ATLANTA (AP) -- The Atlanta Falcons have been looking far and
wide for a young kicker who won't count too much against the salary
They may have found him -- and he's already on the payroll.
Michael Koenen, who handled the punting and kickoff duties as a
rookie last season, appears ready to take on another job after
booting four long field goals Friday night, including a 40-yarder
as time ran out for a 26-23 preseason victory over the New England
Coach Jim Mora said he doesn't want to overwork Koenen, but he
had to be impressed with the youngster's performance. The Falcons
already dumped two kickers over the summer and two more in training
camp, leaving Koenen and Tony Yelk.
Yelk booted an extra point and handled three kickoffs, but
Koenen did the rest. He also kicked field goals of 44, 45 and 50
yards, averaged 44 yards on four punts and kicked off three times.
"I have reservations about it," Mora said. "I can't say he
won the job. I liked what I saw tonight, but I'm concerned about
having a guy do all three jobs. I'll take another week or so to see
how he is, see how he feels. The last thing I want to do is wear
him out. But with his ability to affect the game, like he did
tonight, it's something we have to think long and hard about."
If Koenen is able to handle triple-duty this season, it would
give the Falcons an extra roster spot and free up more cap room to
bring in a player who can bulk up the interior of the defensive
line. Chad Lavalais, last year's starter at nose tackle, has fallen
out of favor and played sparingly in the preseason opener.
"I've got to take care of my body," Koenen said. "I'm just as
worried about it as they are. But if it happens, awesome."
Rookie quarterback D.J. Shockley, who grew up in suburban
Atlanta and played for the Georgia Bulldogs, thrilled the home fans
with an impressive debut in the fourth quarter.
Cheered on with barks from fans who remember him leading Georgia
to the Southeastern Conference title last season, Shockley guided
the Falcons on a 14-play, 56-yard drive in the final 2:06. The
biggest play was a 14-yard pass to Kevin Youngblood, who made a
leaping catch over the middle. After a spike and a short run,
Koenen trotted on the field and kicked the winning field goal.
Shockley completed 4 of 10 passes for 40 yards, his percentage
hurt by a couple of clock-stopping spikes on the final drive. He
also ran twice for 12 yards.
"I wondered if I would be nervous," Shockley said. "I was
Another Falcons rookie got off to a rousing start. Third-round
pick Jerious Norwood turned two short passes into long gains,
fitting right in with a team that already has Warrick Dunn and T.J.
Norwood rambled 37 yards down the right sideline after hauling
in a pass from No. 2 quarterback Matt Schaub. Then, with the third
quarter winding down, he grabbed a pass from Bryan Randall and went
34 yards for a touchdown, making a great move to lose one defender
and then turning on the speed.
"Whatever it takes," Norwood said. "If I have to run over
somebody, I'll do that. If I have to juke somebody, I'll do that."
Vick, who broke his leg in a 2003 preseason game, ran only one
series for the Falcons. He completed 3 of 4 passes for 26 yards and
broke off a 16-yard run that put Atlanta in position for Koenen's
first field goal.
Brady also played one series, completing three straight passes
for 24 yards before an incompletion at the Atlanta 7. The Patriots
got the first of three field goals. Martin Gramatica, seeking to
replace Adam Vinatieri, made kicks of 26 and 30 yards. The other
candidate, Stephen Gostowski, made a 34-yarder.
Matt Cassel went the rest of the way at quarterback for New
England, trying to show he's ready to be Brady's backup. Cassel was
the Patriots' third-stringer last season and he barely played at
Southern California, where he was stuck behind Heisman Trophy
winners Carson Palmer and Matt Leinert.
Cassel was stripped of the ball on his first possession, but
also threw a 57-yard touchdown pass to Patrick Cobbs.
In the fourth quarter, Cassel directed drives of 80 and 77 yards
that helped the Patriots overcome a 10-point deficit. He finished
13 of 26 for 229 yards.
"I need a play a lot better," Cassel said. "I left a lot of
throws out there."
The Patriots didn't have many of their biggest stars. LB
Tedy Bruschi is expected to miss the entire preseason and maybe
longer after undergoing wrist surgery. DL Richard Seymour, S Rodney
Harrison and TE Daniel Graham are nursing injuries. WR Deion Branch
is holding out for a new contract. ... Atlanta LB Keith Brooking
went out in the first quarter with a sprained right ankle. He
ESPN Browns reporter Pat McManamon explains that perennial Pro Bowl tackle knows the wear and tear on his body; if he needs a day off in OTAs and during the season, Cleveland Browns are wise to give it to him.
DeSean Jackson has missed too many voluntary workouts to collect his $500,000 bonus, but Washington isn't concerned about his absences.
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck tried his hand at auto racing on Wednesday, doing a few laps with former Indy 500 champion Mario Andretti.
Broncos offensive lineman Ty Sambrailo will get a shot at guard this season, but the coaches know he also has the ability to play tackle.
New York Jets DT Sheldon Richardson is keeping a positive attitude regarding his offseason workouts and possible discipline from the NFL.
ESPN Jets reporter Rich Cimini says that with Ryan Fitzpatrick still unsigned, Geno Smith led the first-team offense and looked sharp on Wednesday and Smith said he sees this as an opportunity.