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Chris Owens heads to Cleveland

March 22nd, 2013 Comments off
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Chris Owens

The Cleveland Browns announced the signing of cornerback Chris Owens today. Owens, a former Falcon, was an unrestricted free agent. Fellow free agent Brent Grimes visited the Browns this past weekend. Owens signed a one-year deal with the Browns, with undisclosed terms.

Owens was drafted by the Falcons in the third round of the 2009 draft out of San Jose State. He played late in his rookie season as a replacement for an injured Chris Houston, and performed well in six starts with 26 tackles and 2 interceptions. The following season, he lost a camp competition to Grimes for the starting position and was moved into the slot as the nickel back. He struggled that year and was eventually benched in favor of Brian Williams. He then replaced an injured Williams in the Falcons playoff game against the Green Bay Packers, and struggled in the loss. In 2011, he showed up late in the season as an injury fill-in for Grimes on the outside, where he was more respectable. This past year, he once again got reps as an injury fill-in with starters Dunta Robinson and Asante Samuel nursing some injuries. Owens also proved to be a valuable special teams player over his time in Atlanta, tallying 26 stops on special teams.

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Falcons FA Focus: Cornerback

March 8th, 2013 Comments off
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Brent Grimes

I know I should have posted this article over two weeks ago, but other projects distracted me. The Falcons released Dunta Robinson and now have an obvious opening at the cornerback position. The Falcons cut Robinson because of his high price tag and diminishing returns. While Robinson was able to blossom in some areas under Mike Nolan, becoming a highly valuable run defender and blitzer off the edge last year, he continued to struggle in coverage. Robinson just didn’t make enough plays in coverage, which likely means that the Falcons will want a corner with better ball skills to replace him. They have one potentially hitting the open market in Brent Grimes.

The first decision the Falcons have to make is whether or not they will re-sign him. The team is optimistic about Grimes’ return from his torn Achilles suffered on opening day last season. So it doesn’t sound like injury is going to deter them from making an offer. Whether Grimes returns really is going to come down to money. Grimes didn’t get the big contract he was seeking last year, and fresh off an Achilles tear is probably not poised to get one this year. Teams tend to get skittish about guaranteeing money when players wind up injured at the end of two consecutive years.

If the Falcons and Grimes don’t agree on a new deal, then the Falcons will have plenty of other options on the open market. While there aren’t a lot of top-level cornerbacks, there are plenty that are capable starters and role players.

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Falcons Needs: Cornerback

February 11th, 2013 Comments off
Bob Donnan-US PRESSWIRE

Dunta Robinson

The Falcons got improved play from Dunta Robinson, while Asante Samuel seemed to make the loss of Brent Grimes much smoother. The Falcons even discovered a diamond in the rough with Robert McClain at the nickel cornerback position. All of those things make it seem like the cornerback position is a strength for the team, but it may not be.

Both starters Robinson and Samuel are on the wrong side of the age thirty. Samuel still is going strong and throughout the second half of the season was able to show his trademark ball skills. He’s still a liability when it comes to run support, but when you make as many game-changing plays as he does in coverage, it is forgivable. Robinson appears to be the opposite player. His first year in Mike Nolan’s scheme really brought out of his run support and blitzing abilities. But Robinson rarely makes plays in coverage, and is increasingly becoming a liability there with added age. He’s never been a player that has played with great technique or discipline, relying instead on his superior athleticism to match up with receivers. But as one gets older, that athleticism is one of the first things to go and Robinson appears to be in the midst of that. Robinson has a base salary of $8 million in 2013, and $3 million of that becomes guaranteed if he’s on the roster on the fifth day of the league year (March 16).

So the Falcons have a decision to make at right cornerback. They can keep Robinson, and hope that Father Time can be staved off for one more year. Another option might be to try and draft a young corner to become his replacement. Another option could be to sign a player to push or replace him as the starter.

Other things factor into that decision, mainly Brent Grimes. Grimes is a free agent coming off an Achilles tear, one of the more devastating injuries in football. It’s certainly possible Grimes could return for the start of next year, but it would be a question of how effective he would be at that point. But given the questions surrounding Grimes’ health status, it would be a major gamble to try and replace Robinson with him in 2013. If Grimes returns to Atlanta, it will likely have to come down to his price tag. A year ago, the Ne York Giants re-signed cornerback Terrell Thomas, who was coming off an ACL tear. The Giants gave Thomas a four-year deal that had only a small portion paid in the first year, with a big option bonus in the second year, essentially giving Thomas a year to prove whether he was worth retaining long-term. The best possible scenario for the Falcons is if they can get Grimes signed to a similar deal which would lower their risk factor.

The Falcons could reach out to other potential free agents that are younger and cheaper than Robinson on the open market, but given that the price tag of corners is often driven up, that doesn’t seem to be ideal.

The Falcons could draft a corner early in the draft, but given their needs at a number of other positions it probably wouldn’t be a priority and thus would have to wait until the third day of the draft. And at that point, you’re only getting a backup candidate rather than a potential starter.

The Falcons could tinker with inserting McClain into the starting lineup. McClain had a breakout year as the team’s nickel cornerback, but when he was asked to supplant either Robinson or Samuel, both of whom dealt with injuries this past year, he was far less effective. Given the long time it’s been since the Falcons have had a good nickel cornerback, the team probably doesn’t want to put too much on McClain’s plate next year. And given the age of Samuel, the smarter strategy may be to groom McClain to replace him in two years as opposed to replacing Robinson now. That way the team can allow McClain to develop some more. The Falcons have been burned multiple times in the past with putting too much trust in young, green corners after flashing a bit of promise. Chevis Jackson, Chris Owens, and Dominique Franks were at one point in time considered to be promising starters after good starts in Atlanta. But all three ultimately petered out to become average at best players.

Franks will be back next year and the team tinkered with him playing the role of a dime safety late. Franks struggled as a punt returner and being able to carve out of a bigger role on defense might be his only salvation when it comes to making the team next year.

Like Grimes, Chris Owens is also an unrestricted free agent this year. He’ll be considerably less expensive than other potential options. Owens is an effective stopgap option as an outside corner, has experience playing in the slot, and is one of the team’s better special teams players. That should all mean that he should be back in a Falcon uniform due to his depth value. But if not, then the odds increase dramatically that the team uses one of its picks this April at the position.

All this means that Robinson probably does return to the Falcons in 2013, just at a reduced price tag. But given the ages of Robinson and Samuel, the Falcons need to have long-term plans for replacing both sooner rather than later. McClain might fit the bill for one of those spots, but in the very near future the Falcons need to find someone that can do the same at the other. Owens and Franks are less than ideal options at this point, and Grimes’ status is up in the air.

Abraham, Babineaux questionable vs. 49ers

January 19th, 2013 Comments off

The Falcons announced their injury report for this Sunday’s upcoming NFC Championship Game matchup against the San Francisco 49ers. On it, defensive end John Abraham and defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux were listed as questionable. Abraham injured his ankle in the Falcons’ season finale against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He returned last week in the Falcons’ win against the Seattle Seahawks, but re-aggravated the injury after roughly a dozen snaps and was pulled from the game. He was limited in all three days of practice this week. Babineaux was also limited all week with a shoulder injury. Babineaux played against the Seahawks last week, and had an outstanding performance in the first half, but had a fairly quiet second half.

Also on the injury report were safety William Moore (hand), linebacker Stephen Nicholas (foot), and cornerback Chris Owens (hamstring). Both Moore and Nicholas managed to practice fully all three days this week with their injuries. Owens missed last week’s game but after being limited on Wednesday and Thursday, he suited up for full participation for Friday’s practice.

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Owens out against Seahawks, Abe questionable

January 11th, 2013 Comments off

The Falcons announced their injury report today. On it, cornerback Chris Owens was the only play to be ruled out for this Sunday’s divisonal playoff matchup against the Seattle Seahawks. Owens missed the entire week of practice with a hamstring injury. Defensive end John Abraham, who went down with an ankle injury in the season finale was listed as questionable, after going through limited participation in practice this week. Safety Charles Mitchell (calf) was also listed as questionable. Safety William Moore (hamstring) and cornerback Dunta Robinson (concussion) were listed as probable. Moore went fully during today’s practice, while Robinson hasn’t skipped a bit all week. Moore has not played since Week 13, missing the final 4 regular season games due to his injury. Robinson suffered his concussion early in the Falcons Week 17 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but returned to practice last week.

Due to the absence of Owens, Dominique Franks will likely get more reps on defense if the Falcons opt to utilize their dime package which normally features four corners.

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Abraham returns to practice

January 9th, 2013 Comments off

Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Abraham went down with an ankle injury in Week 17

Falcons defensive end John Abraham, after suffering an ankle injury in the team’s season finale returned to practice on Wednesday on a limited basis. Abraham went down in the fourth quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Safety William Moore (hamstring) also practiced on a limited basis, although Moore returned to practice on Saturday. Moore had missed the final three games of the season due to his hamstring injury. Missing Wednesday’s practice was safety Charles Mitchell (calf) and cornerback Chris Owens (hamstring).  Dunta Robinson, who returned to practice last week after suffering a concussion against the Buccaneers in Week 17, fully participated in practice.

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.

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Weatherspoon among others out for Saints game

November 9th, 2012 Comments off

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.

Falcons Announce Week 5 Injury Report

October 5th, 2012 Comments off

The Falcons announced their injury report for this weekend’s upcoming game against the Washington Redskins. Tight end Michael Palmer will miss his second consecutive game with a shoulder injury, as he was listed as out. Center Todd McClure, safety William Moore, and fullback Lousaka Polite were all listed as questionable. Both McClure and Moore were limited in practice all week long with pectroal and hip injuries, respectively. Polite missed both Wednesday and Thursday practices with a hamstring injury, but was upgraded on Friday and participated on a limited basis.

Also on the Falcons injury report were defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux (groin), wide receiver Julio Jones (hand), linebacker Stephen Nicholas (thigh), cornerback Chris Owens (concussion), and running back Antone Smith (hamstring), all listed as probable. All five players were full go in Friday’s practice. Babineaux and Smith were limited on both Wednesday and Thursday, while Nicholas and Owens were only limited in Wednesday’s practice.

For the Redskins, safety Brandon Meriweather (knee) and cornerback Cedric Griffin (hamstring) are out this Sunday. Running back Evan Royster (knee) is questionable. Wide receiver Pierre Garcon (foot), tackle Trent Williams (knee), returner Brandon Banks (hip), and cornerback DeAngelo Hall (flu) were listed as probable.

Owens and Smith to miss Charger game

September 22nd, 2012 Comments off

Yesterday, the Falcons released their injury report for this weekend’s road game against the San Diego Chargers. Cornerback Chris Owens and running back Antone Smith were declared out for the game. Both players were injured during last Monday’s win against the Denver Broncos, Owens suffering a concussion and Smith injuring his hamstring. Neither player participated in this week’s three days of practice.

Also on the report were tackle Tyson Clabo (hip) and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (thigh), both declared as questionable. Defensive end John Abraham (knee), wide receiver Julio Jones (thigh), linebacker Stephen Nicholas (thigh), and wide receiver Roddy White (knee) were all listed as probable. All six players were limited in their participation of Wednesday and Thursday’s practice. All those listed as probable fully participated in Friday’s practice however.

With Owens out of the game, Dominique Franks is expected to fill in at nickel cornerback. Franks was inserted into the Broncos game after Owens left early.

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 21 “Enhanced Pregame”

September 15th, 2012 Comments off

Through the magic of the internet and the ability to splice the meat of three separate live podcasts together, Ryan and I preview and then recap our thoughts on the Falcons win over the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 1. You’ll also hear my thoughts on what matchups to look out for in an extensive preview of the Falcons’ Week 2 contest against the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football. Other topics include the injury to Brent Grimes and its potential immediate and long-term ramifications on the Falcons season.

Ep. 21: Enhanced Pregame [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 15 minutes

 

If you have any questions and comments, you can hit us up on Twitter, post in the forums in the podcast thread, or drop Ryan an e-mail at: ryan-valdez@live.com or myself at: pudge@falcfans.com. Don’t forget to drop by every week to hear our live broadcast at: ustream.tv/channel/falcfans-show

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