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Gonzalez Questionable But Expected to Play vs. Saints

November 21st, 2013 Comments off
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Tony Gonzalez

Yesterday, the Atlanta Falcons announced their injury report for their Thursday Night contest against NFC South Division rival, the New Orleans Saints. On it, tight end Tony Gonzalez was among several players listed as questionable with a toe injury, but according to head coach Mike Smith (via ESPN’s Vaughn McClure), he is expected to play. Gonzalez did not participate in practices on Monday and Tuesday this week, but did participate on a limited basis on Wednesday.

Also listed as questionable are defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux (tricep), quarterback Dominique Davis (knee), and safety Zeke Motta (hand). All three players were limited in all three days of practice this week. Davis suffered his injury in the fourth quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, prompting the team to work out a pair of veteran quarterbacks in Trent Edwards and Mike Kafka this week. Neither passer was signed due to the expectation that Davis will be available against the Saints. Motta has a broken finger and is expected to play with a cast according to an earlier report this week.

Listed as out on the injury report is defensive end Malliciah Goodman, who also missed last week’s game with a calf injury. He was held out of practice again this week.

Defensive tackle Peria Jerry (shoulder), running back Jacquizz Rodgers (ankle), offensive tackle Jeremy Trueblood (knee/hip), and linebacker Paul Worrilow (shoulder) were all listed as probable. All three players fully participated on Wednesday, while being limited in practice on Monday and Tuesday due to the shortened week of preparation.

Notable injuries for the Saints include guards Jahri Evans (ankle) and Ben Grubbs (neck), defensive end Akiem Hicks (back), running back Darren Sproles (knee/ankle), safety Kenny Vaccaro (concussion), and tight end Ben Watson (concussion). All six players were listed as questionable on the team’s injury report. Both Evans and Sproles were held out of Tuesday and Wednesday’s practices. Also appearing on the injury report as probable are tight end Jimmy Graham (elbow/foot), defensive end Cameron Jordan (ankle), and linebacker Curtis Lofton (hamstring/ankle). Cornerback Jabari Greer was placed on injured reserve earlier this week with a torn ACL. He is expected to be replaced in the starting lineup by second-year cornerback Corey White.

White Questionable in Week 9 vs. Panthers

November 2nd, 2013 Comments off

The Falcons announced their injury report yesterday, and wide receiver Roddy White was listed as questionable after participating on a limited basis in Friday’s practice. White has missed the past two games with a hamstring injury, and was held out of practice on Wednesday and Thursday. If White is unable to go, the Falcons will continue to start Drew Davis opposite Harry Douglas at wide receiver as they have done the past two weeks.

Also listed as questionable were offensive tackle Sam Baker (knee), safety William Moore (hip), and defensive end Osi Umenyiora (knee). All three players were limited on all three days of practice this week. Out this week will once again be Stephen Nicholas (thigh), who was held completely out of practice. If Baker is unable to go, he will be replaced by Lamar Holmes, who has started the past three games at left tackle in Baker’s absence. Moore’s backup is rookie Zeke Motta, who has had minimal reps on defense thus far this year, mostly appearing on special teams. Umenyiora’s potential absence could see the Falcons shuffle their defensive end rotation, moving Jonathan Massaquoi to right end and potentially starting Malliciah Goodman at left end.

Jason Snelling (ankle) is probable after missing Wednesday’s practice, but fully participated on Friday. Linebacker Akeem Dent (ankle), center Joe Hawley (elbow), defensive tackle Peria Jerry (toe), and guard Garrett Reynolds (knee) were all probable as well. Dent and Reynolds were both limited on Wednesday, but fully participated in Thursday and Friday’s practices. Hawley and Jerry were limited on Wednesday and Thursday, but fully participated on Friday.

For Carolina, notable players on their injury report are: linebacker Chase Blackburn (foot), who is questionable this week, along with linebacker Thomas Davis (shoulder), defensive end Charles Johnson (groin), and running back DeAngelo Williams (quad), who are all probable. Johnson and Williams were held out of practices on Wednesday and Thursday, but returned on a limited basis on Friday.

Three Key Position Battles to Watch Tonight vs. Jaguars

August 29th, 2013 Comments off

Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

Darius Johnson is poised to make a bid for the roster tonight

While the majority of the Falcons roster is fairly settled, there remain some roster spots open. And many of them come at a few key positions, where a clear-cut winner has yet to emerge. Here are three key position battles where the player who has the best performance tonight against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the Falcons preseason finale could emerge the winner, while the loser seeks employment elsewhere.

Fifth Wide Receiver: Darius Johnson vs. Kevin Cone

The Falcons top four wideouts appear locked in with Roddy White, Julio Jones, Harry Douglas, and Drew Davis atop the depth chart. The Falcons have traditionally kept five wide receivers over the years, with the fourth and fifth players primarily playing special teams.

That helps Kevin Cone, who has been effective working on punt and kickoff coverage dating back to 2012. But Cone has been disappointing thus far on offense. That’s where Darius Johnson has shined. Johnson is the opposite of Cone, in that he’s small, but very quick and explosive. He has been highly productive working with the second and third team offenses. While Cone has made some contributions there, they have been too few and far between. While Cone’s hands have shown improvement from a year ago, he has struggled to separate from coverage.

Johnson did get reps as a return man during his days at SMU, and his speed and quickness could potentially be an asset there in the event that Harry Douglas or Jacquizz Rodgers go down with injuries. But his smaller size remains an obstacle when it comes to coverage on special teams. It didn’t stop a player like Eric Weems from excelling over the years in Atlanta in that realm, but Johnson is a ways from proving himself to be another Weems.

How this final game plays out will determine who wins the job. Cone’s a much more proven commodity as far as special teams goes, while Johnson seems to possess greater offensive potential. The Falcons will ultimately have to decide which they value more. But in both players’ cases, it will help if Cone has a good night on offense, and/or Johnson can make a few plays on special teams. What helps Cone in his bid for a roster spot is that he isn’t eligible for the practice squad, while Johnson is. The Falcons would then have to decide whether they want to risk exposing Johnson to waivers. It would be iffy at best if Johnson cleared them, considering he is currently ranked tied for third in the league in receptions going into the final preseason game. That is likely to catch some receiver-needy team looking for a quick, slot-type to develop.

Another factor that could be in play might be the questionable health of Roddy White. While White is expected to suit up for the Falcons Week 1, if there are any setbacks with his recovery from an ankle injury between now and then, the Falcons could be tempted to carry six receivers on the roster for the opening week as insurance. That could ensure that both players wind up being kept.

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Roster Talk: Locks and Bubble Players

August 28th, 2013 1 comment

Back at the start of training camp, I made my projections on who would make the Falcons final roster. And frankly, I feel very good about most of them. I feel like I might be in the single digits with the number of ones where I was off on, which should work out to be only about a sixth of the roster. I’ll take that.

But on the eve of the Falcons final preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, I want to discuss which players on the roster are locks versus those that are likely on the outside looking in. I’ll break down all 75 players and put them into four categories which should determine their status for the impending Falcons final 53.

Locks

These players from the start were really in no danger to get released. While they may not have all been 100%, they were in the upper part of the 90th-percentile, and thus were more at risk to be injured than cut by the Falcons.

Among them are a few rookies, who weren’t in danger of getting released one bit such as their top four picks this past April. Their play in training camp and the preseason was to determine how much they’d play when the regular season begins, not whether the Falcons would carry them on the roster.

Quarterback: Matt Ryan
Running Backs: Steven Jackson, Jacquizz Rodgers, Jason Snelling
Wide Receivers: Roddy White, Julio Jones, Harry Douglas
Tight Ends: Tony Gonzalez, Levine Toilolo
Offensive Line: Sam Baker, Justin Blalock, Peter Konz, Lamar Holmes, Garrett Reynolds, Joe Hawley
Defensive Ends: Kroy Biermann, Osi Umenyiora, Jonathan Massaquoi, Malliciah Goodman
Defensive Tackles: Corey Peters, Jonathan Babineaux, Travian Robertson
Linebackers: Sean Weatherspoon, Akeem Dent
Cornerbacks: Asante Samuel, Robert McClain, Desmond Trufant, Robert Alford
Safeties: Thomas DeCoud, William Moore
Special Teams: Matt Bryant, Matt Bosher, Josh Harris

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Training Camp: Day 14 Report

August 12th, 2013 Comments off

Sunday represented the final practice that would be open to the public. The Falcons will break camp next weekend before proceeding on their normal schedule leading up the all-important third preseason game on August 24 against the Tennessee Titans. These are news and reports that emerged from Sunday’s practice:

  • Dominique Davis is his own worst critic, calling his interception against the Bengals on Thursday night a “dumb decision.”
  • The AJC provides Mike Smith’s thoughts following practice.
  • The Falcons elevated rookie safeties Zeke Motta and Kemal Ishmael on their depth chart. Both are listed as the third string strong and free safety respectively on the depth chart, but got work with the second unit Sunday. The second team consists of Charles Mitchell and Shann Schillinger.


  • After a day off, Daniel Cox was back at it discussing his five observations from Sunday’s practice. They include Harry Douglas’ value in the slot, the emergence of young running backs due to the injury to Antone Smith, Julio Jones’ full return to practice,and how the roster could shake out along the offensive line.

Camp Battles 2013: Safety

July 22nd, 2013 Comments off

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Charles Mitchell must fend off several promising youngsters

Starters Thomas DeCoud and William Moore are both coming off Pro Bowl years. Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan certainly had a positive effect on both of them as they proved to be one of the most opportunitic pair of safeties in the league. Neither player is expected to be challenged this summer and instead will be focusing upon building towards an even better 2013 season.

But the backup spots behind them are potentially wide open as the Falcons hope one of their young safeties emerge as positive depth. The fact that Moore has been injured nearly every year since joining the team in 2009 makes it important that the Falcons are comfortable and confident with their depth. Last June, the Falcons added veteran Chris Hope because of their discomfort and it remains a possibility that they could seek another veteran at the end of this summer if a young player doesn’t emerge.

The best candidate to emerge is second-year safety Charles Mitchell. Mitchell is in a prime position to become the team’s top backup at the position. He worked last summer at both safety spots. A good run defender that possesses decent range to make plays in coverage, Mitchell is a solid candidate to fill in in the event of an injury to either starter. If there is any negative in regards to Mitchell, it’s the fact that he made minimal contributions on special teams last year. That will need to change given the fact that the team doesn’t often substitute in reserve safeties as they do reserve corners in their subpackages. Thus to merit being active every Sunday, a backup safety needs to make contributions on special teams.

He’ll be pushed by Shann Schillinger and a pair of rookie draft picks in Kemal Ishmael and Zeke Motta. Schillinger missed all of the 2012 season with an injury, but prior to it he was one of the team’s top special teams players. While Schillinger doesn’t offer a ton of upside to be a regular on defense, his special teams ability means he can be active every Sunday and be a contributor. His biggest competition will likely come from Ishmael, who also plays the free safety position. Ishmael was a very active run defender during his days at Central Florida, which is expected to translate into high special teams value.

Zeke Motta will be pushing Mitchell as the reserve strong safety. While Motta doesn’t quite offer the same value defensively that Mitchell does, again if he can showcase more value on special teams he could potentially leap frog him on the depth chart. While there are few star safeties hailing from Notre Dame over the past decade, nearly all have managed to stick on special teams in the NFL, with David Bruton (Broncos), Tom Zbikowski (Bears), and Sergio Brown (Colts) being current standouts.

Because of the presence of so many former draft picks, it’s possible the Falcons will opt to keep five safeties. But the team could potentially hide Motta and/or Ishmael on their practice squad as well. Undrafted rookie Troy Sanders is a longshot even for the practice squad because of the presence of all the former draft picks.

Scouting Report: Zeke Motta

May 23rd, 2013 Comments off

Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE

Zeke Motta

Here’s a look at the second safety the Falcons selected in the seventh round in Zeke Motta.

Height: 6-2 1/4
Weight: 215
School: Notre Dame
Class: Senior
Speed: 4.71 (Campus)

He split reps with Jamoris Slaughter during his sophomore and junior seasons at strong safety, playing opposite Harrison Smith. After Smith was drafted in 2012, he moved to free safety as a senior in his lone season as a full-time starter. He had career highs in tackles. Not a great coverage guy, Motta has good size and is an active run defender. But like many of his Notre Dame brethren, Motta’s stock was hurt by the fact that he had an underwhelming game against Alabama in the National Championship. He did lead the team with tackles in that game, recording a career-high 16 but many of those were made several yards downfield after successful Alabama runs or throws. Then his stock was hurt even more with a slow 40 time at the Combine (4.83). His first name is short for Ezekiel.

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Falcons announce four draft pick signings

May 17th, 2013 Comments off

Following up on previous report, the Falcons announced the signing of four draft picks today including the previously reported move to get safety Kemal Ishmael under contract. Also signing were Falcons 2013 fourth round pick defensive end Malliciah Goodman, fifth round defensive end Stansly Maponga, and seventh round safety Zeke Motta. That leaves four remaining unsigned draft picks for the Falcons.

All agreed to four-year deals, although exact terms of their contracts were undisclosed. Based on deals signed by players taken in last year’s draft, Goodman’s four-year deal will likely be worth around $2.55 million with a signing bonus under $400,000. Maponga will likely sign a deal worth around $2.35 million with a signing bonus in the area of $190,000. Similar to Ishmael, Motta’s deal should be worth roughly $2.2 million with a signing bonus around $45,000.

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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 27 “2013 Draft Recap”

May 11th, 2013 Comments off

On this episode, Allen and I recap the 2013 Draft. We detail what we liked and didn’t like about the Falcons picks, as well as looking around the league at other teams’ picks. You’ll also hear Allen’s insights and recap of his experience at Radio City Music Hall on the opening night of the draft. Dominique Franks’ roster status as well as John Abraham’s chances of returning to the team are also discussed. Robert James earns a new nickname: “Cancer” in this episode, and of course we can’t go an episode without our obligatory Peria Jerry and Ray Edwards bashing.

Ep. 27: 2013 Draft Recap [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 16 minutes

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

If you have any questions and comments, you can hit us up on Twitter, post in the forums in the podcast thread, or drop an e-mail at: pudge@falcfans.com.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. You can also subscribe directly to our feed at the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/falcfans/LXSt

 

Takeaways From Last Week – 2013 NFL Draft

April 29th, 2013 2 comments
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Manti Te’o: “Star” of the Draft

The 2013 NFL Draft was held this past weekend, and as usual it was an intriguing affair. I told my brother, who did not watch one minute of the draft mainly because his wife detests football, that this year’s draft was much like recent NBA Drafts meaning that in future years the 2013 draft class won’t be particularly memorable with its star appeal. Not to say this draft won’t produce good or even great NFL players, because every draft does, at least everyone that I can recall. But as we often heard over the weekend, this was a draft in which the linemen were front and center. Try as they might, ESPN and NFL Network did their best to insert as much “star appeal” as possible by spending as much time as possible talking about this quarterback class and Manti Te’o.

The media desperately wanted to talk about those players, but ultimately I think the quarterbacks and Te’o will be largely forgotten in the NFL. Ultimately the best you’re going to hope from the group of quarterbacks drafted this year is that they produce a Matt Schaub or David Garrard-caliber passer. They may be competent to good starter, but the only time they’ll be really discussed by the media by and large is to talk about how they aren’t great.

Also, it’s not that I doubt Te’o will be a good NFL player, it’s just that his infamous catfishing incident may ultimately eclipse his NFL career. I think Te’o probably winds up playing a decade in the NFL, most of it as a starter. But I think he winds up being comparable to players like Curtis Lofton or Lofa Tatupu, capable starters that their respective team likes, but are rarely mentioned among the best in the league.

I know it’s unrealistic to think that I could turn on league’s flagship channel or the Worldwide Leader in Sports, and expect them to spend hours talking about the greatness of Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher, Dion Jordan, or any of the players at “blue collar” positions. But there were really good players in this draft and none them played quarterback or middle linebacker for Notre Dame, but you wouldn’t know that from watching the television coverage as they never went more than fifteen minutes without mentioning one of those lesser players.

My final comments on the draft before I start to discuss the Falcons picks specifically is that I do think it’s interesting that quarterbacks did not get pushed up the board. I talked about that in an earlier column this off-season. And at that time, it was difficult to fathom that there wouldn’t be any Top 10 selections at the quarterback position. I compared it to the 2011 class, where a number of lesser prospects went high in the draft and ultimately none of those teams are better for it. I still think the passers did get pushed up the board, but not as far as they normally do. So I tip my hat to NFL teams for not reaching too far on subpar passers. We’ll see if this trend continues next April.

But onto the Falcons…

I liked the Falcons draft. It’s not very sexy, nor is it one that I think people will look back and say made a huge impact on the team. But it’s a solid group of players. I think moreso than in recent drafts, the Falcons seemed more intent on looking at players that had higher ceilings. I think a hallmark of some of the Falcons post-2008 drafts has been targetting players with high floors, but relatively low ceilings. I think the opposite happened this year.

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