Archive for August, 2010

Falcons reduce roster to 75

August 31st, 2010 Comments off

League rules mandate that teams begin to reduce to their rosters to the maximum limit of 75 as teams eventually work their way to their regular season limit of 53 players. The Falcons made a pair of moves over the weekend by cutting tackle Mark Ortmann and defensive back Gabe Derricks. And today the Falcons announced more moves by releasing defensive tackle Thomas Johnson and safety Matt Giordano.

Ortmann and Derricks were undrafted rookies, while Johnson and Giordano were veterans. Johnson signed with the team last season and after an injury to Peria Jerry became the starter at defensive tackle. He wound up starting 10 of 13 games, recording 20 tackles and 2 sacks. But this summer, he has been slowed by injuries missing the last two preseason contests. Giordano was one of the team’s few free agent signings this off-season. But he missed the preseason opener and then struggled in the followup game against New England. With a healthy William Moore and promising rookie Shann Schillinger, his chances of making the roster became slim.

The Falcons will have to make more moves by Saturday afternoon, when they must get their roster down to 53 players and then set their practice squad before they open the season on September 12 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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Preseason Week 3 Stock Exchange

August 28th, 2010 Comments off

The Falcons first units got an extensive workout for the third preseason game against the Dolphins. And while the offense didn’t quite look like it was in midseason form, there were some good individual performances from a few players. The defense looked a little sharper, but there are still some questions going into the final exhibition contest. The team will make their first roster cut down by Tuesday in which they will have to release at least four players to get down to the limit of 75.

Stock Up

WR Harry Douglas – Douglas appears to be progressing nicely on his recovery from a season-ending knee injury last year. In the Dolphins game he flashed some of his trademark quickness and burst on his way to a 4-catch, 41-yard effort. He made a key grab to convert a 3rd & 11 on the Falcons initial scoring drive, which set up the touchdown pass to Roddy White on the very next play. And he had a nice 26-yard catch and run on the team’s scoring drive in the third quarter that put the team in the redzone, leading to a touchdown pass to Brian Finneran three plays later. If Michael Jenkins has an extended absence, Douglas is doing a nice job instilling some confidence that at least one of the team’s reserve receivers appears poised to step up and help.

TE Michael Palmer – Palmer has had a nice summer, showing good hands as he paves his way for a possible third tight end position. The incumbent is Keith Zinger, who was used almost exclusively as a blocker last year in goalline and short-yardage situations. It remains to be seen how impressed the team has been with Palmer’s run blocking, but he at least clearly is an upgrade as far as the passing game goes. He probably has shown enough that he merits a practice squad role at the least, but has a good shot at landing a spot on the 53-man roster.

LB Sean Weatherspoon – Weatherspoon made his second start on the strongside vs. the Dolphins, and from all indications appears that he will open up the season in that same position. Along with the team’s other linebackers, he certainly did his part to limit the Dolphins running attack to 46 total yards on 18 carries (2.6 avg) with a 4-tackle effort. Through three games and three starts, Weatherspoon has tallied 11 tackles, showing some of his trademark speed and range in run support.

Stock Down

K Matt Bryant – While a missed extra point in the Dolphins game may have had more to do with the dirt-laden field conditions of Land Shark Stadium, it still just underscores the fact that Bryant hasn’t instilled a ton of confidence with his kicking so far this summer. Given the inconsistency that the Falcons had last season in the kicking game with Jason Elam, Bryant may be facing a bit more pressure and extra scrutiny. The Falcons aren’t likely to make a change at this point in the summer, but the leash will be fairly tight and short once the regular season begins.

WR Brian Finneran – Although he made a nice grab on a scoring strike from Chris Redman vs. the Dolphins, he hasn’t really shown he’s in sync with starter Matt Ryan. Ryan showed an overwhelming tendency to target Roddy White in the Dolphin game, with 12 of his 26 passes going to No. 84. Finneran on the other hand only had one pass go his way from Ryan. As the Falcons look for a viable stopgap option in the absence of Michael Jenkins on the outside, Finneran hasn’t inspired a ton of confidence with his preseason performances.

CB Dunta Robinson – While it’s hard to blame the Falcons for playing it safe and keeping Robinson sidelined for fear of him aggravating a hamstring injury, it certainly hasn’t eased any doubts over whether the Falcons made the smart decision to sign Robinson to a big money contract this past spring.  Hamstrings are notorious for taking some time to heal, and the Falcons maybe being extra cautious given the issues safety William Moore had a year ago. The Falcons can’t really afford to have Robinson get off to a slow start in the regular season, as the secondary will draw tough assignments against explosive receivers like Mike Wallace, Larry Fitzgerald, and Robert Meachem and physical ones like Hines Ward and Marques Colston early in the season. Last summer, Robinson missed the entire training camp due to a contract holdout, and it was proabbly no coincidence that the Texans secondary gave up 272 passing yards to a mediocre Jets passing attack in Week 1. The Falcons cannot afford a repeat of that this year.

Falcons outshine Dolphins

August 27th, 2010 Comments off
Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images

Brent Grimes

In what could be considered a dress rehearsal game for the regular season, the Falcons weren’t exactly crisp, but managed to be sharper than the Miami Dolphins, exiting with a 16-6 win.

Matt Ryan and the starters played most of the game, appearing for the entire first half and the opening possession of the third quarter. Ryan got off to a slow start, completing only 4 of his first 14 passes. But he finished with 13 completions on 26 attempts for 103 yards, 1 touchdown, and an interception. Chris Redman spelled him in the second half, completing 5 of 8 passes for 56 yards and a score. Michael Turner led Falcons rushers on the ground with 16 carries for 47 yards. He also fumbled once. Jason Snelling and Jerious Norwood each added 5 carries for 22 yards. Roddy White got a big chunk of the work in the first half, catching 6 passes for 47 yards, including an 18-yard touchdown pass from Ryan. Harry Douglas had 4 catches for 41 yards. Tony Gonzalez added 3 receptions for 30 yards. Michael Palmer also caught a pair of passes for 25 yards. Brian Finneran was the recipient of Redman’s touchdown strike, it being his only reception for 5 yards. The Falcons first team offense put together two good offensive series, resulting in 10 points. But two drives were stalled by the turnovers. They did manage to convert 10 of 19 third down attempts for the game.

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Falcons sign Ortmann

August 23rd, 2010 Comments off

Jay Adams of Atlanta reports that the Falcons have signed offensive tackle Mark Ortmann. Ortmann will fill the roster spot vacated by Quinn Ojinnaka who was traded to the New England Patriots on Sunday night.

Ortmann is an undrafted free agent out of Michigan. He was a two-year starter at Michigan, predominantly at left tackle, starting 25 of 36 career games. He was originally signed by the Carolina Panthers this spring, but was released by them in June.

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Revisiting the Final Roster Prediction

August 23rd, 2010 Comments off

We’re halfway through the preseason and training camp has finally wrapped up. I wanted to look at the final roster prediction that I made at the start of camp to see if there were any revisions that I wanted to make.

And there aren’t a lot.

QB: This spot remains unchanged with Ryan, Redman, and Wilson locking up spots.

RB: I am not as confident with my prediction of Antone Smith, because I think he and Dimitri Nance overall have been relatively even. However, I am tending to lean towards the Falcons signing a veteran running back off the waiver wires come the end of this month rather than going with either of the youngsters. I do think the Falcons will keep a fourth running back because of the injuries woes of Jerious Norwood. I just am less sure it will be someone currently on this roster, and instead Smith or Nance will wind up on the practice squad. And I don’t think Klecko has shown enough to stick as an extra fullback.

WR: At wide receiver, Meier is out for the year with injury. And because of the injury to Jenkins, I still think the team will keep six wideouts. I think Bergeron is the front runner for that sixth and final roster spot, although again, I do think the Falcons will be paying attention to which players are cut next week in case a veteran becomes available.

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Ojinnaka traded to Patriots

August 22nd, 2010 Comments off

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Quinn Ojinnaka

Adam Caplan of FOX Sports tweeted late Sunday night that the Falcons had agreed to trade offensive lineman Quinn Ojinnaka to the New England Patriots. Later reports established that the agreed compensation is an undisclosed draft choice.

Ojinnaka was a 2006 draft pick by the Falcons out of Syracuse. In four seasons with the Falcons, he played in 39 games, starting 12. Last season, he started 5 games at right guard in place of an injured Harvey Dahl. In 2007, he started 7 games at left tackle as an injury replacement for Wayne Gandy. Ojinnaka has experience playing all five offensive line positions, and adds depth and insurance for the New England Patriots due to a lengthy contract holdout from left guard Logan Mankins, and a recent injury to his replacement Nick Kaczur.

Ojinnaka is set to serve a single game suspension this season stemming from a battery arrest in 2009.

The Falcons depth up front had been improved this off-season with the additions of draft picks Mike Johnson and Joe Hawley. Second-year player Garrett Reynolds had been working throughout the preseason as the first right guard off the bench. Ojinnaka had mainly been working at both tackle positions, but has been pushed by Jose Valdez at right tackle.

While compensation hasn’t been disclosed, most summer trades usually involve conditional late round picks. Usually those conditions are contingent on the traded player making the new team’s final roster.

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Preseason Week 2 Stock Exchange

August 22nd, 2010 Comments off

It’s time to look at who’s stock is up and down after the second preseason game. The Falcons have just one more preseason game before they much begin to make roster cuts and decisions.

Stock Up

WR Troy Bergeron -
With the season-ending injury to Meier, the Falcons are likely in need for some roster help at this position. And right now, Bergeron is probably the only one of the “camp bodies” at wide receiver that has thus far distinguished himself in preseason games. He’s tied for the lead among all receivers with four receptions, including a nice run after the catch on a 19-yard score vs. the Patriots. Bergeron’s eligibility for the practice squad has expired, so the only way he can stick is to be on the team’s 53-man roster when all is said and done. And right now, he’s given the team the most to date to why he deserves over the other guys who actually can go on the practice squad.

TE Justin Peelle - Not only is Meier’s injury a potential boon for a player like Bergeron, it might also help Justin Peelle. With all the injuries and question marks the Falcons are facing at the wide receiver, there is no question as to what Peelle’s value is. And if those issues linger at wide receiver, the team may be forced to use a lot more two-tight end sets as the regular season begins. And Peelle thus far has shown that he is ready for the increased workload with 4 receptions thus far in the preseason, including 3 vs. the Patriots. To date, Peelle has caught more passes from Matt Ryan than Harry Douglas has, so relatively speaking he is a trusted option that can take pressure off the other receivers as the season nears.

DE Lawrence Sidbury – While Kroy Biermann has garnered most of the headlines and hype this summer, Sidbury has quietly done a good job pressuring the quarterback as well. He got a sack in what was essentially garbage minutes vs. the Patriots, but he’s shown a greater burst and quickness off the edge than he displayed last season and summer, and looks like he is well on his way to being a key contributor in the team’s rotation.

Stock Down

CB Dominique Franks -
This is not in reference to what Franks can do on defense, as he showed some improvement this past week vs. the Patriots in coverage. This is in regards to his special teams production. Franks is in the midst of a competition with Eric Weems over return duties, but thus far has been unimpressive. He has fair caught four punts, and his lone return vs. the Patriots was a 7-yard loss in which he looked amateurish, trying to run to break a big play but rather picking up a loss of yardage. This week vs. Miami may be his last chance to really shine and unseat the much more battle tested and consistent Weems.

S Matt Giordano – While Shann Schillinger made his preseason debut with a couple of tackles and a nice interception, Giordano premiered vs. the Patriots by being the victim on two bad plays where he was caught out of position. One of which resulted in a touchdown. While the fourth safety spot was likely always Schillinger’s to lose, Giordano did little to at least make it interesting and inspire confidence in the coaching staff that a veteran hand like his is necessary. Barring a brilliant performance next week vs. the Dolphins, and a flop on the part of Schillinger it would seem that the job is locked up.

RB Dimitri Nance – While he still may maintain a slight lead on Antone Smith in the competition for the fourth running back position, Nance did little vs. the Patriots to separate himself from the pack. Despite looking promising on two touchdown runs vs. the Chiefs, and thus far being the more reliable of the pair as a receiver out of the backfield, Nance’s fumble vs. the Patriots has made this battle much more even. And while some of the blame may rest on the blocking he’s received up front, his 2.1 yards per carry average is far from impressive. Especially when Smith has it practically doubled.

Peters out 2 weeks with knee injury

August 22nd, 2010 1 comment

Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post reports that Falcons defensive tackle Corey Peters is expected to miss the next 10-14 days as recovery time for the sprained knee he suffered in this past week’s preseason contest against the New England Patriots.

Peters is an integral part of the Falcons planned depth at the defensive tackle position after being a third round pick in this past April’s draft. With starter Peria Jerry recovering from a knee injury, and defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux suspended for the regular season opener, any prolonged absence from Peters will continue to thin out the team’s depth. The Falcons may be without defensive lineman Jamaal Anderson, who plays both end and tackle in their rotation as well as he was held out of weekend practices with a thigh injury. Thomas Johnson missed the Patriots game with an injury as well, leaving Babineaux, Vance Walker, and Trey Lewis as the only completely healthy options at the position currently. The team even played ends Chauncey Davis and newly signed Maurice Lucas during the Patriots game to help depth. It might be possible that if injuries continue to linger the team may opt to give fullback Dan Klecko more reps on the defensive side of the ball.

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Meier out for the season

August 20th, 2010 Comments off

The team announced earlier today that rookie wide receiver Kerry Meier has been placed on injured reserve due to a knee injury he suffered in Thursday night’s preseason game against the New England Patriots.

Meier was a fifth round pick by the Falcons earlier this Fall. With the injury to starter Michael Jenkins, the Falcons were hopeful that Meier would help alleviate their need for depth. He had been having a very good training camp according to most reports.

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Falcons hope to get healthier next week vs. Dolphins

August 20th, 2010 Comments off

D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC reports that the Falcons expect several players to return to action in next week’s preseason game against the Miami Dolphins after missing some time. Among them are safety William Moore, cornerback Dunta Robinson, defensive tackle Peria Jerry, cornerback Brian Williams, and running back Jerious Norwood.

All five players have yet to suit up for a game this preseason. Typically, the third preseason game is the one in which the team’s starters get the majority of their playing time. And Robinson and Jerry are expected to hold down starting positions this season. Head coach Mike Smith indicated in his post-game press conference that the team had been targeting most of the injured players to return for this third preseason game from the start.

Moore has missed time by re-aggravating a groin injury he suffered in the spring. The former second round pick has seen very little action to date for the team in the past two seasons.

Robinson was held out last week with a hamstring injury, although he indicated in a television interview that he could have played had it been a regular season game. The team erred on the side of caution to allow the injury to heal.

Jerry still has lingering issues from the knee injury he suffered in September of last season and has been limited in practice since training camp began at the end of July. Williams is in the same boat.

Norwood too has been limited for most of camp with a hip flexor.

The Falcons were able to get wide receiver Harry Douglas and safety Matt Giordano back from injury for last night’s preseason game. Douglas (knee) and Giordano (groin) were held out of the Chiefs games. Douglas responded with a pair of receptions for 13 yards. It was his first action since 2008, after missing all of the 2009 season with a knee injury. Giordano had two tackles in his first action in a Falcon uniform.