Steve Wyche - Staff
Saturday, May 13, 2006
Middle linebackers Ed Hartwell and Jordan Beck and defensive back Kevin Mathis, who missed most of last season with serious injuries that required surgery, will participate in some capacity in the Falcons' three-day minicamp, which begins today, coach Jim Mora said.
Hartwell, who is expected to return to start at middle linebacker, and Mathis (torn knee ligaments) will participate in some individual drills but will be held out of team drills. Beck will take part in most team drills and could line up as the starting middle linebacker, allowing Keith Brooking and Michael Boley to work as the starting outside linebackers.
Pro Bowl tight end Alge Crumpler, who had arthroscopic knee surgery shortly after last season ended, will be held out of portions of the non-contact camp, Mora said.
All players coming off injury are expected to be near full strength by training camp, although their participation will be measured, Mora said.
Cornerback Jimmy Williams, the Falcons' top draft pick (second round, 47th overall), won't be treated with kid gloves, Mora said. Williams is expected to be used with the first-team nickel coverage package at cornerback, with Jason Webster used as the nickel back.
Webster will start at cornerback in the base defense, Mora said.
"I don't want him taking too many baby steps," Mora said of Williams.
"I want to see him go grab it. I don't want him to be timid at all. He needs to go get what he thinks he can get and create competition. Nothing's going to be handed to any young player. All they've earned is the right to compete. We're not going to hand a job to anybody, but I'm excited to watch him compete."
The real test
Falcons president and general manager Rich McKay said he and the coaching staff don't expect to see new players look overly sharp at minicamp.Players will be evaluated on how quickly they pick up the system, how hard they work and if they actually appear to be NFL-worthy players.
"The first minicamp, that's the personnel guys' worst nightmare," McKay said. "You just want guys to look like they belong. What you're looking for in this first minicamp is just to confirm what you'd seen in college, on tape and in the workouts. You're not trying to evaluate them to see if they go to the Pro Bowl this season."