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Roster Talk: Most Vulnerable Falcons As Cuts Near

August 21st, 2014 No comments

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Kimario McFadden

The Atlanta Falcons will have to cut over a dozen players by Tuesday’s league-mandated deadline to get their roster down to 75 players. As the team heads into their third preseason action against the Tennessee Titans on Saturday, there are several players that are vulnerable to find their NFL hopes and dreams come crashing down. Let’s examine several of them.

Last year, I made a list of 20 Falcon players that were most vulnerable to be released by the Falcons at the initial 75-player cutdown deadline. The team needed to cut 14 players to get down to the roster limit. They did so, and 12 of the 14 appeared on my list.

I’ll do the same this year, by listing 20 players that I think are most susceptible to be released by Tuesday. Obviously, because the Falcons only have to cut 15 players this year, five of these players should be able to survive for another few days before rosters must be finalized at 53 players by Saturday, August 30.

As I noted last year, occasionally NFL teams will try to sneak a player through waivers by releasing him in the first cuts, so that he can eventually be placed on the practice squad a week later when those are established. That did indeed happen last year with quarterback Seth Doege being among the first cuts and eventually wound up on the Falcons practice squad. But that was more of a technicality since Doege’s presence on the practice squad was really only a result of third-string quarterback Sean Renfree suffering a season-ending injury in the preseason finale. Had Renfree stayed healthy, there’s virtually no chance that Doege would have been signed to the practice squad.

The Falcons also did this before in 2012 when they snuck Chase Coffman through the first cuts and he eventually landed on the practice squad. But the point is that this is not something the Falcons commonly do, and I would bet against it happening again this season.

Quarterback – Jeff Mathews

Mathews saw his first action of the preseason last week, but only played four snaps at the end of the Houston Texans game. If Mathews does not get more snaps in the second half of this week’s upcoming game against the Titans, it’s probably not a strong bet that he’ll make it through the initial cuts. Traditionally, the Falcons have only played two quarterbacks in the fourth preseason game, and it’s a strong probability that T.J. Yates and Sean Renfree will be those two. So basically this weekend might prove to be Mathews’ last chance, and thus he’ll need to get more than one series and perform at a relatively high level to salvage one more shot at the roster.

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Falcons 2014 Training Camp: Day 17 Report

August 18th, 2014 No comments
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Jake Matthews

The Atlanta Falcons finally broke training camp with a morning practice today. Let’s take a look at the various tweets, articles, reports, news and rumors that surfaced from the last day of camp this morning:

ESPN’s Vaughn McClure hits several things in his recap of the day. First among them is the fact that rookie Jake Matthews is moving from right tackle to left tackle, which was reported first by D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC this morning. Matthews played left tackle his final season at Texas A&M after spending three years at right tackle. He was slotted in immediately at right tackle by the Falcons due to the presence of Sam Baker on the left side. But Baker injured his knee in this past Saturday’s preseason action and will miss the entire 2014 season.

Matthews is working through the change, saying this about the adjustment between the two sides:

“Yes, the stagger changes. You go for a long time used to bracing a guy with one leg back. And now you’ve got to flip it around. It’s like almost going from writing with your right hand to your left hand. But I did it in college. I feel pretty comfortable on both sides.”

However, Falcons head coach Mike Smith remain confident:

“I don’t think he’ll blink. We’re not.”

With Matthews moving to the left side, it leaves a void on the right side. That void, for the time being, is expected to be filled by offensive tackle Lamar Holmes. Holmes had been serving as the reserve behind Baker this preseason at left tackle, but the Falcons always envisioned Matthews as a long-term solution on that side of the ball.

However offensive line coach Mike Tice did not express the same degree of confidence in Holmes as Smith did in Matthews.

The team signed free-agent offensive tackle Pat McQuistan earlier today to shore up depth on the right side.

In addition to McQuistan, the Falcons can expect the return of offensive tackle Gabe Carimi to the lineup in next week’s final preseason action against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday, August 28. Carimi has experience at right tackle, having played that position under Tice during their shared two seasons with the Chicago Bears from 2011-12.

The Falcons also welcomed back defensive tackle Corey Peters to practice today. Peters has been recovering from a torn Achilles tendon suffered last December. He had been held out of practice on the training camp version of Physically-Unable-to-Perform (PUP) list. Peters had a light workload in his first time back in nearly eight months.

In other news, cornerback Javier Arenas is expected to earn the start at nickel cornerback on Saturday against the Tennessee Titans. Per premium website Pro Football Focus, Arenas has earned the least amount of reps among the trio of corners competing for the nickel cornerback spot. Arenas has played 38 snaps through the first two preseason games, with Josh Wilson (65) and Robert McClain (53) earning the most of any defensive back on the team.

Rookie linebacker Prince Shembo is seeing increased reps with the starters, putting him well on track to leapfrog Joplo Bartu as the starter at weak-side inside linebacker by the regular season opener against the New Orleans Saints on September 7.

Injured linebacker Sean Weatherspoon was on hand to cheer on teammates:

Coach Smith indicated that the Falcons will follow tradition and play their starters for the entirety of the first half, and likely for a series into the second in Saturday’s game against the Titans.

AtlantaFalcons.com’s Jay Adams provides his usual five things from the final day of camp, including notes on Matthews, Holmes, Peters, the nickel cornerback spot and the coaching staff’s emphasis on avoiding penalties.

Corey Peters Returns to Falcons Practice

August 18th, 2014 No comments
Andrew Weber- US PRESSWIRE

Corey Peters

ESPN’s Vaughn McClure reported earlier today that Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Corey Peters returned to practice Monday, prompting his removal from the team’s active/Physically-Unable-to-Perform (or training camp PUP) list. Peters is currently recovering from a torn Achilles tendon suffered last December.

After rehabbing all offseason, Peters was placed on the training camp PUP list before the start of camp at the end of July. Peters indicated earlier in July that he had set a target date that he would be able to play Week 1 in the regular season against the New Orleans Saints on September 7. His return to practice today should make that target date a possibility.

Peters is the first of three training camp PUP players that have been eligible to return to practice due to improved health. The other two are wide receiver Drew Davis (foot surgery) and safety Zeke Motta (neck). The list is designated for players that are injured heading into camp too injured to practice. Once players are medically cleared to return to practice, they are removed from the list.

Categories: News Tags: , ,

Falcons 2014 Training Camp: Day 15 Report

August 13th, 2014 No comments
David J. Phillip/From AJC.com

Roddy White, Arian Foster (middle) and Andre Johnson. From AJC.com

Let’s take a look at the various tweets, articles, reports, news and rumors that surfaced from the 15th day of Atlanta Falcons training camp earlier today:

The Falcons held combined practices with the Houston Texans today in Houston. Much of the focus centered on the battles in the trenches, where Falcons linemen faced Texans pass-rushers in J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney.

Left tackle Sam Baker fared pretty well when going against the rookie Clowney, although they had a bit of a back and forth.

Rookie right tackle Jake Matthews was able to go against both Clowney and Watt. Matthews had his Hall of Fame father, Bruce and other family members on hand to witness the action. Jake’s little brother Luke, might be following the family tradition.

Not to be left out of the action, backup right tackle Ryan Schraeder seemed to also relish his opportunities to square off with Clowney. Left guard Justin Blalock on the other hand, did not fare quite as well against Watt, getting beat a couple of times. Blalock was not alone, as his backup Mike Johnson also struggled.

Along with the Matthews family, several local Falcon players had the support of nearby family members at practice including defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux and running back Jacquizz Rodgers. Linebacker Joplo Bartu will have a family reunion of sorts at Saturday’s game against the Texans.

Outside the trenches, the Falcons-Texans practice featured a few new Falcons mixing it up with a few former Falcons. Fullback Maurice Hagens is making his bid for a roster spot by getting after it with linebacker Akeem Dent. Matthews also go to work against defensive end Lawrence Sidbury.

Running back Devonta Freeman is showing strides in pass protection, the key to unlocking more playing time this season.

Free safety Dwight Lowery also got to mix it up with some real contact after missing time with a concussion.

The team also welcomed back Tim Dobbins against his former team today. Dobbins had missed the past few days with an ankle injury suffered in the Falcons win over the Miami Dolphins last Friday night.

Jay Adams has the usual five things we learned from practice.

Vaughn McClure of ESPN has the skinny on other noteworthy observations from today’s session.

On the opposite side of the coin, ESPN Texans blog writer Tania Ganguli noticed how a few Texans corners matched up against Falcons wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones. As far as Texans fans are concerned, today’s practice saw the return of several key players. That includes Falcons quarterback T.J. Yates, who is still loved by a segment of Texans fans. The Texans also put out video of today’s practice.

Hard Knocks Episode 2 Recap – Big Balls

August 13th, 2014 2 comments

Hard KnocksAs I did a week ago, I’m here for you folks that either missed last night’s episode of Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Atlanta Falcons, or those that saw it and just want to read my take on it.

The second episode opened showing the team’s release of fullback Roosevelt Nix and players’ reactions to it. That was followed up by showing general manager Thomas Dimitroff riding his bike with Lance Armstrong. At least as far as I’m concerned, while TD’s bike-riding may be interesting to outsiders, it may be the dullest aspect of his personality. How and why people find a 47-year old man riding a bike and palling around with Lance Armstrong to compelling television is beyond me.

But anyway, the show then began to showcase several of the Falcons 2014 draft class, including Ra’Shede Hageman getting some tough love and hard-coaching from Bryan Cox. We got to see the Falcons work against the Tennessee Titans in their scrimmage from last week and were privy to the mixed messages that Mike Smith seems to be sending to the team about fighting. Although in this instance, it seemed more clear that Smith was okay with his players fighting other team’s players versus teammates.

We got to see how some of the rookies spent their off days from camp practice. Hageman and Marquis Spruill swam with a giant whale shark at the aquarium, while Ricardo Allen and his girlfriend went zip-lining. We also were witness to Spruill’s unfortunate knee injury from last week. Aside from Spruill’s injury, I enjoyed these parts the most since we got to see the rookies as human beings blowing off a little steam away from the practice field.

The show closed showing some of the highlights from the Falcons preseason win over the Miami Dolphins last week. Bryan Cox closed out the show in fine fashion with a cigar smoke-laden conversation with outside linebackers coach Mark Collins, discussing some of the Falcons players but more importantly Cox’s examination of the darkness of men’s hearts.

Next week’s show promised a preview of the battle for backup quarterback, with undrafted rookie Jeff Mathews’ arm likely being featured.

Other highlights of the show:

  • A Sean Weatherspoon cameo that also showed his mentoring of Prince Shembo, who looks hungry enough to have Joplo Bartu looking over his shoulder.
  • Cuteness overload with Tyler Starr’s son. Although, a tip to Tyler, teach your son to run with proper form. Apparently, athleticism skips a generation.
  • How Ricardo Allen earned the nickname that headlines this recap.
  • William Moore and Roddy White’s perpetual war of trash-talking.

Falcons 2014 Training Camp: Day 13 Report

August 12th, 2014 No comments
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Mickey Shuler

Let’s take a look at the various tweets, articles, reports, news and rumors that surfaced from the 13th day of training camp yesterday:

Jay Adams has the official site’s usual five things we learned from yesterday’s practice, including the team’s preparation for an extended trip to Houston to practice against the Texans before playing them in a game on Saturday, and preparation of certain players: Antone Smith, T.J. Yates and Jake Matthews to face the Texans.

ESPN’s Vaughn McClure has a few takeaways from practice as well, which can be found here.

Running back Devonta Freeman missed practice yesterday with an undisclosed injury, but it’s believed that he was affected by the heat and should be fine for today.

The Falcons backup quarterback position is an area in flux, with the team expected to give more backup reps to Sean Renfree rather than T.J. Yates this week. However, head coach Mike Smith indicates not to read too much into how the reps are split this week. It’s likely that their performance on Saturday against the Texans could be the deciding factor as Smith indicates the team wants to have the spot nailed down by their third preseason game scheduled against the Tennessee Titans on August 23.

Smith is looking forward to the team’s combined practices with the Texans over the next two days.

Tight end Mickey Shuler seems to be making the most of his opportunity by stealing some starters reps. Shuler may be closing the gap on presumed No. 2 tight end Bear Pascoe with a solid performance against the Miami Dolphins last week.

Read more…

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 73 “Harry Douglas Wears Women’s Deodorant”

August 11th, 2014 No comments

FalcFans.com

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 73

Allen and I are joined once again by The Falcoholic’s training camp correspondent, Jeanna Thomas, to discuss the past week of Atlanta Falcons practice and their preseason win over the Miami Dolphins. We give our thoughts on what things stood out to them in the first game and how certain rookies looked in their debut including Jake Matthews and Devonta Freeman, as well as various position battles throughout the roster. We then give praise for the first episode of Hard Knocks before jumping into a brief preview of the Falcons second preseason contest against the Houston Texans. Allen and I finish up with their usual around the league segment, reviewing the past week’s preseason games and previewing this week’s.

Episode 73 – Harry Douglas Wears Women’s Deodorant [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 29 minutes

Allen covers the Falcons for Pro Football Spot. His twitter handle is: @Allen_Strk.

Jeanna writes for The Falcoholic and can be found on twitter: @jeannathomas.

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! For Android users, DoubleTwist is a good app to listen as well. You can also subscribe directly to our feed at the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/falcfans/LXSt

Falcons 2014 Training Camp: Day 12 Report

August 10th, 2014 No comments
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Dwight Lowery

The Atlanta Falcons returned to practice on Saturday, so let’s take a look at the various tweets, articles, reports, news and rumors that surfaced from the 12th day of training camp yesterday:

Vaughn McClure of ESPN has the skinny on Saturday’s practice, which saw the return of safety Dwight Lowery to the field. Lowery had been held out of practice for the past week days due to a concussion he suffered during the Friday Night Lights event. The team also welcomed linebacker Pat Angerer back, who was also nursing a concussion and missed six practices over 10 days. Both players’ returns should bolster depth at their respective positions as they have been problematic in the wake of both players’ injuries. Offensive tackle Terren Jones was also welcomed back from a concussion that sent him to the hospital last week although he did not practice, and worked with medical staff on the sidelines alongside defensive tackle Corey Peters.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, wide receiver Roddy White was held out of practice as he was given a day off. Per head coach Mike Smith, this off day was scheduled in advance of the higher-than-expected workload that White had in Friday night’s win over the Miami Dolphins. White was expected to play eight snaps, but wound up playing 18 due to the length of the Falcons opening drive. He led the team in receptions with four for 27 yards.

In other injury-related news, safety Kimario McFadden (shoulder) and linebacker Jacques Smith (head) also practiced Saturday despite exiting Friday night’s game with injuries. Linebacker Tim Dobbins injured his ankle against the Dolphins and is expected to miss a few days of practice.

Following practice the Falcons signed linebacker Darin Drakeford and waived kicker Sergio Castillo. Drakeford adds depth at inside linebacker despite the return of Angerer to the lineup. He’s a 2013 undrafted free agent out of Maryland that spent time on the practice squads of the Kansas City Chiefs, New York Giants and Indianapolis Colts last season. He was released by the Colts last December and has been out of football since.

Falcons Sign LB Drakeford; Cut K Castillo

August 10th, 2014 No comments
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Darin Drakeford (left)

The Atlanta Falcons announced last night that they had signed linebacker Darin Drakeford and waived kicker Sergio Castillo. Drakeford’s signing adds depth at linebacker, a problem area for the Falcons in recent weeks. Castillo performed relatively well in his preseason debut on Friday evening against the Miami Dolphins, but with kicker Matt Bryant and punter Matt Bosher locked into their jobs, he became expendable.

Drakeford’s signing comes in the wake of news that inside linebacker Tim Dobbins suffered an ankle injury against the Dolphins and according to head coach Mike Smith is expected to miss a couple of days. Although Drakeford’s signing suggests that Dobbins might be out for a bit longer given the team’s decision to address the position. However, given that the Falcons had already shown interest in veteran linebackers in recent weeks, it was likely a position they wanted to address from the start.

Drakeford is a second-year player that was an undrafted rookie out of Maryland last season. He went to camp with the Kansas City Chiefs and started the season on their practice squad before brief stints on the practice squads of the New York Giants and Indianapolis Colts. The Colts cut him at the end of last season, and he’s been out of football until the Falcons scooped him up.

Castillo is an undrafted rookie out of West Texas A&M that was signed by the Falcons in June. He connected on two field goals of 21 and 34 yards on Friday night, and also punted twice for an average of 46.5 yards.

Categories: News Tags: , , ,

Falcons 2014 Training Camp: Day 11 Report

August 7th, 2014 No comments
From Malcolm Johnson/WGXA

Dylan Hoyt and Roddy White. From Malcolm Johnson/WGXA

Let’s take a look at the various tweets, articles, reports, news and rumors that surfaced from the 11th day of Atlanta Falcons training camp yesterday:

Linebacker Marquis Spruill went down with an undisclosed leg injury yesterday and left practice.

Jay Adams gives us his five things from yesterday’s practice including Dezmen Southward’s return to practice from a knee injury. Southward had missed six days of practice since injuring his knee last week.

Vaughn McClure writes about his own observations from yesterday’s practice.

Defensive tackle Corey Peters’ return from a torn Achilles might be improving.

Falcons will make a decision soon about whether to increase wide receiver Julio Jones’ workload. Thus far in camp, he’s been on the one day on, one day off practice schedule.

Of course, another fight broke out in camp, this time between former college teams, guard Mike Johnson and cornerback Javier Arenas.

Our good friend, Dylan Hoyt, who appeared on the FalcFans Podcast back in March, got the red-carpet treatment at camp yesterday. If you don’t remember, Dylan famously won a twitter bet with wide receiver Roddy White when Mercer upset Duke in the NCAA Tournament, and will receive Falcons season tickets this season.

Check out these photos from yesterday’s practice.