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An Early Look at Key Training Camp Battles on Atlanta Falcons Defense

May 31st, 2014 Comments off
ICON SMI

Peria Jerry

After taking a look at the key roster battles that will take place this summer on the Atlanta Falcons offense, it’s time we take a look at the defensive side of the ball.

Like the offense, the Falcons defensive starting lineup is relatively settled with much of the competition coming at depth positions.

Unlike the offense, the possibility that the Falcons look to bolster many positions with veteran additions at the end of camp is low. It could happen, if injuries become a problem, but for the most part the added presence of recent draft picks at several positions means the team has a vested interest in getting young guys more opportunities.

Defensive Tackle

The team signed Paul Soliai to a large contract, making him their starter at nose tackle. He will be joined by incumbents Jonathan Babineaux and Corey Peters. The only question among the three of them is whether or not Peters’ recovery from a late-season Achilles tear will force him to miss significant time in training camp. If so, he could wind up starting the year on the Physically-Unable-to-Perform (PUP) list, potentially opening up an opportunity and roster spot for someone else at the position.

Peria Jerry would appreciate that greatly, as he’s the most experienced remaining option at the position but on the bubble as far as his roster spot goes. He’ll need a strong summer to retain his job, with Ra’Shede Hageman, Cliff Matthews, and Travian Robertson also vying for time at the position. This summer is Robertson’s last chance to make the roster, but Peters’ absence opens up the possibility for the team needing more depth at nose tackle, which benefits Robertson.

Like Robertson, Matthews may be entering his final summer with the Falcons given their investment in Hagemen. A competent special teams player, Matthews will need to make more plays on defense this summer to prove he’s worth retaining for the Falcons.

Undrafted rookie Donte Rumph is a long shot to leap frog any of them for a roster spot, but given his size, a good summer could merit a practice squad position to prompt development down the road.

Defensive End

Tyson Jackson and Malliciah Goodman can be considered locks for roster spot. Jackson will be a starter, and Goodman’s performance this summer will determine whether or not he earns significant playing time in the regular season. There’s an outside possibility he could win the starting spot opposite Jackson if he performs at an exceedingly high level.

Hageman and Matthews will also get looks here, and undrafted rookie Nosa Eguae is also in the mix. But like Rumph, Eguae is likely looking at a practice squad spot if he has a strong enough summer.

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An Early Look at Key Training Camp Battles on Atlanta Falcons Offense

May 31st, 2014 Comments off
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Dominique Davis

June is a month filled with organized team activities, as we steadily inch closer to NFL training camps that open up at the end of July.

Let’s take a look at some of the burgeoning roster battles on offense that will become the key storylines come July and August during the Atlanta Falcons training camp.

Quarterback

The main issue for this position is the backup spot behind starter Matt Ryan. Dominique Davis is the front-runner given his experience, but is far from proven. Davis struggled last preseason, but so did his biggest competition in 2013 seventh-round pick Sean Renfree. Renfree has the draft status backing him up, which means the Falcons have a vested interest in developing him. But he’ll need to prove he can stay healthy, something that has been exceedingly difficult for him the past few years, and also improve his play on the field.

Undrafted free agent Jeff Mathews will also be in the mix, possessing good size and a strong arm that could impress enough to be a serious contender for the job. Normally, Mathews would be competing solely for a spot on the practice squad, but there are so many question marks at the position that if he comes out strong this summer, he could potentially win the No. 2 job behind Ryan.

This is a position that if the performances aren’t up to par, the Falcons may look elsewhere for help as they did two years ago by signing Luke McCown before the start of the regular season.

Running Back

The top of the Falcons depth chart is pretty settled with Steven Jackson as the starter and Jacquizz Rodgers serving as the team’s third-down back. The key issue is whether or not rookie Devonta Freeman can perform well enough to steal significant reps from either player once the regular season begins.

Antone Smith’s special teams ability alone likely will net him a roster spot. Smith has always been productive during the preseason on offense as well, which is why he’s lasted five summers in Atlanta. That leaves the question of whether Josh Vaughan or Jerome Smith can perform well enough to take another spot. The odds are against both as the team is unlikely to carry a fifth back in Vaughan on the roster due to the addition of Freeman, and Smith is likely competing for a practice squad spot even if he has a strong summer.

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Atlanta Falcons 2014 Rookie Scouting Report: Tyler Starr

May 29th, 2014 2 comments
Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE

Tyler Starr

A breakdown of Atlanta Falcons’ 2014 NFL Draft seventh-round pick, former South Dakota edge-rusher Tyler Starr.

BIO

Height: 6’4″
Weight: 250
College: South Dakota
40 Time: 4.95 (Combine)
Three-Cone: 6.64 (Combine)

He was born on January 25, 1991 and attended George-Little Rock High School in George, Iowa.

He redshirted his first year at South Dakota, and then sat out the next year due an academic problem where he did not have enough credits. When he finally got on the field as a redshirt sophomore in 2011, he broke out with a 14-sack season while starting 11 games at defensive end. He also had 51 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, one pass breakup, seven forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. He would earn first team All-Great West Conference honors that year. During his junior season he moved to outside linebacker where he started 10 of 11 games. He finished the season with 74 tackles, seven for loss, four sacks, two pass breakups, two forced fumbles and a blocked kick. He would earn second team All-Missouri Valley Football Conference honors and received one vote as one of 20 Buck Buchanan Award finalists (award given to top defensive player in FCS sub-division). He also earned MVFC honor roll, showing his academics had gotten in good standing. As a senior, he started 11 of 12 games at outside linebacker, recording 71 tackles, 15 for loss, nine sacks, one interception, four pass breakups and four forced fumbles. He placed ninth in voting for Buck Buchanan Award finalists, earned MVFC Defensive Player of the Year honors and was a first team all-conference selection. He was also named second team FCS All-American by the Associated Press. Starr finished his career tied for the school’s all-time lead in sacks with 27.

He participated in the East-West Shrine All-Star game at the end of the year, where he had an impressive week of practice. Known for his aggressive play, he was ejected during a game as a senior for a targeting penalty. He launched himself into Missouri State’s quarterback with the crown of his helmet. He also worked hard to improve his academics over course of his career, but had reputed bouts of immaturity at a young age that led to his struggles to get on the field until his third year at South Dakota.

Had an impressive Combine performance, as his three-cone time was the best posted by a true linebacker since 2006. Possesses 32.5-inch arms and 9.5-inch hands. He had a 32-inch vertical, 9-foot, 8-inch broad jump, and the fourth-fastest short shuttle of 4.15 seconds at the Combine.

2013 GAMES WATCHED

Date
Opponent
TFL
Stop
Sack
Press
Hit
FF
Miss Tkl
Key Blkd
Pen
Pen. Type
Sep-07Kansas012201210N/A
Nov-02Youngstown St.00.51401030N/A
Date
Opponent
Tgt
Rec.
Yds
YAC
TD
UC
YPT
INT
PD
Sep-07Kansas2153002.5001
Nov-02Youngstown St.1140161040.0001

SKILLS
The grading system is based on a 10-point scale: 1-pathetic, 2-poor, 3-weak, 4-below average, 5-average, 6-above average, 7-good, 8-very good, 9-excellent, 10-elite.

Speed (6.5) - Starr’s speed looks better on tape than his timed speed. He shows good ability in pursuit and can make plays by chasing down slower backs from the backside. Can collapse the edge quickly to get penetration and make stops in the backfield. Has good speed to run with tight ends down the seam when asked to don so. Clocked a 4.85-second 40 time at his pro day.

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Atlanta Falcons 2014 Rookie Scouting Report: Yawin Smallwood

May 28th, 2014 Comments off

Michael Ivins-US Presswire

Yawin Smallwood

A breakdown of Atlanta Falcons 2014 NFL Draft seventh-round pick, former Connecticut linebacker Yawin Smallwood.

BIO

Height: 6’2″
Weight: 246
College: Connecticut
40 Time: 5.01 (Combine)
Bench Press: 18 (Combine)

Yawin Alexander Smallwood was born on Christmas Day, 1991 and attended Doherty Memorial High in Worcester, Massachusetts. His first name, pronounced “Yah-win,” is a mash-up of his mother (Yasa) and father’s (Winston) first names.

He redshirted his first year at UConn, but as a redshirt freshman he started all 12 games at middle linebacker, a role he would not relinquish for the remainder of his career. His first year in the starting lineup, he was second on the team with 94 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. He also had an interception and three pass breakups, a forced fumble and a pair of recoveries, one of which he scored on a 64-yard touchdown. As a sophomore, he started 12 games again and earned first team All-Big East honors. He led Huskies with 120 tackles, 15 for loss, four sacks, four pass breakups, two forced fumbles and one recovery. As a junior and team captain, he started 12 games with a team-leading 118 tackles, 9.5 for loss, four sacks, one interception returned 59 yards for a touchdown, nine pass breakups and two forced fumbles. As a junior, he earned All-AAC first team honors and was a semi-finalist for the Butkus Award, given to the nation’s top linebacker. He declared early for the draft following his final game due to his feeling that he was ready to make transition to NFL.

Was limited in his off-season workouts due to a strained hamstring he suffered while running his 40 at the Combine. Did not participate in his collegiate pro day a few weeks later.

2013 GAMES WATCHED

Date
Opponent
TFL
Stop
Sack
Press
Hit
FF
Missed Tkl
Key Blkd
Pen
Pen. Type
Sep-14Maryland040000210N/A
Sep-21Michigan12.51201200N/A
Nov-16SMU01.50100000N/A
Nov-23Temple021301110N/A
Nov-30Rutgers12.50210110N/A
Date
Opponent
Tgt
Rec.
Yds
YAC
TD
UC
YPT
INT
PD
Sep-14Maryland2000000.0002
Sep-21Michigan0000000.0001
Nov-16SMU32130004.3300
Nov-23Temple324119016.6710
Nov-30Rutgers2110500503
UC - Uncatchable pass

SKILLS
The grading system is based on a 10-point scale: 1-pathetic, 2-poor, 3-weak, 4-below average, 5-average, 6-above average, 7-good, 8-very good, 9-excellent, 10-elite.

Speed (3.0) - Struggles to cover ground in space with only adequate straight-line burst. Lack of closing speed will lead him to miss a couple of tackles and will struggle running with the quicker backs, tight ends and receivers at the next level. Doesn’t make very many plays outside the hashmarks unless he can flow freely to the ball due to lack of range. While his Combine 40 time is probably not a completely accurate reflection of his speed, I would estimate that fully healthy, his 40 time would probably be at best in the 4.85-4.9 range, which is still significantly slower than the NFL average for a linebacker: 4.75 seconds.

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Atlanta Falcons 2014 Rookie Scouting Report: Marquis Spruill

May 27th, 2014 Comments off

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Marquis Spruill

A breakdown of the Atlanta Falcons 2014 fifth-round pick, former Syracuse linebacker Marquis Spruill.

BIO

Height: 6’1″
Weight: 231
College: Syracuse
40 Time: 4.53 (Campus)
Three-Cone: 7.33 (Campus)

He was born on May 14, 1991 in Newark, New Jersey and attended the adjacent Hillside (NJ) High School.

He did not receive any scholarship offers following high school and went to Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia. The following year he would enroll at Syracuse, where he would start 13 games at strong-side linebacker. He finished the year with 51 tackles, nine tackles for loss, two sacks and a pass breakup. He moved to middle linebacker as a sophomore, starting 11 of 12 games. He had 62 tackles, 8.5 for loss, three sacks, two pass breakups and a forced fumble. He would also earn 2nd team All-Big East honors. As a junior, he moved back to strong-side linebacker where he started 12 of 13 games, recorded 64 tackles, nine for loss, two sacks, and a pass breakup. He moved again to middle linebacker as a senior, starting all 13 games there but missing a bit of playing time late in the year due to a neck stinger. He finished with career-highs with 66 tackles, 14.5 for loss, 5.5 sacks and a fumble recovery. He would earn All-ACC honorable mention honors. He finished his career second in school history with 41 tackles for loss.

In December 2012 at the end of his junior season, he was arrested for disorderly conduct. He was involved in an altercation with police that saw him try to intervene at a party where he thought a teammate was going to get arrested.

A durable player that started 49 games and played in a total of 51 games. He took on more of a leadership role this past season alongside his role as team captain, becoming a stronger voice in the locker room at the linebacker position.

2013 GAMES WATCHED

Date
Opponent
TFL
Stop
Sack
Press
Hit
Missed Tkl
Key Blkd
Pen
Pen. Type
Aug-31Penn State02110120N/A
Oct-05Clemson13120110N/A
Nov-16Florida State00002010N/A
Dec-27Minnesota00110001roughing QB
Date
Opponent
Tgt
Rec.
Yds
YAC
TD
UC
YPT
INT
PD
Aug-31Penn State1153005.0000
Oct-05Clemson0000000.0000
Nov-16Florida State1192009.0000
Dec-27Minnesota0000000.0000
UC - Uncatchable pass

SKILLS
The grading system is based on a 10-point scale: 1-pathetic, 2-poor, 3-weak, 4-below average, 5-average, 6-above average, 7-good, 8-very good, 9-excellent, 10-elite.

Speed (7.5) - In a straight line, he covers a lot of ground with good closing burst on the ballcarrier. He has good range in pursuit and is able to chase down ballcarriers with the potential to go sideline to sideline.

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Atlanta Falcons 2014 Rookie Scouting Report: Ricardo Allen

May 26th, 2014 Comments off

Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

Ricardo Allen

A breakdown of the Atlanta Falcons 2014 fifth-round selection, former Purdue cornerback Ricardo Allen.

BIO

Height: 5’9″
Weight: 187
College: Purdue
40 Time: 4.61 (Combine)
Three-Cone: 6.90 (Campus)

Ricardo Jamal Allen was born on December 18, 1991 and attended Mainland High School in Daytona Beach, Florida.

He immediately earned playing time as a true freshman at Purdue with 12 starts as a freshman. He recorded 73 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, one sack, three interceptions and four pass breakups. Two of his interceptions went back for scores, helping him earn second team All-Big Ten honors. He followed that up with honorable mention honors as a sophomore, starting 13 games with 81 tackles, three for loss, 3 interceptions, four pass breakups and a blocked field goal. He had another interception returned for a touchdown that year as well. He would once again be considered an all-conference honorable mention player as a junior with 11 starts in 13 appearances. He finished that year with 45 tackles, four tackles for loss, one sack, one interception returned for a touchdown and four pass breakups. As a senior he started all 12 games with 53 tackles, four tackles for loss, one sack, six interceptions, three pass breakups and a forced fumble. He also earned second team All-Big Ten honors for the second time in his career. During his career at Purdue, he also returned a pair of punts for a combined 32 yards. He finished his career second in school history with 13 career interceptions and tied for Big Ten record with four interceptions returned for a touchdown.

Noted as a hard working, football-first player that was without a doubt the best defensive player on Purdue’s defense last year. He played in East-West Shrine All-Star Game this past January and fared relatively well. Also had an impressive 37-inch vertical at his pro day.

2013 GAMES WATCHED

Date
Opponent
TFL
Stop
FF
Press
Miss Tkl
Key Blkd
Pen
Pen. Type
Sep-14Notre Dame11.500100N/A
Sep-21Wisconsin0000110N/A
Nov-02Ohio State0001000N/A
Date
Opponent
Tgt
Rec.
Yds
YAC
TD
UC
YPT
INT
PD
Sep-14Notre Dame32109441136.3301
Sep-21Wisconsin31120004.0010
Nov-02Ohio State2120101.0010
UC- Uncatchable Pass

SKILLS
The grading system is based on a 10-point scale: 1-pathetic, 2-poor, 3-weak, 4-below average, 5-average, 6-above average, 7-good, 8-very good, 9-excellent, 10-elite.

Speed (5.5) – Allen is by no means a blazer and will have difficulty keeping up with the fastest NFL receivers, but his speed is more than a capable of making him a competitive player at the next level. He can get beat on the deep pass, but less due to being slow rather because his technique can be shoddy when trying to turn and run.

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Atlanta Falcons Takeaways from Last Week – May 26, 2014

May 26th, 2014 Comments off
David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Ra’Shede Hageman

Last week, I discussed some of the reasons why I liked the Atlanta Falcons’ selection of Jake Matthews with their top pick in the 2014 NFL draft. This week, I believe it’s only fair if I talk a little more in-depth about the next Falcons selection, defensive lineman Ra’Shede Hageman.

I consider “defensive lineman” to be Hageman’s position because I’m not sure exactly how the Falcons will use him. And that is what gives me some of the trepidation about his ability to immediately translate as an impact player in Atlanta.

If my scouting report on Hageman wasn’t clear, it’s not that I doubt his impact potential. Hageman could be one of the more dominant defensive linemen in the NFL if he fully reaches that potential. But I think that belief also creates problems for him in the form of  lofty expectations.

I remember back in 2007 when expectations followed Jamaal Anderson to Atlanta. And yes, I apologizing for invoking that very painful memory for you.

Personally I had not seen Anderson play at Arkansas, because the period between 2005 and 2007 were years that I had cut back on watching college football due to focusing on and handling team needs and free agency for the draft website, The Huddle Report.

But after watching one of those ESPN’s SportsCenter the week of the draft and seeing the Atlanta Journal-Constution’s Terrence Moore say that the Falcons the Falcons were going to select Anderson with the eighth overall pick, my reaction was, “Who?”

That offseason, most of what I had been hearing were three names for the Falcons with the eighth overall selection: running back Adrian Peterson, safety LaRon Landry and defensive tackle Amobi Okoye. My heart was set on Peterson, but felt Landry was a worthwhile consolation prize.

I never really gave Anderson much thought before Moore’s proclamation. I knew the Falcons needed another pass-rusher to team with John Abraham due to the departure of long-time leader Patrick Kerney that offseason. But I guess I figured that we could target an end in a later round where pass-rushers like LaMarr Woodley and Charles Johnson could be found rather than using it on our top pick for someone that throughout the process I hadn’t been hearing a ton about.

But we got Anderson and I can still recall all the message boards and online, post-draft stories touting Anderson’s potential to be a double-digit sack artist with comparable skillset to Mario Williams. And despite knowing little about Anderson, I bought into the hype.

But I decided to start watching college football again that fall, so that I could never be blindsided by a pick again. Because despite the post-draft, summer hype, what occurred with Anderson during the fall was tough to stomach.

It was like his pass-rush ability never existed. He was just so slow and so poor at fighting off blocks.

Again, I did not see Anderson play at Arkansas. I can only really guess to what he looked like, but I see similar red flags with Hageman.

Comparison of Hageman and Anderson Not Meant As Knock

Does that mean that I think Hageman will be a bust? No.

Read more…

FANATICS Memorial Day Sale – Save an EXTRA 30% on all sale items

May 23rd, 2014 Comments off

Memorial Day Clearance Sale – Extra 30% off all on sale products at Fanatics.com

Categories: FalcFans.com Tags:

Falcons Sign Fourth-Round Pick Freeman

May 22nd, 2014 Comments off

The Atlanta Falcons announced earlier today that 2014 fourth-round running back Devonta Freeman has agreed to terms on his rookie deal. Terms of his contract were undisclosed, but as per league rules it is a four-year deal. Freeman is the second to last of the team’s nine draft picks to sign, leaving just their third-round selection, safety Dezmen Southward, as the only remaining unsigned rookie.

Freeman comes from Florida State and is expected to compete for a backup role at running back behind Steven Jackson and Jacquizz Rodgers. As a senior, Freeman was the first FSU running back since Warrick Dunn in 1996 to rush for over 1,000 yards.

Categories: News Tags: , ,

Atlanta Falcons 2014 Rookie Scouting Report: Prince Shembo

May 22nd, 2014 Comments off

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Prince Shembo

A breakdown of the Atlanta Falcons 2014 fourth-round draft pick, former Notre Dame outside linebacker Prince Shembo.

BIO

Height: 6’1″
Weight: 253
College: Notre Dame
40 Time: 4.71 (Combine)
Three-Cone: 7.29 (Combine)

He was born on Christmas Eve, 1991 and attended Ardrey Kell High In Charlotte, North Carolina. His father is a Congolese national that emigrated to the U.S. in 1986.

A highly touted recruit out of high school, he played in 13 games as a reserve freshman at Notre Dame. He made 15 tackles, five tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and had a forced fumble that season. As a sophomore, he started eight games in 12 total appearances, recording 31 tackles, 3.5 for loss and two sacks. As a junior, he became a permanent starter, starting all 13 games. He had career-highs of 51 tackles, 10.5 for loss and 7.5 sacks. He also broke up a pass and had a fumble recovery, while leading the team with 12 hurries. As a senior, he once again started 13 games, finishing the year with 48 tackles, 5.5 for loss, 5.5 sacks and a forced fumble. He once again led the team with 17 quarterback hurries on his way to earn FBS All-Independent team honorable mention honors. He played both linebacker and defensive end for the Irish in their 3-4 scheme and would be more accurately dubbed an “edge-rusher” in their scheme.

As a freshman, had an encounter with an female undergrad student at St. Mary’s College, in which he was accused of sexual assault. The alleged victim would commit suicide 10 days later, and no charges were ever filed against Shembo. There have been accusations that Notre Dame was very negligent in their investigation. More information on the matter can be found at this link as well as it was discussed in a recent FalcFans podcast.

Tested relatively well at the Combine, with an impressive 38.5-inch vertical jump and 10-feet, 2-inch broad jump. Also has 33 1/8″ arms and 10.5″ hands, which is good for a player at his height.

2013 GAMES WATCHED

Date
Opponent
TFL
Stop
Sack
Pressure
Hit
Miss Tkl
Key Blkd
Sep-14Purdue02.502000
Sep-28Oklahoma0000100
Oct-05Arizona State0032000

SKILLS
The grading system is based on a 10-point scale: 1-pathetic, 2-poor, 3-weak, 4-below average, 5-average, 6-above average, 7-good, 8-very good, 9-excellent, 10-elite.

Speed (5.0) - Displays average speed when put in space that is more than adequate for the collegiate level, but will struggle to make the same plays in pursuit at the next level. Not a guy you want matched up in coverage against a quick back or tight end and doesn’t have ideal range for a linebacker.

Read more…