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Archive for August, 2012

Falcons cut 19 to get down to the roster

August 31st, 2012 Comments off
Alan Maglaque-US PRESSWIRE

Dominique Franks, among surprise cuts

The Falcons announced the cuts made today to get their roster down to 53 players. The team released 22 players including running back Dimitri Nance; fullback Mike Cox; wide receivers D.J. Davis, Marcus Jackson, and James Rodgers; offensive linemen Bryce Harris and Tyler Horn; defensive tackles Conrad Obi and Micanor Regis; linebackers Spencer Adkins, Rico Council, Jerrell Harris, and Pat Schiller; cornerbacks Dominique Franks, Marty Markett, and Peyton Thompson; safety Suaesi Tuimaunei; and long snapper Joe Zelenka.  The team also reached injury settlements with tight end LaMark Brown and guard Andrew Jackson, while waiving-injured wide receiver Kerry Meier, and placing safety Shann Schillinger on injured reserve.

Among the cuts, notable ones include Cox, Adkins, Franks, and Zelenka played with the team last season. Cox lost the battle to fullback Lousaka Polite, who was signed three weeks ago for the battle for the starting fullback position. Cox joined the team last October after the injury to Ovie Mughelli. Adkins was a sixth round pick of the Falcons in 2009 that had his best season a year ago, starting 1 game and recording 5 tackles as a reserve linebacker. Franks started 4 games last year at cornerback as a replacement for Brent Grimes, and was considered a front-runner for taking over the punt return duties this year. Franks was originally a fifth round pick in 2010. Zelenka has been the Falcons since 2009, but lost the long snapping job to undrafted rookie Josh Harris.

With these moves, several players made the Falcons roster for the first time. Five of the team’s six draft picks made the final roster, with the sixth player: Bradie Ewing already on injured reserve. Harris joined quarterback Dominique Davis and guard Phillip Manley as one of three undrafted free agents that made the team. Quarterback Luke McCown, signed earlier this week is also a newcomer to the roster. Wide receivers Kevin Cone and Tim Toone also made the team as reserves. Cone spent last year on the Falcons practice squad, but Toone was added earlier this month in camp. Alongside Cone, tight end Tommy Gallarda was able to elevate himself from a practice squad spot last year to a full roster position this year. Free agent pickups in cornerback Asante Samuel, safety Chris Hope, and cornerback Robert McClain are also first time Falcons.

Preseason Stock Exchange (Week 4)

August 31st, 2012 Comments off

Looking at which players potentially stepped up in last night’s loss to Jacksonville to make one final push for a roster/practice squad position. As well as those players that may have not.

Stock Up

Kevin Cone – Cone has had a few too many drops this preseason, but he made up for it with a nice catch and run for the team’s lone passing touchdown against Jacksonville. If Cone is cut, the highlight of that play alone will make it harder for him to clear waivers and wind up on the Falcons’ practice squad. I don’t know if he showed enough to make the team as the fifth wideout, but he definitely did enough to make that decision harder for the Falcons brass.

Pat Schiller – I’ve been impressed with Schiller in each of the Falcons preseason games, but watching him last night as he tied with Akeem Dent for the team lead in tackles, I think he’s far and away the most impressive of the team’s three rookie linebackers. He may not be the biggest, strongest, or fastest of the group, but watching him closely, he’s the most instinctual and best able to put himself in a position to make a play. That’s what you want in a young linebacker. I don’t think it has been enough to make the final roster, but at the very least it solidify a practice squad spot for him.

Peyton Thompson – Thompson did some nice things both on defense and special teams. While he was the culprit that got beat by the long touchdown to Kevin Elliott, in retrospect he won’t look as bad when the team reviews the film, because Mike Smith will be so busy chewing out everyone else for missing those tackles to notice Thompson got beat. Thompson is a solid corner in run support as well as coverage and has had a good enough summer that he should be a shoe-in for a practice squad spot. And it might have been good enough that he could sneak onto the roster, especially if Chris Owens’ health and availability for the regular season opener is questionable.

Chris Hope – With Mitchell having some struggles, I think Hope showed some things last night including some on special teams. Schillinger is one of the team’s top special teams players, but Hope’s ability to contribute there could get him potentially the nod. Up until last night, I think Hope’s chances were tied exclusively to his experience, and not necessarily whether he can bring certain skills to the field. But I think that began to teeter last night, and Hope showcased that he is much more than an old guy that at one point in time was a pretty good safety.

Stock Down

Dominique Davis – I don’t think Davis hurt his chances of making the team. I think he was a lock to make it before last night, otherwise they would not have cut Chris Redman. But in increased reps, Davis did not really blossom as much as people hoped (including myself). He made some nice plays, but made his share of mistakes. I believe the Falcons were hoping going into the game, that if Davis had a strong enough performance he could potentially take over the No. 2 position behind Matt Ryan. But after a few too many mental errors and inaccurate throws, I’m not sure that was accomplished.

LaMark Brown – Brown had another pass go through his hands and into the arms of a defender, the second time that has happened this preaseason. While Brown has excellent athletic potential as a tight end and H-back, it does not appear he’s ready for prime time. The Falcons probably need to be scouring the waiver wire for their third tight end.

Charles Mitchell – I think Mitchell was probably the safest of the three backup safeties going into the Jaguar game, but now I’m not so sure. He missed a couple of tackles, two of which directly resulted in Jaguars touchdowns. Mitchell has a potentially bright future on special teams, so I think he’ll still make it. But the race is tighter than it was 24 hours ago.

Falcons backups fall short against Jaguars

August 30th, 2012 Comments off
Phil Sears-US PRESSWIRE

Dominique Davis rolls out to throw

The Falcons dropped their fourth and final preseason game to the Jacksonville Jaguars by a score of 24-14. The game got off to a great start for the Falcons, going up 7-0 on the second play of the game. But from that point on, the Jaguars battled back to pull out the victory.

Dominique Davis got the start for the Falcons under center and played every snap. He finished the game, completing 14 of 24 passes for 175 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions. On the ground, Antone Smith led the team with 33 yards on 12 carries. Dimitri Nance (4 carries, 25 yards) and Jacquizz Rodgers (5 carries, 24 yards, a touchdown) also had productive evenings on the ground. Smith also led the team in receiving with 3 catches for 40 yards. Kevin Cone caught the lone touchdown on a 49-yar scamper, ending his night with a pair of receptions for 64 yards. LaMark Brown (2 catches, 15 yards), Nance (2 catches, 12 yards), and Marcus Jackson (2 catches, 8 yards) also produced in the passing game. Matt Bryant had no field goal attempts on the night. Matt Bosher had a good night as he punted 7 times for an average of 47.3 yards with 3 placed inside the 20-yard line. James Rodgers returned a single kickoff for 27 yards, while Tim Toone and Dominique Franks each had a punt return for 8 and 4 yards, respectively.

Defensively, the Falcons backups played most of the game and had their struggles to get off the field at times. While the Jaguars only converted 4 of 13 third downs, they won time of possession by holding the ball for 11 more minutes than the Falcons did. Pat Schiller and Akeem Dent led the team in tackles, each with 8 stops. Dominique Franks (5 tackles, 1 INT); Robert James (3 tackles); Jonathan Massaquoi (4 tackles); Cliff Matthews (4 tackles, 1 forced fumble); Robert McClain (3 tackles); Charles Mitchell (5 tackles); Peyton Thompson (5 tackles); and Vance Walker (1 tackle, 1 fumble recovery) all had noteworthy nights.

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Falcon Players to Watch Tonight vs. Jaguars

August 30th, 2012 Comments off

The Falcons are expected to give some of the starters some work tonight. The new CBA and league-mandated rules limiting contact in practices likely is the main cause of this. Guys just aren’t getting as many reps as before to get ready for the regular season. The fourth preseason game used to be one where none of the starters played except perhaps a series or so. But nowadays, you can expect teams to give their starters a couple of series if not a full quarter of play. The Jaguars are planning on playing their starters for the entire first quarter. I would not expect the Falcons to do the same, but I do think we’ll see many of them get work.

My hope for Mike Smith is certain “essential” players will be rested. Matt Ryan doesn’t need to play tonight, along with a few others of our key offensive playmakers. We’ll see how he plays it.

QB Dominique Davis – Part of me wants some of the offensive starters to get reps tonight, but with Davis lining up under center. I believe the Falcons will give Davis most if not all of the snaps under center tonight. Davis has worked almost exclusively with the third string performers on offense, and allowing him to work with several of the players higher on the depth chart will be an excellent gauge as to whether he’s ready to be the team’s No. 2 quarterback this year. This is the main reason to keep an eye on Davis tonight. He has played well throughout the preseason. But another strong performance with some of the second team players could be enough to catapult him into the role of primary backup. It’s possible with a strong enough performance, that Davis can inspire enough confidence that this team doesn’t even keep Luke McCown.

RB Dimitri Nance – Nance needs a strong performance tonight to stick on this roster. He has run well this summer, but he’s working behind Antone Smith on the depth chart. Smith is the superior special teams player and has also had a strong summer. But Nance is not only fighting for his hopes of making the Falcons roster, but a strong performance tonight certainly could get him looks from other teams.

FB Lousaka Polite – It’ll be interesting to see how the Falcons handle their fullback rotation giving questions on how much the starters will play. Polite has seen increased reps with the starters since joining the team, and if he can showcase his trademark power tonight and help the runners have a big night, he could take the job from Mike Cox.

WR Kevin Cone/D.J. Davis – If the Falcons choose to sit both Roddy White and Julio Jones, that could mean that Cone and/or Davis could be elevated to the starting positions potentially depending on the health and availability of Kerry Meier. Among the group of wide receivers competing for the fifth spot on the depth chart, these two are the two most prominent. That fifth spot will more than likely go to the player the team likes the most on special teams (likely Davis), but a strong offensive showing from Cone could also force them to shift their thinking.

OG Peter Konz – The battle at right guard is not complete, and I believe the Falcons are really hoping for a strong outing by Konz in order to make the final decision easier for them. I think they want Konz to have the job, but he’s not going to be given that opportunity, he has to earn it. A good game against the Jaguars could be what does it.

OT Lamar Holmes – It will be Holmes second outing, and it’s possible if not probable that he could be asked to play every snap. I think Holmes is still working himself back into playing shape due to all the missed time this off-season, and those extended reps could do a lot to help him. It would be smart of the Falcons to also try and get him some reps at right tackle as well, since he’s likely to be the team’s swing tackle this year.

DT Micanor Regis – I think Regis is on the outside looking in as far as a roster spot goes, but I think has done more than enough to land a practice squad role with the Falcons. But another strong outing could make the Falcons decision that much harder. Ultimately it could lead to them keeping five defensive tackles, or possibly cutting a veteran like Vance Walker.

LB Akeem Dent – If any of the Falcons projected 22 starters needs reps, none of them need them moreso than Dent. Dent has had his ups and downs this summer, and needs to have a few more ups tonight against Jacksonville. Of the 11 projected starters on the defense, Dent is the only one where questions remain to exactly what the team has in him. Getting him more work in the nickel subpackage should also benefit his prep for the regular season. It might not even be about Dent having a good game, it’s probably just more about getting him as many reps as possible to get him ready.

S Chris Hope/Shann Schillinger/Charles Mitchell – All three players are potentially on the roster bubble, since according to my calculations, I’m not sure the Falcons can afford to keep five safeties this year. I think Mitchell is probably the safest of the trio, but Hope and Schillinger could be competing directly for a single roster spot. If any one or two of them emerge tonight, it could be what solidifies their hold on the team.

Which Falcons could become trade bait?

August 30th, 2012 Comments off

This is the port in the summer where people are talking about trading players, and I just wanted to quickly go over some Falcon players that probably have the most trade value. Obviously, a player like Roddy White would have huge trade value, but the Falcons won’t trade him. I’m looking more at guys that appear to be somewhat expendable and have an outside shot that it could happen if a phone call was made.

Most trades at this point in time involve late round picks and roster bubble players. The Vontae Davis trade withstanding, it’s rare a team will part ways with their top corner who is only in his third year in the league. The normal trade at this point in time is what the Colts did earlier when they acquired Josh Gordy from St. Louis. Most of these trades are for conditional picks, meaning that if said player makes the new team’s roster or plays a certain amount of games in the upcoming season, compensation will be exchanged. If not, then nothing is lost.

I’ll start with Michael Turner, not because I think he’ll be traded or should be traded, but just because in the dark reaches of an alley, there are a few Falcon fans conspiring about it. Turner does not have a ton of trade value. I think it would be possible for the Falcons to get a conditional fifth or sixth round pick at this point in time for Turner, potentially based off how many rushing yards he has this season. But that’s probably about it. That really is not worth it.

Jason Snelling is another player that could be shopped most years, but his injury as well as the question marks that the Falcons have at fullback probably placed in the non-expendable category. Teams don’t normally trade for injured players, and when they do it rarely turns in their favor. (see Otah, Jeff)

Also on offense, players that could be parted ways with include some of their backup offensive linemen. Namely Andrew Jackson, Joe Hawley, and Mike Johnson. Hawley and Johnson probably have better value on the market namely because Hawley has gotten extensive reps last year and Johnson was a higher round pick that many people liked coming out of Alabama. A team like Dallas, who has been hurting at a position like center could probably be interested in a player like Hawley for a possible sixth or seventh rounder. Johnson probably could fetch the same price, if a team was looking for a guy that can add depth at guard or tackle.

On the defensive line, the two players that are probably the easiest to trade would be Kroy Biermann and Vance Walker. I would be shocked if the Falcons would trade Biermann because he seems to be nestled atop their depth chart as the team’s nickel pass rusher, replacing Ray Edwards. But given the fact that they still would have Edwards and Lawrence Sidbury to fill that role, and could still develop Jonathan Massaquoi and/or Cliff Matthews as depth, it would not be crazy if the Falcons did shop Biermann for a late round pick. Walker’s experience means that a team hurting for a run-stopping one-gap tackle could be enticed to give up a seventh rounder.

If the Falcons were confident in the return abilities of Harry Douglas on punts, it could potentially mean that Dominique Franks could be shopped. If a team was really hurting for depth at cornerback, they might also look at Chris Owens, assuming he’s fully recovered from his hamstring injury. The Falcons could presumably opt to deal one of them because of the other’s presence.

I don’t think any of these players should be traded or will be traded, but it always interesting to see what possibilities are out there. A lot of those players I mentioned, getting just a conditional sixth or seventh round pick doesn’t seem like a fair trade for the Falcons. Ultimately the depth many of those guys provide and the roles they fill are worth me in return than a draft pick that ultimately will just be a career backup and special teamer in all likelihood. Biermann is a prime example of this. He’s a pulled muscle away from starting a bunch of games this year and helping keep the pass rush from evaporating. No offense, but that right there is worth more than drafting another Charles Mitchell or Wilrey Fontenot.

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 19 “Cuts and Around the League”

August 29th, 2012 Comments off

Ryan and I are back to recap the preseason win over the Miami Dolphins, as well as talk about the cuts the Falcons made over the weekend to get down to the 75-man roster limit. We discuss how we think the final roster could shape up as well and preview a bit of what we expect to happen in Week 1 against the Kansas City Chiefs. We get into discussions about a few Falcon players. Such as some of the young guys that appear to be stepping up including Lamar Holmes, Cliff Matthews, Micanor Regis, Akeem Dent, and the drama surrounding the backup QB position. Veteran players such as Corey Peters and Dunta Robinson are discussed also. We also discuss many topics around the league from Larry Fitzgerald’s praise of the Falcons offense, the Vontae Davis trade, and the Dolphins QB Controversy. We even get to have a lengthy discussion about Ryan’s favorite team the Dallas Cowboys, and how their current predicament with Dez Bryant relates to the Falcons. You’ll even hear our thoughts on the upcoming release of EA’s Madden NFL 13.

Ep. 19: Cuts and Around the League [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 7 minutes

 

If you have any questions and comments, you can hit us up on Twitter, post in the forums in the podcast thread, or drop Ryan an e-mail at: ryan-valdez@live.com. Don’t forget to drop by every week to hear our live broadcast at: ustream.tv/channel/falcfans-show

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. You can also subscribe directly to our feed at the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/falcfans/LXSt

Turner needs a bit more help

August 28th, 2012 Comments off
Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

Turner is stuffed vs. Bengals

Anybody that has been a regular visitor to this site and/or its forums over the past six months probably is aware that I’m one of the biggest doubters of Michael Turner and whether he has a lot left in the tank. I’ve written about him a number of times.

The news that the Detroit Lions are shopping for a running back had my head swimming with scenarios for a few brief moments that could see the Falcons shipping Turner north. Talk that players like Knowshon Moreno, Chris Ivory, and Anthony Dixon are the on the roster bubble also peaks my interest in regards of whether the Falcons should start making some phone calls to discuss trade scenarios. Not to mention last week’s debate about whether should be looking at Maurice Jones-Drew as their starting running back.

I’m not saying the Falcons should be in the market for a replacement for Turner at this point in time, nor am I am saying that the Falcons should not be. But the point I’m inching towards is that even if the Falcons are adamant about keeping Turner, they really seem to be setting him up for disaster.

Okay, disaster might be too strong a word. But they don’t seem to be surrounding Turner with the necessary pieces that he needs to play at the highest level. Last week I thought Turner needed a strong performance against the Dolphins to re-instill outside confidence in his abilities. He did improve, but what became apparent to me as I looked at the tape is that the Falcons don’t have a great supporting cast around Turner.

I’ve mentioned before that I think Turner is a “black hole” in the sense that his skillset requires a certain amount of necessary pieces around him to make him play his best football. When the Falcons had a strong run-blocking offensive line headlined by Harvey Dahl, and the best lead blocker in the biz by the name of Ovie Mughelli, the pieces were there. But by letting Dahl walk last summer and cutting Mughelli this past May, the Falcons appear to purposefully or unknowingly dismantling that necessary supporting cast.

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Roster Talk: Defense

August 28th, 2012 Comments off
Fernando Medina-US PRESSWIRE

Is Schillinger on the bubble?

Earlier, I broke down many of the position battles and how the roster could break on the offense. Now I’m going to turn my attention to the defense which seems to have a lot less question marks.

Most of the roster spots seem relatively sewn up, but the last few spots at each position group still seem to be up in the air. And guys will have one last opportunity on Thursday night in Jacksonville to showcase their skills to make one last pitch for the roster and/or practice squad.

Defensive End

The Falcons have kept five defensive ends each of the past few years, but I think this year they will possibly keep a sixth. Keeping five has been their M.O. mainly because they had a young developing prospect that they didn’t trust would clear waivers to make the practice squad due to the league’s premium on pass rushers. In 2009 and 2010, it was Lawrence Sidbury that filled that role, and a year ago it was Cliff Matthews’ turn. As evidenced by Sidbury in 2010 and Matthews last year, whoever that player is rarely gets a chance to play on defense. Thus that would make keeping six seem like extravagance, since now you have two guys that are spending most Sundays inactive. But I think the battle between Jonathan Massaquoi and Matthews has been that close, that I don’t think the team wants to part with either. Massaquoi’s potential as a pass rusher probably means he’ll be higher on the depth chart than Matthews if push came to shove. But Matthews has played well this summer and played consistently with a high motor. So high in fact that you could make the argument he has the best motor of any of the ends on the team. And that’s not the type of player I could see the Falcons cutting when it comes down to it. Matthews still remains eligible for a practice squad spot, but if any team pops in tape of the Falcons previous three preseason games, one of the 31 other teams is certainly going to be impressed enough to snatch him up similar to how the Browns pounced on Emmanuel Stephens last year.

Best Guess for Final 53: Abraham, Edwards, Biermann, Sidbury, Massaquoi, Matthews

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Roster Talk: Offense

August 28th, 2012 Comments off
Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

Lousaka Polite battling for a roster spot

I want to go position by position and discuss which players I believe will make the Falcons final 53-man roster come Friday. For this first part I want to look at the offensive players. Later I will discuss defensive battles.

Typically an NFL roster is going to consist of 25 offensive players, 25 defensive players, and 3 special teams players. Those numbers can be tweaked by 1 or 2 players often given how injuries effect you at that point in the year and other places where you have strong depth.

For example, the past few years the Falcons have kept five defensive tackles on the roster mainly because they’ve had injuries and other issues hit them during the summer. In 2010, Jonathan Babineaux was suspended for the season opener, prompting them to go into the season with a fifth tackle in Trey Lewis. Last year, Corey Peters missed the season opener against the Bears with a knee injury, thus allowing Carlton Powell a chance to make the roster as the fifth defensive tackle. Normally, the Falcons would only keep four defensive tackles as they did in 2008 and 2009, but injuries prompted them otherwise in 2010 and 2011.

Situations like that can affect a player or two making the roster or not as the team is trying its damnedest to get 46 players healthy and active for the first Sunday of the year.

Quarterback

The big question going into this week was whether or not the Falcons would choose to keep two quarterbacks or three, and whether Chris Redman would be among them. Earlier today, the Falcons seemingly answered that question by dumping Redman and replacing him with veteran Luke McCown. It was a move that I thought possible, but not probable. Well, I was wrong. But even with this late addition of McCown, he’s not guaranteed to be on the final 53 on opening day. McCown’s relatively hefty veteran salary of $825,000 would be guaranteed if he is on the roster for Week 1, as are those of any of the other 52 players. The Falcons could cut him prior to the start of the season with the expectation and understanding that they would bring him back in Week 2. Such a money manipulation is not foreign to the Falcons, as they pulled this with Brett Romberg a year ago who also signed a mere 48 hours before their final preseason game as well. McCown could get some reps in the preseason finale, although it’s doubtful given the limited amount of work he’d have to prep for it. Instead, Dominique Davis will likely play the entire game. And if he has another strong performance, then it increases the chances that the team opens the season with him as the No. 2 QB, and subsequently pulls the opening day switcheroo with McCown. If Davis struggles, then McCown will almost certainly get the nine days between the Jaguars game and the season opener to take the No. 2 job.

Best Guess for Final 53: Ryan, Davis,  McCown.

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Falcons replace Redman with McCown

August 28th, 2012 Comments off
Greg Bartram-US PRESSWIRE

Luke McCown

The Falcons announced today that they have signed veteran quarterback Luke McCown and cut Chris Redman from the team. McCown is experienced in Dirk Koetter’s offense having spent the past three seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

McCown was cut over the weekend by the New Orleans Saints. McCown began the 2011 season as the Jacksonville Jaguars starter, before poor play led him to be benched in favor of Blaine Gabbert. He was not re-signed by them in the off-season, and thus landed in New Orleans thanks in large part to the extended Drew Brees holdout. In his two starts last year, he completed 23 of 43 passes (53.5%) for 234 yards, no touchdowns, and four interceptions, giving him a 30.6 passer rating. Originally a fourth round pick out of Louisiana Tech in 2004 with the Cleveland Browns, McCown has been traded twice during his career. First, he was traded to Tampa Bay by the Browns after his rookie season. And then again by the Bucs to Jacksonville just prior to the 2009 season. For his career, McCown has logged 9 starts, compiling a 2-7 record as a starter. He’s completed 58.2% of his 316 pass attempts for 2035 yards, 9 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions, giving him a career passer rating of 68.5.

Redman was one of the longer tenured Falcons being one of nine players that remain that were on it prior to the arrival of Mike Smith and Thomas Dimitroff. He first joined the team in 2007, having experience in Bobby Petrino’s offense making him useful in integrating that with the other quarterbacks. Redman managed to turn that into a roster position, earning the third spot that year. After lackluster performances of Joey Harrington and Byron Leftwich through the first three-quarters of the season, Redman was promoted as the starter for the final four games. He managed to provide a bit of an offensive spark for the team and was re-signed the following off-season with Smith and Dimitroff coming in. He eventually lost the starting job to rookie phenom Matt Ryan, but has remained ever since as the team’s top backup. But his performance this summer was mediocre at best, and the team opted to move on. In four seasons in Atlanta, Redman started 6 games, compiling a 1-5 record.He completed 59.6% of 302 attempts for 2068 yards, 14 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions for a passer rating of 83.3. Prior to joining the Falcons, Redman had spent several years out of football. He was originally a third round pick by the Baltimore Ravens in 2000, but after four mediocre seasons and only six starts to his name, they released him after 2003. He had brief off-season stints with the New England Patriots and Tennessee Titans in 2005 before getting his shot in Atlanta in 2007.

McCown will be competing with Dominique Davis for the No. 2 position and may get reps this Thursday against his former team, Jacksonville, in the Falcons preseason finale.

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