:

The Falcons held combined practices with the Houston Texans today in Houston. Much of the focus centered on the battles in the trenches, where Falcons linemen faced Texans pass-rushers in J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney.

Left tackle Sam Baker fared pretty well when going against the rookie Clowney, although they had a bit of a back and forth.

Rookie right tackle Jake Matthews was able to go against both Clowney and Watt. Matthews had his Hall of Fame father, Bruce and other family members on hand to witness the action. Jake’s little brother Luke, might be following the family tradition.

Not to be left out of the action, backup right tackle Ryan Schraeder seemed to also relish his opportunities to square off with Clowney. Left guard Justin Blalock on the other hand, did not fare quite as well against Watt, getting beat a couple of times. Blalock was not alone, as his backup Mike Johnson also struggled.

Along with the Matthews family, several local Falcon players had the support of nearby family members at practice including defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux and running back Jacquizz Rodgers. Linebacker Joplo Bartu will have a family reunion of sorts at Saturday’s game against the Texans.

Outside the trenches, the Falcons-Texans practice featured a few new Falcons mixing it up with a few former Falcons. Fullback Maurice Hagens is making his bid for a roster spot by getting after it with linebacker Akeem Dent. Matthews also go to work against defensive end Lawrence Sidbury.

Running back Devonta Freeman is showing strides in pass protection, the key to unlocking more playing time this season.

Free safety Dwight Lowery also got to mix it up with some real contact after missing time with a concussion.

The team also welcomed back Tim Dobbins against his former team today. Dobbins had missed the past few days with an ankle injury suffered in the Falcons win over the Miami Dolphins last Friday night.

Jay Adams has the usual five things we learned from practice.

Vaughn McClure of ESPN has the skinny on other noteworthy observations from today’s session.

On the opposite side of the coin, ESPN Texans blog writer Tania Ganguli noticed how a few Texans corners matched up against Falcons wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones. As far as Texans fans are concerned, today’s practice saw the return of several key players. That includes Falcons quarterback T.J. Yates, who is still loved by a segment of Texans fans. The Texans also put out video of today’s practice.

Falcons 2014 Training Camp: Day 13 Report

August 12th, 2014 No comments
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Mickey Shuler

Let’s take a look at the various tweets, articles, reports, news and rumors that surfaced from the 13th day of training camp yesterday:

Jay Adams has the official site’s usual five things we learned from yesterday’s practice, including the team’s preparation for an extended trip to Houston to practice against the Texans before playing them in a game on Saturday, and preparation of certain players: Antone Smith, T.J. Yates and Jake Matthews to face the Texans.

ESPN’s Vaughn McClure has a few takeaways from practice as well, which can be found here.

Running back Devonta Freeman missed practice yesterday with an undisclosed injury, but it’s believed that he was affected by the heat and should be fine for today.

The Falcons backup quarterback position is an area in flux, with the team expected to give more backup reps to Sean Renfree rather than T.J. Yates this week. However, head coach Mike Smith indicates not to read too much into how the reps are split this week. It’s likely that their performance on Saturday against the Texans could be the deciding factor as Smith indicates the team wants to have the spot nailed down by their third preseason game scheduled against the Tennessee Titans on August 23.

Smith is looking forward to the team’s combined practices with the Texans over the next two days.

Tight end Mickey Shuler seems to be making the most of his opportunity by stealing some starters reps. Shuler may be closing the gap on presumed No. 2 tight end Bear Pascoe with a solid performance against the Miami Dolphins last week.

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Falcons 2014 Training Camp: Day 12 Report

August 10th, 2014 No comments
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Dwight Lowery

The Atlanta Falcons returned to practice on Saturday, so let’s take a look at the various tweets, articles, reports, news and rumors that surfaced from the 12th day of training camp yesterday:

Vaughn McClure of ESPN has the skinny on Saturday’s practice, which saw the return of safety Dwight Lowery to the field. Lowery had been held out of practice for the past week days due to a concussion he suffered during the Friday Night Lights event. The team also welcomed linebacker Pat Angerer back, who was also nursing a concussion and missed six practices over 10 days. Both players’ returns should bolster depth at their respective positions as they have been problematic in the wake of both players’ injuries. Offensive tackle Terren Jones was also welcomed back from a concussion that sent him to the hospital last week although he did not practice, and worked with medical staff on the sidelines alongside defensive tackle Corey Peters.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, wide receiver Roddy White was held out of practice as he was given a day off. Per head coach Mike Smith, this off day was scheduled in advance of the higher-than-expected workload that White had in Friday night’s win over the Miami Dolphins. White was expected to play eight snaps, but wound up playing 18 due to the length of the Falcons opening drive. He led the team in receptions with four for 27 yards.

In other injury-related news, safety Kimario McFadden (shoulder) and linebacker Jacques Smith (head) also practiced Saturday despite exiting Friday night’s game with injuries. Linebacker Tim Dobbins injured his ankle against the Dolphins and is expected to miss a few days of practice.

Following practice the Falcons signed linebacker Darin Drakeford and waived kicker Sergio Castillo. Drakeford adds depth at inside linebacker despite the return of Angerer to the lineup. He’s a 2013 undrafted free agent out of Maryland that spent time on the practice squads of the Kansas City Chiefs, New York Giants and Indianapolis Colts last season. He was released by the Colts last December and has been out of football since.

Falcons Sign LB Drakeford; Cut K Castillo

August 10th, 2014 No comments
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Darin Drakeford (left)

The Atlanta Falcons announced last night that they had signed linebacker Darin Drakeford and waived kicker Sergio Castillo. Drakeford’s signing adds depth at linebacker, a problem area for the Falcons in recent weeks. Castillo performed relatively well in his preseason debut on Friday evening against the Miami Dolphins, but with kicker Matt Bryant and punter Matt Bosher locked into their jobs, he became expendable.

Drakeford’s signing comes in the wake of news that inside linebacker Tim Dobbins suffered an ankle injury against the Dolphins and according to head coach Mike Smith is expected to miss a couple of days. Although Drakeford’s signing suggests that Dobbins might be out for a bit longer given the team’s decision to address the position. However, given that the Falcons had already shown interest in veteran linebackers in recent weeks, it was likely a position they wanted to address from the start.

Drakeford is a second-year player that was an undrafted rookie out of Maryland last season. He went to camp with the Kansas City Chiefs and started the season on their practice squad before brief stints on the practice squads of the New York Giants and Indianapolis Colts. The Colts cut him at the end of last season, and he’s been out of football until the Falcons scooped him up.

Castillo is an undrafted rookie out of West Texas A&M that was signed by the Falcons in June. He connected on two field goals of 21 and 34 yards on Friday night, and also punted twice for an average of 46.5 yards.

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