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Archive for February, 2008

Combine Watch List

February 24th, 2008 Comments off

NFL.com The Falcons will be looking at several prospects throughout their six-day stay at the NFL’s Scouting Combine this weekend. Here are just a few of the players that the Falcons have reportedly shown interest in:
Anthony Collins/KUAthletics.com
TE Gary Barnidge, Louisville (source: KFFL.com)
SS Josh Barrett, Arizona State (source: Scout.com)
WR Adarius Bowman, Oklahoma State (source: Scout.com)
QB Brian Brohm, Louisville (source: Dayton Daily News)
RB Thomas Brown, Georgia (source: Scout.com)
OT Gosder Cherilus, Boston College (source: KFFL.com)
RB Tashard Choice, Georgia Tech (source: Scout.com)
OT Anthony Collins, Kansas (source: KFFL.com)
FS Thomas DeCoud, California (source: AJC)
DE Johnny Dingle, West Virginia (source: KFFL.com)
RB Darren McFadden, Arkansas (source: AJC)
WR Darius Reynaud, West Virginia (source: KFFL.com)
RB Ray Rice, Rutgers (source: Courier News)
WR Eddie Royal, Virginia Tech (source: Scout.com)
DT Pat Sims, Auburn (source: KFFL.com)
RB Jonathan Stewart, Oregon (source: Register-Guard)
SS Tom Zbikowski, Notre Dame (source: AJC)

Jonathan Stewart
Pat Sims

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Just say no to McFadden

February 24th, 2008 Comments off

Why? Not because he’s short on talent. In fact, he’s probably the most talented player in this draft class. But for two reasons, the first of which is because he plays running back.

And while running back certainly is an important position on the football field, it hasn’t quite shown that it’s a pivotal piece to team building.

Looking over the past decade or so at the elite running backs, and very few of them have Super Bowl rings. Many of them have played in Super Bowls, but almost everyone of them in order to win that game, needed a top quarterback. The bottom line is that if you want to build a foundation for your offense, you need to start with the quarterback position. Tiki Barber, Jerome Bettis, Barry Sanders, LaDainian Tomlinson, Emmitt Smith, Marshall Faulk, Edgerrin James, Curtis Martin, Corey Dillon, etc. have all been great running backs over the years, but none of them have been able to earn a Super Bowl ring without a quality passer backing them up.

The Falcons are at a point where they are starting over. We hear the term rebuilding a lot, but for the Falcons it’s going to be a complete overhaul. Where things are stripped down and built from the ground up. The first piece should not be a running back, simply because despite their greatness, teams cannot win championships if they are built around a running back.

A runner can certainly be your most potent weapon, but at some point in January you’re going to face a team that is going to be able to put 8 or 9 men in the box and shut down your ground attack, and it’ll wind up being up to your QB’s arm to save the day.

The second reason to beware of McFadden is character. And no, I don’t think McFadden is of low character, I just don’t think he’s of high character.

And as I said earlier, the Falcons are starting completely fresh, where they need to change the “culture” in the front office, city, fan base, and especially the locker room. We need high character guys.

I don’t think McFadden is this type of player. Not because of his off-field run-ins with the law, although those are somewhat concerning. I don’t think he has the maturity or shown the leadership ability to be a leader in the Falcons locker room early on. And that’s exactly what the Falcons need out of whomever they pick in the first round this April.

I think McFadden is going to make some team very happy. But the truth is that not all NFL teams are created equally. And the situation and environment he would find himself in Atlanta would not be conducive for his success.

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Falcons show interest in free agents

February 23rd, 2008 Comments off

Draft Daddy.com reports that the Falcons could be pursuing free agents such as quarterback Billy Volek and offensive tackle Flozell Adams. They also have reported that six additonal teams are reportedly interested in cornerback DeAngelo Hall, not just the New York Giants, as reported beforehand. According to their source, the Dallas Cowboys, Tennessee Titans, Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills, New Orleans Saints, and Kansas City Chiefs are interested in Hall.

Volek is a free agent for the San Diego Chargers. The Falcons attempted to sign Volek back in 2004, but he opted to return to the Tennessee Titans. In 2006, he was traded to the San Diego Chargers. This past season, he only appeared in 5 regular season games, completing 3 of 10 passes for only 6 yards and an interception. But had a notable performance during the playoffs when he came in against the Indianapolis Colts, and completed 3 of 4 passes for 48 yards, as he helped the Chargers secure that victory.

Adams was voted to the Pro Bowl this past season, marking the fourth time in the past five years he has achieved that. He was originally a 2nd round draft pick with the Dallas Cowboys in 1998, and has started 146 games for the Cowboys, most of which came at left tackle.

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Giants could be seeking Hall

February 22nd, 2008 Comments off

Mike Garafolo of the Star-Ledger reports that the New York Giants are showing interest in possibly trading for Falcons cornerback DeAngelo Hall. Garofalo cites two sources with knowledge of preliminary discussions between the two teams, and indicates that the Giants are willing to part ways with their first round draft pick, the 31st pick overall, in exchange for Hall. Previous reports indicate the Falcons are actively exploring trade options with Hall.

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Falcons win coin toss, pick 3rd

February 22nd, 2008 Comments off

ESPN’s John Clayton reports that the Falcons won the initial coin toss to determine the order in which they, the Oakland Raiders, and Kansas City Chiefs would pick in this April’s draft. By winning the toss, the Falcons will select third, the Raiders fourth, and the Chiefs fifth.

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Hall and Redman’s futures up in the air

February 21st, 2008 Comments off

Steve Wyche of the AJC reports on several developing stories for the Falcons after holding discussions this past week with GM Thomas Dimitroff, including the potential futures of DeAngelo Hall, Chris Redman, and what areas the Falcons may address in free agency.

Wyche reports that the Falcons are currently weighing their trade options with cornerback DeAngelo Hall. According to Wyche, Dimitroff indicated that the team believes Hall makes them a better team, but they have yet to commit whether they will extend his contract. Hall’s contract is set to void following the 2008 season, which could potentially make him an unrestricted free agent. A previous report from Wyche indicated that Hall is prepared to sit out this season without a contract extension.

Also the team has yet to make a commitment on whether they will re-sign quarterback Chris Redman. Wyche indicates that the team likes Redman, but will be keying in on many of the quarterback prospects this weekend at the Combine.

Wyche speculates that the Falcons could pursue defensive tackle Grady Jackson once free agency kicks off on February 29. Jackson was released by the Falcons this past October and finished the season with the Jacksonville Jaguars. In 7 starts with the Falcons, Jackson recorded 20 tackles and 1 sack. The team is interested in him perhaps due to looming injury concerns over Trey Lewis, who replaced him at nose tackle during the season. Lewis injured his knee in November and ended the season on injured reserve. There are concerns whether he will be ready for the start of next season.

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Coin flip on Friday

February 19th, 2008 Comments off

Steve Wyche of the AJC reports that the coin flip(s) which will control the fates of the Falcons, Raiders, and Chiefs in this year’s draft will be held on Friday in a special meeting during the NFL’s annual Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff will represent the team. First the Falcons will flip against the Oakland Raiders. The winner of that flip will pick third in the draft. If the Falcons lose that initial coin flip, then they will flip again with the Chiefs to determine who selects fourth. Two flips may be required since the Chiefs hold a tiebreaker over the Raiders and automatically will be slated after them in the draft order. If the Falcons win the initial flip, a second one will not be required.

The Combine begins this Wednesday and will last six days.

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Falcons show interest in QB and WR

February 17th, 2008 2 comments

AP/Darron Cummings Ed Thompson of Scout.com reports that the Falcons have shown considerable interest in two draft prospects: Tulsa quarterback Paul Smith and Indiana wide receiver James Hardy.

Smith finished second in the nation with 5065 passing yards. His 47 passing touchdowns also ranked 2nd in the country, and adding in his 13 rushing scores, he outscored Heisman Trophy Winner Tim Tebow (55 touchdowns) last season. Scout.com’s Chris Steuber ranks him as the 10th best quarterback invited to the Combine likely indicating he has a chance to be a mid-to-late round draft pick.

Hardy, an underclassman, ranked 2nd in the country with 16 receiving touchdowns. He grabbed 79 passes for 1125 yards (14.2 avg) this past season. His 6’6″ 220-pound frame gives him intriguing size, and a number of draft sites rank him among the Top 3 of available wide receivers, meaning there’s great potential for him to be a first round pick this April. Hardy played basketball as a true freshman at Indiana. That year, he played in 23 games, starting 3 times. He averaged 1.7 points and 1.8 rebounds per game in 10.7 minutes of playing time.

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Falcons dump Crumpler, Coleman, and others

February 15th, 2008 Comments off

Getty Images/Chris Graythen
The Falcons released seven players today in their attempts to begin the rebuilding process under new head coach Mike Smith and GM Thomas Dimitroff. Among those released were some prominent names including: defensive tackle Rod Coleman, tight end Alge Crumpler, offensive tackle Wayne Gandy, quarterback Byron Leftwich, cornerback Lewis Sanders, linebacker Marcus Wilkins, and wide receiver Jamin Elliott.

Coleman was one of the team’s big free agent signings in 2004. He earned Pro Bowl honors in 2005. In four years with the Falcons, he recorded 114 tackles and 30 sacks, and was considered one of the top interior pass rushers in the league. But this past year, he missed 11 games as he nursed several injuries, and was limited to just 7 tackles and 2 sacks in five starts.

Crumpler ends seven years with the Falcons. He was originally a second round pick in 2001, and led the Falcons in receiving yards for three straight seasons (2004-06). Crumpler went to the Pro Bowl four straight years (2003-06). Over his Falcon career, he had caught 316 passes for 4212 yards and 35 touchdowns, and ranks among the top receivers in Falcons history. Last season he had 42 catches for 444 yards, which was his lowest total in yards since his rookie season. His drop in production was mainly due to injuries and increasing age.

The Falcons acquired Gandy via trade in 2006. He started 16 games that season at left tackle, but missed 11 games this past year due to a torn ACL. Gandy turned 37 this past week and was likely released due to his age.

The Falcons added Leftwich after Week 2 of the season to challenge Joey Harrington for the starting position. Leftwich’s career has long been plagued by injuries, and he was unable to shake that stigma in Atlanta. He managed 2 starts this year, passing for 279 yards, 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions.

Sanders and Wilkins were both free agent signings for the team last year. Sanders started 6 games before poor play forced him to the bench. In 14 games, he recorded 33 tackles with no interceptions. Wilkins played exclusively on special teams this year, not notching a single tackle on defense. He finished the year with only 5 tackles on special teams in 15 games. It was a marked decrease from previous production, since in his final three years with the Cincinnati Bengals, he tallied at least 16 stops on special teams.

Elliott sat out the entire year with injury, after going on injured reserve in August. He originally joined the team in 2006, and spent most of that season on their practice squad, before being activated to the roster for the final game of that season. Despite being in the league since 2002, Elliott has never had a reception and has only appeared in a total of 3 games.

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Roster could see lots of turnover

February 15th, 2008 Comments off

The AJC’s Steve Wyche reports that several Falcons veterans may not be back in 2008. Among players named by Wyche, who cites NFL officials and player agents, are safeties Lawyer Milloy and Chris Crocker, along with offensive linemen Wayne Gandy, Kynan Forney, and Todd Weiner, wide receivers Brian Finneran and Joe Horn, running back Warrick Dunn, quarterbacks Joey Harrington and Byron Leftwich, and linebacker Keith Brooking. Wyche reports that many of these players could be released as soon as Friday, February 15.

Wyche indicates that one player that could be potentially safe is tight end Alge Crumpler, who is coming off a down year. But Crumpler may be retained since it’s doubtful the Falcons could add someone in the draft or free agency that could adequately replace him.

Crocker is an unrestricted free agent, and is not expected to be re-signed. The remaining players represent 10 of the team’s top 15 highest-paid players based on 2008 base salary. The Falcons currently have around $6 million in cap space for the 2008 season. Dunn, Gandy, Milloy, Forney, Harrington, and Leftwich are all entering the final years on their contracts. Brooking and Finneran have two years left on their deals, while Horn and Weiner have three and four, respectively. Among them, Brooking ($4.9 million), Dunn ($4 million), Gandy ($3.5 million), and Forney ($2.95 million) have the highest 2008 base salaries.