2014 DRAFT GUIDE
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

Tharold SimonOct 20 11:04p

Seattle Seahawks CB Tharold Simon (ankle) and CB Byron Maxwell (calf) may be able to play in Week 7, according to head coach Pete Carroll.

A.J. GreenOct 20 10:33p

Cincinnati Bengals WR A.J. Green (toe) said he will play Sunday, Oct. 26, against the Baltimore Ravens, according to ESPN's Chris Mortensen.

Marcus GilbertOct 20 10:03p

Pittsburgh Steelers OT Marcus Gilbert (concussion) is out for the remainder of the team's Week 7 game after being diagnosed with a concussion.

Ahmad BradshawOct 20 08:43p

Indianapolis Colts RB Ahmad Bradshaw is on pace for a combined 215 rushes and receptions and 1,753 total yards this season.

Devier PoseyOct 20 07:13p

The Houston Texans have declared CB Darryl Morris, WR DeVier Posey, LB Jadeveon Clowney, OT Jeff Adams, S Josh Aubrey, CB Jumal Rolle, QB Tom Savage inactive for Week 7.

Kapri BibbsOct 20 07:13p

Denver Broncos RB Kapri Bibbs was attracting interest from other teams on the practice squad, and the Broncos elevated him to their active roster because they didn't want to [ More ]

R. Griffin IIIOct 20 07:08p

Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III (ankle) is expected to be put through a rigorous workout Wednesday, Oct. 22, that will give team officials a better idea of where [ More ]

R. Griffin IIIOct 20 07:07p

Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III (ankle) could start in Week 8 against the Dallas Cowboys if he looks really good in practice Wednesday, Oct. 22, according to a [ More ]

Ike TaylorOct 20 07:03p

The Pittsburgh Steelers have declared OG Chris Hubbard, CB Ike Taylor, WR Justin Brown, QB Landry Jones, LB Ryan Shazier, SS Shamarko Thomas, DL Steve McLendon inactive for Week 7.

Jadeveon ClowneyOct 20 07:03p

Houston Texans DE Jadeveon Clowney (knee) will not play in Week 7 because his lateral movement is not where the team wants it to be.

Kapri BibbsOct 20 06:53p

The Denver Broncos signed practice squad RB Kapri Bibbs to their active roster Monday, Oct. 20. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Daniel KilgoreOct 20 06:53p

San Francisco 49ers C Daniel Kilgore (leg) will miss the rest of the season after suffering a broken bone in his left leg during the team's Week 7 game. [ More ]

Zach MillerOct 20 06:43p

Seattle Seahawks TE Zach Miller (ankle) will not be able to play in Week 8.

Derrick ColemanOct 20 06:23p

Seattle Seahawks FB Derrick Coleman (foot) will miss at least six weeks because of a foot injury he suffered in Week 7.

Usama YoungOct 20 06:23p

Oakland Raiders FS Usama Young (knee) will miss the rest of the season after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament and a torn medial collateral ligament in Week 7, according to a source.

S. RichardsonOct 20 06:13p

Pittsburgh Steelers CB Shaquille Richardson (undisclosed) was released from the practice squad injured list with an injury settlement Monday, Oct. 20.

Rey MaualugaOct 20 06:03p

Cincinnati Bengals LB Rey Maualuga (hamstring) is expected to miss a few weeks because of his hamstring injury.

Chris SmithOct 20 06:03p

Jacksonville Jaguars LB Chris Smith was signed from the practice squad to the active roster Monday, Oct. 20.

Tom CrabtreeOct 20 06:03p

The New Orleans Saints re-signed TE Tom Crabtree to their active roster Monday, Oct. 20.

Vontaze BurfictOct 20 05:53p

Cincinnati Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict (neck) did not suffer a concussion in the team's Week 7 game but did suffer a neck injury, according to a team official. Burfict [ More ]

Gerell RobinsonOct 20 05:53p

Carolina Panthers DB Robert Lester, Cleveland Browns TE Gerell Robinson, Dallas Cowboys DT Ken Bishop and LB Korey Toomer and Miami Dolphins DT Deandre Coleman cleared waivers and became [ More ]

Brandon CarrOct 20 05:43p

Dallas Cowboys CB Brandon Carr (hamstring) strained his hamstring in Week 7 against the New York Giants. Carr still played every defensive snap and should be able to play [ More ]

Austin PettisOct 20 05:43p

The St. Louis Rams waived WR Austin Pettis Monday, Oct. 20.

Vincent JacksonOct 20 05:33p

Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Vincent Jackson's name came up over the weekend in reports that the team was fielding phone calls from interested teams, but head coach Lovie Smith [ More ]

Manti Te'oOct 20 05:23p

San Diego Chargers LB Jeremiah Attaochu (hamstring), CB Brandon Flowers (concussion) and LB Manti Te'o (foot) did not participate in practice Monday, Oct. 20. CB Jason Verrett (shoulder) and [ More ]

Matt RyanOct 20 05:23p

Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan was sacked five times as the team's offensive line continues to struggle with injuries and poor play. 'We had way too much pressure,' head [ More ]

T.J. WardOct 20 05:03p

Denver Broncos CB Omar Bolden (concussion), LB Steven Johnson (ankle) didn't practice Monday, Oct. 20. S Quinton Carter (hamstring), CB Chris Harris Jr. (knee), RB Juwan Thompson (knee) and [ More ]

Cullen JenkinsOct 20 05:03p

New York Giants DT Cullen Jenkins (calf) has a strained calf and is expected to miss at least two weeks.

Jake LockerOct 20 05:03p

Tennessee Titans QB Jake Locker (thumb) is scheduled to throw Tuesday, Oct. 21, and the team will see how he responds Wednesday, Oct. 21.

Brian HoyerOct 20 04:53p

Cleveland Browns QB Brian Hoyer is still the team's starting quarterback even though he struggled in Week 7, according to head coach Mike Pettine.

Ahtyba RubinOct 20 04:43p

Cleveland Browns DE Ahtyba Rubin (ankle) received a second option on his injured ankle. Head coach Mike Pettine said surgery for Rubin has not been ruled out.

Jason VerrettOct 20 04:43p

San Diego Chargers CB Jason Verrett (shoulder) missed his second game of the year in Week 7 with a shoulder injury, and his absence hurt the team in space against the Kansas City Chiefs.

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
 
Player Notes:
 
Forum Posts:
 

© 2014 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group