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Archive for July, 2008

Hutchins lost for the season

July 28th, 2008 Comments off

The AJC reports that Falcons cornerback Von Hutchins is lost for the season after undergoing surgery today to repair his broken foot. Hutchins was initially diagnosed with a sprain after injuring himself in the team’s first practice on Saturday morning. But upon getting a second opinion received a more grievous prognosis that it was a Lisfranc fracture and he will be out 4-6 months.

Hutchins will be placed on the injured reserve and will miss the entire season. With him out the lineup, rookie Chevis Jackson likely is viewed as the front-runner to win the nickel cornerback role behind starters Chris Houston and Brent Grimes.

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Grady returns

July 28th, 2008 Comments off

The AJC reports that the Falcons have re-signed defensive tackle Grady Jackson. They agreed on a one-year contract. Jackson rejoins the team after an abrupt dismissal last October.

The team had been in discussions with Jackson over the weekend about bringing him back. It has not known if Jackson will immediately resume his role as starting nose tackle, although he certainly will get the opportunity. The Green Bay Packers, Oakland Raiders, Jacksonville Jaguars, and New England Patriots were also interested in Jackson.

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Lehman opts for Lions over Falcons

July 26th, 2008 Comments off

Nicholas J. Cotsonika of the Detroit Free Press reports that free agent linebacker Teddy Lehman was set to work out for the Falcons Saturday morning. Lehman was released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers earlier this week. But after arriving in Atlanta at 5 am on Saturday, he received a call from his former team the Detroit Lions and opted to return there.

Lehman was a prolific linebacker at Oklahoma, winning the Chuck Bednarik and Dick Butkus Awards as a senior. He was drafted in the second round by the Lions in 2004. He started 16 games as a rookie, but injuries and disappointing play made him a backup the following three seasons. He signed with the Bucs this off-season.

The Falcons recently signed linebacker Coy Wire. Their interest in both players indicates some concern over their depth at linebacker.

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Weiner cleared to play

July 26th, 2008 Comments off

The AJC’s D. Orlando Ledbetter reports that Falcons offensive tackle Todd Weiner has been medically cleared to practice. Weiner has been recovering from surgery on both knees after suffering injuries last season. The team was hopeful that Weiner would be able to join them at the start of training camp and he will be. However head coach Mike Smith told the media today that they will work Weiner back onto the field slowly.

In contrast, rookie tackle Sam Baker was not able to practice per the AJC because his rookie contract that he agreed to last night was not approved by the NFL yet.

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Baker signs among other roster moves

July 26th, 2008 Comments off

Sam Baker, property of SI.com The Falcons made a multitude of roster moves on the eve of camp. Not only did the team agree to terms with the last of its unsigned draft picks in offensive tackle Sam Baker, but also signed three others: offensive tackle Mike Butterworth, cornerback Blue Adams, and linebacker Coy Wire. To make room for the additions the team waived cornerback Glenn Sharpe, reached an injury settlement with linebacker Travis Williams, and waived/injured offensive lineman Pat McCoy. The team also placed defensive tackle Trey Lewis on the active/non-football injury list and offensive tackle Renardo Foster on the active/physically-unable-to-perform list.

Baker was the second of the team’s two first round draft picks, and there was some worry about whether he would be signed on time before the start of practices on Saturday morning. Baker is expected to compete for the starting left tackle position against Quinn Ojinnaka.

Butterworth rejoins the team after being cut in June to make room for Harry Douglas. He is an undrafted free agent out of Slippery Rock. Adams was recently dumped by the Cincinnati Bengals. He has spent most of his four seasons in the NFL as a reserve corner contributing on special teams. Last year for the Bengals, he recorded 9 stops on special teams in 13 games. Wire was an unsigned free agent this past off-season after spending six seasons with the Buffalo Bills. In that span, he mostly produced on special teams. His most productive year came as a rookie in 2002, where he started 15 games at strong safety and recorded 92 tackles and 3 sacks. He was moved to linebacker late in 2006, which was the position he played at Stanford.

Sharpe was an undrafted rookie out of Miami signed by the team this past spring. By reaching an injury settlement with Williams, it affords the Falcons an opportunity to re-sign him later in the season but also gives Williams a chance to explore other opportunities with other teams. If McCoy clears waivers, he will be placed on the Falcons injured reserve list.

Lewis and Foster essentially are unable to practice due to injury, and if or when they are able to pass a physical, will be free to join the Falcons active roster this summer. Both players suffered torn ACLs last season. Lewis had a setback in the off-season as he was already in the midst of rehab and require more surgery on his injured knee. Foster suffered his second career ACL tear last October and isn’t completely healed.

Lofton won’t be a holdout

July 25th, 2008 Comments off

With less than a day before the Falcons kick off training camp on Saturday with an 8:30 am et practice, the Falcons were able to get one of their two remaining unsigned draft picks under contract when they signed linebacker Curtis Lofton to a four-year deal per the AJC.

Lofton is expected to be the team’s starting middle linebacker, but his ability to compete for that role could have been impacted based on when he arrived to camp. First round pick Sam Baker remains the only unsigned rookie. All players on the teams’ roster are expected to report today at Flowery Branch for camp.

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Quarterback is open competition

July 25th, 2008 Comments off

The AJC’s Steve Wyche cites Falcons head coach Mike Smith as indicating that the team’s starting quarterback position is up for grabs.

“We want them all to compete as if they’ll be starters…It’s going to be an open competition.”

– Mike Smith

From most indications, Chris Redman is the incumbent and enters camp atop the depth chart, but all four passers the team has in camp will have the opportunity to win the job. Redman finished last season strongly with four starts, passing for 1079 yards, 10 touchdowns, and a 90.4 passer rating. But the team drafted Matt Ryan with the third overall pick this past April, and he’s definitely slated to be the quarterback of the future. But Ryan will have the opportunity to be the quarterback of today as well if he performs well in camp. Also on the roster are Joey Harrington who started 10 games last year and D.J. Shockley who was a seventh round pick two years ago.

Falcons talking to Grady Jackson

July 25th, 2008 Comments off

The AJC reports that the Falcons were in discussions with free agent defensive tackle Grady Jackson on Friday morning about a potential reunion between the two parties. Per the report, the team and Jackson are currently working on terms of the deal and he also took a physical.

Jackson was cut by the Falcons last October after starting the first seven games of the season, recording 20 tackles and 1 sack. He finished the year as a reserve with the Jacksonville Jaguars where he worked with current Falcons head coach Mike Smith and defensive line coach Ray Hamilton. Early speculation in the off-season indicated that it was possible the Falcons were willing to re-sign Jackson, although nothing came of it in the following months in free agency.

Jackson could replace current starting nose tackle Montavious Stanley in the lineup, who is filling in for the injured Trey Lewis.

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Training Camp Preview: Special Teams

July 24th, 2008 Comments off

The Falcons hope that the addition of Jason Elam will bring some continuity and consistency to the kicker position.

Elam isn’t a young man, but the team hopes that he has at least two more good years left in his leg. Elam should be capable when it comes to kicking indoors. The only real question is his range. While kicking indoors is ideal, it’s not the same as kicking outside in the thin air of Denver. While Morten Andersen only had an effective range up to 43 or 44 yards, Elam’s range may not be much better with modest estimates at around 46 or 47. While it’s an improvement, it still leaves the team without a capable guy of making 50-yarders.

In the past, the team has called on Michael Koenen to perform those duties. And it’s not out of the question that Koenen could continue in that role. But Koenen has made only 30% of his NFL field goal attempts, when the average NFL kicker can make 50% of his 50+ yard attempts. So relying on Koenen may be a measure in futility.

How much range Elam has will be a key question this summer. But there is little question about Michael Koenen’s leg strength. While his accuracy is poor on field goals, it’s top notch on punting placement. And Koenen still hasn’t reached his peak yet. The only real question surrounding Koenen is when the team is goign to start working on a contract extension: this summer or after the season?

Mike Schneck was solid as a long snapper last year, and there’s no reason to not expect more of the same.

The return gigs remain open. Jerious Norwood and Adam Jennings are the incumbents on kickoffs and punts, respectively. Jennings impressed last summer, but failed to live up to expectations during the regular season. He’ll need to put together another solid performance this summer to keep his job. Norwood is a capable returner, but the team may want to limit his reps there due to his potential for a more expansive role on offense. Unfortunately for Norwood, his workload on offense is less determined by his skill but rather by his reps on special teams.

Pushing for time on kickoffs will be Jennings, Thomas Brown, Jamar Brittingham, and Chandler Williams. In a perfect world, Jennings could handle both duties ably, but that’s a question mark as of now. Brown probably has the next best odds since his uphill battle for a regular roster spot is less steep.

Brittingham and Eric Weems are the most experienced when it come to punt returns. Either way this will be a completely open competition. Norwood and Jennings will maintain their jobs only if no one else steps up.

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Horn expected at camp

July 24th, 2008 Comments off

The AJC’s Steve Wyche reports that disgruntled Falcons wide receiver Joe Horn is expected to report to training camp on Friday. Horn previously has expressed a desire to be traded. Reports surfaced a few weeks ago about a potential trade to the Dallas Cowboys, but there was little substance behind those reports and nothing new has developed since.

According to Wyche, Horn’s agent Ralph Vitolo has indicated that they are willing to restructure Horn’s contract in order to make a trade likelier. Horn’s $2.5 million base salary is guaranteed and he carries a cap hit of $3.4 million this season.

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