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Baker headed to IR

November 12th, 2013 Comments off

The Falcons announced that offensive tackle Sam Baker’s 2013 season is over as he will be placed on injured reserve officially tomorrow. Baker has been ailed by a knee injury throughout this season, causing him to miss five games and most of a sixth. Baker recently returned to the starting lineup in the Falcons Week 9 loss to the Carolina Panthers, but re-aggravated the injury, missing this past Sunday’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks. The injury will require season-ending surgery.

Baker started the season at left tackle after receiving a sizable six-year deal in the off-season. He started the first two games at left tackle and performed poorly. He suffered a foot injury late against the St. Louis Rams in Week 2 and was pulled from the game on the final series. He then missed the Falcons Week 3 loss to the Miami Dolphins, but returned to start the following week against the New England Patriots. But he again re-aggravated his injury and exited the game in the first half. He then missed the next three games before returning against the Panthers.

In his absence, Lamar Holmes will replace him at left tackle. Holmes had logged starts in Baker’s absence, after being moved from right tackle. The Falcons intend to make a subsequent move this week to replace Baker on the roster.

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Falcons cut Howard to make room for Spoon

November 12th, 2013 Comments off

To make room for the return of linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, the Falcons waived linebacker Thomas Howard today. Weatherspoon was placed on short-term injured reserve in September, and is eligible to return to the roster. He began practicing last week for the first time and is slated to return on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Howard was signed by the Falcons three weeks ago when the team released Jamar Chaney. Chaney was one of two signings, alongside Omar Gaither, made when Weatherspoon was first injured. Howard had appeared in two games with the Falcons, playing exclusively on special teams.

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Falcons sign Thomas Howard; Add safety Baker to Practice Squad

October 22nd, 2013 Comments off

The Atlanta Falcons signed free agent linebacker Thomas Howard today to replace linebacker Jamar Chaney, who the team cut. They also signed safety Sean Baker to the practice squad to replace wide receiver Darius Johnson, who was promoted to the active roster on Saturday. Chaney was first signed by the team in September after the injury to linebacker Sean Weatherspoon that landed him on the short-term injured reserve.

Howard went unsigned as a free agent this past summer, as he was recovering from a torn ACL that he suffered at the outset of the 2012 season with the Cincinnati Bengals. Howard first joined the Bengals following the lockout in 2011 after five seasons with the Oakland Raiders, including four as a starter at weakside linebacker. Howard was originally drafted in the second round by the Raiders out of Texas Tech in 2006. For his career, he has started 78 games and recorded 492 tackles, 6 sacks, 7 interceptions, and 6 forced fumbles. His father, Thomas Howard Sr., played nine seasons in the NFL with the Kansas City Chiefs (1977-83) and St. Louis Cardinals (1984-85).

Baker is a first-year safety that was originally an undrafted free agent out of Ball State with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2012. He was cut at the end of camp, but later re-signed at the end of the season to the Bucs’ practice squad. He spent this past summer in Tampa Bay’s training camp before getting released again. He was a four-year starter at Ball State and a two-time All-MAC honoree. He finished his career as the school’s all-time career interception leader with 18. Also added 338 career tackles, 39 pass breakups, 6 forced fumbles, and 3 defensive touchdowns.

Falcons sign Gaither and Chaney; promote DiMarco

September 17th, 2013 Comments off
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Omar Gaither

The Falcons announced the signings of free agent linebackers Omar Gaither and Jamar Chaney to the roster today. The team also officially announced the previously reported signing of linebacker Chase Thomas to the practice squad, as he will replace fullback Patrick DiMarco, who was promoted to the active roster.

Gaither and Chaney are both former Philadelphia Eagles, having both played for the team in 2010. After that season, Gaither signed with the Carolina Panthers to help replace Thomas Davis at outside linebacker. In 2012, he was signed mid-season by the Oakland Raiders to replace injured middle linebacker Travis Goethel. Over the course of his career, Gaither has started 44 career games at all three linebacker positions, most of which came during his days in Philadelphia. Originally a fifth round draft pick out of Tennessee for the Eagles in 2006, he started the final five games of his rookie season at weakside linebacker. He moved to middle linebacker in 2007, where he started every game and put up a career-high 102 tackles. In 2008, he moved back to the weakside, starting 10 games. Over the next two seasons, he started a total of five games as a reserve middle linebacker behind Stewart Bradley before Chaney’s emergence late in 2010 helped pushed him out the door. Gaither was cut by the Raiders this past summer. Last season with the Raiders, he totaled 14 tackles in seven appearances at middle linebacker.

Chaney was a seventh round pick by the Eagles in 2010. He started the final two games of his rookie season at middle linebacker as a replacement for Bradley. He started every game the following year, logging 92 tackles and 3 interceptions. He moved to weakside linebacker in 2012, where he started five games, mainly as a replacement for an injured Akeem Jordan. He finished the year with 24 tackles. He was cut by the Eagles this past summer.

Both players add much-needed depth at the linebacker position where weakside starter Sean Weatherspoon was placed on short-term injured reserve earlier today. The team also lost defensive end/linebacker Kroy Biermann for the year due to a torn Achilles, giving the team only four healthy linebackers on their active roster.

DiMarco will help fill the void left by injured fullback Bradie Ewing, who is also out for the year with a separated shoulder. DiMarco started for the Falcons at fullback in the first two preseason contests this summer in replacement of an injured Ewing.

Falcons add help at tackle in Trueblood

September 3rd, 2013 Comments off

 Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE

Jeremy Trueblood

The Falcons announced a few roster moves earlier today, signing offensive tackle Jeremy Trueblood. Trueblood replaces Terren Jones, who was waived by the team. The team also released guard Phillipkeith Manley, who was on the practice squad, with an injury settlement. It is likely that Jones will be replace Manley there if/when he clears waivers tomorrow.

Trueblood originally entered the NFL as a second round pick in 2006 out of Boston College. He would start 61 games at right tackle over the next four seasons. He would start the first six games of the 2010 season, but a knee injury forced him out of the lineup and he would lose the job to James Lee. However he did get one more start at the end of the season when Lee himself was out with injury. Trueblood would regain the starting position in 2011 after re-signing with the Bucs following the lockout, starting 15 games that year. But his subpar play coupled with an early-season ankle injury cost him his starting spot in 2012 where he only appeared in 9 games, his only start coming in the season opener. He was signed by the Washington Redskins this past off-season where he was expected to compete for a backup spot with Tony Pashos and Tom Compton this summer. Compton won and Trueblood was cut this last week. He will likely be considered insurance at right tackle after a shaky preseason for starter Lamar Holmes.

Trueblood also worked briefly at right guard for the Bucs last season when injuries required them to shuffle around their lineup following the injury to Carl Nicks, adding some depth and versatility.

Jones did not have a great preseason and thus his retention on the team’s 53-man roster was a mild surprise. He was dubbed more in line with practice squad talent and likely will get that opportunity moving forward. Manley also came off as less than stellar in the preseason, after spending his rookie season in 2012 on the team’s practice squad and subsequently the roster in the second half of the season. He was surpassed by both Harland Gunn and Jacques McClendon at the backup guard positions this summer. Gunn made the Falcons roster, but McClendon was waived and claimed by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Manley’s injury was not disclosed.

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 37 “What About Sanchez?”

September 3rd, 2013 Comments off

This week Allen and I have our big 2013 NFL Preview Extravaganza. But first we review the cuts made by the Falcons as well as preview the Falcons-Saints game, and our expectations for Week 1. Allen is very optimistic, while I am the opposite. Thereafter, we break down each division in the NFL, looking at potential playoff teams and ultimately make our Super Bowl picks for 2013. In the end, we get into discussion over how to get cheap Super Bowl tickets, underage drinking, and how Pitt’s football team reminds me of former Falcon teams.

Ep. 37: What About Sanchez? [Download]

Duration: 2 hours, 13 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, 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

Takeaways from Last Week – September 2

September 2nd, 2013 Comments off

ICON SMI

Peria Jerry

The Falcons finalized their roster over the weekend and there were a few interesting moves. If you’ve ready any of my lengthy reaction reviews following the Falcons preseason games, you probably know my opinion on many of the players that made the roster. I want to devote this week’s column to discussing many of the players that were small surprises.

For the record, I would say that I was off on eight players making the roster when I did my initial prediction at the start of training camp. Forty-five out of fifty-three ain’t bad at all. Just to recap, the players I wrongly projected to make the team were: I had Sean Renfree as the third-string quarterback, instead the Falcons kept Josh Vaughan as their fifth tailback. Renfree went on injured reserve, as it’s obviously impossible to predict injuries. Marcus Jackson was on my 53-man roster instead of Kevin Cone as the fifth wide receiver. I picked Phillipkeith Manley as the backup guard, instead it was Harland Gunn. Manley was added to the practice squad. Micanor Regis was my pick for backup defensive lineman, but the Falcons instead opted to keep Peria Jerry. Pat Schiller and Brian Banks were my picks for the team’s backup linebackers, but Joplo Bartu and Paul Worrilow made it instead. Charles Mitchell and Terrence Johnson were the backup defensive backs, instead Shann Schillinger and Dominique Franks preempted them. Yes, I did pick Ryan Schraeder to make the roster, along with all the teams’ rookie draft picks.

This isn’t meant to toot my own horn (well, maybe just a little) but just as a vector to discuss some of the decisions the Falcons made with their roster. I should preface this by saying that I’m often critical of how the Falcons have managed their roster over the years. I think one of the larger deficiencies of this team is their struggles to develop players, especially undrafted players and guys at the back-end of their roster. When the Falcons kept Brett Romberg as a third center on their roster in 2011, it made little sense to me. What team needs three centers? Todd McClure and Joe Hawley were already on the team and had both proven they could ably play the spot. That same year the Falcons picked up Kirk Chambers at midseason to replace an injured Mike Johnson on the roster. But despite Joe Hawley’s struggles at guard that year, the Falcons never once considered plugging in Chambers there. In my eyes that’s a poor use of a roster spot. Instead the Falcons could have been smart to replace him with a player that they could develop for next year such as Shawn Andrews, Vince Manuwai, or  Leonard Davis. Essentially if a player is not contributing in some capacity by being active every Sunday, or isn’t a player that the team wants to develop for its long-term future, then that player is basically taking up unnecessary space. That might be overly harsh, but I always feel like there is room for improvement as you could replace that players’ spot on the team with someone who does fulfill those requirements.

Take for instance a player like Stansly Maponga, who made the roster as the sixth defensive end, but in truth because the Falcons will use a variety of 3-4 and 4-3 looks this year, he’s essentially eighth on the depth chart. Osi Umenyiora, Kroy Biermann, and Jonathan Massaquoi will earn the majority of the reps at end in the Falcons 4-3 looks. But the Falcons also can play Malliciah Goodman and Cliff Matthews there if need be. And in their 3-4 looks, alongside Goodman and Matthews, Peria Jerry and Jonathan Babineaux will get reps at end. And they will get those reps at times when the Falcons employ a four-man front if the preseason is any indicator as to what will happen in the regular season. So the odds are very low that Maponga will play any snaps this year unless the Falcons are hit with several injuries up front. Maponga thus will probably be inactive every Sunday because I don’t think the Falcons consider him to be a highly valuable special teams player either. So the Falcons likely won’t get any value out of him on game days this year. But in the case of Maponga there is a clear long-term value to developing him. I personally didn’t think Maponga was that impressive this year, enough that I thought the Falcons could risk exposing him to waivers with the intent of putting him on the practice squad. The Falcons obviously felt differently, and understandably so because Maponga does have developmental potential. He may not have had a great rookie summer, but he had injury concerns as somewhat an excuse, and he could still be primed to take a huge leap from Year 1 to Year 2, as many players do. Lawrence Sidbury did when he was here in Atlanta, and Maponga reminds me a lot of Sidbury, at least as an NFL prospect.

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Falcons Select Eight for Practice Squad

September 1st, 2013 Comments off
Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

Darius Johnson

The Falcons announced their initial eight-man practice squad this afternoon. Seven of the players were released by the Falcons within the past week, including fullback Patrick DiMarco, quarterback Seth Doege, wide receivers Darius Johnson and James Rodgers, cornerback Jordan Mabin, guard Phillipkeith Manley, and defensive tackle Adam Replogle. The eighth member of the unit will be tight end Mickey Shuler, most recently with the Arizona Cardinals.

All the players except Doege were released by the Falcons yesterday in the team’s final cutdowns. Doege was a part of the team’s cutdown to 75 players last week. Doege, Johnson, and Replogle were undrafted rookies signed by the Falcons this past spring. Rodgers and Manley both will have their second stints on the team’s practice squad. DiMarco and Mabin were players added to the roster this summer that managed to impress enough in camp to stick around.

The Falcons mark the sixth team Shuler will play for since being a seventh round choice of the Minnesota Vikings in 2010 out of Penn State. He was cut by the Vikings during his first training camp, and then was picked up by the Miami Dolphins where he finished the year. The Dolphins cut him the following summer, and then he was added to the Vikings’ practice squad for a month before being elevated to their active roster. He was cut again by the Vikings last summer, and finished the season on the practice squad of the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders brought him back with a future contract this past January, but he would not make it through OTAs and was waived in May. The Bills claimed him, but he was waived again on the eve of training camp on July 27. The Arizona Cardinals then claimed him, but he was cut on Tuesday by the Cardinals. For his career, Shuler has appeared in 6 games, including a pair of starts, all with the Dolphins in 2010. He caught a pair of passes for 44 yards combined that season. Shuler is actually named after his father, who was an All-Pro tight end predominantly with the New York Jets in the 1980s.

He is predominantly known for his blocking ability. You can click here to read a scouting report of Shuler from the 2010 draft.

Waiver Wire Scouting: Offensive Tackles

September 1st, 2013 Comments off

The Falcons are unlikely to be done with roster moves as they prep for the season opener against the New Orleans Saints one week from today.

It would be surprising to see the Falcons carry six running backs into the regular season, something they’ve never really done. They also retained offensive tackle Terren Jones on the roster, a surprising move considering how raw and inconsistent Jones looked in camp. He seemed much more likely as a practice squad candidate than someone that would make any contributions this season. Instead, it would make a bit more sense if the Falcons targeted a veteran tackle that could serve as insurance in case Lamar Holmes and/or Ryan Schraeder don’t solidify the right tackle position this season instead of Jones.

As far as offensive tackles go, the crop isn’t overly strong. Several of the players I figured to be on the roster bubble earlier this month did wind up getting cut. Dennis Roland, Jeremy Trueblood, Tony Pashos, and Kenny Wiggins all got cut. Bryce Harris was retained by the Saints, instead they cut Marcel Jones and his glorious afro. Jonathan Scott didn’t get the boot in Chicago, J’Marcus Webb did instead. Oakland’s Willie Smith was waived/injured, meaning he will wind up on the Raiders’ injured reserve if he is not claimed.

Of that group, no one leaps out. Pashos is the most established veteran. He just turned 33 earlier this month, and started 12 games with the Cleveland Browns at right tackle in 2011. He could be an emergency stopgap. But Pashos has struggled to stay healthy in recent years as his age has caught up to him.

Roland got worked over in the Falcons preseason matchup against Cincinnati. Trueblood has always been terrible. Wiggins is familiar to Pat Hill, having played for him at Fresno State. He certainly was battle-tested going up against quality defenders in San Francisco all summer. Jones is a massive guy with upside as a blocker, but lost out in a competition to the more consistent Harris. Webb had a lackluster summer, and coupled with a change in coaching staff was swept out the door. He has experience as a starter (44 starts) and can play either side of the line having started at both. Webb is infamous for being the embodiment of a porous Bears offensive line the past three years, and certainly that reputation is somewhat deserved. Although forgotten is that Webb was relatively solid a year ago playing left tackle. He still has far too many lapses, but outside an abysmal performance against Aldon Smith last year, he graded out about as well as Sam Baker did in pass protection (according to Pro Football Focus). That makes Webb the most talented of the group, and to be plugged in potentially as a swing tackle makes some sense.

I think a lot of Falcon fans are optimistic that the Falcons can scour the waiver wire for a player that can be plugged in immediately at right tackle and be an upgrade over Lamar Holmes. Well, that is not going to happen. If a player the Falcons add winds up playing this year, it won’t be under promising circumstances.

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Waiver Wire Scouting: Quarterbacks

September 1st, 2013 Comments off
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Is Vince Young really an option?

The Falcons have lost quarterback Sean Renfree for the season as he suffered an injury to his throwing shoulder in the preseason finale against the Jacksonville Jaguars. That leaves the potential for the Falcons to bring in a veteran quarterback given some of the struggles that Dominique Davis has had this summer.

Several players were released or waived by their respective teams over the weekend, and I want to look at those that I feel could help the Falcons.

First we should delineate between a player being released and waived. Players with less than four years of experience are waived. Meaning that they have to pass through a waiver period of 24 hours. During that time teams are allowed to put a waiver claim on them. If multiple teams put claims on that player, the priority is determined by the team with the worst record. If a player is claimed, then his previous salary is absorbed by the new team. If a player goes unclaimed, then he is free to sign with any team he wants.

A player is released if he has four or more years of experience, and will not be subject to waivers. He’s essentially an unrestricted free agent, no different than if this was March. He’s free to sign and negotiate a brand new deal with any team in the league immediately.

Several of the quarterbacks cut over the weekend will be forced to go through the waivers system, including Greg McElroy (New York Jets), Thad Lewis (Buffalo Bills), and John Skelton (Cincinnati Bengals). Other players such as Brady Quinn (Seattle Seahawks), Trent Edwards (Chicago Bears), David Carr (New York Giants), and Vince Young (Green Bay Packers) were released. Carolina Panthers’ quarterback Jimmy Clausen was waived/injured, which means that if he goes unclaimed he will go on the Panthers’ injured reserve list. And no one will claim him because he’s terrible.

If looking at those names, the one that stands out is Carr. Carr has been the consummate reserve in New York over the years, playing four of the last five seasons there. Carr’s experience (79 career starts) makes him the ideal candidate for the Falcons. He has a quick release, generally makes good decisions, and will have more talent at the receiver positions in Atlanta than he’s ever played with. He contrasts with Dominique Davis, as Carr is more effective throwing the intermediate passes than Davis and doesn’t have problems going to his second progression quickly. Carr also is a better athlete than most realize and would at least stand a decent chance of avoiding pressure behind the Falcons questionable front five.

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