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

Luke WillsonOct 24 10:44p

Seattle Seahawks TE Luke Willson (groin) will play in the team's Week 8 game, according to head coach Pete Carroll.

Crockett GillmoreOct 24 10:32p

Baltimore Ravens rookie TE Crockett Gillmore will receive the start at tight end in Week 8 against the Cincinnati Bengals, and the Ravens appear to have plenty of confidence [ More ]

Golden TateOct 24 10:12p

Detroit Lions WR Golden Tate will be facing the league's 29th ranked pass defense in Week 8 against the Atlanta Falcons.

Steve JohnsonOct 24 10:08p

San Francisco 49ers WR Stevie Johnson has played only 20 percent of the snaps in the last month, but he's been the team's most effective receiver in that time. [ More ]

Reggie BushOct 24 10:02p

Detroit Lions RB Reggie Bush (ankle) is expected to be inactive for the Week 9 game against the Atlanta Falcons in London, according to a source Friday, Oct. 24.

Calvin JohnsonOct 24 10:02p

Detroit Lions WR Calvin Johnson (ankle) is unlikely to play in Week 8 against the Atlanta Falcons in London, according to a source. The team has a bye in [ More ]

Ryan MathewsOct 24 09:52p

San Diego Chargers RB Ryan Mathews (knee) missed his sixth consecutive game in Week 8 Thursday, Oct. 23, against the Denver Broncos, but he could return to practice as [ More ]

Donald BrownOct 24 09:52p

San Diego Chargers RB Donald Brown (concussion) missed his third straight game in Week 8 Thursday, Oct. 23, against the Denver Broncos, but he might be able to return to practice Monday, Oct. 27.

Alan BallOct 24 07:02p

The Jacksonville Jaguars are extremely thin at cornerback heading into the team's Week 8 game, with CBs Alan Ball (biceps) out, and Dwayne Gratz (hip flexor) questionable. There is [ More ]

Kevin WilliamsOct 24 06:32p

Seattle Seahawks FB Derrick Coleman (foot), DT Jordan Hill (ankle), CB Byron Maxwell (calf), TE Zach Miller (ankle), C Max Unger (foot), LB Bobby Wagner (toe) and WR Bryan [ More ]

Khalif BarnesOct 24 06:32p

Oakland Raiders OT Khalif Barnes (quadriceps) is expected to start at right tackle in Week 8, but head coach Tony Sparano would not say if Barnes or OT Menelik [ More ]

LaMarr WoodleyOct 24 06:22p

Oakland Raiders DE LaMarr Woodley (biceps) and FS Usama Young (knee) are expected to be placed on the Reserve/Injured list.

Dion SimsOct 24 06:02p

Miami Dolphins SS Jimmy Wilson (hamstring) is listed as doubtful for Week 8. LB Koa Misi (ankle) is listed as questionable, while OT Branden Albert (elbow), LS John Denney [ More ]

Billy WinnOct 24 05:52p

Cleveland Browns WR Rodney Smith (hamstring) and DT Phil Taylor (knee) have been ruled out for Week 8. DE Billy Winn (quadriceps) and SS Jim Leonhard (ankle) are listed [ More ]

Justin TuckOct 24 05:42p

Oakland Raiders TE David Ausberry (foot), WR Vincent Brown (hamstring), CB Keith McGill (groin), DE LaMarr Woodley (biceps) and FS Usama Young (knee) did not participate in practice Friday, [ More ]

Derrick ColemanOct 24 05:32p

Updating a previous report, Seattle Seahawks RB Derrick Coleman (foot) had surgery to repair a foot injury this week. He is expected to miss at least six weeks.

Brandon BrownerOct 24 05:32p

New England Patriots DE Chandler Jones (hip) did not participate in practice Friday, Oct. 24, and has been ruled out for Week 8. OG Dan Connolly (concussion), DE Dominique [ More ]

Johnathan JosephOct 24 05:32p

Houston Texans CB Darryl Morris (ankle) and LB Jeff Tarpinian (knee) have been ruled out for Week 8 against the Tennessee Titans. LBs Jadeveon Clowney (knee), Brian Cushing (knee), [ More ]

Frostee RuckerOct 24 05:22p

Arizona Cardinals TE Troy Niklas (ankle) has been ruled out for Week 8 against the Philadelphia Eagles. DE Calais Campbell (knee) is questionable, while S Rashad Johnson (knee) and [ More ]

Morgan BurnettOct 24 05:12p

Green Bay Packers DE Datone Jones (ankle) has been ruled out for Week 8 against the New Orleans Saints. S Morgan Burnett (calf) is questionable, while CB Sam Shields [ More ]

James StarksOct 24 05:12p

Green Bay Packers RB James Starks (ankle) was limited in practice for the second straight day Friday, Oct. 24, but is probable for Week 8 against the New Orleans [ More ]

Lance BriggsOct 24 05:02p

Chicago Bears LB Jonathan Bostic (back) and LB Lance Briggs (ribs) were limited in practice Friday, Oct. 24, and are doubtful for Week 8. S Danny McCray (knee) did [ More ]

Ryan ClarkOct 24 05:02p

Washington Redskins CB Tracy Porter (hamstring) and FS Ryan Clark (ankle, shoulder) were limited during practice Friday, Oct. 24. DE Chris Baker (thigh), OT Tyler Polumbus (knee), LB Perry [ More ]

Jack CrawfordOct 24 04:52p

Dallas Cowboys OT Doug Free (foot) and DE Jack Crawford (calf) did not participate in practice Friday, Oct. 24. Anthony Spencer (knee) was limited during practice, while LB Bruce [ More ]

Ronnie HillmanOct 24 04:52p

Denver Broncos RB Ronnie Hillman continues to run with confidence in the absence of RB Montee Ball (groin), and Ball will likely find it hard to win his starting [ More ]

Jonathan GoodwinOct 24 04:32p

New Orleans Saints C Jonathan Goodwin (ankle, knee) and LB Kyle Knox (ankle) did not participate in practice Friday, Oct. 24, and have been ruled out. DT Brodrick Bunkley [ More ]

Nick MangoldOct 24 04:32p

New York Jets LB Trevor Reilly (knee) and WR Greg Salas (wrist, ankle) both were limited in practice Friday, Oct. 24, and are questionable for Week 8. OT Oday [ More ]

Cyrus GrayOct 24 04:32p

Kansas City Chiefs CB Christopher Owens (knee) has been ruled out for Week 8 against the St. Louis Rams. WR Junior Hemingway (hamstring) and S Eric Berry (ankle) are [ More ]

Khiry RobinsonOct 24 04:22p

New Orleans Saints RB Khiry Robinson (forearm) did not participate in practice Friday, Oct. 24, and has been ruled out for Week 8.

Jo-Lonn DunbarOct 24 04:22p

St. Louis Rams C Tim Barnes (shoulder) and CB Brandon McGee (foot) are both out for Week 8 against the Kansas City Chiefs. CBs Janoris Jenkins (knee) and Trumaine [ More ]

R. Griffin IIIOct 24 04:12p

Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III (ankle) said he won't rush back to play until his ankle is fully healed. 'It's our job to help this team win, and [ More ]

Pierre ThomasOct 24 04:12p

New Orleans Saints RB Pierre Thomas (rib, shoulder) did not participate in practice Friday, Oct. 24, and has been ruled out for Week 8.

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