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  1. FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- There hasn't been much game-planning on either side of the ball for the Atlanta Falcons, so mistiming on offense and miscommunication on defense shouldn't be overblown just yet. And with special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong forced to play so many young players to get a serious evaluation for his units, it's too early to declare special teams a complete disaster. But one aspect the Falcons need to get under control immediately is the penalty situation. Through two preseason games, they've been penalized 19 times for 171 yards. They've been whistled 25 times total, counting the penalties not accepted or offsetting. And it's not just the rookies making mistakes. Ten flags have been thrown against either starters or seasoned veterans. "Very concerned," coach Mike Smith said. "Fifteen penalties called in the game [at Houston]. There weren't 15 accepted penalties, but we've got to make sure that we understand how the game is going to be called from the officiating side. "They're going through changes. We're going through changes. There are a lot of emphasis points that the league has, basically, mandated. And we have to adjust to them. Up to this point, I don't know that we have, or anybody in this league has adjusted very well. Thank goodness that we don't have a lot of commercials in preseason games because [the games] would be really long." Of course the biggest points of emphasis are illegal contact by defenders against receivers 5 yards beyond the line of scrimmage and defensive holding. In Saturday game against the Texans, starting corners Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford both were whistled for defensive holding, although only Trufant's penalty was accepted. "We just have to adjust to it this year," Alford said. "I mean, they called it. All we can do is go back to the film with coach and see what we can improve on." Trufant was visibly upset with the call on him and threw his arms out in disgust. "All we can do is play," Trufant said. "There's always going to be bang-bang plays. Like Rob said, we've got to go to the film and just see what we could have done better." Safety William Moore offered his take on the penalty situation. "Flags kicked our ***," Moore said of the Houston game. "We had some opportunities to get off the field on third down, and we come up with some silly-*** penalties. And the refs weren't any lighter on us. We gave up 200-something yards in penalties. Hopefully that doesn't happen during the season." The starters are scheduled to play the entire first half and possibly into the third quarter against Tennessee on Saturday, so we'll see if the penalty issues are corrected.
  2. @vxmcclure23 26m By the way, Prince Shembo's first-team reps increased today as he worked with Worrilow. More on that later.
  3. FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- It shouldn't have been much surprise to see Atlanta Falcons rookie inside linebacker Prince Shembo running alongside Paul Worrilow early in Monday's practice. Before training camp started, coach Mike Smith promised Shembo would get serious consideration for a starter's role. Then defensive coordinator Mike Nolan talked about Shembo having the best physical stature of anyone on the roster at inside linebacker. Shembo didn't totally overtake Joplo Bartu during Monday's session, but his increased reps with the first unit seemed to indicate a depth-chart move on the horizon. "I think that Prince has had a very good training camp," Smith said as the team broke camp Monday. "We have to continue to be in an evaluation mode and get these guys ready and prepared. Obviously, whether he's the first man in or the guy that's out there, he's got to get some work with the first group. "And we will make sure that we get an evaluation where he's playing against some of the [caliber of] players that he'll be playing against in September, October, November." Shembo came to the Falcons as an outside linebacker but made the transition to inside linebacker almost immediately. His pass-rush skills were evident in the first exhibition against Miami, when he recorded a sack. His effort and intensity are evident every snap. Now, Shembo has to prove himself in coverage, be a sure-tackler, and show an ability to communicate well when he's asked to relay the defensive signals. In Saturday's 32-7 loss to the Houston Texans, Shembo played 27 snaps and had three tackles. He was in with the starters on a goal-line play that resulted in a 1-yard touchdown run for Texans running back Alfred Blue. "He's been in our goal-line defense from the very start, so it wasn't something that we did this past game," Smith said. "Prince has done everything that we've asked. He's very conscientious in the classroom. He's eager to learn. And Coach [Glenn] Pires has done a really good job with him in getting him prepared."
  4. FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Atlanta Falcons training camp: The big story Monday before the Falcons officially broke camp was rookieJake Matthews' move from right tackle to left tackle following a season-ending knee injury to Sam Baker. Left guard Justin Blalock joked with Matthews about it being their first date together. The Falcons thought it would be a happy marriage with Matthews from the beginning, which is why they drafted him sixth overall. Matthews played left tackle last year at Texas A&M, so the transition back to the left side didn't seem to bother him one bit. It was interesting seeing him fight against veteran designated pass-rusher Osi Umenyiora as Umenyiora rushed off the right side. "We've got a ton of talent on this defense," Matthews said. "Every day, it's a challenge for me to go out and block. But it's been good for me. [umenyiora's] one of the best that ever played. I'm excited to work with him and get better from him." Defensive tackle Corey Peters returned to practice and participated in individual drills, meaning he's no longer on the physically unable to perform list. Peters tore his Achilles against San Francisco on Dec. 23 of last season. "Corey's way ahead of schedule in terms of his rehabilitation with his Achilles," coach Mike Smith said. "It's going to be fun to watch him get indoctrinated into what we're doing this season with coach (Bryan) Cox. We're going to take it slow. The next question may be whether we're going to have him ready for the first game. That's going to be something that will be determined (on) how he handles the next couple of weeks." Javier Arenas was the primary nickelback during Monday's practice as the Falcons continue to weigh competition at the position. Smith said before Saturday's loss at Houston he wanted to figure out the best man for the job between Arenas, Robert McClain, and Josh Wilson. Arenas will get the first shot this Saturday against Tennessee. "I think we still have a lot of decisions to make in terms of who's going to be our nickel," Smith said. "We're going to rotate a little bit differently this week than what we did in the first two games. There's really been three guys who have been competing for it .... This is Arenas' chance to get his reps in there. And then we'll make a decision going into the fourth preseason game on who's going to be our starter at nickel." There was a bit of an altercation between outside linebacker Jonathan Massaquoi and center Joe Hawley. After Massaquoi kept screaming at Hawley, Smith stepped in and warned how Massaquoi could get a 15-yard penalty for continuing to run his mouth. The Falcons have been penalized 19 times for 171 yards in two preseason games. Extra points: Julio Jones looked rather smooth in catching a touchdown pass behindDesmond Trufant on a perfectly executed fade with Matt Ryan. ... Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, who tore his Achilles this offseason, was in a walking boot and out supporting his teammates Monday. He once yelled from the sideline for the defenders to get proper depth on their drops. .... Offensive tackle Gabe Carimi walked around the practice field all day but remained sidelined coming off an ankle injury. ... Devin Hester had a drop over the middle on a bullet from Ryan. ... Terren Jones played with the second team at left tackle as Ryan Schraeder was at right tackle. ... Harry Douglas corralled a Hail Mary pass.
  5. Atlanta Falcons offensive lineman Gabe Carimi, who suffered an ankle injury during an Aug. 4 joint practice with the Tennessee Titans, is expected to play in the final preseason game againstJacksonville Jaguars Aug. 28, according to a league source with knowledge of the situation. Carimi missed the first two preseason games against Miami Dolphins and Houston Texans. He joined his teammates as a spectator last week for the first time since suffering the injury. With the Falcons losing starting left tackle Sam Baker to a season-ending ruptured patellar tendon and rookie Jake Matthews set to move from right tackle to left, Carimi's value increased. The former first-round pick of the Chicago Bears entered the league in 2011 as a right tackle, although a knee injury limited him to just two games. Carimi has 19 career starts with the Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He might be the best option at right tackle, once fully healthy. The others in the mix are Lamar Holmes and Ryan Schraeder. "[Right tackle] is all I've played the last four years so, yeah, I feel good there," Carimi said earlier in training camp. Carimi firmly believes he is over the knee issues that marred the start of his career. Falcons offensive line coach Mike Tice, who had Carimi in Chicago, believed a fresh start was all the player needed. So far, Carimi has impressed with his overall toughness and ability to play right tackle and both guard spots. He has had success keeping defensive linemen at bay once he gets his hands on them. And his 6-foot-7, 316-pound frame only helps his cause. Although the final exhibition game typically is a showcase for the bubble players, it seems wise to get Carimi some live action before the Sept. 7 season opener against the New Orleans Saints.
  6. FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falconsrookie Jake Matthews officially made the switch from right to left tackle during Monday's practice. The move was expected after the Falcons lost starting left tackle Sam Baker to a season-ending patellar tendon tear. The Falcons drafted Matthews with the sixth overall pick out of Texas A&M to be the team's left tackle of the future. He played left tackle last year with the Aggies. Matthews was asked after Monday's practice if there is a significant adjustment from right to left. "Yes, the stagger changes," he said. "You go for a long time used to bracing a guy with one leg back. And now you've got to flip it around. It's like almost going from writing with your right hand to your left hand. But I did it in college. I feel pretty comfortable on both sides." Said coach Mike Smith: "I don't think he'll blink. We're not." Lamar Holmes moved into the first-team right tackle spot vacated by Matthews.
  7. http://espn.go.com/blog/atlanta-falcons/post/_/id/7125/camp-confidential-atlanta-falcons FLOWERY BRANCH, GA. -- There is no doubt the Atlanta Falcons have gotten tougher this season just based on the bigger bodies along the offensive and defensive lines and the nastier attitudes players have brought to training camp. But will that translate to a return trip to the postseason in 2014? The Falcons still have some questions to answer, some wrinkles to iron out after last season's 4-12 finish. If all goes as planned, Matt Ryan will play like one of the top-tier quarterbacks in the league because he won't have to throw under such duress and he'll have his top threat back in Julio Jones. If all goes as planned, the running backs, led by Steven Jackson and rookie Devonta Freeman, will help give the Falcons much-needed offensive balance. If all goes as planned, newly added defensive linemenPaul Soliai and Tyson Jackson will help shut down the run, forcing opponents to be one-dimensional and allowing defensive coordinator Mike Nolan to find creative ways to get pressure on quarterbacks and create turnovers. And if all goes as planned, Devin Hester will prove he's still the greatest return man in the game and will help the Falcons win a few games simply on his own dynamic talent. We'll see how it all unfolds. THREE REASONS FOR OPTIMISM 1. Jones' return: You can't overstate how much Jones means to this offense. The Falcons sorely missed his big-play ability last season as opposing defenses had it easy. With Jones back and looking fully healthy coming off a second foot surgery, the Falcons have their explosion back. Jones put on 10 pounds of muscle and still has his breakaway speed. Where he really might thrive more than ever is the red zone, given that Ryan no longer hasTony Gonzalez as his security blanket. Also expect Jones to draw his share of defensive holding penalties against outmatched cornerbacks. 2. Jake Matthews' arrival: The rookie first-round pick brings more stability to what was a pathetic offensive line last season. Throughout training camp, the right tackle has been like a brick wall in pass protection and has been equally impressive as a run blocker. There are still questions about how the line will fare as a whole. But there's no doubt Matthews has perennial Pro Bowler written all over him. With veteran right guard Jon Asamoah next to Matthews, the right side of the line should be the least of the Falcons' concerns. 3. No-nonsense coaches: Offensive line coach Mike Tice and defensive line coach Bryan Cox are new to the staff -- and they don't take crap from anyone. Some players need a kick in the butt rather than positive reinforcement, and Tice and Cox have no issue raising their voices. The players seem to respect them both. The offensive linemen have taken well to Tice tweaking their techniques. Maybe the defensive linemen aren't so enthused about Cox making them do up-downs after mistakes, but it's only going to make them more mentally focused. THREE REASONS FOR PESSIMISM 1. Although no one should doubt Nolan's unique ability to be creative with his packages, the simple fact is the Falcons don't have a dominant pass-rusher. Sure, Jonathan Massaquoi has a lot of promise and veteran Osi Umenyiora slimmed down and seems to have a good year left in his body, but there's not a guy who strikes fear in opposing offensive tackles. With Drew Brees and Cam Newton in the division and Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco also on the schedule, pressure will be imperative. 2. There continues to be a concern at inside linebacker. Paul Worrilow should be fine and will have a place in the lineup for a lot of years to come. But Joplo Bartu, currently alongside Worrilow in the 3-4 setup and in the nickel defense, has some strides to make. Bartu has had a good training camp and can cover tight ends with no issues. But he's still learning on the fly, coming from outside linebacker last year. The Falcons have a lot of faith in rookiePrince Shembo, but he's also transitioning from outside to inside and will have a learning curve. There's a lack of depth at the position, too, with Sean Weatherspoon (Achilles) and rookie Marquis Spruill (ACL) out for the season. 3. Injuries took a toll on the Falcons last season with players such as Jones, Jackson, Weatherspoon, Roddy White and Kroy Biermann all either being shelved for the season or at least missing games. The injury bug has again bit the Falcons in training camp with three players (safety Dwight Lowery, linebacker Pat Angerer and offensive tackle Terren Jones) suffering concussions, two players (Gabe Carimi and Tim Dobbins) suffering ankle injuries, and one player (Spruill) tearing an ACL. The Falcons can't have a rash of major injuries this season. If they do, at least they'll have better depth than a year ago. OBSERVATION DECK Although 6-foot-3-inch, 302-pound center Joe Hawley was pushed around a little bit in the preseason opener against Miami, the Falcons can live with that for a couple of plays a game because Hawley brings so much toughness and is so quick and athletic when it comes to pulling. Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford continue to evolve as a duo and should be one of the most feared cornerback tandems in the league for years to come. Expect them to be much more physical this year. Some folks wondered about White's health because he seems a little hobbled and continues to wear a light brace on his left knee. But White showed no ill-effects against the Dolphins and looked like the Roddy White of old. Robert McClain appears to be ahead in the battle for the third cornerback right now, with Javier Arenas maybe a tad ahead of Josh Wilson at this point. Wilson has to start making more plays. No one is panicking over Hester fumbling the ball in his first exhibition. The defender got a good hit on him. Hester, historically, has been secure with the ball on returns. Safety Kemal Ishmael continues to impress the Falcons, specifically with his tackling. If Lowery's concussion issues resurface, Ishmael should be more than capable to handle a starting role next to strong safety William Moore. Explosive running back Antone Smith deserves more touches. Enough said.
  8. http://espn.go.com/blog/atlanta-falcons/post/_/id/7125/camp-confidential-atlanta-falcons FLOWERY BRANCH, GA. -- There is no doubt the Atlanta Falcons have gotten tougher this season just based on the bigger bodies along the offensive and defensive lines and the nastier attitudes players have brought to training camp. But will that translate to a return trip to the postseason in 2014? The Falcons still have some questions to answer, some wrinkles to iron out after last season's 4-12 finish. If all goes as planned, Matt Ryan will play like one of the top-tier quarterbacks in the league because he won't have to throw under such duress and he'll have his top threat back in Julio Jones. If all goes as planned, the running backs, led by Steven Jackson and rookie Devonta Freeman, will help give the Falcons much-needed offensive balance. If all goes as planned, newly added defensive linemenPaul Soliai and Tyson Jackson will help shut down the run, forcing opponents to be one-dimensional and allowing defensive coordinator Mike Nolan to find creative ways to get pressure on quarterbacks and create turnovers. And if all goes as planned, Devin Hester will prove he's still the greatest return man in the game and will help the Falcons win a few games simply on his own dynamic talent. We'll see how it all unfolds. THREE REASONS FOR OPTIMISM 1. Jones' return: You can't overstate how much Jones means to this offense. The Falcons sorely missed his big-play ability last season as opposing defenses had it easy. With Jones back and looking fully healthy coming off a second foot surgery, the Falcons have their explosion back. Jones put on 10 pounds of muscle and still has his breakaway speed. Where he really might thrive more than ever is the red zone, given that Ryan no longer hasTony Gonzalez as his security blanket. Also expect Jones to draw his share of defensive holding penalties against outmatched cornerbacks. 2. Jake Matthews' arrival: The rookie first-round pick brings more stability to what was a pathetic offensive line last season. Throughout training camp, the right tackle has been like a brick wall in pass protection and has been equally impressive as a run blocker. There are still questions about how the line will fare as a whole. But there's no doubt Matthews has perennial Pro Bowler written all over him. With veteran right guard Jon Asamoah next to Matthews, the right side of the line should be the least of the Falcons' concerns. 3. No-nonsense coaches: Offensive line coach Mike Tice and defensive line coach Bryan Cox are new to the staff -- and they don't take crap from anyone. Some players need a kick in the butt rather than positive reinforcement, and Tice and Cox have no issue raising their voices. The players seem to respect them both. The offensive linemen have taken well to Tice tweaking their techniques. Maybe the defensive linemen aren't so enthused about Cox making them do up-downs after mistakes, but it's only going to make them more mentally focused. THREE REASONS FOR PESSIMISM 1. Although no one should doubt Nolan's unique ability to be creative with his packages, the simple fact is the Falcons don't have a dominant pass-rusher. Sure, Jonathan Massaquoi has a lot of promise and veteran Osi Umenyiora slimmed down and seems to have a good year left in his body, but there's not a guy who strikes fear in opposing offensive tackles. With Drew Brees and Cam Newton in the division and Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco also on the schedule, pressure will be imperative. 2. There continues to be a concern at inside linebacker. Paul Worrilow should be fine and will have a place in the lineup for a lot of years to come. But Joplo Bartu, currently alongside Worrilow in the 3-4 setup and in the nickel defense, has some strides to make. Bartu has had a good training camp and can cover tight ends with no issues. But he's still learning on the fly, coming from outside linebacker last year. The Falcons have a lot of faith in rookiePrince Shembo, but he's also transitioning from outside to inside and will have a learning curve. There's a lack of depth at the position, too, with Sean Weatherspoon (Achilles) and rookie Marquis Spruill (ACL) out for the season. 3. Injuries took a toll on the Falcons last season with players such as Jones, Jackson, Weatherspoon, Roddy White and Kroy Biermann all either being shelved for the season or at least missing games. The injury bug has again bit the Falcons in training camp with three players (safety Dwight Lowery, linebacker Pat Angerer and offensive tackle Terren Jones) suffering concussions, two players (Gabe Carimi and Tim Dobbins) suffering ankle injuries, and one player (Spruill) tearing an ACL. The Falcons can't have a rash of major injuries this season. If they do, at least they'll have better depth than a year ago. OBSERVATION DECK Although 6-foot-3-inch, 302-pound center Joe Hawley was pushed around a little bit in the preseason opener against Miami, the Falcons can live with that for a couple of plays a game because Hawley brings so much toughness and is so quick and athletic when it comes to pulling. Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford continue to evolve as a duo and should be one of the most feared cornerback tandems in the league for years to come. Expect them to be much more physical this year. Some folks wondered about White's health because he seems a little hobbled and continues to wear a light brace on his left knee. But White showed no ill-effects against the Dolphins and looked like the Roddy White of old. Robert McClain appears to be ahead in the battle for the third cornerback right now, with Javier Arenas maybe a tad ahead of Josh Wilson at this point. Wilson has to start making more plays. No one is panicking over Hester fumbling the ball in his first exhibition. The defender got a good hit on him. Hester, historically, has been secure with the ball on returns. Safety Kemal Ishmael continues to impress the Falcons, specifically with his tackling. If Lowery's concussion issues resurface, Ishmael should be more than capable to handle a starting role next to strong safety William Moore. Explosive running back Antone Smith deserves more touches. Enough said.
  9. Falcons Camp Report: Day 13 August, 11, 2014 AUG 11 8:45 PM ET By Vaughn McClure | ESPN.com FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- A daily review of the hot topics from Atlanta Falcons training camp: Rookie running back Devonta Freeman was on the field for the start of practice but exited early and didn't return. The initial word was the heat got to Freeman, although coach Mike Smith declined to go in detail about Freeman's status. After practice as Smith met the media, Freeman walked around and greeted a few people and didn't have any protective gear on any part of his body. "I don't think it's anything serious," Smith said. If the heat indeed got to Freeman, it might be worth monitoring because the Falcons are set to have joint practices against the Texans in scorching Houston starting Wednesday morning. Speaking of running backs, starter Steven Jackson performed some agility drills on a side field for the first time since suffering a left hamstring injury on July 28. Jackson did not perform any sprinting exercises. Smith said all along he expects Jackson to be fully healthy for the Sept. 7 season opener against the New Orleans Saints. With Jackson still sidelined and Freeman exiting early Monday, Jacquizz Rodgers remained as the primary running back with Antone Smith also getting a few first-team reps. Julio Jones participated in his second consecutive practice and caught a few balls. The Falcons had Sunday off, so he technically had a day of rest in between practices. It's the same schedule he's been on throughout camp and it won't change just yet. "I know we're going to go every other day," Smith said of Jones' status, "but the workload is going to be different then it was in the first two weeks." Extra points: Outside linebacker Stansly Maponga got into it with Lamar Holmes during pass-rush drills and drew anger from both defensive line coach Bryan Cox and offensive line coach Mike Tice. In fact, Tice taunted Maponga by saying he could show better pass-rush moves than Maponga could, while Cox challenged Maponga to play better on game day rather than thumping his chest in practice. ... Tight end Mickey Shuler got a few reps with the first-team offense coming off a strong performance in the first exhibition. ... SafetyDwight Lowery had full participation coming off a concussion although he didn't take a hit through the course of the day as the Falcons practiced in pads and shorts. ... Pat Angereralso seemed to have full participation while tackle Terren Jones was limited as both continued to go through the concussion protocol. ... Linebacker Tim Dobbins was on the field observing, following an ankle injury. Offensive lineman Gabe Carimi (ankle) was nowhere to be seen. The Falcons practice Tuesday at 9 a.m. ET before leaving for Houston for joint practices with the Texans starting Wednesday.
  10. ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Falcons were itching to hit someone else in live action after delivering plenty of hits on each other during several training camp fights. The Miami Dolphins provided the opposition Friday night at the Georgia Dome in both team's exhibition opener. The game, which was tied 10-10 at halftime,ended up a 16-10 triumph for the Falcons. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was sharp in one series of work, completing all seven of his passes for 53 yards. He engineered a 15-play, 77-yard drive that was capped by starting running back Jacquizz Rodgers' 2-yard touchdown run. "Good play for us," Ryan said of the scoring drive. "A good job by us. We were able to run the ball pretty effectively, and when we did have the opportunity to throw, we were able to move the chains." Ryan was impressed with the offensive line. "I thought they did a great job up front," Ryan said. "One of things [head coach Mike Smith] has preached from the beginning of camp is that we want to set the tone for both side of the ball in the front four [on defense], front five of the offensive line. And I think we did that tonight." Here are some other thoughts on the Falcons' first preseason game: Speaking of that first drive, the Falcons showed great balance with eight running plays and Ryan's seven pass attempts. The pass protection was better than the run blocking, however. Center Joe Hawley missed his man near the goal line on Rodgers' touchdown run, but he also did some good things pulling and blocking down the field. Offensive line coach Mike Tice said his line still has to make up ground with its run blocking. The right side certainly look solid with guard Jon Asamoah and tackle Jake Matthews. Steve Jackson, who continues to recover from a hamstring injury and didn't play Friday, should be a lot more effective running behind this line once the regular season begins. The defense got off to a bad start. The Falcons began the game in the nickel defense and yielded six yards on their first play. They allowed Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill to march his team down on a 10-play, 73-yard drive, capped by Tannehill's 6-yard touchdown pass to receiver Brandon Gibson. It looked like free safety Kemal Ishmael, starting for the injured Dwight Lowery (concussion), got caught flat-footed on the play action and missed his assignment on Gibson. Fellow safety William Moore admitted there was miscommunication with the first-team defense, but Moore said to keep in mind that the Falcons didn't have game tape on the Dolphins. But there was no excuse for the lack of pressure by the first unit. The most consistent pressure came from outside linebackerStansly Maponga with the second unit. A least the run defense indeed looked better withPaul Soliai and Tyson Jackson up front. Jonathan Massaquoi had a nice tackle for loss. The rookies made their mark, led by Matthews. More impressive than anything was how Matthews stood his ground working against Miami's Cameron Wake, one of the best pass-rushers in the league. However, Matthews did pick up a holding penalty that nullified a touchdown. Running back Devonta Freeman ran hard and showed his ability to catch out of the backfield with a 57-yard reception from Sean Renfree. He also tried to take someone's head off with a chip block. Linebacker Prince Shembo had a sack in the fourth quarter and cornerback Ricardo Allen made an outstanding break on the ball to cause an incomplete pass. Wide receiver Bernard Reedy showed the fans flashes of his great speed and unique ability -- he had a team-leading 61 receiving yards on two catches. Outside linebackerJacques Smith had his night cut short by a lat injury. Roddy White was impressive in his brief stint. He had four catches for 27 yards, including a 12-yard gain. It was no surprise he was Ryan's primary target, considering the Falcons opted to hold Julio Jones out. "It's like riding a bike with him," Ryan said of White. "We've done this together for a long time. Roddy just has knack for getting up and making plays." Antone Smith showed why he deserves a more serious look at running back. He busted loose for a 76-yard touchdown in the second quarter, only to have it called back by Matthews' holding penalty. He also had a 34-yard gain off a pass play from Ryan, but that play was wiped out by illegal formation on Harry Douglas. Yes, Smith's plays didn't count in the stat book, but his explosive ability had to count for something in the eyes of the coaches.
  11. 45] Followvaughn mcclure‏@vxmcclure23Angerer running around while linebackers do drills. Good sign. Think Konz just got in a little trouble with Tice for shoving Dobbins to the ground. At least he showed some physicality
  12. When the Atlanta Falcons return to practice today, offensive lineman Gabe Carimi will be sidelined with a sprained ankle, as first reported by Fox Sports. Although the severity of Carimi's injury remains unclear, he has already made a strong impression. The former first-round draft pick of Chicago seems to be over the knee injuries that plagued him with the Bears. He has displayed toughness throughout training camp, as evident from his fight with outside linebacker Stansly Maponga that was captured on HBO's "Hard Knocks." More than anything, Carimi has shown versatility. Offensive line coach Mike Tice said he has been impressed with how Carimi has handled playing both guard spots as well as right tackle. But as a backup guard is where Carimi will help the Falcons the most. Once he gets his hands on the opponent, it's tough for the opposition to get by him. Carimi's 6-foot-7-inch, 316-pound frame certainly helps his cause. Tice coached Carimi in Chicago, and Carimi had his best success with the Bears at guard after failing at both tackle spots. Based on Tice's assessment, likely swing-tackle candidate Ryan Schraeder and Carimi have been the best of the backup offensive linemen. Tackle Lamar Holmes has steadily improved since the start of camp, and guard Harland Gunn has had moments in one-on-one drills but allowed a few sacks in full-team drills during a joint scrimmage with the Tennessee Titans. Tice should get a true measure of the progress of his line and his depth when the Falcons host the Miami Dolphins in exhibition play Friday night.
  13. http://espn.go.com/b...mp-report-day-8 FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- A daily review of the hot topics from Atlanta Falcons training camp: LIGHT DAY: It was a light practice on Saturday after the Falcons held their "Fight Night Lights" scrimmage. Many of the veteran players rested as the team practiced in shorts. Wide receiver Roddy White didn't even participate, while outside linebacker Kroy Biermann had his scheduled day off. "Today's practice, it was a non-padded practice," coach Mike Smith said. "The guys worked hard last night. We didn't get finished and get back over here to the facility until after 11 p.m. I thought they came back, had a nice walk-through this morning. I thought it was a spirited practice. Again, the effort's been outstanding." SAFETY OPTIONS: Smith pointed out how cornerbacks Robert McClain and Ricardo Allen got a few reps at safety Saturday. That was planned after projected starting free safetyDwight Lowery suffered a concussion Friday, leaving the team depleted as the position. "We have some guys on our roster right now that we can cross train in terms of some of the corners who will work at the safety position," Smith said. "When we start getting to our 53-man roster, we've got to do that anyway. So, we'll work some of the corners inside." FIGHT CLUB: The latest fight to break out during practice was between rookie outside linebacker Tyler Starr and rookie tight end Brian Wozniak. "Just a little friendly competition," Starr said. "Guys don't like to get beat on the field out here. Tempers got a little heated. It was what it was. We compete on the field and off the field, it's like nothing ever happened. They took a few swings at each other midway through practice. Some of the others battle have been Kroy Biermann versus rookie Jake Matthews, Stansly Maponga versus Gabe Carimi, and Joe Hawley versus rookie Jacques Smith. SOMETHING SPECIAL: Special-teams coach Keith Armstrong got after it hard with his unit at the start of practice. Hours before the session, he singled out a few rookies as possible contributors this season. "I'll tell you what: [Prince] Shembo has been a guy that's really jumped out to me in terms of a linebacker standpoint," Armstrong said. "[Bernard] Reedy, the little receiver, has done a nice job for us. Great effort. I like his heart [and] want to. He's got that right attitude. Those would be the two guys right now." EXTRA POINTS: Kemal Ishmael and Sean Baker did a good job communicating as they received most of the safety reps on Saturday while William Moore rested. ... Tight endLevine Toilolo had a nice touchdown catch while covered during red zone work. ... Cornerback Jordan Mabin was one of the lesser known players that made players Saturday
  14. http://espn.go.com/blog/atlanta-falcons/post/_/id/6901/falcons-nolan-concerned-about-safety-depth FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan addressed a variety of topics following Saturday's practice. One of his primary concerns is the lack of depth at safety in the preseason, considering he would prefer to keep his starters fresh for the regular season. Strong safety William Moore is healthy, but fellow starter Dwight Lowery suffered what head coach Mike Smith said might be a head injury during Friday night's practice. The Falcons already are down two safeties with Zeke Motta likely out for the season following neck surgery and rookie Dez Southward sidelined at least a week with a left knee injury. ``You don't want to come out of a preseason game where your starter had to play -- say he had to play 50 snaps,'' Nolan said. ``That's not a good way to have a preseason because that wears those guys out. And by the time they get to the regular season, that's not a good thing. So I'm concern for that reason.'' Players such as Kemal Ishmael and Sean Baker will get longer looks at safety if the injuries to Lowery and Southward linger. Kimario McFadden is another guy in the group. ``And Kemal's had a good camp,'' Nolan said. ``Kemal's done a nice job. ... He's made some a good strides from a year ago. I know he's (10 pounds) lighter and he's moving a lot better. He's one of the guys that's been able to take advantage of some of the things with the front line being a little stouter, just from the standpoint of coming up and closing the gap. Baker has also stepped up his game. ``All of those guys from last year were kind of just young guys running around or new to our system. Kemal and Baker have made some good strides. I'm kind of excited to see what they do.'' Nolan, of course, would prefer to start the season with Moore and Lowery as the starting safeties. ``He's in the right place more often than not,'' Nolan said. ``And he's been making some plays. He's a very athletic guy. He's got good size. Our two safeties look good. If nothing else, they look good getting off the bus.''
  15. vaughn mcclure @vxmcclure23 · 1m Shembo getting praise for his play against the run vaughn mcclure @vxmcclure23 · 5s Arthur Blank made it a point to have a conversation with Shembo during stretchingvaughn mcclure @vxmcclure23 · 26s Reedy showing that speedvaughn mcclure @vxmcclure23 · 1m Sean Baker running with Kemal Ismael with second unit in full team.vaughn mcclure @vxmcclure23 · 35s Southward watching safety drills holding helmet
  16. Reports Smith Sean Baker running with Kemal Ismael with second unit in full team. Southward watching safety drills holding helmet vaughn mcclure
  17. FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones, part of the 2011 NFL draft class, said he is not concerned about signing a new lucrative contract at this particular time. "That's on them to decide," Jones told ESPN.com following Thursday's practice. "I just have to come here and show up and work every day. I've got to make them feel like they want me here for the remainder of my career. The only thing I can do is keep working and keep my nose clean and just do the right things. "I don't think about (a new contract). Money is good, but I don't think about it. When I'm on the field, I want to beat the guy across from me. I just come to work and play football." Jones, 25, is signed through 2015 after the team picked up his fifth-year option worth $10.176 million. His tag-team partner, veteran receiver Roddy White, recently received a contract extension. This year, Jones will make $2,581,875 will a cap number of $5,149,735. Two members of his draft class -- Dallas Cowboys offensive tackle Tyron Smith and Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson -- received contract extension this week. Peterson, who was the fifth-overall draft pick one slot ahead of Jones, received a five-year contract extension Peterson claimed was worth $70 million and reportedly $48 million guaranteed. Jones took notice. "I was extremely happy for (Peterson) to get paid, especially he came from LSU and we were playing together," said Jones, who faced Peterson in college at Alabama. "We worked each other every year. And he's a great guy. So, he deserves it." Jones missed 11 games last season after fracturing his right foot for the second time in a Week 5 loss to the New York Jets. Although Jones said he is 100 percent and is participating in training camp, the Falcons likely will wait until he gets through a full season healthy before addressing his contract situation. "When it comes, I'll deserve it," Jones said. "I don't like anybody giving me anything. I like to work hard for everything I get." Jones is being held out of every other practice to start training camp. He said he's unsure how much he'll play in the team's exhibition games, starting with an Aug. 8 home matchup with theMiami Dolphins.
  18. FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga -- A daily review of the hot topics from Atlanta Falcons' training camp: The news of the day was the absence of running back Steven Jackson, who apparently tweaked his knee during Monday's first padded practice. Although coach Mike Smith said he fully expects Jackson to be ready for the season opener against New Orleans (Sept. 7), Jackson had a right hamstring injury that lingered longer than expected last season and kept him out four games. Jackson just turned 31 last week so there are obvious questions about his durability. At least the Falcons have a backup plan with veteran Jacquizz Rodgers and rookieDevonta Freeman. Smith said Antone Smith and Josh Vaughan also would get longer looks with Jackson out. Quarterback Matt Ryan praised the play of rookie right tackle Jake Matthews, who continued his seamless transition to the NFL. Matthews rarely let's anyone get by him with his sound technique and stout frame. "I think Jake, his size and he's very strong, very athletic," Ryan said. "And he's smart. I think that's a great combination. When you talk about a guy who is drafted early and is going to be a cornerstone of the organization for a long time to come, it's a great combination to have. He's done it the way rookies should do it: kind of kept his mouth shut and handled his business the right way." Matthews hasn't shut it completely, however. "But then we got him up there singing last night in front of everybody, and he was pretty good," Ryan said with a laugh. "Probably the thing that has impressed me the most in the first week is his ability to sing. He's not scared to get up there and (let) a little bit of personality show through." Veteran Osi Umenyiora, who has slimmed down, has shown a lot of speed a good hand movement with his rushes during pass-rush drills and full-team work. He even dropped into coverage on at least one occasion, showing his willingness to step out of his comfort zone to make the team. Umenyiora wondered about his role this offseason as the team transitioned to a 3-4 base defense, but there's plenty of room for him as long as he can get to the quarterback. And he's showing some young legs for a player set to turn 33 in November. The offense didn't exactly shine on a second consecutive day of padded practice. In fact, there was some noticeable drops and some mistiming between Ryan and his receivers, even with Julio Jones back on the field after a day off. "We need to execute much better than we have," Ryan said. "But the effort's there. And I think that's been encouraging." Linebacker Pat Angerer left practice early and did not return. Smith did not provide an update. ... Defensive tackle tackle Travian Robertson made his presence known in one-on-one pass-rush drills, obliterating center Peter Konz with a bull rush. Robertson has stood out in drills in an effort to earn a roster spot. ... Rookie defensive lineman Ra'Shede Hageman got some revenge on guard Harland Gunn during one-on-one pass-rush drills, swinging Gunn to the ground a day after Gunn stood him up twice.
  19. Followvaughn mcclure‏@vxmcclure23Mike Smith was not happy with the technical side of today's practice. Said pad level was too high. Smith said the first and second round picks, Matthews and Hageman, are outstanding players and on the fast-track to a lot of playing time. Follow vaughn mcclure‏@vxmcclure23Expected with Matthews of course, but will be interesting to see when Hageman gets increased reps. Hageman admitted he's too hard on himself
  20. Looks like more proof the Olinesmen believe in Tice, they have a good rapport with him. http://espn.go.com/blog/atlanta-falcons/post/_/id/6767/mike-tice-gets-fined-sort-of JUL 29 8:00 AM ET By Vaughn McClure | ESPN.com FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons offensive line coach Mike Tice has received multiple fines since joining the team. The offense? Bragging too much about the Pro Bowl linemen he tutored in the past such as Matt Birk, Todd Steussie, and the late Korey Stringer. Center Joe Hawley couldn't help but laugh as he snitched on his new coach. "He actually gets fined every time he name drops one of those guys in the meeting room," Hawley said. "He's always talking about these Hall of Famers and Pro Bowlers. And we're like, 'Come on, man. Stop living in the past.' He stops talking about it now." Hawley said the fine usually entails simply giving Tice a hard time, but left guard Justin Blalock revealed a little more detail. Blalock and left tackle Sam Baker are in charge of levying such fines. "He owes us a dinner or two, certainly," Blalock said. "A lot of time between the guys, we'll do push-up bets in lieu of money. But I'm not sure (Tice) can get down and do push-ups anymore." Obviously Tice has learned his lesson. "My goodness, he did it a lot during the offseason," Blalock said. "But he's starting to catch on to the games we play in our meeting room." Tice certainly gets his revenge with his coaching verbal assaults on the field.
  21. http://espn.go.com/b...judge-pass-rush FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons outside linebacker Jonathan Massaquoi laughed when reminded how much emphasis there has been on the team's inability to address its pass-rush woes through free agency or the draft. "I just feel like, hey, I’m going to continue to let everybody think what they want to think," Massaquoi said. "I have 10 guys on the field with me that trust me. I’ve got a coaching staff, I’ve got an organization that trust me and other guys to get the job done. "Technically, nobody knows what’s going to happen in September. Technically, nobody’s been here except from the outside looking in. I mean, hey, let them say that. We’re going to be scrutinized whether or not we’re on the top, whether or not we’re down, whether or not we’re doing good. All I can do is get ready for Sept. 7, for New Orleans, and show the world what we’ve been doing." That is quite a bit of confidence from a guy with just four sacks in 24 NFL games. But Massaquoi isn't caught up in numbers. Neither is Falcons coach Mike Smith, who would prefer to see consistent pressure and the defense getting of the field on third down rather than inflated sack numbers. The Falcons had the league's worst third-down defense, allowing opponents to convert 45.9 percent of the time. Smith is confident the group of pass-rushers will improve, starting with the 6-foot-2-inch, 264-pound Massaquoi. "I think he’s maturing, not only as a pass-rusher, but he’s maturing as a football player," Smith said. "I think he has the skill set that we’re looking for to fit into multiple pieces of our defense. "Jonathan, if you look at his numbers, they’re outstanding: his height, his speed, size, arm length. And he really had a productive second year. I feel like, in my conversations with him, that he left opportunities out there on the field. And I think he understands and realizes that, in retrospect, you don’t get second opportunities." Indeed, Massaquoi has matured. He pointed to last season's game against the New York Jets -- during which he played 18 snaps at defensive end in a 30-28 loss -- as a perfect example of learning from your mistakes. "The Jets was my only mismanaged game, mentally," he said. "My mental preparation wasn’t there. And I learned from that game. That’s why I’m in the position I’m in now. The biggest leap for me has been my mental preparation, my mentality coming into camp, my mentality off the field, my mentality coming back to here. All those [have] taken a leap. And it’s put me in this position right now. And I’ve got to continue to ascend." The onus might be on Massaquoi to elevate his game, but with no elite pass-rusher, applying pressure on opposing quarterbacks has to be a group effort. Fellow outside linebacker Kroy Biermann is underrated when it comes to applying pressure, but he could be the wildcard. Players such as Jonathan Babineaux, Malliciah Goodman, and rookie Ra'Shede Hageman should enhance pressure from inside. And end Osi Umenyiora, who led the team with 7.5 sacks last season, will be used as a designated pass-rusher. The training camp practices in pads should reveal a lot about where the pass rush stands. Then again, the Falcons are highly unlikely to reveal much about how they plan to attack opposing quarterbacks once the regular season begins. "The only way your performance is measured in practice is by your effort," Massaquoi said. "It doesn’t matter if you’re beating the guy. It’s your effort. And the end of the day, your effort can override a mistake. Effort’s everything. And attitude is No. 1."
  22. http://espn.go.com/blog/atlanta-falcons/post/_/id/6758/falcons-camp-report-day-4 Showing some fight: The Falcons provided plenty of footage for HBO's "Hard Knocks" during Monday's first padded practice. Numerous fights broke out throughout the day. It started with offensive lineman Gabe Carimi and outside linebacker Stansly Maponga exchanging punches following a pass-rush, one-on-one drill. "Both sides don't want to take crap," Carimi said. "I don't think there's anything personal between us. We'll talk about it. We'll be fine in the locker room. We'll be fine the next day. I think we've got two, passionate lines, and I think that's a good thing." The scuffle had a domino effect as outside linebackerJacques Smith and center Joe Hawley got into it with a heated exchange. Hawley took exception because Smith's a rookie, and he let the youngster know about it. Another veteran, guard Justin Blalock, had a problem with Smith's reaction, too. "Out here on the field, things are going to work a certain way: You're just not going to talk like that to certain people," Blalock said. "There are things in place to handle that type of stuff. Unfortunately, you had to see some of that today." Coach Mike Smith stepped in and used a couple of expletives to calm the situation. The rookie Smith later got into it with tackle Ryan Schraeder. Tough enough: Coach Smith seemed to be a little annoyed when the subject of toughness was brought up, considering it was the first time real hitting took place. "Everyone wants to talk about toughness: If you play in the National Football League, you are a tough person," Smith said. "It's about being resilient. It's about being strong. It's about being physical. Everybody that plays in the NFL is tough. And I can't tell you I've ever been around a football player that plays in the National Football League that's not tough. ... But in terms of being physical, we've got to be a more physical football team." Rocky road: There was a funny moment in practice when Matt Ryan lightly tackled cornerback Robert Alford after Alford picked off a pass and returned it. But it was no joke how the passing game with Ryan and T.J. Yates was a little out of sync. There was some solid defensive pressure, particularly from Jonathan Massaquoi, who threw Ryan's timing off on at least one play. The defensive backs also made plays by knocking the ball away. Rookie watch: Right tackle Jake Matthews was solid throughout the entire day, rarely giving up ground and forcing pass-rushers out wide. He was consistent in one-on-one drills and during full 11-on-11 team work. Defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman didn't fare as well, getting stood up a few times by offensive guard Harland Gunn both in drills and full team work. Practice ended with one play ran at full speed, and linebacker Marquis Spruillmade a nice tackle on fellow rookie Devonta Freeman. Extra points: Coach Smith said the pad level was way too high during the first padded practice. ... New defensive lineman Tyson Jackson and Paul Soliai looked the part up front with the pads on, barely getting push during one-on-ones and holding their own against double-teams. ... Julio Jones sat out practice, as planned. He'll be back Tuesday. ... Roddy White wore a thin knee brace but said it was no big deal. ... Team owner Arthur Blank attended practice.
  23. FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Atlanta Falcons training camp: It was interesting watching the pass-rushers continue their development under fiery defensive line coach Bryan Cox and outside linebackers coach Mark Collins. Players such as Jonathan Massaquoi, rookies Ra'Shede Hageman and Jacques Smith, and Malliciah Goodman showed some nice rush moves against various offensive linemen in one-on-one drills. Goodman took Terren Jones to the ground on one play. Hageman did nice work with getting his hands up toward the quarterback while rushing inside. There was spirited competition all-around between the offensive and defensive lines and pass-rushers. "You can see it's very competitive in a number of areas, the areas that we kind of been discussing all offseason," coach Mike Smith said. "We get through one more day tomorrow and we'll get an opportunity to really evaluate these linemen when we get into the pads." Veteran newcomer Josh Wilson continued to work as the primary nickel back ahead of incumbent Robert McClain and Javier Arenas. Don't read too much into yet, however. Smith said all three players should get a chance to be the primary nickel during the exhibition games, so it's an open competition now. It also makes sense to get Wilson more work because he's not as familiar with the defense as McClain. "It's a competitive situation,'' Smith said of the nickel spot. ``We're going to give about three guys the same amount of reps. ... It's tough because 65, 67 percent is going to be your sub and the other 35, 33 are going to be base. Those guys are going to have to show what they can do in a little different situation. It's not like they're going out there and getting all the snaps that we're going to run in our training camp.'' Speedy Bernard Reedy continues to impress as an undrafted receiver. He seems to catch any ball within his range with ease and has a second gear that helps him explode by defenders. ``Yes, Bernard is very fast,'' Smith said. ``He's got elite speed. He ran by some guys yesterday. He's got a better understanding of what we're trying to do. I think he's definitely one of those guys who's going to be in the mix for a roster spot. We know we have our big three (Roddy White, Julio Jones, Harry Douglas), Devin Hester, Drew Daviscoming back. We've got to make a decision on our 53-man roster, whether we're going to have five or six wide receivers.'' Smith reiterated the plan with Julio Jones, who was held out of Saturday's practice as a precaution coming off foot surgery. He'll take every other day off for the first week of camp and be evaluated. Jones only did agility drills on a side field during Saturday's practice. And outside linebacker Kroy Biermann (Achilles) will be off Sunday as part of the two days on, one day off schedule he's on. A couple of those days fall on days off, so Biermann will miss just one true day of practice. Desmond Trufant put in extra time after practice working on his skills. He continued to line up at right cornerback. ... Hester drew the biggest reaction of the day while catching a deep ball in one-on-on drills. ... Rookie linebacker Prince Shembo made a nice deflection of a T.J. Yates pass that earned praise from his veteran teammates. ... The Falcons signed wide receiver Jabin Sambrano to fill the roster void left after receiver Darius Johnson was waived. Johnson told the team he had enough of football and was considering coaching at his college, SMU, as a grad assistant.
  24. @vxmcclure23: Hageman fights like a mad man. If he can do the same under more control, he will be unstoppable one day. Sounds like he is bringing some intensity.
  25. FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Atlanta Falcons' training camp The big news of the day was Julio Jones returning to practice for the first time since suffering a right foot fracture in Week 5 of last year. Coach Mike Smith said Jones will be limited during camp with one day on, one day off. Jones showed no ill-effects while planting and cutting. His reps were limited during full-team drills and 1-on-1 coverage drills. "I thought it was very good," Smith said of Jones' first day. "You guys saw it. He was running routes very well. I thought the timing between he and Matt was good. We have a plan, a prescription that we're going to try to stay by for the first couple of weeks, and then we'll make an evaluation after that. It was great to see Julio back on the field." Smith promised camp would get a little physical. Outside linebacker Kroy Biermann and rookie offensive tackle Jake Matthews got into a scuffle that led to a punch thrown. Remember, Biermann missed most of last season with an Achilles tear so he's no doubt itching to get back at it. "Kroy has not been able to be out on the field ... I'm sure he's excited about it," Smith said. "And I'm sure that Jake is not going to back down from anybody. I imagine we'll have some of those types of battles all through training camp. Those things are good. It keeps it spirited, and we're going to have spirited football practices here in Flowery Branch up to the start of the first game." The offensive line will be on the spot going into the season, so seeing some fight from Matthews on Day 1 was a good start. It also was impressive new starting right guard Jon Asamoah seemed to shove guys around with ease. He was on the attack against defensive end Tyson Jackson, his old teammate in Kansas City. Tackle Lamar Holmes, who is on the roster bubble, showed fight going against Tyler Starr in pass rush drills, while veteran newcomer Gabe Carimi seemed to be frustrated with his performance during the same drill. Smith declined to go into detail about why the team waived second-year receiver Darius Johnson before practice. Johnson contributed as a reserve receiver last season. "No, I'm not going to comment on the reason that Darius was released," Smith said. "We never do. But there was a transaction that we put in today and he's no longer a member of our team." Outside linebacker Jonathan Massaquoi, the guy the Falcons are counting on to provide a consistent pass rush, took a few plays off after grabbing his hamstring. But Massaquoi said he was fine despite being stretched out by a member of the training staff, so it may have been cramps. He returned at the end of practice.
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