(You can read the Cover9@9 blog every Wednesday at 9 a.m. throughout the season. We’ll try to get to everything about the Atlanta Falcons. Here’s the fourth installment from Houston. – D. Orlando Ledbetter)
1. HOUSTON, WE HAVE LIFTOFF!: Falcons safety William Moore is looking forward to facing the Texans in practices and in an exhibition game at 8 p.m. Saturday at NRG Stadium.
He believes the first-team defense, which struggled in 13 snaps against Miami and gave up a 10-play, 73-yard touchdown drive, can improve by facing the Texans.
“No. 1 we have to play football like we’ve been playing,” Moore said. “We have to execute all of the things we want to do. Houston is a good football team.”
The players have been lectured about fighting and the tackling methods. As suspected, center Joe Hawley was fined for his fight during the joint practice Tennessee. However, during a team meeting coach Mike Smith said Hawley was correct by defending the honor of one of his teammates.
“You have to keep in mind that it’s practice,” Moore said. “You can’t tackle. We have to thud. We are just going to work on our craft. It’s all about us.”
Moore is hoping to see Houston wide receiver Andre Johnson and running back Arian Foster.
“Those are two All-Pro players you’re talking about,” Moore said. “It’s always good to go against guys like that. I don’t know their status or if they are practicing, but if they do, that will be good to get a good look from them.”
Moore was not too alarmed by the performance against the Dolphins. He actually saw a few bright spots.
“Just finishing and running to the ball,” Moore said. “I think we did a great job of executing the plays. As with every game, you have a few miscommunication things.”
While we hear coach Mike Smith was not happy about the performance, Moore, like defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux, aren’t putting much stock in the showing.
“It’s not too big of a deal,” Moore said. “You have to keep in mind that we didn’t watch game film on Miami and that it’s an (exhibition) season game. We were going 100 percent, but it comes down to game film and knowing your opponents.”
2. Hard Knocks recap: We got to see the turk as fullback Roosevelt Nix-Jones was released.
The rookies received a lot of time.
General manager Thomas Dimitroff was shown as a cyclist. He rode with Lance Armstrong over the offseason.
Defensive line coach Bryan Cox was the star of the show.
3. Make-A-Wish: Ben Masters, 19, who has Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy, attended practice through the Make-A-Wish program.
Falcons coach Mike Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff greeted Masters early in the practice.
Several players dropped by including wide receiver Harry Douglas, who sang a song with Masters.
The Falcons ended practice with Masters in the team circle to break the team down, “One, two, three – Fam.”
4. Rodgers is dependable: Running backs coach Gerald Brown believes that Jacquizz Rodgers has a little extra pep in his step after being “nicked up” down the stretch of last season.
“I thought Quiz was a little nicked up at the end of the year,” Brown said. “That happens in the NFL. You’ve got to play through those type of deals with the length of the season and physical play in the games, but Quizz has been a well-rounded football player since he’s been here.”
While Rodgers has not been able to crack the 4.0 yards per carry mark, he has been dependable blocker and pass catcher. He’s had over 50 receptions in each of the past two seasons.
“He’s a good receiver out of the backfield,” Brown said. “I know he can pass protect. What do you want him to do, pick up the blitz? You want him to chip? You him to cut? He can do it all.
“He is a solid runner. He gives us a little change of pace if you will, with his quickness and his ability to make you miss. He’s been a well-rounded and a great addition to us since he’s been here.”
5. Vaughan looks like pro: Running back Josh Vaughan has been with six teams – with two stops in Carolina – since coming out of Richmond in 2009.
He has played in 16 games and spent a lot of time on the practice squads. Last season, after leading the Falcons in rushing during the exhibition season, he ended up playing in six games.
“The thing about Josh Vaughan is that you know what you’re going to get every day out of him,” Brown said. “That’s 100 percent. Again, he’s another smart football player. He’s a disciplined football player. He’s going to give you everything that he has. With him in the backfield, the competition level just steps up just by his play.”
6. Leading the way: Fullback Patrick DiMarco played 10 snaps in the exhibition opener against the Dolphins.
The Falcons have made a point of saying they want to run the ball even when team’s know it. DiMarco will most likely be the lead blocker in those situations.
“DiMarco, I though he did a solid job for us last year,” Brown said. “He’s the veteran in the group.”
DiMarco, 6-foot-1 and 234 pounds, has to beat out Maurice Hagens, a 5-11, 250-pounder, who played at Miami.
“We have the other young guy, the free agent guy out of Miami, Hagens,” Brown said. “We had to release our third fullback (recently), but DiMarco is a solid starter for us. Hagens has made a lot of improvement. He did a lot for Miami. He understands football. He’s not where he needs to be, but he has a good mentor in Patrick DiMarco to help him along.”
7. Backup QB situation: Sean Renfree, who’s coming off a shoulder injury, is
following up his dazzling offseason with a strong training camp.
He forced the Falcons to feel comfortable with releasing Dominique Davis. Now, he is making a legitimate run at the No. 2 quarterback position.
“He’s got a knack for making plays,” quarterbacks coach Glenn Thomas said. “He reads coverages extremely well. He’s efficient pre-snap as far as getting the defense (identified). Once the snap happens, he does a nice job of seeing the field and gets through his reads really, really well.”
Thomas and offensive coordinator have been impressed with Jeff Mathews, too. He’ll likely get some action in the final exhibition game.
“He’s been fun to work with,” Thomas said. “He’s extremely eager and excited about the opportunity. He was extremely productive in college. You don’t have to stay out here long to understand that he has arm talent. He really does. He’s picking it up really well in the class room. It’s just a matter of getting an opportunity and showing what he can do on the field.”
Thomas didn’t have anything good to say about Mathews’ singing talent.
“It was better on TV than it actually was live,” Thomas said.
8. A peek behind the scenes. Andrew Weidinger started out as a scout in 2007 with the Falcons. He was the assistant to head coach Mike Smith from 2008 to 2011.
For the past few seasons, he’s been an offensive assistant. This season he’s working with the tight ends and quarterbacks.
“I just kind of make sure that we’ve got all of our practice data in line,” Weidinger said. “We have to make sure that we’ve got scripts and everything the coaches need to be ready. Anything I can do to help them so that they can properly put together a game plan and help the players execute that plan. That’s my role.”
Weidinger takes pride in helping out.
“Hopefully, for this season, we can get back to what we were doing a couple of years ago and score a lot more points and win a lot more games,” he said. “The entire offensive staff works closely together. We help coach (Dirk) Koetter with anything that he needs putting together playbooks, power points or whatever he needs so that he can convey his message to the players as best as possible.”
He has worked with the wide receivers in the past, but likes his current assignment.
“We have great group of players,” Weidinger said. “Great guys to interact with. It is a lot like a family. Everybody is great to one another. I’m working with the tight ends a little bit this year and the quarterbacks a little bit, great group of guys, both groups. Outstanding guys.”
He gets to see quarterback Matt Ryan’s fierce competitiveness up close.
“Matt Ryan is the leader of that group and that’s a highly competitive dude,” Weidinger said. “He’s always looking to win games and he expects nothing less from everybody below him. He lifts them up and tries to get them to his level.”
9. Extra points: WUPA-TV (Atlanta’s CW69) will serve as the Atlanta Falcons new local television broadcast partner beginning with the 2014 season. Atlanta’s CW69 will broadcast the Falcons preseason games and also air two hours of weekly team programming. WUPA-TV (CW69) can be found locally on the following channels: AT&T U-Verse – 1069, Charter – 709, Comcast – 810, DirecTV – 69 and Dish Network – 6376 . . . .The Falcons had nine penalties for 82 yards against Miami. . . .Former Auburn and Cartersville High running back Ronnie Brown was recently signed by the Texans. He was the No. 2 overall pick by Miami in 2005. Brown, 32, has 1,261 career carries in 122 games. He had his best season as a pro in 2006, when he rushed for 1,008 yards and five touchdowns.
TRAINING CAMP SCHEDULE
Date Practice Times (public availability)
Thursday, August 14 Combined Practice w/ Houston Texans (Houston, TX), 9 a.m. ET
Friday, August 15 Pregame Walkthrough (No Media Availability)
Saturday, August 16 Falcons at Houston Texans
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)