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Rookie Review: Atlanta Falcons

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(1-19) Sean Weatherspoon, OLB, Missouri: The trash talking hit-and-run linebacker brought new energy to the defense and turned heads with his ability to play multiple positions. ‘Spoon did make his share of rookie miscues, such as getting caught out of position in pass coverage. He was also hampered by a knee injury for part of the season. The Missouri product’s speed and aggressiveness should be an asset for years to come. Grade: C+

(3-83) Corey Peters, DT, Kentucky: He started 14 games and was by far the biggest difference maker among Atlanta’s rookies. The Pittsburgh native held the point versus the run and gave blockers fits with his quick hand movement. Peters also played hard every down but wasn’t much of a pass-rusher. Outside of his standard bull rush, the promising defender didn’t have any creative moves in his arsenal. Grade: B+

(3-98) Mike Johnson, OG, Alabama: The tough pulling guard sprained his knee during the preseason and wasn’t activated in any of the regular season games. He’s very much a work in progress. But the Falcons may need him to step up as a starter next year as first-string guards Harvey Dahl and Tyson Clabo are due to become free agents. Grade: Incomplete

(4-117) Joe Hawley, C-OG, UNLV: The former Rebel was drafted as the Falcons’ heir apparent to 34-year-old starter Todd McClure. Hawley showed some toughness in the preseason along with a mean streak and a willingness to work. He’s known as a smart competitor, one who shouldn’t have any issues mastering the mental requirements of his position. The 310-pound interior lineman, however, remains a pretty raw player, who only took a handful of snaps in the regular season. Grade: C+

(5-135) Dominique Franks, CB, Oklahoma: Played in only two regular season games after a solid showing during training camp. He showed off his ability to read plays when he undercut a Max Hall pass in week two and nearly returned it for a touchdown. Franks will have an opportunity to supplant the disappointing Christopher Owens and Brian Williams as the team’s primary nickel back. Grade: C+

(5-165) Kerry Meier, WR, Kansas: The 6’3 wide out was on the verge of putting together a very positive preseason performance as pass catcher and special teams contributor when he suffered a season ending knee injury. Grade: C

(6-171) Shann Schillinger, FS, Montana: Showed decent speed and turned out to be a key special teams member with eight tackles. Grade: B+


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