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Posts Tagged ‘Hawley’

OTAs: Day 5 Report

June 6th, 2013 Comments off

Once again, the media had access to today’s practices on the fifth day of the Falcons OTAs. So here’s what we came away with:

McClure set to retire

March 13th, 2013 Comments off
Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE

Todd McClure

Long-time Falcons center Todd McClure is set to retire on Thursday per an AJC report, following a tweet from former Falcon receiver Brian Finneran yesterday of McClure’s intention. McClure will hold a press conference and file his retirement papers according to the AJC.

McClure is the longest-tenured Falcon currently on the team, first joining the team as a seventh round draft pick in 1999. He would miss his rookie season with an injury, going down with an ACL tear on the opening day of training camp. But he would return and land the starting center job midway through his second season and never relinquish it. Over the course of the next 13 seasons, he would log 195 starts, missing only 4 starts from 2001-12. Before missing time at the start of the 2011 season, McClure had made 144 consecutive starts without missing a game. His 198 total appearances are fourth most in team history, and his 195 starts are the third-highest.

Consistently undersized as far as NFL centers go, McClure learned to be effective with leverage and intelligence. He anchored offensive lines that for three consecutive seasons (2004-06) finished atop the league in rushing yards, and ranked fourth in 2002. During the time when the Falcons were quarterbacked by Michael Vick, McClure routinely called out the team’s protections. That intelligence and experience helped a young Matt Ryan, who has since become the 9th-least sacked quarterback in NFL history.

The Falcons will likely employ a competition between Peter Konz and Joe Hawley at center to replace him in 2013. Hawley started three games in 2011 as a replacement for McClure.

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Falcons Needs: Interior Offensive Line

February 5th, 2013 Comments off

The interior of the Falcons offensive line could definitely use an upgrade, but it’s possible that the Falcons may opt not to invest significantly at this position.

Center Todd McClure and guard Garrett Reynolds are the team’s lone free agents at the position. While McClure seems set to try and play one more year in the NFL, it remains to be seen if that place is Atlanta. The Falcons have invested draft picks in both Joe Hawley and Peter Konz for a reason, with the intent of succeeding McClure. Given that 2013 will be the final year of Hawley’s contract, it seems that now is the time to determine whether or not he is going to stick long-term in Atlanta.

Because the team may want to give Hawley an opportunity to start at center and earn a long-term contract a year from now, it may mean that Peter Konz will return to start at right guard next year. The Falcons will have to determine whether they consider Konz a better candidate at that position versus a free agent or draft pick. Konz struggled throughout much of the 2012 season but played relatively well in the playoffs, potentially giving the team some hope that he could make significant improvement next year. If that proves to be the case, then the Falcons will likely only be looking for a backup to bolster depth and to compete in camp as opposed to a starter that will supplant Konz.

But if the Falcons do decide to sign/draft someone to be the starter, it will then likely move Konz to center so that he and Hawley compete for that vacant position.

The Falcons will need to decide what to do with Garrett Reynolds. While Reynolds was a serviceable starter this year before he was injured, he has not played well enough to stick in the starting lineup, and thus will likely be viewed as a backup going forward. If he’s willing to stay in Atlanta for the modest price of a reserve then he should be back. If not, then it will mean the team will probably add a veteran or draft pick to replace him. While youngsters like Phillipkeith Manley, Jacques McClendon, and Harland Gunn will be expected to compete for reserve roles next year, it would be a tall order to ask any of them to be a play away from being the Falcons starter at right guard, especially considering how much turnover has been there recently. Only once in the last four years did the opening day starter at right guard end the year in that same position. It’s possible the Falcons could move Mike Johnson back to guard, but that may be dependent on what moves if any the Falcons make at the tackle position. If Sam Baker is re-signed, it increases the chances that Johnson could be competing for a starting guard spot next year. If not, then the Falcons may need him more as a depth option at tackle than they do at guard.

Justin Blalock is coming off a subpar season at left guard, but due to the big contract the team gave him in 2011, he’s not going anywhere.

Falcons place Cone on IR as Hawley returns

December 24th, 2012 Comments off

The Falcons announced earlier today that wide receiver Kevin Cone will go on injured reserve to make room for offensive lineman Joe Hawley, who is coming off a four-game suspension. The team indicated no word on the exact nature of Cone’s injury that merits his placement on the season-ending reserve list. Although in past years it has been regular for the team to place players on injured reserve prior to the season finale. They did so a year ago with linebacker Mike Peterson and Kelvin Hayden, in 2010 with safety Shann Schillinger, and also in 2009 with Harvey Dahl and Chris Houston. Hawley returned from his suspension a week ago, but was granted a roster exemption last week allowing the Falcons to carry 54 players on their active roster.

Cone had played in 12 games this season for the Falcons primarily on special teams. Hawley had played in 6 games this season prior to his suspension, adding necessary depth at center and guard.

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Hawley suspended 4 games for PEDs

November 19th, 2012 Comments off

The Falcons announced earlier this afternoon that reserve lineman Joe Hawley would be suspended for the next four games due to a violation of the NFL’s policy against the use of performance enhancers. Players can choose to appeal their suspensions and continue to play until a second ruling is made, however Hawley will elect not to do so and his suspension will begin immediately. He will not be eligible to return to the team until December 17 after their Week 15 matchup against the New York Giants.

Hawley suited up briefly this past Sunday for a single snap at center after Todd McClure left the game with a lower leg injury. Hawley provides depth at both center and guard on gameday. The team may opt to add another center to the roster with the now available roster spot formerly held by Hawley, to shore up depth.

His agent, Kevin Omell, released a statement via the NFLPA:

“In September, Joe Hawley made a mistake by taking an Adderall pill. He did not file the paperwork to apply for an exemption for this medication, and now understands that the NFL/NFLPA drug policies have strict rules.

He is sincerely sorry to his teammates, coaches and Falcons fans for the consequences of this oversight. Joe will work diligently every day of this suspension to stay in top football shape and be ready to help the team continue the success they’ve achieved thus far this season. He has chosen to be immediately accountable for the situation which is why he will not exercise his appeal rights and will begin serving the suspension immediately.”

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Which Falcons could become trade bait?

August 30th, 2012 Comments off

This is the port in the summer where people are talking about trading players, and I just wanted to quickly go over some Falcon players that probably have the most trade value. Obviously, a player like Roddy White would have huge trade value, but the Falcons won’t trade him. I’m looking more at guys that appear to be somewhat expendable and have an outside shot that it could happen if a phone call was made.

Most trades at this point in time involve late round picks and roster bubble players. The Vontae Davis trade withstanding, it’s rare a team will part ways with their top corner who is only in his third year in the league. The normal trade at this point in time is what the Colts did earlier when they acquired Josh Gordy from St. Louis. Most of these trades are for conditional picks, meaning that if said player makes the new team’s roster or plays a certain amount of games in the upcoming season, compensation will be exchanged. If not, then nothing is lost.

I’ll start with Michael Turner, not because I think he’ll be traded or should be traded, but just because in the dark reaches of an alley, there are a few Falcon fans conspiring about it. Turner does not have a ton of trade value. I think it would be possible for the Falcons to get a conditional fifth or sixth round pick at this point in time for Turner, potentially based off how many rushing yards he has this season. But that’s probably about it. That really is not worth it.

Jason Snelling is another player that could be shopped most years, but his injury as well as the question marks that the Falcons have at fullback probably placed in the non-expendable category. Teams don’t normally trade for injured players, and when they do it rarely turns in their favor. (see Otah, Jeff)

Also on offense, players that could be parted ways with include some of their backup offensive linemen. Namely Andrew Jackson, Joe Hawley, and Mike Johnson. Hawley and Johnson probably have better value on the market namely because Hawley has gotten extensive reps last year and Johnson was a higher round pick that many people liked coming out of Alabama. A team like Dallas, who has been hurting at a position like center could probably be interested in a player like Hawley for a possible sixth or seventh rounder. Johnson probably could fetch the same price, if a team was looking for a guy that can add depth at guard or tackle.

On the defensive line, the two players that are probably the easiest to trade would be Kroy Biermann and Vance Walker. I would be shocked if the Falcons would trade Biermann because he seems to be nestled atop their depth chart as the team’s nickel pass rusher, replacing Ray Edwards. But given the fact that they still would have Edwards and Lawrence Sidbury to fill that role, and could still develop Jonathan Massaquoi and/or Cliff Matthews as depth, it would not be crazy if the Falcons did shop Biermann for a late round pick. Walker’s experience means that a team hurting for a run-stopping one-gap tackle could be enticed to give up a seventh rounder.

If the Falcons were confident in the return abilities of Harry Douglas on punts, it could potentially mean that Dominique Franks could be shopped. If a team was really hurting for depth at cornerback, they might also look at Chris Owens, assuming he’s fully recovered from his hamstring injury. The Falcons could presumably opt to deal one of them because of the other’s presence.

I don’t think any of these players should be traded or will be traded, but it always interesting to see what possibilities are out there. A lot of those players I mentioned, getting just a conditional sixth or seventh round pick doesn’t seem like a fair trade for the Falcons. Ultimately the depth many of those guys provide and the roles they fill are worth me in return than a draft pick that ultimately will just be a career backup and special teamer in all likelihood. Biermann is a prime example of this. He’s a pulled muscle away from starting a bunch of games this year and helping keep the pass rush from evaporating. No offense, but that right there is worth more than drafting another Charles Mitchell or Wilrey Fontenot.

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: Offensive Line

July 16th, 2012 Comments off
Fernando Medina-US PRESSWIRE

Sam Baker

The offensive line is likely to be the most contested offensive position group in camp. Unlike the other offensive positions, the Falcons aren’t currently set on their starting lineup. The brunt of the competition will come at the two weakest spots from a year ago: left tackle and right guard. Sam Baker is the incumbent at left tackle, although he remains a question mark because he was effectively benched last year after a very poor start to the season. Will Svitek replaced him and proved to be an upgrade. But the team remains optimistic about Baker’s abilities, excusing much of his struggles due to injuries. The team drafted rookie Lamar Holmes as well in the third round, and he’ll push for time as well. But by missing rookie mini-camps with a foot injury likely will have Holmes climbing an uphill battle in camp to gain the starting spot. More than likely the spot will come down to Baker or Svitek, with Baker having the advantage going into camp because he worked the majority of first team snaps in the off-season.

At right guard, the team could have a new face as two of their off-season additions will be competing there. Free agent pickup Vince Manuwai and top pick Peter Konz will be pushing for playing time behind Garrett Reynolds, who is considered the incumbent. Reynolds got the majority of first team snaps during OTAs, a small surprise given that Reynolds, like Baker, lost his job in 2011. He was replaced after a sluggish start by Joe Hawley, who was an improvement but only slightly over the second half of the season. Reynolds has struggled with extensive reps at the guard position largely due to his height, which is disadvantageous inside at guard. Manuwai worked mostly with the second unit during minicamps, and is the strongest candidate among the two to push for time. Konz played exclusively as a center during his days at Wisconsin, and split time between both spots this off-season. He still has a small learning curve at guard, and while he will be given a legitimate opportunity to win the starting spot, he’ll likely be on the outside looking in.

The other three roster spots are pretty much locked up as the team brought back center Todd McClure along with left guard Justin Blalock and right tackle Tyson Clabo. Blalock and Clabo won’t face any competition for their jobs, while McClure will be pushed by Hawley. McClure has never lost his starting spot in his 13-year career, so it doesn’t seem likely that he will do so this summer. But the Falcons will give Hawley a chance to emerge as the team wants to get more physical up front. Hawley was miscast as a guard last year, but his skillset is much more suited to playing the pivot where he is fiesty and physical. That sort of mentality will be welcomed at the center position. But he’s not nearly as polished as McClure and certainly lacks McClure’s extensive experience and knowledge calling out blocking assignments.

But even if players like Hawley, Konz, and Holmes don’t win starting positions, they are virtual locks to be among the final nine or ten blockers that could make the 53-man roster. Between Manuwai and Reynolds as well as Baker and Svitek, it doesn’t seem like a sure bet that all will make the roster if they don’t win the starting spot. Svitek is probably the most valuable as a reserve given his versatility to serve as swing tackle and potential blocking tight end.

Also vying for positions include former draftees Andrew Jackson and Mike Johnson. Johnson was a third round pick, but injuries have limited his development over the past two summers. He had the potential to win the starting gig from Reynolds last summer, but an untimely concussion forced him out of the lineup, allowing Reynolds the time to solidify the spot. Jackson will likely get a boost because the Falcons new position coach is his former head coach Pat Hill from Fresno State. The team has been working to cross-train both players for multiple positions to give them some potential added value. Both players have gotten reps at tackle this off-season. But both are fighting an uphill battle to make the roster certainly due to the more experienced players ahead of them. It is noteworthy that both players still remain eligible for the team’s practice squad, although it doesn’t seem likely at this point that either would clear waivers if released by the team.

Also competing in camp are undrafted rookies Bryce Harris, Tyler Horn, and Phillip Manley. All three are longshots to make the roster, but can certainly impress enough to make bids for the practice squad. Harris also followed Hill from Fresno State, but is facing long odds given the added depth at the tackle position. A bit undersized, Harris is an ideal candidate to be placed on the practice squad for a year or two to add some bulk. Horn is stuck behind a relatively deep center group in Atlanta, as he is fourth on the depth chart. And the fact that Hawley and Konz add the versatility of also playing guard, it will make it that much harder for Horn to stand out. Manley offers good size for a guard, but he too is stuck behind a bunch of bodies.

Mike Smith has stressed trying to bolster competition in camp, and very few positions embody that mentality than the offensive line. Its struggles a year ago precipitate that renewed focus on getting the best players on the field. And while the majority of the team’s starting positions are likely settled, there will be a maelstrom brewing as players compete for second unit spots and their football-playing lives. Predicting who the final nine or ten will be on the roster is the most tenuous of any position group. Three of the starters (Blalock, Clabo, and McClure) and three reserves (Hawley, Holmes, and Konz) are fairly safe bets. But beyond that, the last handful of spots will be completely up for grabs.

2015 Falcons: Offensive Line

June 17th, 2012 Comments off
US PRESSWIRE

Peter Konz

The Falcons offensive line come 2015 is considered one of the strengths of the team, given the teams new-found emphasis on the position that begins in 2012.

The Falcons 2015 line consists of the same unit that it started beginning in 2013, which features left tackle Lamar Holmes, left guard Justin Blalock, center Joe Hawley, right guard Peter Konz, and right tackle Tyson Clabo. What begin as a bit of a shaky unit has now blossomed into a strong group up front now that they’ve built some continuity with each other. Also in the mix is a Pat Hill favorite in guard Andrew Jackson, who hopes that now in his fifth season in the league can crack a permanent place in the starting lineup at guard.

The anchor of the unit is Konz, who thanks to Hawley’s solid play in his first season as a full-time starter in 2013 hasn’t been asked to kick inside to center yet. Hawley was good enough that the team opted to re-sign him following the 2013 season with a modest three-year deal and hasn’t regretted the decision as he has developed into a solid starting center thanks to his toughness and aggressiveness. At the other guard spot is the old veteran Justin Blalock, whose Falcon career is beginning to wind down. While Blalock has yet to earn a trip to the Pro Bowl in his career, he’s considered to be a solid guard. But the team is looking for Jackson to potentially push him for the starting spot. They are also hopeful that even if he doesn’t beat out Blalock, that Jackson has improved enough that he could be plugged in at right guard, which will allow Konz to play his more natural center position. Jackson has managed to fill in at various times over the past three seasons when others have been out with injuries. He has been cross-trained to play all three interior positions, although Konz remains the primary backup at center. But the team feels its interior of the line is the strength of the unit.

Outside, Lamar Holmes and Tyson Clabo form the bookends. By 2015, Clabo appears to be on his last legs. He’s entering the contract year of his deal that he signed in 2011, and most expect him to hang it up after the year is done. But he wants to give it one more go with this team to try and push them over the top. The team has already drafted his heir apparent and potential replacement in the rookie out of Iowa, Brandon Scherff. On the opposite side, Holmes has grown into a solid player. While he’s not considered to be one of the top left tackles in the league, he is considered capable of getting the job done of protecting Matt Ryan’s blindside. Holmes had a shaky start in his first year as a starter in 2013, but in the subsequent years has shown improvement each season so that now in 2015, he is considered a solid asset for the unit. His career arc mirrors that of previous left tackles such as Donald Penn, Duane Brown, and Jermon Bushrod, of guys that got off to questionable starts, but showed steady improvement each year. He is in line for a big extension after 2015 if he can show continued growth.

Due to their renewed focus on maintaining a strong front, the Falcons have used a multitude of their late round picks over the past few drafts to build depth.

2012 Key Players: Offensive Line

May 29th, 2012 Comments off
US PRESSWIRE

The Falcons Front Line

I’ve already discussed how Michael Turner’s play this year will be a key to success for the Falcons in 2012. Tied to that is the play of the offensive line. It’s clear that the Falcons are a team that pride themselves on being an effective to good running team. And that notion isn’t likely to change under new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. The Jaguars under Jack Del Rio styled themselves in a similar manner, being a team that could run the ball well and play good defense, i.e. often the core elements of what is called being “physical.” That’s the exact sort of mentality and identity that Mike Smith has tried to instill here in Atlanta over the past four seasons. And it’s probably one of the main reasons why Smith was attracted to Koetter to take over for Mike Mularkey.

But joining Koetter on his quest to reinvigorate the Falcons offense on the ground will be new offensive line coach Pat Hill. Hill comes to the Falcons after years as the head coach at Fresno State. The Falcons hope Hill’s brand of high energy and toughness will also prove a boost up front.

It was clear last year that the biggest weakness on the offense was the offensive line. They struggled to create holes for Turner to run through, and struggled protecting Matt Ryan when they faced quality pass rushes. While the team may be very vocal about not regretting the decision to trade for Julio Jones, they certainly should be regretful over how they took the offensive line for granted last off-season.

Too often the line got manhandled in 2011 and it often occurred in instances where they could not establish the run early in games. If they got behind the offense would become one-dimensional and lose its balance. And several opposing teams were able to take advantage by pinning their ears back and be effective at getting to Matt Ryan.

Ryan is not a quarterback that likes to get hit. That isn’t questioning his toughness, but there is plenty of evidence over the past four years that if teams can get to him early and often, it can affect his play the rest of the game. That could also describe Tom Brady rather easily. So it’s prohibitive of Ryan becoming a top quarterback, it’s just an obstacle to overcome. You can live with a subpar O-line in Pittsburgh with Ben Roethlisberger behind center because he seems to thrive at times with pressure in his face. But that won’t be the case here in Atlanta, and thus emphasizing better play up front will remain important as long as Ryan is the starter.

Thus the Falcons off-season decisions to bolster the competition up front were good moves. The team needed to improve their blocking, and they did so by adding veteran guard Vince Manuwai and drafting rookies Peter Konz and Lamar Holmes in the draft.

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