Rookies Stick as Falcons Trim Roster for Another Run

When the smoke cleared Saturday, all six rookies selected by the Falcons in the 2017 draft were still around after the team trimmed its preseason roster to the final 53 in preparation for the season opener next Sunday against the Chicago Bears.

In addition to the six rookies, the team kept only four of the free agent signees. Linebacker Jermaine Grace, a undrafted free agent out of Miami (FL), became this season’s Brian Poole by snagging a roster spot. Head Coach Dan Quinn, defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel, and linebacker coach Jeff Ulbricht took a long look at the few prospects they brought into camp at the linebacker position.

Rookies Duke Riley, Sean Harlow, and Takk McKinley seemed destined to make the team from the first day of camp.

After Thursday’s final preseason game against the Jaguars, Quinn was excited about Grace’s play. “We were encouraged to see the speed that he (Grace) could play with,” said Quinn. “Our linebackers can run. That’s from top to bottom. The speed that they play with shows up on tape. It shows up on the way they hit. It shows up on the way they go after the ball.”

To be a linebacker on the Falcons squad, you must be able to run with speed, hit the ball carrier, and get after the ball.

Veteran free agents Jack Crawford, Austin Pasztor, and Andre Roberts join The Brotherhood donning the red and black this season. It was unlikely Pasztor would get swept with the chaff after having played next to Alex Mack on the offensive line in Cleveland. Defensive end Crawford made the most of his third team opportunity. The former Dallas Cowboy made a lot of noise in the preseason. “He looked very disruptive in the run game and in the pass game,” said coach Quinn of Crawford’s play. “That’s what jumped out to us.” Crawford’s ability to affect the opposition’s play and his physical versatility. As a 6’5” defensive tackle, he presents a challenge for opposing quarterbacks in the passing lanes with his quickness and length.

Former Detroit Lions wide receiver Andre Roberts became the only addition to Matt Ryan’s arsenal. Roberts beat out competing rookies Reggie Davis and Marvin Hall for the coveted spot. Hall, along with five other rookies, was named to the practice squad.

This morning defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman was given his official release. Hageman was placed on the NFL exempt list pending a review of domestic violence allegations stemming from an incident with his girlfriend Janeal Jefferies in her home. The Falcons released a statement this morning that the decision was made to terminate Hageman’s contract after a thorough investigative review of the circumstances by local authorities.

Atlanta also completed filling out its practice squad. Joe Vellano and Joshua Perkins return to the practice squad. Wide receiver Marvin Hall cleared waivers and will remain with the organization. Running back Jhurell Pressley will occupy the practice squad spot once held by Terron Ward. Ward’s performance at the end of last season and during preseason secured the third-year back a spot on the 53-man roster. Former British rugby player Alex Gray was named to the practice squad but is exempted from the 10-player limit because of his international ties.

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Falcons Practice Squad

Joe Vellano, DL
Taniela Tupou, DL
J.T.Jones*, DL
Joshua Perkins, TE
Jhurell Pressley, RB
Marvin Hall*, WR
Deante Burton*, WR
Daniel T Brunskill*, OL
Marcelis Branch*, DB
Alex Gray*, TE (International player exemption)

*Denotes Rookies

 

Reserved/Injured

Martin Ifedi, DE
Josh Keyes, LB
Josh Magee, WR
Matt Simms, QB

 

Exempt/Injured

Quincy Mauger*, S
Jalen Collins, DB

 

Hot off the Wire

Defensive end Chris Odom didn’t have time to unpack after being cut from the Falcons. The Green Bay Packers picked up the 2017 undrafted free agent less than 24 hours after he was placed on waivers. Cleveland picked up University of Georgia undrafted free agent Reggie Davis from the waiver wire.

 

List of Players who were on the Super Bowl Roster but are not returning for 2017

Jonathan Babineaux
Chris Chester, OL (Retired)
Tom Compton, OL (Chicago Bears)
Patrick DiMarco, FB (Buffalo)
Dwight Freeney, DL
Dashon Goldson, S
Tyson Jackson, DL
DJ Tialavea, TE/OL
Ra’Shede Hageman, DL
Aldrick Robinson, WR (SF 49ers)
Eric Weems, WR (Tennessee Titans)
Philip Wheeler, LB (Arizona Cardinals)
Paul Worrilow, LB (Detroit Lions)

 

 

File photo of Matt Ryan passing against the Steelers in 2010.

Falcons Backups Need to Step Up

In the two years that Dan Quinn has been the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, he has never shied away from making what the expectations are for making the roster. Sunday afternoon the second and third units were given plenty of opportunities to standout for better or worse.

Thomas and I, on the flight back, are going to dig right into the second half before we even watch the first half,” said Quinn. “There are so many guys that we are evaluating and looking to see who can battle and make an impact for this team. We cannot wait to go.”

With two games remaining in the preseason, players are either battling for a roster spot, auditioning for another team, or coming to the brutal realization that the NFL is beyond their capability. It is unlikely any of the returning starters will have to worry about making the team which doesn’t leave a lot of room for additions. The key as always is flexibility.

Archive Photo: RB Terron Ward

Archive Photo: RB Terron Ward

The starting offense and defense didn’t disappoint in Sunday’s game against the Steelers. Devonta Freeman’s injury gave Terron Ward an opportunity to start. Ward not only started, he played in every quarter and scored the game’s first touchdown. He made the most of playing with the starting line gaining 25 of his 37 yards rushing in the first quarter.

It’s clear Ward’s chances to make the team will be impacted by his ability to play on special teams. He was included on all four special teams. There was no “coach speak” from Quinn when discussing the third-year back. “The third running back is a really important one,” said Quinn. “Not only do you have to say not only do I have to step up and play when capable, but I also have to make an impact on the team.”

There’s no question special teams is an area where the Falcons want to improve over last season. Which made the 64-yard punt return for a touchdown by Steelers return man Trey William all that more problematic. Quinn mentioned “disappointing” along with several statements about “finding out who can cover” in reference to special teams.

Atlanta’s second and third teams didn’t fair well against the Steelers second and third teams. Quarterback Matt Sims, who is likely auditioning for another team, was unable to move the offense in the second half. With Sims at the helm most of the second half, Atlanta’s gained only 59 yards. The four-year pro didn’t help his audition tape by getting picked off by Jordan Dangerfield on the first play from scrimmage after the defense turned over the Steelers.

Defensively, the Falcons played well allowing the Steelers 189 yards of total offense and intercepting both opposing quarterbacks once. Rookie safety Quincy Mauger (Georgia) made a diving interception of an ugly pitch by Steelers rookie starting quarterback Josh Dobbs. “A whole bunch of thoughts went through my head on that play,” said the Alpharetta High School product. “Originally, I was going to run for it. I had the guy in the flat. Then they covered him. And I didn’t think I was going to get tackled and then I was tripping.” Cornerback Akeem King picked off Bart Houston in the end zone to thwart a potential Pittsburgh scoring drive.

Atlanta returns home to prepare for the third preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. It will be the Falcons first game in the new Mercedes Benz Stadium.

Steve Sarkisian and Matt Ryan run to the next module during training camp at Flowery Branch.

Dolphins – Just Part of the Process

A warm night, a willing opponent and referees were integral to the next step in the evaluation process for the 2017 Atlanta Falcons.  Any team dressed in another uniform would have served the Falcons purpose, it just so happens the venue was in Miami and the Dolphins were eager to test themselves as well.  Miami’s seconds […]

Falcons Add Another Gator

Florida Gators running back Kelvin Taylor at the 2014 Birmingham Bowl.

Florida Gators running back Kelvin Taylor at the 2014 Birmingham Bowl.

Former San Francisco draft pick and Seattle Seahawks running back Kelvin Taylor moves back east having signed running back Kelvin Taylor today. The son of long-time Jacksonville Jaguar running back Fred Taylor, he played alongside former Gators Keanu Neal and Bobby Poole. The 5’10” 205 lb back spent time on the Seahawks active roster but did not have a carry. The Falcons extended the contract after Taylor completed a workout for the coaching staff. Head Coach Dan Quinn liked what he saw of the second-year back. “In the workout, he moved good, caught the ball well, and did enough that he could get a few reps even in the practice today,” said Quinn.

The team’s first preseason game of the 2017 season is on Thursday in Miami against the Dolphins. Taylor could get some reps due to his familiarity with the offense in Seattle.  According to Quinn, the former Gator was brought in partially because of the groin injury suffered by fifth-year free agent signee B.J. Daniels.

Georgia Bulldog fans will remember Taylor for the 197 rushing yards he rang up against the Dawgs in Florida’s lopsided 38-20 win. Taylor showed good burst in college rushing for 1035 yards in his final season with the Gators. With the addition of Taylor, the Falcons now have four players on the roster that played in the 2014 Birmingham Bowl. Justin Hardy played for East Carolina against the trio of Gators.

Tough Schedule Favors Falcons

Week 1 of the 2017 NFL season is still a full five months away but the Falcons have to be happy with the schedule -except for maybe the early bye week. Albeit a tough one (it was a tough one last year), the Dirty Birds play all of their open air cold weather opponents early in the season. Atlanta opens up with the Bears. There isn’t a better time to play in the Windy City than September -hot with a tinge of southern humidity. It will be a rematch of SB LI in week 7 when the Brotherhood travels to Gillette Stadium to battle the Patriots. Sure the northeast is chilly in late October but it will be positively balmy compared to December.  One week later Atlanta travels down to the Meadowlands to face the JETS.  It will be the Falcons last outdoor game in the northern climes. Having the week off after just 4 games means a long 12 game stretch lies ahead.

 

BearsAT BEARS
Sun, September 10, 2017
1:00 PM EDT

 

PackersPACKERS
Sun, September 17, 2017
8:30 PM EDT

 

LionsAT LIONS
Sun, September 24, 2017
1:00 PM EDT

BILLS
Sun, October 1, 2017
1:00PMEDT

BYE

DOLPHINS
Sun, October 15, 2017
1:00 PM EDT

AT PATRIOTS
Sun, October 22, 2017
8:30 PM EDT

AT JETS
Sun, October 29, 2017
1:00 PM EDT

AT PANTHERS
Sun, November 5, 2017
1:00 PM EDT

COWBOYS
Sun, November 12, 2017
4:25 PM EDT

AT SEAHAWKS
Mon, November 20, 2017
8:30 PM EDT

BUCCANEERS
Sun, November 26, 2017
1:00 PM EDT

VIKINGS
Sun, December 3, 2017
1:00 PM EDT

SAINTS
Thu, December 7, 2017
8:30 PM EDT

AT BUCCANEERS
Mon, December 18, 2017
8:30 PM EDT

AT SAINTS
Sun, December 24, 2017
1:00 PM EDT

PANTHERS
Sun, December 31, 2017
1:00 PM EDT

Atlanta Falcons – A Year in Review

Football season may be over but you can relive every moment of the Atlanta Falcons 2016-2017 season with the Atlanta Falcons A Year in Review available now in print or digital download.

CORE360 Sports Atlanta Falcons A Year in Review

By Jason McDonald in CORE 360

60 pages, published 3/5/2017

Atlanta Falcons A Year in Review – highlights the Falcons season from Draft Day to Super Bowl LI Sunday