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Posts Tagged ‘Mike Johnson’

Training Camp: Day 11 Report

August 7th, 2013 Comments off

Yesterday the Falcons held the second of two joint practice sessions with the Cincinnati Bengals in preparation for Thursday night’s preseason opener against the team in the Georgia Dome. Here are the buzz generated from yesterday’s camp session:

The notable news from yesterday was the injury to tackle Mike Johnson at the start of practice as he suffered a dislocated ankle and broken left leg, likely ending his season. The Falcons began working Lamar Holmes and then Ryan Schraeder into the lineup.

Grits Blitz points out that two observers in CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco and FOX Sports’ Alex Marvez were praising of Schraeder, who has impressed nearly all observers thus far in camp.

Fox Sports’ John Manasso discusses some of the concerns facing the Falcons front now that Johnson is injured. While D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC discusses some of the potential options on the free agent market that the Falcons could face, as well as giving up an update on the team’s cap space.

Despite news that wide receiver Julio Jones will miss the preseason opener, it does appear that the injury he has is a minor one as he was still working during practice yesterday.

The time table of Sean Weatherspoon’s return from injury isn’t quite know, but he’s likely to be out a couple of weeks per Mike Smith via Jay Adams. Weatherspoon suffered a badly dislocated finger on Monday and was held out of Tuesday’s practices. Editor’s Note: It should be noted that during his tenure as Falcons head coach Smith has consistently underestimated the time tables for players’ returns. So a couple of weeks could easily translate into Spoon missing the entire preseason if that trend continues.

Mike Johnson goes down with leg injury

August 6th, 2013 Comments off

Reports indicate Falcons right tackle suffered what was termed a serious injury to his left leg today during practice this afternoon. The exact nature of the injury is unknown as of yet, although John Manasso tweeted that it appears to be a broken leg. Johnson was carted off the field and taken away from practice in an ambulance.

Johnson was atop the Falcons depth chart at right tackle, and appeared to be winning the battle between himself and Lamar Holmes for the starting position there. Johnson has suffered many setbacks during his four years in Atlanta due to injuries. He suffered a concussion early in training camp in 2011, prompting him to miss time and lose the competition at right guard with Garrett Reynolds. He then suffered an injury later that year and wound up on injured reserve a week prior to when the Falcons made the switch from Reynolds to Joe Hawley at the position. Last summer, with the injury to Will Svitek, he was moved to backup right tackle where he settled in nicely as the team’s sixth blocker and extra tight end.

UPDATE: D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC reports that Johnson suffered a dislocated ankle and fractured left fibula. He is scheduled to have surgery next week. It is unknown if this will end Johnson’s 2013 season, although he is likely to land on the injured reserve. However, league rules allow teams to designate one player that is placed on the IR eligible to return following Week 8 of the season.

Categories: News Tags: , ,

Takeaways from Last Week – August 5

August 5th, 2013 Comments off
David Kohl-US PRESSWIRE

Carlos Dunlap

Today the Falcons begin their joint practice sessions with the Cincinnati Bengals as they prepare for their preseason opener against them on Thursday night. Two days of practice, which all of the players look forward to because it’s nice to hit someone that is not your teammate. One of the more interesting developments that could come from this session will be if any fights occur. I could be mistaken but generally speaking it seems like the number of training camp fights is a lot lower with Mike Smith than previous regimes.

One of the drawbacks for these two days of joint practices will be the absence of Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green. Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford have both taken their fair share of lumps from Roddy White and Julio Jones through the first week-plus of training camp, and it would be nice to see them go against another top wideout. Green injured his knee last week, and is expected to be held out by the Bengals for this first week of preseason if not the next week. He is by far their primary offensive weapon, and they don’t want to risk further injury to him.

If there was another matchup that I’d be curious to see is how right tackles Mike Johnson and Lamar Holmes handle standout Bengals left defensive end Carlos Dunlap. Dunlap is one of the premier situational pass rushers in the league. So much so that he just earned a $40 million contract, despite the fact that he’s only technically started two games in three seasons in Cincinnati. We won’t know how much work either party will see in Thursday’s game, so how they fare in practice against a premier pass rusher like Dunlap could determine a lot about how much confidence the team has in either player. It’s probably too late for the Falcons to try and make a move in free agency to bolster the position if they don’t like what they see this week. But it could go a long way to determining just how the Falcons handle their protections this year. Most NFL teams tend to roll their protections to the left side in order to protect the blindside of the quarterback, with the Falcons being among those teams. But given all the question marks that the Falcons could have on the right side with a pair of unproven starters in Garrett Reynolds at right guard, and either Johnson or Holmes at tackle, the Falcons might have to do the opposite. Given the Falcons have invested nearly $80 million in the left side of their offensive line, it would only make sense then that they should feel comfortable enough with them to put them more on an island.

Another fascinating development will be getting to see these joint practices and the upcoming preseason game portrayed on HBO’s series Hard Knocks. The cameras are enveloping Bengals training camp for the second time in the series’ history. The Falcons have indicated that they are interested in the show in the past, but have said that the timing wasn’t right. Personally, I believe the Falcons want to be on Hard Knocks. Arthur Blank very much strikes me as the type of owner that would be very open to the idea of millions of viewers seeing the greatness that is the organization he’s built in Atlanta. But they also don’t want to deal with the potential for distractions it creates. I think they are waiting until after they win a title before we’ll see the NFL Films crew descend upon Flowery Branch. But until then, we’ll just have to settle for the taste we’ll likely receive in the second episode, which will air next Tuesday.

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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 32 “They’re Gonna Run It Up the Middle!”

July 17th, 2013 5 comments

Allen and I are joined this week by Matt Chambers of Grits Blitz blog to discuss the NFC South in depth. We discuss each of the Falcons three NFC South opponents: New Orleans, Tampa Bay, and Carolina and what are our expectations for each team in 2013, and whether or not they will present a significant challenge to the Falcons in their bid for a title this year. Discussions also veer towards the competition at cornerback and whether Dominique Franks should be written off … How much confidence folks should have in the Falcons offensive line, including Sam Baker and Mike Johnson … Matt Bryant and the Falcons kickers of the recent past … What interviewing Michael Vick might be like … Chris Weinke, Pierre Thomas, and a host of other past Falcon killers. WARNING: This episode contains some EXPLICIT language.

Ep. 32: They’re Gonna Run It Up the Middle! [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 11 minutes

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

Matt Chambers can be found on twitter: @FalconsM5, and also writes for Grits Blitz blog.

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

Ranking the Falcons: No. 22 Mike Johnson

July 17th, 2013 Comments off
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Mike Johnson

Ranking 22nd on the Falcons is offensive lineman Mike Johnson. Click here to read about the scoring system used to provide these rankings.

Total Score: 50

Player Grade: 50 out of 100
Teams he could start for: 10 out of 32
Teams he is best position player: 0 out of 32
Teams he could find role on: 28 out of 32
Peak-Year Bonus: +3
Positional Bonus: +3

Mike Johnson earns the highest ranking of the Falcons untested linemen that aren’t named Baker, Blalock, or Konz. Part of that is because of my initial belief that Johnson was a highly talented guard prospect coming out of Alabama. Johnson hasn’t exactly proven that yet in his three years in Atlanta. Injuries have been partially a reason why. He nearly unseated Garrett Reynolds in a camp competition in 2011, but injuries prevented Johnson from getting the necessary reps to supplant Reynolds.

Another reason is versatility. After manning the left guard position behind Justin Blalock as a rookie, Johnson moved to right guard in 2011. Then in 2012, he moved to right tackle as the primary reserve behind Tyson Clabo. During last season, Johnson served as the team’s sixth lineman functioning as a tight end and produced in that role. Essentially the only position that he hasn’t played extensively at is center after working some at left tackle in Atlanta and Alabama.

That is what helps him in his ranking, allowing him to potentially start on as many as ten other NFL teams. For some that would be at right tackle and for others potentially at guard. It also means that Johnson could find a role on the vast majority of NFL teams, albeit mainly as a backup at swing tackle or guard.

Johnson will be facing competition this summer from Lamar Holmes at right tackle. But he’ll have the opportunity for the first time in his career to be the front-runner for a starting position. If history repeats itself, then it likely means he’ll emerge as the winner of the battle. If so, and he is able to turn that into a productive year as a starter, he’ll have a chance to earn a long-term contract from Atlanta next off-season when he is due to hit free agency. Where the Falcons see his long-term prospects remains to be seen. The Falcons are going to want to get Holmes an opportunity to start eventually, which means that even if Johnson plays well at tackle this year, his future may still lie inside at guard where he could compete with Reynolds in 2014.

Johnson could compete with Reynolds this summer, although that seems like a longshot barring an early setback at right tackle. Johnson doesn’t have the natural feet of a polished tackle, but he’s shown definite improvement in that area over the past few summers. That was a similar criticism levied at Clabo over the years, as many felt that he was a more natural guard. But Clabo solidified the Falcons right tackle spot for six seasons despite that perceived shortcoming. Like Clabo, Johnson isn’t overly powerful although he ranks better in that arena that many of his Falcon counterparts. The key for him in 2013 will be adding that “plus” ability as a run blocker but also not being a liability in pass protection. It remains to be seen if he protects Matt Ryan from players like Charles Johnson, Cameron Wake, Ahmad Brooks, and Clay Matthews better than Clabo has in the past. And unfortunately for Johnson, he’ll have little room for error as Holmes will be looking over his shoulder.

Categories: Features Tags: , , ,

Camp Battles 2013: Interior Offensive Line

July 17th, 2013 Comments off
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Garrett Reynolds and Peter Konz get reps together

Certainly one position along the interior of the offensive line is set in stone, and that is the left guard position where Justin Blalock is expected to start his seventh consecutive year at the position.

More than likely another position will be won by 2012 second round pick Peter Konz. He is expected to start at center after spending the latter half of his rookie season playing right guard. Konz struggled in that role, serving as the weakest link among the team’s starting five. But he finished the year with solid efforts in both playoff games, suggesting that improvements were made.

His presence at the pivot likely pushes Joe Hawley out of the mix to start. Hawley was initally drafted in 2010 as the heir apparent to long-time Falcon center Todd McClure, who retired this past offseason. But with Konz’s selection at the top of last year’s draft, it led to Hawley likely being viewed more as a backup after a rocky year as the starting right guard in 2011.

Hawley could again push for time at right guard however where Garrett Reynolds is the current incumbent. Reynolds has started at right guard each of the past two seasons on opening day, but poor play in 2011 led to his being benched in favor of Hawley. And last year, injuries led to the insertion of Konz into the starting lineup. Reynolds hopes that in 2012 he can not only win the starting job again, but also retain it throughout the remainder of the season. Reynolds showed improvement in 2012 after a disappointingly brief 2011 campaign. While Reynolds is probably ideally a backup, he showed last year that he can be an effective starter if need be.

Another player that could possibly mix into the battle here is tackle Mike Johnson, who many including myself feel is a more natural fit at guard than tackle. But he’s competing with Lamar Holmes for the starting spot at right tackle, and it’s doubtful that at this point he’ll get a long look inside.

The Falcons will likely try and keep at least eight offensive linemen, which will include the five currently projected starters, the loser of the right tackle battle between Johnson and Holmes, and Hawley. The eighth spot will most likely go to another interior player, someone that can play guard.

The incumbent would be considered Phillipkeith Manley, who surprised many with a strong summer last year as an undrafted rookie and made the Falcons final 53. There have been rumors of his weight ballooning this off-season, which if true could open the door for other players to take his spot. The top candidate would then likely be Jacques McClendon, who spent last year on the team’s practice squad. McClendon has added to his value by getting off-season work at center as well. Both guards have good size and strength that is a much more natural fit to fill as a reserve there than the undersized Hawley.

Also in the mix will be fellow practice squad player Harland Gunn. Gunn has experience both at guard and center from his days with the Dallas Cowboys last summer. Undrafted center Matt Smith and guard Theo Goins will also be in the mix, but both players are longshots to make the final roster. Instead, both are more likely to make the practice squad if they prove to play well this summer.

Camp Battles 2013: Offensive Tackle

July 16th, 2013 Comments off
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Mike Johnson has his best shot at starting this summer

One of the few major battles that is expected to occur in the starting lineup this summer will come at right tackle. All offseason long, the Falcons have worked fourth-year man Mike Johnson as the starting right tackle. He’ll be pushed by second-year Lamar Holmes for the starting position.

Over the past few years with the few battles that have occurred along the offensive line, the player that starts camp as the starter has ended camp as the starter. It will be interesting to see if that remains the case again this year. When the Falcons released long-time incumbent Tyson Clabo, the expectation was that Holmes would be the top candidate to replace him. But the Falcons started OTAs with Johnson atop the depth chart.

Holmes is the stronger of the pair and the more athletic, but Johnson is a bit more polished. Holmes was considered a long-term project by myself when he was drafted a year ago, a player that likely needed more than a year before he could be asked to start effectively. His long-term value is clearly better than Johnson’s going forward, who many feel is a better and more natural fit inside at guard. Johnson was originally drafted as insurance at the guard position in 2010 when both Justin Blalock and Harvey Dahl were entering their contract years.

Meanwhile, Holmes was insurance last year in case Sam Baker continued to struggle at left tackle. Baker came out and had arguably his best season in 2012, remaining healthy and being the Falcons most consistent blocker up front. Baker answered many of the questions about his ability with a strong effort against Aldon Smith in the NFC Championship game, earning himself a brand new, expensive market-value contract.

Baker won’t be looking over his shoulder at the competition this summer. Instead all of the focus will be who will win the starting right tackle position. The loser will likely serve as the team’s swing tackle. But the possibility that Holmes wins the job, could mean that Johnson could be moved inside to guard where he could compete for the starting job at right guard. But more than likely that will be Garrett Reynolds’ job to lose, and unless he struggles this summer he’s in prime position to open the season for the third year in the row atop the depth chart.

Another key battle will likely occur for the backup position behind Baker, where undrafted rookies Terren Jones and Ryan Schraeder are potentially competing for a roster spot. Given that Johnson is a more adept option at right tackle as opposed to being a player that can ideally play either spot, if Holmes wins the starting job, it increases the odds that the Falcons keep one of the young tackles to fill out their depth chart. The Falcons probably only have to keep eight blockers up front, but traditionally carry nine of the roster. The five starters, the loser of the Holmes-Johnson battle, center Joe Hawley, and one of the reserve guards make eight. That leaves the ninth possible position likely to be one of the tackles. Both Jones and Schraeder offer good size and run blocking ability. The Falcons will hope that one emerges amidst the battle to offer himself as a potential long-term developmental backup along the same veins that Jose Valdez was in Atlanta years ago.

Third-string right tackle Alec Savoie will also be in the mix as a strong summer likely could earn him a backup spot as well. The Falcons likely will feature all three rookies working with the second team unit, and probably try and cross-train them to play on either side of the line. Whichever of the three opens the preseason working with the second unit across from Holmes will be a strong indicator at which has the best odds of making the roster as the ninth lineman.

Ranking the Falcons: No. 27 Lamar Holmes

July 15th, 2013 Comments off
Dale Zanine-US PRESSWIRE

Lamar Holmes

Let’s check out the 27th-ranked player in offensive tackle Lamar Holmes. Click here to try and get a handle on the scoring system.

Total Score: 45

Player Grade: 48 out of 100
Teams he could start for: 5 out of 32
Teams he is best position player: 0 out of 32
Teams he could find role on: 23 out of 32
Peak-Year Bonus: +4
Positional Bonus: +3

The Falcons see Holmes as the future at right tackle, although he’s currently embroiled in a battle with Mike Johnson for the starting spot here in Atlanta. History suggests that the player that enters camp as the starter will emerge from camp as the starter. That has been the case every year under Mike Smith when there has been a camp competition. The only possible exception would be Sam Baker “unseating” Quinn Ojinnaka during the 2008 camp. But that’s a stretch considering I don’t think the Falcons at any point that off-season or summer really thought Ojinnaka was a legit candidate to win the starting job. He was merely a placeholder until Baker was ready.

I thought Holmes was fairly raw when we drafted him a year ago. He looked to be the type of tackle that is normally taken in the fifth or sixth round because while he possesses starting potential, it’s probably going to take him the better part of three years before he can reach it. And typically, when it comes to players taken in the third round and earlier, you want that player starting and producing by the end of his second season at the latest. That is still a possibility with Holmes, but again if he doesn’t beat out Johnson this summer and spends another year as the swing tackle just affirms my post-draft assessment that the Falcons reached on him. But that reach doesn’t mean that he can’t eventually develop into a very good player for the team in 2014 and beyond. While Johnson might win the starting spot, his play this year will determine whether he gets a long-term deal after the season or not. If he doesn’t earn one, then the right tackle spot will certainly be Holmes’ job to lose come next season. And basically then Holmes will have two years to prove he’s worthy of a long-term deal in the hopes that he becomes the next Tyson Clabo or Todd Weiner-esque fixture at the spot.

Despite having only really played in one NFL game, Holmes ranks fairly high on the Falcons thanks in part to the fact that there are several weak right tackles in the league. And I believe Holmes despite his rawness could probably start for a number of NFL teams today, simply because he has more upside than some of these other starting right tackles. Holmes is also helped by the fact that he could easily be a swing tackle on the majority of NFL teams.

He possesses good size and athleticism for a man as big as he is. He’s much lighter on his feet that you’d expect at first glance. The key for Holmes is developing more power and explosiveness in his game. He was very lumbering and slow in his movements last summer. In his lone action last year in mop-up duty against the Giants, he appeared much quicker and explosive. That gives me hope that he’s improved in that regard. Size is an asset in the NFL, but if you cannot combine it with quickness, explosiveness, and power as an offensive lineman, then it really doesn’t count for much. Let’s hope this summer we see all of those things in Holmes’ game. If so, then he stands an excellent shot at breaking from history and being the first to win a starting spot outright upfront.

Categories: Features Tags: , ,

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 31 “Thank God for Jake Delhomme”

July 2nd, 2013 6 comments

This week, Allen and I are once again joined by Tom Melton to discuss some of the upcoming roster and depth chart battles we expect to see in Atlanta Falcons training camp. We break down the battle along the right side of the offensive line as well as what could shake up with the battle for key depth positions at quarterback and tight end … We look at every level of the defense as battles rage at all the position groups. Tom weighs in on how Richard Seymour could help the Falcons … We discuss the depth at linebacker along with what if any of the young players could step up to help the Falcons pass rush … We dive into whether or not this year’s defensive line will live up to some past units and whether Falcon fans have been spoiled by past success up front … It wouldn’t be a Tom Melton episode without some patented Dunta Robinson bashing … We discuss their favorite young punter in the NFL and his name isn’t Matt Bosher … We discuss whether the loss of Tyson Clabo or John Abraham will hurt the team more and then reminisce on some of our favorite Predator moments over the years … Peter Konz’s future is discussed as well as Justin Blalock’s tuba playing … Jason Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers’ values are also discussed. Note: This episode does contain explicit language, so it is NSFW!

Ep. 31: Thank God for Jake Delhomme [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 3 minutes

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

Tom Melton can be found on twitter: @TMeltonScouting, and also writes for his own draft blog and NFL Draft Monsters.

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

Could Eric Winston Help Falcons?

June 27th, 2013 Comments off
Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Eric Winston

It’s a question that has been raised by AJC columnist Jeff Schultz in his musing about which available free agents could come in and help the Falcons. The simple answer is yes, offensive tackle Eric Winston can help the Falcons. He is one of the premier right tackles in the league, but for whatever reason hasn’t been able to stick in his last two stops in Kansas City and Houston despite solid production.

Winston is basically a similar player to Tyson Clabo. Not a guy that is an overpowering player, but has good size, strength, and knows how to use leverage. He is also very adept in the zone-blocking scheme, consistently able to get downfield and hit his assignments, which has helped spring backs like Jamaal Charles and Arian Foster to generate big runs on the second level. Winston turns 30 in November, making slightly less than two years younger than Clabo, who the Falcons cut in early April.

Schultz discussed the possibility of defensive end John Abraham’s return to Atlanta in the same article. But in truth, while a pass rusher of Abraham’s skill would certainly help the Falcons in that arena, it would be done so with sacrificing development of younger players. It’s true that none of the Falcons young pass rushers that Abe would likely supplant, such as Cliff Matthews or Stansly Maponga, are likely to become as skilled as he is, even at his relatively ancient age of 35. But the Falcons won’t do it as Schultz notes because it would mean less snaps for players like Matthews, Maponga, as well as Jonathan Massaquoi and Malliciah Goodman, who many believe do have significant upside worth developing. The Falcons just don’t appear interested in investing the money it would take to keep Abraham for what is essentially a one-year solution.

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