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Archive for July, 2012

Starting guard spot is Konz’s for the taking

July 31st, 2012 Comments off
US PRESSWIRE

Peter Konz

While Mike Smith seemed glowing of Garrett Reynolds, the writing is on the wall for Peter Konz to assume the starting right guard position. It’s interesting to see how Smith talks about Reynolds as opposed to Sam Baker. Smith has gone out of his way over the past few months to praise Baker and talk about how confident the team is in him. The writing suggests that as long as Baker stays healthy, the left tackle position belongs to him. Note Smith talks about Baker’s potential to impact the team long-term. And while Reynolds has reportedly improved, it’s interesting that Smith appended his statements about Reynolds being the starter with the words “right now.” Suggesting that the competition is much more open and that the Falcons aren’t ready to commit to Reynolds beyond these opening weeks of training camp.

The Falcons used a high pick on Konz, and that gives him a strong probability that he will wind up the opening day starter at right guard. All five of the Falcons first round picks started on Day One, and had William Moore not been injured during his rookie camp, it’s likely he would have joined Curtis Lofton to make all of their second round picks to be opening day starters.

The Falcons won’t simply hand the job to Konz. He is playing guard for the first time in his career, and it will take time to adjust to it. But if Konz does show growth over the course of the next few weeks, don’t be surprised if Konz is named the starter by the third preseason game against the Dolphins.

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Falcons dump Manuwai

July 28th, 2012 Comments off

The team announced earlier today that they have cut guard Vince Manuwai. Manuwai joins Lofa Tatupu as the team’s lone two free agent signings this off-season, and now both players have been released within the opening week of training camp. Manuwai was expected to compete with Peter Konz and Garrett Reynolds for the right guard position. Manuwai sat out last season after spending eight seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

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Peters to go on NFI list; Falcons add two bodies

July 25th, 2012 Comments off

Adam Caplan of the Sideline View reports that Falcons defensive tackle Corey Peters will go on the team’s active/Non-Football Injury list. Per D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC, Peters is set to miss at least 3 weeks with a foot injury that sidelined him throughout the off-season. Once Peters is cleared to practice, he will come off the list.

In other roster moves, the team will add wide receiver Tim Toone and defensive tackle Elisha Joseph to fill the spots on the roster vacated by Lofa Tatupu and now Peters. Toone was the final pick in the 2010 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions. He spent the beginning of his rookie season on the Lions’ practice squad before winding up on injured reserve. He would be cut by the Lions last summer, and wound up spending time with both the Buffalo Bills and Denver Broncos, on each of their respective practices quads. He was cut by the Broncos this past April. Toone played at Weber State and also has experience returning punts. He turned 27 this past February, thanks in large part to spending two years in Africa as part of his LDS mission.

Joseph was an undrafted free agent with the Pittsburgh Steelers last summer out of Temple. Joseph was on and off the Steelers practice squad throughout last season. Joseph played nose tackle both at Temple and with the Steelers. Joseph gives the team some much needed depth behind the injured Peters. In Peters place, Peria Jerry has been getting first team reps.

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Falcons to cut ties with Tatupu

July 25th, 2012 Comments off

D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC reports that the Falcons are set to release linebacker Lofa Tatupu today with an injury settlement. The team announced yesterday that Tatupu would miss the entire season with a torn pectoral injury. Players reported today for the Falcons training camp. Practices begin tomorrow, and with the impending release of Tatupu the Falcons will have an available roster position to fill. By cutting Tatupu, the Falcons save roughly $400,000 in 2012 cap space.

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Tatupu out for year

July 24th, 2012 Comments off

The Falcons announced today that linebacker Lofa Tatupu, who suffered an injury last week is out for the 2012 season due to a torn pectoral muscle. Tatupu was injured while benching, and saw specialist Dr. James Andrews on Monday. Tatupu will undergo season-ending surgery at some point in the future. The Falcons will have the option of placing him on the injured reserve and free up an additional roster spot for training camp which begins on Thursday.

Tatupu’s sidelining likely makes Akeem Dent the front-runner for the team’s vacant starting middle linebacker position. The team signed veteran Mike Peterson yesterday to add depth and potentially push Dent. Peterson has experience playing all three linebacker positions, and will likely be counted on depth rather than becoming the starter.

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Falcons re-sign Peterson

July 23rd, 2012 Comments off
Fernando Medina-US PRESSWIRE

Mike Peterson

The Falcons announced the re-signing of linebacker Mike Peterson today. The team was looking for linebacker depth after injuries to Lofa Tatupu and Matt Hansen. Peterson first joined the Falcons in 2009, and played three seasons for the team. He was a free agent after last year where he served primarily as a reserve. In 15 games, including 4 starts, he recorded 22 tackles and 1 interception.

With the Falcons, Peterson played primarily weakside linebacker. But in previous seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars he played middle linebacker. Peterson has been the de facto leader of the Falcons linebacker group since first joining the team and his veteran presence should give the team a viable insurance policy in case Akeem Dent doesn’t run away with the starting middle linebacker position. He also gives the team an experienced backup on the weakside, where the top reserve was Robert James, who has only played in 2 games in 4 seasons with the Falcons.  Peterson turned 36 this past June.

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Tatupu suffers pectoral injury

July 21st, 2012 Comments off

Jeff Schultz of the AJC reports that linebacker Lofa Tatupu has suffered a pectoral injury while lifting weights on Thursday. The extent of the injury is not known, but it is expected that he’ll at least miss the opening of training camp next week per D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC. Ledbetter terms the injury “serious.” Per Ledbetter, a grade one strain requires a few days of recovery. A grade two strain could put a player out for up to six weeks. And a fully torn pectoral muscle requires surgery and presumably would cost Tatupu the entire 2012 season. The severity of the injury will not be known until next week. In the mean time, Tatupu is expected to see noted orthopedic surgeon James Andrews.

Tatupu tore his pectoral in 2009 while with the Seahawks and missed all but five games that season. The Falcons report to camp this upcoming Wednesday and practices begin on Thursday. Tatupu was expected to compete with Akeem Dent for the starting middle linebacker position, as a replacement for Curtis Lofton. With the move to sideline Matt Hansen, the Falcons have an available roster spot for a veteran linebacker if need be.

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Camp Battles 2012: Around the League

July 21st, 2012 Comments off

The interesting thing about training camp competitions is that they are very fluid. A player can get hurt, and thus give an opportunity for another player to nail down a job. Sometimes players are given opportunities, but don’t take advantage of those opportunities. It often means teams have to look outside their 90-man roster to address these concerns.

Injuries are impossible to predict, but are certain to occur. So with that in mind, I won’t try to project where they might occur. But that doesn’t mean that the Falcons don’t have some areas of weakness that by the end of camp, they might try to bolster. Last year, it was their depth in the secondary, as they added James Sanders and Kelvin Hayden at the start of the regular season. The Falcons have regularly picked up veteran players over the course of training camp and after the final cutdowns to bolster weak areas, and this year that could again happen. The positions that entering camp seem to be the most tenuous appear to be depth at tight end and the open competition they have for their return duties.

With that in mind, here’s some players in other NFL camps that the Falcons could be monitoring and keep on their radar as additions the team could make at the end of August or beginning of September.

RB Deji Karim, Colts
Karim handled return duties while in Jacksonville, and his familiarity with Dirk Koetter’s offense could make him a pickup late in the summer. He’s likely on the outside looking in as far as making the Colts roster.

RB Marcus Thigpen, Dolphins
Thigpen is a dark horse, but he played for running backs coach Gerald Brown while they were both at Indiana. Thigpen was a prolific kick returner during his time there, and could be a guy on the Falcons radar as a potential returner.

WR Ted Ginn, 49ers
Some speculate that Ginn could be on the outs given the improved depth the 49ers added at wide receiver by picking up Randy Moss, Mario Manningham, and A.J. Jenkins, as well as the improvements Kyle Williams has made in the return game. Ginn is set to make around $1 million this year and could be cut if he doesn’t outright win a spot as a returner. He played for Keith Armstrong and Terry Robiskie during his rookie season in Miami. If the Falcons were to go after Ginn, it would likely require them to have to part ways with a draft pick since he’ll likely be a hot commodity on the open market. He was after all arguably the league’s top returner last season.

WR Michael Jenkins, Vikings
The former Falcon is potentially a player that could be cut by the Vikings. And if the price is right, the Falcons could bring Jenkins back. While Jenkins wouldn’t help their return game, he does have experience playing special teams and could be a potential upgrade over Kerry Meier.

WR Johnny Knox, Bears
If Knox was healthy, he would be an ideal pickup for the Falcons. His vertical abilities coupled with his return skills would make him a great pickup by the Falcons. But Knox is coming off a severe neck injury, and his football-playing future is questionable.

WR Tiquan Underwood, Buccaneers
Underwood played under Koetter in Jacksonville, has experience as a return threat. He might make the Bucs roster because he played for new head coach Greg Schiano at Rutgers, but they have a lot of bodies in camp and it won’t be a guarantee.

Others:
WR Jacoby Jones, Ravens
WR Brandon Tate, Bengals
WR Roscoe Parrish, Chargers

TE Chris Cooley, Redskins
Cooley has dealt with injuries the past few years and might be on the outs in Washington. Questions about his durability would need to be answered, but a healthy Cooley would definitely be one of the top No. 2 tight ends in the league in a Falcons uniform.

TE Ben Watson, Browns
Watson is penciled in as the Browns starter is probably safe. But with his higher salary, there’s a chance that the Browns turn to the young guns in Evan Moore and Jordan Cameron if need be. Watson is a Georgia grad that can definitely add depth as a blocker and receiver.

TE Daniel Fells, Patriots
Fells was picked up by the Patriots in the off-season, but is no sure bet to make the roster as he has dealt with injury during the off-season.

TE Daniel Graham, free agent
The Falcons kicked the tires on Graham earlier this off-season, and if need be will re-open that door if they don’t like the way competition fares in camp.

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Camp Battles 2012: Special Teams

July 21st, 2012 Comments off

The Falcons will have arguably the most amount of competition for roles on special teams in seemingly a long while this summer. The team is two-deep at all three specialist spots, and both return spots are completely open to competition.

It is likely that the incumbents at all three specialist spots will retain their jobs with Matt Bryant at kicker, Matt Bosher at punter, and Joe Zelenka at long snapper. All three players have given the team little issue to worry about. Bryant is the savvy veteran that has been highly productive and consistent in Atlanta. He’s made 28 of 30 kicks at home, with his two misses being a blocked 55-yarder against Buffalo in 2009 and a missed 41-yarder against the Saints last year. But Bryant isn’t getting any younger, and one of the issues that often comes with age as a kicker is leg strength. So far, Bryant hasn’t shown any significant drop-off from long range, but it’s not a coincidence that the player they brought in to push him is known for his leg strength. Undrafted rookie Erik Folk will push Bryant, and while he’s a longshot to win the job he’ll be given an opportunity to impress the staff if he can showcase a powerful and accurate leg in camp.

At punter, Matt Bosher got off to a very slow start last year. In fact, there was little debate to who was the league’s worst punter over the first 6-8 weeks of the season because it was indeed Bosher. But in the second half of the season, he really began to come on, and his ability to drive kickoffs into the endzone with consistency as well as get good placement on his punts saw a huge boost to the production of the Falcons special teams unit. He’ll be pushed by undrafted rookie Dawson Zimmerman. As is the case with the kicker spot, Zimmerman will have to be extremely good to unseat Bosher, who cannot afford another slow start to this season.

Zelenka might have the most tenuous hold on a roster spot among the three specialists. The team made an extra effort to bring a bunch of snappers this off-season, which could be a referendum on their desire to get younger at the position. In January, they added Corey Adams and Scott Albritton. Neither made it to camp, but they also signed undrafted rookie Josh Harris. It seemed that the team had plans to move on from Zelenka this off-season. He was one of the team’s final free agent re-signings, a move made in late March seemingly at a point when they realized they could afford to bring him back. That gives Harris a better than average chance to actually unseat Zelenka. The fact that Harris was actually a pretty solid snapper at Auburn. Harris probably needs another year or two to add polish, but if he can hit the ground running this summer, it would not be a surprise if he’s the team’s opening day snapper.

But most of the attention paid to special teams this year will be at the returner spots. The team will have open competitions for both kickoff and punt return duties this summer. While the team feels relatively secure at punt returner, as Harry Douglas and Dominique Franks will be pitted against each other. Douglas handled punt returns in the latter half of his rookie season in 2008, and Franks has been productive in limited action in each of the past two summers there. Between the two of them, the team should get a fairly competent replacement for the departed Eric Weems. Douglas appears ahead in the competition, but the positive for both is that losing that competition won’t cost either a roster spot.

The kickoff return duties are a lot less settled. The team will likely give several players looks this summer at the spot, but James Rodgers, Antone Smith, Jacquizz Rodgers appear to be the front-runners. James Rodgers was productive kickoff returner during his days at Oregon State, but will have to show that some of the burst he lost due to a knee injury in 2010 has returned. Smith is considered a dark horse candidate and because of his already established value on special teams coverage might be in prime position to win the job. Given the increased role on offense, the team would probably prefer not to use Quizz as a returner.

Depending on how the competition goes during the early days and weeks of camp, the team could easily throw others into the competition, including Brent Grimes, Franks, Douglas, Robbie Frey, and Marcus Jackson into the mix. It’s also possible that depending on how the competition goes the team could look elsewhere for an established returner on the waiver wire come August.

While the new rules around kickoffs lessen the impact that having a good kickoff returner can have on the game, it still remains important to have someone effective in that role. With Weems, the Falcons had a player that they were confident could field kicks 5 or so yards deep in the endzone and advance the ball past the 20-yard line on a fairly consistent basis. Not having that player won’t have a hugely negative impact on field position, but it does have still have a negative one. It’s mostly about trust. And if the coaching staff cannot trust the player to get 25 or more yards and the team is forced to kneel for touchbacks, then you’re not really helping the team.

Hansen waived, headed to NFI list

July 21st, 2012 Comments off

The Falcons announced late Friday night that they had waived/injured linebacker Matt Hansen. If Hansen clears waivers then he will wind up on the team’s non-football injury list. Hansen suffered a knee injury last month, rupturing his patellar tendon which is expected to sideline him for four to six months to recover. As such, it was likely that Hansen would most if not all of the 2012 NFL season.

Hansen was an undrafted free agent out of Rhode Island signed by the team last summer. He played safety for the Falcons last summer, but upon returning to the team this off-season, he was moved to linebacker, the position he played during his collegiate days.

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