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Falcons make cuts to pare roster

August 25th, 2012 Comments off

The Falcons announced roster moves today to pare their roster down to 75 players. The players cut included: TE Chase Coffman, LB Max Gruder, K Erik Folk, RB Richard Medlin, FB Lee Meisner, DE Louis Nzegwu, WR Kenny Stafford, and TE Aron White. The team also officially placed OT Will Svitek on injured reserve. They also reached injury settlements with DT Eli Joseph and CB Darrin Walls.

These moves put the Falcons roster down to 77 players, which means they will have to cut two more players before Monday’s 4 pm Eastern deadline.

Coffman and Medlin were additions made since the start of training camp. Joseph was signed on the eve of training camp. Folk, Gruder, Meisner, Nzegwu, Stafford, and White were undrafted free agents signed after the draft. Walls was an undrafted free agent last summer that made the Falcons roster and played in 5 games, recording 1 tackle on defense and 1 on special teams. Svitek was injured last week.

The Falcons will travel to Jacksonville take on the Jaguars on Thursday night. The league has a mandated deadline on Friday night at 9 pm Eastern to get their rosters down to 53 players. Starting  on Saturday, teams will be allowed to set their eight-man practice squads.

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Camp Battles 2012: Secondary

July 19th, 2012 Comments off
Bob Donnan-US PRESSWIRE

Dunta Robinson

One of the most interesting battles that will come in training camp this summer will occur in the secondary, as the Falcons look to shuffle their depth at cornerback.

With the addition of Asante Samuel joining Dunta Robinson and Brent Grimes, the Falcons are now three-deep at the cornerback position, and intend to take full advantage of that this season. The nickel package is expected to often be utilized as the Falcons base package with the intent of getting the best 11 defenders on the field at the same time.

But what needs to occur first in camp, is which of the three players will emerge as the two everydown players. Two of the players will play virtually every snap on defense, with the third nickel corner subbing in on passing situations. That third corner will play the majority of snaps on defense overall, but it won’t be every snap. Last year when Grimes was healthy, he and Robinson averaged about 63 snaps per game as starters, while the nickel corner was on the field (a combo of Kelvin Hayden, Dominique Franks, and Chris Owens) for about 36 snaps per game. The latter number is likely to increase, potentially to as high as 45-50 snaps per game.

Robinson and Grimes are the incumbents, and as such got most of the first team reps during the off-season. That means that Samuel will be coming off the bench as the nickel corner. If that remains the case into the season, then in those nickel situations Samuel will play on the outside across from Grimes with Robinson moving inside to the slot corner spot. This is arguably the best usage of the three players since among the three Samuel is the weakest in run support and thus limiting his first and second down reps could streamline his usage. But at the same time, Samuel is also the best playmaker of the group, and thus it would make sense to maximize that ability by putting him on the field as much as possible. Robinson on the other hand is the least likely to make plays in coverage, and while his strength has historically been run support, that was an area where he struggled throughout the 2011 season. He’ll need to show the coaching staff this summer that 2011 was an aberration, and his former toughness against the run has returned.

Franks, Owens, and Darrin Walls will be competing for the opportunity to be the first player off the bench in the event of an injury. Franks is the most likely of the group to win the job. He had his share of moments last year as an injury replacement for Grimes down the stretch. While Franks is not well-suited to playing in the slot, he does have a solid skillset that can make him a potentially effective starter on the outside. And given the looming contract issues that both Robinson and Grimes face in the future, the team may want to groom Franks as a potential replacement come 2013.

The addition of Samuel to the roster means that the Falcons could be parting ways with either Owens or Walls. Walls shined last summer but in the face of minimal competition due to the fact that he was competing with other undrafted free agents. He won’t have such a luxury this year, as he’ll likely be going directly up against Owens for the fifth and likely final cornerback slot. Owens has struggled throughout the years when lined up in the slot, but when he’s been an outside corner as a rookie and late last year, he has been a solid reserve. That experience and versatility coupled with Owens being one of the team’s better producers on special teams should give him an edge to win the job. But it’s no slam dunk. Owens is entering the final year of his contract, and while Walls is probably never going to be a better player than Owens in the long run, the fact that Walls is two years younger and cheaper could give him a slight edge in the competition. The key for Walls is showing that he can also be a very good special teams player. The positive for Walls is that he remains eligible for the practice squad, so it’s possible they could keep both.

There will be added competition at cornerback this summer. The team picked up Robert McClain in the off-season as well as adding undrafted free agents Marty Markett and Peyton Thompson. McClain was a solid special teams player as a rookie in 2010 with the Panthers. And Markett is a track guy from South Carolina that could potentially be an excellent gunner. Thompson has solid cover skills and the sort of toughness that could also make him a capable special teams player. Because of their potential to impact on special teams, all three players have a legit chance of making the roster.

At safety, the starters are settled with Thomas DeCoud at free safety and William Moore at strong safety. The team made a good decision to upgrade their depth by signing veteran Chris Hope. Hope will be the primary backup at strong safety, but he also posseses the experience to fit nicely as the team’s top backup at free safety as well. All three players have firm holds on their roster spots.

The key competition at safety will come for who wins the fourth safety spot. Shann Schillinger will compete with rookie draft pick Charles Mitchell, along with undrafted rookies Chad Faulcon and former practice squad player Suaesi Tuimaunei. Schillinger is one of the team’s top special teams players, which gives him an edge in the competition. But the team likes Mitchell and his skillset should also translate well to producing on special teams. Mitchell is not a great cover guy, but is an ace run defender despite being undersized. Schillinger has not shown a lot on defense the past two summers but he’s a free safety while Mitchell is a pure strong safety. And since Hope is primarily a strong safety, that also gives Schillinger the potential nod. The Falcons may opt to keep five safeties particularly if Schillinger manages to win the job, but Mitchell may also be destined for the practice squad at least early in the year. As for Faulcon and Tuimaunei, they are likely competing for practice squad spots, but will be hard-pressed to do so especially if the Falcons manage to keep five safeties. Their best chances will be impacting on special teams.

2015 Falcons: Secondary

June 20th, 2012 Comments off
F. Medina-US PRESSWIRE

William Moore

The Falcons secondary has undergone notable changes in the years leading up to 2015.

One of the few names still around is Brent Grimes, who received a long-term extension following another strong 2012 season. In 2015, Grimes at age 32 is not as spry as he once was but has been a consistent force and leader in the Falcons secondary over the years. The Falcons bid farewell to both Dunta Robinson and Asante Samuel but the Falcons have replaced them with players that they are optimistic can have similar value.

Starting opposite Grimes is former New York Jet Kyle Wilson. Instead of re-signing a 34-year old Samuel in 2015, the team opted for the 28-year old Wilson. In the years since 2011, Wilson developed into one of the league’s best slot corners with the Jets, and hoping to get sustained production from that spot the Falcons snatched him up in free agency.

Adding depth behind Grimes and Wilson are Dominique Franks and Jordan Poyer. The same off-season when the team parted ways with Robinson, they gave Franks an extension to serve as the No. 3 corner. In nickel situations, Wilson kicks inside and Franks enters on the outside. But the team is optimistic that their 2013 draftee out of Oregon State, Poyer, will push Franks for that role. The team fell in love with Poyer, a former third round pick, due to his intensity, toughness, playmaking ability, and return skills. Poyer has spent most of his time during his first two years with the Falcons returning punts. But now that he is entering his third season with the team, they are hopeful he can make major strides defensively to push Franks and give the Falcons four quality corners. Also on the roster is Darrin Walls, who has carved out a nice niche as one of the team’s top special teams cover men.

At safety, the unit is still anchored by William Moore on the strongside. Moore got an extension following the 2012 season. And while he is not considered an elite safety, he is valued as one of the top enforcers in the league. His hard-hitting ways have earned him quite the reputation on the back-end of the field.

The team picked up free safety Nickoe Whitley out of Mississippi State in the second round of the 2014 draft. Whitley sat behind Thomas DeCoud for his rookie season, but the team cut DeCoud due to their belief that Whitley is poised for a breakout season in his second year. Whitley’s aggressiveness mirrors that of Moore, but his ball skills and potential as a centerfielder gives him more upside at free safety.

The team still has managed to retain Charles Mitchell as a reserve. Moore’s hard-hitting has cost him a few games over the years due to injuries, and while Mitchell has never developed into that much of a cover guy, he has filled in ably in run support for the short periods that Moore has missed.

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Year-End Superlatives: Rookie of the Year

January 5th, 2012 Comments off

We might just as well re-name this to the Julio Jones Trophy. I don’t really have to explain the Jones pick, but I’ll just use this space to recap what the other rookies did this year.

Jacquizz Rodgers managed to make plays whenever he got opportunities as a runner and receiver, but most observers including myself can’t seem to understand why he did not get more opportunities. He runs as hard as any back on the roster, able to get yards after contact, and with his speed and quickness to make guys miss and hit the hole quickly, you just wonder what the coaches were seeing that the rest of us didn’t that merited him only getting limited carries. His primary role was in pass protection, another area where he was solid. I believe Rodgers could have made the race with Jones for this award much more interesting if it did not seem that the coaching staff was conspiring against him.

Akeem Dent played predominantly on special teams, and seemed to start to find his stride in the latter half of the year in coverage units. To the point that he might have been our best cover guy this year, which is saying quite a bit when you consider Weems had earned a Pro Bowl bid due to his abilities there just as much as his return skills.

Bosher has already been discussed. And Andrew Jackson and Cliff Matthews respectively spent the entire season on the practice squad or inactive, so there is really nothing to say about them. The only other rookie to make the squad was Darrin Walls, who played fairly well relative to his youth when pressed into duty late in the season, showing doubters like myself that he legitimately was deserving of a roster spot and not a player that just stood out from a weak group of corners this summer.

And I’ll briefly touch on Jones season. He was a bit inconsistent early in the year, and the injuries that plagued him during the middle of the year weren’t helping. But he really picked things up down the stretch and really was much more consistently able to showcase his game-breaking potential. He’s hoping he becomes even more consistent with showing that skillset in the future for the Falcons.

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Moneyball 2011 – Week 15 Review

December 20th, 2011 Comments off

A pretty outstanding performance in this game for the Falcons. The Jaguars basically failed to show up for this one, and the Falcons took full advantage of their no-show.

Matt Ryan had little issue moving the ball through the air, with Roddy White having an outstanding game. Julio Jones also made some really nice plays and catches, but this really was all about Roddy. Tony Gonzalez had a very quiet game. MIchael Turner was solid on the ground, as were Jason Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers in spots. The Falcons offensive line had their struggles trying to get push against the Jaguars front, but they were able to get the job done.

The best performance up front was probably by Clabo, as well as McClure and Blalock having solid games. Hawley had his good moments as well as his bad ones. He gave up a hit that should have been a sack had Ryan not quickly checked it down to Turner. But he continues to show that he’s filled in ably for Harvey Dahl as the team’s dirtiest blocker. He was able to draw a personal foul penalty on Nate Collins by virtue of getting away with horse-collaring Collins down the field away from the ball. Then when Collins retaliated after the whistle, that drew the flag, giving the Falcons a first down instead of punting. The next play, Ryan hit White on an easy 29-yard touchdown pass to put the Falcons lead to 41-0. Jeremy Mincey gave Will Svitek and the others fits throughout the night. Honestly watching this game, I would have to say that Jacksonville’s front seven is really potentially good. The Falcons missed 12 blocks because they got overwhelmed at the point of attack. But their secondary was really bad in this one, but thats understandable when you’re starting third string corners.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLOCK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Roddy White$0$0$13$0$0$0$13.00
Matt Ryan$13$0$0$0$0-$1$12.00
Michael Turner$0$10$0$0$0$0$10.00
Julio Jones$0$1$6-$1$0$0$6.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$4$0$0$0$0$4.00
Jason Snelling$0$3$0$0$0$0$3.00
Todd McClure$0$0$0$2.5$0$0$2.50
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0$1.5$0$0$1.50
Mike Cox$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Harry Douglas$0$0$1$0$0$0$1.00
Chris Redman$1$0$0$0$0$0$1.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Reggie Kelly$0$0$0$0$0-$1-$1.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00
Eric Weems$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00
Joe Hawley$0$0$0-$1$0-$1-$2.00
Will Svitek$0$0$0-$2$0$0-$2.00

Read more…

Falcons cut 10 to get down to 53

September 3rd, 2011 Comments off

The Falcons announced the last ten roster moves to get down to the 53-player limit today. The cuts included: S Rafael Bush, WR Kevin Cone, WR D.J. Davis, OG Andrew Jackson, LB Robert James, C Brett Romberg, DE Emmanuel Stephens, OT Jose Valdez, and QB John Parker Wilson. The team also announced that it reached an injury settlement with TE Ryan Winterswyk, resulting in his release as well.

Prominent among the moves was the departure of Wilson, who made the Falcons team as their third quarterback the past two seasons since being an undrafted rookie in 2009. Jackson, was the Falcons lone draft pick in their 2011 draft class that did not make the roster. James was a 2008 draft pick that had bounced off and on the Falcons roster over the past two seasons, spending most of the past two seasons on the practice squad. Valdez spent the past two years on the practice squad as well. Bush was on the Falcons practice squad a year ago. Romberg was signed by the Falcons earlier this week to add depth behind injured center Todd McClure, but the team opted instead to keep Rob Bruggeman as the team’s third center on opening day for the second year in a row.

Prominent among the players that the Falcons apparently are keeping on their 53-man roster is cornerback Darrin Walls, who made the team as an undrafted free agent. Also defensive tackle Carlton Powell made the roster as a fifth defensive tackle. Powell joined the Falcons on August 14, only a week before they broke training camp, showing he could beat the odds and impress the team despite others getting a two-week head start.

The Falcons will need to establish a practice squad tomorrow consisting of eight players. Many of the players cut today and yesterday will be eligible. The Falcons may make other moves in the week before the regular season starts as they scour the waiver wire to add other players were cut around the league.

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Spotlight Players vs. Steelers

August 27th, 2011 Comments off
ICON SMI

Ray Edwards

Here is another look at five players to keep your eyes on during tonight’s preseason matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers:

1. DE Ray Edwards

This will be the first action for the fans to get a look at the team’s lone free agent pickup in Edwards. He will have a chance to shine going up against the questionable pass protecting Steelers offensive line, although if he is facing Willie Colon, then he’ll see the team’s best pass protector for most of the night. A strong performance certainly can be a good launching point to a breakout 2011 season for Edwards, who is looking to prove he is legitimately one of the league’s premier pass rushers.

2. QB Matt Ryan

Little was made of Ryan’s mediocre at best performance against the Jaguars last week. Mainly because he is Matt Ryan, after all and has little to prove at this point in his career. With him set to earn his most extensive playing time against the Steelers tonight, having a bounce back game is not necessary, but certainly would be a positive. Ryan will be tasked with picking apart the league’s best defense for most of the night, and a strong performance will go a long with to instilling confidence in the cohesion of the offense as well as be a feather in Ryan’s cap as he gets some much needed revenge against a team that made him look mediocre in the 2010 regular season opener.

3. CB Darrin Walls

Walls will get a big opportunity tonight against the Steelers thanks in part to injuries to Dunta Robinson and Chris Owens. Walls will get opportunities in the Falcons nickel package with the starters where he will be tested with the explosive Steelers receivers such as Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, and Jerricho Cotchery. Walls is likely to land a spot on the Falcons 53-man roster at this point, but a strong performance certainly will cement his status on the team as someone to look out for in the future as a solution to some of the Falcons secondary woes.

4. OG Garrett Reynolds

Reynolds seems to have sewn up the starting right guard position this summer, although it’s debatable whether he achieved that on his own merit or thanks to a timely injury to Mike Johnson. Reynolds could put such doubts to rest with a strong performance against the physical 3-4 front of the Steelers. The Falcons historically under Mike Smith have struggled to push the pile and run the ball against 3-4 teams. Reynolds can hopefully change that. He’s expected to be matched up with Steelers Pro Bowl left end Aaron Smith for much of the night, who is returning from a knee injury. He’ll also be tested as a pass protector, as the Steelers crave the blitz and potentially find himself on the other side of LaMarr Woodley and/or James Farrior’s onslaught.

5. CB Dominique Franks

Franks had a bad outing against the Jaguars last week, and really needs a strong performance against the Steelers to solidify his status as the team’s new nickel back. He’ll get an opportunity as he’ll start in place of an injured Dunta Robinson and Chris Owens. Unlike against the Jaguars unproven young receivers, he’ll be tested against Mike Wallace and Hines Ward, along with others like Antonio Brown, Jerricho Cotchery, and Arnaz Battle. Franks cannot really afford another lackluster performance, otherwise it could mean that the Falcons seek an outside option to address their nickel concerns.

Walls emerging for roster spot

August 20th, 2011 Comments off

The NFL lockout presented a nearly impossible challenge for the several hundred undrafted rookies that entered training camps league-wide this summer. OTAs including May rookie camps and June passing camps are the prime time for undrafted players to impress coaches and build momentum to carry over into August’s training camps. But with the lockout, those OTAs were wiped off the books, and undrafted guys were forced to hit the ground running.

Because of this, their odds are even longer to make rosters around the league. And it appears that the Falcons are no different. But through two preseason games, if anyone has emerged to potentially beat the odds it would likely be cornerback Darrin Walls.

Walls made a nice play against the Dolphins by tipping a deep throw that wound up being intercepted. Against the Jaguars last night, he did not play great, but it’s clearly that the coaching staff thinks highly of him because of his extended reps with many second and third unit defenders.

Walls definitely has the inside track for the No. 5 cornerback position. Will he ultimately earn it? That remains to be seen. With some of the issues the Falcons have at the nickel spot, they may be better off reserving the fifth corner spot for a veteran. But at this point it would appear to be a major upset if Walls doesn’t at least earn a practice squad spot if not a full-time roster spot.

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