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The Atlanta Falcons are looking at solidifying their fifth wide receiver spot and the spot is likely coming down to Drew Davis and Kevin Cone
Now two weeks into the preseason and only two weeks away from the real games, the Falcons roster is slowly starting to take shape. But a few competitions are still heating up.
Michael Calvin, an undrafted free agent wide receiver for the Atlanta Falcons, was waived by the organization earlier today after reaching an injury settlement, as reported by the official Falcons website.
Calvin was picked up by the Falcons largely due to his speed, having run a 4.32 40-yard dash at the Cal pro day earlier this year in Berkeley. Had he worked out at the official NFL scouting combine, that time would have been the fastest of all players this past year, regardless of position.
During his years at Cal, Calvin played in 37 games, starting 10 and amassing 42 receptions for 528 yards and one touchdown.
Calvin's injury is reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution as a nondescript "leg injury," a term that signifies almost nothing more than him being simply too banged up to make the final 52-man roster for Atlanta.
NFLDraftScout.com does have his injury listed more specifically as a "knee injury," which, for any football player, is a tough thing to overcome. According to his official profile at CalBears.com, this is not the first knee injury Calvin has sustained.
Atlanta Falcons defensive back Charles Mitchell is attempting to land a spot on the roster, and the chances for the sixth round pick out of Mississippi State are looking good. The two defensive back starters for the Falcons are Thomas DeCoud and William Moore are both hybrid defensive backs, and Mitchell feels that he can fit that role:
"I got here and they put me at free safety and I was able to be around the ball a lot and have made some plays on the ball," Mitchell said. "I feel like I'm a hybrid player. I can play both. When the ball comes my way, I'm confident in myself that I can make the play."
Being a versatile player is the best way for Mitchell to make the Falcons squad and it looks like he has a good chance especially since his teammates feel he is doing a good job:
"Coming into OTAs, he was doing great picking the playbook up," Moore said. "During training camp, he's been rolling. I like that. I told him in the classroom that he's doing an excellent job staying after, watching film. His progression as a player shows maturity. He's been making plays on the ball. He's going to step in and play. I know that."
The Atlanta Falcons offense is having a few changes with new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, and the big change is a three-wide receiver set known as "11." In addition to the three wide receivers, the 11 set will have a tight end and one running back.
"That three-wide receiver set, one tight end and one back has been good for us in the past," Ryan said. "We've got talented guys to fill out those positions. It will probably be something that we use."
The competition at offensive line for the Atlanta Falcons has been one of the most spirited throughout training camp and the preseason with just about every spot up for grabs. Todd McClure is expected to once again nail down the starting job for the Falcons at center but Joe Hawley is getting opportunities to show that coaching staff that he is capable of handling the position on a regular basis.
Hawley has been rotating snaps with McClure more frequently with the first team. At this point McClure doesn't have much left to prove to anyone and head coach Mike Smith indicated that Hawley is seeing increased action in an effort to help keep McClure healthy.
"Todd is one of those guys that we have on a management program," Smith said. "His snaps are going to be monitored. He and Tony (Gonzalez) are the guys who have the most restrictions in terms of the number of snaps they are going to get, not only in practice but in preseason games. Those guys have been around a long time. That is really why you are seeing Joe and Mud Duck (McClure), basically splitting those reps. We have a certain amount of snaps we want Todd to get each and every day."
Hawley started at center to begin last season when McClure was out with an injury. He later took over as the full time right guard. That type of versatility is something the Falcons have been looking for this preseason and he should provide a nice insurance policy should McClure get nicked up at some point this season.
Roddy White led the Atlanta Falcons in all major receiving categories last year. This year, things might be a little different, and according to The Augusta Chronicle's George Henry, Roddy White would be okay with that.
White has always been a bit of a diva, but he seems to be in favor of spreading the ball out more this year. Said White, "I told them earlier in the season that I don't want to be the most targeted receiver in the NFL. We've got a lot of good playmakers and we've got to spread the ball around."
White has been a Pro Bowler for four years in a row, and led the NFC in receptions last season.
Falcons head coach Mike Smith said he's been impressed with how prepared Stephen Nicholas has been in training camp. But it should be expected from a guy who missed six games last season and most of the offseason due to injuries, but in a new situation, is starting at linebacker opposite side of Sean Weatherspoon.
Nicholas has also been staying on the field in passing situations when the Falcons go to a nickel defense with three cornerbacks and no middle linebacker.
Here's a quote from Smith, via Daniel Cox:
"I think he is continuing to get better," Smith said. "He is a guy that can play all three downs for us, and he can rush the passer. He has some unique skills, and I think they are starting show even more this training camp."
The battle to return punts for the Atlanta Falcons in 2012 may already be over, as Mike Smith announced that WR Harry Douglas will not be returning punts in the pre-season when talking to the media on Tuesday.
"I don't know that he's close to having it done," Smith said of Franks. "He did a nice job in Week 1. ... Dom has done some things in past preseason games and in a regular-season game when the score was out of hand. He doesn't have it sewn up but he sure has a leg up right now in terms of what he did in Week 1."
As a rookie in 2008, Douglas had averaged 11.9 yards a return while taking one to the house. However, his role in the offense has expanded since, leaving an opportunity for Franks to take the job.
Franks had some experience at the position as a collegiate player in Oklahoma, but he fumbled on the only punt return he's done at the NFL level.
William Moore has built a reputation as a hard hitting safety in his two seasons as a starter for the Falcons but he will be given much more freedom this season under new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan.
"I'll be able to play my style of ball," Moore said. "Last year we were aggressive also, but it was more structured. This year we are having fun and the defense is built around the kind of athletes we have."
Some of the freedom Moore is talking about is less structure in determining the amount of depth defensive players take on the field. Nolan wants his players comfortable and will put them in spots where they are at their best. That freedom will allow players like Moore to move around the field and put themselves in position to make plays that they might not be allowed to make in a more restrictive system.
Rookie defensive end Jonathan Massaquoi was selected in the fifth round of the 2012 NFL Draft by Atlanta and, at this point, his primary focus is just making the team. He's taken quickly to Mike Nolan's defensive scheme, which helped him put together a strong performance in the Falcons' first preseason game.
Massaquoi acknowledges that he has plenty to learn, but he says he's already at a point where he's able to play fast within Nolan's system.
"Coach Nolan has a great defensive scheme," Massaquoi said on Saturday. "All the schemes we run are manageable for every guy to know so they can play fast. I played fast on Thursday. There are some things that I can do better. That’s why we have practice. Hopefully, I’ll look better going into Week 2 of the preseason."
Wide receiver Drew Davis is in a fight to win the fifth and final WR spot on the Falcons roster, and he helped his cause with a good effort for the special teams unit during Atlanta's preseason game against Baltimore. As head coach Mike Smith noted afterward, strong special teams play is essential for a fifth wide receiver.
"Drew had a very good game," Smith said. "Not only playing his offensive snaps, he did what he was supposed to do on the offensive side of the ball, but also he had a tackle and an assist on special teams. … That position, when we start talking about the fifth wide receiver, special teams is probably going to carry more weight than receiving skills. That fifth receiver is going to play more snaps on special teams than on offense."
The Falcons return to the field on Thursday, Aug. 16, against the Cincinnati Bengals.
With yesterday afternoon's practice, so closed the public portion of the 2012 Atlanta Falcons training camp. If you planned to head down to Flowery Branch over the next week you best be prepared for disappointment. Teams will play their most bland, vanilla, standard schemes over the next few weeks in public, while behind closed door they're really installing their offensive variations, and adding wrinkles into their system.
It's always really hard to derive too much information from the first preseason game, but if I was betting on what possible wrinkles Dirk Koetter could be installing on offense I'd gamble on more packages with Jacquizz Rodgers. He got ten touches in Thursday's game, and while he didn't necessarily do anything amazing enough to instill faith, but I wouldn't be surprised if the already RB happy Koetter finds a way to get both Rodgers and Turner on the field at the same time.
On the other side of the ball a premium has to be placed on the pass rush. We heard a lot of big statements regarding schematic confusion, and 4-3/3-4 hybrid defenses out of the mouths of Mike Nolan and the players, but after the first team came out, the defense was decidedly average. Jonathan Massaquoi was active all night, and while early he looked like he has the potential to develop into something special. It wouldn't surprise me if he gets a lot of opportunities in a hybrid defense.
We probably wont get a real sense of what the 2012 Falcons will look like until the regular season starts. Sometimes the media are allowed into practices, but even if they are they mostly hold to a tacit rule that they don't communicate it to the public. Some teams may show flashes of their bases schemes in the second and third preseason games, but for a veteran team like Atlanta this is unlikely, even with new coordinators.
Atlanta brings two veteran players into the fold following a couple of unfortunate preseason injuries, among other moves.
The Atlanta Falcons have officially confirmed that rookie fullback Bradie Ewing is done for the 2012 season after tearing his ACL in the team's first preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday night. Head coach Mike Smith gave the following quote to the team's official site:
"Unfortunately, we have to announce that Bradie Ewing will miss the entire season after sustaining a knee injury in last night’s contest," Smith said. "As a result, we will be placing him on injured reserve tomorrow. Bradie is a talented player and I know he and our training staff will do everything they can to ensure a full recovery."
It's likely that the Falcons will now be in the market for a fullback, with only Mike Cox on the roster. Former starter Ovie Mughelli was let go in the offseason and signed with the St. Louis Rams. Running back Jason Snelling has played the position before.
In just a few hours the Atlanta Falcons will face the Baltimore Ravens in their first preseason game of the 2012 season. It's an exciting time where we get to see the team facing decent competition for the first time, and where we can draw far too many conclusions when it's all said and done. Despite the typical rampant optimism, or sky is falling mentality that follows a preseason game (depending on the outcome), we can learn a few things about how the Falcons will look in 2012 from tonight's game.
1. The Offensive Line
Baltimore's uber-aggressive 3-4 defense will be a perfect test for the Falcons' OL, and rookie Peter Konz who will be tested early, and often. There is perhaps no team in the NFL who benefits more from a clean pocket than Atlanta, because Matt Ryan is, by nature, a QB who becomes a different player when given the time he needs to work.
That's not to say he's poor when rushed, per se, but it's hard to deny that he's an elite QB when given a little bit of time. Based on his veteran status, and the reports of how well the offensive is clicking, we may not see Ryan and co. more than a couple of series, but this is a blessing in disguise, as it will allow us to get a good look a the OL depth and how they perform.
2. Who will step up for the pass rush?
Ray Edwards has talked openly, and candidly this off-season about his need to step up. This extends throughout the pass rushers who all need to match the intensity that John Abraham brings week in, week out. Lawrence Sidbury has been impressive recently in training camp, particularly in last week's Friday Night Lights where he registered two sacks.
If Edwards, Massaquoi, and Sidbury call all show marked improvement tonight it will show the necessary progression the pass rush needs to make in order to round out the defense. At this stage the secondary is one of the better units in the NFL, and if the defensive front can just be a touch better the Falcons will be tough to beat.
3. Sean Weatherspoon: Already elite?
There has been a lot of off-season chatter about Sean Weatherspoon, and his ascension to become one of the best 4-3 outside linebackers in the NFL. His 2011 season was grossly overlooked by analysts, but those who saw him play can tell you that he's one of the most athletic, and versatile linebackers in the league.
Enter Ray Rice: The perfect foil to prove if Weatherspoon is worthy of the praise he's garnered. Fans know that he has the skill to go toe-to-toe with the NFL's best running backs, but this is a nice early test to show that he can be successful, even without Curtis Lofton to support him in the middle. A good game tonight will allay the fears of fans afraid that the LB corps could be the defense's Achilles heel, and further prove that Weatherspoon is as good as advertised.
The 2011 season was a disappointment for defensive end Ray Edwards as he was hampered by a knee injury that required offseason surgery. Edwards is close to 100 percent now and hoping for a bounce back season in 2012 for the Falcons.
"It's getting there," Edwards said after a recent training camp practice. "It's still a process. I'm only a couple months out of knee surgery but it's getting there."
The Falcons will be looking for more of a return on their $30 million investment they made in Edwards in 2012 after he posted just 3 1/2 sacks during his first season with the team. Edwards spent the offseason recovering and also learning the ends and outs of new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan's system. He hopes that the result will be more of a return to the kind of numbers he put up in Minnesota.
"I'm just getting back to being me. I put a lot of pressure on myself last year coming to a new team, trying to prove myself, trying to prove myself and my contract. Now, I'm going to go out there and have fun and hopefully it rubs off on the guys and it shows the kind of person I really am."
Undrafted free agent QB's don't get many chances to make their mark in the NFL, not when snaps behind center are so precious in practice and the regular season.
That's why the Atlanta Falcons first preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens is so important for Dominique Davis, who is trying to make the roster after finishing his collegiate career at East Carolina.
Thursday will be Davis' best chance to show his stuff outside of a practice setting, as first and second-team players rarely play after halftime in the first preseason game.
More importantly, it will be a chance for the rest of the NFL to get a look at Davis. Even if the Falcons don't keep him, these preseason games will be his main selling point to the league's other 31 teams.
The Atlanta Falcons enter their 2012 campaign unquestionably deep at most positions, especially on offense, but their line is still a work in progress, and will likely become the most scrutinized unit of the preseason.
Unlike the moves to replace both coordinators, the Falcons couldn't politely explain that offensive line coach Paul Boudreau had another big-time offer. Mike Smith and company pulled the trigger on longtime Fresno State head coach Pat Hill, and now Mike Smith has told the media that essentially everyone on the roster will get a shot at extensive playing time (courtesy of the AJC):
"On the offensive line there will be more substitutions," Smith said. "In the last couple of years, normally we stayed with the same group for the period that they were in there. We may be moving some guys around."
A few folks to watch on Thursday night against the Ravens - Atlanta's top pick Peter Konz, who could start his rookie season at guard and possibly take over for Todd McClure at center, and the ever-evolving saga of Sam Baker, who lost his left tackle job to injury and poor play last season.
Monday's scrimmage against the Titans proved that the pass game is already dialed in for the Falcons. Not that there was much doubt with a QB of Matt Ryan's caliber, paired with Roddy White and Julio Jones. However, it was comments from Michael Turner to the AJC that really caught the attention of Falcons fans.
"Ten carries a game, I don't think I'll be that effective like that. But you know, I'm going to make the most of my opportunities like I always have."
Predicated on the notion that the burner was getting burnt out, speculation has been rampant that Turner will have his role drastically cut in Dirk Koetter's offense, and in this case talking about a reduction in carries of 50%. Since arriving from San Diego he's been one of the most used RBs in the NFL, averaging over twenty carries per game. Now the assumption is that with the emergence of Julio Jones, and an extremely deep corps of receivers, that it will be okay to scale him back, and let him fade.
I'm not buying it for a second.
A team doesn't bring in someone like Dirk Koetter if they plan to only run the ball ten times per game with their featured back. This is the same man whose offensive philosophy was based on having the entire team lean on Maurice Jones Drew, and hope someone else stepped up in the passing game. MJD was one of only a few RBs used more than Turner, and yet we're supposed to think everything will be scaled back? Yes, coordinators change, but it's far harder to get a tiger to change his stripes.
By the numbers it's reasonable to think Turner will have his role reduced, but I think this will be negligible at best. If Turner gets less than fifteen carries per game I'll be shocked, and that's because of how Koetter builds his passing offense off the run. Will Mike Smith have a say in how the offense is run? Absolutely, I'm sure his new OC won't upset the apple cart. However, the Falcons' braintrust wouldn't have opted for a run-run-pass guy like Koetter if the plan was to turn them purely into a passing team.
Look no further than division rivals Carolina for an example of a pass-heavy team who still leaned on their RBs plenty. The situation is slightly different because of their two-back system, but even the throw-happy Panthers managed to run the ball 18.5 times per game through their running backs. Being primarily a passing team and still using the RB aren't mutally exclusive concepts, and I think when the dust settles we'll still see Michael Turner getting 17+ carries per game, even with Atlanta's potent passing offense.
Why? Because it's in both Turner's, and Koetter's DNA.
On Monday, the Atlanta Falcons participated in a scrimmage against the Tennessee Titans at Coahulla High School. The Falcons got an opportunity to fully test out their passing game and they were very pleased with the results.
D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the Falcons ran 50 plays in two periods, the majority of which were passing plays. Four different Falcons quarterbacks had at lest four pass attempts. Matt Ryan completed 16 of 17 attempts, while Chris Redman completed six of six.
"I think we got a lot accomplished," Ryan said. "It was good for us to communicate against a different defense and see some different looks, to really make sure that we are on top of our assignments. It was really productive for us."
Falcons fans will get a chance to see that passing game soon enough as the preseason continues this week.
There weren't a lot of surprises included in the Falcons depth chart for the team's preseason opener against Baltimore. It did reveal however that Jacquizz Rogers will get the first shot at kick returner with Harry Douglas handling punt return duties.
Defensively nothing should be read into Asante Samuel being listed behind Dunta Robinson at right corner. The Falcons will have some sort of cornerback rotation with Robinson lined up in the slot most of the time. Veteran safety Chris Hope is listed as the backup behind starter William Moore.
Here is a look at the Falcons full depth chart for the first preseason game:
RG - Garrett Reynolds, - Peter Konz, - Mike Johnson
FB - Mike Cox, Bradie Ewing, Lee Meisner
SS - William Moore, Chris Hope, Charles Mitchell
KO - Matt Bosher
P - Matt Bosher, Dawson Zimmerman
KR - Jacquizz Rodgers, Dominique Franks
PR - Harry Douglas, Dominique Franks
H - Matt Bosher, Kerry Meier
All of Atlanta's draft selections from their 2012 draft class are listed as third string players. Peter Konz is listed at third string at center along with Bryce Harris, behind Todd McClure and Joe Hawley. Konz, however, is listed as the second string player at right guard, behind Garrett Reynolds.
The draftees will undoubtedly be given a long look in preseason play this week, as the coaching staff isn't likely to keep the first team players on the field for much of the first preseason game.
For the latest on the Atlanta Falcons, be sure to check out The Falcoholic and join the discussion.
The Falcons begin preseason action on Thursday when they take on the Baltimore Ravens of the AFC. The voting on NFL.com has the Ravens as the favorite to win, but for football fans it will just be exciting to see the game back. July is often the most difficult month in sports unless July baseball gets your juices flowing.
Falcons fans get to watch their offense go against the most respected defense of the last decade, albeit in preseason action, but it will be the first impression the team gives. Moving further into the preseason schedule, it's Bengals, Dolphins and Jaguars.
These could all be wins for Atlanta, as Baltimore likely presents the most difficult test, while the Bengals are the only other playoff team from last season on the schedule.
You can view the complete preseason schedule here.
Don't expect live hitting if you head to Dalton on Monday to see the combined practice between the Falcons and the Titans. Head coach Mike Smith and his coaching staff have been cautious thus far this offseason and Monday's session will look much more like a practice than a scrimmage.
"We will work against their first group but it will not be full speed," Smith said. "(Tennessee head coach) Coach Munchak and I have talked about how we want the practice to go. It will be a practice like we would be practicing at our separate facilities; we're just going to be working against each other. There will be no tackling and we won't be taking anybody to the ground."
That isn't to downplay the importance of the practice as Smith indicated that he and his staff would be using the combined scrimmage along with the first preseason game to help make some important roster decisions.
Gates open at Coahulla Creek High School at 3:30 p.m. with the action set to get underway on the field at 4:30 p.m. Admission is free and fans will be treated to a fan fest full of inflatable games. There will also be autograph opportunities with the Falcons Cheerleaders as well as with the team following the practice.
This will be the third consecutive season that the Falcons have been involved in a combined team practice. In 2010 they hosted the New England Patriots and traveled to Jacksonville to practice with the Jaguars last season.
Since coming to the Atlanta Falcons, Michael Turner has been an absolute workhorse. The team has tried to bring in backup running backs to ease Turner's load a bit, but he still has over 300 attempts in three of his four seasons with the team.
A now 30-year old Turner still wants to be the man on offense but is willing to wait and see what new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter does with the scheme.
"We’ll see," Turner said. "It always goes with the flow of the game. You can’t even say that we are going to go out here and throw the ball 50 times or run the ball 30 to 40 times. It all goes with situations. We play situational football."
Turner ran for 1,340 yards last season and 11 touchdowns.
It's far too early to call the free agent signing of Ray Edwards a failed experiment, but even his most staunch of supporters will acknowledge that 2011 was a letdown. Coming off two consecutive 8+ sack seasons in Minnesota, the thought was Atlanta could plug him in across from Jon Abraham, and have one of the better pass rushing tandems in the NFC. Sadly he failed to make a huge impact after totaling just 3.5 sacks in 16 games.
The Falcons needed to improve their pass rush, and fifth round pick Jonathan Massaquoi was supposed to do just that, but lately there's been another pass rusher turning heads in training camp-- Lawrence Sidbury, now heading into his forth year. 2011 was his coming out party after a lackluster rookie and Sophomore campaign. While the 266 lb defensive end didn't manage to start, he made the most of the opportunities given, and finished the season with four sacks. Heading into the traditional Friday Night Lights scrimmage Sidbury was already looking impressive, but he really separated himself at Peachtree Ridge High School, finishing the night with two sacks he was awarded one of two game balls for the evening practice.
In a hybrid defensive end/linebacker position he roamed around the field, and was used in a variety of looks. Speaking to the AJC, Sidbury characterized his role on the Falcons this season:
"We have a lot of different looks, it's simple for us, but we try to make it look complicated for the opposition. You never know what we are going to do. We have a lot of things that we can do. We can bring pressure from every where. You don't know who is going to be covering. It's fun. At the same time, it's a very disciplined defense, too."
This is the Mike Nolan effect in full swing. Well versed in using multi-faceted players, and bringing pressure from around the field it's this notion of 3-4 sensibilities being brought into a 4-3 base defense that the Falcons hope will really separate the wheat from the chaff in the NFC South. With both Sidbury and Massaquoi fitting the role of the ubiquitous 'tweener' they have the size needed to bring down QBs, combined with near-linebacker speeds. Pairing them with the more traditional Abraham and Edwards could be a very blitz-heavy defensive look we could see utilized this fall.
It was obviously encouraging to hear about Julio Jones stepping up, and the Falcons' known quantities to look better than even in camp, but the mark of a special season is when you get production from unexpected places. If Sidbury can build on his 2011 year, and become a reliable option for Mike Nolan he could be the final piece to the puzzle for the Falcons pass rush.
Atlanta Falcons starting cornerback Brent Grimes was held out of Sunday's training camp practice due to a foot injury:
"He has a foot that is bothering him," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "We held him out today. We are trying to get him back and ready to go."
The Atlanta Falcons on Sunday announced that the team had signed running back Richard Medlin to a training camp contract. Medlin played his college ball at Fayetteville State and was in training camp last season with the New England Patriots. He was later picked up by the Miami Dolphins where he spent time on their practice squad. The Dolphins waived Medlen this past May and he had been looking for work ever since.
Medlin could show up in the Falcons kick return competition at some point. He averaged nearly 42 yards per return during the 2008 season and ran back three kicks for touchdowns.
The Atlanta Falcons put on a show for about 6,000 fans at Peachtree Ridge Highschool Friday night at the team's annual trip to a local high school facility. The entire squad took part in drills and work outs but when it was time for the live tackling portion of the practice the starters headed to the sidelines.
Head coach Mike Smith is trying to avoid any injuries to key players and will limit the opportunities for unnecessary contact as much as possible. The team has been relatively healthy thus far but injuries to Vance Walker and Corey Peters has hurt the team's depth at defensive tackle.
The Falcons took the day off on Saturday and will return to action on Sunday where they will prepare for Monday's scrimmage with the Tennessee Titans that will be held in Dalton, Georgia.
The Atlanta Falcons won't be too keen on spending any money this season as their 2012 payroll is filled to the brim. The Falcons have committed $118 million of the possible $121 million salary cap for the 2012 season and unless injuries hit the Falcons, there isn't an expectation for the Falcons to acquire any players for the season.
Here is a breakout of the 2012 payrolls and the 2013 projected payrolls for each of the NFC South teams.
2012 remaining payroll for NFC South teams
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: $15.2 million
New Orleans has $8.8 million
Carolina is $8.5 million
Falcons are at $2.97 million
2013 projected payroll for NFC South teams
The Atlanta Falcons made a roster move on Friday night as they signed defensive tackle Conrad Obi. Obi is from Georgia as he went to Grayson High School in Loganville. The Falcons are needing some depth as defensive tackles Vance Walker and Corey Peters are battling injuries during training camp. Walkers ailment is unknown, but Peters has a left foot injury.
The Arizona Cardinals signed Obi as an undrafted free agent shortly after the draft, however was cut back in early June. Obi appeared in 41 games during his career with the Colorado Buffaloes, and his senior year was his best where he started seven games, had 31 total tackles, 17 of them being solo, had a forced fumble and had one tackle for a loss.
If there's a saving grace it's that we're seeing this happen in early August, rather than September. Nevertheless, it's frustrating to have to make roster shifts early to compensate for players not be available. First it was Corey Peters, who injured his foot prior to the beginning of camp and missing three weeks, now Vance Walker is out with an undisclosed injury as he missed practice yesterday.
Peters was a known quantity, and we expected him to miss at least three weeks, but the injury to Vance Walker is slightly more concerning. I'm naturally afraid of the 'undisclosed injury' because they tend to either be absolutely nothing, or far worse than a team is willing to admit, and they're looking for a contingency plan before they share this information.
Last year was Walker's coming out party. Appearing in 16 games he finished with 18 tackles, 2 sacks, and 1 FF. With both Peters and Babineaux missing games due to injury last year it was expected that Walker could be that first guy off the bench in 2012, and make an impact. It's premature to worry too much, it's still early-- but definitely watch for Walker in the coming days. If this lingers past the first preseason game it's safe to start getting a little concerned.
Peria Jerry will now be leaned on more than ever, and we'll have to wait and see if he's up to the task. Thus far the former 1st round pick has not separated himself, but now's the time for him to try and make an impact with the injuries wracking havoc on the players in front of him.
The Atlanta Falcons will head to Peachtree Ridge High School in Suwanee for the teams' "Friday Night Lights" practice event. The gates open for the event at 6 p.m. and the Falcons are expected to take the field at around 6:45 with the scrimmage starting at 7:30 p.m.
Fans in attendance shouldn't be disappointed as head coach Mike Smith expects six full-speed series with live contact for everyone but the quarterbacks who will be in non-contact jerseys. Smith talked with the AJC about the event and how much the team enjoys them.
"The entire session won't be live, but there'll be enough opportunities for the guys to go out and compete. It's one of the most fun things for our guys, believe it or not, they love to go back to the high school fields, and get on the grass and play in a small arena. They're going to get a chance to do that on Friday, and come back and do it on Monday up in Dalton. We're real excited to go up to Peachtree Ridge."
The Atlanta Falcons have always been an organization that become famous for employing some of the most brash, self-confident and cocky characters to ever grace a football field.
From "Neon" Deion Sanders to Jamal Anderson and Michael Vick, these are the kinds of players that the Falcons have become famous for and its made them fan favorites not only in the City of Atlanta, but around the NFL.
Now you can add another name to that list: cornerback Asante Samuel.
Samuel is a Pro-Bowler that has won Super Bowls with the New England Patriots and was part of a stellar but underachieving secondary with the Philadelphia Eagles last season where he often felt underappreciated (evidenced by the team trading him to the Falcons for a seventh round draft pick).
But now in Atlanta, the 31-year-old seems to have not only found a home, but his swagger as well according to an ESPN report:
"It's kind of a relief because you don't want to be where you're not wanted," Samuel said, sitting at a table after the Falcons' walk-through Wednesday morning. "I want to be appreciated for what I can do. I know my production speaks for itself. Like I say, over the years in Philly, nobody did what I did over there. You make your bed, you lay in it. I made my bed, I'm laying in it. They made their bed, they laying in it. So we'll see how it goes."
After losing their third consecutive playoff game under head coach Mike Smith and QB Matt Ryan in 2011, the Atlanta Falcons have been trying to take the next step as a franchise in 2012.
Do they need to upgrade their talent base? Change their personnel formations? According to Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff, the answer is even more basic:
"Teams [that had success in the playoffs] have had swagger, belief and drive to finish every play. And a belief there was no one in the NFL that could take them down. There's something special about that."
Dimitroff was the head of college scouting for the New England Patriots between 2002-2007, when the franchise won three Super Bowls in four years.
He's been the most successful member of the now dubious Patriots coaching tree (Scott Pioli, Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Charlie Weis, Josh McDaniels) that learned under Bill Belichick in New England.
As they've all found out in their next NFL spots, things like swagger and belief are a lot easier to muster up when Tom Brady is under center.
"He's done some nice things," Smith said. "He's got a strong arm. He's very athletic. He'll get an opportunity to play in the [exhibition] games. He's been a very pleasant surprise."
According to The Falcoholic's Dave Choate, Davis could surprise and he wouldn't be surprised to see him as Matt Ryan's back up in the next few season. Choate's reasoning includes that the coaching staff has already noticed him as indicated by the praise coming from coach Smith. Chris Redmon is getting older and John Parker Wilson hasn't exactly excelled in any single area. Perhaps the biggest thing going for Davis according to Choate is the quarterback's natural talent.
Raw's a word we throw around a lot with UDFAs, but I don't think Davis is actually that raw. He may need a little mechanical tinkering and certainly will need some time to adjust to the NFL game, but his college days tell me he's a reasonably poised passer with a lot of physical ability. There's an opportunity here to groom a backup with some real upside, and I for one welcome that.
In the short term he will have the opportunity to try and impress in the preseason and convince the coaching staff that he is worthy of the No. 3 job. So even if Davis is relegated to the practice squad to start the season don't forget the name.
If you're anything like me by now you're getting a little hoarse from telling anyone who'll listen about just how good Julio Jones was in 2011. Every year we have odd men out, and in a season that featured media darlings like Tim Tebow, and rookie phenoms A.J. Green and Cam Newton, it was easy for Jones' stellar season to get lost in the shuffle. I've done my best to try and remind football fans about Jones, and now it seems my chorus is being supported by a few more members.
This week Mike Smith made the pertinent point about needing to extrapolate out Julio Jones's numbers to get a true sense for his as a receiver.
"In my mind, he missed five and a half games, if you extrapolate his numbers out it's a monster year. We know he's going to impact the game.''
Okay, so I might take slight umbrage with Smith's quote of 5.5 games missed, but I definitely can account for three due to injury. Add those back in and he finishes the season with an impressive 1,180 yards, which would have been good enough for 13th in the NFL; all in a rookie season, and while fighting for touches with established veterans Roddy White, and Tony Gonzalez.
At this point I'm probably preaching to the choir, I get that. So what is Julio Jones doing in 2012? How is he looking in training camp? In short: Stellar. There isn't a better camp in the NFL to test wide receivers than in Flowery Branch. Between Brent Grimes, Asante Samuel, and Dunta Robinson, you have three very distinct corners who play their position differently, but all play at a very high level. When Jones was facing off against Grimes he garnered some high praise, this from ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas:
In each of the practices, I saw the second-year receiver make several spectacular plays. Let's keep in mind that he was going up against some big-name cornerbacks in Brent Grimes, Dunta Robinson and Asante Samuel. On at least two plays, I saw Jones use athleticism to beat Grimes, who many Falcons will point to when you ask them to name their most athletic player.
The ability goes beyond his preternatural speed and athleticism, and translates to an understanding of receiver nuance we rarely see from second year players. These are abilities like quick twitches after the catch to pick up YAC, dipping a hip to try and sell an incorrect route, and fighting for the ball in traffic; All are natural parts of a receiver's game, but areas where young players tend to struggle. Already we're seeing Jones master these areas, and any time you have a 23 year old giving seasoned veterans fits you're in for good things.
Where Jones will fit into the Falcons plans in 2012 will be one of their biggest questions. The NFL is moving away from staunch distinctions between true '#1 and #2 receivers', but there is still a delineation between the WR who gets the lion's share, and the one who gets a decidedly less impressive piece of the pie. Even with Tony Gonzalez's touches expected to drop, we'll still see plenty of fighting between Roddy White and Julio Jones for who will become Matt Ryan's #1 target. At least for now it seems Jones wants that job, and is willing to do what it takes to get it.
For more on the Falcons please visit 'The Falcoholic'
The Falcons are seeing plenty of competition and versaility among the offensive line in camp. Another player splitting time between multiple positions is rookie Peter Konz, who played center at Wisconsin, but is also playing guard in Falcons training camp.
"I do both right now," Konz said on Tuesday. "I couldn't begin to tell you or know myself. The coaches want to put me in those two positions and whichever one works out the best, maybe I'll help the team out."
Falcons coach Mike Smith wants linemen that can play all over the line, and Konz fits that mold. He has taken most of his snaps at second-string right guard, but said he's not yet ready and still has plenty to learn.
Falcons head coach Mike Smith is making it a priority during training camp that players are working at multiple positions across the offensive line. Mike Johnson has worked primarily at guard although he did fill in from time to time at tackle during his time at Alabama.
Currently Johnson doesn't figure to be in the competition at right guard but has settled into back up at right tackle behind Tyson Clabo. Johnson figures that being capable of playing both positions on the offensive line improves his chances to sticking on the roster.
"I think it's huge," he said. "Obviously, there are some set positions on the offensive line and there are some that aren't. The more that I can work on and play in games and get on film to show what I can do, the better chance that I have of making the team."
Mike Smith recently talked about the offensive line competition that is ongoing at Falcons' training camp and indicated that he and the rest of the coaching staff are looking for seven players as the quantity of players that he is looking for on the line. Smith is likely talking about having seven offensive lineman active on game day as the team opened last season with nine lineman on the roster.
Smith indicated that they are rolling the offensive line through multiple positions in an effort to get a look at different combinations. The two biggest competitions are centered at right guard and left tackle.
Garrett Reynolds was recently listed as the No. 1 at right guard but expects to receive a push from rookie Peter Konz. Sam Baker is working as the No. 1 at left tackle but could get a push from William Svitek and eventually rookie Lamar Holmes. Justin Blalock, Tyson Clabo and Todd McClure figure to be entrenched at their positions with Joe Hawley and Mike Johnson also in the mix.
Falcons 2009 1st round draft pick Peria Jerry has had a difficult start to his career, battling injuries in the past few seasons. It's been a long road back for Jerry after a serious knee injury sidelined him for much of his rookie season.
But 2012 is looking a bit different, or at least from what we can tell from training camp. He's taking advice from John Abraham and Jonathan Babineaux, and just enjoying being healthy and back on the field.
Jerry had this to say on Monday:
"It feels good to be out there with Abe and Babs and they're telling me I'm looking good, and I'm learning from them, as well," he said. "It feels good to be out there with veteran guys that are pushing me to be a better player. I respect them and I give shout outs to Abe and Babs.
"I feel like I'm over the hump now," he added. "The only thing I can do is go out there and show everybody why I'm here."
The Falcons might fly under the radar this season, between their solid offseason and the debacle that is the New Orleans Saints. Not to count out New Orleans, but this season, the gap between the Falcons and Saints seems smaller than it has for a while.
Here's Ryan Van Bibber with some analysis:
The Falcons can make the playoffs thanks to a big improvement in their secondary with the addition of Asante Samuel. The former Eagle excels in coverage; opposing passers completed just 47.5 percent of targets thrown in his direction last season, according to Pro Football Focus. Atlanta gave up 68 pass plays of 20 yards or more last season, the same number as the coverage-challenged Vikings (the Falcons also lost Brent Grimes for the last month of the season). Samuel also brings a knack for the pick, and getting the ball back into Matt Ryan's hands is never a bad thing.
Read more on the Falcons at The Falcoholic and SB Nation Atlanta. Head over to the NFL hub page for additional news and analysis around the league. Also, be sure to subscribe to the SB Nation Youtube Channel for video commentary.
Jerrell Harris is turning heads at Falcons Training Camp and most notably that of defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. Harris went undrafted out of Alabama in the 2012 NFL Draft but his size and speed caught the eye of Nolan early in camp.
"I think he stands out because of his size, everybody is impressed with his size," Nolan said. "He moves well for a big man. He hasn't dropped off much since the OTAs, which is kind of pleasing," Nolan said. "Sometimes rooks come back and they've forgotten the whole thing. But he's done a good job. I'm watching him myself because he's definitely a big guy that can run."
Harris has been practicing with the third-team defense at linebacker and looked strong defending the run and the tight end on Sunday.
The Atlanta Falcons participated in their first full pads practice of training camp on Sunday and Mike Smith was pleased with the overall results. The team basically eased into a lot of contact as they got re-acclimated to practicing in pads. The best news for Smith was that no one got hurt during the session.
"At the end of a play, you want to see all 22 guys on their feet," Smith said. "I thought, as you normally see on the first day of pads, there are going to be some guys that really stand out," Smith said. "And there were. You're always concerned on that first day in pads that guys start a little too fast so we tried to ease them into the practice."
Smith indicated that the team will continue to install its entire offensive and defensive schemes with practices focusing on game situations as they prepare for Friday's Friday Night Lights event at Peachtree Ridge High School
For more on the Falcons please visit 'The Falcoholic', and stay in this storystream for more updates from training camp.
It's rare to look at a TE in his late thirties, and talk about him being used in a new role. Equate it to an old dog learning new tricks if you like, but that's far too cliched for Tony Gonzalez; especially when he knows all the tenets of his position already. This transition is due to a change in offensive philosophy, but Gonzo isn't too concerned. In speaking with the Atlanta Journal Constitution he said the following:
"One thing about Coach Koetter, is that he's going with what's good for the players. I love that in a coach; put players in a position to be successful. It's not about his system, it's about what works and what Matt [Ryan] is comfortable with because obviously he's the one driving the train."
Koetter will ask Gonzalez to be a more of a blocker than in the past. In Jacksonville he certainly used Marcedes Lewis as a pass catcher, but it was primarily off the play-action, and after he set the play up with solid North Sound running. It's likely we'll see the veteran TE get around two-thirds of the touches he got last year, purely because Mike Mularkey loved to lean on Gonzalez, and it's unlikely Koetter will do the same.
This represents not only a change for Gonzo, but also Matt Ryan who consistently utilized him in clutch situations as his most reliable receiver. The focus will be on more down field passing, which naturally takes some of the receptions away from the TE. As Gonzalez said though, it's more about what works, rather than adhering strictly to a system.
As it stands the Falcons seem motivated, and everyone is buying in to the moves both Mike Nolan and Dirk Koetter's new defensive and offensive schemes. This is shaping up to be a special year for the Falcons.
For more on the Falcons please visit 'The Falcoholic', and stay in this storystream for more updates from training camp.
One of the biggest question marks heading into Falcons Training Camp is who would end up starting at right guard on the Falcons' offensive line. After practice on Sunday, head coach Mike Smith indicated that Garrett Reynolds would be working with the first team at least for now.
Coach Smith says Garrett Reynolds is going to get a chance to run with first team. Right now, he's the No. 1 RG. #aftc12— Jay Adams (@FalconsJAdams) July 29, 2012
Reynolds is in competition with Joe Hawley and rookie Peter Konz who is working at guard after being drafted as a center. Reynolds isn't a stranger to the position appearing in all 16 games last season and starting seven games. The Falcons cleared up the right guard picture somewhat on Saturday when they released Vince Manuwai.
Veteran center Todd McClure has a front row seat for one of the biggest battles of Falcons Training Camp. No matter who wins the battle at right guard and and along the rest of the offensive line, McClure says that it is important that the line function as a unit.
"Guys that are competing for positions, they're helping each other out," he said. "If they see something they're doing wrong or if they see something that can help them, they're pointing it out. I think that's the way it's got to be. In the long run, there's going to be guys starting and there's going to be guys backing up, that's just the way it is. If you build any type of gap in there, your unit is not close and you're not good on Sundays if somebody's got to fill in."
The battle at right guard is expected to be one of the most contested of the fall with rookie Peter Konz expected to push Garrett Reynolds for the job. Left tackle is another position to keep an eye on as Sam Baker tries to work his way back from offseason back surgery to reclaim the left tackle job.
When the Atlanta Falcons placed the franchise tag on cornerback Brent Grimes back in March they insured that he would make in excess of $10 million for the upcoming season. However, the franchise tag doesn't provide longterm security for Grimes and the two sides were unable to come to an agreement on a contract extension.
If Grimes is concerned about the situation he certainly isn't letting it show as he and his teammates prepare for the upcoming season.
"Honestly, it's not my problem to deal with. I do what I do. I play football. That's what I have agents for. They call me and tell me what's going on. Whatever happens, I'm just going to come out and play football. I don't worry about all that. I just have to worry about covering people."
Grimes is expected to be part of a talented secondary that will include new acquisition Asante Samuel along with holdover Dunta Robinson. Samuel's presence could have Grimes shifting from his familiar left corner spot over to right corner some this season. That isn't a concern for Mike Nolan who is confident that Grimes more than has the athletic ability to handle any situation that he might be placed in.
Atlanta Falcons defensive end John Abraham was excused from some of the team's OTA workouts this offseason and now he is leaning on some of his teammates to help get him up to speed with Mike Nolan's new defensive schemes.
"Everyone is learning the defense so everybody is asking questions," Abraham said. "I'm asking some of the guys that were here more during the offseason than I was. Everything is going pretty good right now. Everybody's learning together, which is a good thing right since no one is teaching anyone anything, we're all learning together. We're taking small steps at a time."
Abraham spent his rookie season with the Jets working under Nolan but that hasn't really helped him much this time around. Abraham is on board with the changes the team has made with the defense and should thrive in Nolan's attacking scheme.
Undrafted rookie free agent Aron White earned his way to training camp with the Falcons by impressing team officials enough at rookie minicamp in May. Now White is sharing the practice field with one of the all-time greats at the tight end position in Tony Gonzalez.
"Anything that he does mention, you try to take in as much as possible and be a sponge," White said. "At the same time, you don't want to crowd a guy. We all have to act professionally and take care of our own business. Any knowledge that he does share, I'm trying to soak it up."
White is one of six tight ends in camp with the Falcons and after Gonzalez the position appears to be somewhat wide open. White finished his career at the University of Georgia with 34 catches for 512 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Veteran offensive guard Vince Manuwai's stint with the Falcons was cut short on Saturday when the team announced his release. Manuwai was signed by the club in March and was considered a dark horse candidate to start at right guard for the Falcons. At the very least he was expected to provide some depth and veteran experience for a position that was a problem for the team last season.
However, the team decided to go a different direction on Saturday cutting ties with the eight-year veteran who has 105 career starts on his resume. Manuwai opened camp listed third at right guard on the team's depth chart behind Garrett Reynolds and rookie draft pick Peter Konz.
Reynolds played in all 16 games for the Falcons during the 2011 season and started seven times.
The Atlanta Falcons are likely going to say goodbye to vertical threat after the 2012 season, and the NFL will be saying goodbye to one of the greatest tight ends of all time. Tony Gonzalez is reportedly leaning toward retirement -- and leaning heavily so.
Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez, who's set to enter his 16th season, said he's 95 percent sure that this will be his last season after practice Thursday.
"I would say that I'm 95 percent sure, just in case" Gonzalez said. "I talked to my family this offseason. I've had a great run. I feel pretty good about where I'm at as a player. I just want to make sure that I end at the top.
"I don't want to be one of those players towards the end - nothing against those guys who've done it like that in the past - but I want to make sure that I'm at the top of my game when I do go out."
Gonzalez' stats show that he still has plenty left in the tank, as he hauled in 80 receptions for 875 yards and seven touchdowns in 2011. Gonzalez just needs five touchdown receptions to hit 100 for his career.
When Falcons head coach Mike Smith spoke with the media after Thursday's practice, the first of the team's training camp, he described it as competitive from all sides of the ball, and also noted that the weather was on their side as well.
More notably, Smith spoke on Akeem Dent taking over the middle linebacker position. On Thursday, the Falcons just worked on their base defense, and third down and medium yardage. Smith sounds confident and even emphatic when it comes to the rookie
These quotes from the Atlanta Journal Constitution:
"For a young guy that's played a lot of football, but not in the NFL and scrimmage snaps, we feel like he's ready to go. That's why we drafted him. We drafted him to be our middle linebacker."
Here's some of what Smith had to say about the players having a role in making sure the changes in coordinators go smoothly:
"Mike (Nolan) and Dirk (Koetter) have done a very good job meshing their system that they have run in the past to what we've done here, especially with the verbage. I think that's very important as a staff. You can't come in as a coordinator and throw your book down and tell your team, ‘Hey this is my systems, this is what we're going to run.' We've got to build this system as a staff and as a team. Believe me, the players have had some input into it as well. The older players, and the mentors in terms of how we're going to call things, the quarterback on the offensive side, a couple of experienced guys on the defense side have been a part of putting this package together verbage wise."
Second-year linebacker Akeem Dent's role will be much bigger this season.
With the announcement earlier this week that Lofa Tatupu is out for the season, Dent may be the starting middle linebacker for the Falcons this season. Dent was a third-round pick in 2011 who learned a lot from Tatupu as a rookie last year. Veteran Mike Peterson re-signed, and may fill that mentor role. From the Falcons official website:
"I still have a whole lot of work to do," (Dent) said Thursday. "When Lofa was here, he was helping me out and leading me. Bringing in Mike Peterson, it's the same deal."
Last season, Dent played primarily on special teams for the first half of the year. The former Georgia linebacker finished with 20 tackles and one forced fumble.
If your time is limited and you can only head to Flowery Branch for a couple of days, you might want to hold off and head up tomorrow when the Falcons will get out of the shells and really lay into each other. According to Jay Adams of the organization, Mike Smith's plan is to make the weekend the first time for full contact.
Coach Smith said after practice today that the Falcons will first get into full pads during the weekend. A good time to visit camp.
If you haven't been to camp before it's a pretty pedestrian affair in shells. You'll see a lot of stretching, walk throughs, and position drills, but nothing to really write home about. You wont really get a sense for how the players look until they go into the full contact drills. Most of the time it's a total crap-shoot whether or not you'll get to see the team at 100%, so getting an early tip is huge if you want to see the team at their most exciting.
What will be especially of note when the Falcons get into pads is seeing Akeem Dent. This camp is his first opportunity to work with the first team, and it will be fascinating to see if he's able to shed blocks, dissect plays, and get to Michael Turner; all of which will be critical if he hopes to make an impact in 2012. While Mike Peterson may have returned, ultimately the Falcons aren't hoping he'll be relied on as a 16 gamer starter. It's their hope that Dent can take the step needed to become their long term starter, an ability he showed flashes of in 2011.
It all starts now. This is a figurative start of the season, and the groundwork that is laid in camp will carry through to February (hopefully).
For more on the Falcons please visit 'The Falcoholic'
Rookie left tackle Lamar Holmes missed offseason workouts witha foot injury, so he was especially excited to finally hit the field when the Falcons opened camp on Thursday.
"I can't lie; I was excited to get back out there," he said. "Earlier today when we came out here for walkthroughs, I was like a kid running around in the locker rooms. I'm just happy to be back out there."
The third-round pick spent the time recovering by studying the playbook and watching from the sidelines. He did admit it might take a little bit to get back to full speed, but he's confident heading into his first NFL season. From the Falcons site:
"Give me a week or two weeks and before you know it I'll be getting back to myself, running around and doing a little better," he said.
The Atlanta Falcons were ranked as "contenders" in preseason power rankings by NFL.com, putting them in the middle of the pack with a lot of teams who may or may not make the most of their potential. "Atlanta has to be better than steady in a brutal division," the rankings note. That ranking fits well with where the Falcons ended up in a survey of all 32 of SB Nation's NFL bloggers. In those rankings, the Falcons ended up No. 13.
With talent like Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Roddy White and Michael Turner the Falcons are always going to be a threat. Surrounded by the New Orleans Saints and the Carolina Panthers, though, they won't be able to afford many mistakes if they want to make the most of the 2012-2013 season.
The Atlanta Falcons continue to make roster moves as things get started at training camp. They parted ways with Lofa Tatupu after the linebacker suffered a season-ending pectoral injury, and now they have signed wide receiver Tim Toone, defensive tackle Elisha Joseph, sent defensive tackle Corey Peters to the active, non-football injury list with a foot injury and waived safety Chad Faulcon (via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution).
Toone is 2010's Mr. Irrelevant, picked by the Detroit Lions as the final pick of the 2012 NFL Draft. Joseph enters the picture as a replacement for Peters, who was expected to miss time early with the foot injury. Faulcon had been named as a young man to watch at the Falcon's camp, but apparently the team was not impressed with what they saw.
Falcons training camp is finally under way in Flowery Branch. Here's a heap of all the "what to watch for" and "players to keep an eye on" you could ever want.
The Atlanta Falcons have cut 29-year old linebacker Lofa Tatupu, according to a report from SB Nation Football. Tatupu, who sat out the 2011 season after being released by the Seattle Seahawks, sustained a torn pectoral injury while working out that would have left him unable to perform for the entire 2012 season.
Tatupu had signed a 2-year, $3.6 million deal with the Falcons but will not be owed any more than the $600,000 signing bonus and save $750,000 in salary by not placing him on Injured Reserve. The Falcons took a chance on Tatupu, looking for a veteran presence as well as additional depth at lienbacker. Tatupu made the Pro Bowl his first three years in the league but had not returned since 2007.
Sometimes gambles pay off in sports, and other times, they don't. The Atlanta Falcons gambled on Lofa Tatupu after he missed the entire 2011 season because of injury, and this gamble is not going to pay off for the Falcons.
In fact, the Falcons are already cutting their losses already after the news that Tatupu would be out for the 2012 season with a torn pectoral.
Per Pro Football Talk, the Falcons are set to cut Tatupu.
D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that the Falcons are planning to release the injured linebacker with an injury settlement, since he was going to be out for the season with a pectoral injury.
They signed him to a two-year deal this offseason, with $600,000 guaranteed, and roster bonuses for games played. The Falcons would have been on the hook for his $750,000 base salary if he was placed on injured reserve.
It's unfortunate for all parties involved, especially Tatupu, who might have seen his NFL career just come to a close. Tatupu will be two years removed from having played in the NFL, and he won't be an attractive free agent as a consequence next offseason.
For more on the Falcons, check out The Falcoholic.
The position battle at safety could be one of the less publicized of Falcons Training Camp but could still be one of the most intriguing. Thomas DeCoud and William Moore are entrenched as starters but there will be competition behind them with a healthy mix of youth and experience.
Veteran Chris Hope was signed this offseason and brings Super Bowl experience into camp with the team. Hope played with the Titans last season and figures to enter camp with a leg up in the competition.
That leaves Shann Schillinger, and a pair of rookies in Charles Mitchell and Chad Faulcon. Here again Schillinger has the advantage of experience but Mitchell and Faulcon have had strong offseasons. With a good preseason Mitchell perhaps will be able to secure the spot provided he performs well on special teams while Faulcon starts on the practice squad.
If you need further proof that the NFL is still dominating the sports' landscape in this country look no further than the Weather Channel who ran a story yesterday on the worst spots for training camp from a weather spandpoint. Understandably the NFC South was heavily featured with all four teams ranking in the top 10 for the worst weather in the league. Carolina were 9th, New Orleans was 4th, and Tampa Bay was 3rd-- but it was the Falcons who slotted in nicely at 7th.
In speaking about Flowery Branch, GA the fine folks of meteorology cite a low rainfall as a key reason for the heat.
The conditions in Flowery Branch tend to be very warm and muggy. Typically, the only relief is the afternoon thunderstorm as cold fronts rarely make it down to Georgia intact. Monthly precipitation totals for July and August are typically a modest 4.22 inches and 4.39 inches
I'll confess I've never been down to Falcons' camp, but in talking to those who attend regularly I hear typical stories of sweltering heat, poor shade, and high humidity. It's a fairly common theme around the NFC South with all four teams electing to hold outdoor training camps in the Southern heat.
The Houston Texans and Miami Dolphins led the rankings for obvious reasons, while the Dallas Cowboys didn't even rank as the Weather Channel acknowledged their indoor training camp rendered the rankings null and void.
If you're heading down to camp later this week remember to pack the sunsscreen, plenty of water, and find whatever shade possible. This is time for the players to bust their butts, not the fans!
For more on the Falcons please visit 'The Falcoholic'
The Atlanta Falcons are coming off a playoff berth and are expected to again contend for the postseason in 2012.
The Falcons come in at No. 13 on the SB Nation power rankings heading into camp. The order was determined by ballots for all 32 SB Nation NFL bloggers with the rankings averaged out.
SB Nation's Falcons blog, The Falcoholic, is expecting big things.
The Atlanta Falcons are in a transition year, albeit one where they should remain a contender. The team is returning most of the roster that won them a playoff berth in 2011, but now boasts an upgrade at defensive coordinator in Mike Nolan and a potential upgrade on the offensive side in the form of Dirk Koetter. It will take the team some time to gel, but with potent weaponry in Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Roddy White and Michael Turner, not to mention a secondary that features Brent Grimes and Asante Samuel, they're poised to surprise the naysayers.
Atlanta Falcons linebacker Lofa Tatupu is out for the 2012 season because of a torn pectoral muscle. Tatupu also missed the 2011 season due to injury.
The Atlanta Falcons training camp is about to begin. As the 2012 NFL season approaches, there are still plenty of questions that will need to be answered about this year's team.
Daniel Cox at the official Falcons website took a look at five different positions that will likely have intense battles for roster spots this fall.
Cox notes that while the starting safeties are set with Thomas DeCloud and William Moore, there are a five players -- including a pair of rookies -- that will be battling it out for the two backup spots.
Likewise, there are a whole host of players looking to be tapped to round out the final two to three defensive line spots. You can bet that you'll be seeing plenty of linemen going all-out before the final roster cuts are made.
Sam Baker, Will Svitek and third-round pick Lamar Holmes will be vying for the starting left tackle position. Svitek shone in his chance to start in place of the injured Baker in 2011, but we'll have to see what this season brings.
Eric Weems will no longer be here to serve as the kick and punt returner. Harry Douglas appears to be the frontrunner for the job, but he'll be competing with a few others who may get a chance to stand out before the season begins.
Finally, the right guard position may be the most key of all. The position was in flux last season between Garrett Reynolds and Joe Hawley, but those two will have to compete with Vince Manuwai and second-round pick Peter Konz.
The whole article is well worth checking out, so click through to give it a read.
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Atlanta carried five backs last season if you include the fullback position. This season, the Falcons know what their rotation at running back is supposed to look like, with Michael Turner leading the way, and Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling in the mix as well.
But fullback will be an interesting position for the team to figure out during training camp, as Daniel Fox explains here:
The real decisions will come at fullback between Mike Cox and rookie Bradie Ewing. Cox filled in admirably last season when starter Ovie Mughelli went down. He's a predominately block-first option in the backfield. Ewing is a draft pick and was regarded as the best fullback in the draft. In addition to excellent blocking, Ewing, according to head coach Mike Smith, has better hands than many realize.
Read more on the Falcons at The Falcoholic and SB Nation Atlanta. Check out our dedicated NFL hub page for news and analysis around the league. Also, be sure to subscribe to the SB Nation Youtube Channel for video commentary.
Atlanta has brought their veteran linebacker Peterson back into the fold, addressing depth issues at the position heading into camp.
If there was one spot the Atlanta Falcons couldn't afford to lose depth at it was linebacker, but in the wake of Lofa Tatupu's pectoral injury it appears that 2011 3rd round pick Akeem Dent will be relied on earlier than expected. Yes, talking about Tatupu's injury as if it's a foregone conclusion may be putting the cart before the horse, but he is visiting the famous Dr. James Andrews who typically seems to foreshadow a player's trip to IR, or at least a long stint on the bench.
If there's a silver lining it's that this news broke early, and with enough time that the Falcons can find a replacement linebacker if needed. For now Dent represents the next best option for Atlanta at MLB. Appearing in all sixteen games last season he didn't really have a chance for a great deal of playing time with Curtis Lofton firmly entrenced as the starter. Dent totaled 20 tackles on the year, and forced a fumble in a week seven matchup with Detroit.
There's no way of knowing if Dent is ready, and that's a scary prospect. Tatupu was never intended to be a long-term option at the position, but rather as a bridge to take some snaps and tutor Dent. This represents an early challenge for not just the 2nd year linebacker, but for new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. He will need to navigate the position very carefully, as the middle linebacker spot to a 4-3 defense is key leadership and organizational role. There are other veterans who will be able to help Dent along, but there are questions surrounding the in-game headset the MLB wears, as well as his ability to communicate with the rest of the team.
We can hope Tatupu's injury isn't severe, but already Mike Smith is telling the media that Tatupu will miss the first part of training camp. This means that Akeem Dent better be ready for the big leagues, because he's going to be leaned on far sooner than even he expected.
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The Atlanta Falcons begin training camp on July 26 as they prepare for the 2012 NFL, but there is already conversation about how their playoff success, or failures, is how the team will be graded. The Falcons have made the playoffs in three of the past four seasons, but so far are 0-3 in those games.
Those teams the Falcons lost to were the Green Bay Packers, New York Giants and Arizona Cardinals. All three teams went to the Super Bowl with the Packers and Giants both winning, so the criticism might be a bit harsh toward the Falcons postseason success.
Head coach Mike Smith knows that how his team fares in the playoffs will be how his team will be graded:
"I think [the playoffs] is how everybody measures themselves," he said. "We didn't talk about expectations in the first year. We talked about milestones. One of them we wanted to reach was to participate in the second season. Where we are now and how we've developed in our first four years, we're going to judged on the playoffs."
When asked if he has picked up on something that the team has been missing in the postseason, Smith said: "It's been a group effort. We haven't played well in all three phases. We've turned the ball over. We haven't protected well. We've given up big plays. We haven't coached well. We made some coaching decisions that, when we took a second look at it, didn't turn out well."
Atlanta Falcons middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu suffered an injury to his pectoral on Friday during a routine workout session.
"At this point, we do not know the extent of the injury, but we expect to have more information early next week." -- Falcons head coach Mike Smith
Tatupu was signed during free agency in March by the Falcons to a two-year, $5.75 million deal after sitting out of the league for a year after not being able to agree to a new contract with the Seattle Seahawks. Tatupu spent six years in Seattle, earning three Pro Bowl nods and one trip to the Super Bowl.
Tatupu has a history with pectoral injuries, as he tore his left pectoral muscle after a collision with teammate Deon Grant back in 2009 as a member of the Seahawks.
Despite keeping several free agents, hiring two new coordinators and upgrading in areas of need, the Falcons are still sit on the playoff's edge in the eyes of many. Is this fair, or simply the product of an intimidating NFC?
NFL.com thinks Stephen Nicholas could be cut in camp. I disagree
The Atlanta Falcons officially begin training camp on July 26 at their Flowery Branch practice facility.