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Falcons Cut Eleven, Two Put on IR

August 30th, 2013 Comments off

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Banks

The Falcons announced initial cuts as the team works its way down to the league-mandated 53-man roster limit by tomorrow. The Falcons waived eleven players and placed two on injured reserve. The injured players were quarterback Sean Renfree and tight end Andrew Szczerba. They will need to make nine more moves before tomorrow’s 6 pm deadline.

The eleven players released included linebackers Brian Banks and Pat Schiller, guard Theo Goins, defensive tackles Neal Huynh and Micanor Regis, cornerbacks Terrence Johnson and Peyton Thompson, safety Charles Mitchell, offensive tackle Alec Savoie, kicker Jeremy Shelley, and running back Ronnie Wingo. Besides Johnson and Mitchell, all of the players waived today remain eligible for the team’s eight-man practice squad which is set to be established on Sunday.

Banks was signed by the Falcons this off-season after spending the better part of the past decade incarcerated due to false rape conviction. Schiller spent last year on the Falcons’ practice squad after a strong preseason, but was passed this summer by Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu. Regis and Thompson also spent last season with the Falcons on their practice squad. Huynh, Savoie, Shelley, and Wingo were undrafted rookies signed this past spring. Johnson was briefly with the team last season before being added to a future contract at the end of the season. Mitchell was a sixth round pick in 2012 and played ten games as a reserve last season.

Renfree was a seventh round pick for the team this past April and suffered an injury to his throwing shoulder last night during the third quarter of the game. Renfree injured his throwing arm in his final collegiate game. Szczerba also was injured during last night’s game as well with an undisclosed leg injury.

Training Camp: Day 17 Report

August 18th, 2013 Comments off

The Falcons break training camp after a brief practice Sunday morning. The following was the news emerging after Saturday’s practice.

  • Head coach Mike Smith gave injury updates (video) on players after practice yesterday. Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon returned to practice on Saturday after suffering an injury to his finger early last week. Running back Jason Snelling is expected to return to practice today. Linebacker Robert James and fullback Bradie Ewing are expected to resume regular practice on Tuesday, since the Falcons will be off on Monday. All four players missed this past Thursday’s preseason loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
  • Falcons wideout Roddy White will not play in the team’s upcoming preseason contest against the Tennessee Titans next Saturday and thus will not suit up for the remainder of the preseason. Regular starters do not suit up for the  fourth and final preseason, scheduled for August 29 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Smith indicated that he’s on the same “plan” as the rest of the starters i.e. he won’t play against Jacksonville.
  • In other injury news, linebacker Stephen Nicholas did not finish practice on Saturday. No further information has been made available.
  • Tony Gonzalez is set to return today after a three-week absence from camp.
  • Click here to check out the five things Jay Adams learned about the Falcons on Saturday.
  • Defensive end Osi Umenyiora made the decision to switch his uniform number from 90. He will be taking No. 50 from linebacker Pat Schiller. Schiller’s new number has yet to be determined.


Camp Battles 2013: Linebacker

July 20th, 2013 1 comment
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Banks will be the center of attention this summer

The Falcons are set in regards of their three starters at the linebacker position. Stephen Nicholas, Akeem Dent, and Sean Weatherspoon all return to man the strongside, middle, and weakside linebacker spots, respectively.

The battle that could occur however among them is to see who lines up beside Weatherspoon in the team’s nickel subpackage. Nicholas filled the spot in 2012, but Dent is expected to man the job in 2013 after Nicholas had an unimpressive season in coverage. To put in bluntly, Dent’s inability to take the gig this summer would be nothing short of an abject failure on his part given his superior athleticism and youth.

The bigger questions that will come at linebacker will be which players fill depth roles. The Falcons carried five linebackers on their roster last year. They can get away with that since several of their defensive ends such as Kroy Biermann and Jonathan Massaquoi also double as outside linebackers in several of their packages.

Robert James is the lone candidate that actually made the roster last year, spending his year working on special teams where he was effective. Last season actually marked the first time that James actually made the Falcons opening day roster after being a fifth round pick in 2008. He has spent most of his previous years off and on the practice squad. The Falcons clearly have managed to keep James around for a reason, meaning he still stands a good chance to be back in 2013. He flashed good speed and range last summer, in what was certainly his most impressive preseason. But his ability to stick may depend less on his own play, but more on whether other candidates emerge.

That includes Pat Schiller, who had a strong preseason a year ago to make the team’s practice squad. Schiller has a good head on his shoulders and offers potential to add depth at all three linebacker spots if need be. If he can showcase that he’s a capable special teams player, then he stands a very good shot at making the final 53.

But much of the attention will be focused on Brian Banks, the player with the remarkable comeback story that had him falsely imprisoned for years after being one of the top high school linebackers in the nation years ago. Banks will be competing for a reserve middle linebacker spot. If Banks makes the team it likely won’t be because he’s expected to impact on defense, but because of his potential value on special teams. There is no doubt that Banks is a project given the fact that he never played college football, but he certainly would be a feel-good story for the franchise which frankly gives him an edge if the competition is close.

The other linebacker options include three undrafted rookies in Joplo Bartu, Nick Clancy, and Paul Worrilow. Bartu played defensive end in college, while Clancy hails from the Boston College pipeline that has put a few linebackers in the league the past few years. Worrilow is an athletic specimen from Delaware. All three have decent odds of making the roster if they can impress on special teams, but more than likely they will be practice squad candidates.

Due to the lack of established depth, linebacker remains a position the Falcons could potentially address at the end of camp when cuts are made. More than likely the Falcons will be looking for a player that can provide the same value that Mike Peterson did a year ago, which is to be able to add depth at multiple positions as well as contribute on special teams. Among the players currently on the roster, Schiller offers the best potential to fill that role, but if he doesn’t step up and inspire confidence in the team they could look elsewhere.

Player on the Rise: Pat Schiller

June 1st, 2013 1 comment

Linebacker Pat Schiller was among the Falcons most impressive rookies from last year’s preseason. Schiller was consistently in position when working both versus the run and pass, suggesting that he was deciphering the intricacies of Mike Nolan’s new defense better than many veterans could.

He managed to stick on the Falcons practice squad and would become one of the more memorable aspects of the team’s weekly D-Block video segments, silently taking it all in. He would also be the subject of a good piece in the New York Times, chronicling the beginning of his NFL journey.

While much of the attention will likely fall on fellow linebacker Brian Banks this summer, and understandably so, I think it will be Schiller as the player the organization expects to see make the biggest contributions. Schiller essentially will be expected to replace Mike Peterson. No, not in terms of leadership, as that will be left to veterans like Stephen Nicholas and Sean Weatherspoon. But Peterson served as the Falcons primary reserve at all three spots last year, garnering reps in goalline situations and earning starts when Weatherspoon was out for a few games during midseason.

The Falcons stress cross-training their players at multiple positions, and while Schiller spent the majority of his reps at middle linebacker last summer, he could easily kick outside to either the weakside or strongside spot. The fact that he was able to show last summer that he was able to get the job done from the neck up means that being position-versatile shouldn’t be a major obstacle going forward.

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Falcons add eight off practice squad

January 24th, 2013 Comments off

The Falcons announced on Monday the signing of eight players to future contracts. Each were signed off the team’s eight-man practice squad, including wide receivers Marcus Jackson and James Rodgers, guard Jacques McClendon, defensive tackle Micanor Regis, linebacker Pat Schiller, tight end Andrew Szczerba, cornerback Peyton Thompson, and running back Josh Vaughan.

Jackson, Rodgers, Regis, Schiller, and Thompson were all undrafted rookie free agents with the Falcons this summer that were signed to the practice squad at the outset of the regular season. Josh Vaughan was with the Carolina Panthers this past summer before being added to the Falcons practice squad in late September. Both McClendon and Szczerba were added in November. McClendon is a second-year player that was with the Detroit Lions in training camp, while Szczerba was an undrafted rookie with the Dallas Cowboys.

Terms of their deals were not disclosed, but a year ago players such as Robert McClain, Drew Davis, and Tommy Gallarda were signed to future contracts that were two years in length. That likely means that the eight players signed Monday have contracts that expire following the 2014 season.

Falcons cut 19 to get down to the roster

August 31st, 2012 Comments off
Alan Maglaque-US PRESSWIRE

Dominique Franks, among surprise cuts

The Falcons announced the cuts made today to get their roster down to 53 players. The team released 22 players including running back Dimitri Nance; fullback Mike Cox; wide receivers D.J. Davis, Marcus Jackson, and James Rodgers; offensive linemen Bryce Harris and Tyler Horn; defensive tackles Conrad Obi and Micanor Regis; linebackers Spencer Adkins, Rico Council, Jerrell Harris, and Pat Schiller; cornerbacks Dominique Franks, Marty Markett, and Peyton Thompson; safety Suaesi Tuimaunei; and long snapper Joe Zelenka.  The team also reached injury settlements with tight end LaMark Brown and guard Andrew Jackson, while waiving-injured wide receiver Kerry Meier, and placing safety Shann Schillinger on injured reserve.

Among the cuts, notable ones include Cox, Adkins, Franks, and Zelenka played with the team last season. Cox lost the battle to fullback Lousaka Polite, who was signed three weeks ago for the battle for the starting fullback position. Cox joined the team last October after the injury to Ovie Mughelli. Adkins was a sixth round pick of the Falcons in 2009 that had his best season a year ago, starting 1 game and recording 5 tackles as a reserve linebacker. Franks started 4 games last year at cornerback as a replacement for Brent Grimes, and was considered a front-runner for taking over the punt return duties this year. Franks was originally a fifth round pick in 2010. Zelenka has been the Falcons since 2009, but lost the long snapping job to undrafted rookie Josh Harris.

With these moves, several players made the Falcons roster for the first time. Five of the team’s six draft picks made the final roster, with the sixth player: Bradie Ewing already on injured reserve. Harris joined quarterback Dominique Davis and guard Phillip Manley as one of three undrafted free agents that made the team. Quarterback Luke McCown, signed earlier this week is also a newcomer to the roster. Wide receivers Kevin Cone and Tim Toone also made the team as reserves. Cone spent last year on the Falcons practice squad, but Toone was added earlier this month in camp. Alongside Cone, tight end Tommy Gallarda was able to elevate himself from a practice squad spot last year to a full roster position this year. Free agent pickups in cornerback Asante Samuel, safety Chris Hope, and cornerback Robert McClain are also first time Falcons.