NFL Nation: Christopher Owens

Reviewing NFC South free agents

March, 7, 2013
We’ve shown you the lists of potential NFC South free agents before. But let’s do it again because there have been some minor moves and the free-agency period is getting ready to start Tuesday.

Here’s the list of potential free agents for all four NFC South teams:

Atlanta Falcons. Tony Gonzalez, Brent Grimes, Sam Baker, William Moore, Will Svitek, Mike Cox, Todd McClure, Luke McCown, Christopher Owens, Mike Peterson, Garrett Reynolds, Lawrence Sidbury and Vance Walker all can become unrestricted free agents. Michael Palmer can become a restricted free agent.

Carolina Panthers. The potential unrestricted free agents are Derek Anderson, Antwan Applewhite, Gary Barnidge, Dwan Edwards, Ben Hartsock, Sherrod Martin, Captain Munnerlyn, Louis Murphy and Mike Pollak. Richie Brockel can become an exclusive-rights free agent. Andre Neblett, Nate Ness and Jason Phillips are scheduled to become restricted free agents.

New Orleans Saints. Jermon Bushrod, Jonathan Casillas, Chase Daniel, Sedrick Ellis, Devery Henderson, Ramon Humber, Elbert Mack, Turk McBride, Will Robinson, Courtney Roby and Scott Shanle can become unrestricted free agents. Brian De La Puente, Justin Drescher, Junior Galette and Chris Ivory are scheduled to become restricted free agents. Eric Olsen and Michael Higgins can become exclusive-rights free agents.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Ronde Barber, Dallas Clark, Michael Bennett, E.J. Biggers, Andrew Economos, Geno Hayes, Roy Miller, Roscoe Parrish, Sammie Stroughter and Jeremy Trueblood can become unrestricted free agents. LeGarrette Blount, Jacob Cutrera, Corvey Irvin and Daniel Te’o-Nesheim are scheduled to become restricted free agents.

Looking at Atlanta's free agents

February, 11, 2013
We still have a little more than a month left before the start of free agency, but let’s start taking a look at who the potential free agents are for each NFC South team. Let’s start with the Atlanta Falcons.

Their potential unrestricted free agents are tight end Tony Gonzalez, cornerback Brent Grimes, tackle Sam Baker, safety William Moore, tackle Will Svitek, fullback Mike Cox, center Todd McClure, quarterback Luke McCown, cornerback Christopher Owens, linebacker Mike Peterson, tackle Garrett Reynolds, defensive end Lawrence Sidbury and defensive tackle Vance Walker. Running back Antone Smith and tight end Michael Palmer are potential restricted free agents.

This is a group that’s heavy at the top. Gonzalez, Moore, Baker and Grimes all are starters and potentially expensive. McClure might be near the end of the line, but he started last season and brings valuable leadership.

The Falcons are pleading heavily with Gonzalez to return for one more season. If he decides to retire, they’ll have to make major changes to their offensive scheme because you just don’t find another tight end with the same skill set.

The Falcons have limited salary-cap space, but, much like last offseason, they’ll make a strong effort to keep their team together.

Moore has turned into a Pro Bowler and Baker had a very solid 2012 season. The beauty of Moore is that he’s a safety and the market price shouldn’t be that high at that position. Left tackles are more expensive, but the Falcons have built a level of trust with Baker and they might be able to keep him at a reasonable rate. Besides, it would be difficult and expensive to go out and find a new left tackle in free agency or the draft.

Grimes is likely to be the biggest challenge in this free-agency class. Although he is undersized and coming off a major injury, Grimes is likely to command big money on the open market. The Falcons also have decent money tied up in Dunta Robinson and Asante Samuel, and Robert McClain showed strong signs he can be a solid No. 3 or No. 2 corner. The Falcons are likely to treat Grimes the same way they did linebacker Curtis Lofton last year. They’ll draw a line in the sand as far as what they’re willing to pay and won’t go over it if he gets a bigger offer elsewhere.

The Falcons have invested a fair amount of draft picks on the interior of the offensive line in recent years, so I can’t see them paying more than the minimum to bring McClure back. They also should be able to retain McCown and Cox for the minimum or close to it. Sidbury, Reynolds and Owens have had plenty of chances, but haven’t developed into impact players. If they get decent offers elsewhere, I don’t see the Falcons making a big effort to keep them. Peterson is a veteran who could come back for one more year at the minimum to provide some linebacker depth.

Walker is a solid role player on the defensive line. But he could get more money elsewhere and I don’t see the Falcons going out of their way to keep him.

Atlanta Falcons injury report

January, 18, 2013
The Atlanta Falcons are listing defensive end John Abraham (ankle) and defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux (shoulder) as questionable for Sunday’s NFC Championship Game against San Francisco.

But both took part in Friday’s practice on a limited basis, so I think it’s safe to assume Babineaux and Abraham will be playing Sunday.

The Falcons also are listing safety William Moore (hand), linebacker Stephen Nicholas (foot) and cornerback Christopher Owens (hamstring) as probable. All three participated fully in Friday’s practice.

Checking on Falcons' injuries

January, 17, 2013
The Atlanta Falcons appear to be about as healthy as possible as they get ready for Sunday’s NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers.

Defensive end John Abraham practiced on a limited basis for the second straight day. Abraham aggravated an ankle injury in the win against Seattle in the divisional playoffs. The Falcons continue to express optimism that he’ll be able to play Sunday and I doubt you’ll see Abraham sit this one out. The Falcons need their top pass-rusher and backups Cliff Matthews and Jonathan Massaquoi aren’t nearly on Abraham’s level.

Defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux (shoulder) and cornerback Christopher Owens (hamstring) also participated in practice on a limited basis.

Safety William Moore (hand) and linebacker Stephen Nicholas (foot) are listed on the injury report but both of them participated fully in practice for the second straight day.

Quick hits from Mike Smith

January, 16, 2013
Atlanta coach Mike Smith just finished his Wednesday news conference. There was no earth-shattering news, but let’s run through a bunch of little nuggets.
  • Smith said defensive end John Abraham, who aggravated an ankle injury in Sunday’s win against Seattle, practiced on a limited basis. Defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux also was limited and cornerback Christopher Owens (hamstring) did not practice. Safety William Moore fully participated in practice, but is on the injury report with a hand injury.
  • As is his custom, Smith had plenty of praise for the opponent. He said San Francisco has the best offensive line and linebacker corps the Falcons have gone against this season.
  • Last week, Smith compared Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson to Fran Tarkenton. On Wednesday, he compared San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick to a current player -- Carolina’s Cam Newton. Smith said Kaepernick has size and agility comparable to Newton.
  • Smith said that in studying the 49ers, they’ve been allowing Kaepernick do more things every week since he took over as the starter.
  • The Falcons moved their practice indoors Wednesday due to inclement weather. Smith said the only thing the Falcons weren’t able to work on was their punting game.

Inactives for the Atlanta Falcons

January, 13, 2013
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.

Falcons' injury report

January, 11, 2013
The Atlanta Falcons just released their final injury report for Sunday’s game against Seattle, and it doesn’t contain any major surprises.

Defensive end John Abraham (ankle) is listed as questionable, but he participated in practice on a limited basis. I’d be shocked if Abraham isn’t able to play. Reserve safety Charles Mitchell (calf) also is questionable. As expected, cornerback Christopher Owens (hamstring) has been declared out for Sunday.

Cornerback Dunta Robinson (concussion) and safety William Moore (hamstring) are both listed as probable, and both participated fully in Friday’s practice.

Final Word: NFC South

December, 21, 2012
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about the Week 16 games:

[+] EnlargeMatt Ryan
AP Photo/John AmisQuick starts have been the norm over the years for Matt Ryan and the Falcons.
It’s how you start: Starting fast, like they did with an interception and a quick touchdown last week against the Giants, has become a trademark of the Atlanta Falcons. Since coach Mike Smith and quarterback Matt Ryan arrived in 2008, the Falcons have scored more points (224) on their opening drive than any other team in the league.

Nickel and dime: Look for the Falcons to keep extra defensive backs on the field for almost the entire game with Detroit. The Lions have called for a designed pass on 67.2 percent of their offensive plays, which is the highest total in the NFL. Reserve defensive backs Robert McClain, Christopher Owens and Dominique Franks all could see increased playing time.

Padding the resume: New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees probably already has done enough to make himself a first-ballot Hall of Famer. But he can add another impressive line to his bio against the Dallas Cowboys. Brees needs 165 passing yards to reach 4,500. If he gets there, Brees will become the first player in NFL history with three consecutive seasons with at least 4,500 passing yards.

On a roll: Carolina quarterback Cam Newton has been hot in recent weeks. In the last four games, Newton has been responsible for 12 touchdowns (passing and rushing). That’s the highest total of any player in the same span. Newton also has accounted for 1,309 yards of offense in those four games, the third-highest total in the league.

Closing in on history: The Bucs are leading the league by allowing an average of 310.6 passing yards per game. That puts them on pace to finish the season with 4,970 passing yards allowed. That would shatter the NFL record (4,796 yards, set by Green Bay last season).
The final injury reports are out, so let’s take a look at the latest on the most significant injuries from around the division:

The Atlanta Falcons continued to hold safety William Moore (hamstring) and cornerback Asante Samuel (shoulder) out of practice and that means there’s a good chance both will sit out Sunday against Carolina. Chris Hope is the likely replacement if Moore can’t play. If Samuel is out, that likely means more playing time for Robert McClain and Christopher Owens.

The Panthers are listing running back Jonathan Stewart (ankle) as doubtful. That means DeAngelo Williams will be the main running back. Receiver Brandon LaFell (toe) is questionable and Louis Murphy likely would start if LaFell can’t play. Defensive tackle Dwan Edwards (wrist) and linebacker James Anderson (back) didn’t practice and are listed as questionable, but coach Ron Rivera indicated there is hope they’ll be able to play.

Tampa Bay defensive tackle Roy Miller was cleared to practice after sitting out the previous two days due to a head injury. Coach Greg Schiano said the Bucs will be cautious with Miller. If he can’t play, Gary Gibson and Corvey Irvin likely would take on an increased work load. Cornerback Anthony Gaitor officially was moved to the 53-man roster from injured reserve Friday afternoon.

The New Orleans Saints are relatively healthy. Only reserve offensive tackle Charles Brown (knee) and backup cornerback Corey White (knee) have been ruled out for Sunday’s game with the Giants. All the other Saints that have been listed on the injury report this week are probable.

Halftime thoughts on Falcons-Cardinals

November, 18, 2012
ATLANTA -- For most of the first half, the Atlanta Falcons played about as poorly as possible. Amazingly, they’re tied, 16-16, with the Arizona Cardinals at halftime.

The Falcons basically handed the Cardinals a 13-0 lead as Matt Ryan, who had been intercepted only seven times in the first nine games, threw three interceptions in the first quarter. Two of them came on balls that were tipped and Ryan was under heavy pressure on the other.

But defensive end John Abraham and defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux put the Falcons back in the game on a huge play with 8:37 remaining in the second quarter. Abraham hit Arizona quarterback Ryan Lindley as he was about to throw. A lot of Arizona and Atlanta players reacted as if it was an incomplete pass and the ball was sitting on the ground. But Babineaux was alert enough to realize the play had not been whistled dead. He scooped the ball up and ran it in for Atlanta’s only touchdown of the half.

Ryan and the entire Atlanta offense will have to be much sharper in the second half if the Falcons are going to pull this one off. The defense has played well, but it looks like the Falcons will be without cornerback Asante Samuel the rest of the day. He injured his shoulder late in the first quarter and has not returned to the game. That's meant more playing time for Robert McClain and Christopher Owens.

I'll be back with a Rapid Reaction soon after the game ends.

Jon Beason to play against Falcons

September, 30, 2012
ATLANTA -- Carolina Panthers middle linebacker Jon Beason, who was listed as questionable with knee and shoulder injuries, will be active for Sunday’s game with the Atlanta Falcons.

The biggest item of note on Carolina’s list of inactives is that rookie receiver/return man Joe Adams will not play. Adams muffed a punt and fumbled on a kickoff return last week. Kealoha Pilares is expected to handle kickoff returns and Armanti Edwards is likely to handle punt returns.

Carolina’s other inactives are Jimmy Clausen, D.J. Campbell, Bruce Campbell, Mike Pollak, Antwan Applewhite and Frank Kearse.

As expected, Atlanta fullback Lousaka Polite, cornerback Chris Owens, tight end Michael Palmer and running back Antone Smith are inactive due to injuries. The other inactives for the Falcons are Dominique Davis, Lamar Holmes and Jonathan Massaquoi.

Checking the injuries that matter most

September, 28, 2012
The final injury reports are in for Sunday’s game, so let’s take a look at the most significant injuries around the division.

The news isn’t good for a New Orleans defense that already was struggling. Linebackers David Hawthorne and Jonathan Casillas and defensive end Turk McBride have been declared out for Sunday’s game at Green Bay. Casillas had been backing up Hawthorne. With both of them out, Will Herring appears likely to get the start.

Carolina middle linebacker Jon Beason (knee and shoulder) practiced Friday. Coach Ron Rivera said the team will see how sore Beason is Sunday before making a decision on his status. If Beason can’t play against Atlanta, Jason Phillips is expected to start in the middle. Running back Jonathan Stewart is listed as probable and expected to play for just the second time this season.

The Falcons have declared tight end Michael Palmer, cornerback Christopher Owens, running back Antone Smith and fullback Lousaka Polite out for Sunday. That means Dominique Franks likely will be used as the nickel back and running back Jason Snelling probably will get some time at fullback. Tommy Gallarda is expected to take Palmer’s place as the backup tight end.

The Buccaneers are relatively healthy compared to the other three teams. Reserve cornerback Anthony Gaitor is out for Sunday, but everyone else (including guard Carl Nicks and cornerback E.J. Biggers) is no worse than probable.

Final Word: NFC South

September, 14, 2012
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 2:

[+] EnlargeCam Newton
Sam Sharpe/US PresswireThe Panthers are trying to limit hits like this one by limiting Cam Newton's time out of the pocket.
The feud: I think the bad blood between the Panthers and Saints is much worse than people realize. And it’s flowing mostly from the Panthers. There has been some reflection on how the Panthers felt the Saints were running up the score unnecessarily in Week 17 last season. But that’s only a small part of what’s simmering between these teams. When the NFL made its announcement about the Saints’ bounty program in March, it named Panthers quarterback Cam Newton as one of the players who was targeted for injury. That revelation did not sit well in any corner of the Panthers' organization. I’m sure coach Ron Rivera will order his players not to attempt any sort of retaliation that could result in penalties. But I think this is going to be an extremely physical game.

The target: With Brent Grimes lost for the season to injury, the Falcons are turning to Chris Owens as their nickel back. Owens is fast and athletic, but he has struggled in coverage in the past. I think it’s safe to assume Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and offensive coordinator Mike McCoy will try to target Owens as often as possible.

Staying above water: It’s too early to say any contest is a must-win game. But the meeting between the Panthers and Saints comes pretty close to that. Only 12 percent of the teams to start 0-2 have made the postseason since the playoffs expanded to 12 teams in 1990, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Teams that have started 1-1 have made the playoffs 41 percent of the time.

Staying grounded: The Bucs backed up coach Greg Schiano’s claim that they’re going to run the ball a lot. In the opener, Josh Freeman attempted only 24 passes. I would expect more of the same against the Giants. In Freeman’s 41 career starts, the Bucs are 4-1 when he throws fewer than 25 passes, and 14-22 when he throws 25 or more.

Legend or myth? There is a perception out there that Carolina’s Newton is a great downfield passer. But that might be a myth. Newton hasn’t completed more than two passes on throws of more than 20 yards downfield in his past nine games. He did start off quickly in that department last season, accomplishing the feat in five of his first eight games, but he has been quiet since.

Picturing Falcons minus Brent Grimes

September, 10, 2012
We already know that Atlanta Falcons cornerback Brent Grimes will miss the rest of the season with a torn Achilles injury. Now, let's take a look at how this injury impacts the Falcons.

The Falcons were so intent on having three starting-caliber cornerbacks entering the season that they went out and traded for Asante Samuel to pair with Grimes, who is carrying a $10.2 million franchise tag, and Dunta Robinson. Grimes and Samuel started Sunday's game against Kansas City, but Robinson played extensively as the nickel back.

With Grimes lost, Samuel and Robinson are the obvious starters. Samuel may not be the dominant corner he was early in his career, but he's still above average and Robinson is talented, although he hasn't always played to his potential. Still, the Falcons have two starting-caliber cornerbacks.

The problem is, they need three in coordinator Mike Nolan's scheme. It's not easy to go out and find a cornerback that good right now. Even if there was a quality replacement out there, the Falcons only have about $1 million in salary-cap room, so they likely would have to restructure contracts. I'm sure the Falcons will look to see what comes available, but the chances are better, the new nickel back will come from the current roster.

“It’s the next-man-up mentality,'' coach Mike Smith said. "That’s the way you have to approach it. There are a number of guys who have play time on our roster right now. It’s something that as a coaching staff we’ll put together what we feel is the best plan in terms of how we will configure out nickel package. That’s the biggest thing we’ll have to do.”

But the problem with the next-man-up mentality is that the next two guys in line have been with the Falcons and never have really blossomed. They have Christopher Owens and Dominique Franks, who haven't prospered in the past when given playing time at cornerback. Franks was even released at the end of the preseason, but was re-signed. The Falcons also are carrying Robert McClain this year, but I don't know that he's ready for extensive playing time.

The Falcons likely will throw Owens out there and hope the light suddenly comes on and he performs better than he has in the past.

Dominique Franks back with Falcons

September, 6, 2012
Dominique Franks, a somewhat surprising cut by the Atlanta Falcons last week, is back with the team.

The Falcons just announced they have re-signed Franks, a cornerback and punt returner and waived/injured wide receiver Tim Toone.

Franks had a strong preseason as a punt returner and appeared to have won that job. He also seemed to be in the competition for the fourth cornerback job with Christopher Owens. But, once Owens got healthy, it became obvious that the Falcons believe his cover skills are better than Franks’. They released Franks last Friday and planned to go with receiver Harry Douglas as their punt returner.

But I think there’s at least a decent chance we could see Franks as the punt returner.




Sunday, 2/2