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Falling

Peria Jerry, defensive tackle, Falcons. Watching Jerry exercising on the sidelines and listening to people talk at Atlanta’s minicamp last weekend, I got the sense he still has a long road ahead as he tries to recover from his knee injury. The Falcons, like most teams, don’t reveal timetables for their injured guys and speak only in vague terms about their statuses. But my gut tells me Jerry still has a lengthy process ahead. Even if he’s ready for the start of training camp or the start of the regular season, I’m guessing the Falcons are going to proceed very cautiously with last year’s first-round pick. When Jerry does get on the field, I’d look for the Falcons to use a rotation at defensive tackle and limit his snaps significantly.

Rising

Jon Beason, linebacker, Panthers. This guy’s been a leader since the first day he stepped on the field in Carolina. But, after watching Beason in minicamp a couple weeks ago, I’m guessing we’re about to see his leadership skills become much more prominent – and that’s a good thing. Beason is a high-energy guy who totally buys into John Fox’s system. He’s already had the résumé and the personality to lead, but he might have been holding back just a little bit out of respect to veterans. Julius Peppers, who had the résumé, but didn’t want to lead, and Chris Harris, who wanted to lead, but didn’t really have the résumé, are gone now. No matter what happens at quarterback, the Panthers already have their leader. This is Beason’s team.

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