Atlanta Falcons: Q&A Dimitroff discusses 53-man roster

Falcons General Manager Thomas Dimitroff and tight end Tony Gonzalez share stories on the opening day of training camp in Flowery Branch on Thursday, July 26, 2012. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

Falcons General Manager Thomas Dimitroff and tight end Tony Gonzalez share stories on the opening day of training camp in Flowery Branch on Thursday, July 26, 2012. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

FLOWERY BRANCH – Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Mike Smith agreed that this was the toughest year that they’ve had trimming the roster down to 53 players.

Veterans like linebacker Spencer Adkins, cornerback Dominique Franks and long snapper Joe Zelenka were released. While undrafted players like quarterback Dominique Davis, guard Phillipkeith Manley and long snapper Josh Harris won jobs.

In an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the 53-man roster, Dimitroff talked about the rationale behind those decisions.

ON THE BACKUP QUARTERBACK SITUATION: We were very respectful of Chris Redman and JP [John Parker Wilson] over the last few years being around here. In the end, we realized that it was in the best interest of the organization to bring in Luke McCown, someone who Dirk Koetter had for three years at Jacksonville. He had a really good feel for him as well. We thought that Luke could come in and continue to help school a younger quarterback in Dominique Davis, who we think has potential to develop into a legitimate No. 2 in this league, if not more.

ON THE RUNNING BACK GROUP: It’s pretty similar to where we’ve been. We have a good level of comfort with that group because we feel that it has a little bit of everything in there. It has some speed. It has some power. It has toughness. That group has the ability to catch and run. They are smart football players that fit in well with our system.

ANY INTEREST IN OVIE MUGHELLI? As it stands right now, we are comfortable with Lou Polite being here.

ON THE OFFENSIVE LINE GROUP: We have spoken all offseason about how important it is to protect Matt Ryan and really have an increased focus on this offensive line. Not only with our veteran group, but truly focusing and working with our young group in attempting to develop a group of players that are going to be here for a long time protecting Matt Ryan. That’s important to us. We continue to realize how important it is to have an element of increased stoutness, to fortify that line, to make sure that the pocket is not collapsing. [We have to provide] Matt with the opportunity to stand in the pocket and get the ball to our playmakers. Not to mention, get off the ball in the run game and move people off the ball and get those tough yards.

ON THE TIGHT END GROUP: It’s a situation where two guys have had the opportunity to be under the player tutelage of Tony Gonzalez. They have had an opportunity to be around a guy like Tony. Combined with coach (Chris) Scelfo’s focus within the group . . .he does a fantastic job with that tight end group. Those tight ends are all evolving into legitimate No. 2s and No. 3s. They just need to stay healthy for us. It’s a good mix of players with different skill sets. That’s always a positive when you are putting together a tight end group. We like what we have right now.

ON ROBERT JAMES AND THE LINEBACKER GROUP: Smitty and I were very pleased with the evolution of Robert. He had a tough start. He’s continued to focus and be resilient with his approach to this game both on and off the field. He had a real nice and aggressive preseason. He showed the urgent athleticism that we are looking for that can help us both on teams as well as potentially in [nickel] defense.

ON JAMES BEATING OUT SPENCER ADKINS: In the end that was a really close battle. It came down to the very end. Spencer has done some nice things for us here. He was respected here. It came down to a numbers situation between the two.

ON THE DEFENSIVE LINE GROUP: We kept six defensive ends. We all think they can play. There is a nice mix of talent there as well. I think that you’ve seen the over-riding theme that we have is versatility in all of our groups that make it very, very interesting. Specifically, at the defensive end group we have a combination of the fast, up-the-field guys who can turn the corner combined with other guys in that group who were stout and strong guys who can hold the edge. We have a group of guys in that defensive end group that are high motor guys. Some are young and have some real upside. We weren’t sure at the outset if we were going to keep six or not, we feel that group can contribute on special teams given their level of athleticism and play speed.

ON THE DEFENSIVE TACKLES: That is a really interesting group. [Travian Robertson] is a strong guy who can hold the point and push up field and collapse the pocket. It’s been encouraging to watch a young guy like that inside who can develop. We all know that’s a rough and tumble area. You have to be mentally and physically tough. He’s done a nice job with that.

ON THE SECONDARY: It really came down to Franks and [Robert] McClain. That’s what it came down to. [Christopher] Owens was slotted in there as the four. We needed to get him healed up which he’s doing a good job with. It came down to those two. It was a really close battle. Dominique Franks has skills to play in this league. There is no question in my mind that he’ll play again. We just felt that it was in the best interest given what McClain offers to this football team with his speed, quickness and urgency that we thought it was beneficial for us to go in that direction.

McCLAIN WAS ON YOUR RADAR FOR MORE THAN A YEAR: [He’d been in for two tryouts previously.] He’s a really dialed in guy and a real focused guy, who works hard. It’s a credit to him for sticking with it because he came into a situation with a lot of corners in that group and he knew it was going to be a major battle in the end and he won out.

HOW DID HE WIN IT?: There were just a lot of things when we compared the whole body of work with both players. It was really, really close. It wasn’t like . . . . it was close. It came down to the very end.

ON SPECIAL TEAMS: That was another battle and another very difficult decision. You have a guy like Joe Zelenka, who’s a top notch person and a very talented snapper against a young guy who was really driven to work very, very hard at developing and he did develop over the offseason and into the spring and into this preseason. It was another battle that went right down to the very, very end. We just decided that it was in the best interest for the long term success of this team that we went with Josh over Joe.

ON HARRIS’ BLOCKING: He did a good job. Combine that with his placement and his consistency, as well as he’s a smart guy who works at it. He’s a no nonsense guy.

THE LATEST NEWS

Q and A with defensive coordiantor Mike Nolan

Falcons round out their practice squad

Falcons trim down to 53-man roster; Adkins, Franks, Meier and Zelenka cut

Falcons quotes after the 24-14 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars

Here’s a look at who’s on the bubble

Backup quarterback Luke McCown signed, Chris Redman released

Harry Douglas not the forgotten man in the Falcons offense

Corey Peters to be evaluated after six weeks

Falcons waive Parker Wilson, place Peters on injured list

5 things to look for from the starters vs. the Dolphins

Should the Falcons trade with Jax/London Jags for MJD?

Falcons third-round pick Lamar Holmes set to make his debut vs. Dolphins

Coordinators hand out their exhibition mid-term reports; backups need to step it up

Running back Michael Turner still a weapon

Falcons thin at left tackle after Will Svitek goes down; out for season

Falcons finally get fiesty in practice; a couple of fights breakout

Akeem Dent returns to practice; will play against Miami

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

94 comments Add your comment

win.

September 3rd, 2012
4:34 pm

jES

September 3rd, 2012
4:43 pm

Bring back Object!

Greg

September 3rd, 2012
5:06 pm

I guess I have a prejudice against TD. I cannot stand to listen to him talk, or to read what he says. He has perfected the art of saying a lot while saying nothing. Only someone with a sales/marketing mentality would hire such a guy to be GM. I’d much rather have a straight talker. You can be an up front GM and still be respectful to your players, keep your fans informed, and not give away valuable information to prospective opponents. Someone like Kevin Colbert in Pittsburgh. I very much doubt the Rooneys would ever have hired someone like TD to be GM.

SeenThisB4

September 3rd, 2012
5:24 pm

Who carries three Back-up QBs on the 53 man roster? Only the falcan’ts! Part of the poor roster structure they have.

The REal Falcon

September 3rd, 2012
5:31 pm

We have not addressed the TE position when we had an opportunity to do so.
We will feel that next year.

Great Falconi

September 3rd, 2012
5:32 pm

I don’t like the way Dimitroff talks, but he’s established a firm foundation for the club. I can’t argue too much with that. A few playoff wins would take the edge off of any annoyance, though.

Nique

September 3rd, 2012
5:41 pm

We messed up on Franks!!! & someone please explain how OWENS was already slotted at the # 4 position? What has he done within his entire tenure as a Falcon to be slotted above Franks, much less anyone else? He’s played well on special teams but as a cb he’s underpreformed!I don’t like that move at all & pray that our top 3 cb’s stay healthy now or we might have a GB repeat where a team spreeds us & picks on Owens no-stop! Glad we are thinking long term on the O-Line though & are already planning for the development of future starters. Toone as our PR…I hope not, but really don’t wanna see Grimes or Douglass back their risking getting hurt

Whopper Dawg

September 3rd, 2012
6:04 pm

He sounds and reads like a huckster. I’ve worked with guys like that, never believed a word they said. After he is done with the Falcons, he needs to run for congress. He would fit right in.

Six DEs, wow that is over 10% of the team.

Nash

September 3rd, 2012
6:05 pm

So I finally see it is TD who keeps “slotting” Owens at #4. Has he not figured out why we can’t win a playoff game with Owens in that “slot”?

Hobbler

September 3rd, 2012
6:10 pm

Enter your comments here

Rise Up Nation

September 3rd, 2012
6:47 pm

Who is a Ain’t fan but is always on a Falcons blog to comment……only a poor structured fan who cant recognize that he has issues! (SEEN) Part of a poor excuse of a fan who should troll his team blog and not be so concerned with a real team while showing his fear of that team!

SeenThisB4

September 3rd, 2012
7:07 pm

That would be ” falcan’ts blog “. The falcan’ts aren’t more than an also ran of a team, nothing but hype and propaganda.

Bird Brain

September 3rd, 2012
7:17 pm

I think TD gets D- this week for not picking up better back-up players than we have off the waiver wire and keeping Owens (hasn’t played a lick this year and cost us games previous years) over Franks or picking up someone off waivers in that slot.

Blue Fender

September 3rd, 2012
7:19 pm

Damn!!! Look at all the trolls.

rm

September 3rd, 2012
7:21 pm

This is definitely not a super bowl contending roster. How do you keep Owens over Franks when Franks can also return punts.. Makes no sense to me considering Owens sucks.

falCANS

September 3rd, 2012
7:49 pm

Its Smitty who keeps vouching for Owens. He said it himself the season AFTER T.O played with the bills. SN: I was at the game falcons vs Bills. Owens shutdown T.O but has regressed every year after. Ima Franks fan but he was HORRID this preseason

Symptoms of Atlanta Curse

September 3rd, 2012
8:04 pm

@SeenThisB4….what do you know about our roster?….do you not sleep well at nights studying our roster?…better be streaking your panties over the aints roster and their lean coaching staff……

Symptoms of Atlanta Curse

September 3rd, 2012
8:06 pm

You sound concerned to me……very concerned!

MaxxFalcon

September 3rd, 2012
8:11 pm

Some of those DE’s will essentially be playing OL in our 3-Man fronts, so I’m glad we kept them all. As far as having 3 QBs, most teams in the league have 3 on the 53. Only 2 will be active on game day. As for Franks, Franks is a good athlete who just doesn’t have the smarts or instincts to play CB. That being said, I wasn’t impressed with McClain at all. I personally thought Peyton Thompson outplayed him. I also wasn’t impressed with Toone. He said that they like how he can “catch” punts. That may be true, but Franks can catch AND return them, which I’m not sure Toone can do. And please don’t put Grimes back there and let him get hurt returning punts, we need him on D. Also, I feel Kerry Meier is a very talented and versatile player who was never able to be utilized because he was never healthy. I really hope that at some point he gets fully healthy and we bring him back on board.

MaxxFalcon

September 3rd, 2012
8:15 pm

*Some of those DE’s will be essentially playing OLB

Aaron Rodgers

September 3rd, 2012
8:56 pm

I luv me some Owens.

Gamer

September 3rd, 2012
9:12 pm

IT WOULD BE WISE FOR FALCONS TO KEEP DOMINIQUE FRANKS AGENT PHONE NUMBER ON SPEED-DIAL……

FALCONS ON THREE, DOMINATE!

SeenThisB4

September 3rd, 2012
9:37 pm

I know enough about the falcan’t roster structure to see that it has inherent weaknesses on both the offensive and defensive side, and even on the practice unit, not a single acquisition from the outside, and keeping 3 QBs, 6 DEs, only 4 TE/FBs, And just 5 LBs. Poor structure.

“Target that soft falcan’t defensive underbelly, and fire weapons!”

Left Coast Dawg

September 3rd, 2012
9:42 pm

Kerry Meier is garbage @ Maxx. He wasn’t even the best receiver on his team coming out of the draft.

Left Coast Dawg

September 3rd, 2012
9:49 pm

@Seen – coming from a Saints family I understand your love and subsequent hate for the Saints and Falcons respectively…..BUT….that curse which has historically plagued your team is not completely gone. You might want to hold comments for a few weeks to see how that musical chairs coaching staff does before talking too much trash.

Charles Dimry

September 3rd, 2012
10:28 pm

Owens reminds me of myself back when used to get burnt a lot in Atlanta Fulton County stadium.

DBell

September 3rd, 2012
11:25 pm

Sure are a lot of pro football gurus on here. Curious why they aren’t working in the league.

longtimefan

September 4th, 2012
7:13 am

Ditto your comment DBell.

[...] General manager Thomas Dimitroff discusses the 53-man roster [...]

LKW4

September 4th, 2012
8:16 am

You should have cut Ryan. Made Davis #1 QB and Luke #2. Ryan will not win this team a super bowl ring nor any other championships. He plays worse than any rookie out there. It doesn’t matter who you keep or who you cut as long as you have Ryan as the QB.

So count this year as a loss, again, for Falcons.

Stepchild

September 4th, 2012
9:04 am

Not true…Ryan is fine with a large dose of the running game to go with him. They will start throwing it around and if the wind blows the least bit ….you’ll see Mr. noodle fade like early last year. Then Go for it Smitty will revert back to pounding Turner predictably. The Falcons go as far as the running game will take them…..in a passing league.

[...] General manager Thomas Dimitroff discusses the 53-man roster [...]

[...] General manager Thomas Dimitroff discusses the 53-man roster [...]

Mister.Earl

September 4th, 2012
9:26 am

Leadership

“At the end of the day, we’re playing football. We don’t bring those off-the-field issues in between the white lines. So that’s one thing I really enjoy about this team. Like no matter what goes on outside, once we stop inside the line, we play with passion and we don’t allow those excuses to affect our game. We’re excited to play football again. That’s our sanctuary. That’s where we get to go out there and express ourselves physically and grow together and really sacrifice for each other.”

- Jabari Greer, Cornerback, New Orleans Saints

Who Dat

Mouth of the NFC South

September 4th, 2012
9:26 am

I am continually amazed at the collective football IQ of most people who post on this board. If there was a school of football, many people on here would be riding a short bus. Cut Matt Ryan in favor of a rookie QB who has only played against 3rd string scrubs or Luke McCown who had a 1.8 QB rating the last game he started for Jacksonville. Aint$ fans talking smack about the Falcon’s roster is quite possibly the dumbest thing I have ever read. WE don’t need 8 running backs to have a run game… that is unless you guys put bounties out on them… which is probably why we are carrying 3 QBs. There must be some inside information that there is a hit out on Ryan from the scared little boys who are scared that big bad Goodell is going to take advantages away. We also don’t need 32 scrub LBs on our team like the Aint$ have. Spoon and Nicholas had an amazing preseason. Mike Peterson can play any of the three LB spots. Lawrence Sidbury, Cliff Matthews and Jonathan Massaquoi can all play OLB. This league isn’t ready for what Nolan is about to do. Falcons didn’t show anything this preseason.

Stepchild

September 4th, 2012
9:39 am

Mouth, you should read your own post…..and continue to be amazed because your post didn’t raise the collective football IQ 1 point! Really, the league isn’t ready for Nolan??? Lol. Where has this genius coach been hiding??? Gtfoh!!

Mouth of the NFC South

September 4th, 2012
10:01 am

Geee, well step, this coach hasn’t been hiding genius. He has built top 10 defenses just about every where he has ever been… Giants, Redskins, Ravens and Dolphins…and many of the teams were horrible when he took them over. He has the unique ability to coach up talent. Remember Elvis Dumervil? He had his best season (17.0 sacks) under Nolan. Cameron Wake? He had 22.5 sacks in his two years under Nolan. Nolan is highly regarded by every NFL coach in the league. If you don’t know that… the short bus is coming for you too!

[...] Atlanta Journal-Constitution spoke with general manager Thomas Dimitroff, who spoke about the shake up at quarterback behind [...]

Stepchild

September 4th, 2012
10:48 am

Mouth….ok fine…but he isn’t taking anybody by storm or surprise….no more than Zim in cincy or Spags in Nola. What you are selling is a bunch of Falcons hype.

Stepchild

September 4th, 2012
10:49 am

Trust me….the league is ready for Nolan.

St Simons

September 4th, 2012
10:51 am

yeah, i drafted Jamaal Anderson, Sam Baker, C Owens, & Perrier Jerry

and if you drive forward to the 2nd window, i’ll get your order…

Mouth of the NFC South

September 4th, 2012
11:07 am

Spagnuolo hasn’t proven anything yet other than he can have a good defense with quite possibly the best d line in the modern era. Nolan has built multiple successful defenses with a variety of personnel. Spags has only had one. I don’t think he is a bad coach, he certainly has been trained by some of the best, but he hasn’t proven he can be good anywhere outside the Giants roster. Nolan has taken multiple teams and made their defense better. He shapes the defense around the team he has, which is why I said the league isn’t ready for what Nolan is going to do… not meaning Nolan is a god, but meaning no one has a clue what this defense is actually going to look like yet. They mostly only played a vanilla 4-3 so far when Nolan specifically said they are going to be running a hybrid scheme. No one knows what role the 6 defensive ends are going to play in this defense. No one knows what Nolan has planned. He has built every defense he has ever had differently. He builds it around the personnel rather than bringing in a bunch of new people. It is different every year.

ASHCAN!!!!!!!

September 4th, 2012
11:11 am

@MOUTH, you’re one of those falcon fans who bragg every year and every change(Coaches) and they(Falcons) produce the same results. 1966(year) minus and plus more new coaches = still no trophy, and matty lice will not make a difference.

Mouth of the NFC South

September 4th, 2012
11:18 am

TD didn’t draft Anderson. Baker was by far the best OT left on the board according to every scout anywhere in the world. Jerry has been a beast this preseason and the only reason Peters being out for at least 6 more weeks isn’t a complete disaster. Beep beep beep! The short bus is backing up to pick up another one.

ASHCAN!!!!!!!

September 4th, 2012
11:18 am

MOUTH ALL MIGHTY, now you want to bragg on a proven coach with no talent. You call out players from other teams he(nolan) coached and don’t understand the players produce there own ability and talent something your falcons lack. you can’t compare a mike peterson to a beason and expect them to perform the same because of a coach. speaking of IQ.

Mouth of the NFC South

September 4th, 2012
11:26 am

@Ashcan… no, you have me confused. I don’t brag just because I am a fan. I am not a pure homer. For instance, I do not think we will win the superbowl this year. I think until we get a solid LT, another pass rusher besides Abe and a veteran presence at MLB until Dent has a completely healthy camp, we aren’t quite there yet. I do think this defense will be much improved. The offense will be much improved. There are a lot of things I don’t like about this team, but there is certainly more to love this year than last. I do think they win the NFCS and one playoff game. But they lose to GB or NYG in the playoffs round 2.

I usually just read but...

September 4th, 2012
11:29 am

Enter your comments here

Mouth of the NFC South

September 4th, 2012
11:32 am

Beep beep beep! Your ride is here Ash. Coaches certainly CAN coach up players and get a lot more from them. Look at Chris Houston who couldn’t even crack the nickel roster here and went to Detroit and became a hella good starter for them. Same talent. Different coach. I can list you at least 100 examples where a player has been great under a particular coach, went to free agency, got paid gazillions and never was that good again. There are coaches who know how to put players in positions to win despite their weaknesses. Nolan is one of those guys. If you don’t know that, there really is nothing I can do to help you. You keep on riding that short bus my friend. Have a nice day!

ASHCAN!!!!!!!

September 4th, 2012
11:43 am

@MOUTH, i like your honesty, i thought you was one of those fans who put the falcons in the superbowl every year just because its there team. This team problem is no depth at no position but RB. And lack talent at key positions. I do think nolan will make this bunch much much better.

ASHCAN!!!!!!!

September 4th, 2012
11:49 am

LOL @ mouth all mighty. How about i pick you up in the short bus and put your name on the side??? you got the right one buddy. You can try and sound educated all day on this blog, but truth is these are the falcons incase you forgot. why are you going back to the past with other players with this coach???? that talent is not on this team period to put in position to succeed. Unless your BLIND. So let me know when i pick you up, don’t worry no one will see you the windows are tented.