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  1. Mack’s Versatility His Best Asset March 2, 2014/in Daniel's Blog /by Daniel Cox Some will hear that Khalil Mack is a linebacker and wonder if that’s the biggest need the Falcons have this season to fill at No. 6 in this year’s draft. Mack isn’t an offensive or defensive lineman, so why draft him, some will ask. Well, he’s not a defensive lineman, but he can be. While at Buffalo, Mack developed into a true three-down linebacker, capable of defending the run and the pass and able to rush the passer as well. He also occasionally lined up at defensive end as a pass rusher and he’s telling teams that he can also do it in the NFL. “I talked to a couple of coaches already and I told them I could play,” Mack said from the Combine. ”I can play defensive end if they need me to.” PHOTOS: See Images From Mack’s College Career At 6-foot-3 and 251 pounds, the quickest knock on Mack at DE is his size. Tell that to six-time Pro Bowl DE/OLB Robert Mathis. At 6-foot-2 and 246 pounds, Mathis is identical to Mack in size and he’s made a long and successful career of getting to the quarterback despite less-than-ideal height as an end in a 4-3 defense. In some ways, Mack represents a great value for the Falcons at No. 6 since he can do so many things. He can pressure the quarterback from the end or the outside linebacker spot. He can defend the run. He’s able to run with tight ends and defend the pass very well. Those are all three characteristics that are safe to assume the Falcons are trying to improve this offseason. Mack may not be the highest-rated defensive player in this draft or the first one off the board, but he may be the draft’s most-versatile and the team that drafts him is adding a player capable of making an impact in a lot of different areas.
  2. It all starts today , Smithy also address media today at 11:45 , I believe , and TD is tomorrow Mike Smith, 11:45 a.m., Thursday, February 20 Thomas Dimitroff, 11 a.m., Friday, February 21 The depth of this year’s draft class means the Falcons can expect to find talented contributing players as late as the third and fourth rounds. Much of what the Falcons may add during the draft can be found along the offensive line, but there are also skill position players that should intrigue the Falcons. In addition to offensive tackle and guard, running back and tight end are reasonable positions of needs. The following rankings include prospects that can be found in all areas of the draft, not just top-end talent. Offensive Tackle 1) Jake Matthews, Texas A&M: A technically sound left tackle, Matthews is considered the top left tackle prospect in this year’s draft. 2) Greg Robinson, Auburn: If Matthews is considered the top LT, Robinson is considered the 1A candidate and boasts a strong, physical style as a run blocker and upside as a pass protector. || Robinson’s Draft Spotlight 3) Zack Martin, Notre Dame: A versatile lineman with experience at left tackle, Martin is considered a strong tackle prospect, but also possesses the physical nature to play inside at guard. 4) Seantrel Henderson, Miami: A mammoth player at 6-foot-7, 331 pounds, Henderson had an up-and-down career at Miami. He’s got all the physical skills desired for a right tackle and should be available in the middle rounds of the draft. With the right coaching, Henderson can turn into legitimate edge protector. 5) Brandon Thomas, Clemson: A steady player for Clemson, Thomas showed versatility at the Senior Bowl, lining up at both guard and tackle. Thomas has college experience at both positions and scouts believe he can be a solid starter at either in the NFL. Offensive Guard 1) Xavier Su’a-Filo, UCLA: Strong and balanced at the point of attack, Su’a-Filo may be the best guard in this year’s class. 2) Cyril Richardson, Baylor: Richardson may have some struggles transitioning to the NFL passing game, but he showed at Baylor that he’s a controlling run blocker. Playing in an upbeat system in college, Richardson’s conditioning may be one of his best assets. 3) David Yankey, Stanford: Far from the flashiest players at the position, Yankey gets the job done with strength, toughness and agility. He was one of the lead blockers in Stanford’s run-first offense and although he played some tackle while in college, he’s best suited for guard. If Yankey turns in large numbers in the bench press, his stock could rise high into the second round. 4) Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State: A ferocious protector, Jackson truly excels in the run game. He lacks the technical prowess that many in the NFL want to see, but there’s no denying Jackson has the nature to be dominant in the ground game. 5) Chris Watt, Notre Dame: A three-year starter at Notre Dame who plays smart with a blue-collar approach. Scouts like his attitude and what appears to be a well-rounded skill set, though not outstanding at anything. He’s considered a safe, starting-caliber player at guard. PHOTOS: See Images of the Top Offensive Players at the 2014 Combine Tight End 1) Eric Ebron, UNC: Easily the top tight end in this year’s draft, Ebron would be an interesting consideration for the Falcons should he fall into the second round. He’s got the necessary athleticism for tight end with above-average speed. While he’s not the best blocker, he’s willing, but is more of a playmaking tight end with excellent route running abilities. 2) C.J. Fiedorowicz, Iowa: A large target with sure hands, Fiedorowicz is a capable blocker and equally adept as a weapon. He’s well-rounded and durable and can be had in the third round. 3) Troy Niklas, Notre Dame: The next impressive tight end to come out of Notre Dame is Niklas. He’s mixes a large target with deceptive athleticism and improving blocking and can do everything asked of him. Like Fiedorowicz, Niklas is expected to be available in the third round. 4) Arthur Lynch, Georgia: Lynch isn’t quite the playmaker that some of tight end counterparts are, but he’s a smart football player that was a team captain in college. He offers a big pass-catching target and is an improving blocker. 5) Xavier Grimble, USC: When Grimble came out of high school, he was the top tight end in the country, but his time at USC didn’t showcase that kind of ability. He’s not a game-breaker will big-play ability or speed, but with the ball in his hands, he’s a load to bring down. Scouts think he can add more bulk to help with blocking and if he can put it all together, he could be a late-round steal. Running Back 1) Ka’Deem Carey, Arizona: What he lacks in prototypical size, Carey makes it up a hard-running style. He was a work horse at Arizona and a two-time All-American. He lacks blazing speed, but is a punishing runner with decent hands as a receiver out of the backfield. 2) Carlos Hyde, Ohio State: Ohio State boasted one of the best offenses in the country last season and Hyde was a big reason for that. At 6-foot, 238 pounds, Hyde has the size the NFL desires for its running backs. He doesn’t have elusive speed, but runs over defenders and is a good fit in power-running attacks. 3) Tre Mason, Auburn: Mason broke Bo Jackon’s single-season rushing record at Auburn, but he’s a different runner than Jackson. Compactly built, Mason doesn’t flash incredible speed, but does showcase excellent start-and-stop ability as well as creativity on the ground. He’s a capable blocker as well and most think he’ll be gone between the second and third rounds. 4) Charles Sims, West Virginia: The biggest question for Simms at the Combine will be how fast he runs. He’s a quick runner with speed around the edge suddenness with change of directions. He’s one of the better running back receivers in this year’s draft, making Simms a well-rounded prospect. He has room to improve as a blocker, but is already considered a third- or fourth-round prospect. 5) Dri Archer, Kent State: Archer is a late-round prospect and while he’s small by NFL standards, he’s got NFL speed. He may not be durable enough to be a between-the-tackles runner, but he’s versatile enough as a runner and receiver to be a useful weapon. He also is one of the top returners in the draft with four career kick returns for touchdowns. Schedule Wednesday, February 19 Kicker, special teams, some offensive line, tight end arrivals Thursday, February 20 Quarterback, wide receiver, running back arrivals Medical evaluations, weigh-ins and interviews for Wednesday arrivals Friday, February 21 Defensive line, linebacker arrivals Bench press and interviews for Wednesday arrivals Medical evaluations, weigh-ins and interviews for Thursday arrivals Saturday, February 22 Defensive back arrivals On-field workouts for Wednesday arrivals Bench press and interviews for Thursday arrivals Medical evaluations, weigh-ins and interviews for Friday arrivals Sunday, February 23 On-field workouts for Thursday arrivals Bench press and interviews for Friday arrivals Medical evaluations, weigh-ins and interviews for Saturday arrivals Monday, February 24 On-field workouts for Friday arrivals Bench press and interviews for Saturday arrivals Tuesday, February 25 On-field workouts for Saturday arrivals
  3. While the Falcons were coaching the North team at the Senior Bowl last week, they were getting an up-close look at some of their potential targets in this year’s draft. But with the draft still over three months away, the front office is spending most of their time studying the upcoming free agent class. In between coaching last week, the Falcons coaching staff was preparing as well. “All my time has been spent on free agency,” new defensive line coach Bryan Cox said from the Senior Bowl. “Who is going to be free? Who is out there? Trying to get those things done. As we move into the calendar, we’re just moving forward looking forward to what is going to happen. Trying to see what players may become available as free agents.” PHOTOS: See Images from Saturday’s Senior Bowl Free agency is set to begin in March and that will be the first phase of the Falcons’ offseason improvement plan. Atlanta’s front office is using the help of its coaching staff to generate feedback on prospective free agents. Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said the staffs are putting togetherscouting reports on players that will be available in free agency this year. “Each report, you have to watch three to four games. So for free agents, they gave me 22 guys, that means I’ve got 88 full game films to watch, just on free agents,” Koetter said. “We do the same thing again with college guys. Every coach on our staff is getting about 25 guys that they’re studying.” While it’s rarely been in the team’s plans under general manager Thomas Dimitroff to make a big splash in free agency, they have dipped into it each season to sign a valuable veteran or two. That could be the case again this year and Dimitroff is using the feedback from the coaches that will work with those players to help make roster decisions.
  4. Earlier this week, Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff joined AtlantaFalcons.com’s Jay Adams and Morgan Andrew in a live Google Hangout from the Senior Bowl. Dimitroff fielded questions from fans via Twitter and Facebook and he was open and candid about his thoughts on the 2013 season and the kind of changes ahead for the Falcons in 2014. While I recommend watching it for yourself, here are five things you need to know from Dimitroff’s Hangout. 1) Rugged Falcons: The grit of the Falcons is what Dimitroff is looking to reinforce during this offseason. He points to the hiring of two new coaches, Bryan Cox and Mike Tice, as part of the plan to give the Falcons a consistent toughness in the trenches. The reports from the Senior Bowlreinforce Dimitroff’s idea that Cox and Tice fit the rugged and gritty description and the general manager is encouraged by what he’s seen of their approach so far. The addition of that mentality won’t end with the coaching staff, Dimitroff said: ”One of our main focuses will be to truly add that element of ruggedness to this football team. We feel we have some very rugged football players and we feel we have some adjustments, no question about that, across the organization.” 2) 2013 Rookies: Dimitroff thinks the experience this year’s rookies received will be valuable moving forward, but two rookies in particular stood out to him. Last year’s first-round pick Desmond Trufant took all the lessons he learned facing Julio Jones and Roddy White during training camp into the regular season. Dimitroff saw a player who had been pushed to the limits early on in camp and never backed down from any matchup during the season. Trufant showed his GM the speed, consistency and swagger that he knew he was drafting. As a college free agent, linebacker Paul Worrilow arrived to the Falcons in a much different way than Trufant, but showed the path to the NFL doesn’t matter. The rookie led the team in tackles and impressed Dimitroff with his football acumen, reinforced by some feedback on Worrilow that defensive coordinator Mike Nolan provided: ”Mike Nolan has gone as far as saying he’s been one of the smartest football players, and most football-instinctive players, that he’s been around, short of guys like Ray Lewis and some of the special defenders he’s been around.” 3) Protecting No. 2: In 2013, only nine teams allowed more sacks than the Falcons. It’s obvious 44 sacks is too many and Dimitroff made it clear that protecting franchise quarterback Matt Ryan is central to the success of the team. Dimitroff addressed the up-and-down seasons of Lamar Holmes and Peter Konz and expressed confidence that both can be viable options for the Falcons moving forward. Ultimately, Dimitroff said the Falcons know they can only go as far as their quarterback can take them. They believe they have a good one in Ryan, but the 2013 sack totals can’t become the norm: ”We’re looking to really fortify that pocket and be able to create the pocket so that Matt has the ability to move around. Any adept and functioning quarterback in the National Football League has to be able to move around.” 4) Bones Heal: The fortunate thing about many of the injuries the Falcons had this year is they weren’t catastrophic. Dimitroff shared that all of last year’s injured players are healing on schedule, including one star wide receiver everyone’s looking forward to seeing again. The GM said Julio Jones will be healthy and ready to go for next season. PHOTOS: See Images from Wednesday’s Senior Bowl Practice 5) What They’re Looking For: The offseason is all about trying to figure out what your team will do in the draft. While Dimitroff isn’t foolish enough to unveil his entire draft plan to the internet, he did share some ideas about what he’s looking for at specific positions. In response to a question about the traits he looks for in linemen on both sides of the ball, Dimitroff was open about aspects of the type of player he’s looking for. Defensive tackle: Dimitroff said he wants DTs with girth and capable of preventing chaos on the interior of the line. With that size comes a toughness and resiliency to stay strong in the middle despite repeated contact: ”Those kinds of guys inside from a defensive line standpoint, usually they have that gritty, that rugged element in them. We need to continue to get that.” Defensive end: On the edge, Dimitroff is looking for the disruptive forces that frequently find the backfield through athleticism and size or quickness and creativity. Dimitroff said those are the special guys you want on the outside and they’re hard to find: ”Those guys don’t come along that often, the really special ones. That’s something we’re always going to be looking for and every team in the NFL is looking to have, quite honestly not only one, but two.” O-line: For the interior, Dimitroff referred back to fortifying the interior pocket with tough, instinctive players. At tackle, they’re looking for linemen that can protect the edge and face off against fierce pass rushers and hold their own: “They’re able to not panic and able to hang tough. And honestly, get beat and the next play, come right back like a cornerback, like a quarterback. They’re going to have to forget and have a short memory and that’s something I think our offensive linemen are continuing to learn.”
  5. (He appears to be all about o and d lines) 1) Early Days: Pioli began his football career as a player at Central Connecticut State University from 1983 to 1987. A defensive tackle, Pioli was a three-time Division II All-New England honoree and finished with 222 career tackles. He was a team captain during his senior season and his defensive line coach, Frank Leonard (currently a coach at Boston College), has called Pioli the toughest player he’s ever coached. Pioli was inducted into the Central Connecticut Alumni Athletic Hall of Fame in 2005. At CCSU, Pioli developed his passion for football, often studying film from a projector onto a bed sheet to prepare for opponents. 2) Off the Field: Pioli’s life in the NFL is represented in his family. While with the New York Jets from 1997 to 2000, Pioli met his wife, Dallas, who is the daughter of Pioli’s boss at the time, head coach Bill Parcells. Pioli’s charitable efforts have been a mainstay during all his stops in the NFL. He’s created three different college scholarships during his career, one to CCSU students, one for the children of Kansas City Chiefs employees and one for young woman in the Kansas City area. Pioli oversaw the Chiefs’ efforts to aid victims of a Joplin, Missouri tornado in 2011. 3) Career Beginnings: Pioli cut his teeth in the NFL with organizations like the Browns, Ravens and Jets before rising to prominence with the New England Patriots from 2000 to 2008. Pioli worked closely with Bill Belichick in New England, helping the head coach put together rosters that won three Super Bowls. Belichick first met Pioli in the late 80’s when Pioli was a graduate assistant at Syracuse University. Pioli drove 90 minutes each way to attend New York Giants practices. Belichick was the defensive coordinator with the Giants and when Belichick took over the Browns in 1991, he brought Pioli with him, beginning their long relationship in the NFL. 4) Kansas City Days: As the general manager of the Kansas City Chiefs, Pioli’s first major move when hired was trading Tony Gonzalez to the Falcons on April 23, 2009. Pioli drafted four current Pro Bowl players on Kansas City’s roster. The former GM’s work on the roster from 2009 to 2012 is still evident. Last season, 15 of Pioli’s 32 draft picks were still on the roster. Of the five starters on the offensive line last season in Kansas City, three of them were Pioli draft picks. They tied for 18th in the NFL with 41 sacks allowed and were 10th in rushing, averaging 128.5 yards per game. 5) Drafts on the Line: Pioli’s experience as a defensive lineman while a player in college has influenced his career as an NFL personnel executive. He coached both lines during his time as a coach at Murray State from 1990 to 1991 and in drafts he’s been directly involved in, he’s selected a lineman in the top three rounds in nine of 12 drafts. As a personnel director assisting Belichick in New England, Pioli oversaw five of eight drafts with a lineman selection in the top three rounds. With Kansas City, all four of his drafts featured linemen in the top three rounds, including two defensive linemen selections with the top overall pick. Pioli was named Sporting News NFL Executive of the Year in 2003 and 2004, the youngest ever to win the award and the third person to receive the honor in consecutive seasons.
  6. 1) Trent Murphy//DE//Stanford Size: 6’6″/260 Key Stat: Murphy led the Pac-12 with 14 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss in 13 games in 2013. What You Need to Know: Possibly the best defensive player in the Pac-12 last season, Murphy added to his tremendous totals with one interception returned for a touchdown, six pass break ups, two forced fumbles and one blocked kick during an All-American season. The defensive team captain was described by Stanford head coach David Shaw as “a nasty, physical player who’s in his own category” late last season. Murphy is considered a first-to-second-round draft pick in this year’s draft and he’s one of the top players at his position with the numbers to back it up. 2) Dee Ford//DE //Auburn Size: 6’2″/240 Key Stat: 12.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks during Ford’s First-Team All-SEC senior season. What You Need to Know: The BCS National Championship game put Ford on the map with two sacks, but Ford was on the NFL’s radar long before. Though many think he’s undersized, Ford’s experience at linebacker and defensive end makes him a possible fit as a pass-rushing 3-4 outside linebacker as well as a mobile defensive end, capable of rushing and dropping back into coverage. Ford’s combination of power and burst off the edge could help Ford’s draft stock improve, bringing him up from his current second-round projection. READ: Ten Offensive Players to Watch in Senior Bowl 3) Kareem Martin//DE//UNC Size: 6’6″/265 Key Stat: Paced the Tarheels defense with 78 tackles, 20 tackles for loss and 11 sacks in 2013. What You Need to Know: Blessed with quickness, Martin has the size and speed to excel at defensive in the NFL ranks. Overshadowed by other bigger names at defensive end, Martin could turn out to be a steal in the third round of this year’s draft. Martin still has some learning to do at the next level, but he showed during the second half of the season last year, when he’s on, he’s on and Martin is capable of taking over games. 4) Aaron Donald//DT//Pittsburgh Size: 6’0″/285 Key Stat: Nation-leading 26.5 tackles for loss in 2013. What You Need to Know: Donald’s head coach called him a “one-man wrecking crew” and for good reason. Not only did he lead the country in tackles for loss, he added 10 sacks and has a total of 28.5 in his career, second among active players. Scouts knock Donald’s size, calling him undersized and some wonder if he can hold it down in the center of a defensive line in the NFL, but his production in college says he can. Donald uses his quickness and hand strength to generate push and could be a good fit in the middle of a 4-3 defense as a rusher pushing the pocket. 5) Ra’Shede Hageman//DT//Minnesota Size: 6’6″/311 Key Stat: Named one of the scariest players in college football. What You Need to Know: A converted tight end, Hageman paints a startling picture of a large human rushing the quarterback. Hageman was only credited with two sacks during 2013, but that was primarily because of the frequent double teams he faced. Despite the mismatch, he still managed to compile 34 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, one interception and eight pass break ups as a redshirt senior. Large, athletic and strong, Hageman is considered a first-round prospect and the stage is set for a steep rise to the top of this year’s draft class. 6) Daniel McCullers//DT//Tennessee Size: 6’8″/351 Key Stat: One blocked kick in 2013. What You Need to Know: McCullers is a large man. He’s also a little rough around the edges in regards to football experience, but his size and what he’s done at Tennessee lead many to believe he’ll adjust to the NFL well. He commands double teams in the middle of the defensive line and is good against the rush. Showing he’s better as a pocket collapser than he demonstrated at times in college will boost his draft stock to something much higher than his current third-round projection. 7) Michael Sam//OLB//Missouri Size: 6’2″/255 Key Stat: 2013 SEC Defensive Player of the Year What You Need to Know: There were a lot of good defensive players in the SEC last year, but Michael Sam was the best. He played defensive end at Missouri, but will probably convert to a full-time outside linebacker in the NFL so teams can utilize his attacking playing style. His 18 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks were both top 10 in the country last year and Sam is currently projected as a second- or third-round prospect. 8) Telvin Smith//LB//Florida State Size: 6’3″/218 Key Stat: Three interceptions in 2013, two returned for touchdowns. What You Need to Know: If you’re looking for a linebacker with coverage skills, Smith is your man. What he lacks in size, he makes up for in pursuit and coverage ability. He led the national champions last season with 90 tackles and added 9.5 tackles for loss. He comes up big in big games and in the national championship, he recorded a career high 15 tackles and has been one of the team’s unquestioned leaders all season. 9) Chris Davis//CB//Auburn Size: 5’11″/200 Key Stat: Finished third in the nation with an 18.7 punt return average. What You Need to Know: Davis is best known for his game-winning 109-yard return for a touchdown against Alabama in 2013 and it’s that exact play that exemplifies what kind of player Davis is. He’s projected as a fourth rounder or later, but Davis brings experience, a high football IQ and an ability as a returner on special teams. He was twice named Special Teams Player of the Week, earned Second-Team All-SEC honors as a corner and led the Tigers in tackles last season. 10) Deone Bucannon//S//Washington State Size: 6’1″/198 Key Stat: Over the last three seasons, Bucannon has 12 interceptions. What You Need to Know: A First-Team Pac-12 player, Bucannon led the conference in tackles with 109 and he entered the bowl season as the NCAA’s active leader in career solo tackles. Bucannon has good awareness for the interception, can defend the run well and isn’t averse to mixing it up on the field. He’s projected as a second- or third-round player and what you’re getting is a sure tackler (back-t0-back 100-tackle seasons) and a playmaker with the ball in the air.
  7. A few days after naming Mike Tice the Falcons’ new offensive line coach, the Falcons announced the hiring of Bryan Cox to the open defensive line coach position. As a player in the NFL, Cox went to the three Pro Bowls and won a Super Bowl, and since becoming a coach in 2006, Cox has been teaching a new crop of defensive linemen and pass rushers to play in the NFL. There is a lot you may not know about Cox, so with that in mind, here are five things on the latest coaching staff addition to get you started. 1. College Days: Before he was a fifth-round draft pick by the Dolphins in 1990, Cox played at Western Illinois. He led the team in tackles and interceptions during his senior All-American season in 1990. He holds the school record for blocked kicks in a single game (2), blocked kicks in a career (10) and interceptions returned for touchdowns in a career (3). 2. NFL Career: During his 12-year career, Cox was named to the Pro Bowl three times, but many remember his first Pro Bowl season in 1992 as his best season. That year he had 14.5 of his 51.5 career sacks. Notable quarterbacks Cox sacked in his career include Bernie Kosar, Jim Kelly, Jim Everett, Bobby Hebert, Jeff George, Troy Aikman, Jim Harbaugh, Warren Moon, Steve Young and Dan Marino. In his final season in 2002, he did not record a sack, but he did record the first and only kick return of his career. Cox had the opportunity to play under three head coaches widely regarded as some of the best in the history of the NFL: Don Shula, Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick. PHOTOS: See Images of Bryan Cox’s Playing and Coaching Career 3. Pro Bowl Tips: Cox played a role in helping Tampa’s 2010 first-round pick Gerald McCoy become a Pro Bowl player in 2012. While working with Falcons current defensive coordinator Mike Nolan in Miami in 2011, Cox worked with a defensive line that featured defensive tackle Paul Soliai’s first Pro Bowl selection. As an assistant defensive line coach with the Jets in 2008, Cox worked with Kris Jenkins, helping the defensive tackle earn the third of his four career Pro Bowls. Cox was part of a staff that transitioned Jenkins from seven seasons as a defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense to a nose tackle in a 3-4. 4. Coaching Up: Cox has worked with defensive lines that have finished in the top 10 in the NFL in sacks three times, including an eighth-place finish in 2009 with the Browns and seventh with the Jets in ’08. The 2012 Tampa defensive line helped the Bucs rank No. 1 in the league against the run and Cox was part of New York’s seventh-ranked run defense with the in ’08. Cox’s work with pass rushers with Nolan in Miami led to the Dolphins tenth-place finish in the league in sacks. The Dolphins also finished third against the run that season. 5. Versatililty: While the Falcons operate out of a 4-3 defense, they frequently show a variety of things, including 3-4 looks. Nolan has operated both during his time in the league and clearly likes to mix and match based on matchups. Cox is a great fit to help defensive linemen understand the various techniques involved in defensive line play for 3-4 and 4-3 defenses. As a player, Cox spent eight seasons playing in a 4-3 defense and four in a 3-4. As a coach, he’s coached three seasons in a 4-3 and five seasons in a 3-4. hadn't seen it posted fyi
  8. http://blogs.atlantafalcons.com/2013/12/03/trufant-record/ Trufant Sets Falcons Record on Defense Expecting your first-round pick to start right away and make an impact is a risk in any season. This year, the Falcons took that risk with first-round cornerback Desmond Trufant and it paid off. More and more each week, Trufant is involved in key plays in games and he’s earning his first-round draft status. Trufant leads the team in pass deflections this season and he’s got one interception through 13 weeks. Trufant had one tackle and one pass defense against the Bills last week and according to Stats LLC., Trufant’s 14 pass deflections this season are the most by a Falcons rookie in a single season. The previous high for the franchise was owned by Darnell Walker, who recorded 13 pass deflections in 1993. Stats shared by NFL.com list Trufant with 15 pass deflections on the season, second among all rookies behind Kansas City’s Marcus Cooper. With 15, Trufant is tied with Philadelphia’s Brandon Boykin and Arizona’s Patrick Peterson for second among all NFC cornerbacks. Trufant’s interception this season came against Carolina and his season-high three pass deflections came against Tampa Bay in Week 7. He’s had a pass breakup in every game this season except two. After a tough training camp facing off against Julio Jones and Roddy White every day, Trufant earned the starting job in Week 1 and has started every game since. This season, he’s played 94 percent of the possible 805 defensive snaps. Against Buffalo, he missed just one snap. As the season winds down and thoughts turn to next season, at cornerback the Falcons appear to be looking good. With more experience under his belt, there’s a good chance Trufant will begin to turn those pass deflections into interceptions and really start to change games in coming seasons.
  9. I really like the attitude our players are demonstrating. They are level headed...like we've here before. I'm digging it. http://www.atlantafalcons.com/news/article-1/Falcons-Tuning-Out-The-Talk/c7d20c44-e03c-4671-86dd-ea4b11505790
  10. Ryan, Jones Benefit From Offseason Together By:Daniel Cox | June 20th, 2012 Without an offseason last year to work together, the Matt Ryan and Julio Jones connection was slow to develop. This season has featured a full offseason program to work out and learn Dirk Koetter’s offense and it’s beginning to show. Tuesday’s minicamp practice featured the Ryan-to-Julio connection frequently. With a fresh haircut to show off for the fans at the Falcons’ first day of minicamp, Julio Jones showed what a difference an offseason makes. Although he was the team’s first overall pick last season, the prize of a draft-night deal to jump to No. 6, he didn’t get a lot of time to work out with the team and the coaching staff because of the lockout. Rehab on his own from an ankle injury slowed his own work as well and once the season got going as quickly as the lockout ended, it was obvious Jones was doing what he could to hold his head above water. The exciting part about Jones is that holding his head above water for 13 games produced 54 catches for 959 yards and eight touchdowns. It’s clear that 2011 was the surface for Jones and he’s already scratching it. With an offseason of OTAs with quarterback Matt Ryan and the coaching staff, Jones is getting the seasoning he needs. “It’s great to have Julio here in the offseason program,” head coach Mike Smith said. “Last year was very unique. We didn’t have an offseason program. We anticipate his maturation process is going to go real quick. The arrow is just going up and up with him and with all of our skill players.” On Tuesday he showed the fans the kind of ability the Falcons have envisioned for him. Catching passes from Ryan, Jones demonstrated the technique and body control to make catches that put the fans in attendance on their feet. Appearing more solidly built, Jones and his deep speed should be the perfect counter part to Roddy White’s strength game in offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter’s vertical passing game. Ryan is very happy to be throwing to Jones this offseason. The time they’re spending together learning Koetter’s new offense should pay dividends in the 2012 season. “I think it’s really beneficial for us to have this offseason,” Ryan said. “It’s his first one. He’s had an opportunity to work with our receivers coach Terry Robiskie day in and day out without the stress of the week during the season and without a game plan. Really just to work on technique, work on route running and try to understand our offense a little bit more in-depth. He’s done a great job. He’s worked really hard. He seems really confident out there.” Published 03 hours ago hours ago by Daniel Cox.
  11. Everyone is learning all the new aspects of coordinator Dirk Koetter’s offense. The learning for Kerry Meier is spread across multiple positions at the wide receiver position but the mental and physical preparation he’s put in has prepared him for the extra workload. Now two seasons removed from an injury, he might be ready to take a step forward as a receiver. Every year of Kerry Meier’s first three with the Falcons has included a major learning obstacle to overcome. As a rookie, a knee injury took him off the field for the entirety of the season. It was the first significant injury of his playing career at any level. Instead of adjusting to life on the field as an NFL rookie, he was adjusting to life as a rehabbing player. Last season’s lockout during the offseason complicated his rehab and training camp threw everyone and their bodies into the football-contact fire immediately. The wide receiver quickly had to accept his physical progress and move on to the mental aspect of coming back from an major knee injury. The ability to be on the field and take hits and be physical was a major step for Meier and his development on his way back from an injury and as an up-and-coming player in the league. This year, with those obstacles behind him, he’s learning a new offense. It could be said for a player who has been through what he has in his first two years, the third obstacle is by far the easiest. Regardless, here he is, and he feels better than he ever has, mentally and physically. “I definitely felt that through these OTAs, my body feels strong,” he said following Tuesday’s morning walk through. “I feel comfortable doing all of the movements that I ask my body to do. Right now I’ve never been more confident in what I’m doing with my body as well as mentally. I’m looking forward to finishing this week off strong and taking care of my body in July and coming back in August and being ready to roll.” Meier played one full season in college as Kansas’ quarterback and finished his career there as the team’s backup while setting school records as a wide receiver. The background as a QB and the ability to conceptualize the entire offense has helped him learn new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter’s new offense. He’s likely to be the team’s fourth wide receiver on the depth chart, but that mainly means his role as a backup will feature the same versatility that he showed while at Kansas. “What I like to think I’m capable of doing is being versatile and being able to step in and fall in behind Harry (Douglas), Roddy (White) or Julio (Jones) and not miss a beat if one of them needs to come off the field,” he said. “… As we go with the wide receivers corps, the offense will go as well. Right now, the big thing is continuing to learn the nuances of what Coach Koetter’s doing, the new folds and wrinkles that he’s bringing in and learning each position. I think it’s great if you can approach and learn the outside and the slot, because then you understand the whole concept of a play and not just one thing and one thing only.” It takes a certain kind of mentally-tough player to overcome injuries so early in a career and not be afraid of the extra work it takes to learn multiple positions. Though Meier didn’t catch a single pass last season, he was on the field, sharpening his mind and his body. With the obstacles hurdled, he’s beginning to take his place inside an offense that appears to be in tune with bringing out the best in each of its playmakers. Meier may not be a playmaker just yet, but he’s a jack-of-all trades type of player that will fill a vital role in more than one area.
  12. Ray’s Ready To Play By:Daniel Cox | June 13th, 2012 Last season didn’t quite go as expected for Ray Edwards. An offseason surgery combined with the lockout didn’t allow the defensive end to get the work in that he’s used to. Now a second-year member of the Falcons and learning a new scheme with everyone else, he feels much more at home and ready to bring it. There’s a lot of changes going around the Falcons this offseason, most notably is the addition of new coordinators on both sides of the ball. Mike Nolan brings a defensive scheme to Atlanta that is widely recognized as successful around the league, with a trademark aggression that puts an emphasis on taking away the ball by any means necessary. More of the more quiet changes, or adjustments, is Ray Edwards’ comfort level with the Falcons. Edwards joined the Falcons within a few days of training camp starting after the lockout wiped all offseason activities off the schedule. A knee surgery during the offseason and rehab on his own set him back before he was even able to begin with his new team. This year his smile is like a million bucks and he’s enjoying the experience of practicing with his teammates in a way he didn’t last year, while they learn Nolan’s scheme. “Definitely coming here and getting more camaraderie with the guys and getting more familiar with the guys, spending time with them off the field as well as on the field,” Edwards said on Wednesday. “Just having fun and getting to know each other and personalities. Just having a great time out here.” Edwards recorded 3.5 sacks last season after two straight seasons in Minnesota of eight or more sacks. While he was strong in run defense, his pass pressure and sack totals weren’t quite what he was expecting. The defensive end said coming straight out of a surgery and into the full season was difficult on his body. As the season progressed he began to have trouble with his other leg as well. This season he says the offseason has allowed him to get fully healthy and he’s ready to play. Falcons head coach Mike Smith anticipates an improvement from his prize defensive end signing from a year ago. “Ray is much healthier than he was at the end of the season, like all of our guys,” he said. “We anticipate that he’s going to improve. Working with Mike and the new scheme, there’s a learning curve that all the guys are going through, but I think he’ll do a good job for us.” As he and his teammates are learning Nolan’s system, one key trait jumps out, especially to the defensive linemen. “It’s a lot better,” Edwards said of his role versus the role he played in 2011. “It’s more of us up front attacking, attacking, attacking and not jumping back in coverage. That’s the more plus thing of the defense and letting the back end play the way they play.” With the addition of Asante Samuel at cornerback, joining Brent Grimes and Dunta Robinson, the Falcons secondary should be able to maintain their coverage perhaps better than they did last season. If that’s the case, Edwards sees a rotation of players in the front four that can aggressively go after the quarterback and force mistakes. It’s the kind of play he’s used to from his five seasons as a Viking. He thinks the best way to get the most of out his abilities is to let him go chase the quarterback. “I came from a defense in Minnesota where it didn’t matter, we just rushed the front four and let the back end do their job,” he said. “That’s what I think this defense is more geared to.” Published 01 hour ago hours ago by Daniel Cox.
  13. Back Home In The Back End By:Daniel Cox | June 13th, 2012 Thomas Decoud returned to Atlanta in the offseason and he feels more at home than ever. In the middle of a new defensive scheme that places responsibility and potential on the safety, DeCoud sees the coming seasons with excitement. Everything is simplified and DeCoud is happy with the direction. Despite having to learn a new defensive scheme, safety Thomas DeCoud’s decision to re-sign with the Falcons in the offseason was all about comfort. After four years in Atlanta, all under former coordinator Brian Van Gorder, DeCoud felt like Atlanta was the right place, even though Mike Nolan was bringing a new style to the Falcons. “It was one of those things, being a safety, a lot of your career is being comfortable, knowing the system and knowing the guys around you,” he said. “I knew the system and granted we have a pretty new system now, but I know the guys in front of us and the guys know me. It’s about being comfortable where you are, especially at the safety position.” As it turns out, the system may be the perfect fit for DeCoud. After becoming a starter in 2009, he’s remained consistent in his performance. He had some ups and downs during 2011 but believes Nolan’s simplified defense will be good for him. He hesitates to call it “safety-oriented” but believes the opportunities to make more plays will be there. “It’s fun to get out here and Nolan has a new feel,” he said. “The defense is a little bit simpler so we can play a lot faster. I think the safeties will be a lot more involved with the defense this year. I’m looking forward to it.” Back in May at the rookie minicamp, secondary coach Tim Lewis said one of the goals for DeCoud this season was to continue to help ensure everyone is lined up correctly, but to do it quicker. Doing it quicker, to Lewis, would allow DeCoud to see the ball quicker and make more plays on the ball. With the addition of Asante Samuel at cornerback, DeCoud thinks a simplified approach will enable him and his secondary mates to get lined up quickly. He considers the opportunities endless. “It’s a little bit more simpler defense,” he said. “We’re able to make calls and get off the leash and make plays as a secondary.” One of the primary tenets of Nolan’s defenses in the past has been the takeaway, sourced mostly off front end pressure and strong coverage. The idea is simple and DeCoud and his teammates see it that way. The simplicity of everything has produced a very simple goal this season. “I think just getting the ball back a lot more for our offense and making a lot more plays on the ball,” he said. “… A lot more plays are going to be in our lap.” Published 41 mins ago hours ago by Daniel Cox.
  14. Transition to New Offense Going Smoothly By:Daniel Cox | June 8th, 2012 It’s two weeks into OTAs, and the Falcons are beginning to visualize what their offense is going to look like in 2012. Some aspects of the offensive approach have definitely changed, with new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter calling the shots. AF.com’s Daniel Cox examines a few major characteristics beginning to emerge at OTAs in Flowery Branch. NFL teams rarely come right out and say what they’re going to do. Today’s NFL is a league full of secrets and mystery, all in the name of gaining any competitive edge that can be found. This offseason the Falcons introduced a new offensive coordinator and the safe assumption is that things will change. Just how much is what the mystery is and what everyone wants to know. So far, we’ve learned the screen game will be a factor—a potentially big one—in 2012. Head coach Mike Smith has said running back Michael Turner’s carries may be lower than in recent years and obviously Julio Jones’ second year in the league is highly anticipated. Beyond all that, what else can be expected this season? New offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter has a history of experience with the vertical pass, a weapon that suits what Atlanta has at its disposal on offense. Turner said he doesn’t know what having his carries monitored will mean, but he still views his job as unchanged. However, he offered a hint about the passing game. “I mean playing running back is playing running back,” he said. “I get the tough yards, get some explosive plays. There might be a little more passing than normal than what Falcons fans are used to. You’ve just got to be ready when your name is called.” The early reports from the players are that the installment of the new offense is going well. Everyone is spending the OTAs getting to know each other and the terminology of the new offense, but anyone expecting huge differences in Atlanta’s offense over the last four years and this upcoming year’s version may be in for a rude awakening. Smith said after Wednesday’s OTA practice that what he’s excited most about this year’s offense is the competition he and the coaching staff have helped create with new additions, especially on the offensive line. Otherwise, many parts of the offense will remain as they have with better execution. “I think I like the way our guys are working,” Smith said. “We’ve obviously changed some things from last year. Probably more is being the same than is being changed. I like some of the subtle changes that we’ve seen. I like the competition that we’ve created on the offensive line. It’s going to be a very competitive rest of the offseason and training camp. Competition is a very good thing.” In an effort to make the transition to Koetter’s offense as seamless as possible, the coaching staff has worked hard to ensure the terminology is the same or similar as what they’ve used in the past. The theory is that this will allow everyone to learn quickly what they’re already familiar with as well as what is changing. So far the process has worked out well. “They’ve adjusted their schemes and terminology to what we were doing and fitting in,” center Todd McClure said. “It’s been an easy adjustment for us.” As the OTAs move into training camp, everyone will start to see just what kind of adjustments the Falcons have made. Published 01 day ago hours ago by Daniel Cox.
  15. Slotted For Success By:Daniel Cox | June 5th, 2012 While Julio Jones is expected to take a huge leap forward in 2012 after an encouraging rookie season, there is another Falcons wide receiver that some believe will have a breakout season of his own this year. Harry Douglas has the injury of 2009 fully behind him, and he enters 2012 fully healthy with an expectation of being a bigger part of Atlanta’s new offense. The Falcons wide receiver duo is clearly one of the best tandems in the entire NFL. But most who size up NFL teams’ wideout rosters focus on the high-profile pairing of Roddy White and Julio Jones. But another veteran route-runner, Harry Douglas, stands poised to enter the spotlight this season. Douglas, who re-signed with the Falcons during the offseason, will be Atlanta’s slot wide receiver in 2012. While it’s the same role he’s played since his rookie year in 2008, under new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, he’s expected to see an increase in his usage. An increase in his usage means a potential jump in his production as NFL.com’s Steve Wyche sees it. Douglas made Wyche’s list of of players on the verge of a breakout season in ’12. An injury took Douglas’ 2009 season, another year many pegged him as a breakout candidate. The 2010 season for Douglas was all about finding his legs and confidence again. Last season saw him catch a career-high 39 passes for 498 yards. This season, according to Wyche, could see even more of a jump for Douglas despite a bigger season from Jones in his second season. Wyche thinks the relationship with Koetter will benefit Douglas. “(Douglas) has an opportunity to emerge a more of a factor than he’s been,” Wyche wrote. Douglas said recently that Koetter’s presence with Atlanta was a big factor in returning to the Falcons. “Coach Koetter, he’s a good guy,” Douglas said. “I sat down and talked with him before I signed back here. The stuff he sees and the stuff he does, it’s good. It’s good because he’s going to play to our strengths. It’s always good when you can do that.” Though it won’t help his fantasy football cause, Douglas is also expected to compete for the punt and kick returner’s job in 2012, a role he performed with electric results during his rookie season. A strong showing as a receiver and in the return game could prove Wyche correct by the end of the season and show everyone both Douglas and the Falcons made the right decision during the offseason to continue their partnership. Published 01 day ago hours ago by Daniel Cox. http://twitter.com/falconsdcox
  16. Returner Role Up For Grabs By:Daniel Cox | May 29th, 2012 One of the open jobs heading into training camp this year for the Falcons will be the return man. The Falcons have as many as four or five options on the roster to fill this role. Third-year cornerback Dominique Franks is one of them, and he’s hoping to catch on with the role. While there are a number of viable candidates that have joined the Falcons offseason roster as college free agents, during the rookie minicamp early in May, Falcons head coach Mike Smith said the open kick and punt returner’s job will likely be filled by someone with experience already on the roster. Of the college free agents, James Rodgers is the best-suited candidate. Based on experience in past seasons, Dominique Franks, Brent Grimes and Harry Douglas are the players the job may come down to. Second-year running back Jacquizz Rodgers is a name that has been mentioned as well in recent weeks. Douglas performed the role of punt returner with excellent results as a rookie in 2008. An injury in 2009 that saw him miss the entire season has sidetracked him and he’s not worked as a returner since. Franks got some work in as a returner during the preseason last year. A quality return man in college at Oklahoma, the third-year corner said he continued to work on the craft last year before and after practice during the season. Holding down a consistent returner’s job in the NFL is one of his dreams. “I always returned kicks in high school and I did it in college,” he said. “It’d be a great honor to do it in the NFL. I just have to come out here and catch all the kicks as I can and get as much practice as I can fielding so when we get in the game it’ll just come natural and I don’t have to think about people coming down at you. I can just focus on catching the ball.” Catching the ball is the key to a good returner, Franks said. While athletic ability, speed and quickness are all necessary, it all comes after the primary job of simply making the catch. He said catching the ball is his primary objective and he believes in the schemes that special teams coach Keith Armstrong uses in returns. With the schemes in place, he believes he’s got a good chance to return one for a touchdown every time, as long as everyone is doing their job. Catch the ball and find the hole is how he describes the job. With the real work of the offseason just beginning, Franks knows he’s got a job to do and hopefully win. He said the coaches didn’t tell him he’d be in the mix once last year’s return man, Eric Weems, left town. They just told him to hit the field. “The coaches know what guys they want to put back there and who has the opportunity, just to help the team win,” he said. “Whoever goes back there is going to help the team win and give us great field position. It’s all in the coaches’ hands. We just have to go out there and know we’re going to be accountable back there.” Published 02 hours ago hours ago by Daniel Cox.
  17. Good Getting Better By:Daniel Cox | May 29th, 2012 There’s no doubt that the addition of Asante Samuel will make the Falcons a better defense. However, his unique style of leadership, confidence and competitive spirit may influence more than just the defense. His addition could help make the entire team better. Number 22 walked out to the practice field shortly before warmups on the first practice of OTAs for the Falcons this offseason and didn’t make much of a scene. Once the full-team action — offense versus defense — started, No. 22, also known as Asante Samuel, also known as one of the best corners in football and newcomer to Atlanta, was making scenes. Samuel started talking and didn’t stop. He called out to Atlanta’s quarterback Matt Ryan, begging him to throw the ball his way. He asked the coaches to give him some work. When they obliged, he made them pay. Samuel ended the offseason’s first OTA practice with two interceptions. He wanted action right away. “I got some, didn’t I?” he said after practice. “That’s what you’ve got to do, put the bull’s eye on your shoulder and step up to the table. That’s how you get better. If you’re talking (trash) and telling them they can’t do this and do that, of course they’re going to try. You’ve just got to back it up. If you don’t back it up, they’re going to clown you.” He brings a swagger to Atlanta’s defense that has been missing. It’s the kind of swagger general manager Thomas Dimitroff talks about often. His teammates have noticed it immediately. “You saw today, that’s what Asante brings,” Dunta Robinson said. “Of the players that are still playing in this league, he’s probably top three in interceptions. He’s a playmaker… He brings a different flavor and he makes our defense better. We’re looking forward to it.” While Ryan doesn’t have to worry about getting picked off by Samuel anymore, he’s also looking forward to going up against one of the game’s best. One of Samuel’s two picks on Tuesday came from the hand of Ryan. “Asante, I thought, has done about the same thing he’s done to me for four years,” Ryan said after practice. “He got one interception today. He made a good pick. He’s going to make us better. Specifically I think he’s going to make myself and our wide receivers better.” Samuel didn’t waste any time getting to know his teammates. He said he’s felt very welcome and he thinks his new teammates love his energy and confidence. Two of his teammates, Robinson and Brent Grimes, are hoping to make a cornerback trio that is deadly in a pass-happy league. The trio of corners means some roles will be shifting. Early indications are that Robinson will move inside to defend the slot receiver in nickel packages and Samuel and Grimes will man the outside of the field. Samuel is traditionally a left cornerback, but got snaps at both locations on Tuesday. He said it’ll work itself out and isn’t spending any time worrying about it, but if anyone’s interested, he prefers one over the other. “Yeah, you know I have a preference,” he said. “I’m a left corner, but I’ll do anything to help my team. That’s the quarterback’s favorite spot since it’s mostly a right-handed league. I want to be where the ball is coming.” On the other hand, Samuel knows the variety that Atlanta has at cornerback is a nice option. Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan runs a pressure-intensive system that relies on changing things up to confuse the quarterback. Samuel said he recognized that in Nolan’s scheme right away and the Falcons defense won’t be running just one coverage. The response from Samuel’s teammates has been nearly unanimous. Early on, they seem to love having him around. After his first pick at practice, a takeaway in very tight coverage, he ran around with enthusiasm. Never one to lack enthusiasm himself, linebacker Sean Weatherspoon greeted him with a high-five. Veterans love him and the younger guys learn from him. “Him coming is a great addition,” third-year cornerback Dominique Franks said. “The way he practiced today, the way he talks, he keeps everybody on edge. It’s a competition on every play. It’s a good thing to have.” The competition isn’t just at cornerback. As Ryan said, Samuel’s presence on the field will make the receivers better as well. In the end, that’s really Samuel’s goal: to make everybody better. “Julio, Roddy White, those guys are great competitors,” Samuel said. “Just working with each other today, I’m giving them tips and they are giving me tips. Those guys are beasts, freak of nature type guys. Expect big things. Expect everybody to get better over here. Expect everybody to be better. That’s what good people do, good players make everybody better around them.” Published 01 hour ago hours ago by Daniel Cox. http://twitter.com/falconsdcox
  18. Front And Center By:Daniel Cox | May 16th, 2012 Many in the Falcons season-ticket holder community gathered for State of the Franchise on Wednesday night at Buckhead Theatre in Atlanta as the Falcons’ front office took the opportunity to connect with the fans, tell them about the upcoming season and answer questions. More than 800 Falcons season ticket holders joined Falcons owner and chairman Arthur Blank, president and CEO Rich McKay, general manager Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Mike Smith, among others, at the Buckhead Theatre on Wednesday night for the annual State of the Franchise meeting. Season ticket holders were front and center to hear the leadership of the organization speak and opportunities were provided for them to turn the tables and speak directly to Blank and company. The energy in the building was electric as the evening got started. Falcons announcer, Wes Durham, the emcee for the night, felt the enthusiasm of the crowd and asked a question he already knew the answer to: “If we had to go tonight, could everybody be ready to go?” Dimitroff started off the evening clearing up a few rumbles he’d heard during the offseason. The GM heard all the talk of inactivity during the offseason and he was on the stage to clear that up. “We were very active in the offseason, contrary to what the pundits are saying,” Dimitroff said. He spoke about the Falcons’ commitment to re-signing their own players, something they were able to finally demonstrate this offseason when they brought back three valuable members of the ’08 draft class, Kroy Biermann, Harry Douglas and Thomas DeCoud. Then Dimitroff began to speak about one of the biggest moves of the offseason. He said started his sentence, “We worked a trade…” and the crowd’s immediate applause drowned him out. The trade he was referencing was with Philadelphia for cornerback Asante Samuel, a move the State of the Franchise attendees clearly saluted. Moments before Smith was introduced, Dimitroff wanted to take the public forum to remind everyone of one other thing he’s heard a little about over the past year. “We have no regrets about our move last year to acquire Julio Jones,” he said. Then Durham introduced Smith with a salute of his own, acknowledging the coach’s four-year run making franchise history. “Success is not a destination, but a constant journey and he epitomizes that by the way he coaches this football team. Your coach, Coach Mike Smith.” The crowd erupted for the head coach and Smith could only smile and comment on the crowd’s game face for the evening. At one point during Smith’s discussion to the fans, a shout of “Super Bowl” emerged from way in the back of the building. Smith squinted to see through the lights at the fan and said, “I like your attitude.” In addition to the draft’s addition of several large players to beef up the offensive line and the aggressive addition of Samuel, the Falcons added new coaches to the staff, including defensive coordinator Mike Nolan and offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, both of whom were present. Special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong was also on stage with the front office. Smith shared how what the new coaching additions mean to him and how he anticipates them to make an impact. With the new eyes, ears and minds present, the head coach believes the next step can be taken for the players on the field. “We’ve got the players and I really feel we’ve got the best coaching staff in the National Football League,” Smith said of the staff’s 169 years of NFL coaching experience. Smith wouldn’t discuss some of the changes the new coaches would implement in the coming season, but he guaranteed different things for 2012. Koetter, Nolan and Armstrong all took opportunities to speak to the crowd about their respective phases of the game. Koetter guaranteed there would be screen passes in the offense next season. Nolan said he felt happy with the talent he has on the defense to take them to the next level. Armstrong shared his belief that there is a talented return man already on the Falcons’ roster. Before the question and answer session, Blank closed the evening with his own comments. Blank reiterated the belief that Atlanta has the best leadership in the NFL. He acknowledged everything is ultimately about the players on the field, but the direction and coaching provided is still paramount. Under Blank’s ownership, the Falcons have brought the franchise back to respectibility and intends to keep it moving forward and the State of the Franchise event is yet another reason why he’s created a product that the fans of his franchise are so devoted to. That devotion will only get things so far and Blank reminded everyone what the ultimate and final purpose for the Atlanta Falcons is . “We understand this is about rings and about championships.” Published 11 hours ago hours ago by Daniel Cox. http://www.atlantafa...ont-and-center/
  19. CFA Spotlight: Cody Pearcy By: Daniel Cox | May 11th, 2012 Once draft season concludes, the immediate attention turns to signing college free agents. The Falcons have a class of over 20 and AtlantaFalcons.com will spend the next few weeks getting to know some of them. This week’s spotlight is on Cody Pearcy, a dynamic young receiver from tiny Division III Hungtingdon College in Montgomery, Ala. Everybody loves a good underdog story. While most of the Falcons’ newly-signed undrafted college free agents have an underdog element in them, Cody Pearcy must surely rank somewhere near the top. With the click of a stopwatch, Pearcy went from being a virtual unknown wide receiver from tiny Hungtindon College in Alabama to a legit NFL prospect. What Pearcy did at his Pro Day in early April is really impressive. The 5-foot-10, 161-pound wide receiver ran a 4.31 40-yard dash, recorded a 44-inch vertical jump, ran a 6.67 in the three-cone drill and a 3.76 in the short shuttle. His 40 time and vertical would have been the highest totals at this year’s NFL Combine. His three-come drill and shuttle times would tie for the third best… since 2000. Since that year, 4,638 players have been invited to the Combine. Pearcy’s totals rank third compared to what has been posted at the Combine. Immediately after his Pro Day, . NFL teams lined up workouts and suddenly the NFL didn’t seem so far away. With a return ability element to his game in addition to his wide receiving skills, some draft projectors saw a flash of Philadelphia’s DeSean Jackson. Others inevitably made the natural comparison to another recent D-III receiver that has done well for himself in the NFL, Pierre Garcon.Pearcy began saving every penny he could find during last season and worked a job as a roofer during his breaks, saving his money until he could afford a personal trainer to help him prepare for a football life of some kind somewhere after college football. He could only afford three weeks, but he made the most of it. But Pearcy isn’t just a workout warrior with a great Pro Day tape. He’s got the production on the field to back up his athletic ability. He’s is Huntingdon’s all-time leader with 147 receptions, 2,632 receiving yards, 25 touchdowns and 17.9 yards per reception average. He finished 2011 with a team-high 46 receptions for 766 yards and eight touchdowns. In 2010 he caught 51 passes for 1,078 yards and 12 touchdowns. That season his average yards per catch was a remarkable 21.1. While he didn’t get drafted, his efforts got him into camp with the Falcons, who likely had to compete with other teams to sign him. His coaches describe him as a true gamer, a player that puts his best foot forward in the biggest games. Like so many undrafted free agents, by all accounts he seems to be a young man thankful for an opportunity to continue playing. While a video helped him get noticed, it was the total package that helped him get signed. The Vitals Cody Pearcy Huntingdon College Bio Cody Pearcy’s Twitter Cody Pearcy Articles Pearcy thinks the Falcons are a great fit A report from Pearcy’s Pro Day Another profile of Pearcy’s journey to the NFL Cody Pearcy Videos Published 04 hours ago hours ago by Daniel Cox. http://twitter.com/falconsdcox http://www.atlantafa...ht-cody-pearcy/
  20. It Starts Right Now By: Daniel Cox | May 12th, 2012 Although there may not be a lot of jobs up for grabs on the final roster, rookie minicamp is still about competition. Day 2 came and the players returned to the field to keep grinding their way to hopefully making that roster come August. The second day of Falcons rookie minicamp was a little different from the first. The unseasonable heat of Friday was replaced with a cooler and drizzling day of practice. Saturday’s practice saw a few moments where perhaps some light bulbs were going off for a few of the players. Safety Charles Mitchell had the lone interception of the full-team drills, Kenny Stafford made a few nice falling-down catches and Michael Calvin closed the practice with a catch on a slant across the field. Calvin turned the corner and showed some of the speed that helped him get into camp as he ran to the endzone. Although head coach Mike Smith thinks many players are overwhelmed with the volume of what they’ve been handed, he still likes the progressions that are being made. After camp ends Sunday, they’ll return Monday to begin weight training and the veterans return to the facility on Tuesday to begin coaching sessions. It’s only been two days, however, and Smith feels there’s a long way to go. “I think it’s too early (to form opinions),” Smith said. “I like the energy of everybody out there. I think the guys are very energetic and willing to go out there and play. There are guys that know they’re fighting for a job. It starts right now. Some of them made some very good impressions. It’ll be interesting to see how they respond and react when they’re with the veterans.” The early impressions on each draft pick are encouraging for Smith. Center/guard Peter Konz has been impressive with his strength and brute force on the field early on. Tackle Lamar Holmes is being held out for precautionary measures for a “minor issue” with his foot. Smith said on Friday that he anticipates fullback Bradie Ewing to do more than just blow linebackers up as he blocks for the running back. “Bradie is a guy that’s very athletic, can adjust and he is a guy that has pretty good hands,” Smith said. “He doesn’t have the statistics in college, as far as running the football so you think he is just a lead blocker and that’s all he does. He does catch the football, catches it very well and he has good hands.” Smith said he sees a slimmer Jonathan Massaquoi on the field that what the former Troy pass rusher showed during his senior year, aiding in his explosiveness. Smith also mentioned the play of Travian Robertson and Charles Mitchell: “Travian is a big, strong defensive tackle. He’s more of an anchor point that a move guy. When we were doing our due dillgence in the draft, it’s quite apparent that he was strong. You can see that strength not only in the weight room, but also out there on the field.” “Mitchell the safety has done a nice guy. He’s probably the guy that’s had the toughest experience in the secondary guys because we’ve thrown a lot at him. He’s done a very nice job. I like his movement. First impressions have been very positive for the entire draft class.” The coaching staff keeps their messages simple for the players. Although they’re teaching them plays and schemes, they expect the guys just to give great effort. One of the college free agents, Cody Pearcy is still striving for perfection. “They just tell me to keep grinding,” Pearcy said. “Stay in the playbook and keep learning as much as I can and come out have a perfect practice every day.” Published 13 hours ago hours ago by Daniel Cox. http://www.atlantafa...arts-right-now/
  21. CFA Spotlight: James Rodgers By: Daniel Cox | May 9th, 2012 Once draft season concludes, the immediate attention turns to signing college free agents. The Falcons have a class of over 20 and AtlantaFalcons.com will spend the next few weeks getting to know some of them. Today’s spotlight is on Oregon State wide receiver James Rodgers. The fact that James Rodgers is the brother of Falcons running back Jacquizz Rodgers probably didn’t hurt his chances to sign with Atlanta as a college free agent after the draft, but it’s not the only reason he’s been added to the roster. The 5-foot-7, 188-pound receiver established an Oregon State University record with 222 career receptions and his 91 catches in 2009 also stands as a school record. During his five seasons at Oregon State (he received a medical redshirt in 2010) he gained 6,366 all-purpose yards, another school record. He’s also the first player at OSU to record 1,000 rushing yards and 2,000 receiving yards. Concerns about a knee injury that cut his 2010 season short caused Rodgers’ stock to drop some, but he returned in 2011 for the Beavers and played in nine games. He began his college career as a running back, gaining 586 yards as a freshman in 2007 with three touchdowns. He began to convert to more of a full-time receiver the following year and his receptions jumped to 51 and then 91 in ’09. In addition to being a versatile playmaker on offense, Rodgers brings impressive return skills to the Falcons. Though he’s got the ability to compete at wide receiver in the NFL, his best chance of making the Falcons roster may come because of his return ability. With the exit of last year’s return man, Eric Weems, in free agency, Atlanta’s returner role is wide open. Rodgers totaled 86 kick returns while at Oregon State. He returned one kick for a touchdown, but he demonstrated an ability to create positive returns, never average less than 23.3 yards per return during any one season. He also had longs of 86, 84 and 63 yards as a kick returner. He’s also an accomplished punt returner. In his five seasons, he returned 19 punts as the team’s primary returner during 2009 and 2010. He averaged 13.7 yards per punt return. He had one touchdown and had longs of 33 yards and 54 yards. The Vitals James Rodgers Oregon State Bio James Rodgers’ Twitter James Rodgers Articles Rodgers Scouting Report Some believed Rodgers is a great fit with the Falcons James Rodgers Videos Published 01 day ago hours ago by Daniel Cox. http://www.atlantafa...-james-rodgers/
  22. Not Drafted? Not A Problem By: Daniel Cox | May 7th, 2012 NFL players follow many different paths to the NFL. One of the longest is the college free agent route. The Falcons recently signed a new class of college free agents and they join a roster that received numerous contributions from players who also went undrafted. Who will be the next star to rise from the college free agent ranks? None of the newly-signed college college free agents by the Falcons need to look very far for inspiration, if it’s even needed. While they went undrafted in this year’s NFL Draft, their potential to land a role with the team is not completely a lost cause. One of the icons of Falcons football, linebacker Jessie Tuggle, went undrafted in 1987. The five-time Pro Bowler was the heart and soul of Atlanta’s defense for over a decade and his No. 58 was retired by the franchise in 2002. Tuggle represents the epitome of the hard-working undrafted player, a player whose odds are stacked against him, but continues to give a roster-deserving effort each day during training camp. College free agents play against a stacked deck, but there are plenty of stories of players making it through cut after cut and even some who have gone on to have Hall of Fame careers. This list of the top 25 undrafted free agents over the last 25 years shows the kind of talent that can be found among the college free agent ranks. Tuggle is No. 12 on the list. Last season the Falcons had three starters at various points during the season that were college free agents. Tackle Tyson Clabo, cornerback Brent Grimes and fullback Mike Cox all were brought into the NFL undrafted. In total, Atlanta had nine former undrafted players that played starting or reserve roles for the team While Grimes is the most notable undrafted player for Atlanta, tight end Michael Palmer and running back Antone Smith have quietly turned themselves into key reserves after joining the team as undrafted free agents. Smith bounced from a few teams during the 2009 offseason and preseason. He joined the Falcons in October of ’09 and has gone on to become a key part of the special teams unit. Palmer joined the club after the draft in 2010 and has remained on the 53-man roster since, evolving into the key backup and blocking tight end behind Tony Gonzalez. Long snapper Joe Zelenka has had a 13-year career after entering the NFL undrafted in 1999 out of Wake Forest. He was brought to the Falcons in 2009 and has remained with the team since. Backup quarterback John Parker Wilson joined the team in 2009 after being undrafted out of Alabama. He’s served as the team’s third-string QB. Two players from last year’s college free agent class went on to make the team or the practice squad. Wide receiver Kevin Cone was named to the practice squad after training camp and made his way to the active roster for the last game of the season. Cornerback Darrin Walls was one of the surprise additions to the 53-man roster out of training camp last year. After a strong performance, he made the team and eventually was active for the final five games of the season, earning one interception in the season finale. There are stories like these all over the NFL, but with an offseason and training camp where the focus is on competition, many of these new undrafted free agents may have the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of players like Cone or Walls. Could Chad Faulcon be the next Jessie Tuggle or Cody Pearcy be the next Wes Welker? Only time will tell. Published 22 hours ago hours ago by Daniel Cox. http://www.atlantafa...-not-a-problem/
  23. From The Boards By: Daniel Cox | May 5th, 2012 The FalconsLife message board on AtlantaFalcons.com is where die-hard Falcons fans go to talk, share ideas and discuss every imaginable topic concerning the Falcons. During the offseason we’ll take a look at a hot topic on the Talk About the Falcons department of FalconsLife and examine what’s on the minds of Falcons fans. The message board was abuzz this week in the dust of the NFL Draft. Fans were talking about the picks and analyzing the undrafted free agents the team signed. Falcons fan freebird310, took it one step further and said Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff made huge strides with the 2012 Falcons roster. In freebird310′s eyes, Dimitroff addressed what he feels were the biggest needs for the Falcons. “He majorly upgraded both our O-line and our secondary, the two most critical issues we faced,” he wrote. “Obviously both units should be vastly improved over what we trotted out last year.” A few days prior to the draft, Dimitroff pulled off a trade with the Eagles, sending a seventh-round pick in exchange for Pro Bowl cornerback Asante Samuel. While Samuel’s interception numbers were down last year, he still played at a high level and is widely regarded as one of the premier corners in the game. Combining Samuel with another Pro Bowler in Brent Grimes and Dunta Robinson (expected to play the slot corner because of his physical style) gives Atlanta three talented corners in new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan’s traditionally aggressive scheme. Dimitroff added Samuel for the price of a pick that was likely only to return roster depth and possibly potential impact down the line. The additions of Vince Manuwai in free agency and Peter Konz and Lamar Holmes in the draft are also viewed as strong additions. At best all of them provide competition along the offensive line and at worst at least one of them represents an upgrade somewhere along the line. Falcons fan metatron360 sees these additions, as well as the new members of the coaching staff (Nolan, Dirk Koetter and Pat Hill most notably) as all positives for Atlanta, calling the offseason “outstanding.” “Yes he addressed every area and made a bold statement by drafting 2 Olinemen,” he wrote. “It’s funny how it came together. Oc leaves dc leaves Konz happened to be there (for) our pick and finding a LT with all the tools ready to be coached up. Heck he even got us another top tier corner on the cheap.” While it’s only the offseason and talk can be a little cheap until players hit the field, on paper Falcons fans see a number of additions that are very positive for Atlanta. Konz and Holmes didn’t generate a lot of buzz with the national media, but the fans see two players that could be strong additions. The move to bring in Samuel is virtually a coup by Dimitroff, adding one of the best talents at a position in the NFL with a late-round pick. There’s a long way to go, but the addition of O-line coach Hill could mean great teaching for the two drafted lineman (as well as the other young players on the line like Mike Johnson and Joe Hawley). Nolan is expected to utilize Samuel’s skills appropriately and improve the Falcons’ pass coverage which could positively influence the pass rushing from the defensive line. Although Dimitroff was at one time criticized for sitting patiently when free agency began and electing to bring back his own core of free agents, the Falcons fanbase is applauding the GM now that the offseason player-movement period has concluded with the addition of one guaranteed starter and two potential ones. Published 01 day ago hours ago by Daniel Cox. http://www.atlantafa...-the-boards-10/
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