SECTIONS
TRAFFIC
COMMENTS0
x
D. Orlando LedbetterD. Orlando Ledbetter

Countdown to camp: Day 9 – Special teams

Comments 0
Falcons wide receiver Devin Hester takes a break during the mini-camp. Atlanta Falcons players workout during the second day of mini-camp at the team's facilities in Flowery Branch, Wednesday, June 18, 2014. KENT D. JOHNSON/KDJOHNSON@AJC.COM

Falcons wide receiver Devin Hester takes a break during the mini-camp. Atlanta Falcons players workout during the second day of mini-camp at the team’s facilities in Flowery Branch, Wednesday, June 18, 2014. KENT D. JOHNSON/KDJOHNSON@AJC.COM

FLOWERY BRANCH — The start of the Falcons training camp is nine days away. The first practice is set for Friday, July 25.

We started our countdown by looking at the new assistant coaches Mike Tice, Wade Harman and Bryan Cox. Today, we’ll start a position-by-position look at the roster.  

We’ll peek at the special teams, which finished last season ranked 26th in the league.

The big offseason pick up was the addition of Devin Hester, perhaps league’s best-ever return man.

Hester, 31, has posted staggering numbers over his stellar career.

“Devin Hester brings a ton of experience and a ton of ability,” assistant head coach/wide receivers Terry Robiskie said. “He brings a lot of records (with him). He’s already told me that he’s in the record books in the NFL. He reminded me of that already. The thing that I had to remind him of is that he doesn’t have any records with me. None of those records he has are helping me.”

Special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong is looking forward to unleashing Hester.

“He knows what the home run ball looks like,” Armstrong said. “I think that one thing that I really enjoy is the way that he’s approaching it. He’s approaching it like a pro. He’s not approaching it like, ‘hey, I’ve been there before.’ He knows and understands that this is a different team. A new team. He’s taking that professional approach to it.”

Falcons linebackers Joplo Bartu (59) and Yawin Smallwood (54) run through drills during the mini-camp. Atlanta Falcons players workout during the second day of mini-camp at the team's facilities in Flowery Branch, Wednesday, June 18, 2014. KENT D. JOHNSON/KDJOHNSON@AJC.COM

Falcons linebackers Joplo Bartu (59) and Yawin Smallwood (54) run through drills during the mini-camp. Atlanta Falcons players workout during the second day of mini-camp at the team’s facilities in Flowery Branch, Wednesday, June 18, 2014. KENT D. JOHNSON/KDJOHNSON@AJC.COM

Armstrong expects Hester’s presence to lift the entire group.

“When guys know that somebody is back there that …knows how to hit it, they are going to start blocking (better),” Armstrong said. “That sense of urgency will pick up.”

The Falcons experimented over the offseason with how to utilize Hester. He’s slated to mainly be the kickoff returner and possibly earn spot duty as the punt returner.

“He’s done the punts,” Armstrong said. “We haven’t quite gotten to that part of it. We’ve got some options, which is a good thing. Arenas was back there, (Robert) Alford, Harry (Douglas), (Robert) McClain and Hester (over the offseason.)”

Hester was the league’s leader in kickoff-return yardage with 1,436 on 52 returns last season.

The Falcons averaged 8.3 yards on punt returns, which ranked 20th in the league. They averaged 24.4 yards on kickoff returns, which ranked 10th.

“We’ve got some depth at the position,” Armstrong said. “We’ve always had to find a guy. We’ve kind of built some depth.”

Armstrong was also experimenting with his coverage units.

“I’m trying to massage it out. I’m trying to move guys around and not let them stay in one spot for the spring,” Armstrong said. “I have to find out what they can do. We tried to move them around so we could get a better idea of what they can do.”

The Falcons covered punts well in 2013. They gave up 7.6 yards per return, which ranked 8th in the league. They need to improve the kickoff coverage team. The Falcons gave up 24.8 yards per return, which ranked 25th.

“Last year, we ran into the snag where we had so many injuries that so many of the guys that we were training, ended up being starters,” Armstrong said. “We were training on the run.”

Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News annual ranks the league’s special teams units. The league’s 32 teams are ranked in 22 categories and assigned points according to their standing – one for best, 32 for worst.

The Falcons were ranked 26th in the league with 408.5 points last season.

PROJECTED 2014 TRAINING CAMP DEPTH CHART

OFFENSE

WR 11 Julio Jones, 13 Darius Johnson, 14 Courtney Roby, 18 Freddie Martino, 89 Bernard Reedy,

LT 72 Sam Baker, 76 Lamar Holmes, 74 Terren Jones

LG 63 Justin Blalock, 68 Gabe Carimi, 67 Adam Replogle

C 61 Joe Hawley, 66 Peter Konz, 62 James Stone

RG 75 Jon Asamoah, 69 Harland Gunn

RT 70 Jake Matthews, 79 Mike Johnson 73 Ryan Schrader

TE 80 Levine Toilolo, 86 Bear Pascoe, 82 Mickey Shuler, 81 Jacob Pedersen, 49 Brian Wozniak

WR 84 Roddy White, 83 Harry Douglas, 15 Geraldo Boldewijn, 16 Julian Jones, 87 Tramaine Thompson

QB 2 Matt Ryan, 8 T.J. Yates, 12 Sean Renfree, 9 Jeff Mathews

RB 39 Steven Jackson, 32 Jacquizz Rodgers, 35 Antone Smith, 33 Devonta Freeman, 30 Josh Vaughan, 34 Jerome Smith

FB  42 Patrick DiMarco, 45 Maurice Hagens, 43 Roosevelt Nix

4-3 DEFENSE (with an extra line for the nickel back)

RE 95 Jonathan Babineaux, 50 Osi Umenyiora, 96 Jonathan Massaquoi, 90 Stansly Maponga

DT 99 Tyson Jackson, 91 Corey Peters, 92 Travian Robertson

DT 96 Paul Soliai, 97 Peria Jerry, 98 Cliff Matthews, 65 Donte Rumph

LE 77 Ra’Shede Hageman, 98 Malliciah Goodman, 49 Tyler Starr, 64 Nosa Equae

OLB 71 Kroy Biermann, 48 Brenden Daley, 45 Jacques Smith

MLB 55 Paul Worrilow, 52 Tim Dobbins, 54 Yawin Smallwood

OLB 59 Joplo Bartu, 53 Prince Shembo, 51 Marquis Spruill, 46 Walker May,

RCB 21 Desmond Trufant, 28 Javier Arenas, 37 Ricardo Allen,

NB 26 Josh Wilson, 27 Robert McClain, 28 Javier Arenas, 41 Dezmen Southward

LCB 23 Robert Alford, 24 Jordan Mabin, 43 Devonta Glover-Wright

SS 25 William Moore, 36 Kemal Ishmael, 40 Kimario McFadden, 22 Zeke Motta

FS 20 Dwight Lowery, 41 Dezman Southward, 29 Sean Baker

SPECIALISTS

K 3 Matt Bryant, 6 Sergio Castillo

KO 5 Matt Bosher

P 5 Matt Bosher

KR 17 Devin Hester, 28 Javier Arenas, 14 Courtney Roby

PR  17 Devin Hester, 27 Robert McClain, 28 Javier Arenas

LS  47 Josh Harris

 H 5 Matt Bosher

TRAINING CAMP SCHEDULE

Date                                                      Practice Times (public availability)

Tuesday, July 22                                Rookies report

Wednesday, July 23                          Veterans report

Friday, July 25                                    Practice 3:30 – 5:50 p.m. (open to the public)

Saturday, July 26                              Practice 3:30 – 5:50 p.m. (open to the public)

Sunday, July 27                                 Practice 3:30 – 6:05 p.m. (open to the public)

Monday, July 28                               Practice 3:30 – 6:05 p.m. (open to the public)

Tuesday, July 29                               Practice 3:30 – 6:05 p.m. (open to the public)

Wednesday, July 30                        Players’ Day Off (No Media Availability)

Thursday, July 31                              Practice 3:30 – 6:05 p.m. (open to the public)

Friday, August 1                              “Friday Night Lights” at Archer High School (Lawrenceville)

                                                            6:45 – 9:10 p.m. (open to the public)

Saturday, August 2                          Practice 3:30 – 5:30 p.m. (open to the public)

Sunday, August 3                             Practice 3:30 – 6:05 p.m. (open to the public)

Monday, August 4                           Combined Practice w/Tennessee  3-5:30 p.m.                                                (open to the public)

Tuesday, August 5                           Players’ Day Off (No Media Availability)

Wednesday, August 6                    Practice 3:30 – 6:05 p.m. (open to the public)

Thursday, August 7                         Pregame Walkthrough (No Media Availability)

Friday, August 8                                Falcons vs. Miami Dolphins

                                                                Georgia Dome

                                                                7:00 p.m. ET – CW69

 Saturday, August 9                          Practice 4:30 – 5:45 p.m. (open to the public)

 Sunday, August 10                           Players’ Day Off (No Media Availability)

 Monday, August 11                         Practice 3:30 – 5:50 p.m. (open to the public)

 Tuesday, August 12                         Practice 10:00 a.m. – 12:35 p.m. (open to the public)

 Wednesday, August 13                 Combined Practice w/ Houston Texans (Houston, TX)

Thursday, August 14                       Combined Practice w/ Houston Texans (Houston, TX)

Friday, August 15                             Pregame Walkthrough (No Media Availability)

Saturday, August 16                        Falcons at Houston Texans

                                                                NRG Stadium

                                                                8:00 p.m. ET – CW69

 Sunday, August 17                           Players’ Day Off (No Media Availability)

Monday, August 18                         Practice 10:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. (closed to the public)

                                                                Break Camp

MANDATORY MINICAMP REVIEW

Q&A with Falcons QB T.J. Yates

Falcons to practice with Titans, Texans in training camp

Falcons coach Mike Smith will try to rebound from first losing season on Hard Knocks 

Sam Baker is back to help line re-establish its identity

Falcons WR Roddy White: ‘Hard for me to deal with’ death of a brother

How much the Falcons rookies will be paid

Rookies getting advice on NFL life

Open competition in training camp will be good for Undrafted Rookies

 THE LATEST FROM OTAS

Sean Weatherspoon suffers season-ending Achilles injury

What’s next for Sean Weaatherspoon?

What’s next for the Falcons at linebacker?

Javier Arenas gets to watch longtime role model

Falcons cut Szczerba, Yoklic

Falcons minicamp is open to the public

VIDEO CORNER

Sean Weatherspoon to miss 2014 season

Matt Ryan on Harry Douglas’ contribution to the offense

Falcons defensive line coach Bryan Cox

Falcons tight end Levine Toilolo

Falcons assistant head coach Terry Robiskie on Devin Hester

Falcons coach Mike Smith on OTAs

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.