GENERAL MANAGER’S VILLE — The San Diego Chargers released running back LaDainian Tomlinson Monday, after nine seasons.
The Falcons plucked away his backup, Michael Turner, two seasons ago in free agency.
Turner is currently backed up by Jerious Norwood and Jason Snelling. Both are set to become restricted free agents. Norwood will be one if a labor agreement isn’t reach by March 1.
Snelling, who played strong last season, finshed with a 147-yard rushing effort against Tampa Bay. He’ll be a restricted free agent no matter what.
Tomlinson did not appear to have that same explosion over the last two seasons. He has rushed for 12,490 yards in nine seasons and rushed for 138 touchdowns.
Last season, he rushed for 730 yards and averaged a pedestrian 3.3. yards per carry.
Should the Falcons try to reunite Turner and Tomlinson?
Birdland — There are10 small school players to watch at the NFL Combine always some players with interesting backgrounds from smaller schools at the NFL scouting combine each year.
There’s usually a decent group of players to track from small schools. Sometimes they are transfers who ran into trouble at their previous big-school stops. Some are just late bloomers, who were over looked by the football powerhouses.
In both of his drafts with the Falcons, general manager Thomas Dimitroff has ventured into the small college ranks for draft picks. In 2008, the Falcons selected defensive end Kroy Biermann out of Montana. Last season, they selected Lawrence Sidbury out of Richmond and William Middleton from Furman.
Some of the recent small school combine invites were wide receiver Miles Austin (Monmouth), offensive lineman Jahri Evans (Bloomsburg), tight end Kevin Boss (thanks to an endorsement from Dan Reeves who coached the Western Oregon product in an all-star game), linebacker Justin Durant (Hampton) and wide receiver Jacoby Jones (Lane).
Here’s a look at 10 players from small schools to keep an eye on at the NFL scouting combine which starts on Wednesday and runs through March 2.
1. Chris Bell, WR, Norfolk State: Started his career at Penn State where he played for two years before running into legal and academic troubles. He resurfaced with the Spartans, who listed him at 6-foot-3, 210-pounds. He was the fifth rated receiver in the nation coming out of Norfolk’s Granby High, according to Scout.com. Had 51 catches for 958 yards (18.8 yards per catch) and 13 touchdowns. Bell could be a good mid-round pick for the Falcons, who are likely to address the position in this draft.
2. Joique Bell, RB, Wayne State: Played in the Senior Bowl. Listed as 6-1, 223 pounds. Rushed for 1,152 yards on 185 carries and scored 15 touchdowns as a junior. Last season rushed for more than 2,000 yards and won the Harlon Hill trophy, which goes to the Division II player of the year.
3. Valdimir Ducasse, OL, Massachusetts: The Haiti native played in the Senior Bowl.
4. Junior Galatte, DE, Stillman: For the second year in a row, Stillman has a draftable defensive lineman. Defensive tackle Sammie Lee Hill was drafted by Detroit in the fourth round last season. Gallatte transferred from Temple after starting there for three years. He was dismissed from the team. Last season, he had 10 tackles for losses, 9.5 sacks in just eight games before suffering a broken leg.
5. Mike Iupati, OL, Idaho: Some are projecting him as a first round pick. He played in the Senior Bowl
6. Preston Parker, WR, North Alabama: Started his college career at Florida State before transferring to North Alabama. He’s expected to run a fast time, but will have to explain to teams why he was dismissed from Florida State after alcohol, drug and gun related issues that attracted the attention of law enforcement officials in Tallahassee.
7. Torell Troup, DT, Central Florida: A two-time all-Conference USA pick from Salem High in Conyers. Served as a captain last season for the Knights.
8. Pat Paschall, RB, North Dakota State. The Chattahoochee High product started his career at Georgia Southern before going to junior college and then landing with North Dakota State. Has blazing speed. Ran a 10.6, 100-yard dash in high school. Check on the spin move on this 91-yard touchdown run.
9. Jared Veldheer, OT, Hillsdale: He’s massive at 6-8, 315 and has nice footwork. Has played well in post-season all-star games. NFLDraftScout.com has a third round grade on Veldheer.
10. Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, DB, Indiana-Pa.: A huge cornerback at 6-1, 205. The native of Ghana has recovered from a shoulder injury suffered in the team’s season finale. He has broken the 4.4 barrier in the 40-yard dash. He could be a good mid-round pick by the Falcons, but is still considered raw. Some have compared him to Arizona’s Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who came out of Tennessee State.