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Falcons Needs: Safety

February 12th, 2013 Comments off
Josh D. Weiss-US PRESSWIRE

DeCoud congratulates Moore

The Falcons do have some questions at safety, most of which linger around the looming free agent status of strong safety William Moore.

Moore is probably the team’s most likely candidate to land the franchise tag if it comes to that. That will carry a cap hit of roughly $6.8 million. Recent reports suggest that Moore probably won’t be too pleased to receive such a tag as it would conflict with his desire to test the market. For the sake of both the Falcons and Moore, it will work best if they can come to an agreement before the deadline of March 5, after which teams can no longer tag players.

Moore is one of the better players on the Falcons defense. Along with former college teammate Sean Weatherspoon, he represents the young core of the Falcons defense that is expected to succeed players like John Abraham, Asante Samuel, and Jonathan Babineaux as regular playmakers. Moore is an opportunistic run-defending safety that managed to make a lot of plays in coverage this past year. He seemed to really find a home in Mike Nolan’s defense. The two major weaknesses of Moore’s game are his struggles when facing quality tight ends and his lack of durability. Saints TE Jimmy Graham abused him so badly in the Week 10 loss this past year, that Nolan made concerted efforts to avoid that matchup in the Falcons in Week 13 win over the Saints. Moore has missed a quarter of the games in each of the past two years with thigh and hamstring injuries. He also sat out his rookie year in 2009 with a hamstring injury, and was often nicked up throughout college. Moore’s physical playing style contributes to his injuries coupled with the fact that players at his position tend to have the shortest careers of all defenders. I doubt that is a big enough issue to make the Falcons let Moore walk, but it may become an issue that may prolong contract negotiations. The Falcons may not want to pay top dollar to a player that already has a long injury history and may only be effective for just another three or four years given the nature of his position.

The Falcons drafted Charles Mitchell last year in the sixth round, probably with the mindset of having him add depth at the position but also to provide an insurance policy in case Moore walked. Well, it doesn’t seem likely that the Falcons will roll the dice with Mitchell as a starter going forward after a lackluster rookie season. But he’ll likely be expected to supplant free agent Chris Hope for the No. 3 safety position. Shann Schillinger is returning from sitting out the year with an injury and will be expected to contribute on special teams. But don’t be surprised if the Falcons look at more options in the draft or free agency to solidify their depth. Again, safety is the most injury prone position on defense, thus it pays to have good depth there. That’s what prompted the team to sign Hope last summer before camp. Hope had his moments filling in for Moore late in the year, but he wasn’t a great fit in Nolan’s scheme and probably won’t be back next year. The Falcons have featured a revolving door in terms of veteran backups the past three years, starting with Erik Coleman in 2010, James Sanders in 2011, to Hope last season. It’ll be interesting to see if the Falcons go for a fourth, although again it’s more likely that they will give Mitchell every opportunity to take over that spot.

When the Falcons signed Thomas DeCoud to a five-year deal last spring, the deal was structured in a way that suggested that the Falcons weren’t completely satisfied with him at free safety. The first two years of his deal had modest cap hits (both under $2.5 million), with a jump to nearly $5 million in 2014. If DeCoud is on the roster on the fifth day of the league year in 2014, $2.25 of his $4.2 million base salary will become guaranteed. The Falcons could potentially reap savings of $3 million against their 2014 cap if they were to cut him at before that point.

But DeCoud is coming off a Pro Bowl appearance, and it’s increasingly less likely that the Falcons will explore other options at the position in the near future. DeCoud would have to have a very underwhelming 2013 season in order for this upcoming year to be his last in Atlanta.

Like Moore, DeCoud really took to Nolan’s scheme. Already blessed with very good speed and range, he was much more disciplined in coverage this year allowing him to make more plays there. He’s still underwhelming in run support due to his lack of size, which will always be an issue. But he often can make up for it with his closing speed. Despite his 2012 accolades, he’ll probably never be considered one of the best safeties in the league but he can be a productive and effective starter moving forward.

The further solidify depth, the team could tinker with Dominique Franks playing here. It certainly was something they tried late in the year as they mixed in more of their dime subpackage. Franks may struggle to make the roster next year as a cornerback. He’s the biggest of the team’s corners. The Falcons may tinker with the notion of featuring more dime next year, especially as they face teams like New Orleans and New England that present matchup challenges for the Falcons personnel. Similar to Franks, that player might be styled as a big corner that can play the run effectively.

Moneyball 2012 – Week 15 Review

December 18th, 2012 1 comment

A solid performance for the Falcons against the Giants. It was probably their most balanced game all year long. If they’ve been more balanced, then I just don’t recall that game, because it’s been a while since it happened.

The hat tip must go to the offensive line. After being manhandled by the Giants last January, they were very good. They were able to open enough holes to establish the run for the team early on. They also did an excellent job protecting Matt Ryan. I counted only 3 hurries (2 by Osi vs. Baker, 1 by JPP vs. Clabo), and no pressures. Last year, Ryan was sacked twice and pressured 6 times.

Propelled by one of the better line performances we’ve seen in 2012 (and by far their best at home), Ryan and the offense got back on track after two abysmal performances in previous weeks. Roddy had a relatively quiet game, his two lone catches were third down conversions. Jones also was fairly quiet in the first half, but came alive in the second half. Gonzo was Gonzo, you know being money on third downs and in the redzone. Douglas really stepped up and made some nice plays. Even Mike Cox got into the action. It’s nice to see the Falcons offense being able to spread the ball around and get multiple contributors involved.

On the ground, Turner had a solid game. But he was outshined by one Jason Snelling. I don’t think anybody’s ever earned as much money as Snelling did on that small amount of carries. Sure, all of his earnings came in the fourth quarter, and only $1 did not come on the final drive during garbage time. But he ran extremely hard, and it was clear that Snelling was going to give the coaches something to consider in film review this week. I don’t want to make a mountain out of a molehill, but he looked better on those 7 carries than I think any Falcon RB has looked all year long. The Falcons should be looking to mix him more in the rotation going forward.

Mike Cox, you’re going to get some love here too. Not only did you entertain us with your tumble over a defender, you also did a solid job blocking. Your blocking hasn’t been world-shattering, but you’ve been steady and consistent. You don’t miss assignments which is really all you can ask for from a fullback.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Matt Ryan$15$0$0$0$0$0$15.00
Julio Jones$0$3$9-$1$0$0$11.00
Jason Snelling$0$7$2$0$0$0$9.00
Michael Turner$0$7$0$0$0$0$7.00
Harry Douglas$0$0$5$1$0$0$6.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$6$0$0-$1$5.00
Mike Cox$0$0$2$2$0$0$4.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$2$1$0$0$0$3.00
Roddy White$0$0$2$1$0-$2$1.00
Sam Baker$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Todd McClure$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$1$0-$1$0.00
Peter Konz$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00

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FalcFans Podcast – Episode 22 – Parts 1 & 2

December 16th, 2012 Comments off

Aaron is back and is joined by Allen Strk and Scott Carasik for a lively conversation on a wide range of Falcons-related topics. You’ll hear their thoughts on many of the current Falcon players and what sort of seasons they are having in 2012 and what they could be expecting in the future. You’ll also hear them opine on some past Falcon players as well. Scott shares many of his thoughts on what the Falcons could be looking at in the draft and this upcoming off-season. They give their insights on what the upcoming playoff picture could look like for the Falcons. This episode does contain EXPLICIT content, so be forewarned.

Part 1:

Episode 22 Part 1 [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 2 minutes

Part 2:

Episode 22 Part 2 [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 6 minutes

Allen writes for TJRSports.com as well as the Bleacher Report. His twitter handle is: @Allen_Strk. Scott also writes for Bleacher Report and ScarDraft.com. You can also hear Scott on his weekly radio show: “Kvetching Draftniks Radio.” His twitter handle is: @scar988.

 

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

White to be a game-time decision vs. Giants

December 13th, 2012 Comments off

The Falcons practice report issued earlier today listed wide receiver Roddy White as out for the second consecutive day of practice with a knee injury. Falcons head coach Mike Smith indicated that while White made progress since Wednesday’s practice, White likely won’t practice on Friday.

Roddy felt much better today than he did yesterday. We are going to be very cautious with Roddy in terms of getting ready for the ball game. He probably will not do a whole lot on Friday or Saturday and then we will get him out there on Sunday and see where he’s at. But it’s hard to keep Roddy White out of a football game.

Also missing today’s practice was safety William Moore (hamstring). It was Moore’s second consecutive day of missed practice. Moore missed last week’s game against the Carolina Panthers. If he is out this week, it’s likely Chris Hope will start in place for him, as he did vs. Carolina.

Upgraded today was defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux (ribs). Babineaux participated on a limited basis in today’s practice, after missing Wednesday practice. Also limited were wide receiver Harry Douglas (ribs) and cornerback Asante Samuel (shoulder). After being limited yesterday, tackle Sam Baker (hand) and guard Justin Blalock (elbow) fully participated in today’s practice.

Moneyball 2012 – Week 14 Review

December 12th, 2012 Comments off

To put it simply, the Falcons got their butts kicked in this game. They just really came out with zero intensity or passion for this game and seemed to be going through the motions.

I thought Matt Ryan got off to a poor start. And it really wasn’t until late in the game did he really start to play at a relatively high level. He only looked comfortable when he was running the no-huddle. I know many will complain why did the Falcons wait so long to go to the no-huddle. Well they didn’t wait that long. They went to it on their 10th offensive play during the 3rd series. But I don’t think Ryan looked his usual self or at least the guy that was playing at an MVP level earlier in the season. I mentioned it before, but I do think Ryan does look a little less. It wasn’t until late in the game (when he got into a rhythm in the no-huddle) did I really see him put good zip on the ball. Frankly, his arm looks a little tired. He wasn’t as quick on the trigger on a some early throws that had he pulled the trigger a half-second earlier could have wound up being big plays for the Falcons. They were not, and the offense was stagnant. I also thought he struggled a bit when the pocket was muddy, not setting his feet and struggling when he was moved off his spot. That reminded me too much of last year’s Ryan, not this year’s, who for the first half of the season did an excellent job working behind a subpar O-line.

That was not the case this week. The Falcons O-line once again got pushed around by the Panthers front. Every single lineman gave up at least one pressure, and there were a number of hurries. Peter Konz struggled in this game. And I think it’s reached a point where a change might be in order. The guy just isn’t really cutting it at right guard. He gave up a 3.5 hurries, 1 sack, and a pressure. And he was somewhat responsible for another sack (the first, attributed to McClure). He and McClure were double-teaming Frank Kearse, then Konz left to chip Charles Johnson who was working against Clabo. The shove Konz gave Johnson, allowed Johnson to get free of Clabo and pressure Ryan to step up in the pocket. And at that point, McClure got beat by Kearse with a rip move and had an easy sack on Ryan. It would be one thing if Konz had been going up against Ndamukong Suh or Geno Atkins, but Nate Chandler, Greg Hardy, and Frank Alexander are beating you, then it becomes an issue. And it’s not just this game, but it’s been at least two or three straight games where he’s clearly been the weakest link on the offensive line. So the Falcons might want to think about giving Mike Johnson a shot (who got credited with the key block or rather “hold” on Turner’s touchdown).

Clabo’s false start was credited to McClure, who failed to snap the ball. As for the run blocking, it wasn’t bad, but it certainly wasn’t good.

The Falcons passing game had a lot of success going to Roddy. I don’t know if he was working against James Dockery all game, but he was abusing him throughout the second half. Jones had a number of drops in this game. Not all were perfectly thrown passes, but still catchable for Jones.

I thought it was interesting that on Turner’s first 2 carries of the game, he was unsuccessful. Then the Falcons ran to Quizz 4 straight times, and he was successful on all of them. Then Turner got the rock twice, neither successful runs. Then he got a successful run on the 5-yard gain (his 5th carry), then was stuffed at the goalline, and then had an obviously successful run on the touchdown carry. Does any of that mean anything? Eh, not really. Just thought it was interesting that the Falcons clearly were not going with the hot hand.

For the people that want to call out Koetter for his play-calling/management in the game, there is some fodder. It did not appear that the Falcons called any plays until a minute left in the 3rd quarter that was designed for Ryan to throw downfield. That first play was the one where Roddy stumbled and Ryan overthrew him. After that point, they took many shots downfield. And by that point Ryan had 21 pass attempts. Other than that, I really don’t think you can find much fault in Koetter’s play-calling that isn’t just nitpicking.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Matt Ryan$17$0$0$0$0$0$17.00
Roddy White$0$0$10$0$0$0$10.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$4$3$0$0$0$7.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$4$0$0$0$4.00
Julio Jones$0$0$4$0$0$0$4.00
Michael Turner$0$3$0$0$0$0$3.00
Harry Douglas$0$0$2$0$0$0$2.00
Sam Baker$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Chase Coffman$0$0$1$0$0$0$1.00
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Mike Johnson$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Jason Snelling$0$0$1$0$0$0$1.00
Todd McClure$0$0$0$0$0-$1-$1.00
Peter Konz$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00

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Preseason Stock Exchange (Week 4)

August 31st, 2012 Comments off

Looking at which players potentially stepped up in last night’s loss to Jacksonville to make one final push for a roster/practice squad position. As well as those players that may have not.

Stock Up

Kevin Cone – Cone has had a few too many drops this preseason, but he made up for it with a nice catch and run for the team’s lone passing touchdown against Jacksonville. If Cone is cut, the highlight of that play alone will make it harder for him to clear waivers and wind up on the Falcons’ practice squad. I don’t know if he showed enough to make the team as the fifth wideout, but he definitely did enough to make that decision harder for the Falcons brass.

Pat Schiller – I’ve been impressed with Schiller in each of the Falcons preseason games, but watching him last night as he tied with Akeem Dent for the team lead in tackles, I think he’s far and away the most impressive of the team’s three rookie linebackers. He may not be the biggest, strongest, or fastest of the group, but watching him closely, he’s the most instinctual and best able to put himself in a position to make a play. That’s what you want in a young linebacker. I don’t think it has been enough to make the final roster, but at the very least it solidify a practice squad spot for him.

Peyton Thompson – Thompson did some nice things both on defense and special teams. While he was the culprit that got beat by the long touchdown to Kevin Elliott, in retrospect he won’t look as bad when the team reviews the film, because Mike Smith will be so busy chewing out everyone else for missing those tackles to notice Thompson got beat. Thompson is a solid corner in run support as well as coverage and has had a good enough summer that he should be a shoe-in for a practice squad spot. And it might have been good enough that he could sneak onto the roster, especially if Chris Owens’ health and availability for the regular season opener is questionable.

Chris Hope – With Mitchell having some struggles, I think Hope showed some things last night including some on special teams. Schillinger is one of the team’s top special teams players, but Hope’s ability to contribute there could get him potentially the nod. Up until last night, I think Hope’s chances were tied exclusively to his experience, and not necessarily whether he can bring certain skills to the field. But I think that began to teeter last night, and Hope showcased that he is much more than an old guy that at one point in time was a pretty good safety.

Stock Down

Dominique Davis – I don’t think Davis hurt his chances of making the team. I think he was a lock to make it before last night, otherwise they would not have cut Chris Redman. But in increased reps, Davis did not really blossom as much as people hoped (including myself). He made some nice plays, but made his share of mistakes. I believe the Falcons were hoping going into the game, that if Davis had a strong enough performance he could potentially take over the No. 2 position behind Matt Ryan. But after a few too many mental errors and inaccurate throws, I’m not sure that was accomplished.

LaMark Brown – Brown had another pass go through his hands and into the arms of a defender, the second time that has happened this preaseason. While Brown has excellent athletic potential as a tight end and H-back, it does not appear he’s ready for prime time. The Falcons probably need to be scouring the waiver wire for their third tight end.

Charles Mitchell – I think Mitchell was probably the safest of the three backup safeties going into the Jaguar game, but now I’m not so sure. He missed a couple of tackles, two of which directly resulted in Jaguars touchdowns. Mitchell has a potentially bright future on special teams, so I think he’ll still make it. But the race is tighter than it was 24 hours ago.

Falcon Players to Watch Tonight vs. Jaguars

August 30th, 2012 Comments off

The Falcons are expected to give some of the starters some work tonight. The new CBA and league-mandated rules limiting contact in practices likely is the main cause of this. Guys just aren’t getting as many reps as before to get ready for the regular season. The fourth preseason game used to be one where none of the starters played except perhaps a series or so. But nowadays, you can expect teams to give their starters a couple of series if not a full quarter of play. The Jaguars are planning on playing their starters for the entire first quarter. I would not expect the Falcons to do the same, but I do think we’ll see many of them get work.

My hope for Mike Smith is certain “essential” players will be rested. Matt Ryan doesn’t need to play tonight, along with a few others of our key offensive playmakers. We’ll see how he plays it.

QB Dominique Davis – Part of me wants some of the offensive starters to get reps tonight, but with Davis lining up under center. I believe the Falcons will give Davis most if not all of the snaps under center tonight. Davis has worked almost exclusively with the third string performers on offense, and allowing him to work with several of the players higher on the depth chart will be an excellent gauge as to whether he’s ready to be the team’s No. 2 quarterback this year. This is the main reason to keep an eye on Davis tonight. He has played well throughout the preseason. But another strong performance with some of the second team players could be enough to catapult him into the role of primary backup. It’s possible with a strong enough performance, that Davis can inspire enough confidence that this team doesn’t even keep Luke McCown.

RB Dimitri Nance – Nance needs a strong performance tonight to stick on this roster. He has run well this summer, but he’s working behind Antone Smith on the depth chart. Smith is the superior special teams player and has also had a strong summer. But Nance is not only fighting for his hopes of making the Falcons roster, but a strong performance tonight certainly could get him looks from other teams.

FB Lousaka Polite – It’ll be interesting to see how the Falcons handle their fullback rotation giving questions on how much the starters will play. Polite has seen increased reps with the starters since joining the team, and if he can showcase his trademark power tonight and help the runners have a big night, he could take the job from Mike Cox.

WR Kevin Cone/D.J. Davis – If the Falcons choose to sit both Roddy White and Julio Jones, that could mean that Cone and/or Davis could be elevated to the starting positions potentially depending on the health and availability of Kerry Meier. Among the group of wide receivers competing for the fifth spot on the depth chart, these two are the two most prominent. That fifth spot will more than likely go to the player the team likes the most on special teams (likely Davis), but a strong offensive showing from Cone could also force them to shift their thinking.

OG Peter Konz – The battle at right guard is not complete, and I believe the Falcons are really hoping for a strong outing by Konz in order to make the final decision easier for them. I think they want Konz to have the job, but he’s not going to be given that opportunity, he has to earn it. A good game against the Jaguars could be what does it.

OT Lamar Holmes – It will be Holmes second outing, and it’s possible if not probable that he could be asked to play every snap. I think Holmes is still working himself back into playing shape due to all the missed time this off-season, and those extended reps could do a lot to help him. It would be smart of the Falcons to also try and get him some reps at right tackle as well, since he’s likely to be the team’s swing tackle this year.

DT Micanor Regis – I think Regis is on the outside looking in as far as a roster spot goes, but I think has done more than enough to land a practice squad role with the Falcons. But another strong outing could make the Falcons decision that much harder. Ultimately it could lead to them keeping five defensive tackles, or possibly cutting a veteran like Vance Walker.

LB Akeem Dent – If any of the Falcons projected 22 starters needs reps, none of them need them moreso than Dent. Dent has had his ups and downs this summer, and needs to have a few more ups tonight against Jacksonville. Of the 11 projected starters on the defense, Dent is the only one where questions remain to exactly what the team has in him. Getting him more work in the nickel subpackage should also benefit his prep for the regular season. It might not even be about Dent having a good game, it’s probably just more about getting him as many reps as possible to get him ready.

S Chris Hope/Shann Schillinger/Charles Mitchell – All three players are potentially on the roster bubble, since according to my calculations, I’m not sure the Falcons can afford to keep five safeties this year. I think Mitchell is probably the safest of the trio, but Hope and Schillinger could be competing directly for a single roster spot. If any one or two of them emerge tonight, it could be what solidifies their hold on the team.

Roster Talk: Defense

August 28th, 2012 Comments off
Fernando Medina-US PRESSWIRE

Is Schillinger on the bubble?

Earlier, I broke down many of the position battles and how the roster could break on the offense. Now I’m going to turn my attention to the defense which seems to have a lot less question marks.

Most of the roster spots seem relatively sewn up, but the last few spots at each position group still seem to be up in the air. And guys will have one last opportunity on Thursday night in Jacksonville to showcase their skills to make one last pitch for the roster and/or practice squad.

Defensive End

The Falcons have kept five defensive ends each of the past few years, but I think this year they will possibly keep a sixth. Keeping five has been their M.O. mainly because they had a young developing prospect that they didn’t trust would clear waivers to make the practice squad due to the league’s premium on pass rushers. In 2009 and 2010, it was Lawrence Sidbury that filled that role, and a year ago it was Cliff Matthews’ turn. As evidenced by Sidbury in 2010 and Matthews last year, whoever that player is rarely gets a chance to play on defense. Thus that would make keeping six seem like extravagance, since now you have two guys that are spending most Sundays inactive. But I think the battle between Jonathan Massaquoi and Matthews has been that close, that I don’t think the team wants to part with either. Massaquoi’s potential as a pass rusher probably means he’ll be higher on the depth chart than Matthews if push came to shove. But Matthews has played well this summer and played consistently with a high motor. So high in fact that you could make the argument he has the best motor of any of the ends on the team. And that’s not the type of player I could see the Falcons cutting when it comes down to it. Matthews still remains eligible for a practice squad spot, but if any team pops in tape of the Falcons previous three preseason games, one of the 31 other teams is certainly going to be impressed enough to snatch him up similar to how the Browns pounced on Emmanuel Stephens last year.

Best Guess for Final 53: Abraham, Edwards, Biermann, Sidbury, Massaquoi, Matthews

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Camp Battles 2012: Secondary

July 19th, 2012 Comments off
Bob Donnan-US PRESSWIRE

Dunta Robinson

One of the most interesting battles that will come in training camp this summer will occur in the secondary, as the Falcons look to shuffle their depth at cornerback.

With the addition of Asante Samuel joining Dunta Robinson and Brent Grimes, the Falcons are now three-deep at the cornerback position, and intend to take full advantage of that this season. The nickel package is expected to often be utilized as the Falcons base package with the intent of getting the best 11 defenders on the field at the same time.

But what needs to occur first in camp, is which of the three players will emerge as the two everydown players. Two of the players will play virtually every snap on defense, with the third nickel corner subbing in on passing situations. That third corner will play the majority of snaps on defense overall, but it won’t be every snap. Last year when Grimes was healthy, he and Robinson averaged about 63 snaps per game as starters, while the nickel corner was on the field (a combo of Kelvin Hayden, Dominique Franks, and Chris Owens) for about 36 snaps per game. The latter number is likely to increase, potentially to as high as 45-50 snaps per game.

Robinson and Grimes are the incumbents, and as such got most of the first team reps during the off-season. That means that Samuel will be coming off the bench as the nickel corner. If that remains the case into the season, then in those nickel situations Samuel will play on the outside across from Grimes with Robinson moving inside to the slot corner spot. This is arguably the best usage of the three players since among the three Samuel is the weakest in run support and thus limiting his first and second down reps could streamline his usage. But at the same time, Samuel is also the best playmaker of the group, and thus it would make sense to maximize that ability by putting him on the field as much as possible. Robinson on the other hand is the least likely to make plays in coverage, and while his strength has historically been run support, that was an area where he struggled throughout the 2011 season. He’ll need to show the coaching staff this summer that 2011 was an aberration, and his former toughness against the run has returned.

Franks, Owens, and Darrin Walls will be competing for the opportunity to be the first player off the bench in the event of an injury. Franks is the most likely of the group to win the job. He had his share of moments last year as an injury replacement for Grimes down the stretch. While Franks is not well-suited to playing in the slot, he does have a solid skillset that can make him a potentially effective starter on the outside. And given the looming contract issues that both Robinson and Grimes face in the future, the team may want to groom Franks as a potential replacement come 2013.

The addition of Samuel to the roster means that the Falcons could be parting ways with either Owens or Walls. Walls shined last summer but in the face of minimal competition due to the fact that he was competing with other undrafted free agents. He won’t have such a luxury this year, as he’ll likely be going directly up against Owens for the fifth and likely final cornerback slot. Owens has struggled throughout the years when lined up in the slot, but when he’s been an outside corner as a rookie and late last year, he has been a solid reserve. That experience and versatility coupled with Owens being one of the team’s better producers on special teams should give him an edge to win the job. But it’s no slam dunk. Owens is entering the final year of his contract, and while Walls is probably never going to be a better player than Owens in the long run, the fact that Walls is two years younger and cheaper could give him a slight edge in the competition. The key for Walls is showing that he can also be a very good special teams player. The positive for Walls is that he remains eligible for the practice squad, so it’s possible they could keep both.

There will be added competition at cornerback this summer. The team picked up Robert McClain in the off-season as well as adding undrafted free agents Marty Markett and Peyton Thompson. McClain was a solid special teams player as a rookie in 2010 with the Panthers. And Markett is a track guy from South Carolina that could potentially be an excellent gunner. Thompson has solid cover skills and the sort of toughness that could also make him a capable special teams player. Because of their potential to impact on special teams, all three players have a legit chance of making the roster.

At safety, the starters are settled with Thomas DeCoud at free safety and William Moore at strong safety. The team made a good decision to upgrade their depth by signing veteran Chris Hope. Hope will be the primary backup at strong safety, but he also posseses the experience to fit nicely as the team’s top backup at free safety as well. All three players have firm holds on their roster spots.

The key competition at safety will come for who wins the fourth safety spot. Shann Schillinger will compete with rookie draft pick Charles Mitchell, along with undrafted rookies Chad Faulcon and former practice squad player Suaesi Tuimaunei. Schillinger is one of the team’s top special teams players, which gives him an edge in the competition. But the team likes Mitchell and his skillset should also translate well to producing on special teams. Mitchell is not a great cover guy, but is an ace run defender despite being undersized. Schillinger has not shown a lot on defense the past two summers but he’s a free safety while Mitchell is a pure strong safety. And since Hope is primarily a strong safety, that also gives Schillinger the potential nod. The Falcons may opt to keep five safeties particularly if Schillinger manages to win the job, but Mitchell may also be destined for the practice squad at least early in the year. As for Faulcon and Tuimaunei, they are likely competing for practice squad spots, but will be hard-pressed to do so especially if the Falcons manage to keep five safeties. Their best chances will be impacting on special teams.

Falcons add Hope to secondary

June 29th, 2012 Comments off
Brett Davis-US PRESSWIRE

Chris Hope

The team announced the signing of veteran safety Chris Hope, formerly of the Tennessee Titans today. The team made room for hope on the roster by waiving undrafted rookie wideout Cody Pearcy yesterday.

Hope is a ten-year veteran that has spent the past six with the Titans. In that span, he recorded 16 interceptions, 34 pass breakups, 4 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles as the Titans starting strong safety. Hope earned Pro Bowl honors in 2008 with the Titans, where he finished with 78 tackles and 4 interceptions. In 2011, Hope was slowed by injuries. He began the season nursing a bum shoulder, missing two games. In his second start of the year, he broke his arm and missed the next four contests. He returned in Week 10 as a reserve. He managed to end the year with 25 tackles and an interception in 10 appearances. Prior to joining the Titans, Hope played with the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he started two out of his four total seasons in Pittsburgh. In Pittsburgh, Hope was the starter at free safety, playing alongside Troy Polamalu. Originally, a third round pick out of Florida State in 2002. Hope has been noted throughout his career for his leadership skills. He’ll likely supplant both Shann Schillinger and Charles Mitchell as the team’s top safety reserve and his experience at either safety spot means that he can fill in the event of injury to either starters there.

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