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Camp Battles 2011: Wide Receiver

July 11th, 2011 Comments off

The focus in camp likely will be on the team’s top pick, Julio Jones, and trying to get him integrated into the starting offense as much as possible. In a normal summer, the Falcons would likely work Jones at all three wide receiver positions (X, Y, Z) to promote depth and flexibility. It’s most likely that most of his work will come at the X and Y positions, which are currently manned by Michael Jenkins and Harry Douglas, respectively.

It will be interesting to see where the Falcons modify their usual formula in order to accelerate Jones’ progress. The positive is that during Camp Exile, Jones got work at all three positions, so at least among the Falcons rookies he’s certainly ahead of the curve.

There has been speculation that the Falcons might be willing to deal Jenkins to make room for Jones, and that will depend heavily on how the Falcons view the  latter’s progress in camp. It’s unlikely to occur and the market for Jenkins will likely be cool since it’s an uncharacteristically strong class of free agent receivers that needy teams will be able to pilfer.

Douglas is also likely to remain in good standing with the team, making the Falcons quartet with Roddy White fairly set and secure in 2011.

The questions come behind them. Eric Weems should remain safe coming off a Pro Bowl year on special teams. While the team may give other players some extended looks in the return game, it’s not likely to be a reflection on Weems since he’s a fairly known commodity and brings a ton of value in that arena.

Kerry Meier is the front-runner of the remaining guys to land a roster spot. He is coming off an ACL tear last summer, and he’ll need to be 100% when camps commence to ensure him sticking with the team. If Meier is less than healthy, it will open up opportunities for the rest of the guys to make their presences known.

Brandyn Harvey has good size and is a capable blocker, but he needs to have a better showing as a receiver this preseason opposed to last where he had only one catch for three yards. Tim Buckley and Andy Strickland are also in the mix, and as typical, all three’s chances will depend heavily on their performances on special teams. All three are only likely to be practice squad candidates at best.

Also, there still remains a chance that the Falcons bring back veteran free agent Brian Finneran. Finneran worked out with his teammates during Camp Exile, indicating that he still wants to play football. Finneran’s chances of playing a twelfth season for the Falcons should dramatically increase if Meier is still rehabbing his injury.

The team will definitely keep at least five receivers for the regular season. Meier and Jones’ progress and how much confidence they inspire will likely determine if they decide to keep a sixth.

This year critical for Meier’s NFL future

May 25th, 2011 Comments off
Property of Atlanta Falcons.com

WR Kerry Meier

When Harry Douglas tore his ACL on the fifth day of 2009′s training camp, it was not a career-defining injury. Meaning that it would probably not mean the difference between Douglas making a living catching footballs or bagging groceries.

Douglas, as a third round pick the year before, was coming off a solid rookie year in which he had worked his way up the depth chart from fourth to third option and made an impact in the latter half of the season on special teams. It all meant he was poised to grow into a viable role player for the Falcons. His injury would be a hindrance to his growth, but his potential would earn him future opportunities with the Falcons and other NFL teams alike.

On the other hand, for Falcons 2010 fifth round pick Kerry Meier, that may not be the case. His ACL injury suffered at the end of his rookie training camp last summer could potentially be career-defining. It might be the difference between Meier potentially playing several years in the NFL versus never suiting up for a single game.

Meier does not have a high draft status or a productive rookie campaign to buoy his chances of making this year’s roster like Douglas did coming off injury a year ago. There is no proven value on special teams to make him proven depth either. And bluntly, Meier does not have Douglas’s skill and athleticism that makes his upside and potential obviously worth developing. Even if there was another NFL team that liked Meier coming out of Kansas a year ago, they would have only viewed him as a sixth round value at best, which is not exactly the caliber of player that there is a mad scramble to claim in the event the Falcons let him go.

Meier possesses good size and steady hands, but the biggest question mark about him coming into the league was whether or not he had the speed, quickness, and burst to be able to use those traits effectively. Regardless of how big and strong you are, and how much your hands resemble velcro, if you cannot separate from cornerbacks at this level then the quarterback will not throw you the ball, and then those traits are meaningless.

And Meier’s injury directly impacts those question marks about him, and makes him an even bigger question mark. ACL tears sap explosiveness, speed, and the ability to cut, traits and skills that are essential when it comes to running routes and separating from defenders.

Read more…

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Finneran and Williams won’t be back

March 1st, 2011 Comments off
Icon Sports Media, Inc.

Brian Finneran

Alex Marvez of FOX Sports reports that the Falcons have informed two impending free agents wide receiver Brian Finneran and cornerback Brian Williams that they will not be re-signed.

Both players had their contracts expire at the end of the season. Free agency is supposed to begin on Friday on March 4, but will be delayed, if not outright cancelled if the league and the players union cannot come to a new agreement in regards to the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Finneran, is behind current center Todd McClure in terms of currently longest tenured Falcon. He first joined the Falcons in December 1999, when he was signed to their practice squad, after appearing in 3 games earlier that season with the Philadelphia Eagles. By the 2002 season, he had ascended to being a starter on the team and their leading receiver. Knee injuries cost him both the 2006 and 2007 seasons, but when Mike Smith and Thomas Dimitroff took over in 2008, they brought him back. This past year, Finneran caught 19 passes for 166 yards and three touchdowns. All in all, Finneran played 9 seasons with the Falcons, starting 38 of 126 appearances with 236 catches for 3072 yards and 19 touchdowns in that span.

Williams first joined the team just before the start of the 2009 season, as the Falcons sought to shore up their weak cornerback position. Williams managed to start the first five games before an ACL tear cost him the rest of the season. He came back this past year, and managed to shore up the nickel cornerback position after early struggles from Chris Owens in that role. In two seasons combined with the Falcons, Williams managed to start 6 of 21 games, recording 49 tackles, 1 sack, 1 interception, and recovering two fumbles. Williams originally entered the league as a fourth round pick in 2002 by the Minnesota Vikings, before joining the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2006, where he first played under coach Smith.

The combined loss of these two veterans likely leads the Falcons to try and address their depth at both positions in April’s draft, if not sooner if a CBA can be worked out.

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Preseason Week 3 Stock Exchange

August 28th, 2010 Comments off

The Falcons first units got an extensive workout for the third preseason game against the Dolphins. And while the offense didn’t quite look like it was in midseason form, there were some good individual performances from a few players. The defense looked a little sharper, but there are still some questions going into the final exhibition contest. The team will make their first roster cut down by Tuesday in which they will have to release at least four players to get down to the limit of 75.

Stock Up


WR Harry Douglas – Douglas appears to be progressing nicely on his recovery from a season-ending knee injury last year. In the Dolphins game he flashed some of his trademark quickness and burst on his way to a 4-catch, 41-yard effort. He made a key grab to convert a 3rd & 11 on the Falcons initial scoring drive, which set up the touchdown pass to Roddy White on the very next play. And he had a nice 26-yard catch and run on the team’s scoring drive in the third quarter that put the team in the redzone, leading to a touchdown pass to Brian Finneran three plays later. If Michael Jenkins has an extended absence, Douglas is doing a nice job instilling some confidence that at least one of the team’s reserve receivers appears poised to step up and help.

TE Michael Palmer – Palmer has had a nice summer, showing good hands as he paves his way for a possible third tight end position. The incumbent is Keith Zinger, who was used almost exclusively as a blocker last year in goalline and short-yardage situations. It remains to be seen how impressed the team has been with Palmer’s run blocking, but he at least clearly is an upgrade as far as the passing game goes. He probably has shown enough that he merits a practice squad role at the least, but has a good shot at landing a spot on the 53-man roster.

LB Sean Weatherspoon – Weatherspoon made his second start on the strongside vs. the Dolphins, and from all indications appears that he will open up the season in that same position. Along with the team’s other linebackers, he certainly did his part to limit the Dolphins running attack to 46 total yards on 18 carries (2.6 avg) with a 4-tackle effort. Through three games and three starts, Weatherspoon has tallied 11 tackles, showing some of his trademark speed and range in run support.

Stock Down


K Matt Bryant – While a missed extra point in the Dolphins game may have had more to do with the dirt-laden field conditions of Land Shark Stadium, it still just underscores the fact that Bryant hasn’t instilled a ton of confidence with his kicking so far this summer. Given the inconsistency that the Falcons had last season in the kicking game with Jason Elam, Bryant may be facing a bit more pressure and extra scrutiny. The Falcons aren’t likely to make a change at this point in the summer, but the leash will be fairly tight and short once the regular season begins.

WR Brian Finneran – Although he made a nice grab on a scoring strike from Chris Redman vs. the Dolphins, he hasn’t really shown he’s in sync with starter Matt Ryan. Ryan showed an overwhelming tendency to target Roddy White in the Dolphin game, with 12 of his 26 passes going to No. 84. Finneran on the other hand only had one pass go his way from Ryan. As the Falcons look for a viable stopgap option in the absence of Michael Jenkins on the outside, Finneran hasn’t inspired a ton of confidence with his preseason performances.

CB Dunta Robinson – While it’s hard to blame the Falcons for playing it safe and keeping Robinson sidelined for fear of him aggravating a hamstring injury, it certainly hasn’t eased any doubts over whether the Falcons made the smart decision to sign Robinson to a big money contract this past spring.  Hamstrings are notorious for taking some time to heal, and the Falcons maybe being extra cautious given the issues safety William Moore had a year ago. The Falcons can’t really afford to have Robinson get off to a slow start in the regular season, as the secondary will draw tough assignments against explosive receivers like Mike Wallace, Larry Fitzgerald, and Robert Meachem and physical ones like Hines Ward and Marques Colston early in the season. Last summer, Robinson missed the entire training camp due to a contract holdout, and it was proabbly no coincidence that the Texans secondary gave up 272 passing yards to a mediocre Jets passing attack in Week 1. The Falcons cannot afford a repeat of that this year.

Jenkins out 4-6 weeks

August 9th, 2010 Comments off
Icon Sports Media, Inc.

Michael Jenkins

Jay Adams of Atlanta Falcons.com reports that wide receiver Michael Jenkins will miss 4 to 6 weeks due to a shoulder injury he suffered during this past Friday night’s scrimmage. That puts him out for the rest of camp, and potentially he could miss the first few weeks of the regular season. The team has yet to disclose the exact nature of Jenkins shoulder injury.

It isn’t exactly clear who will fill Jenkins role as the starter during his absence, although Brian Finneran is usually listed as the top backup at the position. Jenkins’ injury likely will mean additional snaps for Harry Douglas, rookie Kerry Meier, and Eric Weems, which should only enhance their readiness for the regular season. It should also cause the Falcons to take a longer look at some of the younger receivers in camp such as Brandyn Harvey, Troy Bergeron, and Ryan Wolfe if Jenkins injury looks to linger into the regular season.

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Camp Battles ’10: Wide Receiver

July 19th, 2010 Comments off
Eric Weems

Eric Weems

We should expect to see some heavy competition on the backend of the wide receiver position this summer. Roddy White, Michael Jenkins, and Harry Douglas would appear to be locks to make the final roster. The Falcons will likely keep at least five wideouts, so that means that the remaining eight receivers may only be competing for two spots.

The three most likely to land those spots are Brian Finneran, Eric Weems, and Kerry Meier. Finneran is probably ahead of the pack. The coaches love his versatility and veteran savvy. Finn is able and willing to do anything the coaches ask of him, which makes him an ideal reserve. Meier probably has the next best chances because of his status as a draft pick, and he also shows the potential to be a versatile reserve like Finneran in the future. But one shouldn’t discount Weems. His ability to make the roster however may be directly tied to his performance on special teams and return duties. The return of Douglas probably makes his chances of making the final roster a bit tougher.

Among the rest of the group, it’s more likely that Troy Bergeron, Ryan Wolfe, and Brandyn Harvey stand the best odds. Bergeron will have to be all or nothing because his eligibility for the practice squad has expired. Wolfe and Harvey are undrafted free agents with their best chances of making the roster will be if they can impact on special teams coverage. Also in the mix are Andy Strickland and Tim Buckley. Their best chances also will be on their ability to perform on special teams, coupled with their ability to show some explosive playmaking potential in preseason games. But all of them are longshots to make the roster and instead will primarily be competing for a chance to land on the practice squad as the team regularly keeps a wideout there for depth.

Falcons not interested in Steelers wideout

March 9th, 2010 Comments off

Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk shot down rumors from undisclosed sources that the Falcons were on the verge of acquiring Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Limas Sweed. Per the rumor, the Steelers are on the verge of trading Sweed after a disappointing sophomore season and their recent additions of Arnaz Battle and Antwaan Randle El at the position. A league source indicates the Falcons aren’t a possible destination.. The Falcons are content with their current depth chart at receiver, having re-signed Brian Finneran in early February and the return of Harry Douglas to the lineup after missing all of last season with a torn ACL.

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Finneran re-signs for one year

February 11th, 2010 Comments off

D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC on his Twitter page reports that the Falcons have agreed to a one-year deal with prospective free agent wide receiver Brian Finneran. Finneran was poised to become an unrestricted free agent in March.

Finneran, 33, played in 10 games this season catching 11 passes for 111 yards. He also recorded two tackles on special teams. Finneran suffered a torn PCL in his left knee this past season, but according to reports did not need surgery to repair the damage. Finneran’s had past knee issues, having missed the 2006 and 2007 seasons due to torn ACLs which did require surgery.

But per head coach Mike Smith, Finneran just needs time to heal his current knee injury.

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Finneran goes on IR with knee injury

December 14th, 2009 Comments off
Brian Finneran

Brian Finneran

During his press conference, Falcons head coach Mike Smith announced that the team would place wide receiver Brian Finneran on injured reserve. Per Smith, Finneran suffered a knee injury on his second catch in yesterday’s loss against the New Orleans Saints.

Finneran caught 2 passes for 25 yards, including a 19-yard grab that he was reportedly injured on. That catch came on a key third down conversion which extended the Falcons drive that allowed them to tie up the score 23-23 against the Saints at the outset of the fourth quarter.

Finneran tore the PCL in his knee. Smith expects Finneran to be able to return for off-season conditioning, although Finneran is a free agent after this season. So it will remain to be seen if he will return to the team, as he suffers his third knee injury in five years. He missed the 2006 and 2007 seasons due to torn ACLs in hs knees. Finneran finishes the season with 11 catches for 111 yards (10.1 avg).

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Camp Battles: Receivers

July 1st, 2009 Comments off

I’ve already detailed the quarterback and running back positions, now it’s on to the tight ends and wide receivers.

At at all three spots, the starters are established with Roddy White, Michael Jenkins, and Tony Gonzalez. And Harry Douglas is definitely going to make the roster and work out of the slot.

At wideout, Brian Finneran is the most likely candidate to win the fourth receiver spot. While there has been questions of one of the young prospects pushing him for his spot, unless Finneran gets injured, it’s doubtful he won’t be on the team this fall. The Falcons traditionally keep a fifth wideout, so the remainder of the roster will be battling it out for the final spot. Eric Weems held the spot well last year, but he’ll be challenged by Chandler Williams (who spent the year on the practice squad), Troy Bergeron (a star in the Arena leagues), and three rookie free agents: Aaron Kelly, Darren Mougey, and Bradon Godfrey.

All three rookies are big on size, which will make them attractive developmental options. But more than likely, special teams ability will determine which of these players stays, and that’s why Weems has the advantage due to his experience. But it’s probable that one of these other players will make the practice squad, under the hopes that they can replace Finneran in 2010 after his contract expires this season.

At tight end, there will be a battle between veterans Ben Hartsock and Justin Peelle over who will be the No. 2 option behind Gonzalez. Hartsock is the better blocker, but Peelle isn’t that far behind and gives the team a much better option in the passing game.

More than likely the Falcons will keep both, but it’s not set in stone. A strong summer from either Jason Rader or Keith Zinger could land them the No. 3 job. Both players are capable blockers, but probably will need to show much more consistency and ability as pass catchers to stay on the roster.