Archive for April, 2011

Falcons are hosting local talent today

 East Carolina's Dwayne Harris, of Tucker High and Stone Mountain, is headed to the combine where he can improve his NFL draft status. (Rhett Butler/Associated Press)

East Carolina's Dwayne Harris, of Tucker High and Stone Mountain, is headed to the combine where he can improve his NFL draft status. (Rhett Butler/Associated Press)

BIRDLAND – East Carolina wide receiver Dwayne Harris and Georgia linebacker Akeem Dent are among the group 35 players that the Falcons are hosting today in Flowery Branch for the teams’  “local day.”

“This is a pretty good group here,” general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. “I’m looking forward to watching these guys. There are some very talented football players in the state of Georgia across the board at all positions.”

In addition to the local day, the Falcons will use all of their 30 visits from players around the country. Wide receivers Jerrel Jernigan (Troy) and Torrey Smith (Maryland) visited on Monday and Tuesday. Defensive back Marcus Gilchrist (Clemson) was in on Wednesday.

“We’ll get a chance to get them back on the grease boards with the coordinators and the position coaches,” Dimitroff said. …

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Take a peek at the AJC’s 2011 NFL draft board

NFL Network's Bucky Brooks and Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff at the NFL scouting combine. TD has the Falcons board practially set. (D. Orlando Ledbetter/dledbetter@ajc.com)

NFL Network's Bucky Brooks and Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff at the NFL scouting combine. The Falcons draft board is set and so is ours. (D. Orlando Ledbetter/dledbetter@ajc.com)

BIRDLAND – With the NFL draft less than two weeks away, the Falcons have their draft board set and so do we here at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The position-by-position series will start in Monday’s print editions.

As a public service, we wanted to share our board.

There are some quirks.

The defensive line, offensive line, linebackers and secondary are just a group of 10. For example, the secondary is not broken out as to cornerbacks, strong safety and free safety. On our board all you get is the 10 best defensive backs.

Also, we don’t have them in tiers.

As we get more calls back over the weekend, some of the players will be moved around on the board. The assistant coach who has the list of the tight ends could call and turn that list upside down.

Here’s how our board – the list …

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Falcons announce 2011 exhibition season schedule

The Falcons will play their key exhibition game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2011. The Falcons opened last season against Dennis Dixon and the Pittsburgh Steelers.  (Associated Press)

The Falcons will play their key exhibition game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2011. The Falcons opened last season against Dennis Dixon and the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Associated Press)

On a day when the NFL and NFLPA were ordered back to the negotiating table, the Falcons released their 2011 exhibition season schedule on Tuesday.

If the lockout is lifted in time, the Falcons will play home games against Miami on Friday, Aug. 12 and Baltimore on Thursday, Sept. 1. The team will play road games at 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 19 at Jacksonville and at Pittsburgh, with the date and time to be determined.

The Jacksonville game will be televised nationally by Fox. The Falcons’ new television partner, CBS Atlanta, will televise the other three games.

It will be the Falcons third visit to Jacksonville over the last four seasons. The two teams have met seven times overall in the exhibition season with the Falcons posting a 3-4 record.

Under head coach Mike Smith, the Falcons have posted …

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Falcons start their offseason program without coaches

Linebacker Coy Wire, the team's player representative, has set up the team's ad hoc offseason program. It was supposed to start on April 11.

Linebacker Coy Wire, the team's player representative, has set up the team's ad hoc offseason program. It was supposed to start on April 11.

For many Falcons,   instead of going to their posh weight room at the team’s facilities in Flowery Branch to start the offseason strength and condition program on Monday, they went to  Ignite, an athletic training facility, to start their ad hoc program.

Because of the NFL labor situation, the players have been locked out of the team facilities.

Linebacker Coy Wire, the team’s player representative, and right tackle Tyson Clabo, the team’s alternate player rep, are coordinating the offseason program. Wire said about 30 players were on hand and that he expects near 100 percent participation.

“We have to take it upon ourselves to continue working in a manner that will allow us to continue to establish ourselves as one of the top teams in the NFL,” Wire said.

The Falcons were 13-3 last season and won the NFC South. They entered the …

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Maryland’s Torrey Smith tweets from Flowery Branch

North Texas player Lance Dunbar, front right, stretches for extra yardage against Clemson's Marcus Gilchrist (12) during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game in Clemson, S.C., Saturday, Sept. 4, 2010. (AP Photo/Patrick Collard)

North Texas player Lance Dunbar, front right, stretches for extra yardage against Clemson's Marcus Gilchrist (12) during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game in Clemson, S.C., Saturday, Sept. 4, 2010. (AP Photo/Patrick Collard)

BIRDLAND UPDATE

Add Maryland wide receiver Torrey Smith to the visitors rolling through Flowery Branch this week.

He sent out this tweet at 6:28 p.m. on Tuesday; @TorreySmithWR: Where am I? http://twitpic.com/4k3uji

The photo reveals the side view of the Falcons’ facilities from the players’ parking lot.

BIRDLAND — Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff and most of the Falcons’ top personnel are bracing for a busy week of personal workouts for prospects at the team’s facilities, peaking with the team’s local day on Thursday.

The Falcons don’t release the list of scheduled visitors or make them available to the media.

It’s dangerous to read a lot into the visits. It really just means the team wants to know more about the player. The …

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NFL has mixed reviews on UGA’s Justin Houston

All-SEC outside linebacker Justin Houston (left) has 10 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss this past season. Some NFL teams consider him a defensvie end prospect. (Johnny Crawford / jcrawford@ajc.com)

All-SEC outside linebacker Justin Houston (left) has 10 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss this past season. Some NFL teams consider him a defensvie end prospect. (Johnny Crawford / jcrawford@ajc.com)

BIRDLAND — During the college football season, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper does  a review of the games on Mondays for the worldwide leader’s website.

While doing the reviews last season, Georgia linebacker Justin Houston kept catching Kiper’s attention. Some teams are scouting Houston as an outside linebacker in the 3-4 scheme. Others see Houston as a defensive end with skills to rush the passer.

“There were some weeks where he was quiet,” Kiper said.  “There were some weeks where he was dominant. I think this, instinctively as an outside linebacker in the 3-4, he might struggle a little bit on his feet.”

Kiper believes that Houston would flourish as an end in a 4-3 scheme.

“That’s where he can shine,” Kiper said. “That’s his best spot.”

Kiper believes Houston could be headed …

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A.J. Green to attend NFL draft ceremony in New York

Former Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green with his agents Tom Condon (L) and Ben Dogra (R).   (D. Orlando Ledbetter/DLedbetter@ajc.com)

Former Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green with his agents Tom Condon (L) and Ben Dogra (R). (D. Orlando Ledbetter/DLedbetter@ajc.com)

As one of the top NFL draft prospects, A.J. Green, the former Georgia wide receiver, has been invited and will attend the ceremony at Radio City Music Hall in New York.

“It’s getting closer to the draft and I just sent some pictures to my mom of some suits that I bought,” Green told The Atlanta-Journal Constitution on Thursday. “I’m going to New York. I know I’m going to have a great time.”

Green, who left school after his junior season, played 32 games at Georgia, made 166 catches and 2,619 yards and scored 23 touchdowns.

There has been some controversy over whether prospects should attend the league-sanctioned event and shake hands with commissioner Roger Goodell because of the labor dispute with the players.

Green became the 10th player to accept a draft invite, joining UCLA linebacker Akeem Ayers, Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn, …

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Mike Peterson goes into Florida’s Hall of Fame on Friday

Mike Peterson (53) chases down a play. (Phil Skinner / pskinner@ajc.com)

Mike Peterson (53) chases down a play. (Phil Skinner / pskinner@ajc.com)

BIRDLAND — Falcons linebacker Mike Peterson, a 12-year NFL veteran, will be inducted into the University of Florida’s Athletic Hall of Fame in a banquet on Friday in the Holloway Touchdown Terrace at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Peterson played at Florida from 1995 to 1998 and was a member of the school’s  1996 National Championship team. He was also on the Gators’ 1995 and 1996 SEC championship teams.

He started his NFL career with the Indianapolis  Colts and played there from 1999 to 2002. He played for Jacksonville from 2003 to 2008. Peterson has played the last two seasons with the Falcons.

–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog

Get instant updates on Twitter at AJCFalcons and you can join the Facebook Fan page at AJC Falcons.

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Mel Kiper doesn’t believe the Falcons will take Heyward

Atlanta native Cameron Heyward, son of the late former Falcon Craig "Ironhead" Heyward, could land with the Falcons.  (The Ohio State University)

Atlanta native Cameron Heyward, son of the late former Falcon Craig "Ironhead" Heyward, could land with the Falcons. (The Ohio State University)

BIRDLAND – Ohio State defensive end Cameron Heyward, who played at Whitefield Academy and Peachtree Ridge High, could be available when the Falcons pick in the first round of the NFL draft.

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper believes that Heyward is a better fit as a defensive end in a 3-4 defense. (He obviously hasn’t read my last Mock draft 4.0, where I have the Falcons taking Heyward to play in their 4-3.)

Kiper doesn’t believe that the Falcons will take Heyward because he doesn’t have superior pass rushing ability.

“They need somebody that can be a sack artist and be a guy that can get in that backfield,” Kiper said. “Cameron Heyward is a real good 3-4 defensive end. He could go to the New York Jets or the Green Bay Packers, those type of teams. He would fit the Pittsburgh Steelers, if they decide to get younger on the defensive …

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ESPN’s Mel Kiper has the Falcons drafting Adrian Clayborn

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper projects the Falcons to take Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn, Troy wide receiver Jerrel Jernigan and Oklahoma running back DeMarco Murray over the first three rounds of the 2011 NFL Draft. (Associated Press/Gail Burton)

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper projects the Falcons to take Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn, Troy wide receiver Jerrel Jernigan and Oklahoma running back DeMarco Murray over the first three rounds of the 2011 NFL Draft. (Associated Press/Gail Burton)

BIRDLAND – ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper is getting revved up for three days of draft coverage April 28 through 30.

On Wednesday, he was gracious enough to do a conference call with the media and he stayed on the line for about two hours. The key to Kiper’s conference call is to be early and press *1 before it even starts. That’s what I did and I was still 14th in line.

Associated PressAdrian Clayborn of Iowa takes down Penn State QB Daryll Clark during the 2008 season.

Adrian Clayborn of Iowa takes down Penn State QB Daryll Clark during the 2008 season. (Associated Presss)

I asked him what will be available to the Falcons with the 27th pick in the first round.

“They need somebody who can be a sack artist,” Kiper said. “Adrian Clayborn, a defensive end from Iowa, is a guy that I’ve had there for the last two projections that …

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