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Training Camp: 5 Players Rising And 5 Players Falling


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Leonard Hankerson rises, Jalen Collins falls during camp

Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- In general, Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn was pleased with his first training camp, which concluded Wednesday.

Before camp even began, Quinn said he wouldn't have any joint training camp practices with other teams, as the Falcons did last year and in the past. It appears they won't be happening in the immediate future, either -- which might be a positive, considering all the fights at joint practices league-wide.

"That's out of my mind right now," Quinn said. "I like the way that we've worked against each other, so I don't feel that we've lost a competitive edge anywhere to say, 'Well we're really going to have to bring it out on somebody else.' I felt like the guys battled and went for it against one another."

Of course, players such as Matt Ryan and Julio Jones looked spectacular in camp. And rookie first-round draft pick Vic Beasley was as good as advertised. But there were others who stood out -- and those who didn't.

Here are five players we picked who helped their status, and five we think hurt their standing:

FIVE ON THE RISE:

Leonard Hankerson, WR He was signed as a free agent primarily because of his familiarity with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's scheme from Washington. Hankerson made plays that make you wonder why he wasn't more productive with the Redskins. Then again, he had a serious knee injury in 2013 that stunted his growth. If Hankerson continues to shine on Sundays like he did in practice, then the Falcons might be unstoppable in the passing game.

Adrian Clayborn, DE: The 2013 Tampa Bay Buccaneers first-round pick can revive his career in Atlanta. Based on his camp showing, Clayborn is on his way up. He rushed from the right edge and the interior and showed jaw-dropping speed and explosiveness. Anyone familiar with Clayborn's visits with former Falcon and pass rush guru Chuck Smith understands how serious he is about being an impact performer.

Ricardo Allen, FS: The once-cut, ex-practice squad cornerback is one of the feel-good stories of camp. He made the transition to safety look easy and has earned a chance to start next to likely strong safety William Moore. Allen has the range, athleticism and intelligence to be effective as the Falcons' last line of defense, even if his 5-foot-9, 186-pound frame says otherwise.

James Stone, LG: Stone spent the offseason and the start of camp filling in at center as Joe Hawley continued to work back from knee surgery. Then the coaches saw something they liked when Stone was moved to guard. Stone and veteran Chris Chester at right guard helped the whole line function better in the new outside zone blocking scheme. Plus, Stone's versatility in playing center makes him that much more valuable.

Allen Bradford, LB: Quinn, formerly the Seattle Seahawks' defensive coordinator, obviously felt a level of comfort with a player who previously played in his defense. Bradford, who was converted from running back to linebacker with the Seahawks, showed up in camp with his speed and nose for the football. He's got an edge to him, and the Falcons needed more nastiness on defense. Bradford can bring it, even if in a reserve and special teams role.

FIVE TAKING A FALL:

Jalen Collins, CB: The rookie second-round draft pick from LSU was expected to immediately challenge Robert Alford for a starting role outside at corner. Instead, Collins struggled with his technique and discipline, making him a daily punching bag for Jones and other receivers. In all fairness, Collins' growth was stunted by pre-draft foot surgery. He's going to make rookie mistakes, but Collins has to start showing signs of the promise the Falcons saw in him.

Jon Asamoah, RG: Asamoah was the one starter to lose his job during camp when he was demoted in favor of Chester. He doesn't have the foot quickness or build to thrive in the zone blocking scheme, but Asamoah still has value for a team needing offensive line depth. The one aspect the Falcons might miss is Asamoah as a pass protector and another big body in short-yardage situations.

Dezmen Southward, CB: The 2014 third-round draft pick is on the outside of the roster bubble after making the switch from free safety. Injuries haven't helped Southward's cause. First, he had offseason wrist surgery. Then he had a knee scope. Even if the knee still bothered him during camp, Southward needed to show something. He didn't.

Peter Konz, G/C: Konz started 25 games his first two seasons. Now, the 2012 second-round draft pick might be out of a job. He is another player who needed to make progress coming off a serious injury after last year's ACL tear. Instead of turning to Konz behind Hawley when Stone switched to guard, the Falcons gave tackle/guard Mike Person reps at center. Then Konz doesn't even practice the last day of camp because of knee soreness. He brings no value.

Kroy Biermann, OLB: Biermann has been the target of much criticism. He had an opportunity to flash with newcomer Brooks Reed sidelined most of camp by a groin injury. However, Biermann didn't show much while working with the first-team defense. The jury is still out on whether he'll be an asset or liability. The next three preseason games should provide an answer.

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OK I'll bite---remember I'm not the Guru most of you are

Rising

I did not know what to expect out of Clayborn and Bradford

Henderson is about where I expected him to be

Surprised by Allen

very surprised by Stone

Falling

surprised to see Asamoah and Southward here (wonder if position change hurt Southward)

I did not know what to expect out of Collins --I'm willing to give him more time

I thought Konz might show an upswing in the new scheme

I've never been down on Bierman like many others -so not sure about this

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Biermann should be a backup/ST player this year, and off the roster next. Give Quinn & Co another off-season to fill in some holes and add depth, and he'll be selling insurance.

If Ricardo Allen ends up being a solid starter, that will be one of the best coach-'em-up stories I've heard in a while.

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Bierman brings value as quality depth (having a guy as a backup who has started as many games as he has and has the motor he has is valuable to the team whether people want to admit it or not) and as a special teamer. If he gets cut, it'll be because someone brings MORE value, not because he himself brings none. I have no problem with him on the roster.

Southward is a strange case. I thought he showed some real promise as a safety and his measureables are great. Wondering what Quinn saw that made him immediately say "corner back!" and transition him.

Shame about Konz - always hate to see a bust, especially in the high rounds. But, looks like he's toast. Doubt he catches on anywhere else, either - no tape to suggest he's worth the look.

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Collins is running with the ones in TC, that tells me they aren't too worried about him. Not sure who thought he was going to come in and start immediately.

Agree w/ direwolf that Biermann is a valuable back up ST guy.

Southward? would imagine they'll give him this year to develop

Konz looks to be gone, Asomoah costs too much to cut and, like Biermann, is experienced depth.

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I think Maponga and Starr are giving Bierman a run for his money as a rotational DE/OLB/ST. I think Bierman should be worried.

I dont why he listed Southward and Collins as falling. I always figured these two would need time to adjust.

Bradford just might push Stupar of the roster. He is just as good on special teams but a more physical MLB.

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Bierman is an interesting case to me. I find I despise him so much more when he is the starter and sack leader than when he is a backup rotational piece.

Most of that is simply my own perception, but I'm a lot more okay with him as a 2nd or 3rd stringer. I felt the same way about Finneran, FWIW. Arguably, it's not their fault in either case, but I love Finn as a backup and couldn't stand seeing him as the no. 1.

"The world needs ditch diggers." That's probably too harsh, but I love a guy who just makes plays when he isn't expected to. I think the expectations are the problem.

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I sure hope that Clayborn can play all 16 regular season games (and playoffs) without the injury bug getting in the way.

I was impressed by Bradford on ST last Friday.

I was impressed with Bradford at MLB he showed tremendous range and was always around the ball. Needs to work on his instincts though but definitely fit the fast and physical mold
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I have a hard time considering Collins as falling. I expected him to struggle as most young Cornerbacks do and then you add on top of that the fact that it was known he lacked technique. He's right where I thought he'd be at this point in time.

Exactly. The question is "falling from what?" I didn't expect him to significantly contribute this season in any event.

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