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Falcons Team Report

Posted: June 10, 2008

D. Orlando Ledbetter

For Sporting News

PERSONNEL ANALYSIS: The Falcons need to strengthen their interior offensive line. Center Todd McClure is solid. Right guard Kynan Korney has played at a near Pro Bowl level in the past and left guard Justin Blalock is still unproven after 14 rookie starts. If Blalock doesn't come along, Forney doesn't bounce back or something happens to McClure, the Falcons have a quality NFL lineman ready to step in.

Alex Stepanovich, a free-agent signee from Cincinnati, is seeing action at center and both guard spots. He has almost 40 starts in the NFL and has been a solid pass protector. For a unit that gave up 47 sacks last season, pass protection must improve.

Stepanovich has been solid against the run but not special. The Falcons plan to emphasize the run, but will need to get a better push from Stepanovich if he is to win one of the interior line spots. . . .

Right cornerback Chris Houston is considered the leader to retain his starting position, but coach Mike Smith's staff is not handing out starting jobs. Houston's sometimes nonchalant attitude and lack of urgency could hurt his chances as he's lost some respect in the locker room. He didn't win over any supporters by missing two and a half weeks of organized team activities with a minor injury (knee bruise). Houston wasn't inserted back to the No. 1 spot upon his return.

Rookie Chevis Jackson was moved to the right side. Houston has great coverage skills and is a solid tackler. For some reason his toughness and attitude have led to some internal questions. For a team looking from some tough hombres, that's not a good thing for Houston.

SCOUTING REPORT: Teams usually don't throw a party when a seventh-round pick signs, but Keith Zinger's signing was important for the Falcons. The rookie tight end from LSU has a chance to win the No. 2 tight end job. The position is very important in offensive coordinator's Mike Mularkey system, which calls for many double-tight end formations.

The role of the second tight end is mostly that of a blocker and Zinger distinguished himself in a similar role at LSU. He's a big, rugged blocker who's not a pass catching threat. He should be able to compete for that No. 2 spot that will help the Falcons reestablish their power running game.

RUNNING BACKS ANALYSIS: The Falcons paid Michael Turner like he had been a starter. Now LaDainian Tomlinson's former backup will get to show that he can carry the full load. His low to the ground running style is a good scheme fit.

Turner doesn't have much wiggle but does have enough straight-ahead speed to go coast-to-coast. Jerious Norwood has been highly productive in a backup role and will have more of a third-down presence. Norwood also will get a chance to spell Turner in what figures to be a run-heavy attack.

Fullback Ovie Mughelli is a bruising lead blocker and should be Turner's personal escort to the second level. The Falcons' running backs are top flight. Grade: A. Pro Bowl-caliber players: Turner.

POSITION BATTLES: The battle to replace DeAngelo Hall at left cornerback will be fierce. The list of candidates is long. Jackson, free-agent signee Von Hutchins and former undrafted free agent Brent Grimes are the main contenders. David Irons could also vault into the mix.

Jackson and Hutchins don't have top-flight speed and would be basically two-deep zone corners. Of the group, Grimes has the best man-to-man coverage skills. Coaches are high on the former Shippensburg State product and think he just needs some more time on the field.

While none of the options are of the quality of Hall, they figure to wage a major battle to replace him. Keep an eye on the rookie Jackson, he looks like a real keeper.

Hutchins could end up as the nickel corner in the slot and Grimes in the dime package. Irons may be the odd man out.

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Good read: thanks for posting.

Seems like a reasonable analysis of strengths/weaknesses/potential at these positions.  Let's see what happens during training camp this summer and in pre-season games. 

Really sad to see that D. Stone got locked up for DUI over the weekend.  Hopefully, it was a one-time event and he learned a lesson from the experience. 

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NewFalcon (6/16/2008)
Good read: thanks for posting.

Seems like a reasonable analysis of strengths/weaknesses/potential at these positions. Let's see what happens during training camp this summer and in pre-season games.

Really sad to see that D. Stone got locked up for DUI over the weekend. Hopefully, it was a one-time event and he learned a lesson from the experience.

I really hope so. Stone has a lot of potential to be a top-flight 'in the box' type SS learning under one of the best in the past two decades in Milloy.

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direwolf (6/17/2008)
ugadawg (6/16/2008)
Good read thanks.

hate to hear that about Irons I really liked him

I doubt we'd let him go. Teams frequently carry five corners, so he'd likely make the cut.

Direwolf

Oh, most definitely. Irons is staying around from all I can tell. I think it is the writer over analyzing the situation.

At CB we'll probably have Houston, Jackson, Irons, Grimes, and Hutchinson. Who else is competing? We usually carry 5 CBs anyway like you pointed out.

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cwell1 (6/16/2008)
Irons is a special teams monster and can cover,u can't let him go.

I agree. I think we'll carry 5 CBs. On the outside looking in right now are rookies Sharpe, Fontenot, and 2nd year man Antoine Harris. Harris will probably make the team as a S if Stone gets cut.

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