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Archive for April, 2012

Falcons announce undrafted signings

April 30th, 2012 Comments off

The Falcons announced the signing of 22 undrafted rookie free agents today. Included on the list were 18 that were reported earlier. However California WR Mike Calvin and Jackson State QB Casey Therriault were not on the team’s official announcements. Four additional players: linebacker Rico Council (Tennessee State), wide receiver Marcus Jackson (Lamar), defensive tackle Ray Kibble (Kansas State), and cornerback Peyton Thompson (San Jose State) were among the twenty-two signings.

Council, 6-1, 255 pounds, was tabbed Ohio Valley Conference Preseason Co-Defensive Player of the Year as a senior at Tennessee State. In 2011, he posted a team-high 87 tackles (49 solo) with 8.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, one interception, 11 passes defensed, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. The Chattanooga, TN native was named to the All-OVC second team as a junior, received TSU Heart of a Tiger Courage Award and earned first team All-HBCU honors as a sophomore.

Jackson, 6-1, 195 pounds, finished with 65 catches for 1,159 yards during his two seasons at Lamar. He posted 24 receptions for 432 yards and six touchdowns while leading the team with 18.0 yards per catch as a senior. Jackson’s eight touchdown catches in 2010 were the second most in a single season in school history. He also hauled in 17 passes for 278 yards and four touchdowns at Navarro College, helping the Bulldogs to an 11-1 record and a No. 3 ranking in the 2009 National Junior College Athletic Association.

Kibble, 6-4, 305 pounds, notched 38 tackles (14 solo) with 5.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and one forced fumble during his senior season at Kansas State. In 2010, he appeared in all 13 games with nine starts and made 30 tackles (11 solo) with one half sack. He earned second team All-Southwest Junior College Football Conference honors as a defensive lineman in 2009 at Navarro College.

Thompson, 5-11, 180 pounds, logged 186 tackles (125 solo), 10.5 tackles for loss, seven interceptions, one sack, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and 22 passes defensed in four seasons at San Jose State. He played in 47 games, including 33 starts, seeing time at cornerback and on special teams. Thompson was credited with downing four punts inside opponent’s five-yard line during his final three seasons.

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Chris Polian to be added to front office

April 30th, 2012 Comments off

Pro Football Talk reported yesterday that former Indianapolis Colts Vice President and General Manager Chris Polian will be joining the Falcons front office in a currently unknown capacity. Polian was at one point a candidate for the Falcons own general manager position in 2008, but removed his name from consideration and a week later the Falcons named Thomas Dimitroff to the post instead. Afterwards, Polian was promoted to be GM of the Colts in 2009, serving in that capacity until he along with his father, Bill, the President of the Colts were fired following the Colts 2-14 record in 2011.

Polian began his work in scouting as a player personnel assistant with the now defunct Sacramento Gold Miners of the CFL in 1993. He was hired by the Carolina Panthers the following year, then managed by his father. He was a pro scout for the Panthers from 1994-96, and the became their pro personnel coordinator in 1997. When his father left to become the general manager of the Colts in 1998, Chris followed as the director of pro scouting. He was promoted to Assistant Director of Football Operations in 2001, and then as assistant GM/VP of Football Operations in 2004, a post he held until his 2009 promotion.

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Scouting Report: Lamar Holmes

April 29th, 2012 1 comment
US PRESSWIRE

Lamar Holmes

When the Falcons drafted Southern Miss offensvie tackle Lamar Holmes, I’m sure I was among many Falcon fans that were perplexed. Holmes had been designated by many draft sites as a late round project, and here the Falcons a team that desperately needed a left tackle had just taken him in the third round. It suggested they thought much more highly of Holmes than many of the so-called experts.

I’ve learned over the years, that when it comes to rookies and draft prospects, you shouldn’t have any strong opinions about them until you’ve seen them play. Guys that are initially judged as reaches can often become studs. And others that are deemed sure-fire studs and can potentially become busts.

I went back and watched three games of Southern Miss on ESPN3.com to form my own impression of Holmes. I saw him from this past year against Virginia, Houston, and Nevada.

Pros: The first thing you notice about Holmes is his size. He has very good size for an NFL tackle with the long arms and bulky frame you want. He is a fairly good athlete that is able to move his feet and slide in pass protection. His technique and footwork are pretty solid. His long arms allow him to get extension in pass protection, as he’s able to initiate contact with pass rushers on the edge. He bends his knees well and can get leverage at the point of attack as a run blocker. He can drive his feet when he does lock on as a run blocker to get some push. He is able to block on the move and does a nice job getting downfield to hit assignments on the second level. He also flashed nice potential as a cut blocker.

Cons: Holmes lacks great feet. He can struggle at times with speed, mainly because while he does a good job initiating contact on the edge, the contact is lackluster. He tends to push rather than punch pass rushers, which allows them to continue to work their way around the edge. He doesn’t do a great job locking on which prevents him from maintaining his blocks. And he doesn’t possess the short-area power as a run blocker that even when he gets leverage he is able to consistently push defenders off the ball. Doesn’t do a great job finishing his blocks either because of his inability to lock on. Doesn’t dominate smaller defenders in a short-area the way a guy with his size should.

Holmes is expected to compete right away for the left tackle position for the Falcons. But in watching Holmes in these three games I do not think he’s quite ready to be an NFL starter. While he is technically sound in the sense that you can tell he’s been well-coached, he hasn’t quite polished that technique to make him effective against speed. He needs to refine his technique, and getting at least a year in the weight room and on the bench should help him go a long ways towards doing that.

But even if Holmes does get a year to learn and improve, I’m still not convinced he’s ideally suited to play left tackle in the NFL. At least not a high level. He looks more like a player that is better suited to playing right tackle in the league because of his struggles against speed.

Whoever plays left tackle for the Falcons this year is not going to have an easy task over the first half of the season. Likely matchups include going against Tamba Hali (12 sacks in 2011), Elvis Dumervil (9.5 sacks), Shaun Philips (3.5 sacks), Charles Johnson (9 sacks), Brian Orakpo (9 sacks), Matt Shaughnessy (7 sacks in 2010), Trent Cole (11 sacks), and DeMarcus Ware (19.5 sacks) over the first 8 games.

That’s not going to be an ideal situation for a player like Holmes. I believe Holmes can be a good player for the Falcons, but probably not in 2012. In time, he can potentially become a Donald Penn-caliber of left tackle. He won’t set the world on fire, but is more than capable of doing more good than bad if he can be developed. That should begin with patience from the Falcons.

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Falcons miss opportunity at tight end in draft

April 29th, 2012 1 comment

The Falcons exited their fourth consecutive draft without using a single pick on a tight end. They are among three NFL teams which have not selected a tight end since the 2008 draft. Those other teams include the New York Jets, who used a first round pick on Dustin Keller that year, the Carolina Panthers who added Gary Barnidge in the fifth round. That year, the Falcons selected Keith Zinger in the seventh round. Only three other teams have used less than two picks on tight ends in the past four drafts (New Orleans, Jacksonville, and Buffalo).

The Falcons squandered an opportunity because of the extreme likelihood that 2012 will mark Tony Gonzalez’s last season in the NFL. The Falcons could have taken advantage of Gonzalez’s veteran presence to help develop a young tight end. But alas, the Falcons will likely enter the 2013 will little at the position. They do still have Michael Palmer, who has served as a competent backup. But Palmer is limited as a receiver, as very few of his 15 career receptions have come when he had to beat and separate from man coverage. Until Palmer develops that ability, his prospects as a starting tight end don’t exceed that of Justin Peelle when he served in that role in 2008.

The Falcons added Adam Nissley as an undrafted free agent to join ones from last summer in Ryan Winterswyk and Tommy Gallarda. But all three are primarily blocking tight ends, leaving the Falcons devoid of any pass-catching presence to succeed Gonzalez next year. Next year’s free agent class is slated to feature Jared Cook (Tennessee), Fred Davis (Washington), Keller (Jets), and Heath Miller (Steelers). And Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert, Iowa’s C.J. Fiedorowicz, and Stanford’s Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo (all rising juniors), along with senior Joseph Fauria (UCLA) are likely to be considered top prospects in the 2013 Draft at the position. All that means that the Falcons could very well wind up with a good starting tight end to replace Gonzalez next year, but still the team missed an opportunity to have Gonzo’s vast knowledge, experience, and work ethic rub off on some promising youngster this year.

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Falcons add twenty undrafted free agents

April 29th, 2012 Comments off
US PRESSWIRE

James Rodgers

The Falcons added twenty undrafted free agents according to SB Nation Atlanta. In addition to the team’s six draft picks, that puts the Falcons roster one shy of the 90-man limit allowed in the off-season. It’s likely that the Falcons will release their official list tomorrow.

The Falcons signed wide receivers LaMark Brown (Minnesota State-Mankato), wide receiver Mike Calvin (California), quarterback Dominique Davis (East Carolina), safety Chad Faulcon (Montclair State), running back Robbie Frey (Kutztown), linebacker Max Gruder (Pittsburgh), offensive tackle Bryce Harris (Fresno State), linebacker Jerrell Harris (Alabama), long snapper Josh Harris (Auburn), center Tyler Horn (Miami FL), guard Phillipkeith Manley (Toledo), cornerback Marty Markett (South Carolina), tight end Adam Nissley (Central Florida), defensive end Louis Nzegwu (Wisconsin), wide receiver Cody Pearcy (Huntingdon), defensive tackle Micanor Regis (Miami FL), wide receiver James Rodgers (Oregon State), linebacker Pat Schiller (Northern Illinois), quarterback Casey Therriault (Jackson State), and punter Dawson Zimmerman (Clemson).

Read more…

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Ewing’s addition should not spell end for Ovie

April 29th, 2012 Comments off
US PRESSWIRE

Ovie Mughelli

The Falcons used a fifth round pick on Saturday to take Wisconsin fullback Bradie Ewing. And it caused a lot of speculation that Ovie Mughelli’s tenure as an Atlanta Falcon will come to an end. And while that is certainly a possibility, given Ovie’s age (32), the fact that he’s coming off a knee injury, and cutting him can clear about $3 million off the Falcons 2012 salary cap. But if the Falcons are looking to make the best football decision, then keeping Mughelli is a must.

I’ve been vocal in the past about Michael Turner’s potential to have a detrimental effect on the Falcons offense. A big part of that is that Turner and Mughelli are tied at the hip. When Turner has big games, it almost always coincides with Ovie having big games as a blocker. The pair have worked together for four years, and much like the relationship between a quarterback and a wide out goes the relationship between a tailback and his lead blocker.

The Falcons are intent on keeping Turner, and having Mughelli block for him is the best strategy to getting the most out of Turner in 2012. While Ewing is a solid lead blocker, as a rookie he’s not likely to add significantly more value as a starter than Mike Cox would. Ewing just is not a physical, smashmouth pile-clearing lead blocker that Ovie is. And that style of football has made Turner one of the more productive runners over the past four seasons, and earned Ovie a reputation for being the league’s top blocking fullback alongside Vonta Leach.

Ovie’s knee injury is a concern, but unlikely to have lingering effects. All reports indicate that Ovie suffered an MCL tear which is not nearly as grievous as an ACL tear. In fact, most often MCL tears do not require surgery to properly heal, although Ovie did undergo season-ending surgery last season.

And while Ovie’s age might seem to indicate he is nearing the end, giving the longevity that other Pro Bowl fullbacks like Mack Strong (last season was at age 36), William Henderson (35), Lorenzo Neal (38), and Tony Richardson (39) in the past decade, there’s no reason to expect that Ovie has several years left in the tank.

As for the money issue, given that Ovie is entering the final year of his contract, the Falcon could easily lower his cap hit by adding another year to the deal. Ovie has a 2012 cap hit of $3.733 million, with $3 million of that being base salary. As a 10th year veteran, the minimum salary is $925,000. If the Falcons were to lower his 2012 base salary to $925,000, and add another year in 2013 for the same price, and then convert the difference ($3 million – $925,000 = $2.075 million) into a signing bonus, they could almost nearly cut Ovie’s 2012 cap hit in half. The savings of nearly $1.8 million would allow a much more palatable contract for the Falcons to handle this season.

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Falcons finish draft by taking DT Robertson

April 28th, 2012 Comments off
US PRESSWIRE

Travian Robertson

With their final pick in the 2012 Draft, the Falcons took South Carolina defensive tackle Travian Robertson with the 249th overall in the seventh round. Robertson was a team captain at South Carolina, and a two-year starter. He began his sophomore year as the starter before an ACL injury cut his season short. In two years, he combined for 91 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, and 6.5 sacks as one of the anchors of the Gamecocks defensive line.

Robertson is a high motor player that will add depth to the rotation and compete with Vance Walker and Peria Jerry for reps behind starters Jonathan Babineaux and Corey Peters. Robertson, who stand 6’4″ 300 did 30 bench reps at the Combine, showcasing his strength. Click here to read a scouting report on Robertson from SI.com.

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Falcons land Mitchell in the sixth

April 28th, 2012 Comments off
US PRESSWIRE

Charles Mitchell

The Falcons drafted Mississippi State strong safety Charles Mitchell with their lone selection in the sixth round, taking him 192nd overall. Mitchell, a solid run defender will likely add depth at strong safety, a role and spot vacated by James Sanders.

Mitchell is an undersized safety, standing at 5’11″ 202 pounds, clocked a 4.56 at February’s Combine in Indianapolis. He was a highly productive run stopper, combining for 188 tackles in the past two seasons as Mississippi State’s starting strong safety. A three-year starter, he only recorded 4 interceptions during his career, all of which came as a sophomore. Mitchell was a team captain and likely be expected to produce alongside Shann Schillinger on special teams. Click here to read a scouting report on Mitchell from SI.com.

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Falcons nab Massaquoi at the end of the fifth

April 28th, 2012 Comments off
US PRESSWIRE

Jonathan Massaquoi

With the Falcons took Troy pass rusher Jonathan Massaquoi with the 164th overall pick, their second pick in the fifth round. He hails from the same program that produced NFL stars Osi Umenyiora and DeMarcus Ware. Massaquoi has been highly productive with a dominant junior season where he recored 76 tackles, 20.5 tackles for loss, and 13.5 sacks. As a senior, while facing more double teams his production slipped to 52 tackles, 10.5 for loss, and 6 sacks.

His cousins are former Vikings TE Visanthe Shiancoe and current Browns WR Mohamed Massaquoi. Jonathan Massaquoi began his career at Butler Community College, where he anchored a defense that went to the JC National Championship with 17.5 tackles for loss, 20 sacks, and 96 tackles.

Massaquoi projects as an edge rusher in the Falcons defense, where he could potentially be cross-trained to play end or outside linebacker. Click here to read a scouting report of Massaquoi on SI.com.

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Falcons add FB Ewing in the fifth

April 28th, 2012 Comments off
US PRESSWIRE

Bradie Ewing

With the 157th overall pick in the fifth round, the Falcons took Peter Konz’s teammate Bradie Ewing, a fullback out of Wisconsin. Ewing is a consistent 239-pound lead blocker that helped alongside Konz to clear the way for Montee Ball and one of the nation’s top ground games.

Ewing was used primarily as a lead blocker, but did managed to catch 28 passes for 328 yards over his career, and rushed 7 times for 33 yards. He scored a combined 4 touchdowns. Ewing served as a team captain for the Badgers.

The addition of Ewing could spell the end of Ovie Mughelli’s tenure with the Falcons. If the Falcons opt to keep Mughelli for another year, then Ewing can add valuable depth and ability on special teams. But is a polished enough lead blocker to potentially start right away.

Click here to read a scouting report of Ewing.

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