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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Alford makes mark on Day 1 of minicamp


By Vaughn McClure


FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The first day of mandatory minicamp was a solid showing by the Atlanta Falcons' secondary, specifically Robert Alford.

The second-year cornerback was all over the field making plays on the ball. He showed great recovery speed on a few deep balls and nearly had at least one interception.

To keep things in perspective, Alford wasn't going up against Julio Jones or Roddy White. Regardless, he showed flashes of the great future he has alongside fellow starting cornerback Desmond Trufant.

Head coach Mike Smith certainly was impressed with Alford.

"I thought Robert Alford made some phenomenal plays,'' Smith said. "You got an opportunity to see his speed and quickness; his ability to recover. There were guys that were open and when the ball was in the air, he seemed to run faster than the other guy.''

Alford wasn't the only one to stand out with speed. Undrafted rookie receiver Bernard Reedy from Toledo showed a burst while going to get some deep balls. The coaches had to take notice.

Running back Josh Vaughan looked smooth catching a perfect long ball from Matt Ryan down the right sideline. Kroy Biermann showed some explosion off the line, while new free safety Dwight Lowery continued to impress with his playmaking and communication skills.

With Day 1 in the books, here are some players to watch during Day 2 of minicamp on Wednesday:

*Dominique Davis, QB: Smith essentially challenged Davis when he said the backup quarterback competition is wide open and second-year player Sean Renfree "absolutely'' has a chance to win the job. Davis hasn't exactly stood out at this point, but he has plenty of ability.

*Tyler Starr, OLB: Starr created a buzz at rookie minicamp with his relentless pass rush, but that was before he had to face much better offensive linemen. He got pushed around a little bit by backup right tackle Ryan Schraeder on Tuesday. Let's see how he responds.

*Drew Davis, WR: Most figured Roddy White would be available for minicamp, considering he returned for the end of organized team activities. But since the coaches have decided to hold White out, it means more opportunities for players such as Davis. The more reps for Davis, the more trust Ryan will have in him.

*Stansly Maponga, OLB: Maponga spent extra time following Tuesday's practice working on his pass-rush moves with veteran Osi Umenyiora. While there are high expectations for Jonathan Massaquoi as a pass-rusher, Maponga has kind of flown under the radar. But the coaches have faith in Maponga.

*Jacquizz Rodgers, RB: Based on the quickness he showed out of the slot during 7-on-7 drills, Rodgers still has the ability to be an impact player. It's just a matter of him getting the opportunities. He could end up as the No. 3 running back if rookie Devonta Freeman emerges, as expected. Training camp will truly show where things stands, but Rodgers would be best to start impressing now.

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Thursday, June 19, 2014

LB still question with Tim Dobbins addition


By Vaughn McClure

Though a lot of the focus Wednesday night was on the Atlanta Falcons acquiring quarterback T.J. Yates from the Houston Texans for linebacker Akeem Dent, the team quietly added another inside linebacker to the mix.

Tim Dobbins, who last played for the Texans, was signed to a one-year, minimum-salary deal ($855,000 for eight NFL seasons). Dobbins worked out for the Falcons last week and joined fellow veterans Nick Barnett and Jonathan Vilma in the workout circuit.

Although the 31-year-old Dobbins has 22 starts in his career with the Chargers, Dolphins, and Texans, he's not expected to come in and make an immediate impact -- unless it's on special teams.

Sure, the Falcons need a replacement for Sean Weatherspoon, who was lost for the season with an Achilles tear. Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu have made up the first-team inside linebacker combination throughout the offseason.

Whether that combination remains the same during the regular season is the unknown. Worrilow should be solid at his spot, but the Falcons don't have full trust in Bartu just yet. Maybe Dobbins comes in and shows something as a veteran. But ideally, the Falcons would love to see one of their rookies emerge.

The primary candidate would be fourth-round pick Prince Shembo from Notre Dame. Shembo came in as a outside linebacker, but was immediately switched to inside linebacker because defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said it better fit his skill set. Shembo said the move has been quite an adjustment because he has been used to rushing the passer.

General manager Thomas Dimitroff obviously sees the upside in Shembo.

"He's an interesting prospect for us," Dimitroff said. "And with that move from outside to inside, it's going to be a transition for him. But we like how he's developing so far."

Don't count out fellow rookie Marquis Spruill, who has been working inside with Shembo during camp. The Falcons like Spruill's ability in coverage, although he still needs to gain some weight.

* Seems more like a veteran insurance policy I'm thinking they are going to give the young LB's the reps.*

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Friday, June 20, 2014

QB Davis comes to grips with release


By Vaughn McClure


Dominique Davis figured he'd get a chance to compete in training camp to remain Matt Ryan's backup. He never anticipated that opportunity coming to an abrupt end this week.

The Falcons waived Davis on Thursday, one day after acquiring quarterback T.J. Yates from the Houston Texans in exchange for linebacker Akeem Dent.

"I didn't see that one coming," Davis told ESPN.com on Friday. "I mean, I saw the trade and all. I figured they'd bring in [Yates] to compete for the No. 2 during camp. But they went another way. And there's nothing I can do about it."

Davis knew his fate was sealed based on his limited reps during Thursday's final day of minicamp. After practice, offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter walked Davis off the field and told him he needed to meet with general manager Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Mike Smith.

"They pretty much told me they brought [Yates] in to be the No. 2 and they're only going to carry two quarterbacks on the [53-man] roster," Davis said. "So, they just let me go. I guess I'm just the odd man out. ... I left on good terms, though. That's all I can do."

Davis joined the Falcons in 2012 as an undrafted free agent out of East Carolina. He made his NFL debut during last season's blowout loss at Tampa Bay, when he replaced Ryan but had to come out of the game after suffering a knee injury.

Although playing behind one of the league's top quarterbacks was a good spot, Davis said he never got complacent with his approach.

"I came in every day busting my ***," Davis said. "I was doing everything the right way.

"The only thing I thought was I wasn't going to get cut right now. I knew I had to compete for the job, but I thought I would be good through camp. I was no way being arrogant by saying, 'I'm already on the team.' I just had the feeling that, yes, I'm going to be in camp for the Falcons."

Regardless of how things ended, Davis appreciated the Falcons giving him an NFL opportunity in the first place.

"I'm very thankful for these guys putting me on the map," he said.

Davis credited Ryan for helping him grow as a quarterback and setting an example of how to be a true professional. The two were teammates in college as well, when Davis redshirted at Boston College during Ryan's senior campaign.

"Just being an overall leader, being consistent, being a pro on and off the field," Davis said of Ryan's influence. "Just being a blue-collar guy and representing the Falcons, representing your family, and representing yourself. Everything he does, that's what I want to be. That's the platform I'm trying to get on as far as being an NFL quarterback."

Davis now has to await the waiver system before becoming free to sign with any team. He should be in someone's camp in late July.

"For starters, I'm going to compete," Davis said of how he'd sell himself to another team. "That's the only thing I know, is to compete. I'm going to come in and work hard. I'm going to be the first person in the building and the last person to leave.

"I'm a leader by example. I'm not going to say I'm your vocal guy, but I can lead by example. And I'm just going to come and be the best player I can be and try to make the locker room stronger and help the team reach its goals."

The Falcons will enter training camp with four quarterbacks: Ryan, Yates, second-year player Sean Renfree and rookie Jeff Mathews.

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Friday, June 20, 2014

Falcons to host Titans during camp


By Vaughn McClure


The Atlanta Falcons announced their training camp schedule on Friday, with camp set to begin on July 25 from 3:30-5:50 p.m. ET.

On Monday Aug. 4, the Falcons have a combined practice with the Tennessee Titans that is open to the public. They also host the Titans in a preseason game, Aug. 23.

The Falcons also have combined practices with the Houston Texans in Houston before an Aug. 16 preseason matchup.

Here is the full training camp schedule:

2014 Atlanta Falcons Training Camp Schedule

Friday, July 25: 3:30-5:50 p.m. (open to the public)

Saturday, July 26: 3:30-5:50 p.m. (open to the public)

Sunday, July 27: 3:30-6:05 p.m. (open to the public)

Monday, July 28: 3:30-6:05 p.m. (open to the public)

Tuesday, July 29: 3:30-6:05 p.m. (open to the public)

Wednesday, July 30: Players' day off, no practice

Thursday, July 31: 3:30-6:05 p.m. (open to the public)

Friday, Aug. 1: KIA Motors "Friday Night Lights" at Archer High School in Lawrenceville, GA, 6:45-9:10 p.m.

Saturday, Aug. 2: 3:30-5:30 p.m. (open to the public)

Sunday, Aug. 3: 3:30-6:05 p.m. (open to the public)

Monday, Aug. 4: 3-5:30 p.m. (Combined practice with Tennessee Titans, open to the public)

Tuesday, Aug. 5: Players' day off, no practice

Wednesday, Aug. 6: 3:30-6:05 p.m. (open to the public)

Thursday, Aug. 7: Practice closed to the public

Friday, Aug. 8: Falcons vs. Dolphins, 7 p.m., Georgia Dome

Saturday, Aug. 9: 4:30-5:45 p.m. (open to the public)

Sunday, Aug. 10: Players' day off, no practice

Monday, Aug. 11: 3:30-5:50 p.m. (open to the public)

Tuesday, Aug. 12: 10 a.m.-12:35 p.m. (open to the public)

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Friday, June 20, 2014

Status of Peters, Motta unclear


By Vaughn McClure


FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Corey Peters could start training camp on the physically unable to perform list coming off an Achilles tear, while safety Zeke Motta's status for the 2014 season coming off neck surgery will be determined next month.

Both players were on the field working with the training staff during the last day of minicamp on Thursday. Peters did some light running, which appear to be a positive step in his goal to be ready for Week 1 of the regular season. He suffered the Achilles tear last December against the San Francisco 49ers.

"He has been running, but (Thursday) was probably the most extensive," coach Mike Smith said of Peters. "I can't answer if he's going to play in the preseason right now. He's ahead of schedule, but you've got to realize it was the end of December. Traditionally, it's a nine to 12 month recovery."

Asked if Peters could be on PUP for training camp, Smith responded, "Yes, that's a possibility. I'm not going to rule out that he's not going to be ready. And not going to rule out that something else happens. But we are very pleased with his progress. He is ahead of schedule right now and we're about seven months into it."

If Peters starts training camp on the active PUP list, he can be activated at any time. He would be able to dress for training camp practices but not allowed to participate.

If Peters starts the season on the reserve/PUP list, he would have to miss the first six weeks of the regular season. He would then have to start practicing by at least Week 11 in order to return.

The good thing for Peters is he doesn't have to be forced back into action too soon, based on the additions the Falcons made this offseason. The defensive line rotation will be fresher with Tyson Jackson and Paul Soliai to count upon to be the run-stuffers and players such as Peters able to sub in to provide a little more push in the pass rush. Peters had five sacks last season, second on the team behind Osi Umenyiora (7.5).

As for Motta, having him back in the safety rotation would be a bonus. Motta underwent surgery Dec. 22 after suffering a cervical fracture against the Green Bay Packers on Dec. 8.

"Zeke has a follow-up appointment in July, and that's going to be the determination of when he'll be able to return to the field, if he'll return to the field this year," Smith said.

Top receiver Julio Jones expects to be a full participant in training camp coming off foot surgery, although he didn't participate in any offseason practices.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The $100 million question for Matt Ryan


By Vaughn McClure


By Vaughn McClure

Matt Ryan

Matt Ryan says he doesn't feel any added pressure because of his lucrative contract.

Matt Ryan is not one to be consumed by outside opinion.

True to his character, the Atlanta Falcons quarterback brushed off any notion that he feels added pressure since becoming a $100 million quarterback. Ryan signed a five-year extension last July worth a maximum value of $103.50 million, a contract that included a then-record $58 million guaranteed. His salary-cap numbers for the next five seasons: $17,500,000; $19,500,000; $23,750,000; $23,750,000; and $21,650,000.

Critics wonder if Ryan was worth the investment based on his 1-4 postseason record. Then came last year’s 4-12 implosion, a drop-off which, in all fairness, was far beyond Ryan’s control.

Such skepticism about Ryan is often expressed on local talk radio or in the Twitter universe.

"I don’t worry about it too much," Ryan told ESPN.com. "I think it’s one of those things ... you understand playing this position, the stuff that comes with it. And that’s one of those things that comes with it.

"I’m a big believer in if you’re worrying about that stuff, you’re not worrying about the right stuff. I have to be concerned with what I’m doing on the field, what I’m doing in the weight room, and how I’m preparing myself in the meeting rooms. And I feel like if you do that stuff and you’re concentrating on improving in those areas, then all the other stuff ends up taking care of itself. And that’s kind of the way I’ve approached it."

Falcons coach Mike Smith bristled when asked about the increased scrutiny his quarterback faces based on the team’s hefty investment.

"Well, I don’t see added pressure," Smith said. "We’re all compensated. We have a job. Really, it’s nobody’s business, in my opinion, what a person makes. We don’t know what you make. We don’t know what other people make. And it really should be nobody’s business. But unfortunately, that’s not the way it is in the NFL.

"When you’re a starting quarterback in the NFL, it doesn’t really matter what your compensation is. You’re supposed to do the same thing regardless of what team you’re on: win. And the market is the market. I don’t really ever look at it and think about what the guy is being paid. We should focus on what we can control, and that’s doing the best we can to win."

Ryan realizes winning a Super Bowl could solidify his place among the league’s elite quarterbacks. The Falcons believe Ryan can guide them back to playoff contention, provided he remains upright. This is why they invested in the offensive line, bringing in free-agent right guard Jon Asamoah and drafting right tackle Jake Matthews.

Throw in the return of top receiver Julio Jones and an improved running game, and Ryan should have enough around him to get the Falcons back in the playoff conversation -- if the defense holds up.

However the season unfolds, the $100 million quarterback won’t put added pressure on himself.

"I dealt with that with my rookie contract, too," said Ryan, who initially signed a six-year, $72 million rookie deal that included $34.75 million guaranteed. "Coming in, it was the same kind of whatever you want to call it -- pressure. And I’ve been of the belief that if I just try and do my job, do my business the right way, work as hard as I possibly can, all that other stuff takes care of itself."

Smith appreciates Ryan’s approach.

"Matt doesn’t think about that stuff," Smith noted. "Like I’ve said, there are two people that are held responsible for wins and losses, and that’s the quarterback and the head coach.

"It doesn’t really matter what your salary is. That’s the way it is. And you’re held responsible for the outcomes. Unfortunately, you get credit when you win and you get [blamed] when you lose. But it’s all part of being a starting quarterback and head coach in the NFL."

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Jacquizz Rodgers not concerned about role


By Vaughn McClure


While rookie Devonta Freeman generated a lot of buzz for the Atlanta Falcons this offseason, another running back quietly went about his business in preparation for the 2014 campaign.

Jacquizz Rodgers, entering his fourth season, isn't worried about being overlooked in the backfield equation, with Freeman being touted as a possible every-down back and Steven Jackson already the starter. Fan-favorite Antone Smith also is a part of the group and undrafted rookie Jerome Smith hopes to make an impression.

"There are no concerns," Rodgers said, speaking about the addition of Freeman. "You've got to come and compete every year. It just makes the group better, bringing more guys. It makes everybody work harder at practice. We're going to work collectively. We're going to learn from each other. And we're going to make each other better each and every day."

The Falcons had to think toward the future with Jackson ready to turn 31 next month. That is why they drafted Freeman in the fourth round out of Florida State.

"He's a good running back," Rodgers said of his new teammate. "Comes from a winning program. Fast guy: a guy that's willing to learn, willing to learn from the older guys. He's a good piece to our puzzle in the backfield."

Rodgers has value as an all-purpose back, so he should be part of the rotation entering the regular season. So what happens when Freeman starts taking touches from Rodgers once the season starts?

"It wouldn't bother me because you know I'm going to go out there and work hard, and just continue to do what I've got to do," Rodgers said. "I know when I got my shot, I'm going to go all out."

Rodgers compiled 1,248 all-purpose yards last season, including 575 kickoff return yards. The addition of Devin Hester as a return man will keep Rodgers from being as a effective on special teams, but he will likely stay in the mix as insurance.

Rodgers remains a threat as a pass-catcher out of the backfield and a player capable of creating mismatches. Plus, he brings another aspect that a rookie such as Freeman might have a hard time with initially.

"Blocking, I take very good pride in that," Rodgers said. "As a running back, if you want to be on this field, that's one thing that you've got to be able to do."

Rodgers is capable of a lot. That is why he should have a place on the field this season

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Friday, June 27, 2014

Falcons will thrive by living in the pass

By Vaughn McClure


The Falcons want to be a balanced offense, but are at their best when Matt Ryan is throwing deep.

There seems to be quite a bit of optimism about the Atlanta Falcons boasting a more balanced offensive attack this season. One skill-position player even told me he expects it to be "50-50" in terms of run and pass plays.

Sounds nice, but I'm not buying it.

Even if the Falcons come out running in the preseason, I won't believe in such balance until I see it during a meaningful game. I won't subscribe to it until I see a conscious effort to run the ball in the first quarter or on first down.

Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter has acknowledged a renewed emphasis on the run game. But a crafty playcaller such as Koetter knows protecting quarterback Matt Ryan and allowing him to sling the ball to the likes of Julio Jones and Roddy White is what helped the Falcons get one step from the Super Bowl two years ago. It's the same type of aggressive attack I expect will allow the Falcons to rebound from last year's 4-12 implosion and get back into playoff contention -- if the defense can at least contain opposing offenses.

New offensive line coach Mike Tice put it best when I spoke with him during organized team activities.

"We're not going to be a run-first football team, by any means, with those two great receivers and that great quarterback," Tice said bluntly. "But when that man -- my buddy Dirk Koetter -- dials up the run, we better be able to run it for four yards."

I'm by no means suggesting this will be a repeat of last season, when Ryan attempted a career-high 651 passes and the Falcons averaged a mere 3.9 yards per carry on a league-low 321 rushing attempts. The Falcons played their share of games from behind, forcing Ryan into even more throwing situations, and the ground game was barely existent to begin with, particularly after Steven Jackson was slowed by a hamstring injury.

I expect Ryan to be among the top five quarterbacks in passing yards for a third consecutive season. I just think he will put up those numbers under better circumstances. I expect we'll see more of the Ryan we saw in San Francisco last season, when he carved up the 49ers, completing 37 of 48 passes for 348 yards and two scores. I also expect the Falcons to be among the league's top 10 in scoring, like they were in 2010, 2011 and 2012 (fifth, seventh and seventh, respectively). Last season, they dipped to 20th with an average of 22.1 points per game.

Of course, Ryan and the offense have to be smart and take what opposing defenses give them. It's just hard to imagine them running the ball down a team’s throat the entire game.

A lot depends on the new-look offensive line. We should get a better feel for the unit during training camp, particularly when the Falcons have their joint practices with the Tennessee Titans and the Houston Texans. But the Falcons didn't sign Jon Asamoah and draft Jake Matthews with the intent of becoming a grind-it-out team. It's about protecting Ryan and giving him adequate time to find his receivers and go deep. And his deep ball has been on point this offseason. Just ask undrafted rookie receiver Bernard Reedy, the recipient of many of those sharp throws.

Ryan was pressured on a league-high 204 of his dropbacks last season. That can't happen again. The line has to hold its own, even with the intense pressure it will face in the NFC South from the Saints, Panthers and Buccaneers.

There are other variables to consider. Will Jones return to full form after a second surgery on his right foot? Will White avoid the nagging injuries that plagued him last season? Will tight end Levine Toilolo's contribution in the red zone make Tony Gonzalez a distant memory? Will left tackle Sam Baker's left knee hold up an entire season?

If the answer to at least the first two of those questions is "yes," then I see no reason why the Falcons shouldn't have success through the air.

I'm not disregarding the contribution of the running backs in the grand scheme. Tice brought in some new running concepts from his years of expertise. I believe Jackson has one more solid year left in him. I believe rookie Devonta Freeman can have an immediate impact. And I believe Jacquizz Rodgers has great value in the screen game, which is essentially an extension of the run.

But when it comes to the Falcons' offensive success this season, I'll simply take a pass.

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Yep hey man I finally got ps4 and playing madden has been much better on the 4.

yeah the gameplay is alot better on the 4 than it was on last Gen. Played a guy Saturday who disconnected like a ***** after I took the lead and picked him off twice in the 4th quarter.

Add me, ya_boi_j127. We can link up whenever we catch each other on sometimes

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yeah the gameplay is alot better on the 4 than it was on last Gen. Played a guy Saturday who disconnected like a ***** after I took the lead and picked him off twice in the 4th quarter.

Add me, ya_boi_j127. We can link up whenever we catch each other on sometimes

Cool, I'm ATLien40 on there so you know it's me.

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Camp preview: Atlanta Falcons

By Vaughn McClure


NFL Nation's Vaughn McClure examines the three biggest issues facing the Atlanta Falcons heading into training camp.

Julio Jones: Everyone knows how dynamic Jones is when he's healthy, but coming off a second right foot surgery, no one will be at ease until he absorbs his first live contact. Jones was held out of all offseason activity but said he feels stronger due to extensive weightlifting, particularly with squats. The Falcons sorely missed him last season, particularly in the red zone and as a deep threat. Matt Ryan can always throw a quick screen to Jones and rely on him to pick up plenty of yards after the catch. Jones, despite the surgery, seems more confident than ever in his ability, touting himself as the league's best receiver and saying he and Roddy White are the league's top receiver combination. Jones has a career average of 15.7 yards per catch and has 42 catches of 20-plus yards. To put it simply, the Falcons' offense is rather pedestrian without Jones in the lineup. With him, opposing defenses have more planning to do. The Falcons need Jones for all 16 games in a pivotal 2014 season.

Offensive line: Yes, the Falcons invested in the offensive line this offseason by signing right guard Jon Asamoah to a five-year deal worth $4.5 million per season and by drafting right tackle Jake Matthews in the first round. Yes, the Falcons hired Mike Tice, a new offensive line coach capable of instilling some toughness. But none of that will matter if the five guys up front don't develop cohesiveness as a unit. The Falcons expect Matthews to make a seamless transition to the pros, and the expectation is for left tackle Sam Baker to hold his own despite coming off a significant knee surgery. Some of center Joe Hawley's struggles last season can be attributed to weak play next to him at right guard, so having Asamoah in the fold should benefit Hawley. And left guard Justin Blalock was the team's best lineman last season. The Falcons feel like they have some quality depth now with Mike Johnson, Ryan Schraeder and even newcomer Gabe Carimi. But if they have to rely on their second-stringers, it could be another long season along the line.

Lacking at linebacker: Since we've talked so much about the lack of a pass rush, it's time to pinpoint a different area of deficiency on defense. Obviously the Falcons aren't where they need to be in terms of their linebacker situation. The loss of Sean Weatherspoon (Achilles) will be felt, although injuries limited his time last season as well. There's something to be said for having a spiritual leader and coach on the field, and the Falcons will miss that from Weatherspoon. No one can take away what Paul Worrilow accomplished last year as an undrafted rookie, but Worrilow would be the first to say he missed his share of tackles. And the coaching staff doesn't have full confidence in Joplo Bartu. Rookie fourth-round pick Prince Shembo was switched from outside linebacker to inside linebacker, and the coaches believe they can mold him into a capable replacement for Weatherspoon. Shembo has the talent, but even he admitted it will be a quite an adjustment from what he did at Notre Dame. The Falcons worked out veterans such as Jonathan Vilma and Nick Barnett but only signed Tim Dobbins, a guy better known for special teams. It wouldn't be a surprise to see the Falcons add another linebacker before camp or search the open market for linebacker depth once cuts are made. The issues at linebacker put more of the onus on the rebuilt defensive line, led by Paul Soliai and Tyson Jackson, to create havoc up front.

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SO many question marks on the defensive front 7. We could be awesome or royally suck. Yet another publication with Holmes not making it.

Yeah really makes you wonder how Tice feels about Holmes. I think the defensive is going to surprise now with the additions of soliai, Jackson and Hageman
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Yeah really makes you wonder how Tice feels about Holmes. I think the defensive is going to surprise now with the additions of soliai, Jackson and Hageman

I like that he isn't getting a spot gifted to him. Waay different feeling than last year.

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I like that he isn't getting a spot gifted to him. Waay different feeling than last year.

I'm also thinking its his work ethic as well but the good thing about the hard knocks series is that we may be able to find out the real reason behind this decision.

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Monday, July 21, 2014

Five questions for reporting Falcons rookies

By Vaughn McClure

The Atlanta Falcons are set to begin training camp on Friday, and the process begins with the rookies scheduled to report Tuesday.

First-round draft pick Jake Matthews should have no problem making the adjustment. Here are five questions for some of the other rookies as they head into their first training camp:

Prince Shembo

With Sean Weatherspoon lost for the season, Prince Shembo has a chance to earn a starting spot as a rookie.

1) Will Prince Shembo take full advantage of his golden opportunity? The former Notre Dame Fighting Irish standout could earn a starting role at inside linebacker following a season-ending injury to Sean Weatherspoon (Achilles). Coach Mike Smith said Shembo will get every opportunity during camp and said the coaching staff is excited about his potential. Now, it's up to Shembo to continue his transition from outside linebacker to inside. Physically, it shouldn't be a problem. But he has to be on top of his game, mentally, to bump Joplo Bartu aside.

2) Can Devonta Freeman truly push Steven Jackson for carries? Freeman has to worry about holding off Jacquizz Rodgers first as the No. 2 guy behind Jackson. Freeman looked more than capable in shorts, but let's see how he fares with the pads on. One thing you immediately respect about Freeman is his willingness to work and learn. If he can prove himself to be an adequate blocker in terms of picking up blitzes, then he'll get on the field sooner rather than later.

3) Will Dez Southward put some heat on veteran Dwight Lowery at free safety? Southward didn't really stand out this offseason despite the coaches raving about his potential. The most impressive thing about him from first glance is his attention to detail and tendency to ask questions. Now he has to show the ability to make plays. He lined up at both free and strong but, again, his best chance is to challenge Lowery at free because William Moore is the defensive leader at strong.

4) Can Tyler Starr turn heads again like he did during rookie minicamp? The outside linebacker showed a burst upon arriving from South Dakota. But once Starr lined up against the veterans, he didn't have as much success. Regardless, you can't help but like his energy. And he should be a standout on special teams no matter what. But the Falcons need capable pass-rushers to emerge, so Starr has a shot to make an impact.

5) Will undrafted receiver Bernard Reedy make it hard on the Falcons to cut him? If Reedy shows the speed and deep-threat ability he displayed this offseason, he just might. The 5-foot-7 dynamo gave Matt Ryan all the credit, but Reedy was the one who kept blowing through the defense and catching long balls. Of course, that's going to be Julio Jones' main job once the regular season arrives, but it wouldn't be so bad for the Falcons to have another deep threat at their disposal.

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