Fans Ready for Dawn of New Season
No more OTA’s, mini-camp, or much of anything for the next 5 weeks as the Falcons (and mostly all NFL teams) wrapped up their mandatory mini-camps this past week. The players and coaches get a much needed break before the grueling marathon of a season begins in late July. Fans are full of hope about the season to come, and for good reason. Rather than look at one single topic, let’s take a look at some of the biggest stories after OTA’s and mini-camp…………..
Falcons Trade Akeem Dent for TJ Yates
This one was surprising for several reasons when it came across the wire. First of all, this was a very odd time to have a trade. Most of the times they either occur near or around the NFL Draft, but this one came during mini-camp. Second, the original news was that the Houston Texans were planning on releasing Yates outright after they had named Ryan Fitzpatrick as the starter and he no longer appeared in their plans.
Officially, Dent Becomes One of Worst TD Picks
After the initial shock, this was a very interesting move on several fronts as well. The biggest one is that former 3rd round pick Akeem Dent officially becomes one of Dimitroff’s worst draft picks in his 6 drafts (not including this year’s group). The idea seemed halfway OK in that he wanted to hedge his bets against Curtis Lofton demanding a huge salary. The problem, though, was the player he took and when. This was the draft when the Falcons didn’t have a second round OR a 4th round draft pick after giving away the moon for Julio Jones. So, in other words, he needed to make this count. Dent was a decent linebacker, but he was projected as a very late pick. Possibly as high as the 5th round, but as low as the 7th round or even going undrafted. Dent had a decent career at UGA, but nothing to write home about. Admittedly, it wasn’t the strongest of draft classes for linebackers, but that’s been one of his major issues is reaching to fill a perceived need (Holmes, Baker, Jerry, etc). Dent wasn’t likely to make the team anyway, so why not go ahead and get something for him.
Dimitroff Shows Growth from Mistakes; Can Smith?
Dimitroff certainly has plenty of critics and he’s definitely had some questionable and awful draft picks through the years, but the one thing that he should get credit for is owning up to his mistakes and growing from them. Even though he doesn’t actually come out and admit it through words, but actions always speak louder. There’s been several instances of him doing this over the years and this was the latest example. He’s drafted poor corners that didn’t pan out in the past (Wilrey Fontenot, William Middleton, Chris Owens, etc) and he has seemingly fixed that with Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford, not to mention adding Josh Wilson and Javier Arenas via free agency and drafting Ricardo Allen this year. He actually took Jake Matthews with the first pick, even though he had others that could possibly step up in Lamar Holmes (a 3rd round pick) and Ryan Schraeder (who showed promise) and he just gave Sam Baker a mega-contract of $41 million only last off-season. In fact, many draftniks thought because of the Baker contract he specifically WOULDN’T take an offensive linemen. But as we know, thankfully he did. He cut Dunta Robinson early in his contract, admitting that mistake. And letting go of Dent was another admittance to an error. Everyone makes mistakes, but the best ones admit them and learn from them. The ones who don’t, refuse to come to terms of mistakes they made, likely compound them, and even repeat them in the future. Which route will Mike Smith follow in 2014?
Yates Finally Shores Up Backup Spot
Falcons fans should know well how capable TJ Yates is as backup quarterback, leading the Texans to beat the Falcons in 2011. Is he assured to be the definitive backup for the Falcons going forward? Yeah, pretty much. You won’t get studs to be backups, but you just need someone who can come in and give your team a shot to win, in a pinch. Yates did just with a 2-3 record and even gave the franchise their first playoff win. Additionally, the former Tar Heel’s style of play, more pocket passer, aligns much better with Ryan’s helm of the offense. It’s conceivable that Sean Renfree or Jeff Matthews could win the spot, but it’s extremely unlikely.
Dominique Davis Waived
Davis showed a ton of potential early on in preseason of 2012, and enough to allow the Falcons to part ways with Chris Redman and the future appeared bright. However, this past season Davis seemed to take several steps backwards in preseason and was essentially given the backup job when Sean Renfree was injured early on in preseason. At some point, potential has to give way to production or at least progress in terms of gaining the coaching staff’s confidence. The release of Davis seems to confirm that the backup job will be Yates to lose. Best of luck to Davis moving forward.
Major Competition Across the Board
The Falcons top brass seemed to have done a really good job at creating competition up and down the roster and there’s only so many spots available for a lot of players. There’s the normal candidates that occur every year: backup wide receiver and tight end spots. But there’s also should be some heated competition for backup offensive and defensive line spots, as well as both inside and outside linebacker positions, not to mention safety and particularly cornerback. Not only are backup spots up for grabs, but a few starting spots are as well. Even though Steven Jackson is probably penciled in as the #1 RB, a surge by either Antone Smith or Devonta Freeman could alter the pecking order.
The fight for inside linebacker and linebacker spots appears wide open as well. The starting jobs at inside seems to be Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu’s to lose, but you will have Prince Shembo, Marquis Spruill, and Yamin Smallwood not making it easy. On the outside, Kroy Biermann and Jonathan Massaquoi “seem” to be in the predictable lead at this point, but there’s Osi Umenyiora, Stansly Maponga, and Tyler Starr trying to make a move as well. The battle for nickel, dime, and quarter cornerbacks should be pretty epic, assuming that Trufant and Alford will man the top two spots. Robert McClain seems to be the leader at the moment, but expect a push from Javier Arenas, Josh Wilson, and draft pick Ricardo Allen. Someone will be on the outside looking in. Finally, the fight for the last two spots on the WR depth chart are always entertaining, but this year seems to be special. Roddy White, Julio Jones, and Harry Douglas are 1 through 3, but remember Devin Hester? He’ll be counted as a WR, and assuming that it would leave one spot for Drew Davis, Darius Johnson, and mini-camp standout Bernard Reedy. Could the Falcons actually carry 6 wide receivers this year?
One of the best off-seasons in recent memory has most fans pumped, excited, and totally optimistic. They did what they said they would in strengthening the lines, both in free agency (Paul Soliai, Tyson Jackson, Jon Asamoah) and brought back several of their own (Jonathan Babineaux, Peria Jerry, Corey Peters, Joe Hawley). And they didn’t stop there, bringing in arguably the best offensive linemen in the draft in Jake Matthews and following that up with the beast Ra’Shede Hageman on the DL. They even added some firepower in Devonta Freeman at RB, signed super speedy returner Devin Hester, and drafted a slew of linebackers (Starr, Shembo, Smallwood, Spruill) to guard agains what happened last year. They hired tough line guys in Mike Tice and Bryan Cox and we will finally have a window into the true behind-the-scenes nature at Flowery Branch, instead of just guessing. Of course there’s still a few curmudgeons out there (see me!) that will need to see the proof instead of the hype.
Questions for The Cage……….
1) Did you like the Akeem Dent – TJ Yates trade: why or why not?
2) Did Dominique Davis get a fair shake at backup QB?
3) Is Akeem Dent officially one of Dimitroff’s worst picks?
4) Do you give credit to TD to making up for his mistakes or not?
5) If you feel like, give your starting 22 (11 on offense and 11 on defense).
6) What position battles are following the most as training camp looms?