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Falcons USA Today Report


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Inside Slant

Safety Jimmy Williams spent his final few days with the Falcons going through individual drills during OTAs then taking off his helmet, balancing himself on one knee and watching Erik Coleman, Antoine Harris and rookie Thomas DeCoud take snaps at free safety.

He knew his days were numbered.

A one-time, supposed answer at a position of non-stop inconsistency, Williams was released June 17, ending a two-year career that bore little production especially following his pre-draft hype.

"It's a football decision," coach Mike Smith said. "It's a decision we made. We've been evaluating."

The "football decision" quote, which is becoming more and more common, is never good because it fosters a stigma that the player can't play. That might not be the case for Williams.

However, this development should be a wake-up call.

Then again, him slipping to the second round after being a projected top-15 selection in the 2006 draft should have been a wake-up call.

Williams was never fast enough or had good enough hips to play corner, the position former coach Jim Mora targeted for him when Atlanta drafted Williams. Coach Bobby Petrino switched Williams to free safety in 2007 and then-defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer did everything in his power to give the job to Williams but Williams couldn't unseat Chris Crocker.

When Smith took over, Williams reported to offseason workouts weighing more than 230 pounds. To a new coaching and management staff, that signaled a lack of commitment at the very least.

Williams then missed two of three days of a voluntary mini-camp.

He never bounced back.

Williams was the prize of Atlanta's '06 draft. The team traded its first pick to land DE John Abraham from the Jets and only had five selections to complement a team it thought was close to serious playoff contention.

None of those five picks is a full-time starter. TB Jerious Norwood is in the rotation, but not getting constant production from and entire draft class is costly three years later.

Making matters much worse, only one player from the '06 draft (wide receiver Michael Jenkins) remains with the team.

NOTES, QUOTES

Tony Taylor, a second-year, undrafted free agent, has worked as the starting middle linebacker since veteran Keith Brooking was moved to the weak side in April. Though Taylor lacks the great speed, height or mashing temperament typically required for the position, he could get by because he is bracketed by Brooking, SLB Michael Boley and SS Lawyer Milloy.

"I'm doing my part and with Brook and Boley beside you it makes things a lot easier," Taylor said.

Coach Mike Smith has been very complimentary toward Taylor but he continues to say the training competition between Taylor and second-round pick Curtis Lofton will be very interesting.

During the final week of OTAs, the Falcons began experimenting with the sideline coach to defensive player communication device that is being implemented this season. MLB Keith Brooking, who calls the defensive signals, will be the main player to wear one of two special helmets that can receive voice instructions from a coach on the sideline.

Offenses have used the device for years.

"It's going to be a learning experience for the defensive coaches and defensive players to have someone in their ear," Smith said. "We're going to spend a lot of time in training camp doing that so our guys are accustomed to spending time with that communication device."

LB Keith Brooking, who said he was thinking about skipping out of the final two OTA sessions since he hasn't missed one offseason workout, decided to finish things out with his teammates.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Pressure? I wouldn't call it pressure. You've got to understand the playbook. Once you understand that you're able to play fast. I don't feel like it's a challenge to that level because I'm very smart. I can see something once or twice and that's all I need." Rookie WR Harry Douglas on being a significant part of the team's offense.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

While trying to figure out if their defensive backs can lock up receivers, Falcons' management has locked up the secondary.

S Thomas DeCoud (California), CB Chevis Jackson (LSU) - both third-round picks - and CB Wilrey Fontenot (Arizona), a seventh-round selection, reached contract terms on four-year deals. Fontenot came to terms June 17, while Jackson and DeCoud signed a week earlier.

FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.

TRANSITION PLAYER: None.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offer)

PK Morten Andersen (not tendered as UFA).

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.

DRAFT CHOICES SIGNED

QB Matt Ryan (1/3): $72M/6 yrs, $27.3M guaranteed.

CB Chevis Jackson (3/68): 4 yrs, terms unknown.

S Thomas DeCoud (3/98): 4 yrs, terms unknown.

RB Thomas Brown (6/172): Terms unknown.

S Wilrey Fontenot (7/212): Terms unknown.

TE Keith Zinger (7/232): 4 yrs, terms unknown.

PLAYERS ACQUIRED

FS Erik Coleman: UFA Jets; $10M/4 yrs, $2.5M guaranteed.

K Jason Elam: UFA Broncos; $9M/4 yrs, $3.3M SB.

DE Simon Fraser: Not tendered as RFA by Browns; terms unknown.

TE Ben Hartsock: UFA Titans; $9M/4 yrs, $2.5M guaranteed.

CB Von Hutchins: UFA Texans; $9M/4 yrs, $2.5M.

FB Corey McIntyre: RFA; $927,000/1 yr.

DT Rashad Moore: Not tendered as RFA by Patriots; terms unknown.

DT Kindal Moorehead: UFA Panthers; terms unknown.

C Alex Stepanovich: UFA Bengals; terms unknown.

RB Michael Turner: UFA Chargers; $34.5M/6 yrs, $15M guaranteed.

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED

DT Tim Anderson: UFA; terms unknown.

LB Michael Boley: RFA; $2.017M/1 yr.

OL Tyson Clabo: ERFA; terms unknown.

DE Chauncey Davis: RFA; $927,000/1 yr.

QB Joey Harrington: FA, had been released by Falcons; $1M/1 yr, $300,000 SB.

P Michael Koenen: RFA' $1.47M/1 yr.

QB Chris Redman: UFA; $4M/2 yrs, $2.75M SB.

NT Montavious Stanley: ERFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.

PLAYERS LOST

TE Courtney Anderson: UFA Bills; terms unknown.

TE Dwayne Blakley: UFA Titans; 1 yr, terms unknown.

DT Rod Coleman (released).

S Chris Crocker: UFA Dolphins; 1.15M/1 yr, $300,000 SB.

TE Alge Crumpler (released).

RB Warrick Dunn (released).

WR Jamin Elliott (released).

OT Wayne Gandy (released).

CB DeAngelo Hall (traded Raiders).

QB Byron Leftwich (released).

S Omare Lowe: UFA Seahawks; $605,000/1 yr.

CB Lewis Sanders (released).

LB Marcus Wilkins (released).

OLB Demorrio Williams: UFA Chiefs; $16M/5 yrs, $5.5M guaranteed.

S Jimmy Williams (released).

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Making matters much worse, only one player from the '06 draft (wide receiver Michael Jenkins) remains with the team.

Do they have the wrong year?

I thought we still had Ojinaka, Shockley, Jennings and Norwood.

I think he meant 04. We did trade Schaub though. The rest I don't think are even in the NFL besides Demo. And Hall to a lesser extent.

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raptorial bird (6/30/2008)
I think the battle between Taylor and Lofton could be one of the most competitive in TC and Preseason. I wager that regardless who starts they will both be getting significant time and keeping each other fresh.

What could turn out to be even better is if they are both about equal but both still good then lofton very well could be your starting wlb next year if brooking decides to retire or leave making it lofton, taylor, and boley as your starting lb's for many years to come. Not because he couldn't start MLb but because he has enough talent to do both.

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