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Training Camp: Day 4 Report

July 29th, 2013 Comments off

The Falcons held their first padded practice of training camp on Sunday. Here are some of the main bullet points from observers:

  • Rookie defensive end Stansly Maponga was cleared to return to team drills today, and showcased some athleticism indicating that he appears to be 100% recovered from off-season foot surgery that forced him to sit out OTAs and only get work in individual drills the first few days of camp.


  • Desmond Trufant is getting work at right cornerback as expected, but also working inside in the slot at the nickel spot. Yesterday, Daniel Cox noted Trufant’s growing confidence which seemed to be echoed in the following comments from the young cornerback:

    “I’m a young player. It’s my first camp. I’m going to make some mistakes, but I’ve got to move on. You’ve got to take the hard coaching and never take (anything) personal because they are just trying to get me better.”

  • Check out Daniel Cox’s five daily observations from the fourth day of camp.
  • Here’s the transcript from the post-practice interviews conducted by Mike Smith and Roddy White.
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Training Camp: Day 1 Report

July 26th, 2013 Comments off

Besides the contract extension signed by quarterback Matt Ryan, here is a look at some of the top stories that developed from the first day of the Atlanta Falcons 2013 training camp:

  • It appears that tight end Tony Gonzalez will be given some time off in the coming days and weeks of camp. Falcons head coach Mike Smith did not specify when Gonzalez will take time off and it remains to be seen how much action Gonzalez will get in preseason games. Gonzalez had this to say (h/t to the AJC for the transcript):

    Right now, I’m here. I’m planning on being here tomorrow but there are some prior obligations I made to my family, more specifically my son Nikko, last year. I made these obligations to them last year because I was planning to retire. I wasn’t joking about that all year last year. Those responsibilities are coming up and will be here pretty soon so I’ll probably head back and hang out with him and do what I told him I was going to do. Then I’ll be back and join the team early. I’m not going to be showing up a week before the game, I’ll be here a lot earlier than that, but I’ll be ready to go, too. You can bet the house on that. This isn’t something that is going to go into the regular season.

  • Falcons rookie defensive end Stansly Maponga has been cleared for individual drills, but will be held out from team drills for the first few days of camp per Smith. Maponga is recently returned from off-season foot surgery that kept him out of OTAs.
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Camp Battles 2013: Defensive End

July 18th, 2013 Comments off
Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

Jonathan Massaquoi’s growth could make a difference in 2013

The Falcons appear to be set with their two starters at the defensive end position. Free agent pickup Osi Umenyiora will draw the tall order of replacing one of the team’s all-time best in John Abraham at right defensive end. Kroy Biermann will once again fill in as the team’s left defensive end.

But the rest of the position will feature heavy competition as a number of young players compete not for starting spots, but for placement and reps in the team’s rotation.

The likeliest candidate to serve as the team’s third defensive end will be Jonathan Massaquoi, who enters his second season with the team. He played very little on defense last year, with most of his play coming on special teams. He was very effective there and coupled with his upside as a pass rusher, he’s in no danger to be cut. But the Falcons will look for him to have a good summer as he is the candidate most likely to figure into the Falcons nickel subpackage if/when Umenyiora and Biermann aren’t on the field. The multiple fronts presented by defensive coordinator Mike Nolan could easily feature all three, especially given Biermann’s ability to drop into coverage like a linebacker.

Another player that is assured of making the final roster is 2013 fourth round pick Malliciah Goodman. Goodman’s best shot at earning playing time will more than likely come on run downs in the team’s base package as they look to get more size on the field. While Biermann is a consistent run defender, Umenyiora is not, and it’s likely that Massaquoi won’t be asked to play a major part in that role. Goodman possesses good physical tools to develop long-term into an effective pass rusher, but probably his best chance of earning lots of initial playing time will be proving himself as a run defender.

The past three seasons the Falcons have opted to keep at least five defensive ends on the roster, although last year that number was six until the November release of Ray Edwards. That probably will be the case again with Cliff Matthews and Stansly Maponga rounding out the depth chart. If the Falcons only opt for five on the roster, Matthews is the likelier candidate. Given his ability to help as a run defender, high motor, and value on special teams he has a leg up on Maponga, who missed most of the offseason coming off a leg injury. While Maponga offers better long-term value down the road as a pass rusher, he’s unlikely to offer immediate value to the rotation. If the Falcons do opt to keep six ends on the roster, Maponga will likely be the last and is primed to spend most of the year on the team’s inactive list each Sunday. Not unless he can showcase special teams prowess along the same lines of Matthews and Massaquoi a year ago, and show he’s 100% recovered from his injury. While Maponga isn’t guaranteed to make the team’s 53-man roster, he’s almost certainly a lock to be carried on the team’s practice squad at a minimum.

Two other players that the Falcons will bring to camp but are longshots to make the roster are undrafted rookies Cam Henderson and Brandon Thurmond. Henderson has a solid frame (6-4/260) with good arm length (over 34 inches) that passes the eyeball test when it comes to NFL defensive ends. Thurmond is shorter, squatter player with short arms but had excellent production while at Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Between the two, it really doesn’t matter who looks better in a uniform, it will come down to any production they can produce on the field. If either player can impress with a strong preseason, the Falcons might opt to carry a seventh defensive end on their practice squad.

Trufant returns; Maponga out til training camp

June 11th, 2013 Comments off

Jay Adams of Atlanta Falcons.com reports that Falcons head coach Mike Smith updated the status of three rookies today at the team’s OTA session. Top pick and cornerback Desmond Trufant was able to participate in his first Falcon practice due to the graduation of students at the University of Washington. Tight end Levine Toilolo is expected to join the team tomorrow. Smith also indicated that rookie defensive end Stansly Maponga is expected to be out until training camp, as he recovers from offseason surgery on his broken foot/ankle.

Trufant had been trying to keep up with the team by speaking with defensive backs coach Tim Lewis via Skype due to his absence away from the team due to league rules indicating that rookies can’t join their teams until after their respective schools graduate. Toilolo’s absence has been for similar reasons.

In other injury news, linebackers Stephen Nicholas (sports hernia) and Sean Weatherspoon (knee) appear to be on track to re-join the team for mandatory practices next week. That had been the target date since their injuries were announced.

OTAs: Day 1 Report

May 29th, 2013 Comments off

Technically it’s the second day, but this is the first day that media have been covering things.

  • So the biggest news from the day is that Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez were absent from these these voluntary workouts. So was Desmond Trufant, who is finishing school at the University of Washington. But he’s apparently putting in the extra work by contacting coaches via Skype. Levine Toilolo is also finishing up his schoolwork at Stanford.
  • As reported earlier, linebackers Sean Weatherspoon (knee), Stephen Nicholas (sports hernia), and rookie end Stansly Maponga (foot/ankle) were held out of practices today due to their recoveries from off-season surgeries.
  • The Falcons opened with a brand new starting 5 on their offensive line: LT Sam Baker, LG Justin Blalock, C Peter Konz, RG Garrett Reynolds, and RT Mike Johnson. Lamar Holmes is expected to be in the mix with Johnson at right tackle.
  • The Falcons cut UDFA Deon Goggins. Goggins played DT at Syracuse, but was being converted to fullback in Atlanta.

Weatherspoon, Nicholas to miss start of OTAs

May 24th, 2013 Comments off

D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC reports that linebackers Sean Weatherspoon and Stephen Nicholas will miss the start of Falcons’ organized team activities which begin next Tuesday due to their recoveries from off-season surgeries. Weatherspoon had arthroscopic knee surgery, while Nicholas is recovering from a sports hernia. Both players are expected back by mid-to-late June in time for the team’s mandatory minicamp which begins on June 18.

Ledbetter also reports that a pair of rookies will be limited for the start of OTAs: defensive end Stansly Maponga who is recovering from surgery on his broken foot in March, and quarterback Sean Renfree who suffered a torn pectoral at the end of December both were limited throughout the pre-draft process and off-season.

Scouting Report: Stansly Maponga

May 20th, 2013 Comments off
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Stansly Maponga

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to go back and watch more than one game from Maponga this past season. But I had broken down last year’s bowl game, so I will also factor in my notes from that game as part of this evaluation.

Height: 6-1 7/8
Weight: 251
School: Texas Christian
Class: Junior
Speed: 4.81 (Campus)

Maponga was born in Zimbabwe, but moved to the United States when he was a child. His career path to the NFL mirrors that of Falcons teammate Jonathan Massaquoi. Massaquoi, a native of Liberia came to the U.S. at a young age as well. Massaquoi shined at Troy during his sophomore year, but his production fell off as a junior. But he wound up declaring for the NFL draft and probably not going as high as he initially envisioned (fifth round). Maponga had a strong sophomore campaign, emerging as one of TCU’s top pass rushers with 9 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss. He looked much more pedestrian as a junior, although he was somewhat limited by a broken foot in October. But he only managed 1 sack and 2.5 tackles for loss in the six games prior to the injury. His production actually went up over the final 5 games with 3 sacks and 4 tackles for loss. Maponga opted to declare for the draft. TCU has been a school that has produced a steady line of productive pass rushers at the collegiate level, but not as many have translated well to the pro game in recent years. Jerry Hughes has struggled in Indianapolis since being a top pick, and players like Chase Ortiz, Tommy Blake, and Wayne Daniels are recent players that produced at TCU, but could not translate at all to the NFL level. If Maponga does find success at the next level, he will be the first former Horned Frog since Aaron Schobel (2001-09). Maponga was primarily used as a left defensive end while at TCU, able to exploit the slower feet of many right tackles.

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Falcons announce four draft pick signings

May 17th, 2013 Comments off

Following up on previous report, the Falcons announced the signing of four draft picks today including the previously reported move to get safety Kemal Ishmael under contract. Also signing were Falcons 2013 fourth round pick defensive end Malliciah Goodman, fifth round defensive end Stansly Maponga, and seventh round safety Zeke Motta. That leaves four remaining unsigned draft picks for the Falcons.

All agreed to four-year deals, although exact terms of their contracts were undisclosed. Based on deals signed by players taken in last year’s draft, Goodman’s four-year deal will likely be worth around $2.55 million with a signing bonus under $400,000. Maponga will likely sign a deal worth around $2.35 million with a signing bonus in the area of $190,000. Similar to Ishmael, Motta’s deal should be worth roughly $2.2 million with a signing bonus around $45,000.

Categories: News Tags: , , , ,

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 27 “2013 Draft Recap”

May 11th, 2013 Comments off

On this episode, Allen and I recap the 2013 Draft. We detail what we liked and didn’t like about the Falcons picks, as well as looking around the league at other teams’ picks. You’ll also hear Allen’s insights and recap of his experience at Radio City Music Hall on the opening night of the draft. Dominique Franks’ roster status as well as John Abraham’s chances of returning to the team are also discussed. Robert James earns a new nickname: “Cancer” in this episode, and of course we can’t go an episode without our obligatory Peria Jerry and Ray Edwards bashing.

Ep. 27: 2013 Draft Recap [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 16 minutes

Allen writes for TJRSports.com as well as the Bleacher Report. His twitter handle is: @Allen_Strk.

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

 

Takeaways From Last Week – 2013 NFL Draft

April 29th, 2013 2 comments
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Manti Te’o: “Star” of the Draft

The 2013 NFL Draft was held this past weekend, and as usual it was an intriguing affair. I told my brother, who did not watch one minute of the draft mainly because his wife detests football, that this year’s draft was much like recent NBA Drafts meaning that in future years the 2013 draft class won’t be particularly memorable with its star appeal. Not to say this draft won’t produce good or even great NFL players, because every draft does, at least everyone that I can recall. But as we often heard over the weekend, this was a draft in which the linemen were front and center. Try as they might, ESPN and NFL Network did their best to insert as much “star appeal” as possible by spending as much time as possible talking about this quarterback class and Manti Te’o.

The media desperately wanted to talk about those players, but ultimately I think the quarterbacks and Te’o will be largely forgotten in the NFL. Ultimately the best you’re going to hope from the group of quarterbacks drafted this year is that they produce a Matt Schaub or David Garrard-caliber passer. They may be competent to good starter, but the only time they’ll be really discussed by the media by and large is to talk about how they aren’t great.

Also, it’s not that I doubt Te’o will be a good NFL player, it’s just that his infamous catfishing incident may ultimately eclipse his NFL career. I think Te’o probably winds up playing a decade in the NFL, most of it as a starter. But I think he winds up being comparable to players like Curtis Lofton or Lofa Tatupu, capable starters that their respective team likes, but are rarely mentioned among the best in the league.

I know it’s unrealistic to think that I could turn on league’s flagship channel or the Worldwide Leader in Sports, and expect them to spend hours talking about the greatness of Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher, Dion Jordan, or any of the players at “blue collar” positions. But there were really good players in this draft and none them played quarterback or middle linebacker for Notre Dame, but you wouldn’t know that from watching the television coverage as they never went more than fifteen minutes without mentioning one of those lesser players.

My final comments on the draft before I start to discuss the Falcons picks specifically is that I do think it’s interesting that quarterbacks did not get pushed up the board. I talked about that in an earlier column this off-season. And at that time, it was difficult to fathom that there wouldn’t be any Top 10 selections at the quarterback position. I compared it to the 2011 class, where a number of lesser prospects went high in the draft and ultimately none of those teams are better for it. I still think the passers did get pushed up the board, but not as far as they normally do. So I tip my hat to NFL teams for not reaching too far on subpar passers. We’ll see if this trend continues next April.

But onto the Falcons…

I liked the Falcons draft. It’s not very sexy, nor is it one that I think people will look back and say made a huge impact on the team. But it’s a solid group of players. I think moreso than in recent drafts, the Falcons seemed more intent on looking at players that had higher ceilings. I think a hallmark of some of the Falcons post-2008 drafts has been targetting players with high floors, but relatively low ceilings. I think the opposite happened this year.

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