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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.

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Spotlight Players vs. the Ravens

September 1st, 2011 Comments off
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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.

Read more…

Spotlight Players vs. Jaguars

August 19th, 2011 Comments off
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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.

Edwards, Johnson return to practice, Peters goes down

August 14th, 2011 Comments off

Falcons defensive end Ray Edwards and guard Mike Johnson returned to practice on Sunday, although neither qualified as a full participant. Edwards practiced in pads for the first time since joining the Falcons on July 29. Johnson is expected to participate fully in practice beginning tomorrow according to Jay Adams of Atlanta Falcons.com. Johnson has been out of practice since Sunday, August 6, when he suffered a concussion. Both Edwards and Johnson missed Friday’s night preseason opener against the Dolphins.

Two other players that missed the Dolphin game: tight end Marquez Branson and defensive tackle Vance Walker are expected to return to practice Monday according to Knox Bardeen of CBS Sports.

Starting defensive tackle Corey Peters was injured during practice today, and was carted off the field with a left leg injury according to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC. There has not yet been an update on the extent of his injury.

The team also announced that Akeem Dent, Justin Peelle, and John Parker Wilson are likely going to be out for Friday night’s preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Wilson suffered a concussion during the Dolphin game in the third quarter. Dent and Peelle also played, but had limited snaps. Trey Lewis returned to practice today after injuring his arm against the Dolphins.

Edwards to miss preseason opener

August 10th, 2011 Comments off
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Ray Edwards

Incoming Falcons defensive end Ray Edwards will sit out the team’s first preseason game against the Miami Dolphins on Friday night due to a minor procedure on his knee he underwent during the off-season. Edwards was allowed to begin team practices on Friday when the new CBA was ratified, but has been held out due to the knee.

D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC also reports that guard Mike Johnson is expected to miss Friday night’s game due to a concussion he suffered on Sunday. Michael Turner returned to practice after undergoing off-season groin surgery and is expected to play against the Dolphins. Turner was slowed by a groin injury early last season, missing the Falcons Week 2 matchup against the Arizona Cardinals.

According to Atlanta Falcons.com’s Daniel Cox, the team has yet to decide how long starters will be on the field against the Dolphins, although units such as the offensive line may get more reps than other positions.

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Reynolds takes early lead in guard battle

August 10th, 2011 Comments off

Garrett Reynolds and Mike Johnson are in a competition to earn the starting spot that was vacated by guard Harvey Dahl when he signed with the Rams before camps opened up. Right now, it appears Reynolds has taken the early lead in that battle.

Mike Johnson suffered a concussion during practice on Sunday and has been day to day since due to the Falcons following the league’s protocols on head injuries. Reynolds had been listed atop the depth chart at right guard on the team’s unofficial depth chart on Monday for this Friday’s preseason opener against the Miami Dolphins.

Johnson was a third round pick last year, while Reynolds was a fifth rounder the previous draft. Johnson worked almost exclusively at left guard last year, and Reynolds as the reserve right. Both players were inactive for all 16 games. But Reynolds probably has the leg-up at least as far as right-sided technique goes, having played a few games late in the year at right guard in 2009.

Reynolds has been noted for his size and nastiness, which is reminiscent of Dahl.

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Falcons not expected to make splash in free agency

July 13th, 2011 Comments off

NFL.com’s Jason LaCanfora cited league sources indicating that the Falcons have contingency plans in place to deal with the potential departures of free agent offensive linemen Harvey Dahl and Tyson Clabo, who are expected to be hot commodities on the open market if/when free agency occurs after the end of the lockout. LaCanfora also writes that the Falcons may not be big players in free agency as some sources expect with the pursuit of either Nnamdi Asomugha or top defensive ends like Ray Edwards or Charles Johnson.

Per LaCanfora, the Falcons brass may opt to play a wait and see game in regards to free agency, letting this year’s market play itself out in order to get a better foothold and grip on what to expect next off-season when things should return to normal.

It has been previously mentioned that the Falcons’ contingency plans along the offensive line include the possibility of replacing starters like Dahl and Clabo with current backups like Garrett Reynolds and Mike Johnson. Also players such as veteran tackle Will Svitek and Jose Valdez might also be in the mix to replace Clabo at right tackle.

Camp Battles 2011: Offensive Line

July 13th, 2011 Comments off

Like the running back position, this unit could be heavily influenced by free agency. The Falcons will have to make important decisions on three of their starters: Tyson Clabo, Harvey Dahl, and Justin Blalock.

Clabo is likely to be a high priority for the team to retain. And if they do so, it will go a long way to solidify their front line and maintain some continuity. It remains to be seen whether the Falcons will prefer to keep either Dahl or Blalock, although it seems likely at least one will remain. Dahl is probably the safer bet since he appears to be a favorite of position coach Paul Boudreau.

Ideally, the Falcons will be able to keep all three players. If they are successful in achieving that goal, then competition during camp at this position won’t be particularly compelling. The most interesting battle will likely then be between Jose Valdez and Will Svitek for the swing tackle position. Valdez’s practice squad eligibility is likely to expire this season, so if the Falcons want to continue to develop him, they will probably need to do so by giving him a regular roster spot.

However, if even one of those free agents depart, it will make things a lot more interesting. If all three depart, it’s likely to be a free-for-all.

The most likely candidate to replace Blalock at left guard is Mike Johnson. He got the majority of reps there last summer, and he’d be the front runner. Johnson didn’t have a great summer a year ago, but the team was high on him when they drafted him in the third round and will give him every opportunity to win the vacant position.

His most likely competition will come in the form of Garrett Reynolds, who is also the primary reserve at right guard behind Dahl. Reynolds also adds the value of playing right tackle as well, although his primary position in inside. His chances of earning a starting job will increase if Dahl is the one that departs, although Johnson would probably be the top candidate there as well for reasons mentioned previously.

If Clabo isn’t kept, then Svitek is likely to be the front runner to replace him and he’ll be pushed by both Reynolds and Valdez. Svitek is the more known commodity and proven run blocker, making him a good fit at right tackle. Valdez is an intriguing dark horse, showcasing his superior athleticism last summer.

Left tackle Sam Baker is unlikely to be pushed in camp, as the Falcons will likely want to retain as much continuity as possible. The same goes for veteran center Todd McClure. Second-year pro Joe Hawley is his heir apparent. Hawley also garnered reps at guard last season, but probably won’t be a serious contender to become a starter there unless Johnson and/or Reynolds struggle.

The Falcons drafted Andrew Jackson to bolster depth and competition. But he’ll be hard-pressed to make his way into the likely to be nine roster spots unless at least two of the Falcons free agents depart. He is most likely to be competing for a practice squad spot, although a solid summer may convince the team to keep ten blockers instead of the typical nine.

Also on the roster is Rob Bruggeman, although he remains a long shot unless there is an injury to one of the centers. The Falcons probably will sign a few undrafted or street free agents to fill out the roster here, with all just being camp bodies competing for a chance to make the practice squad.

Falcons Weekly Round-Up 7/1

July 1st, 2011 Comments off

Recapping news and headlines involving the Falcons from the week of June 26…

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Stephen Nicholas

‘Big’ Chance Nicholas returns

The Florida Times-Union visited Falcons linebacker Stephen Nicholas at his youth football camp last weekend to discuss the possibility of what he might do this season. Nicholas is a prospective free agent. Nicholas indicated that he wants to test the market, but also said there is a “big” chance that he will return to Atlanta. The Falcons tagged Nicholas with a restricted free agent tender, which he did not sign. But if the Collective Bargaining Agreement is made before the start of the 2011 season, then Nicholas due to having four years of experience should become an unrestricted free agent. Nicholas was a regular attendee of the Falcons player-organized “Camp Exile” during the month of June. (Source: Tania Ganguli, Florida Times-Union)

Schillinger at around 85 percent

Writing up some observations from the Falcons player-organized “Camp Exile,” D. Orlando Ledbetter indicates that free safety Shann Schillinger, who is coming off a broken ankle he suffered in the penultimate game of last season is around 85 percent recovered. Schillinger indicated that he is making steady progress daily on his recovery and can participate in football-related drills, including 7-on-7 drills at Camp Exile. He appeared with a notable limp during the final practice. Schillinger is expected to have a bigger role this year on defense, as he will be tasked with replacing veteran Erik Coleman. (Source: D. Orlando Ledbetter, Atlanta-Journal Constitution)

Mularkey excited about the upcoming year

Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey was enjoying some vacationing time in Cherrokee County, North Carolina when the Andrews Journal caught up with him to discuss the upcoming season. Mularkey spoke on his desire to try and keep the Falcons offensive line intact, due to three of the team’s five starter being impending free agents.

We had five fantastic guys last season. They are a special group, and I wish we could keep them together forever. They are one of the most physical offensive lines in the league. If we don’t sign them back up, it will be disappointing … but that is just business in the NFL.

Mularkey also broached the topic of the Falcons incoming rookie class, praising wideout Julio Jones. He also expressed confidence that even without contact with the coaches, those rookies would be getting a lot of help from Matt Ryan during player-organized workouts, calling the team’s fourth-year quarterback a “coach on the field.” (Source: Robert Horne, Andrews Journal)

Falcons ‘not panicked’ about O-line

On the subject of the potential impending shakeup of the Falcons offensive line, Dan Pompei writes that the Falcons wont’ be too worried if they lose multiple starters via free agency. Offensive tackle Tyson Clabo, and guards Harvey Dahl and Justin Blalock are potential free agents. Per Pompei, the team is confident that three of the linemen they have drafted over the past three drafts: Garrett Reynolds, Mike Johnson, and Joe Hawley, can potentially fill the voids left by any of those players. Reynolds has worked primarily as a reserve at right guard behind Dahl, but played right tackle while in college, making him a possible candidate to replace Clabo. Johnson played left guard last season behind Blalock. Hawley has worked primarily as the backup center behind Todd McClure, but has also gotten reps at the guard spots as well. (Source: Dan Pompei, National Football Post)

Jackson working out on his own

Falcons took Fresno State guard Andrew Jackson in the seventh round of this year’s draft. And while he did not attend any of the team’s player-organized workouts since being drafted, or will be attending along with some of his other new teammates at the NFLPA-organized rookie symposium this week, Jackson has been keeping busy. He has been staying in shape and working out at facilities at his alma mater. He also has spent time visiting local high school football camps to talk to the kids about football. (Source: Anthony Barstow, Grass Valley Union)