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 Post subject: Lines drawn in position battles
PostPosted: Tue May 16, 2006 8:17 am 
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Steve Wyche - Staff
Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Flowery Branch --- Following the Falcons' three-day minicamp that ended Monday, battles have surfaced at several key positions.

"I asked the coaches this morning, is there anyone we need to move past, and everyone felt good about the guys we have," coach Jim Mora said.

Here's a look at the positions Mora and president/ general manager Rich McKay will watch closely come July 27, when the team begins training camp.

> Nose guard: Starter Chad Lavalais did not finish strong last season, according to Mora, and backups Antwan Lake and Darrell Shropshire took plenty of reps with the first unit during minicamp. Mora said not to read too much into the rotation of those players, but he added the starting job is far from being settled.

McKay said the team has not ruled out bringing in a wide-bodied run stuffer --- former Packers defensive tackle Grady Jackson was given a physical in the offseason --- but a decision on such a move likely won't come until close to training camp.

> Cornerback: Even though second-round draft pick Jimmy Williams had problems in coverage the past three days, Mora said Williams' recognition and athleticism were evident. Incumbent Jason Webster will open training camp as the starter, with Williams used as a cornerback in nickel coverage. However, expect the Falcons to push Williams, (6 feet 2, 216 pounds) to be ready to be on the field in the season opener against Carolina's Keyshawn Johnson (6-4, 211).

"The game doesn't seem too big for him," Mora said of Williams. "For a big, tall guy, he's very flexible, he bends well, he's fluid. Sometimes you think big corners are going to be stiff or awkward moving. He's not like that at all."

> Backup tailback: Third-round selection Jerious Norwood looked as fast as advertised. His cut-back, up-the-field style is ideal for the Falcons' system, McKay said. T.J. Duckett doesn't seem to be in a hurry to surrender his job as Warrick Dunn's replacement. Carries could be determined by down-and-distance situations.

> No. 3 quarterback: Georgia's D.J. Shockley wasn't overwhelmed by the hype of being the hometown player or by the first phase of his battle with second-year man Bryan Randall. Mora said he was impressed with Shockley's field presence, intangibles and film-room aptitude. Randall responded to Shockley by stepping up his game, Mora said.

> Left guard: Matt Lehr's job seems safe, but coaches will be taking a serious look at Ben Claxton. Coaches like Claxton's nasty temperament but feel Lehr should be much better after a year in the system.

Uniting talk

Pro Bowl tight end Alge Crumpler and veteran defensive end Patrick Kerney got the day off Monday --- Crumpler did not take part in minicamp to rest his surgically repaired knee --- but they spent their morning with the young players who practiced. Crumpler and Kerney gave a motivational, pre-practice speech to the upstarts, most vying for roster spots.

"They said that we're a part of this team, and for the Falcons to win they're going to need us," Shockley said. "That said a lot about them, being veterans, to say things like that to us."


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PostPosted: Tue May 16, 2006 9:27 am 
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On the position battles...

I don't see any changes in the starting lineup anytime soon. I don't think Lavalais is going to lose his starting job. Will he lose playing time? Perhaps as Lake, Babs, and Shrop take bigger chunks of time at DT, but I don't see any of them taking his starting job away from him.

CB? Again, I doubt Webster loses his job until at least a month or so into the season. And that's going to depend on how many big plays J-Will makes early on.

Unless Norwood truly is something special this summer, or the Falcons find a way to ship off Duckett, I doubt we won't be seeing #45 get the meat of the carries behind Dunn.

As for Claxton, it's obvious Gibbs likes him. The Broncos drafted him while Gibbs was advisor there and the Falcons claimed him last summer when they cut him. I don't see him starting, but he could supplant King as the top backup off the bench with a good summer. As of now, King is the guy the team turns to whenever any of the interior linemen go down.

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PostPosted: Tue May 16, 2006 11:49 am 
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Web's job is safe as long as he doesn't get injured. When Web goes down Williams will get his chance and if he impresses Web becomes the nickel corner.

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PostPosted: Tue May 16, 2006 4:23 pm 
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Pudge wrote:
On the position battles...

I don't see any changes in the starting lineup anytime soon. I don't think Lavalais is going to lose his starting job. Will he lose playing time? Perhaps as Lake, Babs, and Shrop take bigger chunks of time at DT, but I don't see any of them taking his starting job away from him.

CB? Again, I doubt Webster loses his job until at least a month or so into the season. And that's going to depend on how many big plays J-Will makes early on.

Unless Norwood truly is something special this summer, or the Falcons find a way to ship off Duckett, I doubt we won't be seeing #45 get the meat of the carries behind Dunn.

As for Claxton, it's obvious Gibbs likes him. The Broncos drafted him while Gibbs was advisor there and the Falcons claimed him last summer when they cut him. I don't see him starting, but he could supplant King as the top backup off the bench with a good summer. As of now, King is the guy the team turns to whenever any of the interior linemen go down.


Agree that Lavalais will start teh year - his problem last year was his conditioning and he ran out of gas at the end of the season.

Williams will ride the pine and be the nicle/dime until the rookie can demonstrate he is capable at the higher speed (injury can speed that up). Generally rookie DBs don't make good starters (svae the superstars, of course).

I think Norwood will progress faster because i don't have much faith in Duckett. Duckeet may be in his contract year, but he just has not shown much and reall tanked last year.

The OLine? your guess is as good as mine. Whatever works.

W


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PostPosted: Wed May 17, 2006 10:24 am 
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- Somebody read below and double check what I'm seeing. It reads as if Jimmy Williams already passed JWeb??

By Steve Wyche | Monday, May 15, 2006, 05:00 PM

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Falcons’ mini-camp ended Monday with mostly two-year veterans or younger capping the three-day session at Flowery Branch.

Quarterback D.J. Shockley wasted no time ratcheting up the stakes with Bryan Randall for the No. 3 quarterback job. Shockley impressed coaches not only with his tangibles but also with how quickly he picked up the offense and his huddle presence. Randall picked up on that and raised his level of play as well.

The competition might come down to the final preseason game. Shockley appears to have a stronger arm but Randall has been in the system for a year and seems poised for the challenge.

Second-round pick, cornerback Jimmy Williams, had a tough weekend in coverage, but coaches love his athleticism and expect much better play once the physical-minded Williams get in pads. Williams worked with the No. 1 nickel coverage package, with cornerback Jason Webster shifting to nickel back.

Rookie tailback Jerious Norwood’s speed created quite a buzz. Whether that’s enough to take carries away from backup T.J. Duckett remains to be seen but Duckett seems motivated – as he should – not to be replaced.

Other observations: Defensive tackle Chad Lavalais better get it together or he could fall to the back of the depth chart, if not the roster. Antwan Lake and Darrell Shropshire were taking reps ahead of Lavalais, who hardly seemed to be as motivated or as in shape as the Lake and Shropshire.

Coaches are taking a very hard look at backup left guard Ben Claxton. Though they haven’t publicly proclaimed Matt Lehr’s starting job is up for grabs, they’re not saying it’s safe either. The competition for the nickel back spot is going to be heated. Webster, Chris Cash, Allen Rossum and maybe Kevin Mathis will be vying for the position that was jinxed by injuries all season.

If Rossum can’t overwhelmingly secure punt-return duties from sixth-round Adam Jennings and if he is deep on the cornerback depth chart, he could be on shaky footing. The coaching staff hopes Rossum will return to form after injuries all but ruined him last season.


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PostPosted: Wed May 17, 2006 12:04 pm 
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No, I don't think that's what it means. I think it means that Williams got a chance to work with the No. 1 unit, but he's not the starter yet. It also may refer to Webster playing the slot when the team uses their nickel package, which is traditionally seen as the role of the nickel back.

Explicitly that statement only says that when the coaches had the "first team" nickel package on the field, Williams was on the field. Basically meaning he's there 3rd cornerback from the start. It's more a way to test his readiness rather than indicate that he's already managed to steal a starting job away from a player.

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PostPosted: Wed May 17, 2006 1:36 pm 
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It just means that when we go to our nickle package that J Web will slide inside and play nickle and Williams will take Webster's spot on the outside....


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PostPosted: Sat May 20, 2006 10:40 pm 
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I think the coaches would love for JW to take over right away and they are going to do whatever they can to get as many looks at him as they can. Ideally, Webster is much better suited for the nickel and could probably hold his own there pretty well.

In all likelihood, though, it ,may be mid way through the season before that switch will take place. We need to see how our unit gels and what we have at safety before the coaches can determine how much leeway they have to get a rookie in there.

As for Lavalais, it would not surprise me at all to see him not make the team. Shrop showed a lot last year late, and he seems to be a devoted pro. Lake is nothing special, but he doesn't have the same conditioning issues that Lavalais has. The wild card is Tommy Jackson. He has a motor and is a hard worker. He very well could be this year's Shrop. If he shows anything at all, Lavalais may be a goner. At some point, the staff may want to set an example of what happens when a player doesn't approach the game like a pro.

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PostPosted: Sun May 21, 2006 1:08 pm 
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Jackson will make this team, he has a very special attitude that will blow everyone away in Training camp. Lavalais (despite being an alum of LSU) really needed to show a commitment at the table and he obviously didn't do that. I think he is history.


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