Julio Jones going through drills. From AtlantaFalcons.com
Let’s take a look at the various tweets, articles, reports, news and rumors that surfaced from the first day of Atlanta Falcons training camp:
Robert Alford (left) and Desmond Trufant
The Atlanta Falcons seem pretty secure as far as their starting cornerbacks go heading into the 2014 season, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of questions surrounding the position.
The first questions do center on their starters and how effective they’ll be now that the team lacks a true safety net at the position. A year ago, the team had long-time veteran Asante Samuel in that role. Now Samuel is gone and the team will be reliant upon starters Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford to rise to the occasion.
There is less question on whether Trufant can accomplish that task. Trufant is coming off a very promising rookie season where his play particularly down the stretch has many considering him one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. Trufant regularly displayed his ball skills and disruptive capabilities at the cornerback position, breaking up or intercepting a pass in 13 out of 16 games last season including nine consecutive games to open the season.
If there is any concern, it’s the fear against a sophomore slump for Trufant. Such slumps can be precarious because they typically are not caused by a significant downturn in play, but by the much higher expectations placed on a player after a successful rookie season. There’s no doubt that expectations are high for Trufant this year, and his play in camp will likely determine whether or not he’s set to meet them.
Opposite him will be Alford, who has a few more questions to answer. Alford supplanted Samuel down the stretch last year thanks to the team’s abysmal record leading the coaching staff to install a youth movement on defense. Alford had his fair share of bright spots, but also several head-scratching ones. A talented athlete, Alford still needs to refine the technical aspects of playing the cornerback position. He certainly has the talent to impact this year, particularly if he can balance some of his inevitable mistakes with big plays.
I’m counting down the top 40 players on the Atlanta Falcons, and let’s continue with 31st-ranked player: cornerback Josh Wilson.
To read the methodology I devised to rank the Falcons players, click here.
Total Score: 47/100
Last year’s rank: N/A
Player Grade: 49/100
Teams he is starter: 5 out of 32
Teams he is best position player: 0 out of 32
Teams he is role player: 29 out of 32
Peak-Year Bonus: +1
Positional Bonus: +4
Alongside Javier Arenas, Wilson is another free-agent addition made by the Falcons this offseason to bolster their cornerback depth. Like Arenas, Wilson will be competing with incumbent Robert McClain for the team’s nickel cornerback position.
What Wilson brings to the table more so than the other is experience and toughness. While he’s never been blessed with ideal size, Wilson has always been the type of corner that played with a chip on his shoulder to best compensate. Unfortunately, at age 29 Wilson has begun to show the signs of slowing down. He had an abysmal performance last season against the San Francisco 49ers where he was repeatedly torched by Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis.
Wilson served as a starter for the Washington Redskins the past three seasons, but was also tasked with playing in the slot in the nickel last season for the first time as a Redskin. For his efforts, Wilson was one of the lowest-graded slot corners according to premium website Pro Football Focus, allowing 75 percent of passes against him completed, 8.6 yards per attempt and a passer rating of 114.8 in the slot. Fortunately for him, McClain did not fare any better in Atlanta last year: allowing 78.4 percent completions, 11.1 yards per attempt and a passer rating of 132.4. So there is certainly room for improvement as far as the Falcons nickel spot goes, which Wilson’s experience could earn him.
Allen and I are back to give our initial thoughts on the Atlanta Falcons 2014 regular season schedule. We go through each week and give a quick breakdown of the opponent. Later, we discuss the free-agent pickups of Josh Wilson and Dwight Lowery, ageism in the NFL, the direction the Falcons are headed in the 2014 NFL Draft as well as Allen’s expectations for attending the draft spectacle in New York. At the very end of the podcast, there is some explicit NSFW language.
1 hour, 2 minutes
Allen covers the Falcons for Pro Football Spot. His twitter handle is: @Allen_Strk.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The Atlanta Falcons announced the signings of safety Dwight Lowery and cornerback Josh Wilson earlier today. Lowery spent the past three seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars, while Wilson played with the Washington Redskins during that same span. Terms of their deals have yet to be disclosed, although Wilson’s deal is reportedly for one year.
Lowery missed most of the 2013 season with a concussion, suffered in the third game of the season on a blindside hit from Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate. In 2012, he started nine games, missing five during midseason with an ankle injury and missing the final two with a foot injury. Lowery was first traded to the Jaguars at the start of the 2011 season after spending three years with the New York Jets, who drafted him in the fourth round of the 2008 NFL Draft. Lowery began his career as a cornerback, but was moved to free safety as an injury replacement for Eric Smith near the end of the 2010 season before making the permanent transition upon his arrival in Jacksonville. He spent his first two years in the NFL primarily playing as the Jet’s nickel cornerback. Through his entire career, Lowery has started 41 games both at cornerback and safety and tallied 178 tackles, three sacks, 10 interceptions, five forced fumbles and six recoveries.
Wilson signed a deal with the Redskins following the lockout in 2011 and started the past 48 games for them opposite DeAngelo Hall. He’s coming off a season where he finished with career-highs in tackles (89), sacks (two) and fumble recoveries (three). Prior to joining the Redskins, Wilson spent one season with the Baltimore Ravens after getting traded by the Seahawks. In both Baltimore and Seattle, Wilson played a lot as a nickel cornerback but still managed to start a combined 33 games between 2008-10.
Lowery is likely to move into the team’s vacant free safety position, while Wilson adds depth at cornerback and can compete for the nickel job or potentially push Robert Alford for a starting job. Wilson has experience playing the slot both in Washington and Seattle.
Ryan and I are back to recap the preseason win over the Miami Dolphins, as well as talk about the cuts the Falcons made over the weekend to get down to the 75-man roster limit. We discuss how we think the final roster could shape up as well and preview a bit of what we expect to happen in Week 1 against the Kansas City Chiefs. We get into discussions about a few Falcon players. Such as some of the young guys that appear to be stepping up including Lamar Holmes, Cliff Matthews, Micanor Regis, Akeem Dent, and the drama surrounding the backup QB position. Veteran players such as Corey Peters and Dunta Robinson are discussed also. We also discuss many topics around the league from Larry Fitzgerald’s praise of the Falcons offense, the Vontae Davis trade, and the Dolphins QB Controversy. We even get to have a lengthy discussion about Ryan’s favorite team the Dallas Cowboys, and how their current predicament with Dez Bryant relates to the Falcons. You’ll even hear our thoughts on the upcoming release of EA’s Madden NFL 13.
Duration: 1 hour, 7 minutes
If you have any questions and comments, you can hit us up on Twitter, post in the forums in the podcast thread, or drop Ryan an e-mail at: email@example.com. Don’t forget to drop by every week to hear our live broadcast at: ustream.tv/channel/falcfans-show
You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. You can also subscribe directly to our feed at the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/falcfans/LXSt
Categories: Podcast Cliff Matthews, Dent, Dom Davis, Holmes, Peters, podcast, preseason, Redman, Robinson, roster, Wilson
The Falcons announced today that to get down to their 75-man roster limit, the team waived QB John Parker Wilson and placed DT Corey Peters on the reserve/non-football injury list. As such, Peters is ineligible to play for the first six weeks of the regular season. He suffered a foot injury during the off-season, and has missed the entire training camp and preseason because of it.
Wilson was first signed by the Falcons in 2009 as an undrafted free agent, and made the team. For two seasons he sat the bench as the third quarterback. Last summer, the team opted to release him at the end of training camp after a lackluster preseason but he was signed to the practice squad. He was promoted to the Falcons active roster last December where he finished out the season. Wilson was outplayed this summer by undrafted rookie Dominique Davis.
Despite the promising and strong showing of Dominique Davis in last night’s preseason loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, the Falcons backup quarterback position has emerged as a problem position so far this summer. Chris Redman has struggled mightily and John Parker Wilson has been largely a non-factor. While Davis has made his name and I believe has performed well enough in the preseason to merit this team keeping him as the third quarterback on the depth chart, he’s not quite ready to fill the role as Matt Ryan’s primary backup.
Davis is still a bit too raw. There are too many missed throws or reads for him to be trusted to fill in and keep the Falcons playoff hopes alive in the event of a Ryan injury. But Davis has shown enough upside that with more development, one could envision him down the road as Ryan’s primary backup. But in the meantime, the Falcons are in a position where it’s imperative they make a move.
Redman’s regression over the past two seasons has been stark. While he looked good in some of his spot starts in 2009 for an injured Ryan, it was the last time that has been the case. Without any reps in 2010, Redman got some opportunities late last season. But in the season finale against the Buccaneers, Redman played about half the game and looked very rusty. That seemed odd given that he had gotten extensive reps in each of the past two games prior to that to shake off any rust. It was the first sign that things were not looking optimistic.
The big names being discussed as possible trade bait are Colt McCoy and Tarvaris Jackson. While both would be definite upgrades over Redman, if I had to choose between one of them, I would think McCoy would be the better move for the Falcons. Mainly because Davis brings many of the same traits to the field that Jackson does, as well as the fact that Jackson has never taken an NFL snap in a game where Darrell Bevell was not calling plays for him. And it remains a question mark whether he can adapt to a non-Bevell-coached West Coast system. With McCoy having been coached by both Brian Daboll and Pat Shurmur, the hope is at least that he would be better able to adapt to a brand new system. It’s ideal to have a backup quarterback that believes he has a future as a starter. That has been one of the biggest knocks against Redman, who from his lacking desire to test himself on the open market in free agency, indicates that he has really no desire to start for an NFL team. Someone that envisions themselves starting will at least put in the work during the week to try and improve and will do their best to take advantage of any opportunity that comes along. That hasn’t happened with Redman for some time. And with a player like McCoy, that should change.
If the Falcons were to make a move for a player like McCoy, they would likely need to part ways with a late round pick. Because reports indicate there is a lot of interest in McCoy, it might drive up the price slightly. A fifth round pick might need to be moved to acquire his services. It’s not ideal, but I’d certainly happily forfeit next year’s fifth round pick to prevent Chris Redman from stepping on the field in a Falcon uniform again.
It’s time to look at which Falcon players have improved their stock and those that have not after the first preseason outing. This is mostly looking at who shined and who did not against the Ravens.
QB Dominique Davis – Davis benefited greatly from the lackluster night by both Chris Redman and John Parker Wilson. Besides Wilson running an effective 2-minute drill at the end of the half, both veteran passers looked very rusty against the Ravens. Davis showed some athleticism, using his legs to extend plays and also showed off his strong arm with some shots downfield. Davis still needs to polish up his footwork, mechanics, and tighten up his accuracy, but if he can build off last week’s performance against the Bengals, he will be in prime position to potentially earn a roster spot.
WR DJ. Davis – The No. 5 wide receiver spot will almost certainly be determined by special teams ability. And Davis stood out against the Ravens, particularly with his excellent open field stop when working as a gunner on a punt returner, tripping up Bobby Rainey in the 3rd quarter to cause a 1-yard loss on a Dawson Zimmerman punt. Kevin Cone looked to have the inside track at the spot, but Davis is making up ground.
OL Peter Konz – Konz had his moments when working at right guard with the second team offensive line, showing ability to get some push. He missed a block while pulling inside on a play, but then helped make up for with a good block downfield when he pulled outside on the next play. Konz had some struggles when he moved to center for the third unit. But if he’s going to make up ground against Garrett Reynolds for the starting right guard spot, he got off to a solid start.
Categories: Features Cliff Matthews, Dent, depth, Dom Davis, Hawley, injury, James, Konz, Massaquoi, Mike Johnson, Mitchell, Nicholas, Peterson, preseason, Redman, Robertson, stock report, training camp, Wilson
Here is a list of several Falcon players that are worth paying some extra attention to if and when they get on the field tonight against the Baltimore Ravens in the team’s preseason opener. Typically in the first game of the preseason, the majority of the Falcons starters will only get a series or two of work. Then the reserves come in and remain in for the remainder of the game. The second half of the game typically will be full of players that don’t have a firm grip on the roster.
Typically fans will try and draw strong conclusions from that first series or so when both teams’ first team units are in. And while scoring a touchdown is certainly a positive development and should be a goal, people should not be too judgmental over things in an exhibition game where neither team has game-planned against the other. A typical regular season game will have a team having up to a dozen offensive possessions, and trying to extrapolate the performance of one or two series to that makes little sense when the overarching themes of tonight when it comes to the starters will be to avoid injury and not tip one’s hand. If you’re going to want to judge the first unit offense and defense, wait until the second and third preseason games for a better litmus test.
However, the first preseason game is a prime opportunity for many of the second and third unit players to shine and potentially take an early lead or make up one in some of these position battles. Roughly two-thirds of the final 53 that will make the Falcons this year is fairly set in stone, but that latter third which will be filled primarily with those that can shine on special teams is relatively wide open. Strong performances tonight can build off each other in subsequent practices and preseason games, and thus go a long way for some to make the team.
- Antone Smith – While Smith has been labeled a darkhorse candidate for the kickoff returner spot, it seems that it makes the most amount of sense if he wins the job outright. That way, the Falcons won’t be forced to activate a fifth receiver on gamedays (such as James Rodgers), and won’t have to expose Jacquizz Rodgers to greater potential for injury. So it will be interesting to see if Smith or any of the other candidates on the roster can perform and make an impression as returners in tonight’s game.
- Garrett Reynolds – With the Falcons seemingly comfortable with Sam Baker at left tackle, the only contested starting position on the entire offense is right guard. Reynolds is currently the starter and has been praised by the coaching staff and training camp observers alike this summer. While most of the offensive starters will likely only get a single series of reps tonight, traditionally the Falcons leave the starting offensive line in for a few more series. It should give them a longer look at Reynolds to see how much improvements he’s made last year. The key to watch for Reynolds will be whether he’s improved his technique, which will be determined by how low he plays. Reynolds’ height is a disadvantage inside at guard, and he’ll need to play much lower than he did throughout 2011 where he struggled in pass protection.
- Akeem Dent – Similar to Reynolds, Dent is expected to be the lone major change in the defensive starting lineup this year. It’s unlikely he’ll get a ton of a playing time against the Ravens, but it would greatly alleviate the concerns of many Falcon fans if during that time he can make a couple of nice stops and tackles.
- Peria Jerry – With Corey Peters out with a foot injury and no set time-table for when he could return, Jerry finds himself with a prime opportunity to excel. Essentially the door is open for Jerry to take back the starting job that he lost in 2010 when he himself was coming off a major injury. The key for Jerry that he will need to show this summer is if much of the explosiveness he lost due to that knee injury has returned now that he’s nearly three years removed from it. As well has he improved his hand use and technique that will allow him to better get leverage against the run and beat blockers will moves as a pass rusher.
- John Parker Wilson – This summer marks the last chance for Wilson to make an impression as a passer. He’ll need to play well tonight, assuming he gets reps in the second half. The team carried two quarterbacks on the roster last season, with Wilson spending the first half of the year on the practice squad. But without a better effort this summer than he had last summer, it’s doubtful he’ll even get that opportunity. He’s entering his fourth summer in the NFL, and should be showing much better command and anticipation when running the Falcons offense than he has shown to date.
- Bradie Ewing – Ewing has an opportunity to start this year, but needs to hit the ground running in his first preseason game. He’ll need to perform in three phases this summer to usurp Mike Cox as the starter: 1) as a lead blocker 2) as a receiver and 3) on special teams. Ewing is capable in all three areas and certainly offers more upside than Cox, but he’ll need to prove it starting with tonight’s game. Another key area to watch is pass protection. Will he handle his opportunities there with ease and hit his assignments.
- Kerry Meier – The time is now if Meier is going to emerge as anything more than a special teams player. Meier has always displayed that he has good hands, but the key for him will be to show he can separate and get open against man coverage. He needs to have a good summer as a receiver to reassure fans that the team doesn’t have a depth problem at wide receiver. Meier’s primary role this season will be on special teams, but in the event of an injury to Jones, White, or Douglas, he’s going to be called upon to perform a big role on offense. Against the caliber of talent he’ll be facing this summer, he should be more productive offensively than he has shown thus far.