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Falcons 2014 Training Camp: Day 5 Report

July 30th, 2014 No comments

From AtlantaFalcons.com

Devonta Freeman. From AtlantaFalcons.com

Let’s take a look at the various tweets, articles, reports, news and rumors that surfaced from the fifth day of Atlanta Falcons training camp:

It was a much more hospitable day for the Falcons second consecutive day of padded practice. There just seemed to be something special in the air.

The big news emerging from early in the day was that running back Steven Jackson was held out of practice for undisclosed reasons. Those would later to be revealed because Jackson suffered a hamstring injury on Monday and will be out for the remainder of the summer. In other injury news, linebacker Pat Angerer also went down with a right leg injury early in practice, although we received no such update on his injury status after practice. It should be noted that Angerer did have microfracture surgery on his right knee this offseason.

In Jackson’s absence, Falcons rookie running back Devonta Freeman continues to impress.

Jay Adams breaks down his normal five takeaways from practice, including the play of Freeman, linebacker Tyler Starr, defensive tackle Travian Robertson and the fact that the Falcons will get tomorrow off from practice.

There’s video of quarterback Matt Ryan speaking to the media after practice on various topics including: Julio Jones, Jake Matthews and Levine Toilolo.

The Falcons got a visit from SI.com’s Peter King, whose big takeaway from camp was about the beef added to the Falcons defensive line.

While the competition for the nickel cornerback position appears to be wide open, some have noted that Josh Wilson might have taken an early lead.

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Steven Jackson Out with Hamstring Injury, Expected Back Week 1

July 29th, 2014 No comments
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Steven Jackson

Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith explained the absence from today’s practice of running back Steven Jackson due to the latter suffering a hamstring injury. Smith indicated that Jackson is expected to be ready to return for the Falcons season-opener Week 1 against the New Orleans Saints five weeks from now. Smith also indicated that Jackson’s hamstring injury is to his left hamstring rather than the right one that held him out for the better part of five games last season.

In Jackson’s absence, running backs Devonta Freeman and Jacquizz Rodgers are expected to step up and fill in. Rodgers has served as the team’s top reserve running back for the past three years and could earn the brunt of starters’ snaps the rest of the summer. But Freeman has been impressed by all accounts through the first few days of his first NFL training camp. Given the lack of size in both Freeman and Rodgers, Jackson’s absence may also increase the chances that either Josh Vaughan or Jerome Smith stick as reserves, since both are bigger backs that can potentially do more to replace the physical element lost from Jackson’s injury.

 

Categories: News Tags: , , ,

Atlanta Falcons Takeaways from Last Week – July 28, 2014

July 28th, 2014 No comments
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Desmond Trufant is the rare impact rookie in NFL

Atlanta Falcons training camp has begun. And all the prognostications and analysis that has occurred over the past six months of the NFL offseason are basically thrown out the window at this point as things will soon be decided on the field.

It’s one of the reasons why football is great because of its unpredictably. As I noted last week, it’s one of the most unpredictable of the major American sports. And it’s for that reason, what I do is somewhat meaningless.

Like so many others, for the past six months I have made a bunch of educated guesses as to what I thought the Falcons would do this offseason, in the draft, and ultimately how that would lead to a successful or unsuccessful 2014 season.

What will ultimately happen this season is completely beyond me. If I knew, then I’d get on the first plane to Las Vegas and bet it all.

There are always several surprises in not just the regular season, but in training camp. There is always a player or two that winds up making the Falcons roster that I’m fairly dumbfounded as to why it happened. There’s always a promising prospect that doesn’t make the cut which disappoints me. There’s always a player that I had exceedingly low expectations on entering the summer, but manages to blow those out of the water. And then there’s the opposite, a player that disappoints greatly during the summer months. It all adds up to an eclectic mix that will eventually make up the Falcons 2014 roster.

One of the things that typically emerge during the initial days of camp reports and observations is how promising much of the new blood added to roster in the offseason is looking.

For instance, one can make the argument that after cornerback Desmond Trufant the best player on the Falcons defense last year was defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux. And it’s very possible that he may hold that title going into 2014. But you probably won’t hear very much about Babineaux this summer during camp practices because he’s old news. Unless Babineaux is schooling one of the young kids like Malliciah Goodman or Ra’Shede Hageman on the intricacies of the position, there won’t be a lot of buzz surrounding him. Yet given that he’s the best player up front, he probably is a player that practices the best as well.

But nobody wants to hear how Babineaux still looks solid in the various camp reports you’ll find over the next several weeks. It’s more about how those young guys like Goodman and Hageman are looking and likely to contribute significantly in 2014.

So pardon my cynicism, but that’s the nature of the beast. People tend to get caught up in what is shiny and new rather than what appears old hat.

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Falcons 2014 Training Camp: Day 2 Report

July 26th, 2014 No comments
From AtlantaFalcons.com

Roddy White. From AtlantaFalcons.com

Let’s take a look at the various tweets, articles, reports, news and rumors that surfaced from the second day of Atlanta Falcons training camp:

  • As usual, let’s kick things off with Jay Adam’s five takeaways from Day 2. Adams discusses linebacker Kroy Biermann’s return from injury, the team’s padded practice schedule, wide receiver Bernard Reedy’s potential emergence, the battle for the nickel cornerback spot and Julio Jones’ day off.
  • ESPN’s Vaughn McClure expresses his own observations from the day including further elaboration of the battle for nickel cornerback, Reedy, and the play of the Falcons pass-rushers.
  • Head over to AtlantaFalcons.com to check out today’s photo gallery from practice The posted picture above shows wide receiver Roddy White and other Falcons players interacting with the crowd as the team underwent its first-ever “Falcons Walk,” kicking off practice with a stroll through the crowd on their way to the practice field.
  • The AJC provides video of today’s practice and post-practice interviews with general manager Thomas Dimitroff, head coach Mike Smith and offensive tackle Jake Matthews.
  • The Falcons filled the roster spot left open from the waiving of Darius Johnson by signing wide receiver Jabin Sambrano. Sambrano is a former undrafted rookie out of Montana signed by the Indianapolis Colts in 2012. Sambrano was put on injured reserve by the Colts in that summer after suffering a concussion in training camp. He was later released by the Colts and ended the season on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers practice squad. He was re-signed by the Colts the following offseason, but was cut at the end of their 2013 camp. He finished last year with the Jacksonville Jaguars on their practice squad before being released in the offseason. He has spent the past few months in Canada with the B.C. Lions before getting another chance in the NFL with the Falcons.
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Ranking the Falcons 2014: No. 34 Jacquizz Rodgers

July 16th, 2014 No comments

Josh D. Weiss-US PRESSWIRE

Jacquizz Rodgers

I’m counting down the top 40 players on the Atlanta Falcons, and let’s continue with 34th-ranked player: running back Jacquizz Rodgers.

To read the methodology I devised to rank the Falcons players, click here.

Total Score: 44/100

Last year’s rank: 27
Player Grade: 49/100
Teams he is starter: 0 out of 32
Teams he is best position player: 0 out of 32
Teams he is role player: 28 out of 32
Peak-Year Bonus: +2
Positional Bonus: +3

Rodgers was pushed down in this year’s rankings thanks to additions the Falcons made in the offseason as well as the fact that a number of unproven players rose in the rankings from a year ago. But that does not mean that Rodgers doesn’t add significant value to the Falcons roster.

While he’ll face stiff competition from rookie running back Devonta Freeman this summer, Rodgers isn’t exactly going to lay down. He is one of the best third-down backs currently in the league, being one of only four players that ranked in the top 15 in premium website Pro Football Focus‘ pass-blocking efficiency and yards per route metrics for running backs in 2013.

But Rodgers likely hopes to expand his role as a rusher this season. He received a career-high 96 carries in 2013, including 58 carries during a five-week stint where starter Steven Jackson was sidelined with injury. Rodgers has yet to receive more than 10 carries in a game in which he was not filling in as a starter or the Falcons were involved in a rout. Earning those reps will become harder with Freeman on the roster, as the team envisions Freeman as capable of being a lead back, something that Rodgers has not been.

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Categories: Features Tags: , , ,

Ranking the Falcons 2014: No. 38 Devonta Freeman

July 15th, 2014 No comments
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Devonta Freeman

I’m counting down the top 40 players on the Atlanta Falcons, and let’s continue with 38th-ranked player: running back Devonta Freeman.

To read the methodology I devised to rank the Falcons players, click here.

Total Score: 41/100

Last year’s rank: N/A
Player Grade: 47/100
Teams he is starter: 0 out of 32
Teams he is best position player: 0 out of 32
Teams he is role player: 23 out of 32
Peak-Year Bonus: +3
Positional Bonus: +3

Freeman sports potential to be an impact running back thanks to his abilities as a receiver and a capable pass protector given his size. In today’s NFL where passing is the premium, these skills ensure that Freeman should have a long, productive career.

The biggest concerns and question marks surrounding Freeman is how effective a runner he will be. There is no doubt that at the very least, he should be a capable change-of-pace and complementary back in the NFL, but the Falcons hope that he becomes much more than that.

Freeman possesses good speed and quickness, and runs hard for a player with his smaller stature and frame, but similar statements were made about Jacquizz Rodgers when he came into the league three years ago. While Rodgers has been a productive backup in Atlanta, he has done little to date to suggest that he has the potential to be a lead back for an NFL team.

At the very least, Freeman should be in a position to fill the shoes of retired running back Jason Snelling as an occasional change-of-pace back that will give starter Steven Jackson and Rodgers a breather.

Last year, Snelling saw the majority of his playing time during a five-week period where Steven Jackson was injured. During that span, Snelling averaged about 28.4 snaps per game according to premium website Pro Football Focus. In the other nine games he played, Snelling averaged 10.1 snaps and only a tenth of those snaps required him to tote the rock. In 2012, Snelling averaged about 14.5 snaps per game as the Falcons’ third-string tailback. Overall, Snelling was an underused player in Dirk Koetter’s offense.

Snelling performed in other areas that made up for his lack of usage on offense, namely on special teams. It remains to be seen whether or not the Falcons will employ Freeman frequently in that area. Rodgers has been a regular on the Falcons’ special teams units since his arrival in Atlanta, but given the fact that down the road the team envisions Freeman for a much bigger role, perhaps they would see the need for him to earn his place on special teams as unnecessary. If that is the case, coupled with his being utilized in a similar fashion as Snelling, it could make for a relatively quiet rookie season for Freeman.

But on the other hand, he could just as easily have a big year if he can fully take advantage of whatever opportunities come his way. It’s just as conceivable that if Freeman can add the home-run element to the Falcons ground attack, by year’s end he could be seeing significantly more reps than Rodgers does. To a point where he could be challenging Jackson for the biggest workload in a fashion similar to how Giovani Bernard saw more playing time than BenJarvus Green-Ellis did with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2013. While Green-Ellis handled the majority of the carries, Bernard earned more overall playing time due to his versatility to contribute in the passing game and that he always seemed a big play waiting to happen. While Jackson is a significantly better player on third downs than Green-Ellis is, the simple reality is that Jackson’s prowess in that arena is not what it once was. And if that’s the case, there’s an opportunity for Freeman, who clearly has a future in Atlanta, to make his mark. If he’s in any way reminiscent of Bernard, then you can expect the Falcons to take full advantage.

Categories: Features Tags: , ,

Atlanta Falcons Training Camp Preview 2014: Running Back

July 15th, 2014 No comments
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Devonta Freeman

The biggest questions surrounding the Atlanta Falcons running back position are less about who will make the team, but how the team will stack its depth chart.

Steven Jackson returns as the unquestioned incumbent starter at the position. Jackson missed a significant chunk of his first year with the Falcons due to a hamstring injury, but finished the year relatively strong. Jackson rushed for 392 yards in the final seven games, which extrapolates to just shy of 900 for a full 16-game slate.

Although it’s worth noting that low figure likely has a lot to do with the fact that the Falcons rarely had opportunities to run the ball in the second halves of games down the stretch due to getting behind early. Over the final seven games, the team ran the ball on 35.6 percent of first-half plays, but only on 30.6 percent of second-half plays.

Jackson also saw his production dip significantly in those second halves, averaging just 2.4 yards per carry versus 4.8 yards in the first halves of the final seven games.

The team is hopeful that there will be more balance with their running game this year given improvements made along the offensive line as well as on defense which should prevent the team from getting too far behind early.

Behind Jackson may be the most notable competition at the position, which will feature a battle between Jacquizz Rodgers and rookie Devonta Freeman for the right to be the team’s primary third-down back.

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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 68 “Go Blame Thomas Dimitroff!”

June 12th, 2014 Comments off

Allen and I are back with our friend Steve Cohen to discuss the Atlanta Falcons offseason and the latest happenings in OTAs. We discuss the injuries to Julio Jones, Zeke Motta and Levine Toilolo; what role will Devonta Freeman and Antone Smith have at running back; trade rumors surrounding Oakland Raiders wide receiver Denarius Moore; the Falcons front office’s aggressiveness with making moves at the end of training camp; competition featuring Dwight Lowery vs. Dezmen Southward; whether Desmond Trufant could be used as a shadow corner; recent quarterback contracts around the league and the NBA Finals. The podcast ends with Allen and my live reactions to news of Sean Weatherspoon’s season-ending injury.

Episode 68 – Go Blame Thomas Dimitroff! [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 22 minutes

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

Steve can be found on twitter: @SteveInBrooklyn

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! For Android users, DoubleTwist is a good app to listen as well. You can also subscribe directly to our feed at the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/falcfans/LXSt

Falcons Sign Fourth-Round Pick Freeman

May 22nd, 2014 Comments off

The Atlanta Falcons announced earlier today that 2014 fourth-round running back Devonta Freeman has agreed to terms on his rookie deal. Terms of his contract were undisclosed, but as per league rules it is a four-year deal. Freeman is the second to last of the team’s nine draft picks to sign, leaving just their third-round selection, safety Dezmen Southward, as the only remaining unsigned rookie.

Freeman comes from Florida State and is expected to compete for a backup role at running back behind Steven Jackson and Jacquizz Rodgers. As a senior, Freeman was the first FSU running back since Warrick Dunn in 1996 to rush for over 1,000 yards.

Categories: News Tags: , ,

Atlanta Falcons 2014 Rookie Scouting Report: Devonta Freeman

May 21st, 2014 Comments off
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Devonta Freeman

A breakdown of the Atlanta Falcons 2014 fourth-round selection, former Florida State running back Devonta Freeman.

BIO

Height: 5’8″
Weight: 206
College: Florida State
40 Time: 4.58 (Combine)
Three-Cone: 7.11 (Combine)

He was born on March 15, 1992 in Miami, Florida where he attended Miami Central High. Comes from a rough background, surrounded by crime and violence as a youth and was able to use drive to excel at football to help rise above it. Coached in Pop Warner football by Luther Campbell a.k.a. “Uncle Luke,” lead rapper in group 2 Live Crew.

As a true freshman at Florida State, he started the final seven games of the season and led the team in rushing with 579 yards on 120 carries (4.8 avg) and eight touchdowns. He had twice as many carries as the next tailback that season. Also caught 15 passes for 111 yards (7.4 avg). Began sophomore year again as a reserve player but would eventually start the final four games. Would once again lead team in rushing with 660 yards on 111 carries (5.9 avg) and eight scores. Only had one more carry and 20 more yards as the next tailback on roster (James Wilder, Jr.). Also had 10 receptions for 86 yards (8.6 avg) that season. As a junior, took over lead tailback duties full-time and started all 14 games. His 1,016 rushing yards led the team and also became first Florida State tailback since Warrick Dunn in 1996 to rush for over 1,000 yards. His 173 carries as a junior was also more than the next two backs combined. Averaged 5.9 yards per carry and had 14 touchdowns, along with 22 receptions for 278 yards (12.6 avg) and another touchdown. Earned first team All-ACC honors as a junior.

Noted for his work ethic, which allowed him to receive the majority of reps during his career despite not being considered the most talented running back on the roster.

2013 GAMES WATCHED

Date
Opponent
Att.
Yds
YAC
TD
Out SR
In SR
Fum
Oct-19Clemson218830180%31%0
Oct-26N.C. State129225263%75%0
Dec-07Duke189119138%44%1
Jan-06Auburn117318133%40%0
YAC - Yards After First Contact; Out SR - Outside Runs Success Rate; In SR - Inside Runs Success Rate
Date
Opponent
Tgt
Rec
Yds
YAC
TD
UC
Oct-19Clemson1111900
Oct-26N.C. State11302900
Dec-07Duke11222700
Jan-06Auburn33211700
YAC - Yards After Catch; UC - Uncatchable Passes

SKILLS
The grading system is based on a 10-point scale: 1-pathetic, 2-poor, 3-weak, 4-below average, 5-average, 6-above average, 7-good, 8-very good, 9-excellent, 10-elite.

Speed (6.0) – Possesses good speed but is not going to run away from many NFL-level starters at linebacker and in the defensive backfield. Not a threat to take it the distance every time he touches the ball, but when he can get space is able to cover ground quickly and generate big plays from time to time.

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