Posted on: August 22, 2010 4:15 pm
Most fans attend practices and watch preseason games to see the first units and the top draft picks. But the real stories of camp are deeper down the roster. There are 80 players in every training camp vying for only 53 roster spots.
For the last three seasons, I've presented a top ten list of key players involved in these competitions. Some are established players in jeopardy of losing their jobs if they don't come through. Others are prospects on the rise or lesser known players that have an opportunity to step up and make more significant contributions.
This morning's special teams practice session marked the official end of training camp for the Falcons. Here's an update on how this year's list of players to watch has fared:
1. Trey Lewis
Reason he made the list: the Falcons have six DTs (not even counting Jamaal Anderson) and probably just four roster spots for the big men to fill. Of the three fringe players competing for the last spot, Lewis is the top story.
End of camp update: he's looking much better than he did in 2009, with Smitty noting that his play was one of the few bright spots in Thursday's otherwise dismal showing against the Patriots.
He's still in jeopardy, but his current level of play, versatility (can play either DT spot - acted as a sub at UT for Rod Coleman in 2007) and size (listed as our largest defensive player at 316 pounds) will make it tough for Smitty to send the Turk his way.
2. Steven Hauschka
Reason he made the list: of the three kickers (including Michael Koenen) Atlanta had in camp, Hauschka was the primary unknown factor. The team already knows what Matt Bryant and Koenen can/can't do, making Hauschka the wild card in the contest and the most important one to watch.
End of camp update: the media reports say that Matt Bryant won the kicking battle. A more accurate description would be that Hauschka lost it. He was the younger candidate with the theoretically stronger leg. But his longer field goal attempt against the Chiefs came up short, and his kickoffs lacked depth and weren't particularly strong for hang time.
Never mind that he couldn't outdo the struggling Bryant on field goals. When it became clear he wasn't going to beat out Koenen for kickoffs, that sealed his fate. The Falcons would still make a move to bring in another kicker if Bryant gets the yips like Jason Elam last year. But at least for now, Hauschka isn't it.
3. Kerry Meier
Reason he made the list: the top three WRs were essentially set in stone (Roddy White and Michael Jenkins as the starters, with Harry Douglas in the slot as the #3) even before camp, but the Falcons need to improve their depth at the position. The fifth rounder from Kansas was the top candidate for the fourth WR spot.
End of camp update: he had an outstanding camp, but he hurt his knee on a special teams play late in the Patriots game. Like Douglas last year, he's out for the season.
4. Lawrence Sidbury
Reason he made the list: the Falcons didn't draft a DE or sign one in free agency. They're putting all their chips on Kroy Biermann as a second threat along with John Abraham and Sidbury to step up as a third potent pass rushing end.
End of camp update: so far, so good. What El Sid needs most is experience, as he only played a bit over 100 total snaps last season. He'll have far more snaps than that in preseason (he's on the field more than any other d-lineman), and so far he's doing pretty well.
5. Keith Zinger
Reason he made the list: he was the team's most improved offensive player in camp last summer, and if he stepped up again this year, he'd nail down a backup spot (forcing the prospects to start on the practice squad) and potentially even challenge for the #2 spot.
End of camp update: so far, he has been nearly invisible. He's watching Michael Palmer stand out this year exactly the way Zinger stood out last season, when he moved from #5 on the depth chart to win the #3 spot - beating out one of Dimitroff's top free agent signings (Ben Hartsock, signed to replace Alge Crumpler) in the process.
The battle isn't over yet, but Zinger has opened the door for Palmer to take the third TE job.
6. William Moore
Reason he made the list: it's the second season for the second rounder, and the public had yet to see him in action in camp or preseason. He even missed minicamp after overworking his shoulder in the weight room.
End of camp update: I expressed doubts earlier about all the media speculation that he'd challenge Erik Coleman for the starting job. His 2009 season was a lost cause, and he just didn't have the reps to trust him on the last line of defense.
And he still doesn't - we've finally been able to watch him in a few practices, but he missed minicamp (overworked his shoulder in the weight room) and has missed time during camp plus both preseason games so far this year. He still hasn't faced NFL competition - in real games, exhibition games or even combined practices.
The coming exhibition against the Dolphins will be his first time on the field for the Falcons. He's still a talented prospect, but he's still a long way from being ready for action in the secondary when it counts.
7. Quinn Ojinnaka
Reason he made the list: the Falcons have a whole lot of talented linemen competing for what appears to be one opening on the roster. Ojinnaka is the most intriguing story among them.
End of camp update: he's getting time at multiple positions along the line, including left tackle. The Falcons are definitely testing out his versatility. The Mighty Quinn is very much in the hunt for that ninth backup line spot.
8. Dimitri Nance
Reason he made the list: all three candidates for the #5 RB/FB spot are interesting "stories", but Nance is the most intriguing as a potential Jason Snelling type hybrid RB/FB.
End of camp update: not bad so far. He has shown good ability in the power running game plus receiving ability out of the backfield. If he can demonstrate some blocking skills, he's likely to be the guy. One catch: due to the Michael Jenkins injury and situations at other positions, the team may start out the season with just four runners. Even if he wins the job, he could be starting the season on the practice squad.
9. Eric Weems
Reason he made the list: drafting Meier and Dominique Franks put Weems in jeopardy of losing both of his roles on the team. He entered camp knowing he didn't have a secure roster spot and would have to step up to win a place on the team.
End of camp update: the injury to Meier means that unless the team brings in new blood, Weems and Brian Finneran simply have to hold off Troy Bergeron, Andy Strickland, and the three undrafted rookies to win the #4 and #5 spots. He's also the top KR/PR from camp. His chances of holding his spot are much better now than they were a month ago.
10. Brian Williams
Reason he made the list: if he can make a successful return from injury, he spices up the competition for the DB positions considerably.
End of camp update: he hasn't appeared in preseason yet, but we did get to see him practice, with his first full participation coming in the joint sessions with New England on the final open day of camp. He's slated to appear in these next two exhibitions. I'm still particularly interested to see whether the coaching staff gives him playing time at safety.
Key question: whether he'll be healthy enough after the Jaguars exhibition to keep on the roster. The team had similar hopes for Von Hutchins last season, but Hutchins ended up being an injury settlement case when he wasn't ready to go at the end of preseason. Williams is only now getting his first full contact this week.
Posted on: August 19, 2010 6:41 am
For entire first half:
Stephen Nicholas, Curtis Lofton, Sean Weatherspoon at LB
Brent Grimes, Chris Owens at CB
Chevis Jackson as nickel CB
Erik Coleman, Thomas DeCoud at S
The Falcons played basic 4-3 (or 4-2-5 in nickel package) for the entire game.
Note... this time around, I kept the player numbers consistent to track the substitutions rather than keeping track of left side vs right side. So the linemen aren't necessarily listed in order from left to right.
First defensive series
98 95 97 55
71 95 91 55
71 95 91 55
Second defensive series
98 95 97 55
98 95 97 55
71 95 91 55
(Babs and Abraham are done for the night)
Third defensive series
71 99 97 92 for eight plays
90 99 98 71 (3rd down, 6 man blitz, sack)
Fourth defensive series
71 91 98 90 for all six plays
Fifth defensive series
96 97 99 92
96 91 93 92
96 91 93 92
96 91 99 92
96 91 99 92
96 91 99 92
96 91 99 92
96 91 98 90
96 91 98 90
71 91 98 90 for six plays
Dominique Franks, Chevis Jackson at CB
Shann Schillinger, Rafael Bush at S
Spencer Adkins, Bear Woods, Robert James at LB
Chris Owens as the nickel CB
Stephen Nicholas played some LB in nickel package
Sixth defensive series
71 91 99 92
71 91 99 90
71 91 99 90
71 91 99 90
(note: Daylan Walker replaced Jackson for one play at CB)
Seventh defensive series
96 91 97 90 all four plays
Eighth defensive series
64 97 99 92
64 97 99 92
90 97 99 92
Ninth defensive series
90 93 99 96
90 93 99 96
90 93 97 96
90 99 97 96
Tenth defensive series
Weston Johnson in at LB with Woods, Adkins
90 97 93 64
90 97 93 64
90 97 99 64
90 97 93 64
90 97 93 64
90 97 93 64 Rajon Henley dinged
90 97 93 96
90 97 99 96
90 97 99 96
90 97 99 96
90 93 99 96
90 93 99 96
90 93 99 96
90 97 99 96
90 97 99 96
Jamaal Anderson played 18 snaps; 3 at DE and 15 at DT, all in the first half
Kroy Biermann played 28 snaps; 24 in first half
Lawrence Sidbury played 42 (!) snaps; 15 in first half
Chauncey Davis played 19 snaps; 15 in first half
Emmanuel Stephens played 26 snaps; 9 in first half
Rajon Henley played 8 snaps; 0 in first half
Corey Peters played 31 snaps; 23 in first half
Trey Lewis played 33 snaps; 12 in first half
Vance Walker played 33 snaps; 14 in first half
Thomas Johnson played 14 snaps; 2 in first half
note: TJ wasn't 100% coming into the game; coaching staff intended to use him sparingly and in short rotations
Posted on: July 28, 2010 5:56 pm
Players report tomorrow, and practices start Friday morning. So once again, it's time to list....
Ten Players To Watch In CampMost fans will sit on the hillside to watch stars like Matt Ryan, Tony Gonzalez, Michael Turner and Roddy White, or to get a first look at prize free agent Dunta Robinson or first round draft pick Sean Weatherspoon.
But the real stories of camp are deeper into the roster. Here are a few, in no particular order:
1. Trey Lewis - The big man did get back onto the field last season, but he didn't have the explosiveness that he had before his injury. This season he'll be looking to get back into top form, hoping to save his job.
And the team could use him - the potential suspension of Jonathan Babineaux will likely press rookie Corey Peters into a starting role, so the #4 DT will begin the season as the third man in rotation. Lewis is capable of playing both DT positions and also opens up the possibility of mixing in a 3-4 package. If he can step up and regain his form, he'll answer a lot of questions for the coaches. If not, he won't make the roster at all.
2. Steven Hauschka - Obviously no Falcons fan would want to see a repeat of last year's kicking woes. The team replaced the struggling Jason Elam with Matt Bryant, then added Steven Hauschka as a late insurance policy. With undrafted rookie Garrett Lindholm already out of the picture, Hauschka and Bryant will battle it out for the kicking job.
Bryant is frighteningly accurate from short range, but unreliable from beyond 40 yards. Hauschka has a strong leg but is still young and inexperienced, and he went through a bad stretch that cost him his job with the Ravens last season. Of the two, Hauschka is the one to watch. The team already knows exactly what Bryant can (and more importantly, can't) do. So the decision is really riding on Hauschka's performance in camp and preseason.
3. Kerry Meier - Last season the Falcons gave away Laurent Robinson and failed to sign or draft a replacement (including passing up Johnny Knox to draft William Middleton instead). It came back to bite them when Harry Douglas suffered a season-ending knee injury in front of over 1200 fans during a practice session last summer. Veteran free agent Marty Booker had nothing left in the tank, and free agent Robert Ferguson plus a handful of undrafted free agents failed even to make the roster.
The team hopes this year's crop will add more depth, starting with compensatory fifth round draft pick Meier. If he can learn the offense quickly, he'll be a fourth productive receiver along with Douglas, Roddy White, and Michael Jenkins, giving the WR corps the extra depth it lacked last year. That would leave Brian Finneran, Eric Weems, Troy Bergeron and another trio of undrafted rookies to battle for the #5 spot and a potential #6 spot.
4. Lawrence Sidbury - The glaring hole in this year's draft class is that the Falcons didn't select a defensive end (or even sign Brandon Lang as an undrafted prospect). The coaching staff is putting its chips on Sidbury and Kroy Biermann joining John Abraham as the team's outside pass rush. Biermann has already shown he's up to it, but Sidbury is still an unknown.
This is a question mark area that the coaching staff will watch closely. Jamaal Anderson has bulked up to move inside and will mainly be at DE for run defense. Chauncey Davis was a disappointment last year. If the DEs falter in preseason, we may see a late move to add some extra help, as the team did in landing Domonique Foxworth in 2008 and Brian Williams in 2009.
5. Keith Zinger - The Falcons signed a pair of interesting undrafted tight end prospects this season in Michael Palmer and Colin Peek. The immediate speculation is that these guys will challenge for the #3 TE job and bump Zinger off the roster.
Not so fast... Zinger showed impressive development last summer, catching balls across the middle and in traffic. He's already known for his blocking skills (Dimitroff refers to him as the prototype blocking tight end) and is a key figure on every special teams unit. If he continues to develop his receiving skills this summer, he'll hang onto the job and force the kids to start out on the practice squad. It hinges on Zinger's performance, so he's the one to watch.
6. William Moore - He had a surgical procedure last summer that kept him out of training camp and preseason. He overdid it in the weight room, and the team held him out of minicamp this year. So this will be the first chance for the public to get a good look at the highly touted 2009 second rounder.
The speculation is that he'll challenge Erik Coleman for the starting job opposite Thomas DeCoud. I'm not so sure about that, as Moore's rookie season was virtually a total loss. He has no experience and close to zero reps in practice. He might be able to work his way into some playing time, and he'll likely challenge for a starting job in 2011. But it's a bit much to expect that he'll be ready to start against the Steelers in week one of 2010.
7. Quinn Ojinnaka - six of last year's nine offensive linemen (including three starters) are potential free agents after this season. The other three are the aging Todd McClure, the fragile Sam Baker, and the inexperienced Garrett Reynolds. So the team went into this draft looking to add depth, not so much for 2010 but to have the next wave of players ready for 2011 and beyond.
The Falcons started 2008 and 2009 with nine offensive linemen. If we fill in the five starters as all making the team, and then add 2009 draft choice Reynolds and this year's third and fourth rounders Mike Johnson and Joe Hawley to the list, that leaves only one remaining roster spot available. Ojinnaka, Brett Romberg, and Will Svitek are all on the hot seat - and three returning practice squad prospects are also competing for that ninth job.
The key player to watch will be Ojinnaka. Smitty has noted that he could play any position on the line, plus he has experience at the key left tackle position. If all other things are relatively equal between the three returning backups, his versatility and experience may be the tiebreaker. He doesn't have a lock on the roster spot by any means, but Svitek and Romberg will have to step up and beat him out.
8. Dimitri Nance - he may not be the best known of the Falcons undrafted free agents, but he has a real shot at making the roster. Atlanta went through the 2008 season with only four backs (including fullback Ovie Mughelli), but even five backs weren't enough for the injury-plagued 2009 season. Verron Haynes and Aaron Stecker aren't returning, which leaves the #5 job up for grabs. The contenders are practice squad runner Antone Smith, free agent defensive lineman/fullback Dan Klecko, and Nance.
Any of the three could win the job. Klecko is a pure fullback, but that would allow the team to shift Jason Snelling away from the #2 FB spot and into a full time RB role. Smith is a pure RB, while Nance is more of a Snelling-like hybrid.
The main one to watch will be Nance. If he can adapt to the offense and show some blocking skills - particularly in pass protection - he'll be a strong contender to win the job.
9. Eric Weems - The practice squad prospect filled in well for Harry Douglas in the return game, but he didn't get on the field much as a wide receiver. And now the Falcons have drafted Kerry Meier at receiver plus Dominique Franks as a potential return man.
Weems is still hard-nosed and versatile. He earned his way onto the team last season. But he will have to step up his game to hold onto his roster spot.
10. Brian Williams - He certainly wasn't the greatest cornerback, but he added some badly needed experience to the Falcons secondary last season. The team went 4-1 while he was able to play, so it worked.
But this season, the first question is whether he'll be able to get into playing condition at all. And if he's cleared to participate in the scrimmage and exhibition games, the more interesting question is whether the Falcons will work him at cornerback or at safety.
The team is already loaded at corner with Robinson, Brent Grimes and Chris Owens set to take the top three spots, plus Chevis Jackson and Franks as backups. They have Coleman, Decoud and Moore at safety, plus free agent Matt Giordano, sixth rounder Shann Schillinger and a few undrafted DB prospects.
If Williams is somehow able to play, a likely scenario is that he beats out Giordano for the #4 safety spot while Schillinger takes the remaining at-large roster spot for special teams play. But the question is how close to 100% Williams will be at the end of preseason. We've heard upbeat comments from Smitty and Dimitroff, but we heard the same last year about Von Hutchins.
Posted on: May 6, 2010 3:41 pm
The basic Falcons 53-man roster typically consists of 3 QB, 5 RB/FB, 3 TE, 5 WR, 9 OL, 5 DE, 4 DT, 6 LB, 5 CB, 4 S, 1 P, 1 K, 1 LS, and one at-large spot.
The at-large spot is completely up for grabs and likely to change during the season. The team briefly had six defensive ends in 2008 and finished the season with ten offensive linemen. Last season began with six cornerbacks but ended with an extra running back.
The team will naturally make tweaks as needed, such as in 2008 when they carried only 4 runners (with the fifth on the practice squad) in order to start the year with extra depth elsewhere. But for the most part, that's what we can expect for the 2010 team.
I made a list of what I call the late season 2009 roster. With injuries and replacements, it's difficult to nail down one set of 53 players as "the" roster. But these were the players who were aboard for most of November and December.
Eight players from that list are now gone. Eight incoming or returning players are penciled in as locks to make the roster: Harry Douglas (assuming he's medically cleared), Peria Jerry, William Moore, Dunta Robinson, Sean Weatherspoon, Corey Peters, Mike Johnson and Joe Hawley.
The catch is that while some are easy one-for-one swaps (Douglas replaces Marty Booker, Sean Weatherspoon replaces Tony Gilbert), others are not (Corey Peters and Mike Johnson replace ????). There are also many other returning or incoming players that will offer strong competition for roster spots. And Smitty has already made the first "nobody is safe" reference of the year.
So the key question is which players from last season are on the hot seat in camp this summer?
I've pegged as many as twenty that are at risk. I think eight of them are probably safe, but the other twelve are in real danger of losing their roster spots. Starting with the offense, they are:
1) Eric Weems. He made the roster last season for his potential as a return man, not strictly as a wide receiver. He'll have a good shot at playing a few years in the NFL off of his special teams skills, but the fifth round of the draft may have sealed his fate in Atlanta. The Falcons drafted potential return man Dominique Franks and potential WR Kerry Meier with their two fifth round picks.
Weems will also have to compete with returning practice squad candidates Troy Bergeron and Andy Strickland plus undrafted free agent Ryan Wolfe and two others just to have a shot at the at-large spot as a sixth WR. And that DUI arrest in November certainly doesn't help his cause.
2) Brian Finneran. While Weems figures to be the first WR replaced, if both Meier and Wolfe stick (or if Bergeron, Strickland, Brandyn Harvey or converted quarterback Tim Buckley amaze the coaches), Finn may have a tough time returning once more.
His latest knee injury isn't anywhere near as bad as the two that sidelined him in consecutive seasons, but he's now 34. He wasn't all that fast to begin with, so he can't afford to lose a step due to age or injury.
3) Will Svitek. He was an interesting addition to last year's roster and played competently as a backup. But he's not a starting caliber player, and that's not likely to change in camp this year.
4) Quinn Ojinnaka. He can play any position on the offensive line. So can third round pick Mike Johnson. And the coaching staff chose Svitek to fill in for Sam Baker last season at left tackle. If Svitek is still the choice at the end of preseason, Ojinnaka may be the one bumped out to make room for Johnson.
Ojinnaka is also the only backup lineman who was not brought into the organization under Smitty and Dimitroff. I'm not saying Smitty and his staff will play favorites, but it's a factor. Ojinnaka is a holdover from the Jim Mora days and was drafted because he fit the Alex Gibbs blocking scheme. Everyone else was hand picked by Smitty and Dimitroff because they fit the current Falcons scheme.
5) Brett Romberg. Yep, three of the four backup linemen are at risk. Romberg played for Boudreau in St. Louis, and the Rams thought enough of him to start him. He's a solid - and experienced - backup. He's definitely a handy guy to have around.
But Mike Johnson probably takes over the #3 guard role this year, and the arrival of Joe Hawley puts his backup center role at risk. To date, Romberg hasn't been a real candidate to play tackle, plus the team chose Ojinnaka ahead of Romberg to fill in for Harvey Dahl at guard.
If the team once again keeps only nine total linemen, these three are all at serious risk. Johnson and Hawley will make the roster, so two guys will have to go to make room for them. Prospects Jose Valdez and Rob Bruggeman are knocking on the door as well.
6) Matt Bryant. The Falcons had a steady-Freddy but aging kicker in Jason Elam to start the 2009 season. They finished with another in Matt Bryant.
He's about to turn 35 later this month. He was 1 for 4 from 40+ yards last season after going 5 of 11 and 6 of 10 from 40+ the previous two seasons with the Buccaneers. He's rock steady from inside 40, but that means the Falcons would have to get inside the 23-yard line to feel confident in making a field goal. That's not good.
The team added Steven Hauschka for insurance in the final week of the season, as Bryant came away from the Bills game a bit gimpy. Hauschka has a strong leg but missed a pair of shorter field goal attempts that cost him his spot with the Ravens. If he can work out the mechanics, he's a strong contender.
And then there's the rookie, Garrett Lindholm. He was mainly on the national radar for this:
In the playoffs, no time left, game on the line...
He turned it on his senior year, but his sophomore and junior year stats certainly won't blow you away. And he definitely needs work on his mechanics if he is to maintain consistency, as you'll see in one of the clips below. I don't know if he's the answer. I think I might have preferred signing Damon Duval when we had the chance.
Some highlights (no sound)
Workout results... he made the 49-yarder but missed several shorter ones...
At the very least, Lindholm will add competition. But my guess is that if Hauschka turns it on, he'll be the man.
7) Joe Zelenka. Joe who? I'm sure many of you don't really care who takes the long snapper job. But keep in mind that after Mike Schneck went on IR last year, replacement Bryan Pittman, holder Michael Koenen and kicker Jason Elam just couldn't get in sync, costing the Falcons at least one game and chances at winning two more.
Zelenka did well enough as the second replacement, but he hardly has a lock on the position the way Schneck might have had he not decided to retire. The competition comes from undrafted rookie Justin Drescher, who has plenty of college experience after serving as Colorado's long snapper in all four years.
8) Coy Wire. Frankly, I found it hard to believe he was included in the "On The Fringe" TV series last year. There was no doubt in my mind that he'd make the roster. He still has a strong chance this year, but it will be a little more challenging.
The catch is that if Sean Weatherspoon takes over as the starting Will backer, Mike Peterson would then drop down to the #4 overall LB. So unless the team drops Peterson off the roster completely, Wire would then drop to #5, pretty much limiting him to special teams duty.
So far, no problem there - he's our special teams captain. And there isn't a need to drop anyone to make room for 'Spoon, as Tony Gilbert was not re-signed.
But most teams prefer to have younger guys with upside potential filling those spots on the back end of the roster. He'd be competing not only with the younger linebacker prospects, but also with the new safeties (Matt Giordano and Shann Schillinger) as special teams players.
I was hesitant to include him on this list, as he was solid as a replacement for Michael Boley in 2008 and has been outstanding on special teams. He's a fine player. The question is whether the team would continue to keep a guy with zero remaining upside as the #5 LB.
9) Spencer Adkins. If Wire does stay aboard as the #5 LB, then Adkins will have to step up big in his second year or face competition for the #6 spot. He was on the inactive list for most of the season, but the team worked him in on special teams for a few games when the WRs and safeties were so banged up.
The competition will come from 2008 fifth rounder Robert James and from this year's undrafted prospects, Bear Woods and Weston Johnson.
While it seems like a reach for one of the undrafted prospects to unseat a drafted player from the roster, keep in mind that it was considered a big stretch when the Falcons drafted Adkins in the sixth round in 2009 - mainly because of his blazing fast 40 time. He was otherwise figured to be an undrafted free agent himself.
So once you put their projections on an even footing, there's a lot to be said for the rest of the pack. Adkins was only a part time player for Miami. Meanwhile, Weston Johnson was named team captain at Wyoming, while Bear Woods was the leading tackler at Troy. The competition will be quite real.
10) Trey Lewis. Smitty said he was excited to have Lewis back last season, and that Lewis gave the team potential to work in some 3-4 as a package defense. But it turned out that Lewis was far from full speed in his first season back from two reconstructive knee surgeries. He spent most of the year as the #4 (inactive) DT, taking the 3-4 package off the table.
On the plus side, he showed as a rookie that when healthy, he can play either DT spot. He's not strictly a nose tackle. And his size adds an element that no other DT on the roster can bring. If his knee will allow him to get back to form, he has a good chance of winning the #4 DT job again this year, serving as the #3 while Babs is out.
But he'll have to turn it up this summer or he'll be off the roster when Babs returns, if not sooner.
11) Thomas Johnson. I can't say enough good things about the job he did last season. He truly was our Out Of Nowhere player for the 2009 season.
The guy was an undrafted free agent who had already been released by three different teams and hadn't played a game since 2006. He signed with the Falcons as a futures contract. He wasn't expected to make the roster at all but ended up as our starting nose tackle.
Now move ahead a year... Peria Jerry is expected to return, and the team has added Corey Peters. Johnson is expendable, and he probably has the least potential upside of the backup candidates. It's a brutal fact of life in the NFL.
12) Vance Walker. It shouldn't be a surprise that all three backup DTs are at major risk. Unless one wins the at-large spot, the Falcons will have two DTs too many after Babs returns from suspension. And that's not even counting Joe Klecko or Trey Bryant as serious candidates or DEs sliding in to play the middle.
The seventh rounder started the season on the practice squad and is still practice squad eligible. If all else is equal between the three backup DTs, the coaching staff may try to keep them all for the start of the season by stashing Walker back on the practice squad.
Noteworthy players left off the list:
Brian Williams: the only reason he's not on the list above is that he wasn't on the late 2009 roster in the first place, so he didn't have a roster spot to lose.
Otherwise, he might be the most at risk player of all. He's still far from 100% and won't be back until at least the start of training camp. If his recovery takes longer, he may end up starting the year on the PUP list or get released on an injury settlement as Von Hutchins was last year.
If he's healthy, his main value (and best chance at making the roster) is that he can play safety as well as CB. He would likely be the top contender for the #4 safety role.
Jamaal Anderson, Chauncey Davis: if the Falcons had brought in a serious DE candidate, it would be obvious that one of these two would have to go. But the team appears to be standing pat, bringing in only a pair of undrafted candidates to replace Maurice Lucas on the practice squad.
I won't say they're definitely safe, but at least for now there is room to fit all five DEs on the roster. Unlike the DTs, they aren't in a spot where somebody HAS to go... yet...
Chris Owens, Brent Grimes: the rookie Owens worked his way into the starting rotation, plus he's a Dimitroff prospect. He isn't going anywhere. Many fans don't care for Grimes, but he entered the season with just eight total games of experience. He was essentially a rookie too. He led the team with six interceptions. The last time any Falcons player had more was 1998 (Ray Buchanan, with seven).
If Williams isn't healthy or makes the roster as a safety, or if Franks gets the at-large spot as a return specialist, everyone in the room could make the roster. Only one CB absolutely had to go, and Tye Hill's release settled the question of who it would be.
Justin Peelle, Keith Zinger: they certainly aren't safe, but the three prospects brought in this season aren't as much of a threat as the incoming DTs or offensive linemen. While Colin Peek and Michael Palmer are both contenders, the Falcons may choose to start them on the practice squad as they did with Zinger in 2008.
Tags: Atlanta, Bear Woods, Brent Grimes, Brett Romberg, Brian Finneran, Brian Williams, Chauncey Davis, Chris Owens, Corey Peters, Coy Wire, Dominique Franks, Eric Weems, Falcons, Garrett Lindholm, Jamaal Anderson, Joe Hawley, Joe Zelenka, Justin Drescher, Justin Peelle, Keith Zinger, Kerry Meier, Matt Bryant, Mike Johnson, Peria Jerry, Quinn Ojinnaka, Ryan Wolfe, Spencer Adkins, Steven Hauschka, Thomas Johnson, Trey Lewis, Vance Walker, Weston Johnson, Will Svitek
Posted on: October 25, 2009 1:31 pm
The Falcons used more blitzes than they did in the first three weeks, and they also broke out their 3-4 and 3-3-5 nickel formations. Part of it is the same smoke and mirrors concept as last season - we're still undersized on the d-line and young in the secondary. Mixing up packages helps to disguise these potential targets. Part of it is dictated by personnel. With five DEs and only three DTs on the active roster, it makes sense to give some of the DEs a few snaps at DT and give the big guys a little more rest.
The NBC broadcast of the Sunday night game named Jamaal Anderson as a starting defensive tackle. It's true that Jamaal and other defensive ends played snaps in the middle, but it's a stretch to say that the Falcons have moved their struggling young DE in to replace Peria Jerry at the one-technique DT spot.
See it for yourself... here's the log of Falcons defensive line personnel for each play of the game against the Bears.
Side note... for those not familiar with Falcons personnel,
DEs: 55 = John Abraham, 98 = Jamaal Anderson, 71 = Kroy Biermann, 92 = Chauncey Davis, 90 = Lawrence Sidbury
DTs: 95 = Jonathan Babineaux, 93 = Thomas Johnson, 97 = Trey Lewis
LBs: 54 = Stephen Nicholas (also, 53 = Mike Peterson, 50 = Curtis Lofton)
1st defensive series, begins at 13:48 Q1
1st-10, ball at CHI 38 = 98 95 93 55 (listed from Falcons left to Falcons right)
2nd-1, CHI 47 = 98 95 93 55 (blitz: 55 dropped back into coverage, 50 and 54 rushed)
3rd-1, CHI 47 = 98 95 93 92
1st-10, ATL 48 = 55 95 93 98
2nd-6, ATL 44 = 98 95 93 92
3rd-4, ATL 42 = 71 95 55 (3-3-5 nickel; 50 also rushed the passer so four man rush)
1st-10, ATL 36 = 71 98 95 55
1st-10, ATL 24 = 71 98 95 55
2nd-7, ATL 21 = 71 98 95 55
3rd-1, ATL 15 = 98 95 93 92
1st-10, ATL 13 = 98 95 93 92
2nd-9, ATL 12 = 98 93 97 92
3rd-9, ATL 12 = 71 98 95 55
2nd defensive series, begins at 5:02 Q1
1st-10, CHI 37 = 92 93 97 71
2nd-10, CHI 37 = 92 93 97 71 (offensive holding, play doesn't count)
2nd-20, CHI 27 = 92 93 97 71
3rd-12, CHI 35 = 90 71 95 55 (#90 offsides, no play)
3rd-7, CHI 40 = 90 71 95 55 (blitz: 55 drops back, 29 and 50 rush)
3rd defensive series, begins at 0:34 Q1
1st-10, ATL 44 = 92 93 97 71
1st-10, ATL 23 = 98 95 93 55
4th defensive series, begins at 9:03 Q2
1st-10, CHI 37 = 92 93 97 55
2nd-9, CHI 38 = 92 93 97 55
3rd-9, CHI 38 = 71 95 55 (54 also rushes)
1st-10, ATL 46 = 55 93 97 92 (6 man blitz: 55 drops, 53, 50, 26 rush) (SACK)
2nd-13, ATL 49 = 92 93 97 55
3rd-10, ATL 46 = (time out, no play) (ATL had 55 98 95 71 on line before time out)
3rd-10, ATL 46 = 71 95 55 (6 man blitz: 53, 54, 29 rush)
5th defensive series, begins at Q3
1st-10, CHI 19 = 98 95 93 55
2nd-6, CHI 23 = 55 98 95 71 (Blitz: 55 back, 50, 53 rush)
3rd-1, CHI 28 = 98 93 95 92
1st-10, CHI 30 = 71 98 95 55
2nd-11, CHI 29 = 71 98 95 55
3rd-11, CHI 29 = 71 98 95 55
6th defensive series, begins at 10:19 Q3
1st-10, CHI 40 = 98 93 97 92
2nd-13, CHI 37 = 92 98 93 71
3rd-9, CHI 41 = 71 98 95 55 (8-man GRITZ BLITZ)
7th defensive series, begins at 7:14 Q3
1st-10, CHI 40 = 98 93 95 92
2nd-10, CHI 40 = 98 93 95 92
Time out by ATL
1st-10, ATL 48 = 98 95 93 92
2nd-6, ATL 44 = 71 98 95 55 (Wildcat: direct snap to Devin Hester)
3rd-1, ATL 39 = 98 93 95 92
1st-10, ATL 34 = 71 98 95 55
2nd-11, ATL 35 = 71 98 95 55 (6-man blitz: 53, 50 rush)
1st-10, ATL 11 = 71 98 95 92
2nd-10, ATL 11 = 71 98 95 92
3rd-8, ATL 9 = 71 98 95 55
1st-GOAL, ATL 1 = 98 54 97 93 95 90 92 (goal line defense)
2nd-GOAL, ATL 1 = 98 54 97 93 95 90 92 (goal line defense)
3rd-GOAL, ATL 1 = 98 54 97 93 95 90 92 (goal line defense)
8th defensive series, begins at 9:48 Q4
1st-10, CHI 8 = 55 93 95 92
1st-10, CHI 38 = 71 92 95 55
2nd-10, CHI 38 = 71 92 95 55
3rd-8, CHI 40 = 71 95 55 (Blitz - 54, 53 rush) (no play - pass interference on Chris Houston)
1st-10, ATL 37 = 98 93 97 92
2nd-10, ATL 37 = 98 93 97 92 (no play - offensive holding)
2nd-20, ATL 47 = 71 98 95 55 (Blitz - 71 drops back, 53 and 28 rush)
1st-GOAL, ATL 6 = 98 93 97 55
time out, CHI
2nd-GOAL, ATL 2 = 98 97 93 95 90 92 (goal line defense)
3rd-GOAL, ATL 2 = 71 98 95 55 (Blitz - 53, 50 rush)
9th defensive series, begis at 3:06 Q4
1st-10, CHI 12 = 71 98 95 55
2nd-4, CHI 18 = 71 98 95 55
1st-10, ATL 48 = 71 98 95 55
(two minute warning)
1st-10, ATL 35 = 71 92 95 55 (no play, offsides on Kroy Biermann)
1st-5, ATL 30 = 71 92 95 55
1st-10, ATL 24 = 71 92 95 55
2nd-10, ATL 24 = 71 98 95 55 (SACK)
time out, CHI
3rd-17, ATL 31 = 71 95 98 55 (no play - pass interference on Curtis Lofton)
1st-10, ATL 14 = 71 98 95 55
2nd-10, ATL 14 = 71 98 95 55 (no play - false start)
2nd-15, ATL 19 = 71 98 95 55 (no play - offensive pass interference)
2nd-25, ATL 29 = 71 95 55
3rd-25, ATL 29 = 71 95 55
time out, CHI
4th-1, ATL 5 = 71 98 95 92 (no play - false start)
4th-6, ATL 10 = 55 95 98 71
Posted on: September 24, 2009 4:59 pm
Don't expect to see Jerious Norwood on the field this weekend. He hasn't practiced all week. Otherwise, everyone is fully participating. The remaining Falcons are essentially at full health.
For the Patriots, Wes Welker did not practice on Wednesday due to a knee problem and was limited today. Jerod Mayo is still out from his own knee situation. The Patriots haven't given out any information on how long Mayo is expected to be sidelined, but I don't think the Falcons will see him on the field. New England has a bunch of other guys limited this week, but I'm guessing they'll all play - including Welker.
One positive side to the injury to Peria Jerry = Trey Lewis will DEFINITELY be on the 45-man active roster and in the rotation. The significance is that Lewis is the team's nose tackle for their 3-4 package. That part of the defensive playbook was put on the shelf for the first two games since the team elected to keep Lewis on the inactive list. But with Lewis on the field, the team can throw some blitzes at Tom Brady that the Pats will not have seen before from game film.
The alignment we might see: Lewis, Jonathan Babineaux and Jamaal Anderson in three point stances as the down linemen, with John Abraham and one of the linebackers rushing from the second level.
First guess at the inactive list = John Parker Wilson (third QB), William Moore (hamstring), Vance Walker, Jerious Norwood (head), Will Svitek, Garrett Reynolds, Spencer Adkins, Tye Hill.
At some point, Tye Hill and William Moore will replace other players on the active list (possibly Christopher Owens and Lawrence Sidbury), but there's a strong chance the Falcons will wait until after the bye to start working them. Moore is practicing, and I'm told he's at about 85-90% health - which is where a lot of players are after two weeks of full contact anyway. But he's still way behind on his reps and would be limited to special teams duty if he got on the field. There's not much advantage to putting him in and taking out one of the other guys from those units, so Moore is likely to stay on the inactive list for this game.
It's a lot closer with Hill. He's essentially ready for man coverage assignments. The question is whether he has the playbook down well enough to trust him with the zone schemes, where one slip can quickly become a touchdown for the opposing team. (Imagine him releasing Randy Moss to a safety who isn't there. Not a pretty thought...)
But considering the Patriots have three dangerous WRs and a dangerous tight end, it's possible that the Falcons will elect to go with more man coverage combined with blitz packages. (There isn't much to lose since Brady, Welker and Watson can rip the soft zone to shreds anyway.) If so, activating Hill would be a very good move. Personally, I'd start him in place of Chris Houston.
Posted on: August 26, 2009 12:04 am
Smitty referred to the Lions game as "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly". The second preseason game had more of the same.
The TV graphics and announcers all said that Todd McClure started but noted later that Brett Romberg had come in at center. Actually, Romberg was there from the beginning. The rest of the starting offensive lineup was the regular cast - Sam Baker, Justin Blalock, Harvey Dahl and Tyson Clabo on the front line.
The Falcons completely owned the Rams for the first two offensive series. The first drive had a heavy dose of Michael Turner, who then took the rest of the game off. The second was heavy on passes and used a lot of no-huddle offense.
The second defensive series had Peria Jerry come in to replace Lewis.
3:22 remaining Q1, Rams ball, 1st and 10 at STL 17 (first play of the drive) - this one got attention because Brent Grimes dropped an interception. He jumped too soon when he should have backpedaled a little more (he didn't recognize the pass was a total duck) and couldn't hold on to it in the air. Other details of the play: the Falcons only rushed the front four. Both DEs were collapsing the pocket, but Babs and Jerry were both beaten by single blockers. Side note - the intended receiver was a former prospect of ours, TE Daniel Fells.
2:44 Q1, Rams ball, 3rd and 10 at STL 17 - Atlanta blitzes, but it isn't effective. The mechanics of the failed pass rush: Abraham drops back into coverage. Coy Wire and Chevis Jackson both rush the passer. The other linemen do a twist, with each moving to their right while Jackson and Wire rush on the left side. All three defensive linemen are beaten easily by single blockers. The twist leaves the RT free to block Wire, and the running back picks up Jackson.
1:25 Q1, Rams ball, 2nd and 10 at STL 36 - John Abraham does a stunt, faking outside but then swings to his left to rush from the inside of the line. Babineaux breaks off into short coverage. HE HAS CONTAIN RESPONSIBILITY. Grimes is in zone coverage, shadowing Laurent Robinson.
Kyle Boller has no one open, sees space to his left (since Abe was coming in the middle) and breaks from the pocket. Laurent Robinson sees him take off and runs to the middle to block Babineaux.
Let that sink in for a moment... the WR who didn't fit into Atlanta's plans because he wasn't physical enough and couldn't block took on the starting DT and took him completely out of the play.
Grimes initially continued shadowing Robinson (that was his responsibility - Boller could still pull up and throw the ball) but then ran after the QB. He couldn't prevent him from turning the corner, and Boller picked up the first down.
The announcers made Grimes look bad, saying he was the one who lost contain. Cut the kid some slack - it wasn't his responsibility.
14:56 Q2, Rams ball, 3rd and 10 at ATL 40. The Falcons got really lucky on this play, which SHOULD have gone for a Rams touchdown. It was a play designed to attack the cover two, and the Falcons had a mishap at the start.
The Rams were in a 3 WR set. The Falcons were in their cover two nickel package with Chevis Jackson on the slot receiver on the same side (defensive right side, offensive left side) as Grimes, who was lined up on (him again) Laurent Robinson. Chris Owens (starting in place of Chris Houston) was on the receiver on the opposite side.
I have no idea what Jackson was trying to do, but he initially broke inside as if trying to jump a slant route. His receiver ran right past him, and Jackson chased after him all the way down the middle of the field - from five yards behind him.
On the other side, Owens released his man (also running deep) to the safety in the deep zone (Thomas DeCoud). When Robinson entered the deep zone, Grimes started to release him as well. But the safety on his side (Erik Coleman) wasn't there. Instead, he had run to the middle of the field to pick up Jackson's man.
Both safeties ended up on the defensive left side of the left hash mark, with no safety at all on the right half of the field. That's not supposed to happen.
Grimes chased after Robinson, but there's no way he was going to catch up. Fortunately the ball was badly overthrown. At the end of the play, Grimes looked back at his teammates as if asking what the heck happened.
The end result was good, but file that one under "The Ugly".
Baldinger pointed out the obvious fact that Booker should have caught the ball, but what we didn't see on the Atlanta broadcast was that Laurinaitis might not have made the pick cleanly. The ball definitely touched the ground as he came down with it, and it's questionable whether he had full control until after it touched. One shot looked like he momentarily didn't have it.
The guys in the St. Louis production truck showed it repeatedly on their broadcast, but Trent Green was busy rambling on about what a ball hawk Laurinaitis is and didn't get the hint that the play might be challenged. The Atlanta broadcast only showed the replay from the overhead camera, so Falcons fans had no idea the play was so close.
I mention it for two reasons. First, this was the longest completion for any Falcons QB so far this preseason - and it was wiped out by a silly penalty. Second, the coaching staff evaluates the film, not the box score. Shockley has had a bunch of passes that haven't counted as completions. The stats look horrible, but the film is much better.
The defensive line for the series had Sid and Jamaal Anderson at DE with Peria Jerry and Trey Lewis in the middle. Jamaal drops into coverage while Curtis Lofton rushes. (It's not a blitz since there were still only four pass rushers. Atlanta is mixing things up a bit so that the offense won't know who's coming and who's in coverage.)
Trey Lewis draws a double team. (He did that for most of the night.) Sidbury stunts, coming inside of Lewis while Lofton rushes around the end. Lofton gets there first but misses the sack. The QB steps up into the pocket and right into Sid Vicious, who beat his inside blocker with that spin move of his. (If you're not familiar with it, look up Sidbury on YouTube.)
2:12 Q2, Rams ball, 2nd and 9 at ATL 28. Follow that one up with one Grimes would rather forget. He didn't have his assignment and was out of position, leaving Burton wide open for a short catch. And then he too failed to make the tackle, allowing Burton to run for the first down.
Hey, at least our DBs were being consistent...
14:20 Q3, Rams ball, 2nd and 11 at STL 15. There had to be a mixup on the coverage assignments on this one. TE Daniel Fells was absurdly wide open. (None of the regulars were on the field for this entire series - Wire, Gilbert and James were the LBs with Owens and Middleton at corner and Harris and Brock at safety.)
10:13 Q3, Falcons ball, 2nd and 8 at ATL 29. This was the sack/fumble.
Ben Hartsock was the TE on the right side. He went out for a short curl route. The Rams overloaded that side of the line, with two rushers coming free.
Shockley had to know he had to throw it to the hot receiver. The big question is WHO was supposed to be the hot read? If you check the replay, Shockley looked immediately to Jason Rader (TE on the left side) and started a throwing motion. But Rader didn't turn around in time. Shockley tucked it and instantly got hit and stripped.
(Hmmm.... could the "Tuck Rule" have applied here?)
9:30 Q3, Rams ball, 2nd and 8 at ATL 20. Brock Berlin hits the 20 yard TD pass. chris Owens actually had decent coverage, but he had no safety help. Eric Brock was up short (probably by design, playing run support) and not in position to help on the play.
Shockley drops back to pass and no one is open. He sees daylight in the middle - and for the first time this preseason, he decides to run for it.
Unfortunately, he's playing behind the backup offensive line. The DT (Scott) sheds his block and tackles Shockley just as he hits the hole.
It didn't work out, but it was a pretty good decision. The opportunity was there, and it was safer than risking an interception.
This one is Fudge's play he'd like to forget. He's beaten by Bajema for a short completion and then can't make the tackle, allowing Bajema to run for the first down and keep the drive alive. (Hmmm... sound familiar? Same play, different corner, cheap movie...) William Middleton comes over to make the tackle, but only after a 16 yard gain on 3rd and 15.
14:55 Q4, Falcons ball, 3rd and 8 at ATL 25. John Parker Wilson is now in at QB. His first pass was off target, overthrowing Chandler Williams. This one was slightly behind Eric Weems, but close enough for Weems to make the play. Weems got his hands on it but couldn't catch it, instead tipping it up for it to become an interception. Maybe these things don't ONLY happen to D.J. Shockley...
Zinger has only played TE with the mop-up unit, but keep him in mind as a contender for the #3 TE spot. He has done well with what little opportunity he's had on offense, and more importantly he plays on every single special teams unit (including forming the wedge with Brett Romberg on kickoff returns).
5:34 Q4, Falcons ball, 1st and 10 at STL 32. Jason Snelling breaks off a 23 yard run to take it inside the 10.
The four Rams RBs had a grand total of 60 yards rushing for the whole game. Snelling had 61 all by himself.
Give due credit all around - Atlanta's defensive line and linebackers got it done on run defense. Oh, and we have some pretty darn good running backs of our own. Snelling's a beast, and he's competing to be the freaking THIRD STRING running back.
For those of us old enough to remember the days of Haskel Stanback and Bubba Bean, that's enough to give us goosebumps.
1:54 Q4, Rams ball, 1st and 10 at ATL 38. This is the one exception to the excellent run defense. 4th string RB Kenneth Darby (a fine prospect who was plucked off of Atlanta's practice squad last season) charged straight up the middle for 21 yards.
The Rams were in a 3-WR formation, with the Falcons playing their nickel package. It was EXACTLY the same situation as last year, when Grady Jackson would leave the field on nickel situations and teams could plow right through the middle.
Here's the breakdown of the play:
DT Tywain Myles (who wasn't expected to play in this game) lined up on the left guard. Vance Walker lined up just outside the right guard. The defensive ends (Sidbury and Willie Evans) lined up on the TE and outside the left tackle.
At the snap, the right guard let Walker get penetration on the OUTSIDE (away from the play) and moved downfield to block one linebacker (Tony Gilbert). The left tackle and tight end blocked the defensive ends, with the idea of allowing them around the outsides (again, away from the play) but protecting the inside. The right tackle was free to move downfield and block the other linebacker (Robert James).
The center blocked to his left, completely bulldozing Tywain Myles. The left guard pulled and sealed off the right side, preventing Walker from getting back into the play before the runner got through the line.
With the WRs either blocking or running the CBs away from the play and both LBs blocked by offensive linemen, the first guys with a shot at Darby were the two safeties (Von Hutchins and Eric Brock) - who were both lined up in deep zones for pass protection against the 3-WR set. They both made the play at first contact, but that was 21 yards downfield.
What they didn't mention was the call by Brian VanGorder. He sent seven rushers after the QB.
Yep... with the game on the line, the Rams in a spread formation (3 WRs plus TE split off on the right side) and his mop-up defense on the field, VanGorder dialed up the Gritz Blitz. WOW...
It would otherwise seem insane to leave Jamaal Fudge, Glenn Sharpe, Tony Tiller and Eric Brock all in one-on-one matchups in the red zone. Von Hutchins, the only experienced DB on the field, was one of the blitzers. (I'm sure VanGorder did that on purpose, just to throw the kids into the deep end of the pool.) But considering the opponent was a fourth string rookie QB, it wasn't a bad idea.
The QB (Keith Null, from West Texas A&M) got spooked and threw a bad pass for the pick. Two receivers had separation (Fudge was well behind his man on a short crossing route), but Null threw the ball straight to Eric Brock. Game over.
Tags: Atlanta, Brent Grimes, Brett Romberg, Chauncey Davis, Chevis Jackson, Chris Owens, D.J. Shockley, Daniel Fells, Eric Brock, Falcons, Jamaal Fudge, James Laurinaitis, Jason Snelling, Jonathan Babineaux, Keith Null, Keith Zinger, Kenneth Darby, Laurent Robinson, Lawrence Sidbury, Marty Booker, Rams, Trey Lewis, Von Hutchins
Posted on: August 3, 2009 3:35 pm
Camp notes: It's Day 3 of training camp. So far, the big star has been Brent Grimes. I've lost count of how many interceptions he's made already (probably four or five), but I'm sure at this point Matt Ryan and Michael Jenkins are happy he's with the Falcons instead of the Saints or Panthers. He did it to them again this morning, maneuvering around Jenkins, making the read to get position, leaping and picking off a deep throw from Ryan.
Matt Ryan has shown a little bit more zip than we saw at the end of last season. It could be that he was just wearing down late in 2008, or the reported weight work he did this offseason could be showing. He has also been deadly with his accuracy so far this camp.
Mixed grades on the other three QBs. All three have had great throws followed by a muff here or there. John Parker Wilson looks pretty good so far - he has better accuracy than D.J. Shockley and seems to have a better arm than Chris Redman.
Not much to say about the young WRs (Aaron Kelly, Bradon Godfrey, Darren Mougey) this time around. They've spent as much time playing the DB roles in the offense vs offense drills as they have doing real WR duty, which has cut down significantly on their opportunities for receptions. Jenkins, Harry Douglas and Brian Finneran have had the bulk of the reps so far, with Chandler Williams, Eric Weems and Troy Bergeron acting as a second unit. Darren Mougey did get one deep pass from Redman in the seven on seven drills this morning.
So far the team is sticking to the basics. I half expected a few Wildcat plays or something goofy from Mularkey over the weekend while all the fans were there, but the weekend sessions were either no-pads or shells only. Today was the first day with full pads and almost full contact - the linemen went at it, but there was no tackling, no Wildcat and no trick plays.
Trey Lewis and Peria Jerry are both looking really good. I'm not sure I'm sold yet on Jason Jefferson's reported improvement being the real deal. He's not looking bad, but I haven't seen anything yet to wow me. Thomas Johnson has had a really good camp so far. Vance Walker looks okay too, but I don't know if he'll make the roster. Some of the combinations at DT have been interesting - Lewis and Johnson have worked together while Jerry has done some work with Jefferson.
In some of the full team 11-on-11 sessions, the secondary rotated schemes between cover one, cover two, and cover three. In the cover one, Erik Coleman came up to the line while the other safety (typically Thomas DeCoud or Jamaal Fudge) played a deep center field role. In the cover three, Brent Grimes would drop back and play deep as a third safety. So far, Decoud has had the most work with the first unit, while William Moore has worked with the second group.
The second unit offensive line has mixed it up from practice to practice, but the coaches are getting Garrett Reynolds a lot of work at right tackle. It looks like nearly everybody in the group will be practicing at guard over the next couple of weeks. I do like what I've seen of Will Svitek and Mike Butterworth working together on the left side. If they keep it up, it won't be so easy to write them off.