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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.

Camp Battles 2012: Linebackers

July 18th, 2012 Comments off
Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

Sean Weatherspoon

The Falcons linebacker position should see some solid competition this summer during training camp. One of the starting positions will be determined this summer, as well as the team could be looking at infusing their depth with a lot of youth.

One player that does not have to worry about his job is Sean Weatherspoon. Weatherspoon will be counted on becoming the anchor for the Falcons unit. Weatherspoon emerged as one of the league’s top 4-3 outside linebackers last year and had a Pro Bowl caliber season. He hopes to continue that this year with another strong season where he’ll actually get a chance to play in Hawaii. He’ll be a core piece of the Falcons defense under new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. With the additions the team has made at cornerback, it is expected that the Falcons will operate a lot out of the nickel as their base defensive package. It will mean that Weatherspoon’s ability in coverage will be a key asset to have in such situations. He’ll be counted on largely to cover the many solid tight ends that now dot the league.

Who will line up beside him in those nickel situations will need to be determined via competition this summer. The Falcons have three candidates that will be fighting to be in the nickel package. Strongside starter Stephen Nicholas and whoever wins the middle linebacker spot: Lofa Tatupu or Akeem Dent, will be in the mix for the role. Nicholas’ job on the strong side is safe, but he was marginalized for much of last year in part because of injuries. Also his snap count was reduced by about a third last year because he was taken off the field in nickel situations. If he wants to return to becoming a regular contributor, he’ll have to show Nolan that he can be more than just functional on passing downs, he’ll need to be good.

The competition for the starting spot at middle linebacker however will get the bulk of the attention this summer. Lofa Tatupu is coming off a year where he sat out the season and will compete with second year player Akeem Dent. Tatupu is the savvy veteran while Dent is the fresh, young upstart. This should be a fairly even and fair competition as the team is simply looking for the best player. More than likely, as the season goes on, both players will get playing time. But this summer, one player is expected to emerge as the guy that should get the brunt of the work. Before injuries sapped his ability, Tatupu was one of the league’s better middle linebackers. He’ll hope to show that those injury concerns are behind him, and answer the questions about whether he still has the speed and range to be an effective starter.

Dent should fare a little better in that arena, as he’s the more athletic of the two. But the key for Dent is that he’s going to have to show a certain awareness that is necessary to be able to play in the middle at the NFL level. It remains to be seen if he has developed that after one year of minimal work on defense. Dent was never lacking in the instinctual aspects of the game during his days at Georgia, but it’s a fairly big leap to the NFL level. His predecessor Curtis Lofton took nearly half of his rookie season before he really started to get comfortable in that area.

As with Nicholas, one way that either player can distinguish themselves from the other is by performing well in coverage. That could be the tie-breaker. Dent has the athletic ability to better match up in coverage, but Tatupu’s experience gives him the edge on awareness in knowing where he should be and where his assignments should take him. It is going to be an interesting competition.

What also needs to be determined, is which player if any of the linebackers will dawn the green dot on their helmet in order to receive information from the coaches and make the defensive calls on the field. That role was previously held by Lofton, and among the current players, only Tatupu has experience doing that. It remains to be seen if that will be a factor in camp competition. But it is also not unheard of for teams to give that role to safeties if need be. Weatherspoon would make a strong candidate since he’s a sure bet to be an everydown player at linebacker.

Regardless, those four players are virtual locks to make the final roster. Because of their need to provide depth elsewhere on the roster, the Falcons have been known to only carry six linebackers on their 53-man roster during the regular season. That policy is likely to continue this year. The two veteran incumbents for those spots include Spencer Adkins and Robert James. Adkins got reps late last year as an injury replacement for Nicholas and had his moments. Adkins has good speed and can be an effective attacking linebacker, but his hips and flexibility are less than desired, which can get him in trouble in coverage. He is the safer of the two. James has only garnered marginal playing time in four years on and off the practice squad. In fact, in four summers with the team James has been on the team’s opening day 53-man roster only once. It makes his foothold on a final roster spot tenuous at best.

Because of that, it gives the team’s group of undrafted free agents a better than average chance to make an impression and win a roster spot. Outside linebackers like Jerrell Harris and Max Gruder probably have the slightly better odds since they will be filling a reserve spot on the outside, but inside guys like Rico Council and Pat Schiller also will be in the mix. Likely their chances will come down to  who showcases the best on special teams because if any of them make the team, their role will be entirely in that arena. All four have similar athleticism, although both Harris and Council tested slightly better at their respective pro days this past spring. Harris and Gruder have the added benefit of playing in some 3-4 schemes while in college, which could help them grasp schematically some of the things that Nolan will try to do in camp.

With the departure of Eric Weems, Dent becomes the team’s top special teams player. And if he wins the starting job, then it’s likely that he’ll get a lot less reps on special teams. It will be important that one of these young guys can step up and fill the void left by him if that situation arises. Otherwise the team could be scouring the waiver wire come the end of August, looking for someone that can.

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 17 “The One About the Falcons”

June 10th, 2012 Comments off

In this week’s episode, Ryan and I get back to the grind of talking about the Falcons. Taking segments of recent live shows where we talk about different position groups on the offense, this episode is an amalgamation (I know, big word) of those discussions. Also included in this episode is our interview with The Bleacher Report’s Scott Carasik, another knowledgeable Falcon fan. If you want to hear practically every offensive player on the Falcons roster get discussed, then this is the episode for you. Topics range from who will make the roster to what can be expected from different players this year. What if any changes that Dirk Koetter has will affect different players and positions. Ryan and I get into a long debate about what exactly is an elite quarterback. Michael Turner’s future, Chris Redman, Kerry Meier, Julio Jones, and Sam Baker are other Falcon players that get extensive discussions in this episode.

Ep. 17: The One About the Falcons [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 39 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: justin.tv/didziojo

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

Grimes questionable for Giants game

January 6th, 2012 Comments off

While twenty players appeared on the Falcons Friday injury report, the majority of them were able to fully participate in the last two or three days of practice this week. Listed among the players that were not are linebacker Stephen Nicholas and cornerback Brent Grimes. Nicholas is doubtful for Sunday’s playoff game against the New York Giants, while Grimes is listed as questionable. Nicholas (turf toe) did not practice all week, and has missed four of the past five games with that injury. He is expected to be replaced by Spencer Adkins, who got his first career start last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Grimes missed both Wednesday and Thursday’s practices with his knee injury, but was able to go on a limited basis on Friday. Missing Thursday practice was considered a precautionary measure by head coach Mike Smith. Grimes missed last weeks’ reguar season finale after returning the week before against the New Orleans Saints. If Grimes is unable to go, then Dominique Franks would likely get the start at left cornerback. Before returning against the Saints, Grimes had missed three straight games, all of which he was replaced by Franks in the starting lineup.

Also listed on the injury report as probable were wide receivers Harry Douglas (groin) and Kerry Meier (groin), safety William Moore (groin), tight end Michael Palmer (knee), and running backs Jason Snelling (knee) and Michael Turner (groin). All except Snelling (limited participation) were held out of Wednesday’s practice. All would go on a limited basis on Thursday. Palmer and Snelling were able to participate fully on Friday, while the others still were limited.

For the Giants, linebacker Mark Herzlich was listed as out for the game with an ankle injury. Defensive end Justin Tuck was added to the injury report on Friday with a shoulder injury, but is probable for Sunday’s game. Ahmad Bradshaw (foot) missed both Wednesday and Thursday practices, but returned on a limited basis on Friday. He is listed as probable along with tight end Jake Ballard (knee), running back Da’Rel Scott (knee), offensive tackle Tony Ugoh (ankle), defensive end Osi Umenyiora (ankle/knee), and cornerback Corey Webster (hamstring).

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 12 “2012 Free Agency”

December 30th, 2011 Comments off

Ryan and I discuss 2012 free agency and going position by position to look at what prospective free agents that the Falcons could or should target. We each give a bevy of players that we think could be good additions to the team next year. During the course of our discussion, we touch on several current Falcons including Brent Grimes, Michael Palmer, Curtis Lofton, Ray Edwards, Joe Hawley, Mike Johnson, and Spencer Adkins.

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Falcons add James and Cone to roster

December 28th, 2011 Comments off

The Falcons promoted wide receiver Kevin Cone and linebacker Robert James to their active roster to replace the spots vacated by cornerback Kelvin Hayden and linebacker Mike Peterson, who were placed on injured reserve yesterday. The Falcons also added linebacker/safety Matt Hansen to the practice squad.

Peterson suffered a torn triceps injury against the Saints on Monday night, and will miss the rest of the season. Hayden has missed the past five games with a dislocated toe, and his season will also now come to an end after a slow recovery. Due to a lingering toe injury from starter Stephen Nicholas, the team is expected to start Spencer Adkins at strongside linebacker for the regular season finale this weekend against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

James and Cone have been on the practice squad since the beginning of the season. James was originally a fifth round pick by the Falcons in 2008. He spent his rookie season on injured reserve, but spent the bulk of the 2009 and 2010 seasons on the practice squad. Cone was an undrafted free agent signed by the team this past summer out of Georgia Tech. He will add some depth at wide receiver due to a groin injury to Kerry Meier.

Hansen also was an undrafted rookie free agent for the Falcons this past summer. Hansen played linebacker at Rhode Island, but spent the bulk of his summer playing safety for the Falcons.

Nicholas Out Against Seahawks

October 1st, 2011 Comments off

Last week linebacker Mike Peterson got the start in stead of Stephen Nicholas, who was out with a calf strain. Peterson was spelled on passing downs by Spencer Adkins. It’s likely the Falcons will employ the same rotation this weekend against the Seattle Seahawks since Nicholas was declared out for the second straight week.

Also listed as out on the Falcons injury report, released Friday afternoon, were defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux (knee), running back Jason Snelling (concussion), and defensive end Cliff Matthews (knee). For the third straight game, Peria Jerry will start in place of the injured Babineaux. Snelling suffered his injury last week vs. Tampa Bay and will mean more opportunities for Jacquizz Rodgers as Michael Turner’s primary backup.

Wide receiver Roddy White (thigh) was listed as questionable after being able to go on a limited basis in Friday’s practice after sitting out both Wednesday and Thursday. White has never missed a game entering his seventh season in the NFL.

The Falcons will expect cornerback Kelvin Hayden back this week after being inactive with a hamstring injury last week. Hayden was listed as probable along with offensive tackle Sam Baker (ankle) and linebacker Curtis Lofton (foot). Both Baker and Lofton were limited during Wednesday’s practice but gave full participation on both Thursday and Friday.

Final 53-man Roster Prediction

September 2nd, 2011 Comments off

Well, here is the prediction for who will make the Final 53 as teams have until Saturday afternoon to make those decisions. Only one player from my previously mentioned locks won’t make the team, due to the Falcons roster moves earlier this week.

QUARTERBACKS
Matt Ryan
Chris Redman

Wilson’s poor performance vs. the Ravens I think might have gotten him cut, especially given the injury issues the Falcons have on their lines.

RUNNING BACKS
Michael Turner
Ovie Mughelli
Jason Snelling
Jacquizz Rodgers

Despite a strong performance last night against the Ravens, I don’t see either Antone Smith making the roster, but he remains eligible for the practice squad. Injuries on both lines I think will prevent the Falcons from carrying a fifth running back in Week 1. But once those units get healthy, do not be surprised if you see them pick up someone later in September.

WIDE RECEIVERS
Roddy White
Julio Jones
Harry Douglas
Kerry Meier
Eric Weems

Brandyn Harvey showed enough to potentially make the roster, but the Falcons don’t appear able to afford a sixth receiver when they have other injury issues elsewhere.

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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 4 “Mike Johnson’s Love Handles”

August 29th, 2011 Comments off

In this episode of the FalcFans podcast, Ryan and I talk about the Steelers preseason game as well as break down who we think will be on the Falcons final roster as cut day looms. Both of us draw lines in the sand over whether players such as Mike Johnson, Joe Hawley, Akeem Dent, Spencer Adkins, and Matt Bosher are going to make it. You’ll also hear Ryan’s reaction to the final revelation of what player Falcons radio man Beau Bock was describing as “icky balooky.” Ryan and I even get into a brief discussion of fantasy football and the Green Bay Packers in the end.

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Seven Roster Spots Remain Open

August 20th, 2011 1 comment

The NFL instituted a new rule that teams will be allowed to activate 46 players on gamedays instead of the traditional 45 players. As such, I think through two preseason contests the Falcons have pretty much found 46 players that assuming there are no injuries to them, are virtual locks to make this year’s roster. That leaves 7 remaining spots that are still in contention that will have to be earned through these final two preseason games.

Here is my list of 46 that are locks to make the roster. These are guys that I feel will not be cut before the season starts. If they aren’t on the final roster it will be because they are on the injured reserve or some other reserve list. Here are the offensive players:

QB – Ryan, Redman, Wilson
RB – Turner, Mughelli, Snelling, Rodgers,
WR – Jones, White, Douglas, Meier, Weems
TE – Gonzalez, Palmer
OT – Baker, Clabo, Svitek
OG – Blalock, Reynolds, Johnson
OC – McClure, Hawley

Now for the defense:
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