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Archive for March, 2012

Alabama’s Chapman to work out for Falcons

March 27th, 2012 1 comment

Aaron Wilson of Scout.com reports that Alabama defensive tackle Josh Chapman is scheduled to visit with and work out for the Falcons. Chapman is a massive nose tackle prospect at 6’1″ 316, but is drawing interest from other 4-3 teams like the Falcons including the Raiders, Titans, and Ravens per Wilson. Although the Ravens would be widely categorized as a hybrid scheme, something that many expect the Falcons to move towards under new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan.

Chapman is recovering from ACL surgery in January, and it’s likely his medical checks will heavily influence where his draft stock is. Chapman injured the knee on October 1, but managed to start and play in 7 of the next 8 games for the Crimson Tide. This past season, he had 23 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, and 1 sack. He also started as a junior, where he had 31 tackles, 3.5 for loss, and a sack.

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McClure returns for one more year

March 27th, 2012 Comments off

D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC reports that free agent center Todd McClure has re-signed with the Falcons on a one-year agreement. McClure has been with the Falcons since 1999, being the longest tenured player. He was originally drafted in the seventh round out of LSU in that year, but missed the entire season due to an injury. He returned in 2000 to start 7 games. In 2002, he began a streak of starting every game for the team that would last 9 seasons until he was forced to sit out the season opener this past year. McClure managed to finished the year with 13 starts. His career total is 179 starts. His 182 career appearances is the fourth most in Falcons history, trailling only Mike Kenn (251), Jeff Van Note (245), and Jessie Tuggle (209).

Had McClure not been re-signed, it was expected that Joe Hawley would take over for him at center. Hawley replaced McClure for 3 starts last year, but also started 9 other games at right guard. The team added Vince Manuwai in free agency to take over that position.

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Falcons receive seventh round compensatory pick

March 26th, 2012 Comments off

The league announced the thirty-two additional picks in the draft which are awarded as compensatory picks, given to teams that had a net loss in free agency in the previous year. And among them was the Atlanta Falcons, being granted the forty-second pick in the seventh round, or the 249th overall pick. Last year the Falcons did not receive compensatory picks, but did receive two in 2010. Compensatory picks cannot be traded.

As a result, the Falcons now hold the following picks in the 2012 draft:

2nd round, 55th overall
3rd round, 84th overall
5th round, 157th overall
6th round, 192nd overall
7th round, 229nd overall
7th round, 249th overall (compensatory)

The Falcons first and fourth round picks were part of the compensation for the Julio Jones trade last year.

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Lofton bolts for the Saints

March 26th, 2012 Comments off

On Saturday night, Curtis Lofton agreed to a five-year deal with the New Orleans Saints. The following day Lofton had some interesting quotes in an article written by Mike Triplett of The Times-Picayune. Those quotes probably riled up many a Falcon fan that read them. But I have taken a different viewpoint. I don’t read Lofton’s statement(s) as ones meant to slight the Falcons or their fan base.

Here are the key excerpts of what Lofton said to Triplette:

Lofton, who turns 26 this summer, admitted that he didn’t expect to even become a free agent. After being a full-time starter and leader for the Atlanta Falcons over the past four years, he thought the Falcons would try to re-sign him and continue to build their defense around him.

“I was told they wanted me to start my career as a Falcon and end as a Falcon,” Lofton said.

Once he hit the open market, Lofton wound up taking only one free agent visit and he knew that New Orleans was the place for him. He admitted that the market was surprisingly slow-moving for middle linebackers, but he also was being patient, turning down some overtures from several teams.

“I wanted to go to a team that, No. 1, had a chance to win a Super Bowl, had true fans, a great defensive coordinator. Then once the Saints called, I was like, ‘Wow,’” Lofton said. “When I took my visit there, I loved it. I knew I was going there. I didn’t need to visit anywhere else. I told my agent that.”

Lofton said he is a “loyal guy,” so he wanted to give the Falcons a chance to keep him. But he liked what the Saints were offering better, so he wound up switching sides in the NFC’s South’s most heated rivalry.
Although that was a tough decision to make — and he has been hearing plenty of criticism from Falcons fan — Lofton said it was for the best.

One thing I know from playing against this team and from talking to them, they’re rallying together. It’s us vs. them. And this team is a winner. And from just talking to Vilma and everyone, I can’t wait to be a part of it.”

Without context, these quotes seem to slight the Falcons and their fanbase. That the Falcons lack “true fans.” I don’t think that is what Lofton said one bit. Let’s look at the facts:

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Curtis Lofton

  • Lofton first visited the Saints on March 18
  • Lofton signed with the Saints on March 24
  • Lofton only visited one team, the Saints

By examining the facts, they clearly show that Lofton wanted to remain a Falcon. Overwhelmingly so, he gave the Falcons essentially six days between when he visited the Saints and signed with them to get back into the derby. Now you could certainly argue that Lofton was disappointed that the Falcons didn’t make a better offer to him and he felt slighted, and thus lashed out. But you could also read that Lofton was just looking for the same qualities he saw in Atlanta in another team, and the Saints were the only team that fit that description.

His criteria of finding a team that had true fans, capable of winning a Super Bowl, and a great defensive coordinator also can be used to describe the Falcons. Why else did it take him six days to sign in New Orleans? It doesn’t normally take six days to negotiate a contract. A day or two, or in the rare cases when you’re dealing with huge Mario Williams money, it could take three days.

I think most of that six-day period was used with Lofton and his representatives playing chicken with the Falcons. And I think the Falcons called his bluff.

I don’t blame the Falcons one bit for making that decision. I think it’s one of their bolder decisions, and unlike the Julio Jones trade, I think it makes a lot more football sense. Curtis Lofton is a good, young middle linebacker that is coming off arguably his best season as a pro. But Lofton also is not a player that has shown a ton of improvement over his career as a Falcon, particularly the last three years. He is better than he was in 2009, but not by a huge degree. And in reality, it’s unlikely he’ll become a significantly better player over the next three years.

Lofton has his strengths and has his weaknesses, and they will likely remain so for the rest of his career. He is a good run defender. He is a mediocre at best pass defender. He has improved in the latter phase, but he’ll never reach a point where it’s a strength of his game. He lacks the speed, quickness, and agility to match up in man coverage, and he is still prone to being caught out of position when working in zone as well.

Lofton is often applauded for his leadership. And while he is a very good leader in terms of leading by example, he’s a very, quiet ho-hum guy. The guy that is more willing and able to take the bull by the horns for that unit was Mike Peterson. I do think if Peterson was not re-signed, Lofton could assume some of that mantle going forward. But I do think he and Sean Weatherspoon would have functioned primarily as co-leaders of that unit. Tatupu has many of the same leadership traits that Lofton exhibits, and I don’t think the Falcons are going to take any step back in that department.

Because of Lofton’s issues in coverage, I don’t think the Falcons needed to bend over backwards to keep him. That coupled with his departure won’t cripple the locker room due to Tatupu’s presence, it was a bold move for the Falcons, but a smart one. They didn’t need to spend market value for a player that is not really going to improve over the next four to five years. In fact, he is a player that could have just peaked in 2011. The league is a passing league, and the Falcons need more linebackers like Sean Weatherspoon that are true everydown playmakers, rather than players like Lofton who are not.

I applaud the Falcons decision to pass on Lofton. And I also hold no ill will towards Lofton for signing with the Saints. If I had been in his shoes, I probably would have signed with the Saints as well.

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2012 Mock Draft – 3 Rounds

March 25th, 2012 Comments off
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Andrew Luck

This is my third mock and as such I figured I would expand it from the two rounds of my previous one.

FIRST ROUND

1. Colts – QB Andrew Luck, Stanford
It’s no secret that the Colts have been locked in on Luck from day one. He’ll be asked to fill the huge shoes left by Peyton Manning.

2. Redskins (from Rams) – QB Robert Griffin III, Baylor
The Redskins gave up too much a lot to move up to this spot to get Griffin. But he’ll be the potential franchise QB that this franchise has been wanting for over a decade now.

3. Vikings – OT Matt Kalil, USC
Kalil is a virtual lock for this position, as the Vikings have been waiting many years to get the next bookend left tackle.

4. Browns – WR Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma St.
Since the Browns appear committed to Colt McCoy for at least another year, they’ll do their best to surround him with some weapons.

5. Buccaneers – CB Morris Claiborne, LSU
Despite their acquisition of Eric Wright, the Bucs still need a lot more help in their back seven.

6. Rams (from Redskins) – RB Trent Richardson, Alabama
Needing an heir apparent to Steven Jackson, the Rams don’t see this as settling with a player many think could be comparable to Adrian Peterson in the pros.

7. Jaguars – DE Melvin Ingram, South Carolina
Ingram has the athleticism without the question marks of Coples which will cause the Jags to view him as the top pass rusher in this year’s class.

8. Dolphins – QB Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M
The fact that they had to settle on David Garrard means that they are locked in on Mike Sherman’s former protege at Texas A&M.

9. Panthers – DE Quinton Coples, North Carolina
They will roll the dice on the inconsistent athletic marvel from Chapel Hill just like they did a decade ago with Julius Peppers.

10. Bills – OT Riley Reiff, Iowa
If they lose Demetrius Bell in the coming days, they will be on the lookout for a replacement at left tackle.

Read more…

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Walker and Zelenka re-sign with Falcons

March 23rd, 2012 Comments off

The <a href=”http://www.atlantafalcons.com/2012/03/walker-signs-tender-zelenka-re-signed/”>Falcons announced earlier today</a> that defensive tackle Vance Walker and long snapper Joe Zelenka both agreed to return to the team. Walker, a restricted free agent, signed his one-year tender. Zelenka was an unrestricted free agent, and terms of his new deal with the team were undisclosed.

It had been previously reported that Walker had already agreed to sign his $1.26 million tender on the opening day of free agent, but his agent, <a href=”https://twitter.com/#!/AlvinKeels/status/179661596837167104″>Alvin Keels, tweeted shortly that those reports were false</a>. Walker will become an unrestricted free agent following the 2012 season. He was originally a 7th round pick by the Falcons in 2009. In three seasons with the Falcons, he has combined for 48 tackles and 2 sacks in 42 appearances, including two starts. Walker was the lone restricted free agent for the Falcons this off-season. Restricted free agents have until April 20 to sign offer sheets with new teams. Their respective teams then have the right of first refusal, which allows them to match the offer of the new team, or to allow them to depart and receive compensation in the form of draft picks.

Zelenka’s return to the team was potentially shaky given the team had signed a pair of free agents, Corey Adams and Scott Albritton, to futures contracts back in January. But the team opted to bring back the veteran snapper. He first joined the team at the end of hte 2009 season, after Mike Schneck went on injured reserve and his replacement Bryan Pittman was inconsistent in four games.

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Falcons Updated Team Needs

March 21st, 2012 Comments off

The Falcons are a needs-based drafting team. They tend to focus their draft on adding guys that can immediately make the roster. After all, if a player cannot make the roster then he isn’t going to add very much value to your roster.

That’s why in re-examining the team needs from previously, I have paid more attention to the Falcons current depth chart to see what holes/weaknesses remain on the roster. I believe for the most part, the Falcons have the vast majority of the 53 prospective players that will be on this year’s team currently on the roster. But a few holes remain…

Free Agency Needs

These are needs that likely will have the team opting for veterans to fill.

Left Tackle: It seems very likely that at the least the Falcons want to bring in some competition at this position. While the team could probably live with Will Svitek and Sam Baker competing for this spot, it does not seem likely they want to. This was a position that was a weakness all year last year, and to expect that not to change in 2012 is foolhardy without any changes to the roster.

Center: Right now besides Joe Hawley there is no other center on the roster. The team could tinker with the idea of moving Andrew Jackson to that position. New position coach Pat Hill’s praise of Jackson’s leadership and intelligence was one of the reasons which drew the Falcons brass to him as a seventh round draft pick a year ago. But the team might also look to add a veteran later in the off-season to provide depth. A player like Brett Romberg is likely to remain available, but he’s always been a Paul Boudreau guy, and it’s possible Hill will prefer another option.

Draft Needs

These are needs which the team will focus on adding young talent to fill via the draft. The Falcons are slated to only have five draft picks this April, which gives them more limited options of players they could target.

Tight End: Last year’s third tight end Reggie Kelly is a free agent, that almost no one has talked about re-signing. The Falcons extended Tony Gonzalez’s deal by one year, but he has made no secret that 2012 will be his last. Michael Palmer is a capable reserve, but has done little to nothing to show he has a future as a starter in this league. Expect this position to one of the team’s higher priorities come draft day. They will look for a guy that can add some immediate value as depth, but also offer starting potential in 2013 and beyond.

Quarterback: The Falcons re-signed Chris Redman for one more year, and John Parker Wilson is expected back. But the Falcons might be looking at more than just adding a fourth arm in camp, they might be looking for a guy that can immediately push/replace Wilson for the No. 3 spot, and have the upside to replace Redman as the No. 2 guy in 2013 and beyond. If the Falcons do eyeball a passer in the draft, they’ll likely take a flyer on someone in the late rounds.

Defensive Tackle: Peria Jerry has given this team little and Vance Walker is entering the final year of his deal. Coupled with the fact that Jonathan Babineaux is no spring chicken, an infusion of youth and depth at this position definitely will not hurt the Falcons. Someone that can bolster the rotation could be a mid or late-round target.

Outside Linebacker: The Falcons have never been married to Robert James, who currently is their top reserve on the strongside. While it’s likely that if Stephen Nicholas went down with injury, Spencer Adkins would be tapped to play the role, the team is probably looking for another reserve linebacker that can add some depth, be developed for the future, and contribute on special teams.

Draft/Free Agency Needs

These are needs that could be filled via the draft or free agency.

Return Specialist/Wide Receiver: While the team could probably get by with some combination of DOminique Franks and Harry Douglas manning this position as replacements for Eric Weems, it seems unlikely that the Falcons won’t look to bolster competition in camp. It’s likely that the team will look to add another wide receiver to compete with Kerry Meier for the No. 4 position that can offer some value in the return game, ostensibly replacing Weems niche/role on the roster.

Strong Safety: The Falcons need to add a backup safety behind William Moore. Having reliable depth at safety is often critical for success because safeties are generally the least durable position on the defense across the league. Moore missed some time last year, and has been injured in 2 of the last 3 seasons. The team could always settle on re-signing James Sanders later this off-season or a comparable veteran player as well. But they also probably would not shy away from adding a young backup in the draft that can also play on special teams.

 

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Falcons to work out CB Bentley

March 21st, 2012 Comments off

NFL Draft Bible tweets that along with UL-Lafayette tight end Ladarius Green, the Falcons will work out his teammate cornerback Dwight “Bill” Bentley.

Bentley has been rising up boards in recent months. At 5’10″ 182-pound corner performed well at the Combine last month. He had 13 bench reps, ran a 4.43 40 seconds, 31.5-inch vertical jump, 9-6 broad jump, and 6.99 3-cone drill. Bentley is the 9th ranked cornerback on CBS Sports, and is projected as a 2nd/3rd round pick.

It’s likely that both players will be performing on-campus workouts for the Falcons given that teams are allowed a limit of 32 prospects to bring to their own facilities for private workouts.

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Tight end Green will work out for Falcons

March 20th, 2012 Comments off

Aaron Wilson of Scout.com reports that Louisiana-Lafayette tight end Ladarius Green is scheduled for a private workout with the Falcons. Green worked out today at UL-Lafayette’s pro day, where he jumped 35 inches on his vertical leap. It was a one-inch improvement from his performance at the Combine last month. He also improved his bench press with an additional rep of 225 pounds, for a total of 17.  In Indianapolis, Green measured in at 6’6″ 239 pounds and ran a 4.53 40 time. He also had a broad jump of 10 feet, 4 inches and a 7.12 3-cone drill.

Last season, he caught 50 passes for 607 yards (12.1 avg) and 8 touchdowns. The previous season he had 44 catches for 794 yards (18.0 avg) and 7 touchdowns.

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Falcons check out Temple prospects at pro day

March 16th, 2012 Comments off

The Falcons were present at Temple’s pro day today. There were some impressive numbers being put on display in the speed department, as highly-rated running back Bernard Pierce clocked a 40 time as fast as 4.35 seconds according to some stopwatches. Also wideout Rod Streater was timed in the 4.3 range. Defensive end Adrian Robinson weiged in at 250 pounds and did 25 bench reps of 225 pounds. That was the same number of reps for guard Derek Dennis, who also ran a 5.23 40 tie.

The Falcons were also in attendance at Virginia’s pro day on Thursday. There they got to see highly-rated pass rusher Cam Johnson workout in positional drills. Johnson did not lift at last month’s Combine, and put up 16 bench reps at his pro day.

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