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Team Report - Atlanta Falcons


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INSIDE SLANT

Two rookies could start in the Atlanta Falcons' star-studded offense.

Onlookers suspected offensive lineman Jake Matthews, the sixth overall pick in the draft would start. The question was whether he'd start at left tackle or right tackle. He's appears to have already locked down the right tackle spot.

Few suspected fourth-round pick Devonta Freemanwas in line to be a centerpiece of the first team when the Falcons open the regular season.

But after running back Steven Jackson, who turned 31 three days before the start of training camp, couldn't make it to the second padded practice, the Falcons are preparing Freeman to be ready to start.

Jackson suffered a right hamstring injury, the fourth consecutive season that he's suffered a soft-tissue injury early in the season.

Falcons head coach Mike Smith pointed out that it was not the hamstring that Jackson injured last season, when he suffered an injury to his left hamstring in the second game of the season. Smith said he expected

Jackson to ready for the season-opener against the New Orleans Saints on Sept. 7.

As a fallback, running backs coach Gerald Brown has to get Freeman ready to play just in case Jackson is not able to make it back. Jacquizz Rodgers, who used to split the backup duties with the retired Jason Snelling, hasn't shown that he can carry the load of a featured back.

Freeman, 5-foot-8, 206 pounds, rushed 173 times for 1,016 yards last season and became Florida State's first 1,000-yard rusher since former Falcon Warrick Dunn accomplished that feat in 1996.

"He catches the ball so well out of the backfield, I can see his role in future being one where he's in there in passing situations," quarterback Matt Ryan said. "He's got some things to learn when it comes to pass protection, but when you see him in space, he's really, really talented."

Freeman's work with the ones is a surprise, but Matthews appears to be everything that Falcons wanted.

Matthews has opened camp strong. He's pushing folks around and has learned the playbook. Matthews won over veterans with his singing and by staying quiet. Yeah, he had to perform light-hearted stage acts with other rookies on Monday.

"He's done it the way a rookie should do it," quarterback Matt Ryan said. "He's kept his mouth shut and handled his business the right way. He's been pretty quiet."

"He was pretty good," Ryan said. "I was impressed. But probably the thing that has impressed me the most in the first week is his ability to sing. He's not scared to get up there and show a little bit of his personality."

Matthews knew how to win over the vets. He got tips from his dad, uncle and cousins.

"My main goal, like I said from day one, is to prove that I'm worth that pick," Matthews said. "I just think that I'm with a great organization. I'm glad to be here and I'm just going to keep working."

Matthews is getting a lot of help from the veterans.

"(Left tackle) Sam Baker is a guy that I've been talking to a lot," Matthews said. "He's done it a long time and has done it the right way."

Matthews got in to shoving match with defensive end Kroy Biermann on the first day of practice. He sent a message to the veterans that he won't be taking any extra rookie hazing.

"The biggest thing that I need to focus on is that I need to get more consistent," Matthews said. "I have to understand where the ball is going and how things are designed. That's something that I think I can still get better at. Being at this level, there are still plenty of things to work on."

NOTES, QUOTES

--All of the Falcons' returning defensive tackles received the message loud and clear when the team signed nose tackle Paul Soliai and defensive end Tyson Jackson.

The transactions let everyone know that it wanted to get better and stronger in the trenches.

In addition to the free agents, the Falcons re-signed defensive tackles Jonathan Babineaux, Corey Peters and Peria Jerry.

Deeper down the depth chart was Travian Robertson, a seventh-round pick in 2012, who has played in 12 games with no starts.

But Robertson has been one of the early stars of training camp. He's won several battles and is an incredible bull-rusher. He's fighting for a spot in the defensive line rotation.

Right now he's the second-team nose tackle behind Soliai.

--Last year in training camp, Paul Worrilow was an undrafted free agent trying to make the team.

This season, after leading the Falcons in tackles, he's leading the first-team defense and is the signal-caller.

The offseason injury to Sean Weahterspoon has thrust Worrilow into that key role.

Falcons coach Mike Smith believes that the signals are in good hands with Worrilow.

"Paul is a student of the game," Smith said. "From day one he was being cross-trained to play all three positions. He was able to pick it up and handle the work load we were giving him. It showed in his play."

The Falcons believe that Worrilow is an ascending player on the roster and in the league.

"He's not only a good physical player, but he has a great command and understanding of what he's doing," Smith said.

Weatherspoon, who's out after Achilles surgery, is helping Worrilow.

"With Spoon not being out there on the field, he has to be the leader on the field," Smith said. "But Spoon is around and still is going to help us win a lot of football games in terms of what he can do in helping the young linebackers."

--The Falcons have been a solid and at times spectacular screen team under offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. They have a dazzling array of screens to the wide receivers, running backs and even to the tight end.

"The last few years we've been a pretty efficient screen team and I think that'll continue," Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said. "We have pretty athletic tackles. A really athletic center in Joe (Hawley) who can move pretty well, so I'm certain that our scheme will use their strengths."

When he was with the Bears, new offensive line coach Mike Tice's unit blocked well on screens. Bears running back Matt Forte busted one for 56-yards against the Falcons on Sept. 11, 2011 in the Bears season-opening 30-12 victory.

It appears that Tice, who was out of football last season, will keep his new unit on the move.

"What we do up front will be a little different with Mike Tice coming in with his experience and some of the schemes that he's used in the past," Ryan said. "Some of that stuff will be a little bit different. But I think you have to work with the guys that you have and we've got some athletic guys up front."

BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Dwight Lowery vs. Dezmen Southward: Lowery opened training camp working with the first-team defense at free safety, but must hold off a challenge from Southward, the Falcons third-round draft pick out of Wisconsin. "I'm very fortunate and blessed to be in a situation where I can compete for a starting position," Lowery said. "The way to approach it is to try to get better every day. Just control the things that you can control. Just be the best teammate that you can, that's what I'm trying to do." Southward has been up things quickly and was the hitting star of the Oklahoma drills the Falcons ran on the first padded practice.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

PLAYER NOTES

--LB Sean Weatherspoon, who is recovering from Achilles surgery, is roommates with quarterback Matt Ryan.

"He's in good spirits," Ryan said. "He's always in good spirits. He's a positive guy. I know that it hurts him. It stings that he's going to miss this season."

Weatherspoon has been present at the linebacker meetings and has helped Paul Worrilow get used to calling the signals.

--QB Matt Ryan who after going 4-12 and suffering though his first losing season, completed some cognitive work on his brain through a company called CogniSens, Inc. over the offseason.

The firm, which uses a NeuroTracker, which uses some 3D cognitive training technology, to increase players' awareness and focus.

"It's been pretty good," Ryan said. "It's for special awareness. It's for trying to train your vision. It's been something that I've worked really hard on this offseason."

--DE Osi Umenyiora said he feels a responsibility as the team's best pass rusher to help improve the team's pass rush.

"Yeah, no question," Umenyiora said. "But we have some young guys that can do it. We've got some young guys who can play, but they are going to have to step up. The pass rush can't just be one guy; it has to be a collective thing. As a group, we are going to be much better than we were last year."

-- NT Paul Soliai invited all of the defensive linemen to his house for big cookout.

"I had my bar-b-cue chicken, cow peas and some short ribs," said Soliai, who's 6-foot-4 and 345 pounds. "All of the boys showed up and we got to talk more. We caught up and got to know each other. It was a good thing. It was something that I did in Miami. I had every rookie and all of the defensive line players over just to start creating that bond that we'll need not only off the field, but on the field."

Soliai, a former Pro Bowler, signed a five-year, $33 million contract with the Falcons in March.

--LT Sam Baker is off to a strong start after recovering from right knee surgery over the offseason. Some of the other players coming back from injuries -- wide receiver Julio Jones and defensive end Kroy Biermann -- are on limited practice schedules. "I'm feeling good," Baker said.

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Scary:

"(Left tackle) Sam Baker is a guy that I've been talking to a lot," Matthews said. "He's done it a long time and has done it the right way."

Sam Baker:

" Alright Jake, listen up, this is how the Falcons play tackle

Step 1.Stand there while guys push you around and run past you

Step 2. Get hurt

Step 3. Enjoy the game from the bench

Step 4. Profit."

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Dude surrendered 3.5 sacks in 2012 during the regular season and none in both playoff games. If we get that again this season we'll be competing for a title.

Bakers strong play at LT in 2012 is one of the reasons we did so well that year. The more impressing part was he played that we'll despite facing numerous fierce pass rushers from our division and outside.

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Bakers strong play at LT in 2012 is one of the reasons we did so well that year. The more impressing part was he played that we'll despite facing numerous fierce pass rushers from our division and outside.

This ^^^^^

For the life of me I don't understand why everyone tends to forget this. I understand the concerns, but the guy seems to be good when healthy.

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This ^^^^^

For the life of me I don't understand why everyone tends to forget this. I understand the concerns, but the guy seems to be good when healthy.

Nobody has forgotten this, it's just the fact that he's been in the league since 2008 and only has one mentionable year on the books. Currently sitting at 1/6 on his career. Is that something to glorify?

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Jackson suffered a strained quadriceps last year when he tried to awkwardly stretch into the end zone while getting tackled, he did not suffer a pulled hamstring.

so when Smitty says he didn't injure the same hamstring as last year then that's not an indication that it was a hamstring injury last year too? tho it really doesn't matter. the fact is SJ is injury-prone. i'm just askin'...

Edited by sanfranfalcon
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Dude surrendered 3.5 sacks in 2012 during the regular season and none in both playoff games. If we get that again this season we'll be competing for a title.

It helped a lot that we have a great QB that gets rid of the ball. One good year doesn't make a good player. Peerless Price had a good year. Baker is a liability. He's got to do a lot to prove that he's not. He certainly wasn't worth a $40 million extension. Better players have been cut for less.

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Jackson suffered a strained quadriceps last year when he tried to awkwardly stretch into the end zone while getting tackled, he did not suffer a pulled hamstring.

There have been like five different things reported for that injury from thigh bruise to torn hamstring.
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Bakers strong play at LT in 2012 is one of the reasons we did so well that year. The more impressing part was he played that we'll despite facing numerous fierce pass rushers from our division and outside.

He was much better than the beloved Clabo that season, but people are too stupid or don't want to realize it!

Edited by ElDragon21
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He isn't injury prone. His body is breaking down. When you have over 10000 yards your body just isn't the same.

LOL...if his body is breakin' down and he is an NFL athlete required to make certain movements with his body and he's had injuries the last 4 consecutive yrs while attempting' those moves...uuuhhh injury prone...prone to sustain an injury...mellow.png

Edited by sanfranfalcon
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Lots of animals died for that meal. That's for certain.

-- NT Paul Soliai invited all of the defensive linemen to his house for big cookout.

"I had my bar-b-cue chicken, cow peas and some short ribs," said Soliai, who's 6-foot-4 and 345 pounds. "All of the boys showed up and we got to talk more. We caught up and got to know each other. It was a good thing. It was something that I did in Miami. I had every rookie and all of the defensive line players over just to start creating that bond that we'll need not only off the field, but on the field."

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