2015 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

Sam BradfordJun 29 05:22p

Philadelphia Eagles QB Sam Bradford (knee) is expected to be in the final phase of his rehabilitation from a torn anterior cruciate ligament once training camp begins. Bradford's second [ More ]

Charles JohnsonJun 29 02:02p

Minnesota Vikings WR Charles X. Johnson appears to have everything it takes to produce in the NFL, according to offensive coordinator Norv Turner. 'He's got great work ethic, and [ More ]

C.J. SpillerJun 28 09:02p

New Orleans Saints RB C.J. Spiller has a perfect skill-set for head coach Sean Payton's system, which relies on getting the ball to players in space, according Chris Wesseling [ More ]

Tony MoeakiJun 25 07:12p

Atlanta Falcons TE Tony Moeaki will compete with TE Jacob Tamme for the Falcons' starting tight end job during training camp. QB Matt Ryan praised both tight ends for [ More ]

Kelvin BenjaminJun 25 03:52p

Carolina Panthers WR Kelvin Benjamin's reported weight gain this offseason is being overblown, according to general manager Dave Gettleman. Gettleman expects Benjamin to be ready to go for training [ More ]

Antoine CasonJun 25 03:03a

Free-agent CB Antoine Cason (foot) will miss the 2015 season due to surgery he underwent on Tuesday, June 23. Cason (Ravens) did not specify what type of surgery he [ More ]

Marvin JonesJun 24 09:13p

Cincinnati Bengals WR Marvin Jones (ankle, foot) did not play in 2014 due to multiple foot and ankle issues, but he is healthy and was impressive in organized team activities (OTAs) and minicamp.

Keith WenningJun 24 02:43p

Free-agent QB Keith Wenning (Ravens) signed with the Cincinnati Bengals Wednesday, June 24. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Pierre GarconJun 24 02:23p

Washington Redskins WR Pierre Garcon could be featured more often in the passing game this season based on the offseason workouts. Garcon often lined up to the right of [ More ]

Martavis BryantJun 24 01:43p

Pittsburgh Steelers WRs Markus Wheaton and Martavis Bryant are expected to compete for the No. 2 wide receiver job during training camp. Both players performed well during offseason workouts.

Peyton ManningJun 24 11:53a

Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning was the subject of preliminary trade discussions with the Houston Texans, according to a source. The talks occurred before Manning restructured his deal and [ More ]

Rueben RandleJun 24 10:53a

New York Giants WR Rueben Randle was the best receiver on the field by a wide margin during spring practices, in the opinion of beat writer Jordan Ranaan. Randle [ More ]

Chris IvoryJun 24 10:43a

New York Jets RB Chris Ivory is listed as the starting running back entering training camp, according to beat writer Rich Cimini's unofficial depth chart. RB Bilal Powell is [ More ]

Devonta FreemanJun 23 10:22a

Atlanta Falcons RB Devonta Freeman enters training camp ahead of RB Tevin Coleman on the depth chart.

Joseph RandleJun 23 10:02a

Dallas Cowboys RB Joseph Randle appears to be the clear leader at running back, and it's his job to lose in training camp.

Ahmad BradshawJun 22 11:32p

Free-agent RB Ahmad Bradshaw (Colts) has been suspended one game for violation of the league's substance abuse policy. If he signs with a team he must sit out for the first week.

Terrelle PryorJun 22 04:33p

Cincinnati Bengals WR Terrelle Pryor was claimed off waivers by the Cleveland Browns Monday, June 22, according to a source.

Fred DavisJun 19 06:02p

New England Patriots TE Fred Davis was released Friday, June 19.

Dennis PittaJun 19 02:22p

Baltimore Ravens TE Dennis Pitta (hip) was not medically cleared to practice in minicamp as he continues to recover from his second dislocated and fractured hip in as many [ More ]

Isaiah CrowellJun 19 01:22p

Cleveland Browns RB Isaiah Crowell could be the workhorse back if his ball security improves, according to offensive coordinator John DeFilippo.

Devonta FreemanJun 19 01:12p

Atlanta Falcons RB Devonta Freeman will be used in a lot of different ways, including as a receiver, according to head coach Dan Quinn. 'I knew Devonta had terrific [ More ]

Chris OgbonnayaJun 19 11:32a

Free-agent RB Chris Ogbonnaya (Giants) announced his retirement Friday, June 19.

John MoffittJun 18 11:02p

Free-agent OG John Moffitt unretired Wednesday, June 17, and cleared waivers Thursday, June 18. He is free to sign with a team of his choosing. The Philadelphia Eagles, Miami [ More ]

Terrelle PryorJun 18 09:32p

Free-agent QB Terrelle Pryor is going to give it a shot at playing wide receiver in the NFL. Some teams have already expressed an interest.

Allen RobinsonJun 18 09:22p

Jacksonville Jaguars WR Allen Robinson was described as 'unbelievable' by QB Blake Bortles Thursday, June 18. 'He's definitely a threat now in the red zone. ... He's physical. He [ More ]

Terrelle PryorJun 18 05:32p

Cincinnati Bengals QB Terrelle Pryor was waived Thursday, June 18.

Taylor ThompsonJun 18 05:32p

Tennesse Titans TE Taylor Thompson was waived Thursday, June 18.

Matthew MulliganJun 18 04:32p

Free-agent TE Matthew Mulligan (Titans) signed an undisclosed contract with the Buffalo Bills Thursday, June 18.

Carlton MitchellJun 18 04:22p

Free-agent WR Carlton Mitchell (Buccaneers) signed an undisclosed contract with the Atlanta Falcons Thursday, June 18. WR Shane Wynn was waived.

Daniel ThomasJun 18 04:12p

Free-agent RB Daniel Thomas (Dolphins) signed a one-year contract with the Chicago Bears Thursday, June 18. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Pat DevlinJun 18 04:12p

Chicago Bears QB Pat Devlin, TE Jacob Maxwell and PK Jeremiah Detmer were waived Thursday, June 18.

Dez BryantJun 18 11:42a

Dallas Cowboys WR Dez Bryant arrived for the final day of minicamp Thursday, June 18.

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