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Atlanta Falcons Training Camp Preview 2014: Tight End

July 17th, 2014 No comments

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY

Levine Toilolo

For five seasons the Atlanta Falcons’ tight end position was one of the league’s best due to the presence of Tony Gonzalez, but now entering 2014 could have possibly morphed into one of the league’s weakest units.

There are unanswered questions heading into training camp at this position, centering mostly on whether Levine Toilolo is ready to take over for Gonzalez.

Toilolo was drafted in the fourth round of last year’s draft and tabbed as the heir apparent to Gonzalez. However, despite the team’s youth movement at most other positions in the second half of 2013, the Falcons never saw fit to really get Toilolo on the field. It raises questions about the level of confidence the team should have in the young tight end.

No one expects Toilolo to come close to filling Gonzalez’s shoes, but that doesn’t mean that expectations are low. Toilolo is currently penciled atop the Falcons depth chart at tight end, and thus should still at least act accordingly.

Toilolo won’t be one of the top starting tight ends in the league in 2014, but should at least look competent. And whether he can achieve that remains to be seen. The hope is that Toilolo eventually develops into a player similar to Marcedes Lewis, who Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter had in Jacksonville. Lewis has good size and is known mainly as one of the top blocking tight ends in the league, but is also an occasional playmaker and red-zone threat.

Toilolo has the tools to be that sort of player, but it might take some time before that sort of ability comes forth. It should be noted that Lewis got off to a slow start in his pro career. Toilolo will need a very strong preseason, something he lacked last summer, to allay any concerns about his immediate starting potential.

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Atlanta Falcons Training Camp Preview 2014: Fullback

July 15th, 2014 No comments

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Patrick DiMarco

When the Atlanta Falcons released former draft pick Bradie Ewing this offseason, it signaled that the team’s investment in the fullback position was diminishing.

That could be reflected in the fullback competition this summer, as the team has a trio of players competing for what likely will be only one roster spot.

Patrick DiMarco is the incumbent, filling in for an injured Ewing a year ago and performing well. DiMarco is an effective lead blocker that can also contribute on special teams, meaning that his fate is not exclusively tied to the fullback position.

That’s important, since it’s plausible that the team could opt to do away with the position entirely this year. Reports indicate the Falcons will play more three-wide receiver sets which will likely be at the expense fo the fullback.

They could adopt more two-tight end looks that have players like Bear Pascoe or Jacob Pedersen lining up at H-back instead of the traditional fullback. Pascoe’s played fullback in the past and is good enough that he could be perfectly functional in a pinch.

But because DiMarco also can contribute on special teams, it gives him added value when it comes to earning a roster spot. It may very well prove that during the regular season, whoever plays fullback will see more reps on special teams than he does on offense.

DiMarco will face competition from a pair of undrafted rookies in Roosevelt Nix and Maurice Hagens.

Nix is an interesting case because he played defensive tackle at Kent State, where he was very productive at that position. But his lack of size limited his NFL potential there, and the team hopes to take advantage of his physicality on offense.

Hagens is a big body at the position and could also make waves. It’ll be important for both undrafted rookies to show they can also cut it on special teams.

Ostensibly this position is a wide open competition, with any of the three having decent odds to stick. This is also a position where the Falcons could just as easily seek other options elsewhere when cuts occur later this summer.

DiMarco is the safest bet to make the team, but it’s the most wide open position on the team.

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Ranking the Falcons 2014: No. 40 Bear Pascoe

July 15th, 2014 No comments
May 28, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons tight end Bear Pascoe during organized team activities at the Falcons Training Complex. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

Bear Pascoe

I’m counting down the top 40 players on the Atlanta Falcons, and let’s begin with 40th-ranked player: tight end Bear Pascoe.

To read the methodology I devised to rank the Falcons players, click here.

Total Score: 38/100

Last year’s rank: N/A
Player Grade: 48/100
Teams he is starter: 2 out of 32
Teams he is best position player: 2 out of 32
Teams he is role player: 16 out of 32
Peak-Year Bonus: +1
Positional Bonus: +3

Pascoe is a new pickup for the Falcons this offseason after having played five seasons with the New York Giants. In Atlanta, Pascoe will fill the same role he did in New York which is as a blocking tight end. That’s a role he could serve on half the teams in the league where he offers an upgrade over their current backups.

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An Early Look at Key Training Camp Battles on Atlanta Falcons Offense

May 31st, 2014 Comments off
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Dominique Davis

June is a month filled with organized team activities, as we steadily inch closer to NFL training camps that open up at the end of July.

Let’s take a look at some of the burgeoning roster battles on offense that will become the key storylines come July and August during the Atlanta Falcons training camp.

Quarterback

The main issue for this position is the backup spot behind starter Matt Ryan. Dominique Davis is the front-runner given his experience, but is far from proven. Davis struggled last preseason, but so did his biggest competition in 2013 seventh-round pick Sean Renfree. Renfree has the draft status backing him up, which means the Falcons have a vested interest in developing him. But he’ll need to prove he can stay healthy, something that has been exceedingly difficult for him the past few years, and also improve his play on the field.

Undrafted free agent Jeff Mathews will also be in the mix, possessing good size and a strong arm that could impress enough to be a serious contender for the job. Normally, Mathews would be competing solely for a spot on the practice squad, but there are so many question marks at the position that if he comes out strong this summer, he could potentially win the No. 2 job behind Ryan.

This is a position that if the performances aren’t up to par, the Falcons may look elsewhere for help as they did two years ago by signing Luke McCown before the start of the regular season.

Running Back

The top of the Falcons depth chart is pretty settled with Steven Jackson as the starter and Jacquizz Rodgers serving as the team’s third-down back. The key issue is whether or not rookie Devonta Freeman can perform well enough to steal significant reps from either player once the regular season begins.

Antone Smith’s special teams ability alone likely will net him a roster spot. Smith has always been productive during the preseason on offense as well, which is why he’s lasted five summers in Atlanta. That leaves the question of whether Josh Vaughan or Jerome Smith can perform well enough to take another spot. The odds are against both as the team is unlikely to carry a fifth back in Vaughan on the roster due to the addition of Freeman, and Smith is likely competing for a practice squad spot even if he has a strong summer.

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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 65 “Last Thoughts on the Draft”

May 6th, 2014 Comments off

I am joined by Dave Choate of the Falcholic to give some final thoughts on what the Atlanta Falcons could do in the 2014 NFL Draft. We break down several first-round scenarios for the Falcons including whether or not they will trade up for Jadeveon Clowney or stay at six to take an offensive tackle. We also discuss what areas of need could be targeted in the second and third rounds of the draft. Then we follow up with our assessment of which areas could be addressed in the later rounds. We also discuss whether Bear Pascoe’s signing will affect the Falcons draft plans at tight end.

Episode 65 – Last Thoughts on the Draft [Download]

Duration: 48 minutes

Dave writes for The Falcoholic and can be found on twitter: @TheFalcoholic.

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

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Falcons Pick Up Tight End Bear Pascoe

May 1st, 2014 Comments off

The Atlanta Falcons announced the signing of unrestricted free agent and former New York Giants tight end Bear Pascoe. News of the Falcons interest in Pascoe broke this morning when it was reported that he was working out for the team. Terms of his contract were undisclosed. Pascoe spent the past five seasons with the Giants as a blocking tight end and fullback. For his career, Pascoe has started 32 games and caught 38 passes for 333 yards and a touchdown.

Pascoe was originally drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the sixth round of the 2009 NFL Draft, after a solid playing career at Fresno State under former Falcons offensive line coach Pat Hill. Pascoe was cut by the 49ers in his first training camp and landed on the Giants practice squad. He was elevated to their active roster by year’s end, catching a single pass in four appearances. He would be released by the Giants the following summer and began the 2010 season on their practice squad. But he was soon elevated to the active roster after early injuries to both fullback Madison Hedgecock and tight end Kevin Boss. He started 11 games in 2010, primarily as a fullback and caught nine passes. In 2011, he would once again start 11 games, splitting his time between fullback and tight end. He finished that year with career-high 12 receptions for 136 yards. He has spent the bulk of the past two years as a blocking tight end, starting a combined nine games and catching 16 passes for 116 yards and a touchdown.

Pascoe now becomes the most experienced tight end on the Falcons roster, having appeared in 66 career games. The only other two experienced tight ends on the roster are Levine Toilolo (16 career games) and Mickey Shuler (six games). Pascoe is likely to be expected to be a reserve with Toilolo, or possibly a rookie draft pick assuming the starting spot.

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