3 Biggest Winners and Losers of Atlanta Falcons OTAs, so Far
The Atlanta Falcons are in the midst of their second set of OTAs this offseason. The obvious winners and losers from the Falcons camp have been identified and include Michael Turner, Lamar Holmes, Corey Peters, Asante Samuel and Julio Jones.
The Falcons will enjoy having a chance to get a quick look at their talent before hitting training camp in a few weeks. The OTAs will also allow the team to get into the new playbooks a bit more under guidance from the coaches.
Loser No. 3: Veteran RB Michael Turner
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Michael Turner is going to have a much smaller role in 2012 with the upgrade of the screen game and the emergence of Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling. Under new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, the Falcons will be relying on Turner as the grinder on first and second downs.
Michael Turner is going to be a serious disappointment. It's true, Turner has been one of the better running backs in fantasy land for the better part of the last four years. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. I think that end comes in 2012 for Turner, who has carried the football 300-plus times in three of the last four seasons. He also turned 30 earlier this year -- that's the age where countless other running backs before him have broken down. Falcons coach Mike Smith has hinted at reducing Turner's role this season, so fantasy owners could see more of Jason Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers on offense.
Turner will not have 300 carries this year, however, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him have 225 to 230 carries for around 800 yards and another 15 to 20 catches for around 150 yards. He should have a solid season in terms of touchdowns, but this will be the first season of the true decline for Turner.
Loser No. 2: Rookie OT Lamar Holmes
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Lamar Holmes is the Falcons third-round pick from the 2012 draft. However, he has been battling a toe injury and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's D. Orlando Ledbetter quoted coach Mike Smith on June 6th as saying:
“Lamar Holmes will not participate in the rest of the offseason program,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said after Wednesday’s non-contact drills. “We are going to be very precautionary.”
Even though he hasn't been participating, he has still been present paying attention to new offensive line coach Pat Hill's guidance on how to be a tackle. However, it's very unlikely for Holmes to end up starting unless he is just dominant in training camp and is too good to not keep on the field.
Loser No. 1: Veteran DT Corey Peters
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D. Orlando Ledbetter from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on June 1st that:
Falcons starting defensive tackle Corey Peters suffered a foot injury this offseason and is expected back by the start of training camp, according to the team.
It's unfortunate that a starting defensive tackle has been hurt and will be missing the OTAs this year. However, Corey Peters is one of those that is entrenched into his starting spot. But by missing OTAs, he is a bit behind the curve learning the new defense.
Mike Nolan still believes in the rotational principles that have been dominating the defensive line and will be bringing heavy doses of Peria Jerry and the winner of the Robertson/Walker battle off the bench and into games as the wave defensive tackles.
Winner No. 3: The Falcons' Screen Game
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The Falcons had one of the worst screen games in the NFL in 2011, and it was a big reason as to why they couldn't stop the pass rush of the New York Giants. The screen game helps neutralize pass rush by not allowing defensive linemen to pin their ears back.
One of the biggest excuses in 2011 was that the Falcons didn't have the proper offensive linemen to run screens as much as they should have been. However, AtlantaFalcons.com's Daniel Cox quoted long time starting center Todd McClure as saying when asked about the screen game:
“I think our offense could really benefit from it this year,” McClure said. “I think some in the past if it didn’t work early we’d tend to get away from it or didn’t do it at all. That was the first things when this offensive staff came is they said we’re going to be a great screen team.”
And the Falcons definitely should have some interesting screens. With some very talented running backs who can catch out of the backfield and great blocking wide receivers, it wouldn't be shocking to see multiple screens on the same drive for Atlanta this year.
Winner No. 2: Veteran CB Asante Samuel
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The Falcons added more than just one of the best corners in the NFL when they brought in Asante Samuel in exchange for a ham sandwich a few days before the draft. They brought in someone with excellent swagger.
Samuel was playing with Matt Ryan early on asking for him to throw the ball towards him during the first OTA. However, even more exciting than his swagger is the versatility he provides. Samuel still doesn't have a set position according to a report by NFL.com's Aditi Kinkhabwala:
The specifics of who plays where (and when) have yet to be hammered out. Coach Mike Smith was purposefully vague Tuesday, noting that Samuel played at left corner and right corner before adding that he allows Atlanta "a lot of flexibility."
It wouldn't be surprising to see the Falcons start the year out with Samuel and Grimes as the starting corners but expect them to match the best corner to each receiver and play to the matchups much more than to the side of the field in the 2012 season.
Winner No. 1: Second-Year WR Julio Jones
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Julio Jones was one of the best rookies in the NFL in the 2011 season but he made a big change before the season; he shaved off his dreads. NBC Sports' Mike Florio talked about why Julio Jones underwent the makeover:
Jones donated his dreads to a charity that makes wigs for children with cancer. “We do a lot of community service here, and from going to a lot of hospitals and seeing all the kids who are fans of mine, I just cut my hair and donated it for leukemia patients,” Jones said.
It's great seeing that Julio has welcomed the pious attitudes that Arthur Blank wants his players to have. However, the loss of the dreadlocks means more than just helping a kid with an awesome wig. It will mean that Jones will have an extra bit of speed for the 2012 season.
With a faster, healthier Jones, the Falcons could have the strongest passing attack in the NFL in 2012. Add in that Jones finally has a full NFL offseason under his belt and a year of working with Ryan, and the arrow is only pointing higher and higher for the second-year player.