The Falcons will have an open competition at the kicker position. Matt Bryant is expected to be the frontrunner, but he will be pushed by Steven Hauschka.
Bryant has the experience which likely gives him the edge since the Falcons would like to avoid any inconsistency at the position. But Hauschka has the bigger leg and longer range. The problem is that he has not been particularly effective in clutch kicking situations and showed a tendency to miss some fairly easy kicks last year in Baltimore, leading to his release. But Hauschka also has the added advantage of being 10 years younger than Bryant.
The Falcons will have options, and will likely go with the more consistent of the two. More than likely, the team will alternate them in preseason games to maximize their opportunities.
At punter, Michael Koenen’s job is safe. And while Hauschka was an effective kickoff guy for two years in Baltimore, he doesn’t like he’ll be a serious challenge to Koenen even if he wins the job over Bryant. Joe Zelenka’s job as long snapper appears safe after a good last month of the season in 2009.
The return situation will also feature some heavy competition. Eric Weems is the incumbent returner, and while he may lack explosive speed to really get a lot of big plays, he is fairly consistent with his ability to give the team good field position. Jerious Norwood has more explosive speed on kickoffs, but the team may feel his value on offense makes Weems more desirable there. As a punt returner in 2008, Harry Douglas was fairly good. But he didn’t show the most reliable set of hands and coming off an ACL injury it doesn’t seem like he’ll have that same explosive burst. Dominique Franks will get an opportunity as well. He doesn’t have great speed, but if he can show he can be a reliable set of hands and show some big play potential there, he has a shot to unseat Weems.
We should expect to see some heavy competition on the backend of the wide receiver position this summer. Roddy White, Michael Jenkins, and Harry Douglas would appear to be locks to make the final roster. The Falcons will likely keep at least five wideouts, so that means that the remaining eight receivers may only be competing for two spots.
The three most likely to land those spots are Brian Finneran, Eric Weems, and Kerry Meier. Finneran is probably ahead of the pack. The coaches love his versatility and veteran savvy. Finn is able and willing to do anything the coaches ask of him, which makes him an ideal reserve. Meier probably has the next best chances because of his status as a draft pick, and he also shows the potential to be a versatile reserve like Finneran in the future. But one shouldn’t discount Weems. His ability to make the roster however may be directly tied to his performance on special teams and return duties. The return of Douglas probably makes his chances of making the final roster a bit tougher.
Among the rest of the group, it’s more likely that Troy Bergeron, Ryan Wolfe, and Brandyn Harvey stand the best odds. Bergeron will have to be all or nothing because his eligibility for the practice squad has expired. Wolfe and Harvey are undrafted free agents with their best chances of making the roster will be if they can impact on special teams coverage. Also in the mix are Andy Strickland and Tim Buckley. Their best chances also will be on their ability to perform on special teams, coupled with their ability to show some explosive playmaking potential in preseason games. But all of them are longshots to make the roster and instead will primarily be competing for a chance to land on the practice squad as the team regularly keeps a wideout there for depth.
It was revealed today that Falcons wide receiver Eric Weems was arrested for driving under the influence last month in DeKalb County, Georgia. According to county jail records, he was arrested on November 16 and released on $1,100 bond the following day.
This incident was also news to the Falcons organization, as head coach Mike Smith indicated that the team had only become aware of the situation yesterday. Weems issued an apology through the team’s website:
Unfortunately, I was involved in an incident on November 17, 2009. I am embarrassed about the situation and I sincerely apologize to the entire Atlanta Falcons organization and our great fans.
Weems is not the only Falcon player dealing with legal issues, as defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux was arrested last week for possession of marijuana during a traffic stop.
The Falcons announced the addition of six players to their practice squad today and also claimed defensive tackle Jason Jefferson off waivers from the Buffalo Bills. To make room for Jefferson, they released Tim Anderson.
The team added seventh round pick Keith Zinger among the six practice squad additions. Also wide receiver Eric Weems, guard D’Anthony Batiste, cornerback Glenn Sharpe, safety Eric Brock, and defensive end Brandon Miller were signed by the team. All six players were with the team this summer. The Falcons have two remaining spots on their practice squad.
Jefferson was a sixth round pick of the New Orleans Saints in 2005. But was cut by the Saints during his first training camp, and spent time on the practice squads of the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles before being signed by the Bills in October 2005. He began the ’06 season on the Bills practice squad before being promoted to the team’s roster in October, but remained inactive for most of the season. His most extensive action coming in 2007, where he had 11 tackles in 11 games. For his career, he has recorded 13 tackles in 21 games.
Anderson, another former Bills castoff was signed by the Falcons in November 2007. He had 5 tackles in 5 games for the Falcons. He was re-signed this past off-season and was seemingly the winner in a competition for the reserve nose tackle position behind Grady Jackson.