Battered Falcons need next 4 players to step up

By PAUL NEWBERRY - AP Sports Writer
    2013-09-18 18:04

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) - The Atlanta Falcons always talk about having a ``next man up'' mentality.

This time, the next four men are up.

Dealing with the most serious rash of injuries that coach Mike Smith has ever encountered, the Falcons returned to practice Wednesday looking to fill some major holes heading into a game at Miami against the unbeaten Dolphins.

Smith greeted the media cheerily and insisted that nothing has changed for Atlanta (1-1), which came up just short of the Super Bowl last season and wants to go even farther.

His players are certainly on board with that mindset.

``You never like to see guys go down,'' quarterback Matt Ryan said. ``But that's part of the deal, part of the nature of the NFL. Guys are going to get nicked up. Other guys have to step up.''

The Falcons were more than nicked up in last Sunday's victory over the St. Louis Rams.

Two starters - defensive end Kroy Biermann and fullback Bradie Ewing - went down with season-ending injuries. Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, the emotional leader of the defense, sustained a foot injury that will keep on the sideline for at least two months. Running back Stephen Jackson hobbled off with a hamstring problem and already has been ruled out of the Dolphins game, though the Falcons insist his injury isn't nearly as serious as the others.

Three other key players - receiver Roddy White, cornerback Asante Samuel and offensive tackle Sam Baker - didn't practice Wednesday.

``I don't think there's any shock factor,'' Smith said. ``In the NFL, guys are going to get injured.''

Weatherspoon's spot is the biggest to fill.

A first-round pick in 2010, he had grown into the unquestioned leader of the defense - calling signals, flying around the field, inspiring teammates with his fiery style. Akeem Dent will take on many of Weatherspoon's responsibilities, and former starter Stephen Nicholas will be back on the first team in certain alignments.

None of them measures up to Weatherspoon.

``Sean was a huge emotional leader,'' safety Thomas DeCoud said. ``He was a playmaker for our team.''

Second-year end Jonathan Massaquoi will also be under the gun to replace Biermann, an undersized player who didn't have a lot of sacks but was highly valued on the defense for his versatility. He could play as a down lineman, or morph into an outside linebacker when the Falcons went with a 3-4 - the preferred scheme of coordinator Mike Nolan. There were even times when Biermann dropped deep into coverage, serving as an extra safety.

Massaquoi is not that adaptable, which means the Falcons are likely to return to the 4-3 as their base defense.

``My skill set is different than Kroy's,'' he said. ``The coaches know that. I'm pretty sure they will put me in the right situations to execute my skill set."

The Falcons also signed a couple of veterans, Jamar Chaney and Omar Gaither, to bolster their depth at linebacker. They're getting a crash course in their new team's terminology, but Gaither said it shouldn't take too long to get up to speed.

``They may call the Cover 2 something else, but it's still a Cover 2 at the end of the day,'' he said. ``The most important thing now is learning the communication.''

On the offensive side, Snelling is expected to line up at fullback when the Falcons go with a two-back alignment, as well as sharing time at halfback with Jacquizz Rodgers.

Atlanta should be fine as long as those two guys are on the field. Rodgers was a pseudo-starter last season as Michael Turner's role diminished, while Snelling is a long-time backup who has always stepped up when needed. In the victory over the Rams, Snelling scored on an 11-yard run - the Falcons' longest play of the day on the ground - and he caught a 22-yard pass that sealed the victory.

Things may get a bit trickier if the Falcons have to go deeper on the depth chart. Antone Smith is known more his special-team abilities. Josh Vaughan was undrafted out of college and has rushed for just 31 yards in his career. Patrick DiMarco, the only true fullback on the roster, was waived in the last round of cuts and spent the first two weeks on Atlanta's practice squad.

``These other teams we're playing, they don't care about any of that,'' Snelling said. ``It's a next man up mentality that we have. We're serious about it.''


Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963


AP NFL site: http://pro32.ap.org

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Davante AdamsOct 4 03:22p

The Green Bay Packers have declared QB Brett Hundley, OT Bryan Bulaga, WR Davante Adams, CB Demetri Goodson, LB Jake Ryan, OG Lane Taylor, FS Morgan Burnett inactive for Week 4.

Vernon DavisOct 4 03:22p

The San Francisco 49ers have declared OT Brandon Thomas, WR DeAndrew White, OL Ian Silberman, RB Mike Davis, DL Mike Purcell, CB Shareece Wright, TE Vernon Davis inactive for Week 4.

Andre EllingtonOct 4 03:22p

The Arizona Cardinals have declared RB Andre Ellington, OT D.J. Humphries, WR JJ Nelson, QB Matt Barkley, LB Shaquille Riddick, C Ted Larsen, DT Xavier Williams inactive for Week 4.

Charles JohnsonOct 4 03:22p

The Minnesota Vikings have declared SS Andrew Sendejo, WR Charles Johnson, TE Chase Ford, LB Edmond Robinson, CB Jabari Price, DL Justin Trattou, QB Taylor Heinicke inactive for Week 4.

Omar BoldenOct 4 03:22p

The Denver Broncos have declared DL Kenny Anunike, LB Lerentee McCray, TE Mitchell Henry, S Omar Bolden, OG Shelley Smith, QB Trevor Siemian, OT Ty Sambrailo inactive for Week 4.

Robert TurbinOct 4 02:52p

The Cleveland Browns have declared LB Craig Robertson, DL Desmond Bryant, TE Emmanuel Bibbs, CB Joe Haden, DB K'Waun Williams, RB Robert Turbin, LB Scott Solomon inactive for Week 4.

Jacoby JonesOct 4 02:42p

The San Diego Chargers have declared OG Chris Watt, CB Craig Mager, WR Jacoby Jones, SS Jahleel Addae, OT King Dunlap, OG Orlando Franklin, LB Tourek Williams inactive for Week 4.

Ladarius GreenOct 4 02:42p

San Diego Chargers TE Ladarius Green (concussion) is officially active for the Week 4 game against the Cleveland Browns.

Michael CrabtreeOct 4 02:02p

Oakland Raiders WR Michael Crabtree (leg) suffered a right leg injury during the team's Week 4 game.

Tony RomoOct 4 01:12p

Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo's (clavicle) rehab appears to be on schedule, and he has been given a timetable of seven to eight weeks. Romo is looking at the [ More ]

Andre EllingtonOct 4 12:52p

Arizona Cardinals RB Andre Ellington (knee) may not play in the Week 4 game against the St. Louis Rams, because the team may want to hold him out until he is completely recovered.

LeSean McCoyOct 4 12:42p

Buffalo Bills RB LeSean McCoy (hamstring) could be sidelined for three to four weeks if does not want to return until he is fully healthy. McCoy recently underwent an [ More ]

Dwayne AllenOct 4 12:02p

Indianapolis Colts TE Dwayne Allen (ankle) has been declared inactive for the Week 4 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Taiwan JonesOct 4 11:52a

The Oakland Raiders have declared LB Ben Heeney, DL Benson Mayowa, DL C.J. Wilson, OG Jon Feliciano, DB Keith McGill, OT Matt McCants, RB Taiwan Jones inactive for Week 4.

LeSean McCoyOct 4 11:52a

The Buffalo Bills have declared FS Aaron Williams, DL Alex Carrington, OG John Miller, RB LeSean McCoy, WR Marquise Goodwin, WR Sammy Watkins, LB Tony Steward inactive for Week 4.

Jay CutlerOct 4 11:52a

Chicago Bears QB Jay Cutler (hamstring) is officially active for the Week 4 game against the Oakland Raiders.

Andrew LuckOct 4 11:52a

Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck (shoulder) has been declared inactive for the Week 4 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Brandon ThompsonOct 4 11:52a

The Cincinnati Bengals have declared DL Brandon Thompson, TE C.J. Uzomah, FS George Iloka, WR Greg Little, DT Marcus Hardison, DL Margus Hunt, WR Mario Alford inactive for Week 4.

A. Seferian-JenkinsOct 4 11:52a

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have declared TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, C Evan Dietrich-Smith, CB Johnthan Banks, TE Luke Stocker, SS Major Wright, WR Russell Shepard, QB Ryan W. Griffin inactive for Week 4.

Aaron MurrayOct 4 11:52a

The Kansas City Chiefs have declared QB Aaron Murray, WR Albert Wilson, TE Brian Parker, LB Dezman Moses, OT Jah Reid, DL Rakeem Nunez-Roches, CB Steven Nelson inactive for Week 4.

DeMarco MurrayOct 4 11:42a

Philadelphia Eagles RB DeMarco Murray (hamstring) is active for the Week 4 game against the Washington Redskins.

Tevin ColemanOct 4 11:42a

The Atlanta Falcons have declared WR Devin Hester, C Gino Gradkowski, TE Jacob Tamme, OT Jake Long, WR Justin Hardy, CB Ricardo Allen, RB Tevin Coleman inactive for Week 4.

Alshon JefferyOct 4 11:42a

The Chicago Bears have declared WR Alshon Jeffery, QB David Fales, C Hroniss Grasu, DL Jeremiah Ratliff, OT Jermon Bushrod, RB Ka'Deem Carey, P Patrick O'Donnell inactive for Week 4.

Jaelen StrongOct 4 11:42a

The Houston Texans have declared LB Akeem Dent, WR Chandler Worthy, OL Greg Mancz, WR Jaelen Strong, RB Jonathan Grimes, DL Kourtnei Brown, FS Lonnie Ballentine inactive for Week 4.

Jerricho CotcheryOct 4 11:42a

The Carolina Panthers have declared OG Amini Silatolu, RB Brandon Wegher, OT Daryl Williams, S Dean Marlowe, WR Jerricho Cotchery, WR Kevin Norwood, LB Luke Kuechly inactive for Week 4.

Andrew LuckOct 4 11:42a

The Indianapolis Colts have declared QB Andrew Luck, OT Denzelle Good, TE Dwayne Allen, CB Greg Toler, DL T.Y. McGill, OG Todd Herremans, RB Tyler Varga inactive for Week 4.

DeSean JacksonOct 4 11:42a

The Washington Redskins have declared WR Andre Roberts, CB DeAngelo Hall, WR DeSean Jackson, DL Kedric Golston, LB Perry Riley, QB Robert Griffin III, OT Tom Compton inactive for Week 4.

Bilal PowellOct 4 11:32a

New York Jets RB Bilal Powell (groin) left the Week 4 game early because of a groin injury and is considered questionable to return.

Julius ThomasOct 4 11:32a

The Jacksonville Jaguars have declared OG Brandon Linder, LB Chris Smith, RB Denard Robinson, TE Julius Thomas, WR Marqise Lee, DL Sen'Derrick Marks, FS Sergio Brown inactive for Week 4.

Victor CruzOct 4 11:32a

The New York Giants have declared SS Cooper Taylor, TE Daniel Fells, LB Jasper Brinkley, TE Jerome Cunningham, DL Markus Kuhn, DL Robert Ayers, WR Victor Cruz inactive for Week 4.

Cedric ThorntonOct 4 11:32a

The Philadelphia Eagles have declared DL Cedric Thornton, FS Chris Maragos, OG Julian Vandervelde, LB Kiko Alonso, LB Marcus Smith, DE Taylor Hart, QB Thaddeus Lewis inactive for Week 4.

Jay CutlerOct 4 11:22a

Chicago Bears QB Jay Cutler (hamstring) is expected to start against the Oakland Raiders in Week 4 even though his injured hamstring is not fully healed.

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
Player Notes:
Forum Posts:

© 2015 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group