Falcons Pro Day Round-Up 3/22

March 22nd, 2014 1 comment
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony Barr

Vaughn McClure reports the Falcons will work out UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr before the end of the month. Barr is potentially a target for the team at the top of the draft. Barr was able to improve on his Combine numbers in the 40-yard dash and bench press at his pro day last week. He reportedly clocked a 4.44-second 40 time and lifted 225 pounds 19 times on March 11, improvements from the 4.66 seconds and 15 reps he did last month at the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

McClure also reports that Arizona State outside linebacker Carl Bradford worked out for the Falcons this past Thursday. After a solid Combine, where the 6-1/250-pound linebacker ran a 4.76-second 40, he was able to improve to a 4.64-second mark at his pro day two weeks ago. Bradford played linebacker, defensive end and special teams during his career at Arizona State. This past season, he led the team with 8.5 sacks.

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Tony Pauline of TFY Draft Insider also brings some scoops in terms of players the Falcons worked out this week.

Tony Pauline reports that Falcons defensive line coach Bryan Cox worked out Delaware DT Zach Kerr on Wednesday. Kerry is a bulky nose tackle prospect that measured in at 6-1, 326 pounds at the Combine last month. He did 28 bench reps also. This past season, Kerr had 57 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. He worked out in front of 14 teams at Delaware’s pro day on Tuesday, which likely included the Falcons.

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Falcons cut ties with Bradie Ewing

March 22nd, 2014 Comments off

The Atlanta Falcons announced late Friday night that fullback Bradie Ewing had been released. Ewing was originally drafted by the team in the fifth round in 2012, but spent two injury-marred seasons in Atlanta.

Ewing landed on the injured reserve during his rookie season after tearing his ACL in the team’s preseason opener. Ewing missed a good chunk of preseason with an unspecified injury but then returned to win the starting position. But he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the Falcons’ Week 2 win over the St. Louis Rams.

In Ewing’s absence, the Falcons have gotten good production from his replacements in Mike Cox in 2012 and Patrick DiMarco last season. In two career appearances, Ewing finished with two receptions for 29 yards. DiMarco currently remains the lone fullback on the Falcons roster currently.

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Falcons Add Devin Hester

March 20th, 2014 Comments off

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the Atlanta Falcons have agreed to a three-year contract with former Chicago Bears return specialist Devin Hester. Hester’s signing comes on the heels of the Falcons adding another return threat in cornerback Javier Arenas, although it’s fully expected that Hester will be the primary returner for the Falcons moving forward.

Hester, 31, comes to the Falcons after eight seasons with the Bears where he went to the Pro Bowl three times for his return prowess. He is the league’s active all-time leader in punt returns(264), yards (3,241) and touchdowns (13). That latter mark also stands as the best of any punt returner in NFL history. His career average of 12.3 yards per return is seventh on the all-time list as well.

Hester has also achieved success as a kickoff returner with five scores there, the eighth most all-time. His 19 non-offensive touchdowns are tied for the most of any player in NFL history alongside former Falcon great Deion Sanders.

Hester began his career as a cornerback, thus why he sports the No. 23 on his uniform. But he was quickly moved to wide receiver during his second season with the Bears. His production on offense has been erratic, but he’s seen significant playing time the past five seasons with 46 starts in that span. He’s caught 217 passes for 2,807 yards (12.9 avg) and 14 touchdowns. His best season came in 2009, when he had career highs of 57 catches and 757 yards, along with three touchdowns.

Originally Hester was a second-round pick by the Bears out of Miami in 2006.

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Falcons Re-sign Peria Jerry

March 19th, 2014 Comments off

Adam Caplan of ESPN first reported what was later confirmed by the team, in that the Atlanta Falcons have re-signed defensvie tackle Peria Jerry. Jerry was an unrestricted free agent that was not expected to be re-signed by the team, but apparently plans changed.

Jerry, 29, is formerly a first-round pick by the Falcons in 2009. He suffered a major knee injury early during his rookie season and never returned to form. The past few years he has carved out a role as a reserve, culminating in starting 14 games for the Falcons in 2013. He finished the year with career-highs of 33 tackles and 3.5 sacks. In four previous seasons, Jerry combined for 34 tackles and two sacks in 48 games with 15 starts.

He played predominantly a defensive end role with the Falcons in their hybrid 4-3/3-4 fronts this past season. And given the likelihood of the team’s desire to shift towards a 3-4 base defense, Jerry will likely be asked to play end once again.

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Falcons Add Kick Returner Arenas

March 18th, 2014 Comments off

D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the Atlanta Falcons have signed Arizona Cardinals cornerback and return specialist Javier Arenas to a one-year deal.

Arenas is the third addition made by the Falcons this offseason that was formerly drafted by new assistant GM Scott Pioli during his tenure in Kansas City. Arenas was selected with the second-round pick in 2010 that the Falcons traded to the Chiefs in 2009 in exchange for tight end Tony Gonzalez.

In three years with the Chiefs, Arenas played primarily as the team’s nickel/slot cornerback. He started 12 of 47 games, recording 146 tackles, four sacks, two interceptions, and 22 pass deflections in that span. During that time, he served as the team’s punt and kickoff returner too. He averaged 9.8 yards per return on 105 punt returns. He averaged 21.1 yards on 51 kickoff returns. He failed to score a touchdown during his time in Kansas City.

He was traded to the Arizona Cardinals last year in exchange for fullback Anthony Sherman. He finished with 12 tackles and a sack in 16 games as a reserve cornerback. He did not return punts, but returned 23 kickoffs for an average of 21.4 yards.

Arenas was a prolific returner during his time at Alabama, averaging 14 yards per punt return and scoring seven times during his four-year career there. He is the SEC’s all-time leader in punt returns (125), punt return yards (1,752) and punt return touchdowns (7). He earned All-American and All-SEC honors as a senior.

The Falcons had been looking at return specialists over the weekend, with Trindon Holliday visiting on Friday, while Devin Hester visited the team earlier today. Arenas has the potential to replace Robert McClain and Harry Douglas on punt returns, along with Jacquizz Rodgers on kickoff returns.

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Is Zeke Motta An Option For Falcons at Safety?

March 18th, 2014 1 comment
David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

Zeke Motta makes a tackle

Two weeks ago, I discussed some excerpts from Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff’s appearance on the Rich Eisen Podcast.

Included in their discussion centering on the Combine, was a brief discussion of safety Zeke Motta. And it made me think that the Falcons are much higher on Motta than probably his play may merit.

Is it possible that the reason why the Falcons did not successfully land a free safety to replace the recently released Thomas DeCoud is because they believe Motta is capable of competing for the starting position?

But first, let’s take a look at what exactly Dimitroff said. This comes in the portion of the podcast where Eisen was asking whether or not the workouts done at the Combine influence teams’ draft boards.

Eisen: Does your board change now?
Dimitroff: No question. It changes and yet we’re very mindful of it not changing drastically. But there will be movements up and down. And quite honestly as much as we don’t want to talk about and we don’t want the agents to hear about it, when someone runs a truly horrible 40 time, it’s amazing how quickly a player can plummet.
Eisen: Just the one 40-yard dash?
Dimitroff: It’s amazing. One of the guys last year that we acquired through the draft was Zeke Motta from Notre Dame. Your guy Mike Mayock loved him and he didn’t run a good time at the Combine unfortunately. We drafted him in the seventh round and there was no way he should have been a seventh rounder. He fell quite a bit and we like what we have in him now. Some people just don’t run good times. They’re not good 40 time guys but they play a lot faster.
Eisen: So here you are using an example of how a guy dropped because of a 40 and yet he’s a football player that is more than useful to the Atlanta Falcons organization. So why read so much into somebody’s 40-yard dash?
Dimitroff: We talk about it all the time and the league is a matchup league. And that part of the matchup is so important. You can have the most athletic and smooth, fluid individual running routes, catching balls, doing whatever but if they can’t stay in phase, meaning they can’t stay with that player. Whether that’s a defensive back and a receiver or an O-lineman mirroring a D-lineman they have no chance in this league. So from a speed standpoint at his position it’s very important for him to have range and people pass him up. There are those situations where guys are football and game-speed fast and not on the fly.

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Takeaways From Last Week – March 17, 2014

March 17th, 2014 2 comments
John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Tyson Jackson

It’s not fun being so negative.

Which makes my negative reaction to the Atlanta Falcons initial free-agent moves doubly worse.

Are the Falcons a better team after signing guard Jon Asamoah, defensive tackle Paul Soliai and defensive end Tyson Jackson? Aboslutely.

Are they a significantly better team? No, not really.

At least not in some areas. Sure, they beefed up the run defense. But was the run defense that huge a need? Perhaps it’s selective memory, but outside Bobby Rainey’s Week 11 romp, I don’t recall that many instances where I felt like the defense getting the ball run down their throat.

I do remember the Falcons getting run on and run on a lot, but it never felt like it was something “out of control” to the degree to prompt swift and decisive action at the outset of the free-agent market. I think a lot of the poor run defense had more to do with the fact that they were so young at linebacker, coupled with shoddy tackling in the secondary. It seemed more like long runs were killing the Falcons, evidenced by the 28 runs of 15 or more yards they gave up last season, which was tied for the fourth-highest total allowed in the league.

Not to suggest that upgrading the run defense shouldn’t have been a priority for the Falcons, just not the priority.

I try not to be the guy that acts like the “armchair GM” that all his decisions are the right decisions. I’m very aware that I’m often wrong about things, and that there are several methods to the madness that is building successful NFL teams.

So when looking at the Falcons’ moves, I always try to see them from the team’s perspective. And if I can follow their logic and thinking, then I can usually accept, if not approve their decision-making.

So from the team’s perspective, it’s very clear they wanted to upgrade both lines. They re-signed two offensive lineman in Joe Hawley and Mike Johnson and added Asamoah. They went after defensive linemen by re-upping Corey Peters and Jonathan Babineaux while adding Soliai and Jackson.

It’s clear that the focus was on the interior of both lines, to add beef and “toughen up” the unit just like they had indicated was their plan all along. I mentioned Soliai as a potential target back in February, albeit with the expectation that he’d be a relatively cheap addition.

So on the face of things, I cannot fault the Falcons. In fact, I applaud them. They correctly identified the two biggest weaknesses of the team in both lines and addressed them with upgrades.

But once you go beyond that superficial layer, things start to fall apart.

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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 60 “We Just Love Misery”

March 16th, 2014 Comments off

Allen and I are back to recap and review the first week of free agency in the NFL and whether or not the Atlanta Falcons’ moves to bolster the offensive and defensive lines were good or bad. We break down each move and player, indicating what we like about the decisions to bring back Joe Hawley, Jonathan Babineaux and Mike Johnson; as well as discussing the pros and cons of newcomers Jon Asamoah, Paul Soliai and Tyson Jackson. During the course of our discussion, I explain the “Hampton-Hoke Fallacy” and the negative ripple effects that can occur when teams overpay for players.

Episode 60: We Just Love Misery [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 19 minutes

Allen covers the Falcons for Pro Football Spot. His twitter handle is: @Allen_Strk.

If you have any questions and comments, you can hit us up on Twitter, post in the forums in the podcast thread, or drop an e-mail at: pudge@falcfans.com.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, and be sure to rate us there! You can also subscribe directly to our feed at the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/falcfans/LXSt

FalcFans Weekly Round-Up – March 16, 2014

March 16th, 2014 Comments off

One young Panthers fan did not react well to news of Steve Smith’s departure from Carolina. I understand your pain, young man. I’m a Falcon fan and I felt the same.

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Falcons Pro Day Round-Up 3/16

March 16th, 2014 Comments off
AJ McCarron has A-plus workout at Alabama’s pro day

Kevin Pierre-Louis at the Combine

This week there was not as much news down the pipeline involving pro days due to the opening of free agency garnering most of the attention. But Atlanta Falcons representatives were spotted at a number of pro days from this past week.

Quarterback Matt Ryan made an appearance at his alma mater, Boston College’s pro day on Wednesday along with 29 NFL teams, which likely included the Falcons. They were there to witness running back Andre Williams, Boston College’s best prospect, try to improve his 40 time. Williams clocked a 40-yard dash time of 4.56 seconds at the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis last month, but ran three times at his pro day with times of 4.54, 4.43 and 4.57 seconds.

Reports indicate that Boston College linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis is scheduled for a workout with the Falcons at some point. Pierre-Louis was invited to the Combine and is projected to be a late-round pick. At his pro day, he stood pat on his Combine numbers, which were impressive due to a 4.51-second 40-yard dash, 28 bench reps of 225 pounds, 39-inch vertical jump, 10-foot, 8-inch broad jump and 6.92-second three-cone drill.

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All 32 NFL teams were at Oklahoma State’s pro day on Thursday. There they got to see top cornerback Justin Gilbert stand on most of his Combine numbers, but he did run a 6.91-second three-cone drill.

Quarterback Clint Chelf has an upcoming workout with the Falcons according to reports.

Chelf began this past season as the starter for Oklahoma State, but was quickly pulled in the season-opener. He would regain the job and start the final seven games, leading the Cowboys to a 5-2 record to finish the year. He led the team with 2,173 yards, 17 touchdowns and eight interceptions while completing 56.4 percent of his passes.

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