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Team Report - ATLANTA FALCONS

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INSIDE SLANT

Since the day they drafted Jake Matthews, the Atlanta Falcons started planning the details of his future.

They talked about the sixth overall pick in the draft becoming one of the cornerstones of the franchise.

They've treated him accordingly.

After a couple of days of OTAs, Matthews was working with the first-team offense.

Now, with a season-ending injury to Sam Baker, the Falcons appear set to move the rookie over to left tackle.

"We'd have a number of options," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "Again, our No. 1 goal would be to put the five best offensive linemen out there. We obviously know that he's one of the five best because he's a starter. Is he our best left tackle? Is he our best option? That's something we'll have to determine."

Matthews is clearly ahead of Lamar Holmes, who started there for much of last season. The other options are Ryan Schraeder and Gabe Carimi, a former first-round pick who's already been cut by two teams.

The plan was to play Baker at left tackle and let Matthews get his feet wet in the NFL at right tackle.

But Baker, on his 14th snap of the exhibition game against Houston, suffered a ruptured patellar tendon in his right knee on Saturday. Smith announced that Baker, who was coming back from a torn patellar in his left knee, will be out for the season. Baker, a first-round pick in 2008, has played 16 games in just two of his six seasons in the NFL.

"Following his injury in the game, Sam underwent a number of tests and it was determined that he had suffered a torn patellar tendon and will miss the rest of the season," Smith said. "Sam had worked extremely hard to get back on the field after missing most of last season, and he was having a good camp."

Left guard Justin Blalock talked to Baker after the game and seemed to give hope that the team would know more later in the week about Baker's status.

"It was tough," Blalock said.

In the game, the Falcons replaced Baker with Holmes, who played 43 snaps against the Texans.

Matthews, the son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews, had a strong outing after having two penalties in his NFL debut against Miami.

"I thought Jake did some good things," Smith said. "He had some tough battles, but I thought he did a nice job. He's going to be a good player in this league."

During training camp, Matthews has practiced against Tennessee's Derrick Morgan, Houston's J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney and played against Miami's Cameron Wake.

Several players took their helmets off and watched on one knee as Baker was helped and driven off the field.

"You don't want to see anybody go down, especially in the (exhibition) season," Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said. "It's part of the deal, but it's not one of the things you like seeing as a player."

NOTES, QUOTES

--With Sam Baker out for the season with a knee injury, the Falcons switched rookie Jake Matthews to left tackle in practice on Monday.

"(He) has left tackle written all over him," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "Jake is comfortable playing both right and left (tackle). He played right and left tackle in his college career. I don't think he'll blink. We're not."

Matthews is ready for the challenge.

"The footwork and hands, everything just gets flipped," Matthew said. "I've been doing the right tackle thing for a while now and you kind of get accustomed to that. Now, you have to flip it all around. If I keep getting reps I'll be ready to go."

Lamar Holmes, who started at left tackle for most of last season, was moved to right tackle.

Baker suffered a torn patellar ligament in his right knee on his 14th snap against the Houston Texans on Saturday.

Matthews, the sixth overall pick, has been working with the first-team offense since OTAs.

During his college career, he played mostly right tackle, but was the left tackle last season at Texas A&M. He started all 26 games at right tackle in 2011 and 2012. In 2013, he replaced Jaguars first-rounder Luke Joeckel at left tackle and started all 13 games.

Matthews is the son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews, who played 19 seasons in the NFL. Matthews will play next to left guard Justin Blalock. Holmes will play next to right guard Jon Asamoah with Joe Hawley as the center.

The second-team line features left tackle Terren Jones, left guard Mike Johnson, center Peter Konz, right guard Harland Gunn and right tackle Ryan Schraeder.

--The Falcons officially broke camp following Monday's practice. The team will hold regular practices Tuesday through Thursday with a walk-through on Friday in preparation for Saturday's exhibition game against the Titans.

"It will be nice to sleep in my own bed again," rookie offensive lineman Jake Matthews said.

The Falcons will play a final exhibition game next Thursday at the Jaguars before the start of the regular season.

--Sean Weatherspoon was at Falcons practice Monday - as a spectator of course. The linebacker is out for the season after suffering a torn left Achilles tendon during the offseason.

Weatherspoon, dressed all in black including a floppy hat, watched most of practice and interacted with several players.

He was a big hit with the film crew of HBO's "Hard Knocks" series as a group shadowed Weatherspoon for nearly the entire practice and taped and recorded several conversations.

--The Falcons will not break with tradition and play their starters at least a half during Saturday's exhibition game against the Titans.

The third game of the preseason is typically the game where the starting units see the most game action. Head coach Mike Smith said the team will do some game planning, as it would in a regular-season game, this week. However, he indicated that the Falcons would not show their entire hand during the exhibition.

"We are going to want to take the starters through the first half of the game," Smith said. "We'll make a determination by the number of snaps (they play) whether they will come back out and play in the second half for a series. That is the way we've handled it in years past."

BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Head coach Mike Smith said the competition for the nickel back position will come down to the final exhibition game. According to Smith, no clear-cut favorite emerged following Saturday's exhibition loss to the Texans. Robert McClain, Josh Wilson and Javier Arenas are battling for the spot.

"I think we still have a lot of decisions to make in terms of who is going to be our nickel," Smith said. "We are going to rotate it a little bit differently than what we did in the first (exhibition) games. This is Arenas' chance to get his reps in there.

"Then we'll make a decision going into the fourth preseason game on who is going to be our starter at nickel."

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

PLAYER NOTES

--RB Steven Jackson (hamstring) worked out with the trainers on Monday.

--OL Gabe Carimi (ankle) worked out with the trainers on Monday.

--DT Corey Peters (Achilles) returned to the practice field Monday for the first time since he tore his Achilles tendon. Peters suffered the injury in Game 15 against the 49ers. He has been on the physically unable to perform list since the start of training camp. "Corey is way ahead of schedule in terms of his rehabilitation with his Achilles," coach Mike Smith said. "It's going to be fun to watch him get indoctrinated into what we are doing this season."

--SS William Moore believes that game-planning for Tennessee will make all of the difference in the world for the defense. "You have to keep in mind that we didn't game plan for (the Texans)," Moore said. "(Against Tennessee) we will have the opportunity to game plan and that is very important in the NFL."

--WR Roddy White was ticked that the Falcons lost left tackle Sam Baker in a meaningless game. "It's stuff like that, that tells you a lot about these games," White said. "I know you can get hurt at practice but playing (meaningless) games and getting your left tackle hurt, I just don't know. I don't know what you judge from these preseason games. I'm not a fan (of) them, but we have to play them. So you have to go out and do what you have to do."

--T Pat McQuistan was signed by the Falcons Monday (Aug. 18). McQuistan, 6-6, 317 pounds, was originally selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the seventh round (211th overall) of the 2006 NFL Draft. He has played in 72 career games with 11 starts during his career serving as a member of the Cowboys, Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints, and Arizona Cardinals.

--T Sam Baker (knee) was placed on reserve/injured by the Falcons Monday (Aug. 18). Baker, 6-5, 301 pounds, was selected by the Falcons in the first round (21st overall) of the 2008 NFL Draft. He has played in 70 career games with 61 starts in six seasons with the Falcons.

--QB Matt Ryan is completing 71.4 percent of his passes, connecting on 10 of 14 attempts for 90 yards with an 88.4 passer rating in two games. He was three for seven for 37 yards against Houston.

--WR Devin Hester scored his first touchdown in a Falcons uniform, catching a short pass from quarterback Sean Renfree and running 12 yards to the end zone. In his career, Hester has scored 33 total touchdowns, including 14 receiving scores.

--WR Julio Jones caught two passes for 20 yards in his first game action since suffering a foot injury in 2013. In 34 career games, Jones has caught 174 passes for 2,737 yards with 20 touchdowns.

--LB Paul Worrilow led the team with a game-high eight tackles (six solo) while adding one tackle for loss and one quarterback hit despite only playing the first half. Worrilow led the Falcons with 137 total tackles as a rookie in 2013. In doing so, he became the first undrafted rookie in franchise history to lead the team in tackles.

--S Kemal Ishmael notched his first NFL interception, picking off quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick at the Falcons 2-yard line in the fourth quarter. Ishmael finished the game with three tackles (one solo) and one tackle for loss.

--RB Devonta Freeman had 42 yards on seven touches. He rushed six times for 31 yards, including a 15-yard scamper. He also added one catch for 11 yards bringing his preseason total to 149 yards on 18 touches. The rookie out of Florida State is averaging 8.3 yards per touch in the preseason.

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League type:
Free Yahoo League
League size:
10 players
Draft time:
Aug 27 9:00 am
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