NFC South: Harland Gunn

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – The Atlanta Falcons' coaching staff got an early Christmas gift Monday night: improved play on the offensive line.

No, it was not a strong enough performance to wipe out every bad memory from this season. But it was an encouraging sign from a unit that was expected to be dominated by a San Francisco 49ers front seven touted as arguably the best in the NFL.

Falcons coach Mike Smith hasn’t singled out the play of an offensive lineman too often this season. Tuesday afternoon, he singled out three.

Although quarterback Matt Ryan did a masterful job improvising at times, his pocket was clean for the most part, which helped him complete a career-high 37 passes. He was sacked just once and was able to go deep more than he had all season.

"The interior of the pocket was a little more stout," Smith said. "I thought that we did a very good job with scheming, with chipping, helping and having backs chip out, tight ends chip out before they went into their routes.

"The two tackles [Lamar Holmes and Ryan Schraeder], they had tough draws. I thought they handled it well. I thought Matt [had a] very good pocket as well. And I really feel, after watching the tape on the ride back and watching it this morning, that Joe Hawley did a nice job cleaning the pocket up."

Hawley has been solid at center since taking the starting job away from Peter Konz, so his performance wasn’t that shocking. But Holmes held his own at left tackle against pass-rush demon Aldon Smith, while right tackle Schraeder did the same against Ahmad Brooks. Schrader fared well against Smith, too.

Holmes had a couple of false starts in the first half, but he settled down in the second half and competed with Smith. Bad technique seemed to cause Schraeder to fall on his back during one play, but he quickly shook it off.

"I thought Ryan Schraeder continued to show improvement, as an undrafted rookie getting his second start on 'Monday Night Football,'" Smith said. "I thought he did a nice job. He battled. He battled against a very good front seven."

The Falcons need to find five players capable of battling each and every week. Hawley looks like a keeper at center, while left guard Justin Blalock has been the only offensive lineman to keep his starting job throughout the season. Schraeder continues to show promise as the right tackle of the future, while the Falcons hope to get left tackle Sam Baker back healthy next season after knee surgery.

The coaches still believe Holmes has a bright future despite his obvious struggles. And the fact that Harland Gunn played 45 snaps at left guard against the 49ers, compared with 27 for Konz, is telling in terms of Konz’s status after losing his job at center.

If the line manages to string together back-to-back strong performances, the coaches truly would have something to build upon. And the Falcons finish the season against another one of league’s top defensive fronts in the Carolina Panthers.
ATLANTA – Although listed as questionable Atlanta defensive end John Abraham and defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux are expected to start Sunday’s NFC Championship Game against San Francisco.

Both are on the active roster.

The inactives for the Falcons are quarterback Dominique Davis, receiver Tim Toone, guard Phillipkeith Manley, guard Harland Gunn, tackle Lamar Holmes, defensive end Lawrence Sidbury and defensive tackle Travian Robertson are inactive.

Inactives for the Atlanta Falcons

January, 13, 2013
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ATLANTA -- The Falcons just announced their inactives for Sunday’s game with Seattle and there are no surprises.

As expected, injured cornerback Christopher Owens is out.

The other inactives are quarterback Dominique Davis, receiver Tim Toone, guard Phillipkeith Manley, guard Harland Gunn, tackle Lamar Holmes and defensive end Lawrence Sidbury.

William Moore out for Atlanta Falcons

December, 22, 2012
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DETROIT -- Atlanta Falcons safety William Moore will miss his third straight game with a hamstring injury.

The Falcons just announced Moore will be inactive for Saturday night’s game with the Detroit Lions. Chris Hope is expected to start in Moore’s place at strong safety.

The other inactives for the Falcons are quarterback Dominique Davis, guard Phillipkeith Manley, tight end Chase Coffman, receiver Tim Toone, guard Harland Gunn and defensive end Cliff Matthews.

Roddy White active for Falcons

December, 16, 2012
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White
ATLANTA -- Wide receiver Roddy White, who was listed as questionable with a knee injury, will be active for Sunday’s game with the New York Giants.

But starting safety William Moore (hamstring) will not be active. Chris Hope is expected to start in his place.

The other inactives for the Falcons are quarterback Dominique Davis, receiver Tim Toone, guard Phillipkeith Manley, guard Harland Gunn, tight end Chase Coffman and defensive end Lawrence Sidbury.

William Moore out for Falcons

December, 9, 2012
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Atlanta Falcons strong safety William Moore will miss Sunday’s game due to a hamstring injury.

Chris Hope is expected to start in his place.

The other inactives for the Falcons are quarterback Dominique Davis, receiver Tim Toone, offensive lineman Phillipkeith Manley, offensive lineman Harland Gunn, defensive end Lawrence Sidbury and defensive tackle Travian Robertson.

On a positive note, cornerback Asante Samuel will play. Samuel had been questionable with a shoulder injury.

Inactives for the Atlanta Falcons

November, 29, 2012
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ATLANTA – Defensive tackle Peria Jerry will be inactive for the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday night against New Orleans.

Jerry will miss his second consecutive game with a quadriceps injury. Corey Peters and Jonathan Babineaux will start at defensive tackle, but rookie Travian Robertson will move into the backup rotation with Vance Walker.

Also inactive for the Falcons are quarterback Dominique Davis, receiver Tim Toone, safety Charles Mitchell, guard Phillipkeith Manley, guard Harland Gunn and defensive end Lawrence Sidbury.

Sean Weatherspoon returning for Falcons

November, 25, 2012
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TAMPA, Fla. -- Atlanta Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon will make his return Sunday against the Buccaneers after missing three games with an ankle injury.

That should help a run defense that has struggled in his absence. Receiver Julio Jones (ankle) and cornerback Asante Samuel (shoulder) had been listed as questionable, but they are active and expected to start.

The inactives for the Falcons are quarterback Dominique Davis, safety Charles Mitchell, receiver Tim Toone, offensive lineman Phillipkeith Manley, defensive end Lawrence Sidbury, defensive tackle Peria Jerry and offensive lineman Harland Gunn.

The inactives for the Bucs are cornerback Eric Wright, running back Michael Smith, safety Cody Grimm, linebacker Najee Goode, offensive lineman Cody Wallace, defensive tackle Matthew Masifilo and receiver David Douglas.

NFC South afternoon update

November, 20, 2012
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It’s been a pretty quiet day in the NFC South. That’s not uncommon because Tuesday generally is a day with no practices and a day off for players. But we’ve got a few odds and ends worth noting.
  • Tampa Bay safety Ronde Barber has the longest active streak of games started at 209. Washington linebacker London Fletcher (193) is the next guy on the list and his streak may end due to an injury. It’s the same story for Detroit center Jeff Backus, who is third with 186 consecutive starts. Barber is tied with Fletcher for the most consecutive games played in (234) and Barber could have sole possession of that if Fletcher sits out.
  • The Buccaneers announced that cornerback Anthony Gaitor, who was on injured reserve with the eligible-to-return designation will begin practicing Wednesday. Gaitor’s return could give the Bucs some much-needed depth because starter Eric Wright has been dealing with an Achilles tendon injury.
  • With center/guard Joe Hawley suspended for four games after violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances, the Falcons filled his roster spot by signing guard Harland Gunn. An undrafted free agent this year, Gunn first was signed by the Dallas Cowboys and then spent time on the New Orleans practice squad.
  • The Saints are dealing with a similar situation on their offensive line with right tackles Zach Strief and Charles Brown both dealing with injuries. As a result of that, the Saints have signed offensive lineman William Robinson, who was on the New Orleans practice squad last year.

Saints announce practice squad

September, 2, 2012
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I was mildly surprised that tight end Michael Higgins did not make the New Orleans Saints' 53-man roster.

I thought he did some good things in the preseason and would be backing up Jimmy Graham and David Thomas. But the Saints elected to keep veteran Daniel Graham as their third tight end.

Higgins is back with the Saints on Sunday. The team announced he has been signed to the practice squad. Receiver Andy Tanner, safety Jerico Nelson, cornerback Nick Hixson, guard Harland Gunn, guard Ricky Henry, linebacker Ezra Butler and defensive end Braylon Broughton also were signed to the practice squad.

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