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Falcons Team Report


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Falcons Team Report

Yahoo! Sports - 8 minutes ago

Inside Slant

Notes, Quotes

Strategy and Personnel

Coordinators are on the spot in Atlanta

Essentially, the Falcons major offseason pickups were defensive coordinator Mike Nolan and offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter.

The offense will feature the same 10 of the 11 starters, who opened the 2011 season in Chicago. Center Todd McClure was out with a knee injury and Joe Hawley started for him.

The defense will feature 9 of 11 of the starters, who opened against the Bears.

Peria Jerry will start at defensive tackle for Corey Peters and Akeem Dent takes over at middle linebacker for Curtis Lofton.

So, the Falcons have decided to keep the talent that helped them post a 10-6 mark and early a wild-card berth last season.

Any improvements will have to come from the coaching and the development of the players already on hand.

Nolan and Chiefs offensive coordinator Brian Daboll were in the same positions last season with the Miami Dolphins.

On Sunday, they will be pitted against each other when the Falcons face the Chiefs at 1 p.m. at Arrowhead Stadium.

"Brian is a very intelligent and great football coach," Nolan said. "He's got a real good mind. He's had very good mentors as far as football goes. He's been on the offensive and defensive side of the football. Brian is one of the sharpest coaches that I've been around. I was very impressed with him at Miami."

Daboll will try to unleash running backs Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis against the Falcons.

"I do think that players like to play for him because I think he tries to utilize all of the players' strengths," Nolan said. "They have a lot of explosive players. I guess his biggest problem is who is he going to give the ball too next because I'm sure has a lot of guys who want the ball."

It will help that Nolan knows Matt Cassel from their AFC East days as foes.

"He's a very competitive player," Nolan said. "I think he's tough. I think he's smart. He's always been a guy that you have to be really detailed and prepared for. I've got a lot of respect for him."

The Falcons biggest player pick was the acquisition of cornerback Asante Samuel. The revamped secondary will get tested by Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe.

"He's got very little playing time in the first game that he came back," Nolan said. "Then last week got some more. I know him from the past. He's a good player. He's a big strong player that goes up for the ball. He'll be a challenge to cover. He's one of the league's premier guys."

The Chiefs will be without Tamba Hali, who's been suspended by the league. They also have key injuries to free safety Kendrick Lewis and cornerback Brandon Flowers.

"Kansas City's secondary has been a little beat up over the preseason," Koetter said. "One of their best players, (Brandon) Flowers has not been out there at all. The free safety (Kendrick Lewis) has been out the last couple of weeks. They're banged up. They definitely have some talented guys back there and they are very well coached."

Despite the rash of injuries, the Falcons are preparing as if the injured players will make it to the field.

"That is part of the unknown going into this first game," Koetter said. "We won't see the first official injury report until (Wednesday.)The official guy that's been ruled out (Tamba Hali) we can plan for that. Everybody else, we always plan like they are going to be there."

The Falcons offensive line, which gave up 26 sacks and 84 quarterback hits last season, will have some tough matchups against Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson.

"They are two really good run stoppers in their 3-4 defense," Koetter said. "Both guys are powerful. Both guys play with their hands. They are two-gap players and they are good at it. Kansas City has a good run defense."

SERIES HISTORY: 8th regular-season meeting. Chiefs lead series, 5-2. The two teams meet for the first time since 2008 and in Kansas City for the first time since 2004. In the most recent meeting on Sept. 21, 2008, the Falcons won 38-14 at the Georgia Dome behind 104 rushing yards and three touchdowns by running back Michael Turner. In their last visit to Arrowhead on Oct. 24, 2004, Kansas City set an NFL record with two running backs -- Priest Holmes and Derrick Blaylock -- each recording four rushing touchdowns in a 56-10 victory.

Notes, Quotes

  • Luke McCown doesn't see many obstacles in his transition to backup quarterback with the Falcons. McCown spent three seasons in Jacksonville when new Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter was on staff.
    "There are some similarities," said McCown, who's listed as the No. 2 quarterback on the team's depth chart. "A lot of the verbiage that we use is different than we had in Jacksonville. That part of it is transitioning your mind from what you used to call it to what (starter) Matt (Ryan) likes to call it here. That shouldn't be too much of an obstacle."
    McCown said he welcomes the opportunity to offer Ryan another veteran perspective and the chance to mentor Davis.
    "This is my ninth year in the league," McCown said. "I've been around a lot of football. I've seen a lot. There are some things that I can hopefully bring to the table in the meeting room that will help Matt take it to the next level. In the meantime, Matt and I will team up on the young kid and bring him up to speed."

  • The decision to release QB Chris Redman was not easy, according to general manager Thomas Dimitroff. The veteran spent the past five seasons with the Falcons, the last four behind Ryan. In the end, McCown's familiarity with Koetter and his offense was the determining factor in the roster move.
    Still, the release of Redman caught Falcons players by surprise.
    "It's tough," center Todd McClure said. "He was a guy who was close to a lot of people in here. It's the toughest part of this business. That's why my wife said she stopped making friends in the NFL because as soon as she would get close to somebody, they are gone. That was the tough part for her. That is the part that will never change. It will also be tough.
    "There always are surprises. We talk about that all the time. You think you've got it figured out and you have your mind set on what the roster is going to be and, every year, there is something that throws it off. That's not our job. Our job is to go out and play. The guys upstairs get paid to make those decisions."

  • Long snapper Josh Harris, an undrafted rookie from Auburn and Carrollton, beat out veteran Joe Zelenka for one of the key special teams positions when the team trimmed the roster down to 53 players.
    He's set to open the season against the Chiefs.
    "When I found out I was really excited just to think that all the hard work and dedication and support from my family and friends that had gone into this process had paid off," Harris said. "To achieve a childhood dream of mine like this really means a lot to me and it's really special. I've made the team now, it's time to just go out there and focus on my job."
    By going with Harris over Zelenka, the Falcons, who are up against the salary cap, saved $480,883.
    "His velocity on the ball is extremely good," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "Not only on the long snaps, but (also) on the short snaps. He's a guy who can get it back there very quickly."
    It was a tough decision for the franchise.
    "You have a guy like Joe Zelenka, who's a top notch person and a very talented snapper against a young guy who was really driven to work very, very hard at developing and he did develop over the offseason and into the spring and into this preseason," Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. "It was another battle that went right down to the very, very end. We just decided that it was in the best interest for the long-term success of this team that we went with Josh over Joe."
    Harris just tried to keep a level head and perform during training camp.
    "What they were really looking for was just consistency and showing that I could do it," Harris said. "Coming out of college, we ran a spread-punt formation that didn't require me to block or anything like that. They were looking at that too, just because it was so much different than it was in college. I think I did a pretty good job there. Those were just some of the things they were looking at. I just need to keep getting better every day."

  • The Falcons signed tight end Tommy Gallarda to the practice squad last September after Marquez Branson suffered a dislocated knee cap.
    Gallarda, 6-foot-5, 262 pounds, was originally signed as a college free agent by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2011. He was a four-year letterman at Boise State, where he had 25 receptions for 257 yards and nine touchdowns.
    Gallarda used his time on the practice squad to improve and he made the roster cut down to 53 players.
    "You want consistency," offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said. "That's all you can ask of any player is that you get the same guy every day. Then you try to put them in position to play to their strengths and avoid their weaknesses."
    Gallarda will backup Tony Gonzalez and Michael Palmer. He will be primarily used as a blocker, but has flashed some more than capable hands in practice.
    "You've got role players on every offense and all you can do is ask those guys to be consistent," Koetter said.
    Reggie Kelly was the team's third tight end last season, while Gallarda was toiling away on the practice squad.
    "Watching Tony every day, really helped out my learning curve," Gallarda said. "I was able to carry that over to this year."
    He doesn't plan to rest on his roster spot. He's seen players come and go and plans to continue to improve.
    "I'm more of a(blocking tight end)," Gallarda said. "I want to be good at both. I want to run routes and catch the ball. I can stand there and block in pass (protection). I'm just trying to be balance and do everything."

  • Safety Mark LeGree, who was signed to the practice squad, is with his sixth NFL team.
    LeGree hopes this is his last stop.
    "I don't think every time is my last chance, but I do treat it as if it is," LeGree said. "I just want to work harder and try my best to stand out so that I can be here. I don't like jumping from team to team. I don't like that lifestyle. I want to find a home."
    LeGree was drafted by the Seattle in the fifth round of the 2011 draft. He's also had a cup of coffee with Arizona, New York Jets, San Francisco (twice) and Chicago.
    "It was great because I wasn't expecting this at all," said LeGree, who played at Appalachian State. "I always wanted to be close to home. I played high school football in Georgia. For the Falcons to want me here was just great."
    LeGree knows how the practice squad works.
    "I've already experienced it," LeGree said. "It varies from week to week on the practice squad. My goal is to try to stay here as long as I can."

By The Numbers:

10—Number of starters this year who opened the 2011 season on offense.

9 -- Number of starters this year who opened 2011 season on defense.

51 -- Last season, Atlanta scored 51 points on its opening drives, including six touchdowns, which was the third highest total in the NFL.

16 -- Defensively, the Falcons held opponents to just 16 points and only one touchdown on their first offensive possessions, which was the third best mark in the NFL.

.531—Falcons coach Mike Smith's regular-season winning percentage on the road (17-15).

92.2 - Matt Ryan's quarterback rating last season.

Quote To Note:

"They are big and they can run. They are sound. They are well-coached and they are physical. It will be a challenge. They've got a number of returners and they hit it. They have a change-up. They have a young guy who's got a lot of speed and they've got a second-year guy in (Javier) Arenas, who can really hit you. He's a physical returner. We're going to have to do everything in our ability to get him on the ground."

—Special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong on the Kansas City Chiefs.

Strategy & Personnel

The Falcons have attempted to be secretive about the winners of some of their position battles.

At cornerback, Brent Grimes and Dunta Robinson are listed as the starters with Asante Samuel backing up Robinson. In the nickel, Robinson will slide down inside.

Player Notes

  • RG Garrett Reynolds appears to be the winner over Peter Konz for the starting right guard spot. He's listed No. 1 on the team's depth chart.

  • QB Luke McCown will enter the season as the No. 2 quarterback, ahead of Dominique Davis, an undrafted rookie the team plans to develop.

  • WR Harry Douglas is listed as the top punt returner.

  • MLB Akeem Dent is set to start his first game at middle linebacker. He's a two-down player and will come out when the Falcons used their nickel package.

  • DT Peria Jerry will take over the nose tackle spot for Corey Peters. The former first-round pick has been one of the surprises of training camp according to defensive coordinator Mike Nolan.

Injury Impact

  • DT Corey Peters is on the non-football injury list with a stress fracture in his foot that he suffered while working out away from the facility in the offseason.

  • RB Jason Snelling has returned from a lower right leg injury.

  • CB Christopher Owens has returned from a hamstring injury.

Game Plan:

The Falcons plan to unleash their newfound vertical passing attack against the Chiefs' banged up secondary.

The Chiefs will also be without their top pass rusher in Tamba Hali, who's been suspended by the league.

During the preseason, quarterback Matt Ryan and wide receiver Julio Jones were in sync.

They will attempt to carry that over into the regular season.

Matchups To Watch:

Falcons SS William Moore, who recorded 62 tackles (37 solo), two interceptions and nine passes defensed in 2011, vs. Chiefs TE Tony Moeaki, who caught 47 passes as a rookie and is coming back after spending last season on injured reserve. "He's done a good job," Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said. "He's a guy that (the Chiefs) have been trying to feature. He's using him a little bit like he used (Dustin) Keller at the Jets. He's a big guy. He's athletic. He catches the ball well. He serves more as their move tight end."

Falcons TE Tony Gonzalez, who played 12 seasons with the Chiefs, vs. Chiefs SS Eric Berry, who steps back in at safety after missing nearly all of last season with a knee injury. In 2010, Berry became the first Chiefs player since linebacker Derrick Thomas in 1989 to earn a Pro Bowl selection following his rookie season when he set a franchise safety record with 126 tackles and returned four interceptions for 102 yards, including a 54-yard touchdown. Gonzalez does not appear to be showing any signs of slowing down at age 36.



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Another article I just found on the preview of our game Sunday.

TIME: 01:00 P.M. EST

VENUE: Arrowhead Stadium

Tony Gonzalez is returning to face the Kansas City Chiefs, beginning what figures to be his last season to try to finally win a playoff game.

Matt Ryan and coach Mike Smith have more time but also must be wondering when the Atlanta Falcons will break through.

Gonzalez will play as a visitor at Arrowhead Stadium for the first time Sunday when the Falcons look to begin their recovery from another postseason disappointment as they meet the banged-up Chiefs.

The 12-time Pro Bowler has never played against his former team and will likely get a hero's welcome, back at the home of the franchise with which he holds team records in receptions (916), receiving yards (10,940) and touchdown catches (76).

"It's going to be a little weird being in a different locker room and coming out of that tunnel when we first come in," Gonzalez told the Chiefs' official website. "It's going to be a little weird, but I'm looking forward to it."

Gonzalez was traded to Atlanta before the 2009 season for a 2010 second-round pick that the Chiefs used on defensive back Javier Arenas. Kansas City was in a rebuilding mode, and Gonzalez wanted to play for a contender.

He went 0-3 in the playoffs with Kansas City and now has defeats the last two years with Atlanta. The Falcons fell 24-2 to the eventual Super Bowl champion Giants in a wild-card game after a 10-6 season in 2011.

Gonzalez has indicated he will likely retire after this year, and still believes the Falcons can get over the hump.

"I realize we have an opportunity to go to the playoffs, win a playoff game, and that's what I want," the future Hall of Famer said. "I've been playing my whole career for a chance to go to the Super Bowl and I feel we have as good a chance as anybody."

Ryan and Smith have been together for a franchise-record four straight winning seasons, but their 0-3 postseason mark has the Falcons still looking for their first playoff win since the 2004 season.

Atlanta is confident it can take the next step in 2012.

"I think this is probably the most talented group we've had up to this point," receiver Roddy White said. "We can all run. I think our team's fast. I think we play fast. I think it can be special."

The Falcons certainly have plenty of talent, with the NFC's leading returning rusher in Michael Turner and top receivers in White and Julio Jones. Ryan threw for a career-high 29 touchdowns last year, including 20 in the final nine regular-season games against four interceptions.

There are new coordinators on both sides of the ball, with Dirk Koetter on offense and Mike Nolan on defense.

Nolan will likely use more schemes with three cornerbacks than with three linebackers. That's because Atlanta added four-time Pro Bowler Asante Samuel to a unit that includes fellow corners Brent Grimes and Dunta Robinson.

"The (Falcons) secondary in general is an outstanding secondary, probably one of the best secondaries we'll go up against all year," Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel said.

Cassel was limited to nine games a year ago due to a hand injury as he enters his fourth season with Kansas City, which went 7-9 after winning the AFC West the previous season.

A tumultuous season saw Romeo Crennel take over as coach for Todd Haley for the final three games. The Chiefs won two of them, handing the Packers their lone regular-season defeat in Crennel's debut and helping him earn the permanent job.

Crennel, however, faces a new set of problems with his defense. The unit will be without linebacker Tamba Hali, suspended for the opener for violating the league's policy on substance abuse.

Linebacker Derrick Johnson is bothered by a bad ankle, cornerback Brandon Flowers has a bum heel, safety Kendrick Lewis is dealing with a shoulder injury and backup cornerback Jalil Brown has been trying to recover from a groin strain.

If Flowers and Brown do not play, veteran Jacques Reeves could be called upon to shadow either White or Jones. It's also hard to know what to expect from safety Eric Berry, a Pro Bowler in his 2010 rookie season who is coming back from a torn ACL.

"Other guys have to step up and they have to be relentless," Crennel said. "Like Eric Berry, he's going to be relentless with or without Tamba. I think other guys will have to play the same way."

There could be a greater urgency to get snaps for first-round draft pick Dontari Poe, a defensive tackle the Chiefs hoped to use as a situational pass rusher but now could be starting.

Improvement in a running game that wasn't very productive last season would help keep the injury-plagued defense off the field. The Chiefs led the league with 2,627 rushing yards in 2010 only to fall to 15th with 1,893 yards one year later while finishing with an AFC-low 20 touchdowns.

Jamaal Charles, however, is back after being limited to two games due to a torn ACL while the Chiefs also added former 1,000-yard back Peyton Hillis from Cleveland.

Ryan was a rookie the last time these teams met nearly four years ago. He threw a 70-yard TD pass to White, and Turner gained 104 yards and scored three times in the Falcons' 38-14 victory.

Copyright 2012 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

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