Posted: 9:29 am Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

10 things to watch at Falcons OTAs 

By D. Orlando Ledbetter

HYOSUB SHIN / AJC May 16, 2014 Flowery Branch - Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith smiles as he watches during the first day of Mini-Camp for rookies on Friday, May 16, 2014. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
May 16, 2014 Flowery Branch – Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith smiles as he watches during the first day of Mini-Camp for rookies on Friday, May 16, 2014. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

FLOWERY BRANCH – The Falcons start phase three of their offseason program when they kick off the organized team activities (OTAs) today.

After going 4-12 last season, the Falcons have been proactive internally, in free agency and in the draft. Now, the coaching staff, which includes new offensive and defensive line coaches, must start pulling all of the pieces together with a goal of being ready for training camp in late July.

Somebody is going to ask, what’s an OTA? CLICK HERE — DESCRIPTION OF WHAT HAPPENS AT AN OTA SESSION. Allen Iverson, the old basketball player, wouldn’t like OTAs, because they are too much like “practice!”  

Here are 10 things to watch at OTAs:

How’s offensive tackle Sam Baker looking? The Falcons are banking on Baker holding down the left tackle position in 2014. When Baker has played all 16 games, the Falcons have gone 13-3. He’s coming back from knee surgery.

 

How’s defensive end/linebacker Kroy Biermann looking? He’s coming back from Achilles surgery. He should be close to ready to go. Former cornerback Brent Grimes injured his Achilles in the first game of 2012 and was expected back last May. Biermann was injured in the second game of 2013.

 

How does veteran safety Dwight Lowery look? The veteran could be the Falcons best option at free safety while defensive backs coach Tim Lewis and Joe Danna groom third-round pick Dezmen Southward. Lowery, 28, was an under the radar free agent signee. He’s started 41 games in the league and is set to enter his seventh season.

 

Falcons running back Steven Jackson wants to see a drastically improve run-game in 2014.
Falcons running back Steven Jackson wants to see a drastically improve run-game in 2014.

How does Bear Pascoe look at tight end? It looks the Falcons are going to replace the great Tony Gonzalez with a blocking tight end. The Bear has just 38 career catches. His real name is “McKenna Sean” Pascoe. He’s also played some fullback.

 

How does running back Steven Jackson look? After not rushing for 1,000 yards for the first time in eight seasons, Jackson, who turns 31 on July 22, plans to return with a vengeance. The Falcons appear to have a lot of faith in the running back bouncing back from an injured-marred campaign. He hasn’t been participating in the offseason program, but no one seems too concerned.

How will offensive line coach Mike Tice whip the unit into shape? Tice and assistant offensive line coach Wade Harman were hired to help the unit win the line of scrimmage and protect quarterback Matt Ryan much better. With the addition of guard Asamoah and first-round pick Jake Matthews, they have a couple of new pieces to work with.

How will defensive line coach Bryan Cox help to create a pass rush? The Falcons are counting Cox to help generate a pass rush. They added some beef along the front line this offseason in nose tackle/defensive tackle Paul Soliai, defensive end Tyson Jackson and rookie defensive end/defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman.

 

HYOSUB SHIN / AJC May 16, 2014 Flowery Branch - Atlanta Falcons rookie offensive tackle Jake Matthews #70 runs a drill during the first day of Mini-Camp for rookies on Friday, May 16, 2014. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
May 16, 2014 Flowery Branch – Atlanta Falcons rookie offensive tackle Jake Matthews #70 runs a drill during the first day of Mini-Camp for rookies on Friday, May 16, 2014. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

 

How will Osi Umenyiora fit into his designated pass rusher role? The veteran has been a class act since coming to the Falcons. He accepted the role of designated pass rusher last season and was retained throughout the upheaval of the offseason. He’s a veteran who could be a big influence on some of the younger players, while producing in a rotational role.

 

Any Julio Jones’ sightings? The Falcons have a policy of hiding injured players from the media. Jones has done a commercial photo shoot and tweets periodically, but hasn’t talked to the media since being injured in the fifth game of the season. Perhaps, he’ll stick his head out of the training room to give the fans an update on how he dealt with the injury and how the rehab is coming.

 

How assistant coach Mark Collins is doing in his new spot? Collins, a former defensive line assistant, was moved to outside linebackers coach. He will be in charge of the hybrid defensive ends/outside linebackers. That’s been a position of weakness in the Falcons’ 4-3 and 3-4 defense over the past two seasons. The team is clearly expecting to generate some pass rush from these spots when in the 3-4 and hope to do a better job of covering tight ends.

 PHASE THREE OF OFFSEASON PROGRAM

–Today – OTA No. 1.

–Wednesday – OTA No. 2.

–Thursday – OTA No. 3.

–Friday – Strength and Conditioning plus a rookie practice

–Monday– OTA No. 4.

–Tuesday, June 3 – OTA No. 5.

–Wednesday, June 4 – OTA No. 6.

–Thursday, June 5 – Rookie Practice.

–Monday, June 9 – Hacks vs. Jocks golf tournament. Defending champs – Team Scelfo.

–Tuesday, June 10 – OTA No. 7.

–Wednesday, June 11 – OTA No. 8.

–Thursday, June 12 – OTA No. 9.

–Friday, June 13 – OTA No. 10.

–Monday, June 16 – Physicals.

–Tuesday, June 17 — Day One: Mandatory minicamp (5 practices over three days)

–Wednesday, June 18 – Day Two: Mandatory minicamp.

–Thursday, June 19 – Day Three: Mandatory minicamp. (Offseason program ends for veterans).

TBA – Rookie Symposium

TBA – (Late July) – Report to Training camp.

 DRAFT CLASS STORIES

Jake Matthews brings strength of family to the Falcons

Ra’Shede Hageman could turn into defensive force for Falcons

Dezmen Southward ready to compete for playing time

Warrick Dunn likes the pick of FSU’s Devonta Freeman

Falcons signed 20 undrafted rookie free agents, 5 from SEC 

Falcons invite 24 players in for tryouts

NFL Draft 2014: ESPN’s Todd McShay on the Falcons’ draft class

VIDEO: Reaction to the Atlanta Falcons’ 2014 draft class

THE ATLANTA FALCONS 2014 DRAFT CLASS

Round 1 / 6 — Jake Matthews, RT, 6-5, 308, Texas A&M

Round 2/37 – Ra’Shede Hageman, DE, 6-6, Minnesota

Round 3/68 – Dezmen Southward, FS, 6-0, 211, Wisconsin

Round 4/103 – Devonta Freeman, RB, 5-8, 206, Florida State

Round 4/139 – Prince Shembo, LB, 6-1, 253 Notre Dame

Round 5/147 – Ricardo Allen, CB, 5-9, 187, Purdue

Round 5/168 – Marquis Spruill, LB, 6-1, 231, Syracuse

Round 7/253 – Yawin Smallwood, LB, 6-2, 246, Connecticut

Round 7/255 – Tyler Starr, LB, 6-4, 250, South Dakota

14 comments
JSSN
JSSN

Riveting comments!!! Answer This, being critical and examining information suits you!

baseball sucks
baseball sucks

The Falcons  are  the only  other team in the nfc south who didn't  significant improve themselves off season the Carolina Panthers  being the  other  but they were pretty darn good  at 12-4  .Falcon still looks   to have  one of the worst   front seven  in the league  which makes the four D-Backs  extremely  vulnerable  to the likes of Brees, Cam Newton  and any tight end   in the league. Matthew will improve the OL ,but  will be beaten and out fox  by  savoy   DL  his rookie season  that's just the way it is in the NFL. Clowney  would have  made this team defense   significantly better ,just remember that when those    mid round draft picks are turning in their  team's  play books   before the second  pre-season  game, and  the third and  second round picks  have played themselves  to the bench , how bout those guarded  10 picks in the 2014 draft look then.


LeftisnotRight
LeftisnotRight

Linemen, linemen, linemen.......we now get to see, after addressing this weakness, their effectiveness. The safety position will be of strong interest too......did they do too little or get a steal? 

AnsweredTHIS
AnsweredTHIS

5.  How does running back Steven Jackson look? After not rushing for 1,000 yards for the first time in eight seasons, Jackson, who turns 31 on July 22, plans to return with a vengeance. The Falcons appear to have a lot of faith in the running back bouncing back from an injured-marred campaign. He hasn’t been participating in the off-season program, but no one seems too concerned.


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What concerns me the most about this statement is " He hasn’t been participating in the off-season program, but no one seems too concerned."


We saw this last year with TG88...how that work out?

RandyFalcon
RandyFalcon

Sam Baker may well be the key to this year. If he holds up this offense could light up the score board. The defense should improve but still be just average to slightly above. I'm ready to start.

baseball sucks
baseball sucks

@JSSN  I have been a Falcon fan since the sixties when T. Nobis  and Humphrey  were the only players  caliber  who really were starters  on a NFL team,,I watch  Bart  our QB throw  balls  to our starters receivers   core and took a pounding  every  Sunday. When  I comment I just  try to keep it real, I don't play Fantasy football

Nat Turner
Nat Turner

@baseball sucks You seem like you have absolutely no clue as to what your'e talking about. What you posted here made no sense whatsoever. Please stop posting your thoughts on the internet about a sport you apparently  know nothing about. Thank you.

TheRealJay
TheRealJay

@baseball sucks Let the Clowney talk go; Houston wanted too much. We've had a solid off season.  Let things work themselves out. We've got tons of depth on both lines. Obviously we want the better players staying healthy, but you surely won't see huge drops offs due to injury like last year.  This will be a team that can play more grind them out games as opposed to finesse and big plays.  There were so many times we couldn't get off the field on 3rd and longs and that's been over the past few years. This year we will be able to get off the field on those down. The caveat is we need someone to step up at that safety spot.  That could leave the secondary exposed.

baseball sucks
baseball sucks

@DOrlandoLedbetter @AnsweredTHIS  Yes Gonzo  look  a step slower , but  the  guy body  is still better then  most TE  in the league  who are half his age. DOrlander  I know it's  becomes a very heated  attack on any one here posting   what might appear a  non flattering complement  about  Matt Ryan  after all Gonzo  the  likely first ballot Hall of Famer , would have been  ran  out of town  if he wasn't already  retiring  for saying  Matt was a very good QB  but not elite yet. The  Falcons OL is not good   but  many of Matt's  sacks came from a  QB     whose game is that of a  timing QB  who held the ball  a second or two longer  not having the confidence in  2 and third string receivers to   run timing routes since  Matt's passes  are out of his hands long before White  and Jones get to that spot. Matt Ryan has a good arm  but just doesn't have   that cannon arm  or mobility  of some of the young qb  the league  has ,but Manning and Brady   have done just fine with  their  natural abilities , so can Matt