Archive for August, 2008

Falcons add six to practice squad

August 31st, 2008 Comments off

The Falcons announced the addition of six players to their practice squad today and also claimed defensive tackle Jason Jefferson off waivers from the Buffalo Bills. To make room for Jefferson, they released Tim Anderson.

The team added seventh round pick Keith Zinger among the six practice squad additions. Also wide receiver Eric Weems, guard D’Anthony Batiste, cornerback Glenn Sharpe, safety Eric Brock, and defensive end Brandon Miller were signed by the team. All six players were with the team this summer. The Falcons have two remaining spots on their practice squad.

Jefferson was a sixth round pick of the New Orleans Saints in 2005. But was cut by the Saints during his first training camp, and spent time on the practice squads of the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles before being signed by the Bills in October 2005. He began the ’06 season on the Bills practice squad before being promoted to the team’s roster in October, but remained inactive for most of the season. His most extensive action coming in 2007, where he had 11 tackles in 11 games. For his career, he has recorded 13 tackles in 21 games.

Anderson, another former Bills castoff was signed by the Falcons in November 2007. He had 5 tackles in 5 games for the Falcons. He was re-signed this past off-season and was seemingly the winner in a competition for the reserve nose tackle position behind Grady Jackson.

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Harrington, Forney among final cuts

August 31st, 2008 Comments off

The Falcons announced their cuts today to get their roster down to the 53-man limit for the regular season. This likely won’t be the only moves the team makes before their opener against the Detroit Lions on September 7, as they will pilfer through the waiver wire looking for players other teams released today.

Most prominent among those players released were quarterback Joey Harrington and guard Kynan Forney. Harrington started 10 games for the Falcons last year and was the team’s leading passer, but lost out in the battle this summer against D.J. Shockley. Forney had started 89 games over the past seven seasons with the Falcons, but fell out of favor by the coaching staff early on with the emergence of Harvey Dahl in off-season workouts.

The other players released were: guard D’Anthony Batiste, safety Eric Brock, offensive tackle Mike Butterworth, safety Deke Cooper, center Doug Datish, defensive end Willie Evans, cornerback Wilrey Fontenot, defensive end Brandon Miller, defensive tackle Rashad Moore, offensive tackle Terrance Pennington, linebacker Mickey Pimentel, tight end Marcus Pollard, cornerback Glenn Sharpe, defensive tackle Montavious Stanley, safety Daren Stone, linebacker Cameron Vaughn, wide receivers Eric Weems and Chandler Williams, and tight end Keith Zinger. The team also placed running back Thomas Brown on injured reserve, as he’ll miss the season with a torn muscle near his groin, suffered on Thursday night’s preseason finale against the Ravens.

Along with Brown, Fontenot and Zinger were the only draft picks that did not make the final roster. Datish and Stone were draft picks for the team in 2007. None of the other players released had joined the team prior to last season.

Tomorrow, the Falcons will also establish their eight-man practice squad. Already on the developmental practice squad is wide receiver Noriaki Kinoshita, who counts as a ninth member, but won’t be allowed to be elevated to the team’s roster during the season.

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Falcons take down Ravens

August 28th, 2008 Comments off

Getty Images/G.FiumeThe Falcons ended their preseason with another win, taking down the Baltimore Ravens on the road by a score of 10-9. It was a game dominated by backups and modest offensive play as the team uses it to assess which players will make the roster with the final cuts to come by Saturday.

D.J. Shockley got most of the reps and led the team passing for 98 yards and a touchdown while completing 7 of 14 passes. On the ground, Jason Snelling had 88 yards rushing on 15 carries. Laurent Robinson led receivers with 3 catches for 40 yards. Brian Finneran scored on a 20-yard grab, his only catch of the game.

Defensively, the Falcons were stout keeping the Ravens out of the endzone. Kroy Biermann led defenders with 5 tackles and a sack. Stephen Nicholas (4 tackles), Thomas DeCoud (3 tackles, 1 interception), Brent Grimes (3 tackles), Chevis Jackson (3 tackles), Tony Taylor (3 tackles), Montavious Stanley (2 tackles), Glenn Sharpe (1 interception) and Kindal Moorehead (2 tackles, 1 sack) had noteworthy performances.

Jason Elam connected on his lone field goal attempt of 29 yards. Michael Koenen punted 10 times for an average of 39 with only 1 being placed inside the 20-yard line. Thomas Brown had 2 kickoff returns for an average of 20 yards and Chandler Williams returned 2 punts for a 12.5-yard average.

The Falcons will need to make 22 roster cuts between now and Saturday afternoon to get down to the league-mandated limit of 53 for the regular season. And they also hope that the momentum carried from these two recent preseason wins can also carry into the regular season. The season kicks off on September 7 as the Falcons host the Detroit Lions.

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Ryan is Falcons starter

August 24th, 2008 Comments off

Getty Images/A. Messerschmidt The Falcons named Matt Ryan their starting quarterback on Sunday. Ryan had received most of the reps during the preseason, despite entering training camp primarily working with the third string units. Although head coach Mike Smith has indicated in the past that it was to be an open competition between all four passers.

Ryan earned his first start on Friday in an impressive win over the Tennessee Titans. Smith and the coaching staff paid very close attention to Ryan throughout the summer and deemed him ready to play.

The Falcons have not announced how the rest of their quarterback depth chart will work. Chris Redman, according to the AJC, is the most likely candidate to win the No. 2 position behind Ryan. Redman entered camp No. 1 on the depth chart.

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Falcons pick up Pollard

August 24th, 2008 Comments off

As originally reported by the Peoria Journal Star, the Falcons signed tight end Marcus Pollard on Sunday. To make room for Pollard, the team released George Cooper.

Pollard was released earlier this week by the New England Patriots. He played with the Seattle Seahawks last year, starting 10 games and catching 28 passes for 273 yards (9.8 avg) and 2 touchdowns. Prior to his stint with the Seahawks, he played two seasons with the Detroit Lions, catching 58 passes and 3 touchdowns. Prior to that, he played ten seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, catching 263 passes, 35 touchdowns, and starting 102 games of 146 games.

The Falcons signed Pollard, hoping to get a better receiving option at the position.

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Falcons win first of ‘Smitty’ Era

August 22nd, 2008 1 comment

Getty Images/A.Messerschmidt The Falcons won their first preseason game with a 17-3 victory over the Tennessee Titans. It marked the first of hopefully many under new head coach Mike Smith and hope that it’s somewhat a preview of what will be to come in the regular season with many of the team’s starters getting extended minutes.

Matt Ryan got a taste of the starting position playing the entire first half and a series in the second. He finished the game completing 15 of 21 passes for 102 yards and a touchdown. Chris Redman replaced him and finished the game with 83 passing yards and completing 9 of 11 attempts. On the ground, Jerious Norwood despite an early injury led the team with 4 carries for 53 yards. Jason Snelling added 46 yards on 9 carries. Thomas Brown had 7 carries for 29 yards and a touchdown. Brian Finneran and Michael Jenkins led the receivers with 5 grabs each for 53 and 44 yards, respectively. Harry Douglas had 4 grabs for 19 yards and 1 score.

Defensively the Falcons were tough, limiting the Titans offense to 215 total yards. Curtis Lofton got his first start and led the team with 6 stops. Lawyer Milloy (5 tackles), Kroy Biermann (4 tackles, 1 sack), John Abraham (4 tackles, 1 sack), Michael Boley (4 tackles), Erik Coleman (3 tackles), Brent Grimes (2 tackles), Chevis Jackson (1 tackle, 1 interception), and Willie Evans (1 tackle, 1 sack) had notable performances as well.

Jason Elam connected on one of his two field goals making a 49-yarder. Michael Koenen had 5 punts for an average of 39.6 yards with 3 booted inside the 20-yard line. Thomas Brown had 2 kickoff returns for an average of 21 yards, and Adam Jennings had a solid outing, averaging 18 yards on 5 punt returns.

Next week the Falcons close out their exhibition schedule on the road against the Baltimore Ravens, hoping to build some more momentum with another win heading into the regular season.

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Horn gets his release

August 19th, 2008 Comments off

The AJC reports that the Falcons have released wide receiver Joe Horn. Horn and his agent were given permission to seek a trade to another team earlier this summer, but trade talks had been unproductive.

Horn was signed by the team in 2007 to a four-year contract in hopes of bolstering the team’s subpar receiver spot. But Horn was less than spectacular, only catching 27 passes in his first season with the Falcons. Instead, the Falcons saw increased production from young players like Roddy White, Michael Jenkins, and Laurent Robinson. WIth the team’s decision to draft Harry Douglas this past April, the writing was on the wall that Horn would be gone from the team.

As part of his contract, Horn has his $2.5 million base salary this year guaranteed. According to ESPN’s John Clayton, depending on the parameters of any new contract with his next team could lessen that load on their cap.

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Ryan set to start against Titans

August 18th, 2008 Comments off

The Falcons announced today that rookie quarterback Matt Ryan will start the team’s third preseason game on Friday against the Tennessee Titans. Ryan, along with most of the team’s starters, is set to play the entire first half and a series in the second half. While the Falcons have not officially announced which of their quarterbacks will open the season as the starter, all signs point to Ryan.

Previously, head coach Mike Smith indicated that all four quarterbacks will get a chance to start one of the team’s preseason games. Which means that D.J. Shockley will start the preseason finale against the Baltimore Ravens.

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Roster Battles Update Pt. 2

August 17th, 2008 Comments off

I already assessed the offense, so let’s get to the defense.

DL: There’s still heavy competition here. I think the team is close to establishing it’s three-man rotation at both end and tackle. Which basically may leave only one spot open for each position. I think at end, Simon Fraser is the front-runner since he can also shoot inside on passing downs. But Kroy Biermann has shown enough that I think the team would be hesitant to cut him since he may not pass waivers (A 3-4 team should be licking their chops to get Biermann). If Biermann continues to contribute, I think he’ll definitely make the roster, but perhaps not at the expense of Fraser. Inside, after you get past Stanley, Jackson, and Babineaux who appear at the top of the depth chart, I think Moorehead and Moore seem like the next best options. I’m not including Lewis because at this point, it looks likely that he’ll start the season on one of the reserve lists (PUP or IR) and he won’t count against the roster. Ideally, it will be the PUP so he can come back later in the year. Moorehead I would think is ahead of Moore and probably has the best chance to be the ninth defensive lineman.

LB: This position is no surprise and unless Pimentel, Brown, or Vaughn do something really big, I don’t see any of them making the roster. At this point, all they can do is push for a possible practice squad position. Taylor and Lofton are still in a competition for the starting position, and I think Taylor is ahead as of now, but Lofton still has two more games to shine.

CB: Houston still has time to make up for his absence and re-take his starting job away from Chevis Jackson. The battle here is for the possible fifth position after Blue Adams. I think Irons, Sharpe, and Fontenot are fairly even although Irons probably has the edge. But all three will have a chance to take the lead in these next two games.

S: Like corner, this position is still contested for a possible fifth safety spot. I think originally the team probably would have only kept four, but some of the young players have shown enough thus far in camp that they may keep an extra guy. After Milloy, Coleman, DeCoud, and Cooper, I think Stone and Harris are competing for that spot. Stone has shown nice ability thus far, and I think the team will be partial to keeping him around and developing him some more.

ST: No real battles here at kicker, punter, or long snapper. The battles is at returner. Jennings and Douglas are battling for the punt returner job, and Jennings is also battling Brown as a kickoff returner. Douglas is ahead of Jennings, but I think Jennings is ahead of Brown. But there is still plenty of time for more jockeying to occur. A long return or a touchdown in one of these final two games could do just enough to tip the scales permanently in one guys’ favor.

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Roster Battles Update Pt. 1

August 17th, 2008 Comments off

I plan on doing the defense later, but here’s my take on how some of the offensive position battles have gone so far, and where they may be headed with two more weeks of preseason left. The Falcons play the Titans next Friday, and the following Tuesday is the first roster cutdown. They will have to get the roster from 80 to 75 players. Then the following Thursday they will end the preseason against the Ravens, and the final cutdown to 53 will be two days later on Saturday, August 30.

QB: I think Harrington and Shockley’s battle for the No. 3 job is going to come down to the final preseason contest. It’s too close to call right now. At this point, I’d expect the team to sit both Ryan and Redman for the final game, that way they can get a long look at both players. That will likely be the game that Shockley will make or break this competition since it’s expected that’ll be the game he’ll work with the first unit, and may get an entire half to showcase his skills.

RB: I think Brown is leading Snelling so far. But I think it’s still fairly close between the two. Brown gets a boost from his return abilities, although he’s been less than impressive in that realm thus far. But if he can show improvement in the next two weeks, Snelling is going to be hard-pressed to overtake him. If Snelling is the loser, I suspect the team will try to get him on the practice squad (right now it looks iffy if he’ll clear waivers), and start working him at fullback some more in practice, since that will presumably be the best chance he has a long-term future with this team.

WR: There is still an ongoing battle for the fifth and likely final receiver spot. Finneran probably has the edge right now because he’s played fairly well, but you can’t count out Jennings just because he still can earn a spot with his return abilities in these final two weeks. Since Brown hasn’t run away with the kickoff return job, which leaves the door open for Jennings. I think Horn and the others are longshots to make the roster. Frankly, I think it would be a very smart move to cut all of them, and hope to re-sign Finneran after Week 1, that way his $1.3 million base salary isn’t guaranteed this year. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Horn part of the first round of cuts on or before August 26.

TE: At tight end, it’s still a toss-up once you get past Hartsock. Milner needs to get healthy, or he might find himself cut. But thus far, it seems none of the others have really stepped up in his absence. Rader looks like the favorite thus far to be the next guy. But honestly, I don’t know with this position. Haven’t paid too much attention to their blocking, which I think will be the difference maker since all of them (besides Milner) are only so-so receivers at best.

OL: Up front, I’m pretty sure the 8-man rotation is set assuming there are no injuries. If Weiner is healthy by the start of the year, he’ll start at RT. I think Dahl has pretty much won the starting RG job as well. I think the 3 top backups will be Stepanovich, Ojinnaka, and Clabo. Between those 3, they provide depth at all 5 spots and that’s all you really need. But the team may decide to keep a 9th guy since some of those guys have had injuries thus far in camp. And I don’t think that guy is going to be Forney. Right now, I think the only way Forney stays if either starting guards get hurt. And even then, I think the team would prefer the much cheaper Clabo. That battle for possible 9th man is basically between Batiste, Pennington, and Wilkerson. None of them seemingly have done much to step ahead of the pack, nor do I really care if one does. They’re not going to play unless there’s multiple injuries anyway. The team is probably better off scouring the waiver wire in a few weeks.

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