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Which Falcons could become trade bait?

August 30th, 2012 Comments off

This is the port in the summer where people are talking about trading players, and I just wanted to quickly go over some Falcon players that probably have the most trade value. Obviously, a player like Roddy White would have huge trade value, but the Falcons won’t trade him. I’m looking more at guys that appear to be somewhat expendable and have an outside shot that it could happen if a phone call was made.

Most trades at this point in time involve late round picks and roster bubble players. The Vontae Davis trade withstanding, it’s rare a team will part ways with their top corner who is only in his third year in the league. The normal trade at this point in time is what the Colts did earlier when they acquired Josh Gordy from St. Louis. Most of these trades are for conditional picks, meaning that if said player makes the new team’s roster or plays a certain amount of games in the upcoming season, compensation will be exchanged. If not, then nothing is lost.

I’ll start with Michael Turner, not because I think he’ll be traded or should be traded, but just because in the dark reaches of an alley, there are a few Falcon fans conspiring about it. Turner does not have a ton of trade value. I think it would be possible for the Falcons to get a conditional fifth or sixth round pick at this point in time for Turner, potentially based off how many rushing yards he has this season. But that’s probably about it. That really is not worth it.

Jason Snelling is another player that could be shopped most years, but his injury as well as the question marks that the Falcons have at fullback probably placed in the non-expendable category. Teams don’t normally trade for injured players, and when they do it rarely turns in their favor. (see Otah, Jeff)

Also on offense, players that could be parted ways with include some of their backup offensive linemen. Namely Andrew Jackson, Joe Hawley, and Mike Johnson. Hawley and Johnson probably have better value on the market namely because Hawley has gotten extensive reps last year and Johnson was a higher round pick that many people liked coming out of Alabama. A team like Dallas, who has been hurting at a position like center could probably be interested in a player like Hawley for a possible sixth or seventh rounder. Johnson probably could fetch the same price, if a team was looking for a guy that can add depth at guard or tackle.

On the defensive line, the two players that are probably the easiest to trade would be Kroy Biermann and Vance Walker. I would be shocked if the Falcons would trade Biermann because he seems to be nestled atop their depth chart as the team’s nickel pass rusher, replacing Ray Edwards. But given the fact that they still would have Edwards and Lawrence Sidbury to fill that role, and could still develop Jonathan Massaquoi and/or Cliff Matthews as depth, it would not be crazy if the Falcons did shop Biermann for a late round pick. Walker’s experience means that a team hurting for a run-stopping one-gap tackle could be enticed to give up a seventh rounder.

If the Falcons were confident in the return abilities of Harry Douglas on punts, it could potentially mean that Dominique Franks could be shopped. If a team was really hurting for depth at cornerback, they might also look at Chris Owens, assuming he’s fully recovered from his hamstring injury. The Falcons could presumably opt to deal one of them because of the other’s presence.

I don’t think any of these players should be traded or will be traded, but it always interesting to see what possibilities are out there. A lot of those players I mentioned, getting just a conditional sixth or seventh round pick doesn’t seem like a fair trade for the Falcons. Ultimately the depth many of those guys provide and the roles they fill are worth me in return than a draft pick that ultimately will just be a career backup and special teamer in all likelihood. Biermann is a prime example of this. He’s a pulled muscle away from starting a bunch of games this year and helping keep the pass rush from evaporating. No offense, but that right there is worth more than drafting another Charles Mitchell or Wilrey Fontenot.

Roster Talk: Offense

August 28th, 2012 Comments off
Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

Lousaka Polite battling for a roster spot

I want to go position by position and discuss which players I believe will make the Falcons final 53-man roster come Friday. For this first part I want to look at the offensive players. Later I will discuss defensive battles.

Typically an NFL roster is going to consist of 25 offensive players, 25 defensive players, and 3 special teams players. Those numbers can be tweaked by 1 or 2 players often given how injuries effect you at that point in the year and other places where you have strong depth.

For example, the past few years the Falcons have kept five defensive tackles on the roster mainly because they’ve had injuries and other issues hit them during the summer. In 2010, Jonathan Babineaux was suspended for the season opener, prompting them to go into the season with a fifth tackle in Trey Lewis. Last year, Corey Peters missed the season opener against the Bears with a knee injury, thus allowing Carlton Powell a chance to make the roster as the fifth defensive tackle. Normally, the Falcons would only keep four defensive tackles as they did in 2008 and 2009, but injuries prompted them otherwise in 2010 and 2011.

Situations like that can affect a player or two making the roster or not as the team is trying its damnedest to get 46 players healthy and active for the first Sunday of the year.

Quarterback

The big question going into this week was whether or not the Falcons would choose to keep two quarterbacks or three, and whether Chris Redman would be among them. Earlier today, the Falcons seemingly answered that question by dumping Redman and replacing him with veteran Luke McCown. It was a move that I thought possible, but not probable. Well, I was wrong. But even with this late addition of McCown, he’s not guaranteed to be on the final 53 on opening day. McCown’s relatively hefty veteran salary of $825,000 would be guaranteed if he is on the roster for Week 1, as are those of any of the other 52 players. The Falcons could cut him prior to the start of the season with the expectation and understanding that they would bring him back in Week 2. Such a money manipulation is not foreign to the Falcons, as they pulled this with Brett Romberg a year ago who also signed a mere 48 hours before their final preseason game as well. McCown could get some reps in the preseason finale, although it’s doubtful given the limited amount of work he’d have to prep for it. Instead, Dominique Davis will likely play the entire game. And if he has another strong performance, then it increases the chances that the team opens the season with him as the No. 2 QB, and subsequently pulls the opening day switcheroo with McCown. If Davis struggles, then McCown will almost certainly get the nine days between the Jaguars game and the season opener to take the No. 2 job.

Best Guess for Final 53: Ryan, Davis,  McCown.

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Svitek done for the year

August 20th, 2012 Comments off

The Falcons announced today that offensive tackle Will Svitek would be out for the season with an undisclosed injury suffered during Sunday’s practice. Svitek was the team’s top swing tackle on offense, working at both left and right tackle spots during the preseason. Svitek started 10 games last season for the Falcons at left tackle, as a replacement for Sam Baker.

With Svitek out, the team will likely turn to third round pick Lamar Holmes to take up the swing tackle position. Holmes has yet to play this preseason, but is expected to get work on Friday against the Miami Dolphins. Mike Johnson has worked as the team’s top backup at right tackle during the preseason as well.

UPDATE: Svitek suffered an upper arm injury per D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC.

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Preseason Stock Exchange (Week 1)

August 14th, 2012 Comments off

It’s time to look at which Falcon players have improved their stock and those that have not after the first preseason outing. This is mostly looking at who shined and who did not against the Ravens.

Stock Up

QB Dominique Davis – Davis benefited greatly from the lackluster night by both Chris Redman and John Parker Wilson. Besides Wilson running an effective 2-minute drill at the end of the half, both veteran passers looked very rusty against the Ravens. Davis showed some athleticism, using his legs to extend plays and also showed off his strong arm with some shots downfield. Davis still needs to polish up his footwork, mechanics, and tighten up his accuracy, but if he can build off last week’s performance against the Bengals, he will be in prime position to potentially earn a roster spot.

WR DJ. Davis – The No. 5 wide receiver spot will almost certainly be determined by special teams ability. And Davis stood out against the Ravens, particularly with his excellent open field stop when working as a gunner on a punt returner, tripping up Bobby Rainey in the 3rd quarter to cause a 1-yard loss on a Dawson Zimmerman punt. Kevin Cone looked to have the inside track at the spot, but Davis is making up ground.

OL Peter Konz – Konz had his moments when working at right guard with the second team offensive line, showing ability to get some push. He missed a block while pulling inside on a play, but then helped make up for with a good block downfield when he pulled outside on the next play. Konz had some struggles when he moved to center for the third unit. But if he’s going to make up ground against Garrett Reynolds for the starting right guard spot, he got off to a solid start.

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Camp Battles 2012: Offensive Line

July 16th, 2012 Comments off
Fernando Medina-US PRESSWIRE

Sam Baker

The offensive line is likely to be the most contested offensive position group in camp. Unlike the other offensive positions, the Falcons aren’t currently set on their starting lineup. The brunt of the competition will come at the two weakest spots from a year ago: left tackle and right guard. Sam Baker is the incumbent at left tackle, although he remains a question mark because he was effectively benched last year after a very poor start to the season. Will Svitek replaced him and proved to be an upgrade. But the team remains optimistic about Baker’s abilities, excusing much of his struggles due to injuries. The team drafted rookie Lamar Holmes as well in the third round, and he’ll push for time as well. But by missing rookie mini-camps with a foot injury likely will have Holmes climbing an uphill battle in camp to gain the starting spot. More than likely the spot will come down to Baker or Svitek, with Baker having the advantage going into camp because he worked the majority of first team snaps in the off-season.

At right guard, the team could have a new face as two of their off-season additions will be competing there. Free agent pickup Vince Manuwai and top pick Peter Konz will be pushing for playing time behind Garrett Reynolds, who is considered the incumbent. Reynolds got the majority of first team snaps during OTAs, a small surprise given that Reynolds, like Baker, lost his job in 2011. He was replaced after a sluggish start by Joe Hawley, who was an improvement but only slightly over the second half of the season. Reynolds has struggled with extensive reps at the guard position largely due to his height, which is disadvantageous inside at guard. Manuwai worked mostly with the second unit during minicamps, and is the strongest candidate among the two to push for time. Konz played exclusively as a center during his days at Wisconsin, and split time between both spots this off-season. He still has a small learning curve at guard, and while he will be given a legitimate opportunity to win the starting spot, he’ll likely be on the outside looking in.

The other three roster spots are pretty much locked up as the team brought back center Todd McClure along with left guard Justin Blalock and right tackle Tyson Clabo. Blalock and Clabo won’t face any competition for their jobs, while McClure will be pushed by Hawley. McClure has never lost his starting spot in his 13-year career, so it doesn’t seem likely that he will do so this summer. But the Falcons will give Hawley a chance to emerge as the team wants to get more physical up front. Hawley was miscast as a guard last year, but his skillset is much more suited to playing the pivot where he is fiesty and physical. That sort of mentality will be welcomed at the center position. But he’s not nearly as polished as McClure and certainly lacks McClure’s extensive experience and knowledge calling out blocking assignments.

But even if players like Hawley, Konz, and Holmes don’t win starting positions, they are virtual locks to be among the final nine or ten blockers that could make the 53-man roster. Between Manuwai and Reynolds as well as Baker and Svitek, it doesn’t seem like a sure bet that all will make the roster if they don’t win the starting spot. Svitek is probably the most valuable as a reserve given his versatility to serve as swing tackle and potential blocking tight end.

Also vying for positions include former draftees Andrew Jackson and Mike Johnson. Johnson was a third round pick, but injuries have limited his development over the past two summers. He had the potential to win the starting gig from Reynolds last summer, but an untimely concussion forced him out of the lineup, allowing Reynolds the time to solidify the spot. Jackson will likely get a boost because the Falcons new position coach is his former head coach Pat Hill from Fresno State. The team has been working to cross-train both players for multiple positions to give them some potential added value. Both players have gotten reps at tackle this off-season. But both are fighting an uphill battle to make the roster certainly due to the more experienced players ahead of them. It is noteworthy that both players still remain eligible for the team’s practice squad, although it doesn’t seem likely at this point that either would clear waivers if released by the team.

Also competing in camp are undrafted rookies Bryce Harris, Tyler Horn, and Phillip Manley. All three are longshots to make the roster, but can certainly impress enough to make bids for the practice squad. Harris also followed Hill from Fresno State, but is facing long odds given the added depth at the tackle position. A bit undersized, Harris is an ideal candidate to be placed on the practice squad for a year or two to add some bulk. Horn is stuck behind a relatively deep center group in Atlanta, as he is fourth on the depth chart. And the fact that Hawley and Konz add the versatility of also playing guard, it will make it that much harder for Horn to stand out. Manley offers good size for a guard, but he too is stuck behind a bunch of bodies.

Mike Smith has stressed trying to bolster competition in camp, and very few positions embody that mentality than the offensive line. Its struggles a year ago precipitate that renewed focus on getting the best players on the field. And while the majority of the team’s starting positions are likely settled, there will be a maelstrom brewing as players compete for second unit spots and their football-playing lives. Predicting who the final nine or ten will be on the roster is the most tenuous of any position group. Three of the starters (Blalock, Clabo, and McClure) and three reserves (Hawley, Holmes, and Konz) are fairly safe bets. But beyond that, the last handful of spots will be completely up for grabs.

Free Agent Focus: Offensive Line (Part 2)

January 30th, 2012 Comments off
ICON SMI

Carl Nicks

In the first part, we spent the bulk of the conversation discussing what the Falcons could or should do to address their need at left tackle. But not to be overlooked are the potential open holes on the interior at center and right guard.

While the Falcons have somewhat of an answer at center in Joe Hawley, they might not be completely comfortable entrusting the gig to him. It would be smart to bring in at least a veteran that can function as a reserve if not a direct competitor for the job. The team could also opt sign an established veteran that could definitely land the job because there is a strong group of free agents this off-season. Chris Myers (Houston), Scott Wells (Green Bay), Jeff Saturday (Indianapolis), Dan Koppen (New England), Andre Gurode (Baltimore). and Nick Hardwick (San Diego) headline the list of candidates.

Myers is likely to land a lucrative contract around $50 or so million that makes him one of the more highly paid centers in the league. Wells also being one of the younger options is likely to land a lucrative deal from Green Bay or another team on the market. Although he’ll probably be had for a slightly cheaper price than Myers.

Saturday is possibly a future Hall of Famer, but he may opt to retire this off-season. And while he would definitely be a great stopgap for a year or two in Atlanta, it would seem counter-intuitive given the Falcons desires to get younger. Koppen is no spring chicken, as he’ll turn 33 at the start of the 2012 season. He’s missed all but the first half of the Patriots Week 1 opener with a broken ankle. Although initial reports indicated that Koppen would only miss 4 months due to the injury, which would mean that he could be 100% by now or nearly there. He’s been a mainstay in New England since 2003, and it’ll be interesting to see if they let him walk.

Gurode played the bulk of this past year at left guard for the Ravens, after the Cowboys cut him this past summer. He’ll turn 33 in March and would definitely add a physical element up front. His ability to play guard or center could make an attractive target, but the Falcons definitely won’t break the bank to sign him.

Hardwick is also considering retirment, thanks in large part due to the issues that teammate Kris Dielman suffered due to concussion-related seizures. Hardwick is still relatively young, as he’ll be 31 when the season starts. He has been under the radar over most of his career in San Diego, rarely getting the accolades of others, but being a consistently good starter up front. If he still wants to play for a few more years, and departs San Diego he could be an option for Atlanta.

But if the Falcons don’t go after one of these bigger names, then someone such as Jamey Richard (Colts), Tony Wragge (Rams), Scott Mruczkowski (Chargers), or Geoff Hangartner (Panthers) who are serviceable reserves with some starting experience that could compete directly with Hawley, and be much cheaper options.

At right guard, the Falcons are probably a bit more likely to spend some big money than they are at center. Garrett Reynolds struggled early in the season, and Hawley was clearly outmatched for the job the rest of the way. While the team might hope that Mike Johnson can make a healthy return and push for the job, they should probably move forward under the expectation that Johnson is no longer a viable long-term option.

Carl Nicks is the top free agent, and most suspect he’ll price himself out of New Orleans. That would mean of course that if the Falcons pursue him, they would have to spend the cash to lure him here. It’ll be interesting to see if the Falcons can keep some of their own prominent free agents and also afford to make a strong play for Nicks. He would definitely beef up the Falcons interior and give them the sort of right guard that could push the pile as well as keep Matt Ryan’s jersey cleaner.

The next name on the list is Ben Grubbs, who is a solid to good guard for the most part. Grubbs will also be an expensive option, but as a Georgia native, might come somewhat cheaper than Nicks. What he lacks in size compared to Nicks, he makes up for with athleticism.

Philadelphia’s Evan Mathis is also a player that could find his bank account enhanced this off-season. He’s coming off a good year in Philadelphia, after spending years as a journeyman and backup mostly. He probably won’t be as expensive as either Nicks or Grubbs, making him arguably the best bang for your buck if he can reproduce his production in Philadelphia here in Atlanta.

Other options include Tennessee’s Jake Scott, who has been a steady, yet unspectacular starter for the Titans over the years. He’ll turn 31 this off-season, and really only makes sense if the Falcons cannot get one of the bigger names.

The rest of the class isn’t really filled with anybody that really makes the needle move, and the Falcons would probably be better off targeting options in the draft if they were not able to snag one of these four options at guard. It is a fairly deep class of guards for this draft, and subsequently the Falcons may try to find their long-term answer there.

That might be the best plan for the Falcons: get immediate help at left tackle via free agency, but still try to cultivate a young guy at right guard if they cannot afford one of the premier free agents. Either way, you can expect some substantial additions to the Falcons offensive line to try and bolster this unit for 2012 and beyond.

Falcons add Cox and Chambers, place Johnson on IR

October 25th, 2011 Comments off

The Falcons announced that they signed fullback Mike Cox and offensive tackle Kirk Chambers to take the roster spots of fullback Ovie Mughelli and guard Mike Johnson, who were placed on injured reserve today.

Cox played three seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, making the team first as an undrafted free agent out of Georgia Tech in 2008. He started for two seasons as their fullback, but split reps last year with Tim Castille. He was cut by the Chiefs at the end of this past summer’s camp. In three seasons with the Chiefs, Cox started 17 of 39 games, rushed 4 times for 3 yards and a touchdown, and also caught 22 passes. He is also the elder brother of Lucas Cox, a rookie free agent with the Falcons this past summer.

Cox was chosen among several free agent fullbacks that worked out with the team today. Per D. Orlando Ledbetter, along with Mike Karney and Jason McKie, the Falcons also worked out Lousaka Polite, and ex-Falcons Verron Haynes and Dimitri Nance.

The Falcons will be Chambers’ fifth NFL team. He was with the Detroit Lions this past summer, but was cut at the end of training camp. He finished the 2010 season with the Cincinnati Bengals, however was inactive for 6 out of the 7 weeks he was on the roster. He joined the Bengals after being released by the Bills at the end of the 2010′s training camp after playing three seasons in Buffalo. There, he started a total of 14 games in that span, filling at both tackle positions, as well as spending time at guard. Prior to joining the Bills before the 2007 season, he played two years with the Cleveland Browns, where he appeared in 21 games as a reserve guard and tackle. He was originally a 6th round pick by the Browns in the 2004 draft out of Stanford. Chambers versatility makes him an ideal reserve because he’s started, played, or practiced at all line positions except center. The bulk of his career however, he has played tackle.

Johnson, a third round pick by the Falcons in 2010, lost a competition with Garrett Reynolds for the starting right guard spot this past summer after suffering a concussion early on in camp. He had only appeared in the past two games of this year on special teams.

Categories: News Tags: , , , , ,

Spotlight Players vs. the Ravens

September 1st, 2011 Comments off
Icon SMI

Joe Hawley

Tonight against the Ravens in the preseason finale, here are five players you should keep your eyes on:

1. OC Joe Hawley

Hawley is set to start the regular season as the team’s starting center. While he may not get a ton of reps tonight as Mike Smith is expected to pull the starters fairly early, whatever reps he does earns will be important. He needs to have a good performance in order to inspire confidence that he can handle the starting position. Fortunately for Hawley, he won’t have to deal with Haloti Ngata tonight, as the Ravens plan to rest many of their key defensive starters.

2. OG Mike Johnson

The battle for the right guard position is not quite over, and Johnson should get ample opportunity to showcase his talents to night. He is in a position that a strong performance against the Ravens beefy 3-4 front could propel him past Reynolds, like a thief in the night.

3. MLB Akeem Dent

Dent has been limited somewhat by injuries this preseason and has yet to earn extensive minutes on regular defense. Tonight should be his opportunity with the Falcons starters only expected to make brief appearances. He should get at least a quarter or two of reps in the middle. With the Falcons strong depth at linebacker, this may be the last time we get an opportunity to see Dent play in 2011.

4. DT Trey Lewis

While the severity of Corey Peters injury has yet to be revealed, if he is set to miss the season opener, the Falcons will likely be forced to keep at least one extra defensive tackle on the roster. That spot would likely be Lewis’s to lose. Although the team might be better off turning to the waiver wire this weekend to fill any void here. Lewis has been unimpressive the past two years when he has gotten on the field, and hasn’t really turned heads this preseason. He needs a strong performance against the Ravens, or his Falcon and NFL career may be over soon.

5. RB Gartrell Johnson/Antone Smith

If the Falcons intend to keep a fifth back on the roster, neither Johnson or Smith have shown much this preseason to make either a strong candidate for that spot. Tonight’s game may be their last opportunity to definitively show the Falcons brass that they deserve a roster spot, rather than simply earning one by default. Johnson at this point is probably the front runner, but the gap between the two isn’t wide enough where Smith can’t overcome it.

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 4 “Mike Johnson’s Love Handles”

August 29th, 2011 Comments off

In this episode of the FalcFans podcast, Ryan and I talk about the Steelers preseason game as well as break down who we think will be on the Falcons final roster as cut day looms. Both of us draw lines in the sand over whether players such as Mike Johnson, Joe Hawley, Akeem Dent, Spencer Adkins, and Matt Bosher are going to make it. You’ll also hear Ryan’s reaction to the final revelation of what player Falcons radio man Beau Bock was describing as “icky balooky.” Ryan and I even get into a brief discussion of fantasy football and the Green Bay Packers in the end.

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Spotlight Players vs. Jaguars

August 19th, 2011 Comments off
Icon SMI

Peria Jerry

Looking at five players that the spotlight will be on during the second preseason contest. I would also list DE Ray Edwards on here, but as of this writing, it has yet to be confirmed whether he will play against the Jaguars. Most signs seem to point that will not be the case at this point.

DT Peria Jerry

Jerry will get the start for the injured Corey Peters and will get his first real test in that role since the beginning of the ’09 season. Jerry did not have a noteworthy performance last week against the Dolphins, and showing some improvement against the Jaguars will go a long way to inspire more confidence in the coaching staff and the fan base.

RB Jacquizz Rodgers

Last week, I highlighted Rodgers against the Dolphins. Rodgers’ Falcon debut ended without much fanfare. While he’s sure of a roster spot this season, the better he plays in the preseason, the bigger his role is likely to be at the outset of the season. Getting some earlier reps with the first and second team offensive lines should potentially help.

OG Mike Johnson

Garrett Reynolds showed some things against the Dolphins last week at right guard. Johnson missed that game due to a concussion, and if he has any shot at usurping Reynolds for the starting job, he’s going to need a really strong performance against the Jaguars.

LB Robert James

James got opportunities last week in nickel situations. And with Akeem Dent out for this week’s action, he should get even more chances, particularly with the second unit defense. James is on the roster bubble since it’s no safe bet the Falcons will keep more than six linebackers, and needs a bit more consistent performance this week against the Jags.

CB Chris Owens

Who starts in place of Dunta Robinson will be quite telling about the way the nickel cornerback battle is going. Franks appears to be ahead after Owens gave up a touchdown last week on a blown coverage. Regardless of who fills out the starting lineup, Owens needs a good bounce back performance against the Jaguars.