NFC South: John Parker Wilson

Atlanta defensive tackle Corey Peters will miss at least the first six games of the regular season.

The Falcons just announced that Peters will begin the season on the reserve/non-football injury list. Peters has been sidelined all preseason by a foot injury. He’ll be eligible to begin practicing after the sixth game of the season and the Falcons then will have three weeks to decide if they want to activate him.

This likely means that Peria Jerry will be the starter next to Jonathan Babineaux. A first-round draft pick in 2009, Jerry suffered a major knee injury in his rookie season and has been a backup the past two seasons. But Jerry has looked good so far this preseason. Rookie Travian Robertson and Vance Walker would appear to be in line for spots in the rotation as backups.

The Falcons also announced they have waived quarterback John Parker Wilson. That apparently clears the way for undrafted rookie Dominique Davis to make the roster as the third quarterback behind Matt Ryan and Chris Redman.

Around the NFC South

August, 26, 2012
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Let's take a Sunday morning run through the top headlines around the NFC South:
  • Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano sure made it sound as if rookie Doug Martin has won the starting job at running back. Seriously, did anyone really expect this to play out another way? I know LeGarrette Blount, the starter the last two seasons, talked a lot about how he improved this offseason as a receiver and pass blocker. Maybe Blount did improve some in those areas. But the bottom line is the Bucs traded back into the first round to draft Martin because they believe he’s an all-purpose back and they’re planning to use him like one.
  • Bradley Handwerger writes that New Orleans defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo did a nice job making some in-game tweaks after a rough start in Saturday night’s preseason game against Houston. That resulted in much more stable play from the defense for the rest of the game. That’s a good sign because Spagnuolo’s going to have to keep adjusting things until injured linebackers David Hawthorne and Curtis Lofton get back in the lineup.
  • D. Orlando Ledbetter has an updated projected depth chart for the Falcons. One thing that stood out to me is that Garrett Reynolds still is No. 1 at right guard. Rookie Peter Konz did get some work with the first team on Friday night. The Falcons need to make a decision on who their starter will be very soon, but it’s looking like they might be leading toward staying cautious and sticking with Reynolds. The other thing that stands out to me is that Dominique Davis is listed as the No. 4 quarterback. I’d be surprised if Davis does not move up to No. 3, ahead of John Parker Wilson.
  • Carolina’s Mike Tolbert doesn’t have the prototypical body for a fullback/tailback. But Tom Sorensen writes that you shouldn’t sell Tolbert short because of the way he’s built. He’s been proving doubters wrong since he first started playing football.

Around the NFC South

August, 21, 2012
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A look at the Tuesday morning headlines from around the division:

ATLANTA FALCONS

At first, there were signs that undrafted rookie Dominique Davis could push John Parker Wilson for the third quarterback job. Now, there’s speculation he could move ahead of Chris Redman as the backup. I think that’s a little premature. Davis has a lot of upside and could end up as the backup down the road. But, if something happens to Matt Ryan, I think the Falcons would feel much safer leaving the team in the hands of Redman for the short term.

Jacquizz Rodgers never returned a kickoff in college. But it looks as if he’ll fill that role for the Falcons this season. Makes sense, because Rodgers is one of the team’s fastest players and has the potential to deliver long returns.

The Falcons, who had only one fight throughout training camp, had two scuffles break out Monday.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

After spending the entire offseason working to improve the defense, Carolina coach Ron Rivera said he still is concerned about an inability to get offenses off the field on third downs. He’s got two preseason games left to fix that.

It might not be the flashiest of positions, but the battle for the punting job might be the most intense competition in Carolina’s preseason. Veteran Nick Harris and rookie Brad Nortman are the candidates, and they’ve been even so far. Punting was a problem last season, and the Panthers want to upgrade over Jason Baker, who was let go after last season.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Bradley Handwerger writes that having to make a trade for veteran linebacker Barrett Ruud so late in the preseason was less than ideal, but it was the best move the Saints could make after suffering three significant injuries at linebacker. Ruud is a long way removed from the days when he was a top middle linebacker in Tampa Bay, but he’s smart enough to come in and run the defense in the absence of Curtis Lofton. With Ruud in the middle, the Saints will look to start him along with Scott Shanle and Jonathan Casillas until Lofton and David Hawthorne are healthy enough to return.

Former New Orleans special-teams star Steve Gleason said comments he made to HBO’s “Real Sports’’ have been misinterpreted by the media. Preview material of the episode, which is scheduled to air Tuesday night, have touted Gleason as being surprised that no one reacted to former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’ speech the night before last season’s playoff loss to San Francisco. Gleason now says he wasn’t questioning the lack of a reaction by players and coaches. He says he was surprised others in his immediate group, and not with the team, didn’t seem to react when Williams made the comments.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

With the New England Patriots coming to town for joint practices Wednesday and Thursday, the Buccaneers are healthier than they’ve been most of the preseason. Running back LeGarrette Blount, left tackle Donald Penn, cornerback Aqib Talib and tight end Luke Stocker, who all have been banged up, are expected to be ready to practice against the Patriots.

Safety Ahmad Black is making a strong case for a roster spot. Ronde Barber and Mark Barron are set as the starters, so Black will have to climb over the likes of Cody Grimm, Larry Asante, Tramain Thomas and Keith Tandy.

Observation deck: Falcons-Bengals

August, 16, 2012
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I saw some signs the Atlanta Falcons can be the team they want to be in Thursday night’s 24-19 preseason loss to Cincinnati.

There were some explosive plays on offense, a turnover created by the first-team defense, some steady pressure by defensive end Ray Edwards and even a few screen passes.

Quarterback Matt Ryan played until midway through the second quarter and the rest of the starters were done by halftime when the Falcons led 13-10. Not much mattered after that, but there were lots of encouraging signs from the starters. Let’s run through some observations:
  • Ryan’s numbers (18-of-21 for 174 yards and a touchdown) look spectacular and he completed his first 11 pass attempts. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. Ryan’s first eight passes were mostly short ones and he didn’t have a long completion until connecting with Roddy White for a 24-yard gain on his ninth pass. He followed that with a 21-yard pass to Tony Gonzalez and later had a downfield completion in traffic to Julio Jones. Ryan seemed under pressure early, but the offensive line seemed to settle down as time went on. Ryan also missed slightly on a deep throw for Jones. The ball was well thrown, but it went off Jones’ fingertips.
  • In his first two preseason games, Ryan has completed 27 of 34 passes for 329 yards and two touchdowns.
  • Speaking of the offensive line, Garrett Reynolds got another start at right guard and it looks like he could remain there. There had been thought that rookie Peter Konz would overtake him. But Konz went down with an apparent leg injury in the third quarter. Konz did return to the game, but it remains to be seen if he'll be healthy enough to play in the third preseason game. If Konz doesn't start in the third preseason game, then the starting job likely belongs to Reynolds.
  • Ewards, who played hurt and wasn’t productive last year, was a definite factor against the Bengals. I saw him get good pressure on Andy Dalton once and he also chased down a ball carrier in the backfield.
  • Speaking of maligned defensive linemen, former first-round pick Peria Jerry continues to play well. He’s starting in place of the injured Corey Peters. Jerry had a sack on Dalton, although he did get called for a late hit two plays earlier. Still, it was nice to see Jerry show some of the skills that made him a first-round pick. If he keeps playing the way he has been, he might have a chance to move ahead of Peters or at least get significant time in the rotation.
  • Jerry wasn’t the only interior lineman producing pressure. Jonathan Babineaux sacked Dalton, but the play was nullified when Babineaux was called for a face-mask penalty. I watched the replay several times and saw no indication that Babineaux’s hand ever got close to Dalton’s face mask. I think the replacement refs botched that call.
  • Thomas DeCoud and William Moore have made some noise that they believe they can be one of the best safety tandems in the league this year. That seems like a long shot, if you go simply by what they’ve done in the past. But there was a moment against the Bengals when it looked like that could become a reality. Moore stripped the ball from running back Brian Leonard and DeCoud quickly pounced on the fumble.
  • The Falcons appear to be very serious about throwing more to their running backs. Michael Turner, Jacquizz Rodgers and Lousaka Polite each caught passes. Polite, who recently was signed to provide depth at fullback, caught a short touchdown pass. I’m not sure I want to see too many passes to Turner and Polite in the regular season because I don’t see either of the making big plays after the catch. But I think Rodgers has the skill to do that and he should be targeted often. Also, Rodgers had a very nice run between the tackles in the second quarter. A lot of people think Rodgers can’t run between the tackles because he’s short. But the Falcons believe Rodgers is thick enough to run up the middle and I think you’ll see a fair amount of that this year.
  • Speaking of Rodgers, he also got a long look at punt returner and kickoff returner. The highlight was a 29-yard punt returner, before giving way to Dominique Franks, who is competing for the job as the punt returner. Rodgers is competing for the kickoff return job with his brother, James.
  • I saw some good and bad things out of cornerback Asante Samuel. He did a nice job going up with A.J. Green for a pass and breaking it up. But Samuel also got beat badly by Green on a 55-yard touchdown pass. Samuel sat on a short route, looking like he thought he could jump in and intercept. But Green took off downfield and left Samuels to chase him.
  • I keep liking what I see out of undrafted rookie quarterback Dominique Davis. He throws well and is athletic. He might be raw, but I think the Falcons could develop him into something if they keep him around. I think Davis could be an upgrade over No. 3 quarterback John Parker Wilson. Davis looked great with the fourth team. The Falcons might be wise to give him a look with the second or third team in the final two preseason games.

NFC South afternoon update

August, 14, 2012
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Let's take an afternoon run through the headlines from around the NFC South:
  • Although his stock might have dropped as he missed some earlier camp time with an injury, I think it’s fair to say Carolina rookie cornerback Josh Norman is back in the mix for a starting job. The Panthers desperately want one of their young cornerbacks to step up so that Captain Munnerlyn can move inside and match up with slot receivers. Norman stepped up big in Tuesday’s practice, producing four interceptions.
  • Tuesday was even hotter than usual in the New Orleans area. That resulted in linebacker Curtis Lofton, running back Pierre Thomas, left tackle Jermon Bushrod and receiver Courtney Roby having to leave practice after experiencing problems with the heat.
  • D. Orlando Ledbetter has a couple of tidbits that a lot of people might not know or might have forgotten about. Atlanta undrafted rookie quarterback Dominique Davis previously spent time with starter Matt Ryan. Davis was going through a redshirt season at Boston College when Ryan was in his final season there. Davis left for junior college and then ended up at East Carolina. In junior college, Davis’ team lost the national championship game to Cam Newton’s team. After watching Davis in camp, I think he at least has a shot at a spot on the practice squad. He has some upside. I’m not sure that John Parker Wilson, who has spent the past three seasons with the Falcons, has any remaining upside.
  • Tampa Bay receiver Mike Williams made the play of the day during a two-minute drill. Rookie safety Mark Barron appeared to be in the process of intercepting a Josh Freeman pass. But Williams wrapped his hands around Barron and came away with the ball. Williams talked after practice about how he’s paying more attention to detail this year. I’m not sure Williams would have had the awareness to make that catch last year.

David Garrard in the NFC South?

February, 28, 2012
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I heard a very interesting and lengthy interview with David Garrard while driving a bit earlier Tuesday on Sirius NFL Radio.

Garrard made it very clear he wants to play again next season after sitting out 2011. Garrard said he had back surgery to repair an injury that was holding him back when the Jaguars released him just before the start of last season. He said he’s almost 100 percent and his agent is making teams aware of his availability.

[+] EnlargeDavid Garrard
J. Meric/Getty ImagesQuarterback David Garrard could take on a backup/mentor role on several NFC South teams.
As you might expect, Garrard said his first preference would be to go to a team where he would at least have a chance to compete for a starting job. I don’t see that scenario as even a remote possibility in the NFC South. But Garrard also said he’d be open to being a backup/mentor.

In those roles, I could see him in the NFC South. Let’s throw out the Saints because they’ve got Drew Brees as their starter (assuming they finally get around to getting a new contract done) and they seem content with Chase Daniel as the backup. If the Saints do anything at quarterback this offseason, it might be using a late-round pick on a project-type quarterback to groom behind Brees.

But I can at least see scenarios where Garrard would make sense for the other three NFC South teams. Let’s start with Tampa Bay. The Bucs have Josh Freeman as their starter and view him as their franchise quarterback.

Backup Josh Johnson can become a free agent and I think he probably will test the market. Johnson’s athletic and the previous coaching staff sometimes used him in the wildcat formation (although not with a great deal of success). But Johnson’s not the kind of guy you want to see playing for an extended period if Freeman is injured. Garrard can be that guy because he’s got plenty of experience as a starter.

There’s also a school of thought that the Bucs might want to surround Freeman with an experienced backup that can help act as a mentor. Garrard or David Carr are guys I think could be possibilities if the Bucs go in that direction. New offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan worked as quarterbacks coach with Carr and the New York Giants the last two seasons. Sullivan also worked for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2002 and ’03. Those were Garrard’s first two seasons in the NFL and Sullivan was a defensive assistant the first year, before switching to offense in 2003. But at least he has some familiarity with Garrard.

Speaking of familiarity with Garrard, that could be more of a factor with the other two NFC South teams.

Carolina quarterbacks coach Mike Shula was quarterbacks coach in Jacksonville from 2007 through 2010. Garrard’s best statistical seasons came in that span and all indications are he and Shula got along well. The Panthers are set with Cam Newton as their starter, but backup Derek Anderson is a free agent and Jimmy Clausen’s future with the team remains unclear. Garrard might be an upgrade over Anderson as a mentor and as a player.

Garrard also has ties to the Atlanta coaching staff. New offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter was Jacksonville’s offensive coordinator from 2007 through the end of last season. I’m not real sure if Garrard and Koetter parted on friendly terms, but I think the decision to dump Garrard was made mainly by former Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio. If nothing else, Garrard should be pretty familiar with the concepts Koetter will try to add to Atlanta’s offense.

Atlanta veteran backup Chris Redman is scheduled to be a free agent and I don’t think the Falcons are ready to elevate John Parker Wilson to the No. 2 role. I think there will be some interest in bringing back Redman because his price tag won’t be high and he’s a good set of eyes and ears for Matt Ryan. But Redman’s not the kind of guy you want to play if Ryan goes down for an extended period of time.

If the Falcons are going to make a play for Garrard, a lot will depend on what Koetter thinks of the quarterback. Heck, even coach Mike Smith could have a weighty opinion on this one. Smith is familiar with Garrard because he was defensive coordinator in Jacksonville before taking over in Atlanta.

Brent Grimes out for Falcons

January, 8, 2012
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Atlanta cornerback Brent Grimes will miss Sunday’s playoff game with the New York Giants due to a knee injury.

Grimes had been listed as questionable and practiced on a limited basis. But the team elected to make him inactive Sunday morning.

Dominique Franks will start in Grimes’ place and Christopher Owens will be the third cornerback.

Starting linebacker Stephen Nicholas also will miss the game. That was expected because Nicholas was listed as doubtful with a toe injury and did not practice at all during the week. Spencer Adkins will start in his place.

The other inactives for the Falcons are quarterback John Parker Wilson, center Brett Romberg, offensive lineman Kirk Chambers, receiver Kerry Meier and defensive end Cliff Matthews.

Grimes, Nicholas out for Falcons

January, 1, 2012
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ATLANTA -- The Falcons will be without injured cornerback Brent Grimes (knee) and linebacker Stephen Nicholas (toe) in Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay.

Both players have been declared inactive. Dominique Franks is expected to start in Grimes’ place. Spencer Adkins likely will start in Nicholas’ spot.

The other inactives for the Falcons are quarterback John Parker Wilson, center Brett Romberg, offensive lineman Kirk Chambers, receiver Kerry Meier and defensive end Cliff Matthews.

Nicholas, Hayden out for Falcons

December, 26, 2011
12/26/11
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NEW ORLEANS — No big surprise here, but the Atlanta Falcons will be without two injured defenders in their “Monday Night Football’’ game with the New Orleans Saints.

Linebacker Stephen Nicholas (groin) and nickel back Kelvin Hayden have been declared inactive. Veteran Mike Peterson likely will start in Nicholas’ place. Dominique Franks likely will be Atlanta’s nickel back.

The other inactives for the Falcons are quarterback John Parker Wilson, center Brett Romberg, tackle Kirk Chambers, receiver Kerry Meier and defensive end Cliff Matthews.

I’ll be back with the inactives for the Saints as soon as I get them.

Grimes, Hayden out for Falcons

December, 15, 2011
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ATLANTA – The Atlanta Falcons and Jacksonville Jaguars just announced their inactives for Thursday night’s game.

The Falcons will be without injured cornerbacks Brent Grimes and Kelvin Hayden. The other inactives are quarterback John Parker Wilson, linebacker Spencer Adkins, center Brett Romberg, offensive lineman Kirk Chambers and defensive end Cliff Matthews.

For the Jaguars, quarterback Dan LeFevour, running back Deji Karim, cornerback Robert McClain, center John Estes, receiver Mike Thomas, receiver Cecil Shorts III and defensive end Matt Roth are inactive.

Falcons sitting three defenders

December, 11, 2011
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The Atlanta Falcons will be without three key defensive players Sunday in their game against the Carolina Panthers.

Cornerbacks Brent Grimes (knee) and Kelvin Hayden (toe) are inactive. So is linebacker Stephen Nicholas (quadriceps). Christopher Owens and Dominique Franks will get playing time at cornerback along with Dunta Robinson.

Also inactive for the Falcons are quarterback John Parker Wilson, offensive linemen Brett Romberg and Kirk Chambers and defensive end Cliff Matthews.

Falcons promote QB John Parker Wilson

December, 2, 2011
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The Falcons made a minor, but interesting, roster move while we were holding Friday’s NFC South chat.

The team elevated quarterback John Parker Wilson from the practice squad to the 53-man roster. The Falcons also waived defensive tackle Carlton Powell.

Starting quarterback Matt Ryan and backup Chris Redman are both healthy. I also don’t think there are any plans of moving Wilson ahead of Redman, at least not in the short term.

Given all the quarterback injuries around the league, I’m guessing either some team tried to sign Wilson off the practice squad or the Falcons were anticipating such a move and acted proactively.

John Parker Wilson returns to Falcons

September, 4, 2011
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John Parker Wilson is the Atlanta Falcons’ third quarterback after all.

A day after waiving Wilson, the Falcons announced he has been signed to their practice squad. Starter Matt Ryan and backup Chris Redman are the only two quarterbacks on the active roster. Wilson served as the team’s No. 3 quarterback last season, but a change in rules allowing 46 active players on game days this season has prompted more teams to keep only two quarterbacks on the regular roster.

Also signed to Atlanta’s practice squad were safety Rafael Bush, receiver Kevin Cone, receiver Drew Davis, guard Andrew Jackson, linebacker Robert James and tackle Jose Valdez. The Falcons still have one unfilled spot on the practice squad.

Atlanta Falcons cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2011
9/03/11
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Check here for a complete list of the Atlanta Falcons’ roster moves.

Surprise move: The Falcons waived quarterback John Parker Wilson, meaning they’ll go with only starter Matt Ryan and backup Chris Redman. There’s been talk that more teams will carry only two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster because teams don’t have to declare an inactive third quarterback anymore.

Wilson could end up back on the practice squad, but this move shows the Falcons aren’t all that high on him. They might be better off looking for a developmental prospect to put on the practice squad. Ryan’s secure as the starter for a long time, but Redman is nothing more than a career backup. It might be time for the Falcons to start developing a new backup.

No-brainers: At the start of camp, there was some uncertainty that seventh-round draft pick Cliff Matthews would stick because the team was deep at defensive end and there was a lot of uncertainty that undrafted cornerback Darrin Walls would have a shot at a roster spot. Both made it. But those moves don’t really come as surprises because Matthews and Davis were excellent in camp and the preseason. They probably won’t get a lot of playing time right away, but Matthews has the potential to challenge Kroy Biermann and Lawrence Sidbury for a spot in the rotation eventually. Walls might get a shot on special teams right off the bat, but the team must think he has upside as a cornerback. The Falcons still aren’t sure about Chris Owens and Dominique Franks in the long term and that’s probably why the decision was made to keep Walls.

What’s next: The team already reinforced the secondary by signing cornerback Kelvin Hayden and safety James Sanders. There’s really not much more work to be done. Perhaps the most encouraging sign was that the team released center Brett Romberg. That might be a sign that the injury to veteran starter Todd McClure isn’t that serious. The team already has said McClure would miss the season opener, and second-year pro Joe Hawley is expected to start in his place. The Falcons also have Rob Bruggeman as a backup, but they wouldn’t have let Romberg go if McClure’s injury were going to keep him out for a long period.

Falcons make roster moves

September, 3, 2011
9/03/11
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The Atlanta Falcons were the first NFC South team to officially announce their roster moves to get down to 53 players.

They released center Brett Romberg and waived safety Rafael Bush, wide receiver Kevin Cone, wide receiver Drew Davis, guard Andrew Jackson, linebacker Robert James, defense end Emmanuel Stephens, tackle Jose Valdez and quarterback John Parker Wilson. The Falcons reached an injury settlement with tight end Ryan Winterswyk.

I’ll be back in a bit with an analysis of Atlanta’s roster.

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