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Archive for July, 2009

Newberry retires

July 21st, 2009 Comments off

Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.com reports that Falcons center Jeremy Newberry is retiring. Newberry signed with the Falcons a month ago to add some veteran depth to the offensive line.

Per the report, Newberry’s knee had been bothering him since having surgery a few years back. But the knee had been getting worse and worse according to a league source.

It is possible the Falcons might re-sign center Alex Stepanovich, who the team released in order to make room for Newberry on the roster.

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Falcons sign Sidbury

July 16th, 2009 Comments off

The Falcons announced the signing of fourth round pick Lawrence Sidbury this morning. Sidbury, a defensive end out of Richmond, is the sixth Falcons draft pick to sign, meaning only the team’s top two picks, Peria Jerry and William Moore, remain unsigned.

Sidbury is expected to compete for playing time as a situational pass rusher for the Falcons. As a senior at Richmond, he had a breakout campaign finishing the year with 11.5 sacks and 20 tackles for loss.

The team did not release details of his contract, but it is likely a four-year deal with minimum salaries since all their other picks have signed for that. His signing bonus likely is within the range of $440,000 to $450,000 given the bonuses received by the players selected ahead and after him that have already signed deals.

UPDATE: Scout.com’s Adam Caplan cites a league source that indicates Sidbury received a four-year deal worth $2.19 million with a $440,000 signing bonus.

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Abraham will be in camp

July 14th, 2009 Comments off

D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC reports that John Abraham’s agent, Rich Rosa, has informed him that he will be present for the Falcons training camp that begins on August 1. A previous report from Steve Wyche of NFL Network reported that Abraham was “bitter” about his contract. Wyche did not cite Abraham or Rosa, but teammates that indicated Abraham was not happy about the six-year deal he signed back in 2006 due to the increases in pay in recent seasons to other defensive ends. Wyche did not report that Abraham was prepared to hold out.

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Camp Battles: Special Teams

July 11th, 2009 Comments off

Relatively speaking, this is the most settled spot on the roster. Jason Elam and Michael Koenen will held into camp unchallenged for their spots. Mike Schneck will be pushed by undrafted rookie long snapper Robert Shiver. Shiver will have to have a really strong summer to push Schneck off the roster, but it’s happened before to Schneck in Buffalo and here in Atlanta with an unknown guy named Derek Rackley.

In the return game, it seems doubtful that Jerious Norwood and Harry Douglas won’t be the team’s kickoff and punt returners, respectively. Thomas Brown, William Middleton, Aaron Kelly, and Chandler Williams may get opportunities this summer, but barring really strong showings in camp and the preseason, the team won’t mess with a good combo.

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Camp Battles: Secondary

July 10th, 2009 Comments off

There should be some of the fiercest competition on the roster in the secondary this summer. Erik Coleman seems locked in as the starting free safety. But at the other safety spot, William Moore and Thomas DeCoud are set to compete. Chris Houston is probably a longshot to lose his starting job this summer, but could be challenged somewhat if he doesn’t have a strong summer. The other corner spot will be up for grabs however.

Competing for that vacant corner spot will be Chevis Jackson, Von Hutchins, Brent Grimes, and Chris Owens. Jackson is currently ahead on the depth chart, but there have been reports that the team would rather have him working inside as  the nickel corner this year. That opens up opportunity for the others. Hutchins has the experience, but missed all of last year with injury, and will need to bounce back with a really strong summer. Owens has the speed the team would like to see outside, but he’s a rookie and with veterans ahead of him, it might be best to bring him along a bit more slowly. Grimes handled the gig for the first half of last year before losing his job to Domonique Foxworth. He’ll need to re-instill confidence in the coaching staff. He’s tough and fast, but undersized and it showed too often last year. Unless he’s grown a few inches, he’ll be hard-pressed to win.

Without a strong summer, Grimes could find himself released by the team since he didn’t show great special teams ability last yera.

Also in the mix are David Irons and William Middleton. Both players are likely only going to play on special teams this year. The team likes Middleton’s athleticism, which means he may have greater upside on defense than Irons, who has only gotten a handful of snaps there in the past two seasons.

As for safety, William Moore is probably the safer bet since he’s a better fit for the scheme at strong safety and has much greater upside. But Moore will need to show he’s not a liability in coverage, something that he proved to be on occasion while at Missouri last year. DeCoud is not stellar in coverage either, but is a bit undersized than what the team is looking for at the position. But he’s got a year’s worth of experience over Moore and thus could potentailly have a shorter learning curve as a starter.

Jamaal Fudge has more experience, performing well in a season finale start last year. But he’s only likely looked up on as a fallback option in case either Moore or DeCoud don’t work out. Also in the mix at safety are Eric Brock and Antoine Harris who will need to show ability on special teams and in coverage on defense to stick, since at best they will only be used in the occasional dime package there.  Also at corner are Tony Tiller and Glenn Sharpe, both of whom are unlikely to land a roster spot, but could wind up on the practice squad.

The Falcons will likely keep up to ten defensive backs on the roster. Right now, the safe bets for the starting spots appear to be Jackson and Moore, but Owens and DeCoud aren’t bad options as dark horses.

Rape reported at Douglas’s home

July 10th, 2009 Comments off

Fox 5 Atlanta reports that Gwinnett County police are searching for a man accused of committing a rape at the home of wide receiver Harry Douglas. According to reports, Douglas was not involved. Per the AJC He was hosting a party at his house on Wednesday night, where the victim fell asleep in one of the bedrooms. She was awoken by a man who was sexually assaulted her.

In 2007, the Falcons faced a similar issue when a woman was raped at the home of former player Patrick Kerney. Kerney was also not involved in the incident.

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Abe looking for a new contract

July 9th, 2009 Comments off

Steve Wyche of NFL.com reports that there are rumors that John Abraham is a little bitter about his contract. Wyche cited Falcons teammates, not Abraham himself, as the source of these rumors.

Abraham has three years remaining on his contract that he signed with the team in 2006 which was a six-year deal worth $45 million. He has base salaries that combine for $19.5 million in the remaining three years.

Wyche cited Jared Allen’s contract as an instigator to Abraham’s alleged bitterness. Allen signed a six-year contract worth $73 million last spring. As part of his contract, Allen received $38 million over the first three years of his contract. Last season, Abraham finished with 16.5 sacks, while Allen only had 14.5 sacks. Allen was voted to the NFC’s Pro Bowl squad and named a 1st team All-Pro by the Associated Press, while Abraham received neither accolades.

Abraham, who just turned 31 this past May, has had issues with injuries in the past. He missed 8 games in 2006 with the Falcons, and 13 games combined in 2003 and 2004. Questions of Abraham’s health have arisen this off-season as the Falcons made efforts to significant limit his work in OTAs. Abraham has started every game each of the past two seasons.

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Camp Battles: Linebackers

July 9th, 2009 Comments off

Curtis Lofton is a fixture in the middle, and it’s pretty much a sure bet that Mike Peterson will be a starter at one of the outside spots, most likely being the weak side. There will be some competition between Stephen Nicholas and Coy Wire for the strong side position.

Nicholas is the more likely of the two to win the job, as the coaching staff wants to develop him. Wire is undersized, but performed well as a reserve off the bench last year, particularly towards the end of the season. But it remains to be seen if he has the needed size and strength to hold up for 16 games as a starter at linebacker. Nicholas presents much greater upside, and it’s really his job to lose. Wire is a much better coming off the bench in nickel situations.

The other spots will be settled via camp competition. Right now, Tony Gilbert is the incumbent backup middle linebacker behind Lofton. He’ll most likely be pushed by undrafted rookie Rashad Bobino out of Texas. Gilbert was inactive for all sixteen games last year, but due to his experience and familiarity with the coaches makes him a relatively sure bet to beat Bobino.

On the outside, the two most likely candidates to fill the reserve spots will be rookie Spencer Adkins and second-year player Robert James. James missed all of last year with injury. Both players are most likely to work on on special teams. But James has good speed, and Adkins showed nice pass rush potential at Miami last year as a situational player. That likely leaves Edmond Miles on the outside looking in along with Bobino, most likely aiming for spots on the practice squad.

Camp Battles: Defensive Line

July 8th, 2009 Comments off

Unlike the offensive line, the defensive line is fairly unsettled as far as the starting lineup. Jonathan Babineaux and John Abraham can be assured of retaining their starting spots, but the other two positions are up for grabs.

At left end, Chauncey Davis and Jamaal Anderson will compete. But this is Anderson’s job to lose. The team is fairly confident that Davis can handle the starting job if need be. He outplayed Anderson last year, despite coming off the bench. This summer may mark the last chance Anderson has to prove his worth. If he doesn’t impress, might find himself in a new city by the end of August.

At nose tackle, Trey Lewis and rookie Peria Jerry are expected to be the primary competitors. It seems the Falcons would prefer for Lewis to win the gig, and Jerry to serve as the backup tackle at both interior spots, but the coaches like Jerry enough that they would feel fairly comfortable starting him right away. Lewis was solid for the first half of 2007 before an injury sidelined him and he missed all of last year as well. So this summer will be really the first chance the coaches get a look at him outside OTAs and some film study.  So they definitely aren’t married to him as far as the starting spot goes.

The competition for the backup behind Abraham should also be fairly intense between Kroy Biermann and Lawrence Sidbury. The winner of that battle could get a lot of reps on passing downs, subbing for Abraham as well as working opposite him since the team likes to move both Anderson and Davis inside to rush the passer. It’s likely that both players will be retained, since the team is looking to develop more speed off the edge.

Also in the mix inside is Jason Jefferson, Thomas Johnson, Tywain Myles, and Vance Walker. All four are likely competing for probably only one roster spot in the tackle rotation. Jefferson is the most experienced, but Walker is a draft pick, giving him a small boost. Myles and Johnson however offer a bit more beef. But because the team can move either Davis or Anderson inside on passing downs, there isn’t a strong need for a fourth tackle if none of the players steps up.

If I was to make a predict today, I would lean more towards the team keeping five ends and three tackles with Davis and Jerry winning the starting gigs by summer’s end.

Camp Battles: Offensive Line

July 7th, 2009 Comments off

Barring some unforseen injury, it’s doubtful the Falcons five starters will change from last year. Sam Baker, Justin Blalock, Todd McClure, Harvey Dahl, and Tyson Clabo are all set to open the season as the team’s starting five, and something significant would need to happen in order to change that.

The battles here will come for who will sit the bench. Most NFL teams keep a rotation of eight linemen, but usually keep a ninth guy for emergency purposes, meaning that there are probably four open spots on the roster for competition.

The three players that are likely best suited to land three of those spots are Jeremy Newberry, Brett Romberg, and Garrett Reynolds. Newberry is highly experienced and Romberg is a favorite of Paul Boudreau as he played under him in both Jacksonville and St. Louis. Reynolds is the team’s fifth round draft pick and expected to compete for the utility backup position. While the team counts Baker as healthy for the time being, his injuries the past two seasons mean there is some concern over whether he can stay healthy for 16 games, meaning the need for a guy that can fill in at left tackle (and preferably right tackle as well) is key this summer. Last year, the job was filled by Todd Weiner.

Reynolds draft status insulates him somewhat to possibly landing that job. If he does not get that gig, then the most likely option for the fourth reserve is the guy that does win that role. And most likely that will be either Quinn Ojinnaka or Will Svitek. The team likes Ojinnaka’s versatility as they feel he can play all five line spots, but with having players like Newberry and Romberg on the roster, that doesn’t carry as much weight now as it did in the past.

Also in the mix are Ben Wilkerson, who was the top backup to McClure last year, along with Mike Butterworth, Ryan Stanchek, and Jose Valdez. In all likelihood all three of the latter are longshots to make the roster, and instead will hope to impress enough to land on the practice squad. Wilkerson will be hard-pressed to win a job since the team brought in both Romberg and Newberry, implying that aren’t overly impressed with Wilkerson’s ability to provide depth.

This is one of the few positions on offense that you could potentially see the team still looking to address at the end of camp. If either Reynolds, Ojinnaka, or Svitek has filled the team’s confidence on their ability to fill in as a reserve tackle, you may see the team try to target a veteran on the waiver wire.