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 Post subject: Vick looks to wide-open spaces
PostPosted: Tue Jun 20, 2006 5:20 am 
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Steve Wyche - Staff
Monday, June 19, 2006

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.

"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.

Kicker

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 pickups and receiving skills --- could keep Duckett on the trading block.

Quarterback

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.

Safety

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.

Linebacker

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.

Cornerback

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.


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 20, 2006 6:22 pm 
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Jerious Norwood has made headway toward replacing T.J. Duckett as the No. 2 tailback.

heh

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.

you ESPN regs will remember I was saying this guy would be a very good pick

The Falcons will search for free-agent depth.

YES!......thank you

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 22, 2006 10:32 am 
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Just noticed a couple diff places that Norwood's beginning to be mentioned with the top tier group of rookie RB's, like Williams, Bush, Maroney, White and Addai. Pretty good for a 3rd rounder if he pans out.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 22, 2006 3:44 pm 
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Just noticed a couple diff places that Norwood's beginning to be mentioned with the top tier group of rookie RB's, like Williams, Bush, Maroney, White and Addai. Pretty good for a 3rd rounder if he pans out.

I dont see why he wouldnt. If he truely is as fast as advertised, (fastest HB at the combine) which Mora swears he is, then he should fit well into our system. He may turn out to be like Warrick Dunn IMO. I dont see why with his speed he wont be able to make a contribution in our "cut and run" rushing offense. Which is why he is probably going to unseat Duckett as the #2 HB.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 22, 2006 5:27 pm 
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Norwood looks like our Tatum Bell. Bell is a fast guy that is slightly built, which is why the Broncos have been so interested in adding another RB this off-season. He can be a lead back, but probalby isn't a guy that can carry as much of the load as Dunn does. Dunn averages 16-18 carries as a Falcon in this blocking scheme. I'd imagine even if Norwood is the lead back (which could be as early as 2007), the Falcons probably wouldn't use him that much.

I'm glad to hear that Norwood is playing well thus far, but again I'm not going to get too psyched over what he's doing in shorts. I also recall Ken Oxendine looked good his first summer in Atlanta as well. If I'm the Falcons unless there's a great deal on the table right now, I'd still wait till we got Norwood some reps in preseason games before I'd trade him.

Barring any injury between now and January, it would seem that Norwood's play is good enough that indicates Duckett will not be back in 2007 if we don't dump him before then. The question will be is if Norwood is good enough that the team also decides to part ways with Dunn as well next off-season.

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