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Five Under-The-Radar For 'hard Knocks'

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Friday, June 13, 2014

Five under-the-radar for 'Hard Knocks'

By Vaughn McClure

When it was announced the Atlanta Falcons would be part of the HBO series "Hard Knocks" this season, naturally players such as Julio Jones, Roddy White, Steven Jackson, William Moore and Matt Ryan came to mind as characters to focus on throughout training camp.

But it's always interesting to see the under-the-radar guys get some publicity, like Danny Amendola with the Dallas Cowboys in the 2008 version of the documentary.

Here are five such candidates for the Falcons:

1. Mickey Shuler, tight end: He was on the practice squad last season and had a broken hand near the end of the year. Shuler stayed after every practice catching balls with former teammate Seth Doege. Although the Falcons brought in veteran Bear Pascoe as a blocker and have a pass-catcher in Levine Toilolo, Shuler has the ability to do both.

2. Terren Jones, offensive tackle: Jones has impressed new offensive line coach Mike Tice throughout the offeason, and he's quite a character if you ever get a chance to hold a conversation with him. Not to mention he goes with Russell Westbrook-style fashion sometimes. He might push Lamar Holmes for a backup role behind starting tackles Sam Baker and Jake Matthews.

3. Robert McClain, cornerback: McClain quietly goes about his business, but he's capable of making big plays as the nickelback. He'll be pushed by veteran newcomers Josh Wilson and Javier Arenas. McClain is an artist off the field, adding some flare to his story.

4. Marquis Spruill, linebacker: If he develops, the rookie from Syracuse could be used in coverage in the sub package. His chances to contribute increased when Sean Weatherspoon was lost for the season with an Achilles tear. The Falcons have asked Spruill to bulk up, which might make for interesting TV in terms of following his diet.

5. Paul Soliai, nose tackle: There's something just intriguing about the big guy up front with the long hair. Soliai might not be a chatterbox, but his presence alone is worth a storyline. He should make life miserable for some of the offensive linemen throughout camp. I wouldn't want to block him. Soliai was part of "Hard Knocks" before with the Miami Dolphins in 2012.

Wanted to started a Hardknocks thread here in Pure Football should be interesting seeing the team on HBO.

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I forgot about Shuler. The TE position will definitely be one to watch. Shuler interested me last year. Would like to see more of him.

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I'm not sure who wrote it, but there was a similar article that mentioned Jacques Smith as a player to watch. I don't know anything about him, but as an undrafted rookie free-agent it would be difficult to crack the lineup at a position where so much draft currency was spent. That being said, linebacker is definitely a position to keep an eye on throughout training camp based on shear numbers alone.

Also not a fan of the Falcons volunteering for Hard Knocks but that won't stop me from watching with interest.

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I'm interested in seeing Spruill because between him and Ricardo Allen, I haven't heard ANYTHING about how things are going for them so far. Not sure if the silence is a good thing.

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Would like to see this happen during the Hard Knocks airing!!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Would be wise to extend White before camp

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By Vaughn McClure

The NFL deadline for signing a franchise player to a long-term extension is Tuesday, and New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham already cashed in.

For the Atlanta Falcons, such is not applicable, considering no one on the team received the franchise tag. But there is a player who should be tagged with an extension based on his value to the franchise.

No, we're not talking about Julio Jones right now. Jones will be paid handsomely. There is no doubt about that, considering the Falcons expect their top receiver to be back to his dynamic self following foot surgery. And the team obviously wants the 25-year-old Jones to be a Falcon for life.

But this is a reference to the team's other top pass-catcher: Roddy White. The 32-year-old veteran is entering the last year of his contract and he expected to receive an extension at some point after this year's draft.

It hasn't happened yet.

Getting White signed before training camp starts July 25 probably would be a smart move. The last thing the team needs coming off a 4-12 season is one of its top players to be disgruntled. And everyone knows White isn't afraid to speak his mind. It might make for a good storyline for HBO's "Hard Knocks," but the Falcons and White don't need the drama.

If any type of negotiations started -- which there is no guarantee such is the case -- any business was put on hold as White grieved the recent murder of his younger brother back home in South Carolina. White rejoined the team for the end of organized team activities, then was held out of minicamp as a precaution.

Maybe the Falcons are proceeding with caution in regard to the extension because of White's age and because he battled numerous injuries last season. However, White proved he has plenty left in him when he caught 38 passes for 449 yards and two touchdowns over the final four games of 2013.

White wants to play three or four more years and retire a Falcon. He knows he won't break the bank on the way out. Another $8-10 million guaranteed doesn't seem too outrageous for a player who posted six consecutive seasons of 1,000-plus receiving yards between 2007-2012. Plus, he has 12 games of eight-plus catches and 12 games of 100-plus receiving yards since turning 30.

No to mention an extension could help free up some cap space and lower White's cap number for 2014. He currently has the team's third-highest cap figure at $6.35 million, behind quarterback Matt Ryan ($17.5 million) and left guard Justin Blalock ($7.66 million). The Falcons currently are about $9 million under the cap, and you never know when a few extra dollars might come in handy.

White is destined to be relied upon heavily this season. Jones, if fully healthy, is sure to attract the most attention from opposing defenses, leaving more opportunities for White. And with tight end Tony Gonzalez now retired, it makes White that much more valuable as one of Ryan's top targets.

So if White receives an extension -- which he should -- he'll surely get plenty of opportunities to prove his worth.

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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Time for Falcons to live 'Hard Knocks' life

By Vaughn McClure

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons wide receivers coach Terry Robiskie was a little skeptical when talk circulated about the team appearing on HBO's "Hard Knocks" this season.

His thoughts have changed.

"It's been fun," Robiskie said. "I think coming in, I expected it to be a distraction. I thought there would be kind of a camera in your face every day . . . 'Hard Knocks' has been good. I'm sure it's good for people who will see the insides of it.

"I think it's been good for us in that whereby we would sit in those rooms at night and scream and cuss and yell -- and that's all I do, scream and cuss and holler at people -- it's given us a chance to sit down and coach. And every now and then, something funny comes out, and they've been able to capture that and hopefully show people that we're working, but we're humans."

The first episode is scheduled to air tonight at 10 p.m. ET. NFL.com posted this teaser clip.

NFL Films supervising producer Rob Gehring, the director of "Hard Knocks," broke down the details of the editing process.

By the end of Sunday's practice, Gehring said, about 250 to 300 hours of footage had been captured, including video taken before training camp started. There are six regular cameras at practice along with nine robotic cameras. Typically, the crew has four boom microphones, and 10-12 coaches and players wear microphones during practice to collect all of the necessary audio.

"We send all the footage back to New Jersey," Gehring said. "There's probably about 20 people at the front end that go through the footage and they do what is called "self-clip" it. So they break it in small, little pieces. They put names on it based on who it is, what it is, how good it is. They star it: one star for good, two stars for really good, stuff like that.

"And then there's probably another 12-15 editors who go through that footage and they start to craft scenes. They do scenes based on an event, like "Friday Night Lights" or a character like Matt Ryan. . . . There's probably anywhere from 30 to 40 people [in the editing process]. You end up with probably 50, 60 good scenes. And then you have senior producer, Paul Camarata, and he goes through it with our editor, Dave Stiles, and they go through all the footage. And they probably cut a 90-minute show to start."

From there, the show is cut down to about 50 minutes, for an hour-long window with no commercials. Then Gehring and Ken Rodgers, the supervising producer and the mastermind behind the whole project, discuss the final content.

Gehring will watch the show with Falcons coach Mike Smith this morning for editing purposes. General manager Thomas Dimitroff also might be involved.

"We'll watch it once just to see if there are any concerns," Gehring said. "In the past, it's mostly been minor concerns, mostly football chalk-talk stuff. Maybe a stray 'Omaha' got in there, so they want to take that out.

"The intent of [the meeting with Smith] is competitive advantage. And every interaction I've had with Mike so far is he seems to have a very good grasp of what the show is from having done it once. I think him being around the show in Baltimore helped him understand what it is and what the process is."

Gehring said the deadline for the final copy is "flexible" depending on if edits occur after meeting with Smith. There's a chance footage from Monday's contentious joint practice with the Tennessee Titans will make the show.

The Falcons have provided their share of drama so far with a handful of fights, repeated trash talk between safety William Moore and receiver Roddy White, verbal tirades by line coaches Bryan Cox and Mike Tice, and at least one frightening moment when tackle Terren Jones was rushed to the hospital after suffering a concussion.

It wouldn't be a surprise to see some away-from-the-field footage of running back Steven Jackson and his passion for art.

"What's interesting for me is as much as any team I've been around, the stars on this team are comfortable with the idea of the show, they're open to the idea of the show, they're being themselves and pretty entertaining." Gehring said. "That's been cool.

"In this first show, I don't know how deep we'll end up diving into specific rookies. But I can say the rookie class in general, and the concepts of rookies and vets, is certainly something we'll dive into . . . And we captured some good altercations at practice, yes."

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Man the first episode was good. Glad to see a different side of the players off the field. Coach Tice an Cox are damm fools! The camp battles are sure to heat up!

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