Falcons head coach Mike Smith expects that Abraham, Moore, and Owens will also be able to suit up Sunday in the Falcons Divisional playoff matchup against the Seattle Seahawks.
Aaron is back and is joined by Allen Strk and Scott Carasik for a lively conversation on a wide range of Falcons-related topics. You’ll hear their thoughts on many of the current Falcon players and what sort of seasons they are having in 2012 and what they could be expecting in the future. You’ll also hear them opine on some past Falcon players as well. Scott shares many of his thoughts on what the Falcons could be looking at in the draft and this upcoming off-season. They give their insights on what the upcoming playoff picture could look like for the Falcons. This episode does contain EXPLICIT content, so be forewarned.
Duration: 1 hour, 2 minutes
Duration: 1 hour, 6 minutes
Allen writes for TJRSports.com as well as the Bleacher Report. His twitter handle is: @Allen_Strk. Scott also writes for Bleacher Report and ScarDraft.com. You can also hear Scott on his weekly radio show: “Kvetching Draftniks Radio.” His twitter handle is: @scar988.
The Falcons announced their weekly injury report this afternoon, earlier than normal due to the fact that they will host the New Orleans Saints tomorrow on Thursday Night Football. On the report, cornerback Asante Samuel and defensive tackle Peria Jerry were listed as questionable after sitting out all three days of practice this week. Samuel was nursing a bum shoulder, which he has been limited with in recent weeks. He re-injured the shoulder last Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and missed the fourth quarter. Jerry is nursing the same quadricep injury that kept him out of last week’s game. He’s dealt with thigh and knee injuries already this year which have curtailed his reps in recent weeks. Both could get welcome rest after this week’s game, as they will receive an extra three days of rest as they will not play again until December 9. If Samuel is unable to go, then Robert McClain will likely take reps at left cornerback, while Chris Owens plays in the nickel. If Jerry does not play, then Vance Walker and Travian Robertson are likely to see an increase in reps. A week ago, both players saw season-high snaps with 49 and 16, respectively.
Also appearing on the injury report listed as probable were tackle Sam Baker (groin), wide receivers Kevin Cone (groin) and Harry Douglas (ankle), safety Charles Mitchell (calf), linebacker Stephen Nicholas (knee), tight end Michael Palmer (back), cornerback Dunta Robinson, defensive tackle Vance Walker (ribs), and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (ankle). Besides Robinson, all of the players were limited in practice this week due to the short week. Robinson was added to the report on Tuesday, after missing practice due to an illness.
A key injury for the Saints is right tackle Zach Strief, who was listed as questionable with a groin injury. Strief was limited in practice all week after missing three games. If he does not go, then Will Robinson will be expected to start at right tackle. Robinson is the Saints fourth string right tackle, and was only signed to the roster on November 20.
Out this week for the Saints are defensive end Junior Gallette (ankle), wide receiver Courtney Roby (shoulder/ankle), tackle Charles Brown (knee), defensive tackle Tom Johnson (back), and safety Isa Abdul-Quddus (concussion). Tight end David Thomas (knee) and cornerback Corey White (knee) are questionable. Cornerback Elbert Mack (concussion) is probable.
Today, the Falcons released their injury report for Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals. On it, wide receiver Julio Jones (ankle) and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (ankle) were listed as questionable. Neither player practiced during the week, and according to head coach Mike Smith will be game-time decisions. Jones suffered his injury during the first half of last week’s loss to the New Orleans Saints, but later returned to the game in the third quarter. Weatherspoon has missed the past two games with his injury.
Wideout Kevin Cone (groin) and safety Charles Mitchell (calf) also missed the week of practice nd were listed as out for the Cardinals game. It’s the third consecutive game missed for Cone, while the second for Mitchell.
Also listed as questionable were defensive end John Abraham (back), running back Michael Turner (groin), and defensive tackle Vance Walker (ribs). All three players were limited in practice for all three days of practice this week. Listed as probable on this week’s report were defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux (thigh), wide receiver Harry Douglas (ankle), tight end Tony Gonzalez (shoulder), linebacker Stephen Nicholas (groin), and linebacker Mike Peterson (foot). Peterson fully participated in all three days of practice, while Babineaux, Douglas and Gonzalez were full participants on Thursday and Friday. Nicholas was upgraded on Friday and fully participated in practice for the first time all week.
Douglas and Peterson will likely replace Jones and Weatherspoon in the lineup, respectively if the pair sit. The injury to Abraham plus the release of Ray Edwards this week could mean a significant increase in reps for Lawrence Sidbury, Cliff Matthews, and/or Jonathan Massaquoi at defensive end. Turner’s injury could lead to the team giving increased reps to Jacquizz Rodgers and/or Jason Snelling at running back.
The Falcons released their injury report today for this Sunday’s upcoming contest against the New Orleans Saints. A number of Falcons players were on this week’s injury report, including linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (ankle), wide receiver Kevin Cone (groin), and safety Charles Mitchell (calf), all of whom were declared out for the game. All three players missed the entire week of practice.
Also appearing on the report were a number of questionable players including: defensive tackles Jonathan Babineaux (hamstring) and Peria Jerry (knee), and cornerbacks Robert McClain (hip) and Chris Owens (heel). McClain and Owens were added to the injury report today after being limited in today’s practice. Both Babineaux and Jerry were limited throughout the week’s three days of practice.
Defensive end John Abraham (elbow), tackle Sam Baker (ankle), wideout Harry Douglas (ankle), cornerback Asante Samuel (hip), and running back Jason Snelling (illness) all also appeared on the report, but are listed as probable. Abraham was able to fully participate in all three days of practice. Both Baker and Samuel were limited on Thursday while fully participating on Thursday and Friday. Douglas was limited until fully participating in today’s practice. Snelling missed Wednesday practice, but was full go on Thursday and today.
With Weatherspoon out, Mike Peterson will likely enter the starting lineup in the base defense, with Akeem Dent taking over Spoon’s duties in the nickel. Both Cone and Mitchell will be missed on special teams. Babineaux and Jerry’s injuries leave the team relatively thin at defensive tackle, as Corey Peters is still recovering from a foot injury that kept him out of the first six games of the season. It could mean Vance Walker and Travian Robertson get increased reps on Sunday. McClain and Owens are the team’s top two backups at cornerback, being key components of the team’s nickel and dime packages. That could potentially be tested given the Saints proclivity to use three, four, and five wideouts on the majority of their plays.
Looking at which players potentially stepped up in last night’s loss to Jacksonville to make one final push for a roster/practice squad position. As well as those players that may have not.
Kevin Cone – Cone has had a few too many drops this preseason, but he made up for it with a nice catch and run for the team’s lone passing touchdown against Jacksonville. If Cone is cut, the highlight of that play alone will make it harder for him to clear waivers and wind up on the Falcons’ practice squad. I don’t know if he showed enough to make the team as the fifth wideout, but he definitely did enough to make that decision harder for the Falcons brass.
Pat Schiller – I’ve been impressed with Schiller in each of the Falcons preseason games, but watching him last night as he tied with Akeem Dent for the team lead in tackles, I think he’s far and away the most impressive of the team’s three rookie linebackers. He may not be the biggest, strongest, or fastest of the group, but watching him closely, he’s the most instinctual and best able to put himself in a position to make a play. That’s what you want in a young linebacker. I don’t think it has been enough to make the final roster, but at the very least it solidify a practice squad spot for him.
Peyton Thompson – Thompson did some nice things both on defense and special teams. While he was the culprit that got beat by the long touchdown to Kevin Elliott, in retrospect he won’t look as bad when the team reviews the film, because Mike Smith will be so busy chewing out everyone else for missing those tackles to notice Thompson got beat. Thompson is a solid corner in run support as well as coverage and has had a good enough summer that he should be a shoe-in for a practice squad spot. And it might have been good enough that he could sneak onto the roster, especially if Chris Owens’ health and availability for the regular season opener is questionable.
Chris Hope – With Mitchell having some struggles, I think Hope showed some things last night including some on special teams. Schillinger is one of the team’s top special teams players, but Hope’s ability to contribute there could get him potentially the nod. Up until last night, I think Hope’s chances were tied exclusively to his experience, and not necessarily whether he can bring certain skills to the field. But I think that began to teeter last night, and Hope showcased that he is much more than an old guy that at one point in time was a pretty good safety.
Dominique Davis – I don’t think Davis hurt his chances of making the team. I think he was a lock to make it before last night, otherwise they would not have cut Chris Redman. But in increased reps, Davis did not really blossom as much as people hoped (including myself). He made some nice plays, but made his share of mistakes. I believe the Falcons were hoping going into the game, that if Davis had a strong enough performance he could potentially take over the No. 2 position behind Matt Ryan. But after a few too many mental errors and inaccurate throws, I’m not sure that was accomplished.
LaMark Brown – Brown had another pass go through his hands and into the arms of a defender, the second time that has happened this preaseason. While Brown has excellent athletic potential as a tight end and H-back, it does not appear he’s ready for prime time. The Falcons probably need to be scouring the waiver wire for their third tight end.
Charles Mitchell – I think Mitchell was probably the safest of the three backup safeties going into the Jaguar game, but now I’m not so sure. He missed a couple of tackles, two of which directly resulted in Jaguars touchdowns. Mitchell has a potentially bright future on special teams, so I think he’ll still make it. But the race is tighter than it was 24 hours ago.
The Falcons are expected to give some of the starters some work tonight. The new CBA and league-mandated rules limiting contact in practices likely is the main cause of this. Guys just aren’t getting as many reps as before to get ready for the regular season. The fourth preseason game used to be one where none of the starters played except perhaps a series or so. But nowadays, you can expect teams to give their starters a couple of series if not a full quarter of play. The Jaguars are planning on playing their starters for the entire first quarter. I would not expect the Falcons to do the same, but I do think we’ll see many of them get work.
My hope for Mike Smith is certain “essential” players will be rested. Matt Ryan doesn’t need to play tonight, along with a few others of our key offensive playmakers. We’ll see how he plays it.
QB Dominique Davis – Part of me wants some of the offensive starters to get reps tonight, but with Davis lining up under center. I believe the Falcons will give Davis most if not all of the snaps under center tonight. Davis has worked almost exclusively with the third string performers on offense, and allowing him to work with several of the players higher on the depth chart will be an excellent gauge as to whether he’s ready to be the team’s No. 2 quarterback this year. This is the main reason to keep an eye on Davis tonight. He has played well throughout the preseason. But another strong performance with some of the second team players could be enough to catapult him into the role of primary backup. It’s possible with a strong enough performance, that Davis can inspire enough confidence that this team doesn’t even keep Luke McCown.
RB Dimitri Nance – Nance needs a strong performance tonight to stick on this roster. He has run well this summer, but he’s working behind Antone Smith on the depth chart. Smith is the superior special teams player and has also had a strong summer. But Nance is not only fighting for his hopes of making the Falcons roster, but a strong performance tonight certainly could get him looks from other teams.
FB Lousaka Polite – It’ll be interesting to see how the Falcons handle their fullback rotation giving questions on how much the starters will play. Polite has seen increased reps with the starters since joining the team, and if he can showcase his trademark power tonight and help the runners have a big night, he could take the job from Mike Cox.
WR Kevin Cone/D.J. Davis – If the Falcons choose to sit both Roddy White and Julio Jones, that could mean that Cone and/or Davis could be elevated to the starting positions potentially depending on the health and availability of Kerry Meier. Among the group of wide receivers competing for the fifth spot on the depth chart, these two are the two most prominent. That fifth spot will more than likely go to the player the team likes the most on special teams (likely Davis), but a strong offensive showing from Cone could also force them to shift their thinking.
OG Peter Konz – The battle at right guard is not complete, and I believe the Falcons are really hoping for a strong outing by Konz in order to make the final decision easier for them. I think they want Konz to have the job, but he’s not going to be given that opportunity, he has to earn it. A good game against the Jaguars could be what does it.
OT Lamar Holmes – It will be Holmes second outing, and it’s possible if not probable that he could be asked to play every snap. I think Holmes is still working himself back into playing shape due to all the missed time this off-season, and those extended reps could do a lot to help him. It would be smart of the Falcons to also try and get him some reps at right tackle as well, since he’s likely to be the team’s swing tackle this year.
DT Micanor Regis – I think Regis is on the outside looking in as far as a roster spot goes, but I think has done more than enough to land a practice squad role with the Falcons. But another strong outing could make the Falcons decision that much harder. Ultimately it could lead to them keeping five defensive tackles, or possibly cutting a veteran like Vance Walker.
LB Akeem Dent – If any of the Falcons projected 22 starters needs reps, none of them need them moreso than Dent. Dent has had his ups and downs this summer, and needs to have a few more ups tonight against Jacksonville. Of the 11 projected starters on the defense, Dent is the only one where questions remain to exactly what the team has in him. Getting him more work in the nickel subpackage should also benefit his prep for the regular season. It might not even be about Dent having a good game, it’s probably just more about getting him as many reps as possible to get him ready.
S Chris Hope/Shann Schillinger/Charles Mitchell – All three players are potentially on the roster bubble, since according to my calculations, I’m not sure the Falcons can afford to keep five safeties this year. I think Mitchell is probably the safest of the trio, but Hope and Schillinger could be competing directly for a single roster spot. If any one or two of them emerge tonight, it could be what solidifies their hold on the team.
Earlier, I broke down many of the position battles and how the roster could break on the offense. Now I’m going to turn my attention to the defense which seems to have a lot less question marks.
Most of the roster spots seem relatively sewn up, but the last few spots at each position group still seem to be up in the air. And guys will have one last opportunity on Thursday night in Jacksonville to showcase their skills to make one last pitch for the roster and/or practice squad.
The Falcons have kept five defensive ends each of the past few years, but I think this year they will possibly keep a sixth. Keeping five has been their M.O. mainly because they had a young developing prospect that they didn’t trust would clear waivers to make the practice squad due to the league’s premium on pass rushers. In 2009 and 2010, it was Lawrence Sidbury that filled that role, and a year ago it was Cliff Matthews’ turn. As evidenced by Sidbury in 2010 and Matthews last year, whoever that player is rarely gets a chance to play on defense. Thus that would make keeping six seem like extravagance, since now you have two guys that are spending most Sundays inactive. But I think the battle between Jonathan Massaquoi and Matthews has been that close, that I don’t think the team wants to part with either. Massaquoi’s potential as a pass rusher probably means he’ll be higher on the depth chart than Matthews if push came to shove. But Matthews has played well this summer and played consistently with a high motor. So high in fact that you could make the argument he has the best motor of any of the ends on the team. And that’s not the type of player I could see the Falcons cutting when it comes down to it. Matthews still remains eligible for a practice squad spot, but if any team pops in tape of the Falcons previous three preseason games, one of the 31 other teams is certainly going to be impressed enough to snatch him up similar to how the Browns pounced on Emmanuel Stephens last year.
Best Guess for Final 53: Abraham, Edwards, Biermann, Sidbury, Massaquoi, Matthews
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.
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.
One of the most interesting battles that will come in training camp this summer will occur in the secondary, as the Falcons look to shuffle their depth at cornerback.
With the addition of Asante Samuel joining Dunta Robinson and Brent Grimes, the Falcons are now three-deep at the cornerback position, and intend to take full advantage of that this season. The nickel package is expected to often be utilized as the Falcons base package with the intent of getting the best 11 defenders on the field at the same time.
But what needs to occur first in camp, is which of the three players will emerge as the two everydown players. Two of the players will play virtually every snap on defense, with the third nickel corner subbing in on passing situations. That third corner will play the majority of snaps on defense overall, but it won’t be every snap. Last year when Grimes was healthy, he and Robinson averaged about 63 snaps per game as starters, while the nickel corner was on the field (a combo of Kelvin Hayden, Dominique Franks, and Chris Owens) for about 36 snaps per game. The latter number is likely to increase, potentially to as high as 45-50 snaps per game.
Robinson and Grimes are the incumbents, and as such got most of the first team reps during the off-season. That means that Samuel will be coming off the bench as the nickel corner. If that remains the case into the season, then in those nickel situations Samuel will play on the outside across from Grimes with Robinson moving inside to the slot corner spot. This is arguably the best usage of the three players since among the three Samuel is the weakest in run support and thus limiting his first and second down reps could streamline his usage. But at the same time, Samuel is also the best playmaker of the group, and thus it would make sense to maximize that ability by putting him on the field as much as possible. Robinson on the other hand is the least likely to make plays in coverage, and while his strength has historically been run support, that was an area where he struggled throughout the 2011 season. He’ll need to show the coaching staff this summer that 2011 was an aberration, and his former toughness against the run has returned.
Franks, Owens, and Darrin Walls will be competing for the opportunity to be the first player off the bench in the event of an injury. Franks is the most likely of the group to win the job. He had his share of moments last year as an injury replacement for Grimes down the stretch. While Franks is not well-suited to playing in the slot, he does have a solid skillset that can make him a potentially effective starter on the outside. And given the looming contract issues that both Robinson and Grimes face in the future, the team may want to groom Franks as a potential replacement come 2013.
The addition of Samuel to the roster means that the Falcons could be parting ways with either Owens or Walls. Walls shined last summer but in the face of minimal competition due to the fact that he was competing with other undrafted free agents. He won’t have such a luxury this year, as he’ll likely be going directly up against Owens for the fifth and likely final cornerback slot. Owens has struggled throughout the years when lined up in the slot, but when he’s been an outside corner as a rookie and late last year, he has been a solid reserve. That experience and versatility coupled with Owens being one of the team’s better producers on special teams should give him an edge to win the job. But it’s no slam dunk. Owens is entering the final year of his contract, and while Walls is probably never going to be a better player than Owens in the long run, the fact that Walls is two years younger and cheaper could give him a slight edge in the competition. The key for Walls is showing that he can also be a very good special teams player. The positive for Walls is that he remains eligible for the practice squad, so it’s possible they could keep both.
There will be added competition at cornerback this summer. The team picked up Robert McClain in the off-season as well as adding undrafted free agents Marty Markett and Peyton Thompson. McClain was a solid special teams player as a rookie in 2010 with the Panthers. And Markett is a track guy from South Carolina that could potentially be an excellent gunner. Thompson has solid cover skills and the sort of toughness that could also make him a capable special teams player. Because of their potential to impact on special teams, all three players have a legit chance of making the roster.
At safety, the starters are settled with Thomas DeCoud at free safety and William Moore at strong safety. The team made a good decision to upgrade their depth by signing veteran Chris Hope. Hope will be the primary backup at strong safety, but he also posseses the experience to fit nicely as the team’s top backup at free safety as well. All three players have firm holds on their roster spots.
The key competition at safety will come for who wins the fourth safety spot. Shann Schillinger will compete with rookie draft pick Charles Mitchell, along with undrafted rookies Chad Faulcon and former practice squad player Suaesi Tuimaunei. Schillinger is one of the team’s top special teams players, which gives him an edge in the competition. But the team likes Mitchell and his skillset should also translate well to producing on special teams. Mitchell is not a great cover guy, but is an ace run defender despite being undersized. Schillinger has not shown a lot on defense the past two summers but he’s a free safety while Mitchell is a pure strong safety. And since Hope is primarily a strong safety, that also gives Schillinger the potential nod. The Falcons may opt to keep five safeties particularly if Schillinger manages to win the job, but Mitchell may also be destined for the practice squad at least early in the year. As for Faulcon and Tuimaunei, they are likely competing for practice squad spots, but will be hard-pressed to do so especially if the Falcons manage to keep five safeties. Their best chances will be impacting on special teams.