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Atlanta Falcons Training Camp Preview 2014: Safety

July 24th, 2014 Comments off

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Dwight Lowery

The Atlanta Falcons safety position is one that is in flux, as free safety Thomas DeCoud will not be entering camp atop the depth chart for the first time in five summers. Finding a suitable replacement will be critical aspect of the team’s training camp.

The player most likely to fill DeCoud’s shoes is Dwight Lowery. Lowery went under the radar this offseason because the Jacksonville Jaguars cut him early during the 2013 season. Lowery suffered a concussion three weeks into the season, and the Jaguars in rebuilding mode opted to cut him outright. Lowery was not scooped up until the Falcons nabbed him in early April in one of the later waves of free-agent signings. That leaves many skeptics as to whether Lowery is capable of stepping in at free safety. Lowery’s obscurity in Jacksonville coupled with the long absence from the field fuels that skepticism.

DeCoud’s poor play led to his release in February and the expectations are that his replacement will not just fill his shoes, but be an upgrade as well. Lowery has the potential to be that since he’s a more consistent tackler than DeCoud and also his past as a nickel corner with the New York Jets to start his career means he should translate better in man coverage. If that is the case, then it should pay dividends for the rest of the Falcons secondary.

Particularly in regards to strong safety William Moore, who is in no way fearful of his job being lost. While Moore is not coming off one of his best seasons, it feels more like it was one aberrant weak season among several good ones rather than the beginning of a new downward trend. With stronger play out of the free safety, Moore can play a little more fast and loose, which is more to his style of flying around, hitting opponents and picking off any tipped passes over the middle.

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Peters and Motta Will Open Falcons Camp on PUP List

July 22nd, 2014 Comments off

Getty Images from Yahoo! Sports

Corey Peters

The Atlanta Falcons made additional moves today in conjunction with their earlier signings, as D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC reports that defensive tackle Corey Peters and safety Zeke Motta will begin training camp on the team’s active/Physically-Unable-to-Perform (PUP) list. The pair will join wide receiver Drew Davis, who was announced earlier this month to be headed to the list when the team’s training camp begins later this week on Friday. As part of their designation, Peters and Motta will be held out of practice until medically cleared by team doctors. If/when that occurs they will be removed from the PUP list and resume practicing.

This news is not surprising given a report last month that indicated both Peters and Motta’s statuses for the start of training camp was in doubt. Peters tore his Achilles tendon at the end of the 2013 season and has been rehabbing. He targets Week 1 of the regular season for his return.

Motta is suffering from a fractured neck sustained also at the end of the 2013 season and has been held out of workouts all offseason long. It was reported in June that he was set to see a specialist this month in order to indicate if he can return to the field. Presumably his status on the active/PUP list indicates that the Falcons have yet to rule him out for the remainder of the 2014 season, giving some optimism. However, ESPN’s Vaughn McClure indicates that this news may not be as promising, tweeting that Motta still should not be expected to play this season.

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Motta, Peters’ Training Camp Statuses Unknown

June 20th, 2014 Comments off
David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

Zeke Motta

Vaughn McClure of ESPN reported this morning that the statuses of Atlanta Falcons safety Zeke Motta and defensive tackle Corey Peters are unknown as of yet for next month’s training camp. Both players are coming off serious injuries suffered last December at the end of the 2013 season.

Motta suffered a fractured neck in the Falcons’ Week 14 loss to the Green Bay Packers. He had offseason surgery on the injury, but his recovery has been delayed longer than initially expected. Per McClure, Motta will have a follow-up appointment in July that will determine whether or not he’ll return not just for training camp, but also for the year. It’s clear that Motta’s neck injury is a career-threatening one.

Peters on the other hand suffered a torn Achilles tendon against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 16 last year. Per Falcons head coach Mike Smith, Peters is ahead of schedule in his recovery. But he is still is at risk for missing a large portion of training camp and/or the preseason as he continues to recover from the injury. McClure indicates there is a possibility that Peters could be placed on the team’s Physically-Unable-to-Perform (PUP) list at the start of not only training camp but also the regular season.

McClure notes of two distinct designations that could await Peters. If at the outset of training camp, which begins on July 25, Peters is placed on active/PUP list, he will be eligible to return to practice during camp at his earliest allowance. But if he is placed on the reserve/PUP, then he will be forced to miss the first six weeks of the regular season, but will have a chance to return to practice and the active roster within a month afterwards.

McClure also notes that wide receiver Julio Jones is expected to be a full participant in training camp, despite missing all of the team’s offseason practices. Jones indicated earlier this month that his target date for return is the regular season-opener against the New Orleans Saints, indicating doubt that his usage in camp and the preseason may be extremely limited.

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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 68 “Go Blame Thomas Dimitroff!”

June 12th, 2014 Comments off

Allen and I are back with our friend Steve Cohen to discuss the Atlanta Falcons offseason and the latest happenings in OTAs. We discuss the injuries to Julio Jones, Zeke Motta and Levine Toilolo; what role will Devonta Freeman and Antone Smith have at running back; trade rumors surrounding Oakland Raiders wide receiver Denarius Moore; the Falcons front office’s aggressiveness with making moves at the end of training camp; competition featuring Dwight Lowery vs. Dezmen Southward; whether Desmond Trufant could be used as a shadow corner; recent quarterback contracts around the league and the NBA Finals. The podcast ends with Allen and my live reactions to news of Sean Weatherspoon’s season-ending injury.

Episode 68 – Go Blame Thomas Dimitroff! [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 22 minutes

Allen covers the Falcons for Pro Football Spot. 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! For Android users, DoubleTwist is a good app to listen as well. You can also subscribe directly to our feed at the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/falcfans/LXSt

Draft Needs: Is Dwight Lowery Enough for Falcons at Safety?

May 2nd, 2014 Comments off
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Dwight Lowery

When the Atlanta Falcons decided to cut long-time free safety Thomas DeCoud in March, it created a void at the position. But the thinking may have been that DeCoud’s play in 2013 had slipped so considerably that such a void would be relatively easy to fill.

And while the Falcons made quick moves to help address their weaknesses along the line of scrimmage at the outset of free agency, they stood quiet when it came to concerns in the secondary. But eventually the Falcons addressed their need at the position by signing Dwight Lowery, formerly of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Lowery was a forgotten man, having missed most of 2013 nursing a concussion. He was released by the Jaguars midseason after being placed on injured reserve due to that head injury, his second in six years in the NFL. But his inconspicuous exit from Jacksonville should not diminish what he had done for three years, where he was second only to linebacker Daryl Smith as the team’s most consistent defender. And one certainly saw what Smith did in Baltimore last year after leaving behind obscurity in Jacksonville.

Lowery began his career at cornerback, playing three seasons with the New York Jets playing mainly in the slot. That should give him an edge over DeCoud in terms of coverage on the back-end, an area that has been sorely lacking for the team in recent years. Man coverage is anything but a strength for strong safety William Moore (as Jimmy Graham can attest). Not to mention, Lowery should be a vast improvement over DeCoud in run support as he is much less prone to missing tackles. Over the past three years in Jacksonville, Lowery missed a combined 10 tackles (per premium website Pro Football Focus). In 2013 alone, DeCoud missed 12 and combined for 43 over the past three seasons.

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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 64 “Not To Totally Get Into the Draft”

April 24th, 2014 Comments off

Allen and I are back to give our initial thoughts on the Atlanta Falcons 2014 regular season schedule. We go through each week and give a quick breakdown of the opponent. Later, we discuss the free-agent pickups of Josh Wilson and Dwight Lowery, ageism in the NFL, the direction the Falcons are headed in the 2014 NFL Draft as well as Allen’s expectations for attending the draft spectacle in New York. At the very end of the podcast, there is some explicit NSFW language.

Episode 64: Not To Totally Get Into the Draft [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 2 minutes

Allen covers the Falcons for Pro Football Spot. 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, 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

Saints Match Bush Offer Sheet

April 8th, 2014 Comments off

New Orleans Saints safety Rafael Bush himself tweeted yesterday that he would be remaining with the team, which was later confirmed by his agent according to various outlets. It indicates that the Saints matched the Atlanta Falcons offer sheet to the restricted free agent, meaning he will not be joining the Falcons as previous reports indicated was his desire.

The Falcons had offered a two-year, $4.5 million deal. The Saints had less than $2 million in cap space according to NFLPA documents, but opted to match the deal.

It leaves the Falcons without a clear-cut answer at the free safety position in the wake of the release of Thomas DeCoud earlier this offseason. Zeke Motta is the top candidate currently on the roster at the position, which puts the Falcons in the position where they could sign a veteran in free agency or wait until the draft to address the position.

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Is Zeke Motta An Option For Falcons at Safety?

March 18th, 2014 1 comment
David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

Zeke Motta makes a tackle

Two weeks ago, I discussed some excerpts from Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff’s appearance on the Rich Eisen Podcast.

Included in their discussion centering on the Combine, was a brief discussion of safety Zeke Motta. And it made me think that the Falcons are much higher on Motta than probably his play may merit.

Is it possible that the reason why the Falcons did not successfully land a free safety to replace the recently released Thomas DeCoud is because they believe Motta is capable of competing for the starting position?

But first, let’s take a look at what exactly Dimitroff said. This comes in the portion of the podcast where Eisen was asking whether or not the workouts done at the Combine influence teams’ draft boards.

Eisen: Does your board change now?
Dimitroff: No question. It changes and yet we’re very mindful of it not changing drastically. But there will be movements up and down. And quite honestly as much as we don’t want to talk about and we don’t want the agents to hear about it, when someone runs a truly horrible 40 time, it’s amazing how quickly a player can plummet.
Eisen: Just the one 40-yard dash?
Dimitroff: It’s amazing. One of the guys last year that we acquired through the draft was Zeke Motta from Notre Dame. Your guy Mike Mayock loved him and he didn’t run a good time at the Combine unfortunately. We drafted him in the seventh round and there was no way he should have been a seventh rounder. He fell quite a bit and we like what we have in him now. Some people just don’t run good times. They’re not good 40 time guys but they play a lot faster.
Eisen: So here you are using an example of how a guy dropped because of a 40 and yet he’s a football player that is more than useful to the Atlanta Falcons organization. So why read so much into somebody’s 40-yard dash?
Dimitroff: We talk about it all the time and the league is a matchup league. And that part of the matchup is so important. You can have the most athletic and smooth, fluid individual running routes, catching balls, doing whatever but if they can’t stay in phase, meaning they can’t stay with that player. Whether that’s a defensive back and a receiver or an O-lineman mirroring a D-lineman they have no chance in this league. So from a speed standpoint at his position it’s very important for him to have range and people pass him up. There are those situations where guys are football and game-speed fast and not on the fly.

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Team Needs: Falcons Will Decide DeCoud’s Future at Safety

February 8th, 2014 Comments off

The safety position for the Atlanta Falcons is potentially in flux this offseason as the team has a decision to make in determining whether or not to keep starting free safety Thomas DeCoud.

That decision will need to be made by March 15, as that is the day in which $2.25 million of his $4.2 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed. If that day comes to fruition, the team will lock in DeCoud for one more season as the starter and hope he bounces back to the form he showed in 2012 when he made the Pro Bowl with a team-leading six interceptions. But it doesn’t seem likely given that in the majority of his five seasons as the team’s starting free safety, DeCoud has rarely risen above mediocrity. And he’s also coming off a 2013 campaign that was by far the worst of his career. Instead, the Falcons could opt to cut ties with DeCoud and free up $3 million in cap space for 2014 (per Over The Cap).

Factoring into that decision will likely be the Falcons’ determination on whether they can find a better replacement this offseason. As it currently sits, the team is unlikely to find that upgrade already on the roster. Rookie Zeke Motta replaced an injured DeCoud for two games this past year and struggled. He looked a step slow in coverage, a no-no for any potential starter at free safety. Fellow 2013 draft pick Kemal Ishmael appeared in only a handful of games solely on a special teams, a role he may be ideally suited for. But it’s unlikely the team would give a serious nod to an untested player like him.

Thus if the Falcons are going to find an upgrade, it will have to be either in free agency or the draft. There should be plenty of options in free agency with some promising younger players as well as older veterans that could solidify the position. Given the Falcons are likely to go young at cornerback, it might be smart to add a more experienced hand at safety. But the team could easily decide that the youth trend should continue on the back-end of the secondary as well and look for a draft pick to try and solidify the position long-term.

Peters and Motta headed to injured reserve

December 24th, 2013 Comments off
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Corey Peters

D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the Atlanta Falcons will place defensive tackle Corey Peters and rookie safety Zeke Motta on injured reserve. Peters suffered an Achilles injury in Monday night’s loss to the San Francisco 49ers. The injury will likely limit Peters during the upcoming offseason where he is set to become an unrestricted free agent. Motta suffered a fracture in his C1 vertebrae during the preceding week’s win over the Washington Redskins. He is expected to miss 4-6 weeks as he recovers from his recent surgery.

For the fifth consecutive season the Falcons have placed a player on injured reserve before the season finale. Last year, it was wide receiver Kevin Cone. In the preceding year, it was linebacker Mike Peterson and cornerback Kelvin Hayden. In 2010, safety Schann Schillinger found himself going to injured reserve while guard Harvey Dahl and cornerback Chris Houston were sidelined in 2009. Traditionally the Falcons typically elevate player(s) from the practice squad to the active roster for the season finale.

In the absence of Peters, the Falcons moved Peria Jerry to his traditional nose tackle spot against the 49ers. It will likely lead to increased reps for Travian Robertson in the season finale next week against the Carolina Panthers. Robertson has just played a total of 55 defensive snaps this season in four games played. Motta filled in for an injured Thomas DeCoud at free safety against the Redskins in his lone start of the season. But DeCoud returned this past week against the 49ers. Motta’s injury led to fellow rookie Kemal Ishmael receiving three snaps against the 49ers, his first of the season on defense. That will likely continue against the Panthers with Ishmael being the team’s top backup at both safety spots.

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