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Tag:Antoine Harris
Posted on: March 7, 2010 6:44 pm
 

The sweet thing about re-signing Brian Williams

Think back to the first few weeks of the 2009 season - the games against the Dolphins, Panthers, Patriots, 49ers and Bears.

The Falcons had Erik Coleman and first time starter Thomas DeCoud at safety.  Antoine Harris and William Moore were the backups on the roster.  So what would the team have done if one of the starters got hurt or if Decoud faltered?

Moore was still banged up himself, considered on a day to day basis for practice and on the inactive list for games.  He did eventually get in a couple of games strictly on special teams before tweaking the hamstring again.  But even if he had been back to health, he had missed the entire preseason.  There's no way the coaching staff would have wanted to put him on the field as our last line of defense.

Harris wouldn't have been a much better option.  Yes, the coaching staff jokingly refers to him as a Swiss Army knife for his versatility.  He was a solid contributor on special teams.  But he would have been a major liability if the team had been forced to start him in the secondary.

The answer was that before his injury in the fourth quarter of week six, Brian Williams was our game day backup at safety.  Yes, he was our starting cornerback, and he slid inside to cover the slot receiver in the nickel package.  But if a starting safety had been hurt, he would have been the replacement.  Brent Grimes would have taken over at cornerback, with Chevis Jackson stepping in as the nickel.

Williams is expected to be cleared to play medically.  The question is whether he'll be able to pivot and make the sudden changes of direction needed to play the cornerback spot.  The first year back from an ACL injury is usually not so hot.  So while he adds depth at corner, his knee is still a red flag if he's forced to start.  Dunta Robinson is the team's answer at cornerback, not Williams.

Still, the Falcons still have the issue of the #4 safety to address.  He might be the perfect answer for that spot.  Moore is a year behind in his development.  With Williams on board, it won't be a problem if Moore needs a year to learn the defense in practice the same way Decoud did in 2008.  If a starter gets hurt, Williams can be the one to step in.  Like last year, he may be listed at cornerback, but he could easily be our de facto backup safety.

A side benefit:  it would also allow the team to keep an extra cornerback, meaning that Tye Hill or Chris Houston might have a chance to stick on the roster.  We've seen how they are both fish out of water in our zone system, but if new DB coach Tim Lewis can work hard with them in camp, they just might surprise us.  Once upon a time they both had the talent to become top draft picks.  The potential is there. If nothing else, one or both might at least become trade bait for a future draft pick.

So never mind the cornerback spot.  The sweet thing about re-signing Williams is that it upgrades the backup safety position.  If the Falcons are to make a run for a trophy this year, they need to have all depth and skill issues across the board nailed down.  This could easily be the answer at safety.

Posted on: January 11, 2010 2:36 pm
Edited on: January 11, 2010 3:15 pm
 

Tracking the draft picks, part two

Recap from the initial piece:  draft picks are important assets in themselves in addition to their potential to become players.

You get seven picks per year to help you increase the value of your roster. If you release a drafted player, the "life" of that draft pick ends.  But if you can trade him or get a compensatory draft pick when he signs elsewhere, you've increased your team's resources and extended the legacy of that draft pick.

The example from the initial piece was that Dan Reeves scooped up DT Ellis Johnson after the Colts released him.  Two years later, McKay traded him for the draft pick he used to select Michael Boley.  In April, Dimitroff will have a compensatory pick from Boley signing with the Giants.  So eight years and two GMs after the Falcons got something for nothing by signing Johnson, they still have a draft pick to show for him.



The Falcons have a few more cases of players who "became" other players.


Many fans still cringe at losing 1999's first rounder Patrick Kerney to free agency after the 2006 season.  The Falcons were mired in salary cap woes for a few years and simply couldn't compete with the megabucks offers that rising young players like Kerney and Kevin Shaffer received from other teams.

And while Petrino made the horrid call of drafting Jamaal Anderson to be the cornerstone of his franchise, at least Kerney didn't completely go to waste.  The Falcons received a third round compensatory pick in 2008 for the loss of Kerney in 2007.  And by then, the hog sooey idiot was off in Arkansas, so he had no influence on how that pick would be used.

That compensatory pick became starting safety Thomas DeCoud.  So while we've been hurting at DE since Kerney's departure, his legacy lives on in the secondary.



Coach Booby also decided he wanted his ex-Louisville player Antoine Harris for his #9 defensive back.  He also made Adam Jennings the return man, which meant former Pro Bowl kick returner Allen Rossum was on the way out.  Rather than having to release him outright, McKay managed to trade Rossum to the Steelers for a future seventh round draft pick.  It wasn't much, but it still beats relasing the player and getting absolutely nothing.

Dimitroff used that draft pick (#232) to get TE Keith Zinger.  Zinger spent the 2008 season on the practice squad and was only the #5 tight end heading into camp.  But he showed tremendous improvement in both blocking and receiving, ultimately beating out Jason Rader and incumbent starter Ben Hartsock for a roster spot.

As the #3 TE, Zinger didn't get many receiving opportunities, mainly appearing on offense as an extra blocker. But he did that role well, and he was also a significant figure on special teams, playing on every special teams unit.

He'll get a little more time working with Matt Ryan and the #2 quarterback this summer.  He might still be a year away from being a significant factor on offense, but he has already shown good potential.  If you're already looking for another TE to replace Tony Gonzalez in a year or two, don't count Zinger out quite yet.



Linebacker Mark Simoneau was the team's third round pick back in 2000.  In March of 2003, Dan Reeves traded Simoneau to the Eagles for a pair of draft picks - a sixth rounder in 2003 and a fourth rounder in 2004. 

Reeves used the sixth rounder to draft Waine Bacon, just one of his many WR busts over the years.  (Reeves may have been a decent coach, but as a personnel head he had ZERO talent for evaluating WR prospects.  But that's a whole separate article in itself.)

McKay used the 2004 fourth rounder (#125 overall) as the throw-in to trigger his first draft trade as Falcons GM.  That pick went to the Colts to move Atlanta's second rounder up to the back end of round one. 
With that pick, the Falcons selected starting WR Michael Jenkins.



And of course there are two more well known players from the 2004 draft who were later traded for draft picks.  I'll hit those next time...



Posted on: November 1, 2009 1:20 pm
 

best guesses on this week's injured Falcons

first a quick recap of the injury reports this week:

Jerious Norwood still isn't practicing.  Antoine Harris (knee) and Ovie Mughelli (calf) did get back onto the practice field but were limited all week.

The bad news is the rest of the list -  Jason Snelling (hamstring) and Thomas Johnson (calf) were both out all week, while Jonathan Babineaux (ankle), John Abraham (foot) and Chris Owens (shoulder) were limited all week.  Sam Baker tweaked his ankle in practice and was limited on Fri/Sat.  Kroy Biermann hurt his neck in practice on Friday and missed practice yesterday.  
That's ten Falcons including five starters who are officially listed as QUESTIONABLE for the game against the Saints.  The team is even more banged up now than they were heading into the game against the CowboysTony Gilbert and Mike Schneck were also on the injury report but were not limited in practice and are PROBABLE.



The main "coin flip" cases will be Biermann and Ovie.  The team thinks they'll be available but won't get final clearance on either of them until late tomorrow afternoon.  If they're cleared to play, they'll be on the active list - even if they're extremely limited. 

Best guesses on everyone else:   Norwood and Snelling will not play.  Verron Haynes might even start, and we'll get a really good look at Aaron Stecker.  Abraham, Babs and Baker will all play and will all start.  Thomas Johnson will be out.  Trey Lewis will start, Vance Walker will get his first career game backing up Babs, and we'll see more of Jamaal Anderson and Chauncey Davis sliding into the middle in pass rush situations.  Antoine Harris is close but will be held out again this week.  Owens will probably be available, but (partly depending on Biermann) the team may choose to sit him and play Spencer Adkins for special teams instead.  Schneck and Gilbert will play.


Posted on: October 19, 2009 2:30 pm
 

the injuries are starting to build

The Falcons come off an 11-5 season under their new coach and new GM, and they start the year with a scorching hot 6-2 record. 

Yes, I know they've only played five games and are now 4-1.  That was a flashback to 2005.  The problem then was that injuries were building up throughout that early run.  And by midseason, a whole lot of backups (and in some cases, backups to the backups) were getting a whole lot of playing time.

The result... the Falcons won only two games in the second half of the season and finished 8-8, missing the playoffs.

This year's initial roster had much better depth.  But you can only go two or three deep at any position when you're limited to a 53-man total and a 45-man game day active roster.  So regardless of how deep you are coming out of the gate, if you get multiple injuries at one position, it's a problem.

This year, the Falcons had their bye in week four.  Atlanta is now two weeks into a stretch of thirteen straight games without a rest.  And the injuries are starting to pile up.
It didn't get as much attention as when Brian Williams or Jerious Norwood went out, but Atlanta also lost backup safety William Moore... again.  Moore left the game with another hamstring problem.  It's turning into the same situation the team had with Laurent Robinson last year.  Robinson played well in 2008 - for a grand total of five quarters at WR.  But he missed a lot of preseason and early season action with an injury, then tweaked his hamstring, and then re-injured it the moment he returned to practice.  Now it's happening with Moore.  Hopefully the Falcons won't give up on their second round DB and give him away in a bad trade the way they did their third round WR.

The catch - Antoine Harris is still out with his knee injury, not practicing at all last week.  So the Falcons don't have a healthy backup safety on the roster at all.  And the main guy who would sub at safety in an emergency...  Brian Williams.   Uh oh.

The usual practice is for the team to wait until Wednesday to talk about the extent of injuries, since that's when the first official injury report of the week gets released.  It also fits the team's regular schedule, since the injured players would normally spend most of the day with medical staff.  Smitty wouldn't have the latest info until after he meets with the media.  (That's by design - it's simple to deflect questions when you really don't have any info.)  And Tuesday is the team's day off, so the Wednesday afternoon Q&A after practice is the first time the word gets out.

But this week may be treated a little differently since the trade deadline is tomorrow.  The team's own front office absolutely HAS to know ASAP if Norwood and Williams will be out for the year or an extended time so that they can have a day to work the phones and make a deal if needed.  And if Smitty has that info (or if Daryl Ledbetter or another writer thinks about it and manages to corner Dimitroff), the team is usually pretty good about at least summarizing it.

So there's a chance we'll hear something after this afternoon's press time - especially if it's really bad news.

Now for a little what-if... 

(a) suppose Norwood's hip flexor thing is major and he's headed to IR.  The option that would probably be the fan favorite is that Thomas Brown is still available.  While Mughelli is out, that would leave the team with a four-back group similar to last year.  Verron Haynes would be the principal fullback with Jason Snelling doing double-duty as backup RB and backup FB.  Brown would take Norwood's spot as a backup RB.

(b) if Brian Williams is gone, the CB situation isn't that much of a problem.  The team is already carrying six CBs on the roster anyway.  We'd be back to Brent Grimes, Chris Houston, and Chevis Jackson as the main three.  That's what the team was planning to do all along anyway.  And if those three struggle, it's still only a matter of time before Tye Hill is ready for action.  Domonique Foxworth became a starter in week eight last year. 

The real question is what to do at safety without Williams being available.  Moore is banged up.  Harris is banged up.  William Middleton cross-trained at safety, but he's now with the JaguarsLawyer Milloy is now with the Seahawks.

At this point, it might be for the best if Moore's hamstring problem is serious enough for the team to put him on the shelf for the year.  It's clear he won't be playing in the secondary anytime soon.  If he's healthy, he can work special teams.  But considering he missed all but one week of training camp, all of preseason, has had only three weeks of full participation in practice, and is out from practice again for the forseeable future, it's hard to imagine the team would give him the responsibility of being the last line of defense in the backfield anytime in 2009.

If he's on the shelf (by that I mean if the team puts him on IR), that would free up the roster spot for someone else who really could play the defensive backfield if necessary.

The three names that come to mind right away are the three Falcons who didn't make the final roster cut.  That's intentional - it's not that I'm playing favorites, but that if you need a guy who could step in immediately, the obvious choice is someone who spent all training camp and preseason in your system.  The good news is that they're all available.

Jamaal Fudge also knows Smitty's defenses after playing for Smith and DB coach Alvin Reynolds in Jacksonville.  And he was the guy Smitty turned to last year when Lawyer Milloy was too banged up to play the final regular season game.  He'd be the most likely candidate.

Von Hutchins is still available too.  He wasn't healthy enough for full duty in the secondary during preseason, but he was getting really close.  He's had two more months to recover, while everyone else in the league has had two months of contact to get banged up.  If he's now back to about 90%, that would put him roughly on par with everyone else.  He'd be capable of being a backup.  Keep in mind that half his career starts were at safety rather than CB, and that he got more playing time at safety in camp this year than at CB anyway.  He's had the reps.  He'd be a strong choice - if he's physically up to playing condition.

The other issue was that he signed a pretty big free agent contract here before the 2008 season.  It would have been tough for the team to carry his base salary purely as a backup role - especially if he couldn't beat out Grimes or Jackson for the nickel corner job.  But that's out of the way now.  The team is free to re-sign him to a smaller contract that will fit within the salary cap.

And I said there were three ex-Falcons...  the third is Eric Brock, the camp walk-on who made the practice squad and ended the season on the roster last year.  Even if the team re-signed Fudge or Hutchins or made a trade for another safety, they should still consider bringing Brock back to the practice squad ASAP.  They need the depth.
 

 
 
 
 
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