Jake Matthews. From AtlantaFalcons.com
Let’s take a look at the various tweets, articles, reports, news and rumors that surfaced from the fourth day of Atlanta Falcons training camp:
The Falcons participated in their first padded practice of training camp today and really got after it. Notably, there were a pair of fights between offensive and defensive linemen.
The first fight occurred when offensive tackle Gabe Carimi and defensive end Stansly Maponga got into it. It then spread to center Joe Hawley and outside linebacker Jacques Smith. Hawley had some choice words for Smith afterwards. The media on hand at practice called it a draw.
The second fight involved offensive tackle Ryan Schraeder and Smith again.
Of course, head coach Mike Smith was less focused on the aggression showed in practice, but the more on technical things like pad level.
But today’s practice also meant a shift in philosophy:
The Falcons ran the Oklahoma drill, which you can see an example of here. D. Orlando Ledbetter breaks it down at the AJC. Fullback Patrick DiMarco was one player that reportedly shined.
The shift in philosophy and atmosphere the Oklahoma drill signifies was not lost on some observers:
Other highlights of the day included the play of defensive tackle Travian Robertson in one-on-one drills. Rookie offensive tackle Jake Matthews drew heaps of praise:
And according to Smitty, Matthews is on the fast track along with defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman for increased reps. But Hageman may have been less than dominant at times today.
The punt block drill drew some eyes as well.
Categories: News Carimi, DiMarco, Hageman, Hawley, Maponga, Matthews, Mike Smith, Robertson, roster, Schraeder, training camp
Allen and I are back to discuss the state of the Atlanta Falcons roster, including recent changes involving Pat Angerer and Darius Johnson. Then we compare notes with Vaughn McClure of ESPN’s projection of the Falcons final roster before discussing upcoming ideas about future podcast episodes, the Falcons Mount Rushmore and Jevon Kearse.
Allen covers the Falcons for Pro Football Spot. His twitter handle is: @Allen_Strk. You can check out Allen’s Mount Rushmore article here.
Vaughn’s roster projection discussed in the podcast can be found clicking here. Since recording the episode however, Vaughn has released an updated roster projection here.
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: email@example.com.
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Categories: Podcast Allen Strk, Angerer, Bartu, Darius Johnson, Goodman, Holmes, McClain, podcast, roster, Shembo, Southward, training camp, Wilson
Roddy White. From AtlantaFalcons.com
Let’s take a look at the various tweets, articles, reports, news and rumors that surfaced from the second day of Atlanta Falcons training camp:
- As usual, let’s kick things off with Jay Adam’s five takeaways from Day 2. Adams discusses linebacker Kroy Biermann’s return from injury, the team’s padded practice schedule, wide receiver Bernard Reedy’s potential emergence, the battle for the nickel cornerback spot and Julio Jones’ day off.
- ESPN’s Vaughn McClure expresses his own observations from the day including further elaboration of the battle for nickel cornerback, Reedy, and the play of the Falcons pass-rushers.
- Head over to AtlantaFalcons.com to check out today’s photo gallery from practice The posted picture above shows wide receiver Roddy White and other Falcons players interacting with the crowd as the team underwent its first-ever “Falcons Walk,” kicking off practice with a stroll through the crowd on their way to the practice field.
- The AJC provides video of today’s practice and post-practice interviews with general manager Thomas Dimitroff, head coach Mike Smith and offensive tackle Jake Matthews.
- The Falcons filled the roster spot left open from the waiving of Darius Johnson by signing wide receiver Jabin Sambrano. Sambrano is a former undrafted rookie out of Montana signed by the Indianapolis Colts in 2012. Sambrano was put on injured reserve by the Colts in that summer after suffering a concussion in training camp. He was later released by the Colts and ended the season on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers practice squad. He was re-signed by the Colts the following offseason, but was cut at the end of their 2013 camp. He finished last year with the Jacksonville Jaguars on their practice squad before being released in the offseason. He has spent the past few months in Canada with the B.C. Lions before getting another chance in the NFL with the Falcons.
The Atlanta Falcons made a surprise move today by waiving wide receiver Darius Johnson
. While Johnson’s grip on a potential roster spot was tenuous at best
, expectations were that he would at least get the opportunity to compete for a spot. The Falcons have yet to conduct their first practice of training camp, scheduled for later this afternoon. More details of his release are expected to revealed after practice this evening
Johnson was an undrafted rookie with the Falcons last year out of Southern Methodist. Johnson impressed during the summer enough to make the practice squad. He was quickly elevated to the roster when injuries hit the team early at wide receiver and managed to work his way up the depth chart to the third wideout by season’s end. In 10 games last year, he caught 22 passes for 210 yards (9.5 avg) and one touchdown.
Thomas Dimitroff (left) and Mike Smith
It’s time for me to be that much reviled “armchair” general manager and predict which 53 players will make it with the Atlanta Falcons this summer.
Last year, in my preliminary prediction before camp, I wound up nailing 44 out of the 53 players that eventually made the Falcons. I think that’s pretty good. Of the nine that didn’t make the cut, two were put on injured reserve (Sean Renfree and Mike Johnson) and one was briefly signed to the practice squad (Phillipkeith Manley). Of the eight players I predicted to make the practice squad, only two did (James Rodgers and Terren Jones).
I also made note of which players I believe are eligible for the practice squad with an asterisk (*).
Staying: Matt Ryan, T.J. Yates
Going: Sean Renfree*, Jeff Mathews*
Put simply, the Falcons traded for Yates for a reason.
Staying: Steven Jackson, Jacquizz Rodgers, Devonta Freeman*, Antone Smith
Going: Josh Vaughan, Jerome Smith*, Patrick DiMarco, Roosevelt Nix*, Maurice Hagens*
I’ll explain the absence of a true fullback along wit the tight ends, but otherwise the four that stick shouldn’t be a surprise.
The Atlanta Falcons special teams unit won’t appear much different than it has the past two seasons with the same group of specialists at kicker, punter and long snapper. But there is one big addition in the return game that could make a significant difference.
Incumbent kicker Matt Bryant, punter Matt Bosher and long snapper Josh Harris return for the third consecutive season. Bryant has been a reliable, clutch kicker over his past five seasons with the Falcons. He’s getting up in age and 2014 might mark his final season in Atlanta, but the Falcons should feel fairly confident that his previous success will continue this year. The team did however bring in a young option in undrafted rookie Sergio Castillo to push him. Castillo is a long shot to unseat Bryant, but can impress the coaching staff enough that he can return on the short list of kickers next year if the team and Bryant part ways.
Bosher is becoming one of the league’s best young punters and won’t face any challengers for his position. Bosher is likely due for a contract extension at the end of the year, and thus his goal this summer will be preparing to put forth his best effort during the season to achieve maximum earning potential.
Harris has had a few lapses over the years, but they appear to become less and less with each passing season. So there’s no reason to expect the Falcons to be disappointed with his performance moving forward.
However, the one big move occurred with the team now having ex-Chicago Bear Devin Hester serve as return specialist. Hester is arguably the best return in NFL history and needs just one more score to sit atop the all-time leader board as far as non-offensive touchdowns go. Hester, 31, is not quite the dynamic threat he was in his prime, he’s still a very effective return threat that commands respect from opposing teams. Many teams still kick away from him because of his potential to take it the distance every time he touches the ball, although it’s not quite the death sentence it once was.
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.
After examining the top 40 players on the Atlanta Falcons roster, that still leaves 50 players that did not get such in-depth looks. Most of those top 40 players will wind up making the Falcons 53-man roster this year, leaving little more than a dozen roster spots for the remaining 50.
Let’s examine several of the players “on the bubble” that may struggle to make the cut. All five of the following players have been counted among contributors in the past, but may not be any longer. In examining each, I’ll break down what exactly are their best avenues of making the team.
Darius Johnson, Wide Receiver
Johnson played well last year considering he was an undrafted rookie, leapfrogging both Drew Davis and Kevin Cone on the depth chart, two third-year veterans. But that won’t earn him lingering credit if he doesn’t perform up to task this summer.
He’ll face steady competition from a group of young, explosive receivers like Bernard Reedy. What hurts Johnson is that he won’t be able to help himself much on special teams. Given his smaller stature, he’s not shown that he’s very effective when asked to cover punts and kicks.
Robert Alford (left) and Desmond Trufant
The Atlanta Falcons seem pretty secure as far as their starting cornerbacks go heading into the 2014 season, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of questions surrounding the position.
The first questions do center on their starters and how effective they’ll be now that the team lacks a true safety net at the position. A year ago, the team had long-time veteran Asante Samuel in that role. Now Samuel is gone and the team will be reliant upon starters Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford to rise to the occasion.
There is less question on whether Trufant can accomplish that task. Trufant is coming off a very promising rookie season where his play particularly down the stretch has many considering him one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. Trufant regularly displayed his ball skills and disruptive capabilities at the cornerback position, breaking up or intercepting a pass in 13 out of 16 games last season including nine consecutive games to open the season.
If there is any concern, it’s the fear against a sophomore slump for Trufant. Such slumps can be precarious because they typically are not caused by a significant downturn in play, but by the much higher expectations placed on a player after a successful rookie season. There’s no doubt that expectations are high for Trufant this year, and his play in camp will likely determine whether or not he’s set to meet them.
Opposite him will be Alford, who has a few more questions to answer. Alford supplanted Samuel down the stretch last year thanks to the team’s abysmal record leading the coaching staff to install a youth movement on defense. Alford had his fair share of bright spots, but also several head-scratching ones. A talented athlete, Alford still needs to refine the technical aspects of playing the cornerback position. He certainly has the talent to impact this year, particularly if he can balance some of his inevitable mistakes with big plays.
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.