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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.

Read more…

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 30 “Norv Turner’s Neck Meat”

June 15th, 2013 Comments off

This week, Allen and I are joined by Rashad James to talk about the latest happenings with the Falcons. Those include discussion of changes to the right side of the line and whether it will work in the Falcons favor … Addressing the depth and rotation at defensive end and which players might step up opposite Osi Umenyiora to help the Falcons pass rush … Concern over depth at linebacker and which young players might step up including Pat Schiller and Brian Banks … Falcons depth at safety and whether or not more usage of Mike Nolan’s Big Nickel is on the horizon … Roddy White’s future in Atlanta … Revisiting the Julio Jones trade and other potential options … NFC South Division Race talk … Offseason Grades … Falcons Mount Rushmore … Are the Houston Texans for real?

Ep. 30: Norv Turner’s Neck Meat [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 4 minutes

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

Rashad can be found on twitter: @SaucedUp_Boss

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

Takeaways from Last Week – June 3

June 3rd, 2013 Comments off

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

2013 Could be a Make or Break year for both Dent and Spoon

We’re entering the “dark time” of the NFL calendar where there isn’t a whole lot going on. Teams are conducting minicamps and OTAs and it’s the season of hype. Media members talk up this new free agent or rookie, or that new assistant coach or coordinator, and how it’s going to pay big dividends for their respective team. Sometimes it does, but most times it does not.

Teams have got to sell tickets, and it doesn’t feel right putting down hundreds of your hard-earned dollars for an inferior product. So they have to sell you on how your team’s product is going to be superior and merit that investment. For good teams like the Falcons, that means talking up Super Bowl possibilities. For mid-level teams like say the Panthers, it means talking up playoff potential. For cellar-dwelling teams that are rebuilding like the Raiders, it’s usually about how management has things moving in the right direction.

I apologize for my cynicism, but I can’t help it. For whatever reason, it’s always the month of June where I get the most skeptical, pessimistic, and negative about the upcoming season. Maybe it’s the freshness of the draft starts to wear off, and now we sit in this lull waiting for training camp to come around. Maybe it’s just my impatience making me bitter. No different than waiting in an overly long line to get into a store or venue, and beginning to wonder if the product or event is really worth all this fuss. This is why I don’t shop on Black Friday.

I think it’s also because I have a tendency to be contrarian. Not to extreme measures, but if you have a certain viewpoint, I enjoy exploring the opposite viewpoint. I was never on the debate team in high school, but I think I probably would have enjoyed it. You think Player A is going to have a breakout year for B and C reasons, well then I’ll start to think about D and E reasons why you’re wrong.

Speaking of breakout candidates, I’m actually not sure if I can think of many for the Falcons this year. At least no one I’m really confident is poised for a big 2013 season. I’m sure there is going to be a player a lot like Robert McClain, that sort of comes out of nowhere and becomes a key contributor for the team. But I can’t really wager a guess because it really comes from nowhere.

But there are a number of Falcon players that I hope have breakout years and really become big-time contributors in 2013.

Read more…

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 29 “The Ryan Fitzpatrick of Left Tackles”

May 31st, 2013 2 comments

Allen and I are joined by Steve Cohen, another die-hard Falcon fan to talk some of the latest news surrounding the Falcons, including the potential signing of free agent defensive tackle Richard Seymour. We also discuss whether that move and other recent moves signal the Falcons will be moving more towards a 3-4 defense in 2013. We each share our concerns about the battles along the offensive line, and discuss our disappointment with some of the contracts given to some of those blockers recently. We go in-depth on what sort of effect Steven Jackson will have on the Falcons offense and whether or not it could have a huge impact on the outcome of the 2013 season and discuss what if any changes defensively could also make a huge difference. Our conversation then swings towards whether the Falcons are now the top team in the NFC in the wake of Michael Crabtree’s injury, and give our thoughts on what other teams in the conference could be contenders this year. Of course no FalcFans podcast can go without some discussion of Brent Grimes, and the we opine on what was really the reason behind Tyson Clabo’s release. We wrap things up with a discussion on how geography affects our fanhood.

Ep. 29: The Ryan Fitzpatrick of Left Tackles [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 27 minutes

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

Steve can be found on twitter: @SteveInBrooklyn

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

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.

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 28 “2013 Schedule Breakdown” Parts 1 & 2

May 14th, 2013 1 comment

Allen and I take part in another two-part episode in which we go week by week, breaking down the Falcons 2013 schedule. We look at favorable matchups that the Falcons can exploit along with our thoughts on how good the Falcons 2013 opponents will be this upcoming fall. In the first part, we look at the first half of the season culminating in our analysis of the Falcons Week 10 matchup against the Seattle Seahawks. You’ll hear our thoughts on each of the Falcons first nine opponents, as well as insights on how the Falcons defensive line and offensive lines will look in 2013 and odds that the Falcons pick up a veteran free agent such as John Abraham, Richard Seymour, or Karlos Dansby before the summer starts. You’ll also hear our breakdown of how Darrelle Revis stacks up against Julio Jones, and Ron Rivera in comparison to Mike Smith.

In the second part of our schedule breakdown extravanganza, Allen and I take a look at the Falcons final seven opponents beginning in Week 11 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. We talk about how good a year Steven Jackson might have, along with whether or not the Falcons have made enough improvements on defense to handle the New Orleans Saints. You’ll also hear our thoughts on how the division race in the NFC East may shake out as well as some of the other NFC squads that could be wildcard contenders. We cap things off with our insights on how the 2013 season as a whole should play out for the Falcons.

Part 1:

Ep. 28: 2013 Schedule Breakdown Part 1 [Download]

Duration: 51 minutes

Part 2:

Ep. 28: 2013 Schedule Breakdown Part 2 [Download]

Duration: 55 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

Clabo gets dumped

April 4th, 2013 Comments off
Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Tyson Clabo

Agent Chad Speck of Allegiant Athletic Agency tweeted this morning that the Falcons had informed him that they would be releasing his client, offensive tackle Tyson Clabo. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that the move will be designated a post-June 1 release to clear more cap space.

Clabo had three years left on his contract, and was set to count $6.05 million against this year’s salary cap. He received a $4 million signing bonus as part of the five-year deal he signed back in the summer of 2011, as well as a $3 million option bonus that was paid last year. The remaining prorated part of his signing bonus counts $800,000 per season, while the option bonus was prorated over four years at $750,000 per season. Due to the post-June 1 designation, only one-year’s worth of bonus will be accelerated to this year’s cap as dead money, meaning the Falcons will only have to carry $1.55 million and save $4.5 million against the 2013 cap. The remainder of the accelerated unpaid bonus ($3.1 million) will count as dead money towards the 2014 cap next year.

With Clabo departing, 2012 third round pick Lamar Holmes and 2010 third round pick Mike Johnson become the most likely candidates to serve as his successor. Johnson took over for an injured Will Svitek last year as the team’s swing tackle and top reserve at the position. Holmes got limited reps after missing part of the off-season with a foot injury.

Clabo first entered the league in 2004 as an undrafted free agent with the Denver Broncos out of Wake Forest. He spent time on the practice squads of the Broncos, New York Giants, and San Diego Chargers as a rookie. When cut by the Broncos at the outset of the 2005 season, he was added to the Falcons practice squad before making the team outright in 2006. That year, he started 10 games predominantly at right guard as an injury replacement for Kynan Forney. The following season in 2007, he started 11 games at right tackle as an injury replacement for Todd Weiner. He would land the full-time starting right tackle gig in 2008 with the arrival of Mike Smith, as Weiner moved to fill in at left tackle. Since 2008, Clabo has not missed a game at the position in five seasons. Dating back to 2007, he has made 91 consecutive starts at the position. In 2010, his performance led to him being voted to the Pro Bowl as an injury replacement.

Categories: News Tags: , , , ,