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Team Report - Atlanta Falcons


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15 hours agoThe SportsXchange

INSIDE SLANT

When the Atlanta Falcons signed Dwight Lowery to a free-agent contract on April 8, the assumption was he would replace Thomas DeCoud as the starting free safety. That assumption seemed safe even after the Falcons selected raw Wisconsin prospectDezmen Southward in the third round of the draft.

But it appears the Falcons may prefer that Southward emerge as the starter with Lowery as insurance.

"We want him to compete for a starting job," head coach Mike Smith said of Lowery. "We want all of our guys to have that mindset. Dwight is an experienced player (with) a lot of games under his belt. Dez, we like his skill set. He can run. He just has to learn the system. He will get an opportunity to compete with Dwight and the other guys."

It would seem Lowery has the edge because of experience and pass coverage ability. Lowery has started 41 of 68 games over six pro seasons and has earned a reputation as a solid cover man. Plus, Lowery played in Rex Ryan's defense, which is similar to that of Falcons coordinator Mike Nolan.

"Coverage ability, but also understanding football and what offenses are trying to do with different formations and different matchups," Lowery said of his strengths. "Having experience playing throughout the secondary, being able to cover different types of athletes -- that's something that's definitely my strong suit."

Southward, meanwhile, said he didn't play in coverage at all until his senior season at Wisconsin. The Falcons drafted him higher than most analysts projected while citing his size-speed combination and athletic ability.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Gabe Carmini took some snaps at starting right guard in place of Jon Asamoah during Wednesday's practice. The Falcons were working on the running offense at the time. Coach Mike Smith downplayed the shift. "I think it's important that we look at different combinations of guys."

--With Tony Gonzalez retired the Falcons plan to more often line up their tight ends next to their tackles and use them as run blockers. "We have got to create a position that plays to their strengths and they are different than Tony Gonzalez," Smith said of tight end candidates Levine Toilolo, Bear Pascoe and Mickey Shuler.

--Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones, out since undergoing foot surgery last October, worked on the side with trainers during Wednesday's practice and did some light running and cutting. Also out because of injury were linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (knee), defensive tackle Corey Peters (Achilles), safety Zeke Motta (neck) and tight end Andrew Szczerba (undisclosed).

--Smith said he expects wide receiver Roddy White to participate in team activities next week. White missed last week and this week while mourning the shooting death of his brother.

--Running back Devonta Freeman, a fourth-round draft pick out of Florida State, was back at practice after missing last week to attend a mandatory rookie event in California. "He's doing a nice job," Smith said. "He's got great vision, he's got great stop-and-start ability. The big thing that he needs to work on is the ability to work in pass protection because we ask our backs to do a lot."

--Smith said he felt the rookies were shaky with taking their classroom work to the field last week but said the group was "much better" this week. "I think the things we are doing with these rookies is really helping," Smith said. "We've got a developmental plan for these guys. We are going to spend more time with them on the field. I think the entire class is progressing well."

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

A closer look at the Falcon's picks:

Round 1/6 -- Jake Matthews, T, 6-5, 308, Texas A&M

--Matthews played right tackle for three seasons at Texas A&M before moving to left tackle last season. "Again, we couldn't be more excited to have him aligned at the right tackle spot," general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. "We are not projecting Sam (Baker); he is our left tackle."

--Round 2/37 -- Ra'Shede Hageman, DE, 6-6, 310, Minnesota

--Hageman played nose tackle for his final two seasons with the Gophers, but the Falcons said he'll play defensive end. Falcons coaches got an up-close look at Hageman during Senior Bowl week, where he dominated the one-on-one drills the entire week.

Round 3/68 -- Dezmen Southward, S, 6-0, 211, Wisconsin

--The Falcons released starting free safety Thomas DeCoud over the offseason and are counting on the athletic Southward to win the starting spot. He has a 42-inch vertical and ran a 4.39 40-yard dash. He had a 31 Wonderlic score. The Falcons are fine with his medicals after he was excluded from the combine because of wrist and spine injuries.

Round 4/103 -- Devonta Freeman, RB, 5-8, 206, Florida State

--Freeman, 5-foot-8 and 206 pounds, rushed 173 times for 1,016 yards last season. He became Florida State's first 1,000-yard rusher since Warrick Dunn accomplished that feat in 1996. He will compete for a backup spot behind Steven Jackson.

Round 4/139 -- Prince Shembo, OLB, 6-1, 253 Notre Dame

--Over his career at Notre Dame, he posted 145 tackles (24.5 for loss), had 19.5 sacks and 35 pressures. Shembo started 34 of 51 games at Notre Dame. He played 26 games at right outside linebacker and eight on the left side. He's considered a 3-4 outside linebacker with edge-rushing ability.

Round 5/147 -- Ricardo Allen, CB, 5-9, 187, Purdue

--He holds the Purdue record with four interceptions returned for touchdowns. He played 50 games and made 48 starts for the Boilermakers. Started all 12 games as a freshman.

Round 5/168 -- Marquis Spruill, LB, 6-1, 231, Syracuse

--Played at Fork Union Military Academy after not attracting any scholarship offers coming out of Hillside, N.J. He played strong side linebacker the first two seasons before moving to play middle linebacker the last two seasons. His 41 tackles for loss rank second in school history.

Round 7/253 -- Yawin Smallwood, MLB, 6-2, 246, Connecticut

--He played middle linebacker for the Huskies and flowed well to the ball. He was a team captain.

Round 7/255 -- Tyler Starr, LB, 6-4, 250, South Dakota

--He was the Missouri Valley Conference defensive player of the year. He started 11 of 12 games and had 71 tackles and forced four fumbles. He was ejected for targeting against Missouri State and had to sit out the first half against Indiana State.

PERSONNEL TRACKER

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)

--TE Chase Coffman (not tendered as UFA).

--CB Dominique Franks (not tendered as UFA).

--LB Omar Gaither (not tendered as UFA).

--T Sean Locklear (not tendered as UFA).

--T Jeremy Trueblood (not tendered as UFA).

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS

--WR Drew Davis (tendered $570,000) was a valuable reserve who will compete for a backup spot in training camp.

SIGNED DRAFT CHOICES

--T Jake Matthews (1/6): 4 yrs, terms unknown.

--DE Ra'Shede Hageman (2/37): 4 yrs, terms unknown.

--RB Devonta Freeman (4/103): 4 yrs, terms unknown.

--LB Prince Shembo (4/137); 4 yrs, terms unknown.

--CB Ricardo Allen (5/147): 4 yrs, terms unknown.

--LB Marcus Spruill (5/168): 4 yrs, terms unknown.

--LB Yawin Smallwood (7/253): 4 yrs, terms unknown.

--LB Tyler Starr (7/255): 4 yrs, terms unknown.

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED

--S Jonathan Babineaux: Potential UFA; 3 yrs, terms unknown.

--C/G Joe Hawley: Potential UFA; $6.5M/2 yrs, $3M guaranteed.

--LB Justin Hickman: Potential ERFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.

--DT Peria Jerry: UFA; terms unknown.

--T/G Mike Johnson: Potential RFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.

--CB Robert McClain: RFA tendered at $1.431M with 7th-round pick as compensation); $1.431M/1 yr.

--DT Corey Peters: Potential UFA; $1M/1 yr.

PLAYERS ACQUIRED

--CB Javier Arenas: UFA Cardinals; 1 yr, terms unknown.

--G Jon Asamoah: UFA Chiefs; $22.5M/5 yrs, $8M guaranteed.

--OL Gabe Carimi: FA Buccaneers; $850,000/1 yr, $65,000 SB.

--WR/KR Devin Hester: UFA Bears; 3 yrs, terms unknown.

--DT Tyson Jackson: UFA Chiefs: $25M/5 yrs.

--S Dwight Lowery: FA; 1 yr, terms unknown.

--TE Bear Pascoe: UFA Giants; 1 yr, terms unknown.

--DT Paul Soliai: UFA Dolphins; $33M/5 yrs, $14M guaranteed.

--CB Josh Wilson: UFA Redskins; 1 yr, terms unknown.

PLAYERS LOST

--WR Kevin Cone: Not tendered as ERFA/Dolphins; terms unknown.

--S Thomas DeCoud (released/post-June 1 designation)

--FB Bradie Ewing (released).

--TE Tony Gonzalez (retired).

--LB Stephen Nicholas (released).

--G Garrett Reynolds (released).

--CB Asante Samuel (released).

--RB Jason Snelling (retired).

http://sports.yahoo.com/news/team-report-atlanta-falcons-194317990--nfl.html

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Hageman our answer at pass rusher? Moving him to DE tells me the falcons think so. And hearing about Southward and Lowry competition tells me there will be no favorites, just may the best man win

I hope you're right with the favorite and veterans over rookies mindset. If the younger guys are better play them mike.

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Hageman is a total wildcard. If we can teach him some better technique and help him use his strength by getting better leverage, he could be awesome. But if we can't do that, he will get manhandled on most plays.

This is the one thing I am most interested in this preseason. Watching Hageman try to develop.

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Hageman our answer at pass rusher? Moving him to DE tells me the falcons think so. And hearing about Southward and Lowry competition tells me there will be no favorites, just may the best man win

DT his size normally play DE in 3-4 looks. Although he is 10-11 pounds over the average. Then again JJ Watt is 10-11 pounds under the average but I'm pretty sure he moves inside during 4-3 looks if he's on the field
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The other thing to watch this offseason is Sharod White. I have a bad feeling that this dude is officially on the decline. His brother getting murdered sucks and is obviously not his fault. But he's not practicing and he really never got into his rhythm last year after not being able to practice early. Plus he's a year older....

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The other thing to watch this offseason is Sharod White. I have a bad feeling that this dude is officially on the decline. His brother getting murdered sucks and is obviously not his fault. But he's not practicing and he really never got into his rhythm last year after not being able to practice early. Plus he's a year older....

Maybe he will do it for his brother. He finished strong last year if my, memory serves me correct. At least better than the middle portion of the season.

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" He has a 42-inch vertical and ran a 4.39 40-yard dash. He had a 31 Wonderlic score. The Falcons are fine with his medicals after he was excluded from the combine because of wrist and spine injuries. "

" Southward, meanwhile, said he didn't play in coverage at all until his senior season at Wisconsin. The Falcons drafted him higher than most analysts projected while citing his size-speed combination and athletic ability. "

This is a concern ^

Essentially an unproven project with injury issues taken in the 3rd round.....

Why do the Falcons continue to over reach like this ?

Hope it works out, but I wouldn't rush him into things with spinal concerns.

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"Coverage ability, but also understanding football and what offenses are trying to do with different formations and different matchups," Lowery said of his strengths. "Having experience playing throughout the secondary, being able to cover different types of athletes -- that's something that's definitely my strong suit."

Southward, meanwhile, said he didn't play in coverage at all until his senior season at Wisconsin. The Falcons drafted him higher than most analysts projected while citing his size-speed combination and athletic ability.

']TD better be right.

Edited by Mid-Nite-Toker
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" He has a 42-inch vertical and ran a 4.39 40-yard dash. He had a 31 Wonderlic score. The Falcons are fine with his medicals after he was excluded from the combine because of wrist and spine injuries. "

" Southward, meanwhile, said he didn't play in coverage at all until his senior season at Wisconsin. The Falcons drafted him higher than most analysts projected while citing his size-speed combination and athletic ability. "

This is a concern ^

Essentially an unproven project with injury issues taken in the 3rd round.....

Why do the Falcons continue to over reach like this ?

Hope it works out, but I wouldn't rush him into things with spinal concerns.

The injury concerns were dismissed as a mistake following the combine, he has no spine problems.
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PLAYERS LOST

--WR Kevin Cone: Not tendered as ERFA/Dolphins; terms unknown.

--S Thomas DeCoud (released/post-June 1 designation)

--FB Bradie Ewing (released).

--TE Tony Gonzalez (retired).

--LB Stephen Nicholas (released).

--G Garrett Reynolds (released).

--CB Asante Samuel (released).

--RB Jason Snelling (retired).

http://sports.yahoo....17990--nfl.html

The bold is false because TG never retires....

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Hageman is a total wildcard. If we can teach him some better technique and help him use his strength by getting better leverage, he could be awesome. But if we can't do that, he will get manhandled on most plays.

This is the one thing I am most interested in this preseason. Watching Hageman try to develop.

Unless Biermann becomes the pass rusher he never quite was, Osi takes a long drink at the Fountain of Youth this off-season, or Mass becomes the pass rusher he's yet to prove himself to be, then I'm afraid Mr. Hageman is going to have quite a load of expectation on his shoulders in his first season in the league. I'm cheering for him because he obviously is trying his damdest to be the man.

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