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Falcons Team Report 6/15/12

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Falcons Team Report

Yahoo! Sports - Jun 15, 12:20 am EDT

Inside Slant

Notes, Quotes

Strategy and Personnel

After a shaky and injury-plagued 2011, the Falcons are counting on left tackle Sam Baker to rebound.

"Unfortunately, he has been challenged with some of the injury situations," Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. "But Sam is a resilient guy, as per his injuries."

The Falcons hope that a different approach from offensive line coach Pat Hill will help restore Baker's ferociousness.

Hill, who spent the past 15 years as the head coach at Fresno State, has known Baker since his high school days.

"He has great athletic ability," Hill said. "I knew Sam coming out of high school and out of (USC). From playing against him and watching him, I know the athletic ability is there. I'm excited about working with him."

Falcons coach Mike Smith wants to see the old Baker, too.

"Playing left tackle in this league is not an easy job," Smith said. "You are protecting the backside of the quarterback, and for the majority of the time they are facing the top pass rushers."

Baker started the first six games last season but struggled mightily. He had in-season back surgery and was inactive for the next three games.

Upon his return, Will Svitek remained the starter, and Baker shifted to a backup role. He gave up five sacks last season, according to Stats Inc. But the lowest point of the season came against Carolina on Dec. 11.

As a reserve, Baker had to play some guard. He was playing right guard when Carolina defensive lineman Antwan Applewhite beat Baker on a powerful inside move for a sack and a safety.

Baker contends that he has put last season in his rearview mirror.

"Man, it was just tough," Baker said. "Just to come out after the lockout and not knowing where your body was at, and then just kind of getting thrown into it. I had a couple of terrible games early on, and that really didn't help either. Then, having some back issues again, it was really, mentally, it was just a roller coaster."

The jury is still out on Baker, whom the Falcons believe had strong seasons in 2009 (six sacks allowed) and 2010 (11.5 sacks allowed). He is in the last year of his five-year, $13.5 million contract. Baker must return to form to secure his long-term future with the team or be ready to enter free agency.

"This is an important year for Sam, as we all know," Dimitroff said. "I have confidence that Sam is going to come back and be a good left tackle for us."

Despite the contract situation, Baker said he doesn't feel any added pressure.

"There is always that," Baker said. "They are always looking to replace somebody. There is always competition. It's the NFL, and everybody is looking for a job."

The team attributes most of Baker's woes to his injuries.

"Sam is coming back in very good shape," Dimitroff said. "He physically looks good. He's been working hard in the offseason. His focus is to come back and win that left-tackle job and continue to help us win games as he has many times over the last four seasons."

Notes, Quotes

The Falcons will hold a three-day minicamp next week with afternoon sessions open to the public. The team will hold practices at the team's Flowery Branch headquarters June 19-21.

The real battle begins in training camp, but Akeem Dent is laying the groundwork for the fight now.

Dent, in his second year out of Douglass High and Georgia, will compete with Lofa Tatupu for the Falcons' starting middle linebacker position. He does so with the benefit of a full offseason routine, unlike last year season when the NFL lockout severely limited his preparation. When the Falcons did not re-sign Curtis Lofton, their leading tackler the past three seasons, Dent knew he had an opportunity.

"There were some rough times," Dent said of his rookie season. "Going into these (organized team activities) is better for me because last year I didn't have an opportunity to go through this phase. It's going to be a real good competition between me and Lofa."

Dent will have to learn a new defense as the Falcons brought in Mike Nolan as defensive coordinator this season. Dating to his days at Georgia, Dent has played for four different defensive coordinators in the past four seasons.

"You always felt like he was behind because he didn't have that foundation of May and June," linebacker coach Glenn Pires said. "He came along as the season was going, and he was catching up. I thought he was getting more comfortable. It's starting to show now."

Dent and Tatupu are spending the offseason watching film and working through the defense together. Dent said he will continue to pick the brain of Tatupu, a three-time Pro Bowler.

Quote To Note:

"It was cool to have that unit, with Harvey (Dahl) and the guys. We were really close friends. We kind of helped each other when one guy wasn't feeling too great. We were able to support each other back them."

- OT Sam Baker on the closeness of the 2010 offensive line that led the Falcons to the NFC South title.

Strategy & Personnel

Ray Edwards has undergone two knee surgeries since signing with the Falcons as a free agent last season. The latest came following a 3.5-sack season last year.

The defensive end, whom the Falcons gave a five-year, $30 million contract, says he is finally healthy.

"Last year was last year," Edwards said. "Coming off knee surgery and jumping right into a full season was very tough on my body, period. I started having trouble with my other leg. No excuses, but I went out there and put my best foot forward and continued to play. This year, I'm fully healthy."

Edwards also is encouraged by Nolan's defensive scheme. He said it gives him a chance rush the passer without having pass-coverage responsibilities.

"It's a lot better because it's more us up front attacking, attacking, attacking," Edwards said. "That's the more plus thing about this defense and letting our back end play the way they play. … Let me go. I came from a defense in Minnesota where no matter what we just rushed the front four and let the back end do their job."

Medical Watch:

Four players continue not to participate in OTA sessions because of injury. Defensive end Cliff Matthews (undisclosed), defensive tackle Corey Peters (foot), offensive lineman Lamar Holmes (toe) and linebacker Stephen Nicholas (toe) were out. Tight end Michael Palmer, Tatupu and Matthews worked out with trainers on the side. Holmes is no longer wearing a walking boot on his left foot.

Medical Watch:

No updates.

Franchise Player:

CB Brent Grimes (tendered at $10.281 million; signed April 24).

Transition Player:


Unrestricted Free Agents

(not tendered offers)

OT Kirk Chambers (not tendered as UFA).

TE Reggie Kelly (not tendered as UFA).

LB Mike Peterson (not tendered as UFA).

G/C Brett Romberg (not tendered as UFA).

Restricted Free Agents:


Exclusive Rights Free Agents:


Draft Choices Signed

G/C Peter Konz (2/55): 4 yrs, terms unknown.

T Lamar Holmes (3/91): 4 yrs, terms unknown.

FB Bradie Ewing (5/157): 4 yrs, terms unknown.

S Charles Mitchell (6/192): 4 yrs, terms unknown.

DT Travian Robertson (7/249): 4 yrs, terms unknown.

Players Re-signed

DE John Abraham: UFA; 3 yrs, terms unknown.

FS Thomas DeCoud: Potential UFA; $21M/5 yrs, $4M guaranteed.

DE Kroy Biermann: Potential UFA; $12M/3 yrs, $3M guaranteed.

WR Harry Douglas: UFA; 4 yrs, terms unknown.

TE Tony Gonzalez: Potential UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.

CB Brent Grimes: Franchise FA; $10.281M/1 yr.

C Todd McClure: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.

TE Michael Palmer: Potential ERFA; $540,000/1 yr.

QB Chris Redman: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.

RB Antone Smith: Potential ERFA; $540,000/1 yr.

RB Jason Snelling: Potential UFA; $4M/3yrs.

DT Vance Walker: RFA; tendered at $1.26M with seventh-round pick as compensation); $1.26M/1 yr.

LS Joe Zelenka: UFA; terms unknown.

Players Acquired

OG Vince Manuwai: FA; terms unknown.

CB Asante Samuel (trade Eagles).

LB Lofa Tatupu: FA; $5.75M/2 yrs.

Players Lost

CB Kelvin Hayden: UFA Bears; $825,000/1 yr.

MLB Curtis Lofton: UFA Saints; $33.5M/6 yrs, $5M SB/$7.8M guaranteed/$6M base in 2017 voidable.

FB Ovie Mughelli (released).

S James Sanders: UFA Cardinals; 1 yr, terms unknown.

WR Eric Weems: UFA Bears; $4.2M/3 yrs, $1.5M guaranteed.

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I hate that he is working with the first team offense. I would have made him earn it in training camp. I can't remember who said it but I remember reading that every position would be up for competition reguardless of draft position. Boy was that just HOT AIR!!!!

Just because he is taking snaps with the first team dosen't mean he's a starter. I know for a fact Reynolds will not be the starter come week 1.

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Two points that stand out to me are that Edwards is healthy and will play more like he did in MIN which makes me believe 8 and maybe 10 sacks are reasonable for 2012.

Secondly Cliff Matthews missing time makes up hill battle tomake roster that much harder. I think he will be a practice squad candidate.

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One thing that concerns me is where it says Tatupu was working out with trainers. Could be one those nagging reoccuring injuries that kept him out of football last season. I hope not though, good competition is needed.

didn't he say that he was out of football cause no one wanted to sign him?.....it wasn't cause of injury...

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