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Preseason Stock Exchange (Week 1)

August 14th, 2012 Comments off

It’s time to look at which Falcon players have improved their stock and those that have not after the first preseason outing. This is mostly looking at who shined and who did not against the Ravens.

Stock Up

QB Dominique Davis – Davis benefited greatly from the lackluster night by both Chris Redman and John Parker Wilson. Besides Wilson running an effective 2-minute drill at the end of the half, both veteran passers looked very rusty against the Ravens. Davis showed some athleticism, using his legs to extend plays and also showed off his strong arm with some shots downfield. Davis still needs to polish up his footwork, mechanics, and tighten up his accuracy, but if he can build off last week’s performance against the Bengals, he will be in prime position to potentially earn a roster spot.

WR DJ. Davis – The No. 5 wide receiver spot will almost certainly be determined by special teams ability. And Davis stood out against the Ravens, particularly with his excellent open field stop when working as a gunner on a punt returner, tripping up Bobby Rainey in the 3rd quarter to cause a 1-yard loss on a Dawson Zimmerman punt. Kevin Cone looked to have the inside track at the spot, but Davis is making up ground.

OL Peter Konz – Konz had his moments when working at right guard with the second team offensive line, showing ability to get some push. He missed a block while pulling inside on a play, but then helped make up for with a good block downfield when he pulled outside on the next play. Konz had some struggles when he moved to center for the third unit. But if he’s going to make up ground against Garrett Reynolds for the starting right guard spot, he got off to a solid start.

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Camp Battles 2012: Defensive Line

July 17th, 2012 Comments off
Thomas Campbell-US Presswire

Lawrence Sidbury

Relative to many positions on the Falcons roster, the defensive line won’t see a lot of shakeup during training camp. The four starters are pretty much settled and the majority of the reserves are fairly secure in their roster spots. The brunt of the competition will be based around many of those reserve players trying to carve out larger niches in the Falcons rotation.

The four starters that are likely to open the season include John Abraham and Ray Edwards at defensive end and Jonathan Babineaux and Corey Peters at defensive tackle. As far as the starters go, the issues to watch are how much improvement both Edwards and Peters make, and whether Babineaux can bounce back after a subpar 2011.

Edwards was hampered by an injury last summer, but also never seemed to mesh with Brian VanGorder. New defensive coordinator Mike Nolan hopes to fix that issue, and it seems that Edwards has already warmed up to him and his new scheme. Last season, Peters flashed top-level playmaking skills, but still has yet to develop the sort of consistency to put together a complete season. It will be interesting to see whether or not the fact that he won’t have to look too much over his shoulder will drive him for greater success this season. Babineaux was hampered by an injury early last year, and the Falcons are hopeful that his production will return to a level where it was prior to 2011 when he was one of the most disruptive interior players in the league.

For bench players like Kroy Biermann and Lawrence Sidbury, both won’t have to worry too much about not collecting a check from the Falcons this year. Last year Biermann stole reps in nickel situations from Edwards. He’ll be competing to show that the new deal he signed this past off-season was money well worth spending. Biermann likely benefited to a degree from the relationship with VanGorder, and will have to find a way to similarly impress Nolan that he is worthy of being the top backup in the rotation. Sidbury was no sure thing to make the roster last summer, so a year has made a world of difference. Sidbury flashed potential last season and will be working to carve out a larger spot in the rotation. He’ll push Biermann to be the team’s top reserve. He’ll need to show improvement as a run defender, where Biermann has the edge. Abraham’s playing time is stream-lined so that the majority of snaps he comes off the field will be in running situations. And if Edwards can bounce back and earn Nolan’s trust on passing situations, then there may not be as many opportunities there as well. Becoming a more all-around player will be the key to Sidbury taking the next step.

Outside those six, the roster spots aren’t solidified. The Falcons will likely keep at least nine, but potentially ten players to beef up their rotation. A big part of the competition will be at tackle, where Peria Jerry, Vance Walker, and rookie Travian Robertson will all be competing for playing time. Jerry’s roster spot is probably the safest because his contract is structured so that cutting him doesn’t help the Falcons cap situation to a significant degree. And Vance Walker has proven himself over the years to be a valuable rotation player, making him less likely to be cut. Robertson will need a strong summer to move up the depth chart, but should be kept as a potential fifth tackle. The Falcons carried five tackles for much of last year with Carlton Powell in that role. That makes undrafted rookie Micanor Regis on the outside looking in as far as the roster goes, since he’s unlikely to leap frog all three players to make the team. But with a strong summer, he definitely can be a candidate for the practice squad.

At end, one of the big battles will come in the competition between Jonathan Massaquoi and Cliff Matthews for the fifth defensive end spot. It’s unlikely that the Falcons will try and carry six defensive ends. It’s not impossible that the Falcons may opt to carry six defensive ends, particularly if they try and work either Massaquoi or Matthews at outside linebacker. But given only four ends will likely be active on game days, carrying a sixth player will mean that the roster could be depleted elsewhere. Massaquoi has the edge given that he has a bit higher upside as a pass rusher. Most years the Falcons have only seen their fifth defensive end as a special teams player, which may limit Massaquoi’s contributions as a rookies. But if he has a strong summer, he could push for playing time during the regular season comparable to Sidbury back in 2009. Even if the Falcons part ways with Matthews, he is still a prime candidate for the practice squad. He will need to have a strong summer to make the roster.

Also competing will be Louis Nzegwu, who is in a similar boat as Regis in facing long odds to make the roster. But he has the sort of athletic talent that can make him a nice project to carry and develop on the practice squad for a year or two.

Overall the issue along the defensive line won’t about shuffling around the roster, but more about Nolan trying to get more out of the current slate of players.

Jones Out for Week 6

October 13th, 2011 Comments off
ICON SMI

Jones waves goodbye

The Falcons ruled wide receiver Julio Jones out for this weekend’s game against the Carolina Panthers due to a hamstring injury he suffered in the fourth quarter while running a deep pattern. In the absence of Jones, the Falcons will likely look for more contributions from reserve Kerry Meier, who in four games played so far this year, has yet to make an appearance on regular offense.

Also not participating in Wednesday’s practice, but their status has yet to be determined for this week’s game are: defensive end John Abraham (groin), tight end Tony Gonzalez (elbow), center Todd McClure (knee), safety William Moore (knee), cornerback Chris Owens (concussion), and guard Garrett Reynolds (ankle).

McClure did not play against the Packers, with Joe Hawley starting in his place for the third time this year in five games. Moore, Owens, and Reynolds all left last weekend’s game with their respective injuries, although Reynolds managed to re-enter the game after suffering his injury. Gonzalez managed to play through his injury.

Also listed on the Falcons injury report were defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux, defensive end Cliff Matthews, safety James Sanders, and wide receiver Roddy White. All four players had limited participation in practice. Matthews sat out last week’s game with his knee issue. Babineaux returned last week after suffering an MCL sprain during the season opener.

Babineaux, Abraham questionable vs. Packers

October 7th, 2011 Comments off

There is a fifty percent chance that the Falcons will see defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux return to the lineup this weekend against the Green Bay Packers, as he was listed as questionable on this week’s injury report. Babineaux suffered a sprained MCL in the season opener against the Bears and has missed the past four games. He participated on a limited basis in all three days of practice this week. Also listed as questionable is defensive end John Abraham. Abraham was added to the injury report on Friday due to a hip injury. If Abraham is unable to go, then it’s likely Kroy Biermann will make his first start of the season at right end. Peria Jerry has filled in admirably for Babineaux the past three games at left defensive tackle.

Fellow defensive end Cliff Matthews (knee) and center Todd McClure (knee) will be out this week. Neither practiced this week. McClure missed the first two games of the season with a knee injury, returning to the lineup against the Buccaneers in Week 3. But he re-injured his knee last week midway through the Falcons contest against the Seahawks. He will be replaced by Joe Hawley in the lineup, who has now logged two starts and extensive playing time in a third game so far this year.

Also returning the lineup should be linebacker Stephen Nicholas, who missed the past two games with a calf strain. He practiced on a limited basis this week and is listed as probable. Roddy White (thigh), Jason Snelling (concussion), William Moore (neck), Chris Owens (ankle), and tight end Michael Palmer (ankle) are also listed as probable, as all were able to fully participate in Friday’s practice.

For the Packers, right tackle Bryan Bulaga (knee), safety Nick Collins (neck), defensive Mike Neal (knee), and linebacker Frank Zombo (shoulder) are all out this weekend. Tight end Andrew Quarless (knee) is doubtful and linebacker Brad Jones (hamstring) is questionable.

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.

Robinson will sit out against Ravens

August 30th, 2011 Comments off

Knox Bardeen of CBS Sports reports that cornerback Dunta Robinson (hamstring) will not appear in Thursday night’s preseason finale against the Baltimore Ravens. Falcons head coach Mike Smith indicates that the teams starters will get a reduced a role in that contest, but Robinson will not be among them. Chris Owens has started in Robinson’s stead the past two preseason contests as he’s been nursing that injured hamstring.

Also out will be Todd McClure (knee), Corey Peters (knee), and Lawrence Sidbury (ankle). Earlier today, it was announced that McClure would be out at least through the first game of the regular season. Peters was injured in the Falcons first preseason contest and has been ruled out indefinitely. Sidbury’s injury will make his ability to retain a roster spot difficult since it appears that rookie defensive end Cliff Matthews is emerging as the team’s potential fifth defensive end.

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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Spotlight Players vs. Dolphins

August 12th, 2011 Comments off
ICON SMI

WR Julio Jones

These are some of the names and positions you should keep your eye on during the Falcons preseason opener against the Miami Dolphins tonight:

WR Julio Jones

It is no doubt that all eyes will be on Jones tonight. With Ray Edwards being held out, he is by far the biggest new addition to the Falcons lineup. He has been tearing it up in camp so far by all accounts, and fans should be eager to see if that early success translates to the field tonight. Jones will get first team reps, but it will be interesting if the Falcons pull the plug on him with the rest of the first team members early in the game, or get him some more minutes and work with the second unit.

RB Jacquizz Rodgers

The other big name from this year’s rookie class, figures to get some extensive reps on the ground. Rodgers should get some touches in the first half of the game, and fans should be eager to see his quickness and explosion as a runner and hopefully in the passing game. If the Falcons are re-incorporating the screen pass back into their offense, it would be an opportune time to break it out tonight.

TE Michael Palmer

Palmer has a chance to move up the depth chart if he can have another strong performance this summer. A big key for Palmer will be how much progress he’s made as a blocker if he hopes to supplant Justin Peelle as the top reserve to Tony Gonzalez.

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Jackson and Matthews increasing their roster odds

August 10th, 2011 Comments off

Back in May, I speculated that the Falcons pair of seventh round picks Andrew Jackson and Cliff Matthews might face long odds to make the roster. But it seems from early scuttlebutt in camp, that prediction was off the mark. Both players have earned praise from head coach Mike Smith who said of them “[they] might be two of the best-looking guys in the draft class.”

The departure of Harvey Dahl certainly has helped Jackson’s odds of making the roster. The Falcons have typically kept nine offensive linemen on the roster during the regular season. The five starters are obviously locks. Whomever loses the right guard battle between Garrett Reynolds and Mike Johnson also will be a lock. The team will probably also keep reserves Joe Hawley and Will Svitek as well. That leaves just one remaining position, which Jackson probably faces the toughest competition from tackle Jose Valdez. But if both players impress this summer, then it could mean the Falcons opt to keep ten blockers.

Matthews is in the mix at defensive end. The Falcons have kept five defensive ends the past two seasons, and it seems that his early play likely will prompt the Falcons to do so again. John Abraham, Ray Edwards, and Kroy Biermann are locks at the position. If Matthews fills the fifth spot, then that would mean that Lawrence Sidbury and Chauncey Davis are competing for a single roster spot. The fact that both Abraham and Biermann are entering contract years, probably gives a small edge to Sidbury and Matthews due to their youth and developmental potential. If Matthews does land the fifth spot, he’ll likely be relegated to special teams duty this year if anything. As a rookie, Sidbury performed in that role. But last year as the team’s fifth end, he hardly saw the field.

The Falcons carried ten defensive linemen on the roster last year, although it’s unlikely they will carry that many this year. With Peria Jerry seemingly making a healthy return, and Jonathan Babineaux not facing a one-game suspension, carrying a fifth defensive tackle probably is not in the cards. But still the Falcons could have nine defensive linemen on the roster, which is one more than most NFL teams typically carry.

Carrying extra linemen on either side of the ball could potentially affect other roster positions because it means you cannot as many there. It could prompt the team to carry one less running back, wide receiver, linebacker, or defensive back than normal. So the early positives on Jackson and Matthews could turn out to be negatives for other young guys on the roster trying to earn a spot.

Falcons ink three draft picks

July 28th, 2011 Comments off

The Falcons signed three of the draft picks today, with the team announcing that sixth round pick P Matt Bosher, and seventh round picks OG Andrew Jackson and DE Cliff Matthews all came to terms on four-year deals. The team also announced the addition of another undrafted free agent, USC punter Jacob Harfman.

Teams were allowed to start signing their own draft picks Tuesday under the new labor agreement. The Falcons have now inked half of their 2011 draft class, with top picks Julio Jones, Akeem Dent, and Jacquizz Rodgers remaining unsigned.

Bosher is expected to replace free agent Michael Koenen at the punter position. But will get competition from players like Harfman and journeyman Ken Parrish. Jackson adds needed depth on the interior of the Falcons offensive line, with both starters: Justin Blalock and Harvey Dahl being free agents. Matthews should compete for a reserve spot on the defensive line, and the team hopes he can bolster their pass rush in the coming seasons.

Harfman (5-9/201) served as USC’s punter and kickoff specialist the past two seasons. In that span, he had 92 punts for an average of 40.4 yards with 29 placed inside the 20-yard line. He also had 9 stops on special teams. He had 143 kickoffs with 25 going for touchbacks in his two seasons with the Trojans. He attempted a 50-yard field goal as a junior, but missed. He came to USC as a transfer student from Mt. San Antonio JC, where he averaged 40 yards on 45 punts with 22 placed inside the 20. He also had 27 touchbacks as a kickoff specialist, and connected on 20 of 26 field goals, and 69 of 75 PAT attempts. As a freshman, he played at Urbana (OH) University, a NAIA school where he was 5 of 11 on field goals and 30 of 34 on PATs.