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Cornerbacks prepare to fill Hutchins' void


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By D. ORLANDO LEDBETTER

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Published on: 07/29/08

Flowery Branch — With the season-ending foot injury to cornerback Von Hutchins, there's an opening in the Falcons' secondary.

"We feel like we're going to have to get at least three guys ready to play the nickel position through the preseason," Falcons coach Mike Smith said Tuesday. "Then for the regular season, we have to have guys cross trained."

Hutchins, who signed a four-year, $9 million contract, was valuable because he could play cornerback and free safety.

Hutchins was slated to play in nickel situations as the third cornerback for the Falcons. He started at free safety and cornerback for Houston last season.

"At that position there, with Von gone, there are some other guys that now the door has been opened for," Smith said. "That's something that happens. A young man's misfortune is another man's opportunity."

Rookie Chevis Jackson, Antoine Harris and Blue Adams are all getting work at the nickel cornerback position.

Jackson, a third-round pick from LSU, started his college career as a nickel back, inside covering slot receivers.

"I'm bigger than most corners," Jackson said. "I try to get physical and rough up the receivers a little bit. They don't like that too much. I just try to get in their heads a little bit and make plays on the ball."

Harris played in 13 games last season, mostly on special teams.

Adams, a five-year veteran, was signed on Saturday. He played in 13 games last season for Cincinnati.

In addition to placing Hutchins on injured reserve and signing Grady Jackson, the Falcons made two other roster moves Tuesday. They released defensive lineman David Patterson and signed cornerback Glenn Sharpe.

Offense runs

At the end of the morning practice, Smith issued a challenge to the first-string defense and offense. They were to run three plays that would be graded.

The losing unit had to run extra wind sprints at the end of practice.

The defense won the first two plays, with offensive tackle Sam Baker jumping offsides. On the next play, linebacker Michael Boley stopped Michael Turner on a run.

The offense won the final play when quarterback Joey Harrington completed a 65-yard pass to Roddy White for a touchdown.

"We had a little competitive situation there at the end just to have a little bit of fun," Smith said. "I thought they responded well to it."

Injury update

Center Todd McClure (back), defensive end Willie Evans (ankle), defensive end Jamaal Anderson (hamstring) and receiver Laurent Robinson (shoulder) did not practice.

Lofton in middle

Former Georgia linebacker Tony Taylor opened training camp at middle linebacker with the first team. But Curtis Lofton was with the first team on Tuesday.

He's hoping to land the starting position.

"They took me pretty high," said Lofton, a second-round pick. "Everybody has expectations and I have expectations for myself."

With the Lofton and Taylor in the middle, the Falcons moved Keith Brooking back to weakside linebacker.

"Brook, Boley and the other guys have really taken me under their wings and have helped me out if I need anything," Lofton said.

Special teams

Wide receiver Brian Finneran, who's battling back from knee surgeries that knocked him out of the last two seasons, said he wouldn't hesitate to play special teams.

"I made my NFL career playing special teams," Finneran said. "If I had to go out there and play punt team, punt return or cover a few kickoffs, I'd do it."

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Wide receiver Brian Finneran, who's battling back from knee surgeries that knocked him out of the last two seasons, said he wouldn't hesitate to play special teams.

"I made my NFL career playing special teams," Finneran said. "If I had to go out there and play punt team, punt return or cover a few kickoffs, I'd do it."

That, on top of his value in the red zone and 3rd downs, is why I think Finneran will stick as the #5 WR.

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Former Georgia linebacker Tony Taylor opened training camp at middle linebacker with the first team. But Curtis Lofton was with the first team on Tuesday.

He's hoping to land the starting position.

"They took me pretty high," said Lofton, a second-round pick. "Everybody has expectations and I have expectations for myself."

GeorgiaFan might snap....lol

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Man this time of year I almost hate to logon here just because of the fear of reading who is injured.

Yeah I am really hoping Finneran makes the team. The coaches need to look at some old game tape to see that Finn is an awesome possession receiver you can count on to make a clutch catch anytime.

I've seen Fin miss his share, but I've also seen him make some sweet clutch catches on the side lines and in the red zone.

On Robinson: Coach Smitty said he bumped his shoulder so they kept him out for precautionary reasons.

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I absolutely LOVE Lofton and I think he will have a killer season if he starts often. I'm kind of shocked about the Joey to Roddy for 65 yards though but good for Joey, its just practice though. We're talking about practice. Practice... Pra-... practice. :D And Turner shouldve won that on the first play... Sketchy

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Man this time of year I almost hate to logon here just because of the fear of reading who is injured.

Yeah I am really hoping Finneran makes the team. The coaches need to look at some old game tape to see that Finn is an awesome possession receiver you can count on to make a clutch catch anytime.

I'm also hoping that Finn makes the squad; however, I really don't care what he did in the past---that was before two season-ending injuries in succession took him out of the lineup. Coaches will make their decision based upon what he can do today.

FWIW: I saw him on day one of camp (Saturday morning) and he looked really good. Hope it continues.

I really want to see how Fin's legs react when he's bumped hard by defenders, and when he takes a hit after a catch. If his legs hold up, he'll be a real asset to the team.

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That, on top of his value in the red zone and 3rd downs, is why I think Finneran will stick as the #5 WR.

Finneran was actually the leading WR in 05' as a 3rd guy. 50 catches for 611 yards. Big target, good hands.

We all know he is a **** of a ST player because he does it all. He can cover punts, kicks and blocks well on both units.

I just hope we can have him back at 100% this year because we missed him.

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"At that position there, with Von gone, there are some other guys that now the door has been opened for," Smith said. "That's something that happens. A young man's misfortune is another man's opportunity."

Rookie Chevis Jackson, Antoine Harris and Blue Adams are all getting work at the nickel cornerback position.

Jackson, a third-round pick from LSU, started his college career as a nickel back, inside covering slot receivers.

"I'm bigger than most corners," Jackson said. "I try to get physical and rough up the receivers a little bit. They don't like that too much. I just try to get in their heads a little bit and make plays on the ball."

Harris played in 13 games last season, mostly on special teams.

Adams, a five-year veteran, was signed on Saturday. He played in 13 games last season for Cincinnati.

I've read virtually nothing about CB David Irons this preseason. I thought he might get a shot at the nickle position. He's rarely mentioned as competing for a starting CB position either. Ii just wonder what's going on with him, as I thought he was a very good draft pick last year. He paid his dues by playing very well on special teams last season. With the trade of DHall and now Hutchins injury, I was expecting to see Irons name pop-up more often, but it hasn't yet.

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