2014 DRAFT GUIDE
Smith sets 'bigger and stronger' edict for Falcons

    2014-07-22 18:26

ATLANTA (AP) - Mike Smith didn't like seeing the Atlanta Falcons pushed around in 2013.

After the Falcons' first losing season in six years with Smith, the coach set the agenda for the offseason.

''We want to be a bigger and stronger football team,'' Smith said.

The team's offseason additions, including players and assistant coaches, reflected the need to improve both lines. Right tackle Jake Matthews of Texas A&M was selected in the first round of the draft. Veteran guards Jon Asamoah and Gabe Carimi were signed.

Help also came for the defensive front, which needed more bulk in the middle to accommodate a shift to a 3-4 base scheme. Defensive end Tyson Jackson (6-4, 296) and defensive tackle Paul Soliai (6-4, 340) add size and experience. Second-round pick Ra'Shede Hageman (6-6, 318), a defensive tackle in college at Minnesota, will play end.

The humbling fall to a 4-12 finish also brought changes to Smith's staff. Offensive line coach Mike Tice and defensive line coach Bryan Cox were added after Atlanta finished last in rushing and next to last against the run.

Injuries devastated the team in 2013, when 11 players finished the season on injured reserve. Smith is hoping the offseason work in the weight room will help prevent another wave of injuries.

''It will pay dividends through a long 16-game season,'' Smith said. ''It should help us in terms of staying healthy if we're bigger and stronger at the start of the season.''

Here are some areas to watch as the Falcons open training camp on Friday:

JULIO'S HEALTH: Wide receiver Julio Jones was held out of team drills in offseason work with the hope he'll be ready for the start of training camp. Jones, a Pro Bowl pick in 2012, was leading the NFL in receptions last year when he broke a bone in his right foot in a loss to the Jets on Oct. 7. He broke the same bone at Alabama.

Jones, Roddy White and tight end Tony Gonzalez gave quarterback Matt Ryan three elite targets. With the retirement of Gonzalez, Jones' return to form becomes even more important. White, 32, missed three games with ankle and hamstring injuries last year, ending his streak of 133 consecutive games played since entering the league in 2005.

BIG VOID AT LINEBACKER: Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon was under the supervision of team trainers, rehabbing a knee injury that ended his 2013 season, when he tore his Achilles tendon in June. He is lost for the season, possibly opening the way for rookie Prince Shembo of Notre Dame to start.

Weatherspoon missed most of the first half of last season with a foot injury, and undrafted rookies Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu suddenly became starters.

The loss of Weatherspoon, a 2010 first-round pick is significant. He was perhaps the defense's top playmaker.

PROTECTION FOR RYAN: Ryan was sacked 44 times last season - 16 more than his previous career high. That's a scary number for the quarterback who one year ago signed a contract extension worth nearly $104 million.

The offensive line was in constant turmoil in 2013. Left tackle Sam Baker missed 12 games with a knee injury. Baker's health is a key to the unit which has added Matthews at right tackle and Asamoah as the projected starter at right guard. Joe Hawley enters camp with an edge over Peter Konz at center.

REPLACING GONZALEZ: Levine Toilolo, a second-year player who had 11 catches last season, is the probable replacement for Gonzalez, who set almost every important NFL record for tight ends.

Bear Pascoe, who played five seasons with the Giants, was signed to add experience at the position. Pascoe made six starts last season. Another option is Mickey Shuler, who played in six games with the Dolphins in 2010.

NEW COMPETITION FOR JACKSON: Steven Jackson will be 31 when the season opens and needs to show age won't keep him from returning to form. He missed four games with a hamstring injury and managed only 543 yards rushing last year, ending his streak of eight straight 1,000-yard seasons with the Rams.

The Falcons need help after finishing last in the league in rushing. Rookie Devonta Freeman, a third-round pick from Florida State, could earn at least a share of the carries with a strong training camp.

---

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Alfred MorrisNov 23 11:52p

Washington Redskins RB Alfred Morris averaged 6.0 yards per attempt on 21 carries in the Week 12 game against the San Francisco 49ers. It was his first 100-yard game [ More ]

Larry FitzgeraldNov 23 10:32p

Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald's (knee) sprained knee did not respond as hoped before the Week 12 game against the Seattle Seahawks, so he was inactive. He could well miss more games.

Doug MartinNov 23 10:23p

Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Doug Martin (ankle) returned to the lineup in Week 12 against the Chicago Bears. He carried 11 times for 27 yards. He was sidelined for [ More ]

Michael FloydNov 23 10:22p

Arizona Cardinals WR Michael Floyd was targeted twice in the Week 12 game against the Seattle Seahawks, but he did not record any catches or offensive statistics.

DeAndre HopkinsNov 23 09:33p

Houston Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins posted five receptions for 39 yards in Week 12 against the Cincinnati Bengals. He is now over 100 receptions for the first time in his career.

Jorvorskie LaneNov 23 09:33p

Tampa Bay Buccaneers FB Jorvorskie Lane (ankle) was carted off in the second quarter of the Week 12 game against the Chicago Bears due to what head coach Lovie [ More ]

Mike EvansNov 23 09:33p

Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Mike Evans had three receptions for 47 yards and a touchdown in the Week 12 game against the Chicago Bears. He has now scored at [ More ]

Ryan MallettNov 23 09:33p

Houston Texans QB Ryan Mallett (pectoral) suffered a pectoral injury in the Week 12 game against the Cincinnati Bengals, and he will go for an MRI. He might miss [ More ]

A.J. GreenNov 23 09:22p

Cincinnati Bengals WR A.J. Green posted a career-high 12 receptions for 121 yards in Week 12 against the Houston Texans. 'It's just one of those days when you just [ More ]

Andre SmithNov 23 09:22p

Cincinnati Bengals OT Andre Smith (triceps) suffered a partially torn triceps muscle in the Week 12 against the Houston Texans. He will go for an MRI Monday, Nov. 24.

T Y HiltonNov 23 08:02p

Indianapolis Colts WR T.Y. Hilton was up early Sunday, Nov. 23, for the birth of his daughter, and he promised a touchdown. After his wife delivered their child, he [ More ]

Eddie LacyNov 23 08:02p

Green Bay Packers RB Eddie Lacy (illness) ran 25 times for 125 yards and a touchdown in the Week 12 game against the Minnesota Vikings, and he added two [ More ]

Andrew LuckNov 23 08:02p

Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck completed 21 of his 32 passes for 253 yards and a touchdown in Week 12 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He also ran eight times [ More ]

Charles JohnsonNov 23 08:02p

Minnesota Vikings WR Charles X. Johnson had three receptions for a team-high 52 yards and a touchdown in the Week 12 game against the Green Bay Packers.

Greg JenningsNov 23 08:02p

Minnesota Vikings WR Greg Jennings (rib) had four receptions for 38 yards and a touchdown in the Week 12 game against the Green Bay Packers, his former team. It [ More ]

C. PattersonNov 23 08:02p

Minnesota Vikings WR Cordarrelle Patterson (ankle, knee) left the Week 12 game against the Green Bay Packers due to ankle and knee injuries.

LeGarrette BlountNov 23 06:52p

New England Patriots RB LeGarrette Blount carried 12 times for a team-high 78 yards and two touchdowns in the Week 12 game against the Detroit Lions after re-signing with the team this week.

Golden TateNov 23 06:52p

Detroit Lions WR Golden Tate had four receptions for 97 yards in Week 12 against the New England Patriots. He went over 1,000 yards receiving for the first time in his career.

Jonas GrayNov 23 06:52p

New England Patriots RB Jonas Gray did not play in the Week 12 game against the Detroit Lions after he did not report to the team's facility Friday, Nov. [ More ]

Timothy WrightNov 23 06:52p

New England Patriots TE Tim Wright played a season-high 60 snaps in Week 12 against the Detroit Lions, which shattered his previous best of 21 snaps, which he hit [ More ]

Kendall WrightNov 23 06:23p

Tennessee Titans WR Kendall Wright was limited to just one catch for 28 yards in Week 12 against the Philadelphia Eagles. That catch did not come until 10 minutes remaining in the game.

Isaiah CrowellNov 23 06:12p

The Cleveland Browns have 14 rushing touchdowns this season, which is the most by the franchise since it had 14 in the 1989 season. The team had just four [ More ]

Zach MettenbergerNov 23 06:12p

Tennessee Titans QB Zach Mettenberger completed 20 of his 39 pass attempts for a career-high 345 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in the Week 12 game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Brian HoyerNov 23 05:02p

Cleveland Browns QB Brian Hoyer completed 23 of his 40 pass attempts for 322 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions in the Week 12 win against the Atlanta Falcons.

Josh GordonNov 23 05:02p

Cleveland Browns WR Josh Gordon posted eight receptions for 120 yards in his regular season debut in Week 12 against the Atlanta Falcons. He was targeted a game-high 16 times in the win.

Isaiah CrowellNov 23 05:02p

Cleveland Browns RB Isaiah Crowell carried 12 times for game-high 88 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the Week 12 game against the Atlanta Falcons.

LeSean McCoyNov 23 05:02p

Philadelphia Eagles RB LeSean McCoy carried 21 times for 130 yards and a rushing touchdown in Week 12 against the Tennessee Titans, and he added one reception for just one yard.

Mark SanchezNov 23 05:02p

Philadelphia Eagles QB Mark Sanchez completed 30 of his 43 pass attempts for 307 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in the Week 12 win against the Tennessee Titans.

Darren SprolesNov 23 05:02p

Philadelphia Eagles RB Darren Sproles carried six times for 25 yards and a touchdown in Week 12 against the Tennessee Titans, and he added three receptions for 14 yards.

Dwayne AllenNov 23 12:42p

Indianapolis Colts TE Dwayne Allen (ankle) is inactive Sunday, Nov. 23, for Week 12.

Trent WilliamsNov 23 12:32p

Washington Redskins OT Trent Williams (ankle, knee) is not expected to play in Week 12 because of his injuries.

Danny LansanahNov 23 12:22p

Tampa Bay Buccaneers LB Danny Lansanah is moving from strongside linebacker to weakside linebacker in place of LB Lavonte David (hamstring). LB Orie Lemon will start at strongside linebacker.

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