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Posts Tagged ‘Hester’

Falcons 2014 Training Camp: Day 1 Report

July 25th, 2014 No comments
AtlantaFalcons.com

Julio Jones going through drills. From AtlantaFalcons.com

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

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Atlanta Falcons Training Camp Preview 2014: Special Teams

July 25th, 2014 No comments

Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

Devin Hester

The Atlanta Falcons special teams unit won’t appear much different than it has the past two seasons with the same group of specialists at kicker, punter and long snapper. But there is one big addition in the return game that could make a significant difference.

Incumbent kicker Matt Bryant, punter Matt Bosher and long snapper Josh Harris return for the third consecutive season. Bryant has been a reliable, clutch kicker over his past five seasons with the Falcons. He’s getting up in age and 2014 might mark his final season in Atlanta, but the Falcons should feel fairly confident that his previous success will continue this year. The team did however bring in a young option in undrafted rookie Sergio Castillo to push him. Castillo is a long shot to unseat Bryant, but can impress the coaching staff enough that he can return on the short list of kickers next year if the team and Bryant part ways.

Bosher is becoming one of the league’s best young punters and won’t face any challengers for his position. Bosher is likely due for a contract extension at the end of the year, and thus his goal this summer will be preparing to put forth his best effort during the season to achieve maximum earning potential.

Harris has had a few lapses over the years, but they appear to become less and less with each passing season. So there’s no reason to expect the Falcons to be disappointed with his performance moving forward.

However, the one big move occurred with the team now having ex-Chicago Bear Devin Hester serve as return specialist. Hester is arguably the best return in NFL history and needs just one more score to sit atop the all-time leader board as far as non-offensive touchdowns go. Hester, 31, is not quite the dynamic threat he was in his prime, he’s still a very effective return threat that commands respect from opposing teams. Many teams still kick away from him because of his potential to take it the distance every time he touches the ball, although it’s not quite the death sentence it once was.

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Atlanta Falcons Training Camp Preview 2014: Wide Receiver

July 16th, 2014 No comments

Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE

Julio Jones (left) and Roddy White

The Atlanta Falcons head into the 2014 season with the same basic trio that they have sported for the past three seasons, yet for perhaps the first time ever in that span there are some causes for concern.

The biggest being the health of Julio Jones. Jones is recovering from a foot injury that cost him the final 11 games of the 2013 season and has been rested for all of the offseason.

While the word all offseason long has been that the team is resting Jones in preparation for training camp, there is no guarantee that he’ll even see much action when camp does arrive.

The Falcons have been clear that they won’t rush Jones back, which could lead to him missing all or most of the preseason if he’s not 100 percent within the first week or two of camp. Expectations are that Jones will return for the regular season opener against the New Orleans Saints, but the Falcons probably won’t risk jeopardizing that even if it means playing Jones at 98 percent.

That translates to the possibility that Jones will sit out all of the preseason with the possible exception of the third game against the Tennessee Titans. If Jones is not 100 percent by mid-August, it likely means that he will skip that Titans game and go into the regular season with limited work in pads.

In the meantime, the Falcons should have Roddy White and Harry Douglas to fill any void. White also missed much of the offseason as he was dealing with a family matters due to the murder of his brother. But expectations are that White will be back for training camp and may have a new contract as well.

Douglas is coming off a career-high season in which he led the Falcons in receptions and yards. His play this summer will be a big factor as he is the team’s primary option to fill the void left by the retirement of tight end Tony Gonzalez. The Falcons are expected to employ three wide receivers significantly more to try and compensate for Gonzalez’s loss. Douglas played in 59 percent of the team’s offensive plays in 2012, but that figure increased to 86 percent in 2013 (per premium website Pro Football Focus). It’s likely that his workload in 2014 will mirror his 2013 one.

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Ranking the Falcons 2014: No. 35 Devin Hester

July 15th, 2014 No comments

Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

Devin Hester

I’m counting down the top 40 players on the Atlanta Falcons, and let’s continue with 35th-ranked player: wide receiver Devin Hester

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

Total Score: 44/100

Last year’s rank: N/A
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: 32 out of 32
Peak-Year Bonus: 0
Positional Bonus: +3

Hester was brought in to primarily be the return specialist for the Falcons. In that capacity, he is arguably the best returner in NFL history. His 13 punts taken back for scores is the all-time mark, and he currently sits tied with Deion Sanders with most non-offensive touchdowns (19) in a career.

Hester’s always been a little more dangerous as a punt returner than kick returner, especially since new rules adopted by the league have limited the impact in the latter arena in recent seasons.

If there is any cause for concern with Hester, it’s that his penchant to go for the home run can lead to a few mistakes and turnovers. Hester fumbled 30 times over the course of eight years on 486 combined kickoff and punt returns for the Chicago Bears, or once every 16 returns. In contrast, during his tenure in Atlanta return specialist Eric Weems only fumbled three times in 190 total returns, or once every 63 returns.

But that risk is mitigated by the fact that Hester is and has been a far more explosive returner than Weems was. Only about eight percent of Weems’ punt returns as a Falcon went for 20 or more yards, while 21 percent of Hester’s returns did during his career as a Bear. Even in recent years where Hester has slowed down, that figure is still at 15.5 percent.

Not since the heyday of Allen Rossum (2002-04) have the Falcons sported a return specialist that was a threat to take it to the house every time he touched the ball.

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Categories: Features Tags: , ,

Atlanta Falcons Takeaways from Last Week – June 23, 2014

June 23rd, 2014 Comments off
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

T.J. Yates

The Atlanta Falcons made the somewhat bold move to trade for Houston Texans quarterback T.J. Yates earlier this week.

It’s a bold move in the sense that the Falcons saw a weakness on their team and went about addressing it. That weakness was their backup quarterback situation where Dominique Davis, Sean Renfree and Jeff Mathews sat behind starter Matt Ryan. Between the three of them, they only have one game and seven pass attempts’ worth of actual NFL experience.

If one was power-ranking the Falcons backup quarterback situation, it would have been in contention for dead last in the league with that of the Chicago Bears.

Following the departure of Josh McCown, who is now expected to start for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Bears featured Jimmy Clausen, Jordan Palmer, David Fales and Jerrod Johnson behind starter Jay Cutler. The Bears signed Clausen earlier this month to add some much-needed experience. Clausen played poorly, but at least started 10 games as a rookie with the Carolina Panthers in 2010. Before his arrival, their sole experience came from Palmer, who attempted 15 passes over three years with the Cincinnati Bengals (2008-10).

Johnson was cut this week, as was Davis for the Falcons. Teams don’t often carry five quarterbacks on the roster, and it was clear that Yates’ arrival was going to push Davis out the door.

That’s unfortunate for Davis, who despite my frequent criticism of his skills, did have some potential to develop. Davis’ problems were that the same issues that plagued him during his days at East Carolina did not improve to a significant enough degree to merit the team’s continued investment. Davis’ accuracy and mechanics were erratic during his time in college and were the main reasons why teams passed on drafting him. Davis’ arm strength and athleticism were pluses, two things that helped him shine as an undrafted rookie during the 2012 preseason. But even then he showed the flashes of erratic play that hurt him in college.

In a sense, Yates is his polar opposite. Accuracy, footwork are two of Yates’ strengths, while arm strength is probably his biggest weakness. After the move to get Yates, I went back and looked at his limited play last season and in his playoff loss against the Baltimore Ravens in 2011 to see how much, if at all, Yates had really developed since his days at North Carolina.

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Atlanta Falcons Takeaways from Last Week – June 9, 2014

June 9th, 2014 Comments off
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Smith

It is June and this is usually the dead time in the NFL’s offseason, and often is the time when I become the most pessimistic in my outlook on my favorite football team, the Atlanta Falcons.

I don’t think that’s a coincidence. Once the NFL Draft is done, there is a sizable gap of downtime before the start of training camps in late July. Typically there is a couple of weeks of continued offseason fervor as rookies and veterans come together to work out in mini-camps and offseason team activities (OTAs) in earnest.

But usually once June hits, most of the buzz on the incoming draft class and the first looks at the veterans dies down and there’s basically six to eight weeks of waiting. It’s really the only time of year where coverage of the NFL takes a back seat to NBA playoffs, NHL playoffs, Major League Baseball, and other sports in America. Football takes a break, and this period from early June to late July is the true offseason of the league.

I myself also took a bit of a break last week. One of my relatives passed at the end of May and I was traveling to go to their funeral last weekend. That did not allow me much time to contemplate the Falcons to any degree worth writing my normal takeaways column to be published on Monday.

And I decided to take a bit of a break over the rest of the week to decompress before getting back to the grind this week.

It’s going to be an interesting summer because it’s the first time since 2008 that there is really any strain of real pessimism within the fan base. It’s a relatively foreign feeling when considering the Mike Smith Era overall. The Falcons streak of five consecutive winning seasons was snapped last year to the tune of a 4-12 record.

This offseason, the Falcons wound up with a high draft pick and serious questions about their ability to compete for a playoff spot in 2014. This offseason became one that is all too familiar for long-time Falcon fans like myself.

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Draft Needs: Have Falcons Really Improved Depth at Wide Receiver?

April 29th, 2014 Comments off

The Atlanta Falcons signed wide receiver Devin Hester earlier this offseason, in a move that should bolster not only their special teams, but also their depth at wide receiver. But has that signing really made a substantial improvement to their depth at the latter position?

The Falcons depth at the position essentially boils down to whether or not they can rely on any of their current backups to step up if or when one of their starters goes down with an injury. Last year, the team’s top wideout Julio Jones missed the final 11 games due to a foot injury, which he is still recovering from. Last season long-time stalwart Roddy White, nursing ankle and hamstring injuries, did not look himself until a breakout performance against the Buffalo Bills in Week 13.

Harry Douglas filled in during both players’ absences. Douglas produced at a high level leading the team with 85 catches and 1,067 yards, but in the six games in which he was functionally their lead receiver, the team scored an average of 17.5 points. In the other 10 games played last season where either Jones or White were healthy and on the field, they averaged 24.8 points, a touchdown more. That may not seem like much, but a single touchdown per game essentially separates what would be considered a top 10 offense in the NFL from one at the very bottom.

In Chicago for the five years prior to 2013, the Bears tried to take advantage of Hester’s dynamic explosiveness as a returner on offense at wide receiver. It did not work effectively as Hester had a single 100-yard game over that span. In 2013, Hester opted to focus on special teams rather than continuing to strive to be an effective offensive weapon. Was a coincidence then that thanks to the emergence of second-year wideout Alshon Jeffery in Hester’s absence, the Bears offense scored more points this season than any other Bears offense ever? Probably not.

If Douglas and Hester’s past careers show us anything, it tells us that in the event of injuries that sideline both Jones and White, the Falcons offense will take a significant dip. That means that there is still room for improvement in terms of depth at wide receiver.

The 2014 draft class is considered one of the deepest ever at the wide receiver position. That certainly allows things to fall into place if the Falcons plan to address their depth at the position.

Targeting a player that can line up outside the numbers and help stretch the defense would bring something new to the roster. The Falcons already have plenty of guys that can line up inside in the slot. Douglas, Hester and Johnson are at their best playing inside, given their lack of size and struggles to beat press coverage outside. And White and Jones certainly have also made their share of plays when they’ve been asked to play in the slot over the years.

Another slot receiver would simply be overkill. The Falcons sorely missed a playmaker that could line up outside, beat press coverage and stretch the defense last year when Jones was out. White is slowing down and still occasionally provides those vertical plays, but is much more of a pure possession wideout at this point in his career.

In the event of another Jones injury, something that has occurred all three years he has been in the league, the Falcons should have someone on the roster that can do some of the things he can do. Few can do all of the things that he does, that’s what makes him Julio Jones. But a player that can at least mimic his role in the offense, which is a player that forces defenses to have to respect the deep ball can open up things for the other receivers that do the underneath stuff.

But any rookie added may not be able to make major contributions right away. Rookie receivers are notorious for a slow transition into the next level, having to refine their route-running and ability to read coverages, critical to success in the NFL.

But the earlier said player is added to the roster, the sooner he can eventually contribute. And even if he’s not able to make huge strides in 2014, he certainly can start to impact in 2015. White is no spring chicken, and even with a contract extension, he’ll be turning 33 in November. There may only be a few more years where he can be expected to contribute as a starter. If the Falcons can begin developing his heir apparent, by the time White might opt to hang it up a few years down the road, that player will have an easy and smooth transition into the starting lineup.

One thing is for certain, between Douglas, Hester, Johnson, and Davis that eventual replacement is not currently on the roster. It would be prudent of the Falcons to add him via this year’s draft.

Categories: Draft Central Tags: , , , , ,

Takeaways from Last Week – March 24, 2014

March 24th, 2014 Comments off
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Devin Hester is an Intriguing Addition in Atlanta

If I’m being honest, I like the idea of Devin Hester in an Atlanta Falcons uniform moreso than the reality.

The idea of Hester donning the black and red is giving the Falcons a legitimate playmaker on special teams, something it has lacked since the heyday of Allen Rossum nearly a decade ago. Yes, Eric Weems was my guy but his abilities as a returner was analogous to a chain-moving wide receiver as opposed to an explosive playmaker.

Hester is not quite as explosive on kickoffs as he is on punts. But anything he can contribute in the former area will be an upgrade over what the Falcons have featured the past few years. Between Weems and Jacquizz Rodgers, the Falcons have just two kickoff returns of 40 or more yards the past three seasons. Hester has nine such big-play returns in that span.

But it’s really the punts where Hester is going to impact. Partially because there’s the potential that a new rule change could further marginalize kickoffs, but also because the Falcons have had a dearth of playmaking ability on punt returns.

Weems had a single punt return of 40 or more yards in both 2010 and 2011. Those represent the only two such big punt returns since Rossum left the team after 2006. That year also coincides with the start of Hester’s NFL career with the Chicago Bears, and he’s had 19 such 40-plus yard punt returns over the past eight seasons. He’s had 11 over the past four years.

The only real issue is that the Falcons are catching Hester on the downward slope of his career. He was able to see his production rebound last year in 2013 by concentrating fully on his duties as a returner as opposed to also moonlighting as a wide receiver. But he’s a far cry from the player that he was just a few years back when he had a combined five punt return touchdowns over the 2010-11 seasons.

But as I’ve illustrated, he still represents a clear upgrade over what the Falcons have featured in recent years.

The other aspect of the idea of Hester that I like is his potential impact on offense. He’s probably not going to be a major element of the Falcons passing attack, but I do think he does represent a potential upgrade over Harry Douglas as the team’s third option.

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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 61 “You Know They’re Gonna Draft Another Fullback Right?”

March 24th, 2014 Comments off

Allen and I are joined by FalcFans forum member Ryan Lounsbury, to talk about the Falcons offseason moves. Ryan has a bit more positive outlook on the additions of Paul Soliai and Tyson Jackson to the roster than us. We give our takes on the Falcons’ latest moves of signing Javier Arenas and Devin Hester, re-signing Peria Jerry and cutting Bradie Ewing. We discuss Scott Pioli’s takeover of the front office, whether overpaying for free agents is a necessary evil of the offseason, if the Falcons’ interest in another free agent blocker means they lack an overall vision for the future, if the team should trade up for Jadeveon Clowney, Taylor Lewan’s fit in Atlanta and the recent news made involving DeSean Jackson, Michael Vick and Matt Schaub.

Episode 61: You Know They’re Gonna Draft Another Fullback Right? [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 21 minutes

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

Ryan can be found on twitter: @RyanLounsbury

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! You can also subscribe directly to our feed at the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/falcfans/LXSt

Falcons Add Devin Hester

March 20th, 2014 Comments off

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the Atlanta Falcons have agreed to a three-year contract with former Chicago Bears return specialist Devin Hester. Hester’s signing comes on the heels of the Falcons adding another return threat in cornerback Javier Arenas, although it’s fully expected that Hester will be the primary returner for the Falcons moving forward.

Hester, 31, comes to the Falcons after eight seasons with the Bears where he went to the Pro Bowl three times for his return prowess. He is the league’s active all-time leader in punt returns(264), yards (3,241) and touchdowns (13). That latter mark also stands as the best of any punt returner in NFL history. His career average of 12.3 yards per return is seventh on the all-time list as well.

Hester has also achieved success as a kickoff returner with five scores there, the eighth most all-time. His 19 non-offensive touchdowns are tied for the most of any player in NFL history alongside former Falcon great Deion Sanders.

Hester began his career as a cornerback, thus why he sports the No. 23 on his uniform. But he was quickly moved to wide receiver during his second season with the Bears. His production on offense has been erratic, but he’s seen significant playing time the past five seasons with 46 starts in that span. He’s caught 217 passes for 2,807 yards (12.9 avg) and 14 touchdowns. His best season came in 2009, when he had career highs of 57 catches and 757 yards, along with three touchdowns.

Originally Hester was a second-round pick by the Bears out of Miami in 2006.

Categories: News Tags: ,