Archive

Posts Tagged ‘training camp’

Training Camp: Day 5 Report

July 30th, 2013 Comments off

Here are the things that happened on the fifth day of the Atlanta Falcons 2013 training camp:

  • Steven Jackson appears to be saving himself for the regular season as he picks up the Falcons offense. He also thinks highly of his own standing within this generation of running backs.
  • Daniel Cox gives his five things we learned from the fifth day of camp.
  • Mike Smith seems to be putting expectations on Jonathan Massaquoi, Kroy Biermann, and Corey Peters to make strides to help the Falcons pass rush. Malliciah Goodman is getting help from veteran players and taking it slow as he develops his technique and hands.
  • William Moore hasn’t become any less aggressive.


  • Fresh on the field, like many of the other Falcons rookies, Stansly Maponga is going through some struggles early but coaches are working to overcome.


 

Takeaways from Last Week – July 29

July 29th, 2013 Comments off
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Should Stephen Nicholas be worried?

Training camp has begun for the Falcons. And it’s still early, but there have been a few interesting developments.

A lot has been made of the beatings that rookie corners Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford have had at the hands of Julio Jones and Roddy White. It’s somewhat silly, given it’s their first few days in camp. They are going up against arguably two of the ten best receivers in the league (I’d love to meet the person that would argue against it). And they are rookies after all. Frankly, if Patrick Peterson didn’t set the world on fire as a rookie, and he was the best cornerback prospect to come out since Champ Bailey, then why would anybody expect either Trufant or Alford to not suffer through growing pains? The key for them is going to be how much progress they show over the course of camp and the preseason. And then they’ll face Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints in the season opener. And I have no doubt that Sean Payton and Brees are going to very purposefully attack them in that game. And my expectations are that Payton and Brees will get the better of them more than they won’t. But even then, I won’t be upset. In regards to Trufant, Alford, and Robert McClain, it’s less about how good they are in September, but how good they are in January. After all, everyone expects this Falcon team to make the playoffs and make a title run.

It’s hard to tell who is ahead in some of the other position battles that dot the roster. What limited word we’ve heard about the right tackle position, suggests that Mike Johnson is still slightly ahead of Lamar Holmes. But one can’t put too much stock in one observation during one drill. We’ll see how that plays out the rest of summer. In past summers, things usually start to pick up by the second preseason game for offensive line battles so we’ll see how that goes.

It’s going to be interesting to see how the tight end battle plays out with Tony Gonzalez’s prolonged absence from camp. Chase Coffman and Tommy Gallarda appear to be getting much of the first-team reps thus far, with Levine Toilolo working as a reserve. While Toilolo’s roster spot isn’t really in jeopardy, we’ll have to see if he can leapfrog either in the coming days and weeks. As I’ve mentioned before, what sort of summer Toilolo has could have significant impact on how the rest of the roster plays out at that position. If he shines as a blocker, then Gallarda loses a bit of value. If he shines more as a receiver, then Coffman loses a bit of his luster there.

Defensively, there isn’t any direct competitions per se that I’m paying attention to. I’m more curious to see and hear how the Falcons use certain players like Kroy Biermann and Osi Umenyiora, who seem to getting a lot of time playing on their feet thus far. Eventually, I’m curious to see how the competition between Akeem Dent and Stephen Nicholas plays out for the second linebacker in the nickel. I fully expect Dent to win the job, but I’m curious how it all plays out. I’d like to see Dent win the job handily, that would give me more confidence that things are looking up for the Falcons coverage abilities from the linebacker position. There is some risk that Nicholas winds up a cap casualty at the end of camp. I don’t expect that to happen, but I also didn’t expect the Falcons to cut John Abraham at the beginning of the off-season. The Falcons cap situation currently (projected at roughly $5.7 million in cap space after Ryan’s extension) doesn’t call for the team to really need to purge salary at the end of the summer. As I’ve noted before the Falcons can save $905,000 against the cap by cutting Peria Jerry. Well actually that’s not true, the savings really only becomes $498,000 when you factor in a player like Micanor Regis (2013 cap hit of roughly $407,000) would then take up a roster spot and eat into those savings.

Read more…

Training Camp: Day 4 Report

July 29th, 2013 Comments off

The Falcons held their first padded practice of training camp on Sunday. Here are some of the main bullet points from observers:

  • Rookie defensive end Stansly Maponga was cleared to return to team drills today, and showcased some athleticism indicating that he appears to be 100% recovered from off-season foot surgery that forced him to sit out OTAs and only get work in individual drills the first few days of camp.


  • Desmond Trufant is getting work at right cornerback as expected, but also working inside in the slot at the nickel spot. Yesterday, Daniel Cox noted Trufant’s growing confidence which seemed to be echoed in the following comments from the young cornerback:

    “I’m a young player. It’s my first camp. I’m going to make some mistakes, but I’ve got to move on. You’ve got to take the hard coaching and never take (anything) personal because they are just trying to get me better.”

  • Check out Daniel Cox’s five daily observations from the fourth day of camp.
  • Here’s the transcript from the post-practice interviews conducted by Mike Smith and Roddy White.
Categories: News Tags: , ,

Training Camp: Day 3 Report

July 27th, 2013 Comments off

Recapping once more what media outlets were discussing from the third day of the Atlanta Falcons 2013 training camp:

  • John Manasso shed a bit more light on the expected absence of tight end Tony Gonzalez, who departed camp today. He’ll be expected back to participate in the final two preseason games (on August 24 and 29 vs. Tennessee and Jacksonville respectively). When he returns prior to that point still remains unknown.
  • Desmond Trufant’s confidence is up. Confidence is a necessary trait for quality corners. Goes along with a short memory, something Trufant is going to have going up against these Falcon receivers.
  • Martel Moore has earned praise from several outlets for his work during the first two days of camp. The latest being from Manasso and Jay Adams.
  • Osi Umenyiora is getting reps as a stand-up pass rusher, although he’s not sure how much he’ll be asked to do that on Sundays. Well if he was to ask John Abraham, the answer would be “a lot.”
  • Looks like a foursome might be emerging that is vying for the punt returner spot. To no surprise, Harry Douglas, Dominique Franks, Robert Alford, and James Rodgers got reps today. Douglas and Franks worked on the unit last season. Alford returned punts while at SE Louisiana. Rodgers split reps with his brother Jacquizz last summer on kickoff returns, but also got reps on punts during his collegiate career at Oregon State.
  • And as usual, Daniel Cox recounts five observations from the third day of camp, an obligatory read.

Training Camp: Day 2 Report

July 27th, 2013 Comments off

Here’s the buzz and news that emerged on the second day of Falcons camp. Once again, hat tip to the AJC for providing a transcript of some of the post-practice interviews.

    • The Falcons added Syracuse wide receiver Marcus Sales to the roster. Sales tried out with the Falcons following the draft, but went unsigned as an undrafted free agent. Sales finished his career at Syracuse strong, with career highs of 64 catches, 882 yards (13.8 avg), and 8 touchdowns.
    • The Falcons also named another addition to their training camp roster.
    • Brian Banks clearly appreciated the magnitude of the moment and situation he has earned for himself during his first practice with the team on Thursday.
    • Knox Bardeen indicated that rookie cornerbacks Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford looked a little green during their first day. It seems their struggles continued on Day 2, as they continue to take their lumps against one of the NFL’s premier receiving duos in Roddy White and Julio Jones.

    • Daniel Cox of Atlanta Falcons.com gives five excellent observations from the second day of camp, including Steven Jackson’s usage in the passing game, Drew Davis and Kevin Cone’s progress at wide receiver in their third seasons with the team, Trufant and Alford’s abilities to have short memories when it comes to getting beat in coverage, Kroy Biermann’s continued usage as a “joker” in Mike Nolan’s defense, and Chase Coffman’s ability to benefit from Tony Gonzalez’s absence.
    • Matt Ryan doesn’t mind that Gonzalez will being getting time off from camp due to the strong rapport the pair have built over the past four seasons. Ryan spent some time with Gonzalez in Southern Cali to strengthen their bonds this off-season. And Ryan likes the opportunity it presents him to get some of the other tight ends involved, echoing Cox’s sentiments about Coffman.
    • Ryan also feels that Peter Konz is off to a good start in his transition to center, where he is more comfortable. Given the switch over to Konz at center, left guard Justin Blalock is taking on more of a leadership role with the offensive line as they tried to build continuity given the departure of 13-year veteran Todd McClure.

Training Camp: Day 1 Report

July 26th, 2013 Comments off

Besides the contract extension signed by quarterback Matt Ryan, here is a look at some of the top stories that developed from the first day of the Atlanta Falcons 2013 training camp:

  • It appears that tight end Tony Gonzalez will be given some time off in the coming days and weeks of camp. Falcons head coach Mike Smith did not specify when Gonzalez will take time off and it remains to be seen how much action Gonzalez will get in preseason games. Gonzalez had this to say (h/t to the AJC for the transcript):

    Right now, I’m here. I’m planning on being here tomorrow but there are some prior obligations I made to my family, more specifically my son Nikko, last year. I made these obligations to them last year because I was planning to retire. I wasn’t joking about that all year last year. Those responsibilities are coming up and will be here pretty soon so I’ll probably head back and hang out with him and do what I told him I was going to do. Then I’ll be back and join the team early. I’m not going to be showing up a week before the game, I’ll be here a lot earlier than that, but I’ll be ready to go, too. You can bet the house on that. This isn’t something that is going to go into the regular season.

  • Falcons rookie defensive end Stansly Maponga has been cleared for individual drills, but will be held out from team drills for the first few days of camp per Smith. Maponga is recently returned from off-season foot surgery that kept him out of OTAs.
Categories: News Tags: , , ,

Camp Battles 2013: Special Teams

July 23rd, 2013 1 comment

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Robert Alford could man both return spots this year

The Falcons brought in a pair of undrafted specialists in Jeremy Shelley and Sean Sellwood to push kicker Matt Bryant and punter Matt Bosher, respectively. Both are longshots and unless Bryant or Bosher get hurt really don’t stand much of a chance to make the roster.

Instead both will be competing in the hopes that it may impress another NFL team that could pick them up at the end of the summer off waivers. If either of them offer much potential for the Falcons it’s Shelley. Matt Bryant is signed through the 2014 season, but is already 38 years old. He’s been highly productive for the Falcons since joining the team late in 2009, but age eventually always catches up. Jason Elam was also solid for the Falcons until he turned 39 that same season, and his inconsistency prompted the team replace him with Bryant. So in reality if Shelley can have an impressive summer, he could be on speed dial in case there is any dropoff from Bryant in the near future. Shelley was one of the more accurate kickers in college football the past few years while at Alabama, specializing on short field goals. He’ll have to prove that he has NFL-caliber leg strength however.

Like Bosher, Sellwood possesses a big leg, but really is just insurance. Bosher struggled throughout his rookie season in 2011, but emerged as one of the top young punters with a much more consistent 2012 season. Sellwood really is only around in case Bosher regresses, which isn’t likely.

Long snapper Josh Harris had a bit of a rocky rookie season, but the Falcons didn’t bring in any direct competition for him. Assuming he doesn’t regress this summer, he should be a lock to retain his spot.

The big battle at this position group will be for the returner positions. Jacquizz Rodgers returned kickoffs last year, while Dominique Franks managed punts. Rodgers was effective at times in his role, but Franks was not. More than likely the Falcons would prefer another young player to emerge at either spot. However, the likelihood that Rodgers has a decreased role on offense due to the presence of Steven Jackson, means that he may better handle return duties. But in reality, he’s probably only going to open the season as the kickoff returner if no one else emerges.

The best candidate may be second round pick Robert Alford. While Alford primarily returned punts in college, his skillset may be better suited to returning kicks due to his excellent straight-line speed. In a perfect world, Alford will take over at both spots and give the Falcons a big play element that has been missing since the heyday of Allen Rossum. He’ll be competing with a number of other potential candidates.

Tim Toone, while not a big play threat as a punt returner, showed last summer that he can be somewhat reliable when it comes to consistently getting yardage. That is a valuable trait in that role and lacking that ability was one of the biggest reasons why Franks struggled last year. Undrafted rookies Rashad Evans and Darius Johnson both offer explosive speed and return experience from college. James Rodgers, Jacquizz’s brother nearly won a spot last summer and if he can improve upon that he is a prime candidate to win one of the spots.

Antone Smith and Harry Douglas also might be in the mix as they have return experience, but really are only options of last resort if no one else emerges.

Camp Battles 2013: Safety

July 22nd, 2013 Comments off

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Charles Mitchell must fend off several promising youngsters

Starters Thomas DeCoud and William Moore are both coming off Pro Bowl years. Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan certainly had a positive effect on both of them as they proved to be one of the most opportunitic pair of safeties in the league. Neither player is expected to be challenged this summer and instead will be focusing upon building towards an even better 2013 season.

But the backup spots behind them are potentially wide open as the Falcons hope one of their young safeties emerge as positive depth. The fact that Moore has been injured nearly every year since joining the team in 2009 makes it important that the Falcons are comfortable and confident with their depth. Last June, the Falcons added veteran Chris Hope because of their discomfort and it remains a possibility that they could seek another veteran at the end of this summer if a young player doesn’t emerge.

The best candidate to emerge is second-year safety Charles Mitchell. Mitchell is in a prime position to become the team’s top backup at the position. He worked last summer at both safety spots. A good run defender that possesses decent range to make plays in coverage, Mitchell is a solid candidate to fill in in the event of an injury to either starter. If there is any negative in regards to Mitchell, it’s the fact that he made minimal contributions on special teams last year. That will need to change given the fact that the team doesn’t often substitute in reserve safeties as they do reserve corners in their subpackages. Thus to merit being active every Sunday, a backup safety needs to make contributions on special teams.

He’ll be pushed by Shann Schillinger and a pair of rookie draft picks in Kemal Ishmael and Zeke Motta. Schillinger missed all of the 2012 season with an injury, but prior to it he was one of the team’s top special teams players. While Schillinger doesn’t offer a ton of upside to be a regular on defense, his special teams ability means he can be active every Sunday and be a contributor. His biggest competition will likely come from Ishmael, who also plays the free safety position. Ishmael was a very active run defender during his days at Central Florida, which is expected to translate into high special teams value.

Zeke Motta will be pushing Mitchell as the reserve strong safety. While Motta doesn’t quite offer the same value defensively that Mitchell does, again if he can showcase more value on special teams he could potentially leap frog him on the depth chart. While there are few star safeties hailing from Notre Dame over the past decade, nearly all have managed to stick on special teams in the NFL, with David Bruton (Broncos), Tom Zbikowski (Bears), and Sergio Brown (Colts) being current standouts.

Because of the presence of so many former draft picks, it’s possible the Falcons will opt to keep five safeties. But the team could potentially hide Motta and/or Ishmael on their practice squad as well. Undrafted rookie Troy Sanders is a longshot even for the practice squad because of the presence of all the former draft picks.

Opposing Camp Primer: San Francisco 49ers

July 21st, 2013 Comments off
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Colin Kaepernick will be looking for a new option besides Crabtree this summer

It’s time to wrap up the look at the Falcons thirteen opponents and what to watch this summer. That means we’re now on the San Francisco 49ers, who the Falcons will face in Week 16 of this upcoming season in the hopes of avenging their NFC title game loss from this past January.

Most of the stories centering on the 49ers this summer will be finding players that can replace many of the players they lost this off-season that helped them reach the Super Bowl last season.

Chief among them was wide receiver Michael Crabtree, who could be lost for the year due to an Achilles tear he suffered in June. Crabtree might be able to return in the second half of the 2013 season a la Terrell Suggs a year ago, but in training camp the concern will be finding a suitable replacement.

Crabtree was the 49ers’ top wideout, and the only real target that Colin Kaepernick could connect with consistently last season. Not only will the focus be on finding a suitable replacement for him in the starting lineup, but also whether incoming wideout Anquan Boldin and/or tight end Vernon Davis can build a strong rapport with Kaepernick. Boldin isn’t a dynamic threat, but is a very reliable set of his hands that can be a good security blanket for the young quarterback. Davis is a more dynamic option at tight end that has the potential to pick up the slack lost from Crabtree in terms of big plays. Ideally for the 49ers, between the two of them they can form the bond with Kaepernick missing from Crabtree’s absence and will need to show that in camp.

Competing to replace Crabtree will be several players and it will frankly be an open competition. Unlikely to be among them will be Mario Manningham, who suffered a knee injury at the end of last season and is not expected to be cleared to start camp. The 49ers will probably hope to work him in as the regular season progresses.

However Kyle Williams, who also is coming off a knee injury, is expected to be cleared for the start of camp. He’s the most experience of the candidates, and offers explosive potential in the passing game. But his absence in the off-season has given the team a chance to give A.J. Jenkins, Quinton Patton, and Ricardo Lockette longer looks. Jenkins should have the leg up among the trio given this is his second season after a disappointing rookie campaign. He was taken at the top of the 49ers draft last year but hardly played even as injuries mounted last season for the team. Patton has been impressive this off-season and is more of a possession receiver than a dynamic threat. But the same thing was said about Crabtree prior to last year, and it didn’t stop him from being a force in the 49ers’ offense. Lockette has speed to burn, giving him an opportunity to shine this summer, but might be better suited to a special teams role than a starting spot.

Read more…

Categories: Features Tags: ,

Camp Battles 2013: Cornerback

July 21st, 2013 Comments off
Alan Maglaque-US PRESSWIRE

Dominique Franks is on the bubble

This is the only position on defense that likely will feature a position battle for a starting spot. While Asante Samuel is locked in at the left cornerback position, the right cornerback position is relatively wide open. The team dumped veterans Brent Grimes and Dunta Robinson in the off-season, replacing them with rookies Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford, their top two picks in 2013. Trufant is expected to win the job because of his higher draft status and the fact that he has NFL bloodlines (two older brothers already in the NFL). But Alford could give him a run for his money. Incumbent nickel corner Robert McClain also could be in the mix for the spot. Regardless, the Falcons won’t be afraid to start either Alford or McClain over Trufant if need be. This is indeed a spot where the best candidate will win the job.

But more than likely, it’s Trufant’s job to lose. He’ll likely man the right cornerback position, which he has throughout the off-season when he’s been available. Alford is considered Samuel’s top backup on the left side, a role he played primarily at Southeastern Louisiana. McClain should remain the team’s nickel guy and man the slot, a role he was surprisingly adept at last season. McClain was a player that was one of the last players to make the team, but was able to turn it into an excellent season once Grimes went down with an Achilles tear. The Falcons hope he can pick up where he left off last season.

His emergence has pushed Dominique Franks to the fringe, and now he’s on the roster bubble. Franks showed potential in 2011 as a nickel corner, but struggled for reps a year ago even after the injury to Grimes. Franks’ ability to make the team is limited by the fact that his value on special teams is minimal. Franks’ struggles as a punt returner are well-documented, but also hurting his case is the fact that he has made almost no contributions in coverage in three seasons. McClain’s ability to contribute there was a key reason why he was able to pass him on the depth chart last summer and during the regular season. Franks’ best hope of making the roster then rests on his ability to be a regular contributor on defense. The presence of two rookie corners limits that, especially given the fact that Alford is also considered a prime candidate to win one of the return jobs, and his speed (potentially the fastest player on the defense) also projects well to finding a role on coverage units. Late last year the Falcons employed more dime looks in their subpackages, with Franks filling a role there. That potentially remains his best odds of making the roster, although again he’ll have to outplay Alford who also would be a candidate for that role.

Special teams ability is likely what will earn potential roster spots for the remainder of the position group. Peyton Thompson spent last year on the team’s practice squad and could propel that into a roster spot this year as the fifth corner. Terrence Johnson is also in the mix due to his experience playing in the nickel for the Indianapolis Colts in 2011. Saeed Lee is an undrafted rookie that was able to earn a contract after being brought in for a tryout. All three have a legit chance to earn the fifth and likely final cornerback spot due to special teams being the primary motivator for that spot. But if any of them emerge as capable defenders it will certainly be a significant factor in who makes the team. That’s why Thompson and Johnson are the likeliest candidates, given their experience over Lee.