AJC article...OTA's and positional breakdowns

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AJC article...OTA's and positional breakdowns

Postby Steve-O » Mon Jun 19, 2006 3:21 pm

Vick. receivers get acquainted
Outside receivers get attention with Crumpler sidelined

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Published on: 06/19/06

With Pro Bowl tight end/Michael Vick's favorite target Alge Crumpler held out of offseason drills due to a knee repaired by arthroscopic surgery, Falcons quarterbacks ? especially Vick ? were forced to focus more on the perimeter passing game.

The unforeseen offshoot: an improved recognition of the passing game and improved chemistry between quarterbacks and wide receivers, coach Jim Mora said.

Falcons tight end Alge Crumpler (right) hits the stationary bike with new strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi.

"With Alge such a comfort zone, taking him out of the mix, that was 16 practices where Mike couldn't go to Alge," Mora said. "It, subconsciously, forced him to throw more outside than inside. I'm sure it helped things between Mike, Roddy White, [Michael Jenkins], [Brian Finneran] and Adam Jennings and Jerome Pathon. That was my feeling."

Mora cautioned that the progress came during noncontact drills and that real answers will come after the team begins training camp July 27. Below is a position-by-position breakdown of how things stand now that offseason workouts are finished, prioritized by areas of uncertainty.

Defensive tackle

Darrell Shropshire, a seventh-round pick last season, started his offseason workouts a month before most players. He is stronger, faster and "very hungry" said defensive coordinator Ed Donatell. He could push for starter Chad Lavalais' job. There are no plans now to add a veteran, like Brentson Buckner, but he could be an option if the Falcons aren't satisfied a few days into training camp.


Zac Derr and Tony Yelk showed nothing to elicit confidence. The auditions will probably continue through preseason, with more and more veterans getting a shot. Last season's kicker, Todd Peterson, remains an option.

Running back

Jerious Norwood has made headway toward replacing T.J. Duckett as the No. 2 tailback. Athleticism aside, Norwood's adaptation to the offense ? especially blitz pickup and receiving skills ? could keep Duckett on the trading block.


In the battle for the No. 3 spot, second-year man Bryan Randall has the edge over rookie D.J. Shockley because of experience, Mora said. Shockley's huddle presence, poise and magnetic persona have him in the coaches' good graces. Preseason performances will determine who's on the active roster and who's on the practice squad.


Newcomers Lawyer Milloy and Chris Crocker have been huge additions, Mora said. The Falcons will search for free-agent depth. Ronnie Heard is a possibility, but Mora wants to see if any nasty-tempered players become available. Coaches really like second-year man Cam Newton, but he has to prove himself in the preseason.

Wide receiver

Draft pick Adam Jennings has turned heads but judgment is being withheld until the diminutive, potential No. 4 man makes some real catches over the middle. Starter Roddy White has been very impressive, Mora said.

Offensive line

Things seem pretty set, with Wayne Gandy settling in at left tackle. Coaches are looking hard at Ben Claxton to compete with Matt Lehr at left guard, but they seem more concerned with adding a backup who could swing between guard and center.


Middle man Ed Hartwell, recovering from a season-ending Achilles tendon tear, was limited for most of the offseason, but he went through all drills in the final week of offseason workouts and was moving and reacting well, Donatell said.

"It was important for him to gain some confidence that he can make it through a practice or two," Mora said. "It gave us a gauge on where he was, and it was good for teammates to see him out there."

Defensive end

Second-year player Chauncey Davis will back up John Abraham and Patrick Kerney and could be used a lot on first-down, running situations.


Rookie Jimmy Williams has struggled in man coverage but has looked comfortable in zone schemes and run recognition, Mora said. He will start at corner in nickel packages, moving base-defense starter Jason Webster into the slot. Undrafted rookie Brent Grimes (Shippensburg University) could be a sleeper

and then here is some info on Grimes since I had no idea who he was

Brent Grimes, CB
5'10", 180 lbs


Whenever Grimes is on the field, opponents can expect him to deliver a big play. Despite his slight frame, he has become one of the biggest difference-makers in the small college ranks. In addition to having natural hands that have been highlighted by his ability to intercept passes, he also has been a game-breaker as a kickoff and punt returner. Late in his senior year, he also showed good value as a receiver and running back.

Grimes was a standout defensive back and return specialist at Northeast High School. He attended Shippensburg in 2001, redshirting his first year at the school. He then began a string of 43 consecutive starts at right cornerback for the Red Raiders.

In 2002, he earned All-Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference and Rookie of the Year honors. The team's Outstanding Defensive Player ranked sixth in the nation and second in the conference with eight interceptions. He also recorded 34 tackles (26 solos) with two fumble recoveries, returning one for a touchdown. He caused a fumble, blocked a kick and deflected six passes. Grimes also gained 139 yards on eight kickoff returns (17.4 avg) and 43 yards on eight punt returns.

As a sophomore, Grimes earned second-team All-America recognition on defense and honorable mention as a return specialist. He ranked third in the nation and first in the PSAC with 386 yards on 20 punt returns (19.3 avg) and led the conference while ranking fifth in the country with 13 kickoff returns for 420 yards (32.3 avg) and a pair of scores. Grimes led the league and ranked 13th in the Division II ranks with seven interceptions and also batted away nine passes. He caused and recovered a fumble while posting 35 tackles (29 solos), including four stops behind the line of scrimmage.

In 2004, Grimes was a first-team All-America and All-PSAC choice. Despite missing the season opener after undergoing August knee surgery, Grimes recorded 27 tackles (25 solos) with two stops for losses. He blocked a kick and deflected 12 passes while ranking eighth in the nation with seven interceptions. He added 148 yards on seven kickoff returns and 189 yards on 17 punt returns (11.1 avg).

He again earned All-America honors as a senior. He started 10 games, missing the Edinboro game due to a suspension (see Off-Field Issues below), recording 44 tackles (31 solos) with six stops behind the line of scrimmage. Grimes caused a fumble and deflected 11 passes. He became the first player in school history to lead the team in interceptions four times, recording five. He ranked eighth in the nation with 17 kickoff returns for 476 yards (28.0 avg) and a score and ranked 18th with 508 yards on 37 punt returns (13.7 avg). He also carried six times for 19 yards and caught two passes for 40 yards.

In 43 games with the Red Raiders, Grimes amassed 140 tackles (111 solos) with 12 stops for losses of 39 yards. He caused and recovered three fumbles, returning one for a 90-yard touchdown. He set school career records with 38 pass deflections and 27 interceptions, the latter of which established a new conference record. Grimes holds the school's all-time mark with 82 punt returns for 1,126 yards (13.7 avg). He ranks fourth in Shippensburg history with 1,183 yards on 45 kickoff returns (26.3 avg), and his three touchdown returns rank second on the school career list.

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Positives: Big-play artist with very good field vision and read-and-react skills...Stays tight on a receiver's hip through the route and has the hip snap to come out of his breaks with no wasted motion...Does a good job of keeping plays in front of him when playing in the zone and has the range to make plays along the perimeter...Excels at tracking the ball in flight, showing natural hands to pluck and catch the ball away from the body...Can make the initial tackler miss with his hip snap and juking moves on kick returns...Does not have blazing speed to separate on returns, but compensates with a good short burst and his ability to quickly spot holes in coverage.

Negatives: Lacks the size and strength needed to absorb punishment at the next level, but has been a durable, tough player who will perform with injuries...Will come up and support vs. the run, but will also throttle down and not get involved when working near piles...More of a leg and ankle tackler who needs to show better wrap-up technique, as receivers easily sidestep his tackle attempts in the open or give him a stiff arm to gain extra yardage...Takes well to hard coaching, but sometimes needs to be pushed in order to produce in the training room...Lack of bulk will see him get driven through and run over by larger running backs.

Grimes is a tough, durable athlete who plays much bigger than his size indicates. He has the ability to consistently come up with the big play, whether it is a third-down stop, an interception, a punt return or a kickoff return. He shows good open field acceleration and range, keeping his feet when changing direction. He builds to top speed quickly and compensates for lack of blazing speed by exploding out of his pedal with no wasted steps.

He is an instinctive player who can easily read his keys and make plays. He is not the most physical tackler and will sometimes get bounced around when working through trash, but he shows a good competitive nature. Grimes prefers to go low and "ankle bite" when making tackles, but can occasionally "bring the wood" and has the awareness skills to also strip the ball out of a receiver's hands.

Grimes is better when utilized in one-on-one coverage, as he has the speed to shadow and trail the receiver. He generates a quick break and closing burst, doing a nice job of flipping his hips when redirecting. He will bite on double moves, though, and can get a little inconsistent with his cushion, but is quick to recover.

When playing in zone coverage, Grimes works hard to keep plays in front of him. He shows good body control to keep relationship with a receiver when tracking the ball in flight. He is very good at cutting receivers off in the route progression and has the ability to settle and work to get under on deep routes.

When he locates the ball, Grimes is quick to close on the play. He has the agility to plant and drive back to the ball, showing a fluid motion in transition. When asked to lend support vs. the run, he does not hesitate and shows urgency filling gaps.

Grimes will lose some jump ball battles vs. larger receivers, but makes every effort to get to the ball. When he times his leaps, Grimes is very effective at reaching around the opponent to deflect or intercept the pass. He has good hands, but when he loses some focus, easy interceptions quickly turn into pass breakups instead.

His vision and juking ability will generally see the initial tackler miss him on kickoff and punt returns. Grimes hits the holes with authority, but needs to show more explosion and a second gear in attempts to elude when returning kicks.

Grimes's return skills will make him an effective special teams performer at the next level, but his lack of size and bulk might see him get bounced around more on kickoff returns than on punt returns. He shows great field vision and with 27 interceptions and 38 pass deflections during his career, he can bring decent value in nickel and dime situations.

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Campus: 4.49 in the 40-yard dash...270-pound bench press...540-pound squat...275-pound power clean...36-inch vertical jump...29 1/8-inch arm length...8 ?-inch hands...Right-handed...24/39 Wonderlic score.

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2004: Sat out the season opener vs. Kutztown after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee during August camp (8/15).

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The first player in school history to lead the team in interceptions four consecutive years, Grimes' 27 interceptions set school and conference career records, topping the old PSAC mark of 26 by Tony Woods of Bloomsburg (1982-85)...Only Tom Collins of Indianapolis (37, 1982-85), Dean Diaz of Humboldt State (31, 1980-83), Bill Grantham of Missouri-Rolla (29, 1977-80) and Jason Johnson of Shepherd (28, 1991-94) had more interceptions in a career in NCAA Division II history...Holds the school career record with 1,126 yards on 82 punt returns (13.7 avg)...His 1,183 yards on 45 kickoff returns (school career record 26.3 avg) rank fourth in Red Raiders history...Also ranks second in school history with three kickoff returns for touchdowns.

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Standout defensive back, running back, receiver and return specialist at Northeast (Philadelphia, Pa.) High School...Played football for head coach Drew Schumer.

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Sociology major...Son of G. Deborah Hall and Brent Grimes...Born Brent Omar Grimes on 7/19/83...Resides in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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Postby dirtybirdnw » Mon Jun 19, 2006 5:15 pm

Most interesting to me is that they are actually talking about Norwood replacing Duckett as the #2 back in the offseason camps. If he impresses even barely impresses Duckett could be an after thought. The pick that made me go "huh?!" might turn out to be a good one after all.

I'm wondering how bad Atlanta wants to ship Duckett out of town?
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Postby Steve-O » Mon Jun 19, 2006 5:23 pm

there was a blurb on KFFL about Norwood coming closer to securing the no 2 spot....it seems that he's picking up on protections and recieving quicker than was expected...

Knapp said in an interview on af.com that he felt like we didn't need a power back, that Norwood wa big enough to handle goal line carries.......

all this in connection with the 3 way trade talks that were so hot a week back it seems that TJ should have his bags packed

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Postby Pudge » Mon Jun 19, 2006 11:22 pm

If Duckett is on this roster, I see no reason why he still won't be the #2 back on opening day. Norwood's play is going to continue to have to be at a high level during preseason. What he does not during mini-camps is good, but really doesn't determine his PT for the season, it will be his preseason and training camp performance once the pads go on.

If Norwood continues to play like he does and Duckett is not shipped off, then we may see Duckett relegating purely to a short-yardage & goalline runner, while Norwood getting a larger share of the "regular" carries alternating with Dunn, but I don't see Norwood getting more PT than Duckett unless he is injured or traded.
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Postby BENT21 » Mon Jun 19, 2006 11:32 pm

Totally depends on which Duckett shows up...

Tale of two Ducketts...

1. The TJ that realizes he is a huge back.

2. The TJ that thinks he's Warrick Dunns size.

1. Puts guys like John Lynch on their ass en route to rumbling for more yardage.

2. Falls down when the first defender gets within 2 yards.

I really want to like TJ a lot. Hes a good guy. If he could play like #1 indicates all the time his value to this team would be immeasurable. When he plays like #2, hes as worthless as Keion Carpenter making an interception then handing it back.

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