Atlanta Falcons Complete 2012 NFL Preseason and Training Camp Guide

Scott Carasik@ScottCarasikContributor IIJuly 20, 2012

Atlanta Falcons Complete 2012 NFL Preseason and Training Camp Guide

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    The Atlanta Falcons begin training camp on July 26, 2012. They will kick it off in Flowery Branch, GA at the Falcons' facilities. This guide will go over the Falcons' training camp activities this year.

    It will provide the biggest questions going into camp, who is on the roster bubble and the best players to watch during the preseason. It will also provide the best camp battles and all information needed to attend camp. 

    After that, there is information as far as the training camp roster, rookies both drafted and undrafted and the biggest acquisitions from the offseason. It will finish up with game-by-game predictions for the preseason and the final projection of the 53-man roster.

The Biggest Questions Heading into Camp

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    The Falcons, for the most part, are very well put together as a team. They know who their top players are and what the main strengths are. However, there are some questions that could determine just how far the Falcons will go this season.


    How well will Dirk Koetter and Mike Nolan fit into the Falcons' dynamic?

    Former coordinators Brian Van Gorder and Mike Mularkey were known more as primary disciplinarians. However, Koetter and Nolan are known more for their professionalism and relaxed approaches. How will this meld into the Falcons' current chemistry?


    Who will be starting on the offensive line?

    Mike Smith has said there would be competition all across the offensive line, and it's hard to not believe it after how poorly they played in the passing game. Clabo and Blalock should easily win the right tackle and left guard spots, but who starts along the other three spots?


    How much of the screen game should be expected?

    Under Mike Mularkey, the Falcons ran little to no screen plays and were last in the league in screen attempts. Dirk Koetter is saying he will bring quite a bit more screens to the offense, but the question is whether the Falcons will have it as heavily incorporated as the Jaguars did.


    How will the offensive line adjust to the new style Pat Hill brings?

    Paul Boudreau is much like Mularkey or Van Gorder where Hill is similar to Koetter and Nolan. How the group of big nasties conforms to his style after having multiple disciplinarians coach them is a huge question for 2012.


    Will Koetter's offense allow the Falcons to realize their true potential?

    Everyone is wondering whether why the Falcons hired the guy who led Jacksonville to the worst offense in the league in 2011. The biggest question here is how he will design the offense around the team as opposed to how Mularkey tried to fit the team to his offense.


    Will Nolan bring the aggressive element that the Falcons have been lacking?

    Van Gorder was many things. He was a solid schemer and a good motivator. However, he was considered conservative, and his third-down defenses were awfully done. Nolan is known as an aggressive coach, and the question is whether the Falcons will incorporate this element or stay conservative.


    Will the defensive line continue to have a heavy rotation?

    Nolan isn't known for heavy defensive line rotations; however, that is more because of his recent history as a 3-4 coach. It will be interesting to see how he will incorporate the idea that Smith likes of a heavy defensive-line rotation.


    Who will end up as the starting middle linebacker, replacing Lofton?

    Akeem Dent and Lofa Tatupu are challenged with the task of replacing a fringe Pro Bowl-caliber player. However, one is very inexperienced and one is a former Pro Bowler beset by injuries. It will be interesting to see if the Falcons decide whether or not to rotate both or to just stick with the winner of this battle.


    Where will the pass rush come from outside of Abraham?

    John Abraham is one of the best pass-rushers in the NFL. However, the Falcons need to get pressure from players outside of him. The big question here is who will bring the pressure and whether it will be coming from blitzes or pure four man rushes with interesting personnel groups.


    Who will win the return jobs?

    Eric Weems left for the Chicago Bears, and when he did, the Falcons lost their preferred return specialist. Now the Falcons have multiple players competing for both return jobs, and whoever wins these jobs will be under pressure to at least replicate Weems' production.

Players on the Roster Bubble

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    There are quite a few players who need to step up in camp; otherwise they will be cut. There are some big names, and it's safe to say there are only about 25-30 players guaranteed roster spots right now for the Falcons. The following are players on the roster bubble:


    QB John Parker Wilson

    Wilson will have to compete with Redman for the second quarterback job. His inability to earn the backup quarterback job, though, would lead to him getting cut from the 53-man roster and likely wind up back on the practice squad.


    RB Antone Smith

    Antone Smith will have to earn his spot back as a reserve running back and special teams player. Should the Falcons go with six wide receivers instead of five, they would cut an extra running back, and Smith would be the last man cut.


    RB Dimitri Nance

    Nance was Koetter's feature back when he was the head coach at Arizona State. He could end up earning a roster spot as the fourth running back for the Falcons. He would have to usurp Antone Smith with better special teams play, though.


    FB Mike Cox

    Cox is a backup fullback. It's not a position that is in vogue for teams in the NFL to have as the reliance on fullbacks has diminished greatly. Cox will have to beat our Bradie Ewing to be the starter in order to save his job.


    WR James Rodgers

    James Rodgers is the brother of backup running back Jacquizz Rodgers. He has the same kind of versatility as a return candidate, wide receiver and running back. He will have to prove his mettle on special teams in order to earn the fifth wide receiver role.


    WR Kevin Cone

    Kevin Cone is the incumbent as the fifth best wide receiver. Should the Falcons keep six wide receivers on the 53-man roster in 2012, expect Cone to be one of them. His size and speed combination is great. Playing in the option system at Georgia Tech has left him raw as a receiver, though.


    TE Adam Nissley

    The Falcons have a decision to make with their backup tight end behind Palmer and Gonzalez. They have to decide whether they want a primary blocker or a primary receiver. If they choose a primary blocker, Nissley is the ideal player.


    TE LaMark Brown

    Should the Falcons choose that they want a primary receiver for their third tight end spot, LaMark Brown has the edge. He's a former running back and wide receiver and can line up anywhere around the formations, giving him an edge over others like Aron White.


    OT Sam Baker

    Sam Baker is awful in pass protection. His ability as a run blocker is quite a bit better, but with the Falcons' new offense, he would be in pass protection even more. Expect the fifth-year tackle from Southern California to end up on the waiver wire unless he can show that he is worth a roster spot in training camp.


    OL Garrett Reynolds

    Hard to believe there is another starting lineman from last year on this list, but Reynolds is here. He is very solid possible depth at both guard positions and at right tackle. But he could be just worse than former third-rounder Mike Johnson at guard and slightly worse than Andrew Jackson at right tackle.


    OG Andrew Jackson

    Andrew Jackson can play any position on the offensive line outside of left tackle. He's got the versatility and size that new line coach Pat Hill loves and was one of Hill's students back when they were both in the college game.


    OG Vince Manuwai

    Manuwai was an under-the-radar signing, but he will have to prove himself to earn another roster spot. He will have to beat out multiple talents and is looking more like a camp player this year than someone who was signed for a roster spot.


    DT Travian Robertson

    Robertson is an ideal player for Nolan's scheme. Should Nolan keep just four defensive tackles, he could be the odd man out. Robertson would head right to the practice squad though and should provide depth should an injury arise at defensive tackle in 2012.


    DT Vance Walker

    Walker has been an excellent contributor for the Falcons, but at $1.26 million, is he worth the salary difference over Robertson? He will have to prove that he is in training camp. Should Walker lost to Robertson, it wouldn't surprise anyone to see him picked up quickly by another NFL team.


    DE Cliff Matthews

    The Falcons are looking likely to keep six defensive ends. and between Matthews and Nzegwu, they have some excellent options. It will all come down to who can play linebacker in the nickel packages better. Matthews, at worst, should end up on the Falcons' practice squad as he still has his full eligibility.


    DE Louis Nzegwu

    Nzegwu is the epitome of a complete physical talent that could end up as a star in the NFL. However, he will have to take all of his insane physical tools and use them to turn into a top pass-rusher instead of the completely raw player he is now.


    LB Robert James

    James was a fifth-round pick in 2008 and has yet to truly contribute to the team. He isn't a great fit for the middle linebacker spot as he is too small and he will have to beat out multiple players for the backup role at weak-side linebacker.


    CB Darrin Walls

    Walls is the current incumbent for sixth best cornerback. However, should the Falcons carry just five corners, Walls will be off the 53-man roster and become a prime candidate for the practice squad. He could also lose his spot to one of the multiple undrafted free agent corner signings this offseason.


    CB Marty Markett

    Marty Markett is the ideal player to overtake Darrin Walls for the sixth corner spot. He has the physicality that would allow him to possibly become depth at both safety and corner. He also has the same kind of athleticism that Brent Grimes has.


    S Shann Schillinger

    Shann Schillinger is a good special teams player, but unless the Falcons keep five safeties, it seems as if he will be out of the job in favor of Charles Mitchell. Schillinger isn't a great fit for the safety role in the NFL and is looking like a career special teams player.


    S Charles Mitchell

    Mitchell is very good for the defense as he can provide depth to both safety spots. He also can contribute on special teams as a gunner. Should he provide an upgrade to Schillinger on special teams, he will be the fourth best safety on the roster.

Players to Watch

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    As the preseason kicks off, there are quite a few players to watch in new roles for the Falcons. The top additions in Tatupu and Samuel will create some interest in the defense. The battle along the offensive line is going to be interesting to watch as well. The following players are the ones to watch this preseason:


    RB Jacquizz Rodgers

    The new screen game will make Rodgers fun to watch. Expect the Falcons to showcase this in the preseason by giving the fans a healthy dose of the diminutive back. Rodgers will also line up outside and his all-around versatility makes him a weapon.


    RB Jason Snelling

    He's bumbling, rumbling, stumbling as Chris Berman would say. Snelling is a big back who has the receiving and blocking abilities that most teams look for in their starting backs. Snelling always gets a lot of carries in preseason.


    WR Harry Douglas

    Douglas will be competing for the starting role as a return specialist. He also will be reprising his role as the primary slot receiver. He was fun to watch last year with 176 yards on nine catches for two touchdowns in the preseason.


    WR Kerry Meier

    Meier was compared to Brian Finneran by Falcons fans when he was drafted. It's not a surprise that this year his role will be very similar to what Finneran played in 2010 as a third-down receiver, special teams player and red-zone threat.


    WR James Rodgers

    Rodgers is something Falcons fans should get used to seeing on the guys catching and running with the ball. James and Jacquizz are both going to be used quite a bit in the preseason. Expect the team to use both at the same time in certain formations.


    TE Michael Palmer

    Palmer is always an interesting player to watch. It will be fun to see just how well he assimilates into a new scheme. He won't be used as a primary blocker anymore as his receiving abilities have gotten quite a bit better.


    OT Lamar Holmes

    This will be the first look that fans have of the hulking tackle. Should he show that he is a top-notch pass protector that the team thinks he can be, fans will enjoy seeing him covering Ryan's blind-side on those crucial passing plays.


    OG Peter Konz

    Falcons fans who loved Harvey Dahl will love Peter Konz. Konz is going to remind them of a slightly heavier, stronger Dahl. It's something the team has needed, and with Konz earning a spot at right guard, the Falcons will be better off long term.


    OL Joe Hawley

    Hawley is an interesting player. He was solid at center before injury situations led to him shifting to right guard. He isn't ideal for right guard and should be the long-term center for the Falcons. His technique is solid, and at center, he won't have to take on the bigger, stronger defensive tackles one-on-one as much.


    OT Sam Baker

    Baker is someone who needs to be watched because the coaching staff seems to think he can bounce back. However, he will have to prove that he can block someone in the preseason. Baker just doesn't have the talent that coaches thought he had.


    DE Lawrence Sidbury

    Sidbury is someone that will benefit from the new scheme. Much like Cameron Wake from the Dolphins, Sidbury is an unheralded and highly productive pass-rusher despite limited sacks. Nolan will fall in love with him and get him on the field for more snaps.


    DE Ray Edwards

    Edwards was a slight disappointment last season getting just 3.5 sacks. However, with the knee injury that he has recovered from and the new scheme from Nolan that doesn't drop ends into coverage, expect him to be much better in 2012.


    DT Peria Jerry

    Jerry has been a complete disappointment for Atlanta as a first-round pick. Corey Peters has been able to take over the spot that Jerry was supposed to man. Jerry will have to show people in the preseason that he isn't the same kind of bust that Sam Baker is.


    LB Akeem Dent

    Dent is going to have to prove his worth in the middle of the defense. He should be up to the challenge, though, and Falcons fans will get their first look at the linebacker that drew comparisons to Curtis Lofton before the 2011 draft.


    LB Lofa Tatupu

    Tatupu's knees are why he makes the list here. He needs to show in preseason that he is completely recovered from his injury and back to his Pro Bowl form. If he can't show the same talent he had before, expect him to be a reserve to Akeem Dent in 2012.


    LB Sean Weatherspoon

    Who doesn't want to watch Weatherspoon fly around and hit people? It will be interesting to see if he has continued his improvements in coverage. Weatherspoon is very close to becoming the best weak-side linebacker in the NFC south since Derrick Brooks.


    CB Asante Samuel

    After getting him for a couple of hot dogs and a nice cold beer, Falcons fans will love to see what he brings as a starting corner. Samuel is a true ball hawk and will provide some fireworks all throughout the preseason and season this year.


    CB Dunta Robinson

    Robinson has been wanting to play the nickel for the past few years as a way to help the team. He is the best fit for the nickel cornerback on the team and can provide some excellent play from there. Falcons fans will get to see him play the role for the first time since he came to Atlanta before the 2010 season.


    CB Dominique Franks

    Franks is another one who will compete at the return positions. He has solid ability to play outside corner and he will compete for a nickel-and-dime spot at corner behind Robinson, Samuel and Grimes. Falcons fans will get to see him attempt to win one of the return spots in 2012.


    S Chris Hope

    He was brought in to provide depth behind the pairing of Thomas Decoud and William Moore. He can play either spot, but in preseason, Falcons fans can see whether he is an improvement over James Sanders or just a retread that will be coming in for training camp.

2012's Best Depth Chart Battles

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    Training camp is the perfect time for camp battles of all types. The best ones to watch will be on defense and the offensive line. There are at least eight starting spots that will be up for grabs in camp and quite a few contributing spots up for grabs. The following are the training camp battles to watch for 2012:


    Backup Quarterback: Chris Redman vs. John Parker Wilson

    Redman and Wilson are battling for the backup role at quarterback this year. Redman has the edge. Wilson could not just earn the job by beating Redman but also take his roster spot. The Falcons only carried two quarterbacks on the roster last season.


    Starting Fullback: Bradie Ewing vs. Mike Cox

    Bradie Ewing was drafted in the fifth round to replace Ovie Mughelli as the starting fullback and save the Falcons a good bit in terms of the cap. However, he has to beat out Mike Cox to win the starting spot at fullback first.


    No. 5 (and possibly No. 6) Wide Receiver: James Rodgers vs. Michael Calvin vs. Kevin Cone vs. Drew Davis vs. Kenny Stafford vs. Marcus Jackson

    This is the most interesting battle  on the Falcons roster for training camp. There is essentially one spot for these six gentlemen to fight over. Every single one of them has a different style of play and size/speed combination to create a matchup that might end up with two winners.


    No. 2 and No. 3 Tight End: Michael Palmer vs. LaMark Brown vs. Adam Nissley vs. Tommy Gallarda vs. Aron White

    The Falcons like to keep at least two backups for future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez. Michael Palmer is essentially guaranteed a spot, but he could end up losing it in training camp if he regresses. The other spot is likely going to be a H-back receiving and matchup issue type who can help on special teams.


    Starting Left Tackle: Sam Baker vs. Will Svitek vs. Lamar Holmes

    Sam Baker has been terrible for the Falcons in his career and needs to be replaced. Svitek deserves to start as he was very solid last year. The wild card is rookie third-round pick Lamar Holmes as he has the size, strength, drive and intelligence to steal the starting spot.


    Starting Center: Todd McClure vs. Joe Hawley

    The classic battle of wily veteran versus young promising player takes place here at the keystone of the Falcons offensive line. Hawley looks to have an advantage over McClure, but don't count out the man who has defied the odds the past 11 years to hold onto the starting job.


    Starting Right Guard: Peter Konz vs. Mike Johnson vs. Garrett Reynolds vs. Vince Manuwai

    This is where things get interesting on the offensive line. Garrett Reynolds has been taking first-team snaps, but expect that to change once the preseason starts. Konz and Johnson are the two best fits for the job and should be able to win the main roles at starting right guard and reserve swing guard.


    No. 5 Defensive End: Jonathan Massaquoi vs. Cliff Matthews vs. Louis Nzegwu

    The Falcons are likely to just keep five defensive ends in the rotation for game days. Massaquoi was a fifth-round pick due to his pass-rushing prowess, but Matthews could sneak up on people as the coaching staff loves him. Nzegwu has the physical tools but is extremely raw as an athlete and pass-rusher.


    No. 3 and No. 4 Defensive Tackle: Travian Robertson vs. Peria Jerry vs. Vance Walker vs. Micanor Regis

    Vance Walker and Peria Jerry are the incumbents, but Travian Robertson fits the style of defensive tackle that Nolan likes better. Nolan prefers bigger, stronger players who can also rush the passer, and Robertson is ideal for that. Whoever loses between Jerry, Robertson and Walker will be kicked to the curb after training camp.


    Starting Middle Linebacker: Akeem Dent vs. Lofa Tatupu

    Middle linebacker is the most important position on defense, and it needs to be manned by the right guy. The Falcons are lucky enough to have two of the right guys, and this battle could end up taking up most of the season. 


    Reserve Outside Linebackers: Spencer Adkins vs. Robert James vs. Rico Council vs. Max Gruder vs. Jerrell Harris vs. Pat Schiller

    After Sean Weatherspoon and Stephen Nicholas, the Falcons don't have anyone set in stone for depth at the position. These six linebackers will be competing for two spots, and the battle should come down to the final game of the preseason.


    No. 5 and No. 6 Cornerback: Chris Owens vs. Darrin Walls vs. Peyton Thompson vs. Marty Markett vs. Robert McClain

    Chris Owens seemingly should be the No. 5 corner almost guaranteed and could even compete for the No. 4 corner role. However, the four guys competing for the No. 6 cornerback spot could be experiencing an exercise in futility as the Falcons could wind up keeping just five corners.


    No. 4 Safety: Charles Mitchell vs. Shann Schillinger vs. Chad Faulcon vs. Suaesi Tuimaunei

    Safety has three spots completely set in Thomas Decoud, William Moore and the newly acquired Chris Hope. Expect the Falcons to have the best special teams player of this group win the spot as the fourth best safety. Don't put it past Atlanta to keep five safeties on the roster, though.


    Starting Punt Returner: Harry Douglas vs. Dominique Franks vs. James Rodgers

    Losing Eric Weems hurts, but the Falcons could wind up with a better return man in 2012. Harry Douglas was the punt returner the latter part of the 2008 season, and in just 19 returns, he averaged 11.9 yards and even scored a touchdown. He should have the edge as the punt returner for 2012.


    Starting Kick Returner: Harry Douglas vs. Dominique Franks vs. James Rodgers vs. Antone Smith

    Kick returner is a different story than punt returner. While Weems was excellent, the Falcons have multiple players who can end up better. All four players listed were return specialists in college and will have to compete for the playing time as the game-changing return men.

Full Atlanta Falcons Training Camp and Preseason Schedule

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    The Falcons have their training camp this year on July 26 and will conclude on August 19. They also have the standard slate of four preseason games and will have to use this time to gel.

    Special thanks to the Atlanta Falcons official website for posting the training camp schedule listed below online.


    Russell Athletic Atlanta Falcons Training Camp

    Gates for open sessions will open one hour before the scheduled practice time

    Thursday, July 26

    Walk-Through 10:40-11:25 a.m. (closed to the public)

    Practice 3:30-5:50 p.m. (open to the public)

    Friday, July 27

    Walk-Through 10:40-11:25 a.m. (closed to the public)

    Practice 3:30-5:50 p.m. (open to the public)

    Saturday, July 28

    Walk-Through 10:40-11:25 a.m. (closed to the public)

    Practice 3:30-6:05 p.m. (open to the public)

    Sunday, July 29

    Practice 3:30-6:05 p.m. (open to the public)

    Monday, July 30

    Walk-Through 10:40-11:25 a.m. (closed to the public)

    Practice 3:30-6:05 p.m. (open to the public)

    Tuesday, July 31

    Walk-Through 10:40-11:25 a.m. (closed to the public)

    Practice 3:30-6:05 p.m. (open to the public)

    Thursday, August 2

    Walk-Through 10:40-11:25 a.m. (closed to the public)

    Practice 3:30-6:05 p.m. (open to the public)

    Friday, August 3

    Walk-Through 10:40-11:25 a.m. (closed to the public)

    Practice 6:45-9:10 p.m. (Kia Motors Friday Night Lights, open to the public; Peachtree Ridge High School, Suwanee, Ga.)

    Sunday, August 5

    Walk-Through 10:40-11:25 a.m. (closed to the public)

    Practice 3:30-5:50 p.m. (open to the public)

    Monday, August 6

    Walk-Through 11:10-11:55 a.m. (closed to the public)

    Practice 4:30-7:15 p.m. (open to the public; combined practice with Tennessee Titans; Coahulla Creek High School, Dalton, Ga.)

    Tuesday, August 7

    Walk-Through 10:40-11:25 a.m. (closed to the public)

    Practice 3:30-6:05 p.m. (open to the public)

    Wednesday, August 8

    8:50-10:50 a.m. (closed to the public)

    Saturday, August 11

    Walk-Through 10:40-11:25 a.m. (closed to the public)

    Practice 3:30-6:05 p.m. (open to the public)

    Sunday, August 12 (Final day of practice open to the public)

    Walk-Through 10:40-11:25 a.m. (closed to the public)

    Practice 3:30-6:05 p.m. (open to the public)

    Monday, August 13

    Practice 3:30-6:05 p.m. (closed to the public)

    Tuesday, August 14

    Walk-Through 10:40-11:25 a.m. (closed to the public)

    Practice 3:30-5:50 p.m. (closed to the public)

    Saturday, August 18

    Walk-Through 10:40-11:25 a.m. (closed to the public)

    Practice 3:30-6:05 p.m. (closed to the public)

    Sunday, August 19

    Practice 10:15-11:45 a.m. (closed to the public)


    The Falcons Preseason Schedule

    Baltimore Ravens

    Date and Time: August 9 at 7:30 PM

    Location: Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia


    Cincinnati Bengals

    Date and Time: August 16 at 8:00 PM

    Location: Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia


    Miami Dolphins

    Date and Time: August 24 at 7:30 PM

    Location: SunLife Stadium in Miami, Florida


    Jacksonville Jaguars

    Date and Time: August 30 at 6:30 PM

    Location: EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Florida

Atlanta Falcons Training Camp Info

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    The Atlanta Falcons begin training camp on July 26, 2012. They will kick it off in Flowery Branch, GA at the Falcons' facilities. This guide will go over the Falcons' training camp activities this year.

    It will provide the biggest questions going into camp, who is on the roster bubble and the best players to watch during the preseason. It will also provide the best camp battles and all information needed to attend camp. 

    After that, there is information as far as the training camp roster, rookies both drafted and undrafted and the biggest acquisitions from the offseason. It will finish up with game-by-game predictions for the preseason and the final projection of the 53-man roster.

Full Atlanta Falcons Camp Roster

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    The Falcons have 90 players in camp for the first time in history. The following is the Falcons' 2012 training camp roster (alphabetical by position):

    Quarterbacks: Dominique Davis, Matt Ryan, Chris Redman, John Parker Wilson

    Running Backs: Robbie Frey, Dmitri Nance, Jacquizz Rodgers, Antone Smith, Jason Snelling, Michael Turner

    Fullbacks: Mike Cox, Bradie Ewing, Lee Meisner

    Wide Receivers: Michael Calvin, Kevin Cone, Drew Davis, Harry Douglas, Marcus Jackson, Julio Jones, Kerry Meier, James Rodgers, Kenny Stafford, Roddy White

    Tight Ends: Lamark Brown, Tommy Gallarda, Tony Gonzalez, Adam Nissley, Michael Palmer, Aron White

    Tackles: Sam Baker, Tyson Clabo, Bryce Harris, Lamar Holmes, Andrew Jackson, Will Svitek

    Guards: Justin Blalock, Mike Johnson, Peter Konz, Phillipkeith Manley, Vince Manuwai, Garrett Reynolds

    Centers: Joe Hawley, Tyler Horn, Todd McClure

    Defensive Ends: John Abraham, Kroy Biermann, Ray Edwards, Jonathan Massaquoi, Cliff Matthews, Louis Nzegwu, Lawrence Sidbury

    Defensive Tackles: Jonathan Babineaux, Peria Jerry, Corey Peters, Micanor Regis, Travian Robertson, Vance Walker

    Linebackers: Spencer Adkins, Rico Council, Akeem Dent, Max Gruder, Jerrell Harris, Robert James, Stephen Nicholas, Lofa Tatupu, Pat Schiller, Sean Weatherspoon

    Cornerbacks: Dominique Franks, Brent Grimes, Marty Markett, Robert McClain, Chris Owens, Dunta Robinson, Asante Samuel, Peyton Thompson, Darrin Walls

    Safeties: Thomas Decoud, Chad Faulcon, Chris Hope, Charles Mitchell, William Moore, Shann Schillinger, Suaesi Tuimaunei

    Kickers: Matt Bryant, Erik Folk

    Punters: Matt Bosher, Dawson Zimmerman

    Long Snappers: Josh Harris, Joe Zelenka

Atlanta Falcons' 2012 Rookie Class

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    The Falcons didn't have their full arsenal of picks in this year's draft. However, a trade for Asante Samuel and Julio Jones has already paid dividends. They did receive an additional seventh-round compensatory pick this year as well as picked up a pick from a third round trade. Here is the Falcons' 2012 rookie class:


    Secon- Round Pick, No. 55 overall: Offensive Guard/Center Peter Konz

    Peter Konz was the best center in the 2012 draft for sure. However, he was also the second best guard in the 2012 draft as well. He will likely be the starting right guard for the Falcons in 2012 and should be able to provide the kind of push and pass protection needed at the spot.


    Third-Round Pick, No. 91 overall: Offensive Tackle Lamar Holmes

    Lamar Holmes was drafted with the intent of having him play left tackle long term. While Sam Baker has been a complete and utter bust, Holmes is much better as a pass protector coming in. He's still very raw, though, and could spend much of 2012 on the bench and as a sixth offensive lineman in those sets.


    Fifth-Round Pick, No. 158 overall: Fullback Bradie Ewing

    Bradie Ewing was drafted to come in and start at fullback. His talent level is right up there with what the Falcons had in Ovie Mughelli as a blocker, but his receiving skill is much better. He should be able to contribute in the running game similar to Bob Christian as well.


    Fifth-Round Pick, No. 164 overall: Defensive End Jonathan Massaquoi

    Massaquoi is a true pass-rusher from Troy in Alabama. He went to high school in Georgia, though, and fits in well as a rotational option. He is very reminiscent of Kroy Biermann coming out of college as he can play both the 3-4 OLB and 4-3 pass rushing rotational DE. He should make the roster without question.


    Sixth-Round Pick, No. 192 overall: Safety Charles Mitchell

    Charles Mitchell is one of the fringe players that should be able to make the roster. He is easily the fourth best safety on the roster behind Thomas Decoud, William Moore and Chris Hope. Mitchell will have to prove his value as a special teams ace in order to solidify that spot.


    Seventh-Round Pick, No. 249 overall: Defensive Tackle Travian Robertson

    Travian Robertson is a bit of a wild card. His size and strength is something that the Falcons haven't had in the middle of the defense since Grady Jackson left after the 2008 campaign. Robertson has the same kind of build and will be able to possibly steal a roster spot from the more established Vance Walker. 

Atlanta Falcons' 2012 Undrafted Free Agents

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    Atlanta decided to sign 25 undrafted free agents between when the draft was finished to before training camp, and with the injury to Matt Hansen, expect the Falcons to possibly even bring in another. The following 25 guys are the Falcons' undrafted free agents:


    Quarterback Dominique Davis

    Dominique Davis is a player who is a raw athlete but doesn't have ideal technique or instincts at quarterback. He's a solid decision maker, but it will take something short of a miracle for him to make the roster ahead of John Parker Wilson.


    Running Back Robbie Frey

    Robbie Frey was productive in college for Kutztown and is more of a bruising back along the lines of Jason Snelling and Michael Turner. He would have to beat out Antone Smith, Mike Cox and Dimitri Nance for a roster spot.


    Fullback Lee Meisner

    Lee Meisner was a college linebacker who will be trying out for a roster spot at fullback in the pros. He is essentially just a preseason and training camp body and shouldn't be expected to make an impact for the Falcons at the pro level.


    Wide Receiver James Rodgers

    James Rodgers is full of versatility. He can play running back, receiver, on special teams and as a return man. Rodgers should be able to turn that versatility into a roster spot as a primary special teams player and versatile weapon on offense. 


    Wide Receiver Kenny Stafford

    Cris Carter's nephew has earned a spot in training camp to compete for a job. However, don't expect him to be what his uncle was. Stafford is not much more than a pre-season body at best and will likely end up on someone's practice squad because of his uncle's name.


    Wide Receiver Marcus Jackson

    Marcus Jackson is a complete unknown coming from small school Lamar. Jackson was very productive for the small school but is a true question when it comes to the pro game. He could very well be another Miles Austin, but he's more than likely another Chandler Williams.


    Wide Receiver Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin was very valuable to the Golden Bears as a third best wide receiver on their roster. He has all the physical tools but is very raw as a receiver. He's the kind of guy that teams love to have as a developmental prospect and will likely be a practice squad player for Atlanta.


    Tight End Adam Nissley

    Adam Nissley presents an interesting opportunity for the coaching staff. He is a player who is more of a blocker but has the ability to develop in the passing game similar to how Michael Palmer did. While he may not finish training camp on the 53-man roster, he should be on the practice squad.


    Tight End Aron White

    Aron White is a local product from the University of Georgia. He wasn't the best tight end on his own college team as he was overshadowed by the very good Orson Charles. White isn't expected to be much more than a training camp body in his first year with the Falcons.


    Tight End Lamark Brown

    Lamark Brown is a unique fit for the Falcons as a H-back style tight end. He is someone who can run all the routes as a tight end or even split into the slot as a receiver. He also has running ability as he was once a running back for Kansas State.


    Offensive Tackle Bryce Harris

    As one of Pat Hill's players at Fresno State, Bryce Harris knows how the wily veteran coach runs his offensive line. Harris could be a dark horse to earn a roster spot as a reserve tackle behind Clabo, but his most likely role will be on the practice squad.


    Offensive Guard Phillip Manley

    Manley is a massive, intelligent guard who is competing at the Falcons' deepest position in terms of talent. While he could compete on almost any other roster, don't expect Manley to even make the 53-man roster in 2012.


    Center Tyler Horn

    Horn was the leader on the offensive line for Miami the past few years and is very similar to Todd McClure in a lot of ways. However, because of McClure and Hawley, don't expect Manley to end up on the 53-man roster unless he could also contribute as a guard.


    Defensive Tackle Micanor Reis

    Micanor Regis is another Miami player that the Falcons brought in to compete for depth. Unlike Horn, Regis was likely brought in to be a long-term reserve at the most. He will likely be camp depth for the Falcons and then eventually end up on the practice squad.


    Defensive End Louis Nzegwu

    Nzegwu is a defensive end/linebacker type who could sneak onto the tail end of the 53-man roster, but he is a completely raw athletic prospect. His physical tools are on the level of a John Abraham, but he needs to learn how to harness them on the practice squad for a season or two.


    Linebacker Jerrell Harris

    Harris played for the national champion Crimson Tide as a 3-4 strong-side linebacker. His biggest issues is in coverage. While he is a solid all-around linebacker, he is behind Adkins on the depth chart at strong-side linebacker.


    Linebacker Max Gruder

    Gruder was a tremendous asset for the Pittsburgh Panthers. He was a team captain and one of the more intriguing prospects from that defense. His main issue is that he projects best as a middle linebacker and not on the outside, so that could hurt his roster chances.


    Linebacker Pat Schiller

    Pat Schiller is someone who can learn how to play weak-side linebacker at the next level. His best fit will be to try and beat out Robert James as a special teams player and backup to Sean Weatherspoon. Expect Schiller to win that battle as James has been bad for four years now.


    Linebacker Rico Council

    Council is a massive 250-pound linebacker from Tennessee State. He projects best to the middle as well, and while he has great physical tools there, he is likely not going to earn a roster spot unless he can win a job on the outside. He could, however, earn a practice squad spot this season.


    Cornerback Marty Markett

    Marty Markett is a freak athlete and one of the quicker, more reliable guys the Falcons could have gotten this offseason in the undrafted market. However, he isn't going to unseat anyone but Walls at the most and should be on the practice squad for 2012.


    Cornerback Peyton Thompson

    Peyton Thompson wasn't great at San Jose State in college against mid-major competition. It's hard to project his talent level to the NFL when there hasn't been much seen from him. Preseason could decide whether he was just camp fodder or was truly competing for a roster spot.


    Safety Chad Faulcon

    Just for his name, he should get a spot on the practice squad at a minimum. For his play, he will likely end up there as well. Faulcon has potential to become a solid depth safety in the NFL once he finally puts it together.


    Kicker Erik Folk

    Matt Bryant is set as the team's kicker. Folk was brought in for camp competition and to rest Bryant for parts of the preseason. If Bryant somehow falls apart, then expect Folk to take over and earn the job as the starter.


    Punter Dawson Zimmerman

    Zimmerman isn't going to beat out Matt Bosher. It won't be his fault, though, because Zimmerman is a good punter. He's just not on Bosher's level yet. He won't end up on the Falcons' roster this year, but he should enjoy training camp while it lasts for him.


    Long Snapper Josh Harris 

    It's truly hard to evaluate long snappers. Expect Joe Zelenka to hold off Harris for at least this year due to the chemistry needed between the snapper/holder and kicker.

Atlanta Falcons' 2012 Free Agency and Trade Additions

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    The Falcons weren't extremely busy when it came to free agency or trades this year. They made relatively minimal moves in free agency and stole Asante Samuel for a seventh-round pick. They also signed a few minimal valued contracts for some solid depth. The Falcons have brought in the following players this offseason:


    Traded a seventh-round pick for cornerback Asante Samuel

    Asante Samuel is a ballhawking cornerback who should be the starter on the right side. After getting traded for the Falcons' late-seventh-round pick, the Falcons re-signed Samuel to a three-year contract that is very cap-friendly. 


    Signed offensive guard Vince Manuwai to a one-year, veteran minimum contract

    Vince Manuwai was out of football last season and signed the veteran minimum contract with the Falcons this year. He is at the end of the depth chart for guards right now and is looking like he could be the odd man out should the Falcons carry just three true guards during the regular season.


    Signed middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu to a two-year, incentive-laden contract

    Lofa Tatupu signed after a year off. He is going to compete for the starting middle linebacker role for the Falcons, and while he should make the team, don't expect him to just be handed the starting job with Akeem Dent breathing down his neck.


    Signed safety Chris Hope to a one-year, veteran minimum contract

    Chris Hope is a recent addition to the Falcons but a wise one. As a Pro Bowler and former Super Bowl champion, Hope brings great depth for the Falcons as the third best safety on the roster. He should be a vast upgrade over Schillinger and Sanders as safety depth.

Game-by-Game Preseason Analysis and Predictions

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    The Falcons have their typical four game preseason slate again this year that will include the Jacksonville Jaguars again. This year will also include the Miami Dolphins, Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens in the preseason.


    Baltimore Ravens

    Date and Time: August 9 at 7:30 PM

    Location: Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia


    Most Important Matchup: Rotational defensive linemen vs. a legit offensive line

    The Falcons get their first look against a team with the preseason game against the Ravens. Mike Smith and Mike Nolan both have history with the Ravens as both were defensive assistants under Brian Billick there. 

    The Falcons' offense will get to test out against one of the better defenses in the league for this game. And the Falcons' defense goes against one of the better quarterbacks in the league in Joe Flacco. 


    Final Score: 28-24, Baltimore Ravens win


    Cincinnati Bengals

    Date and Time: August 16 at 8:00 PM

    Location: Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia


    Most Important Matchup: A.J. Green and Jermaine Gresham vs. Falcons secondary

    The Falcons went out and revamped the secondary, and this is their first test versus a top-notch wide receiver. Should Grimes, Samuel and Robinson live up to the billing, stopping A.J. Green should be relatively straightforward.

    The Falcons' offense has a task ahead of them in trying to break in the new corners for the Bengals as well. With Roddy White and Julio Jones coming in against a solid secondary, Matt Ryan will get a look against a varied coverage scheme.


    Final Score: 35-24, Atlanta Falcons win


    Miami Dolphins

    Date and Time: August 24 at 7:30 PM

    Location: SunLife Stadium in Miami, Florida


    Most Important Matchups: Falcons' offensive line against the Miami defensive line and linebackers

    The Falcons have one of the more interesting offensive-line situations in the league right now. There is some competition on the offensive line, and against the Dolphins' stout interior rushers, Atlanta should get a good look at who will win the center and guard competitions.

    The defense should also be able to take a chance with more blitz packages as the secondary should be able to easily shut out the extremely weak receiving corps that the Dolphins have. Against the run, this would be an interesting test for the defense as the offensive line in Miami is very good as well.


    Final Score: 28-17, Atlanta Falcons win


    Jacksonville Jaguars

    Date and Time: August 30 at 6:30 PM

    Location: EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Florida


    Most Important Matchups: Head Coach Mike Mularkey against Head Coach Mike Smith

    This is the game that the starters play all of one series and the backups play the rest of the entire game. So this will be the matchup that Mike Mularkey tries to prove against Smith that he is a better coach. 

    Mularkey should prevail on this one as the Jaguars will keep their starters in a bit longer than usual to build some fluidity into the new scheme. Gabbert should gain an edge against the Falcons' backup defense as Atlanta rests their starters for opening day.


    Final Score: 35-24, Jacksonville Jaguars win

Projecting the Final 53-Man Roster

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    The Atlanta Falcons will have to ween their roster down to just 53 men by the time September 9, 2012 rolls around. They also have to make sure they have the right guys in the right spots on the depth chart. Here is the Falcons' final 53-man roster with their roles on the team:


    Offensive Backfield

    Starting Quarterback: Matt Ryan

    Backup Quarterback: Chris Redman

    Featured Running Back: Michael Turner

    Change of Pace Running Back: Jacquizz Rodgers

    Running Back/Fullback: Jason Snelling

    Starting Fullback: Bradie Ewing

    Ryan and Redman are the established veterans of the group and should resume their rightful roles as starting quarterback and primary backup. Turner will continue to be the featured running back and should see around 225 to 250 carries in 2012.

    Rodgers should have more of a role in 2012 with the implementation of a screen game into the offense. Snelling will continue his role as a pounding running back and fullback in certain situations. Ewing is a rookie, but his role will likely be very similar to what Ovie Mughelli's was last season.


    Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

    Starting Wide Receivers: Julio Jones and Roddy White

    Slot Wide Receiver: Harry Douglas

    Reserve Wide Receivers: Kerry Meier, James Rodgers and Kevin Cone

    Starting Tight End: Tony Gonzalez

    Blocking Tight End: Michael Palmer

    Receiving Tight End/H-Back: LaMark Brown

    Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez and Roddy White all return to their regular roles. Harry Douglas is also back for the slot spot. After them, that's where the fun begins. Kerry Meier should finally turn into the Brian Finneran clone that the Falcons wanted when they drafted him.

    James Rodgers and Kevin Cone could both impress to the point where the Falcons decide to keep both. Rodgers can also play some running back, so don't be shocked if he does. Palmer returns as a blocking tight end, but he can also catch. LaMark Brown is a bit of a long shot but makes sense as a more athletic H-back type than any of the other rookie tight ends.


    Offensive Line

    Starting Left Tackle: Will Svitek

    Starting Left Guard: Justin Blalock

    Starting Center: Joe Hawley

    Starting Right Guard: Peter Konz

    Starting Right Tackle: Tyson Clabo

    Swing Tackle: Lamar Holmes

    Guard/Tackle: Andrew Jackson

    Swing Guard: Mike Johnson

    Backup Center: Todd McClure

    This looks a bit different than what most are projecting for the starting lineup, but it's what makes the most sense. Svitek, Blalock, Hawley, Konz and Clabo should start in that order from left to right. Lamar Holmes should spend the first part of his rookie season as the swing tackle and sixth lineman for plays that call for six offensive linemen.

    Andrew Jackson is a versatile guard and tackle and should be a backup for both spots but will be inactive on gamedays. Mike Johnson can play both guard spots and right tackle as well. Todd McClure should finally lose his starting spot but will provide veteran leadership and a mentor to Hawley on the bench.


    Defensive Line

    Starting Right End: John Abraham

    Starting Nose Tackle: Corey Peters

    Starting Under Tackle: Jonathan Babineaux

    Starting Left End: Ray Edwards

    Rotational Ends: Lawrence Sidbury, Kroy Biermann, Jonathan Massaquoi, Cliff Matthews

    Rotational Tackles: Peria Jerry, Travian Robertson

    Abraham and Edwards will be the top defensive ends, while Peters and Babineaux will be the top tackles. Sidbury and Biermann should see quite a bit of playing time in the new scheme as should Peria Jerry as the main defensive rotational players.

    Jonathan Massaquoi is a prime candidate to be active on game days over a linebacker with his versatility. Robertson and Matthews are excellent fits as glorified practice squad types at the end of the roster.



    Starting Weak-side Linebacker: Sean Weatherspoon

    Starting Middle Linebacker: Akeem Dent

    Starting Strong-side Linebacker: Stephen Nicholas

    Reserves: Lofa Tatupu, Spencer Adkins, Pat Schiller

    Weatherspoon and Nicholas are cemented into their starting spots for the Falcons. Dent is behind Tatupu right now on the depth chart but should be able to win the starting job in training camp. Tatupu and Adkins are likely game-day players on the active roster, while Schiller is in the same status as a glorified practice squad player like Robertson or Matthews.



    Starting Left Cornerback: Brent Grimes

    Starting Right Cornerback: Asante Samuel

    Nickel Cornerback: Dunta Robinson

    Reserves: Dominique Franks, Chris Owens, Darrin Walls

    Starting Free Safety: Thomas Decoud

    Starting Strong Safety: William Moore

    Reserves: Chris Hope, Charles Mitchell

    Brent Grimes has earned the right to keep his job at starting left corner with his pro bowl caliber play the last two years. Samuel will come in and take over at right corner right away as Robinson slides down to the nickel. Franks, Owens and Walls should still be able to contribute as reserve corners with Franks have the edge when they are put into the games.

    At Safety, Decoud and Moore are two of the best young starters in the NFL and have the ability to both go to the pro bowl under Nolan's new scheme. Hope is a wily veteran who will bring experience and aptitude to the third safety role. Mitchell is a good reserve but could be primary special teamer his rookie year.


    Special Teams

    Kicker: Matt Bryant

    Punter: Matt Bosher

    Kickoff Specialist: Matt Bosher

    Kick Returner: Dominique Franks

    Punt Returner: Harry Douglas

    Long Snapper: Joe Zelenka

    Bryant, Bosher and Zelenka will resume their roles from the 2011 season as part of one of the more unheralded special teams units in the NFL. At returner, there is a huge battle that will be going on in camp. In the end, Douglas and Franks should be the ones who wind up on top of the jobs as the new return men for the Falcons.


    Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist and Trends and Traffic Writer for Bleacher Report. As a Featured Columnist, he covers the Atlanta Falcons, NFL and NFL Draft. He is also the Falcons analyst at Drafttek and also runs the NFL Draft Website and the host of Kvetching Draftniks Radio.