FLOWERY BRANCH -- The start of the Falcons training camp is nine days away. The first practice is set for Friday, July 25.
We started our countdown by looking at the new assistant coaches Mike Tice, Wade Harman and Bryan Cox. Today, we’ll start a position-by-position look at the roster.
We'll peek at the special teams, which finished last season ranked 26th in the league.
The big offseason pick up was the addition of Devin Hester, perhaps league’s best-ever return man.
Hester, 31, has posted staggering numbers over his stellar career.
“Devin Hester brings a ton of experience and a ton of ability,” assistant head coach/wide receivers Terry Robiskie said. “He brings a lot of records (with him). He’s already told me that he’s in the record books in the NFL. He reminded me of that already. The thing that I had to remind him of is that he doesn’t have any records with me. None of those records he has are helping me.”
Special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong is looking forward to unleashing Hester.
“He knows what the home run ball looks like,” Armstrong said. “I think that one thing that I really enjoy is the way that he’s approaching it. He’s approaching it like a pro. He’s not approaching it like, ‘hey, I’ve been there before.’ He knows and understands that this is a different team. A new team. He’s taking that professional approach to it.”
Armstrong expects Hester’s presence to lift the entire group.
“When guys know that somebody is back there that …knows how to hit it, they are going to start blocking (better),” Armstrong said. “That sense of urgency will pick up.”
The Falcons experimented over the offseason with how to utilize Hester. He's slated to mainly be the kickoff returner and possibly earn spot duty as the punt returner.
“He’s done the punts,” Armstrong said. “We haven’t quite gotten to that part of it. We’ve got some options, which is a good thing. Arenas was back there, (Robert) Alford, Harry (Douglas), (Robert) McClain and Hester (over the offseason.)”
Hester was the league’s leader in kickoff-return yardage with 1,436 on 52 returns last season.
The Falcons averaged 8.3 yards on punt returns, which ranked 20th in the league. They averaged 24.4 yards on kickoff returns, which ranked 10th.
“We’ve got some depth at the position,” Armstrong said. “We’ve always had to find a guy. We’ve kind of built some depth.”
Armstrong was also experimenting with his coverage units.
“I’m trying to massage it out. I'm trying to move guys around and not let them stay in one spot for the spring,” Armstrong said. “I have to find out what they can do. We tried to move them around so we could get a better idea of what they can do.”
The Falcons covered punts well in 2013. They gave up 7.6 yards per return, which ranked 8th in the league. They need to improve the kickoff coverage team. The Falcons gave up 24.8 yards per return, which ranked 25th.
“Last year, we ran into the snag where we had so many injuries that so many of the guys that we were training, ended up being starters,” Armstrong said. “We were training on the run.”
Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News annual ranks the league’s special teams units. The league’s 32 teams are ranked in 22 categories and assigned points according to their standing - one for best, 32 for worst.
The Falcons were ranked 26th in the league with 408.5 points last season.
PROJECTED 2014 TRAINING CAMP DEPTH CHART
WR 11 Julio Jones, 13 Darius Johnson, 14 Courtney Roby, 18 Freddie Martino, 89 Bernard Reedy,
LT 72 Sam Baker, 76 Lamar Holmes, 74 Terren Jones
LG 63 Justin Blalock, 68 Gabe Carimi, 67 Adam Replogle
C 61 Joe Hawley, 66 Peter Konz, 62 James Stone
RG 75 Jon Asamoah, 69 Harland Gunn
RT 70 Jake Matthews, 79 Mike Johnson 73 Ryan Schrader
TE 80 Levine Toilolo, 86 Bear Pascoe, 82 Mickey Shuler, 81 Jacob Pedersen, 49 Brian Wozniak
WR 84 Roddy White, 83 Harry Douglas, 15 Geraldo Boldewijn, 16 Julian Jones, 87 Tramaine Thompson
QB 2 Matt Ryan, 8 T.J. Yates, 12 Sean Renfree, 9 Jeff Mathews
RB 39 Steven Jackson, 32 Jacquizz Rodgers, 35 Antone Smith, 33 Devonta Freeman, 30 Josh Vaughan, 34 Jerome Smith
FB 42 Patrick DiMarco, 45 Maurice Hagens, 43 Roosevelt Nix
4-3 DEFENSE (with an extra line for the nickel back)
RE 95 Jonathan Babineaux, 50 Osi Umenyiora, 96 Jonathan Massaquoi, 90 Stansly Maponga
DT 99 Tyson Jackson, 91 Corey Peters, 92 Travian Robertson
DT 96 Paul Soliai, 97 Peria Jerry, 98 Cliff Matthews, 65 Donte Rumph
LE 77 Ra’Shede Hageman, 98 Malliciah Goodman, 49 Tyler Starr, 64 Nosa Equae
OLB 71 Kroy Biermann, 48 Brenden Daley, 45 Jacques Smith
MLB 55 Paul Worrilow, 52 Tim Dobbins, 54 Yawin Smallwood
OLB 59 Joplo Bartu, 53 Prince Shembo, 51 Marquis Spruill, 46 Walker May,
RCB 21 Desmond Trufant, 28 Javier Arenas, 37 Ricardo Allen,
NB 26 Josh Wilson, 27 Robert McClain, 28 Javier Arenas, 41 Dezmen Southward
LCB 23 Robert Alford, 24 Jordan Mabin, 43 Devonta Glover-Wright
SS 25 William Moore, 36 Kemal Ishmael, 40 Kimario McFadden, 22 Zeke Motta
FS 20 Dwight Lowery, 41 Dezman Southward, 29 Sean Baker
K 3 Matt Bryant, 6 Sergio Castillo
KO 5 Matt Bosher
P 5 Matt Bosher
KR 17 Devin Hester, 28 Javier Arenas, 14 Courtney Roby
PR 17 Devin Hester, 27 Robert McClain, 28 Javier Arenas
LS 47 Josh Harris
H 5 Matt Bosher
TRAINING CAMP SCHEDULE
Date Practice Times (public availability)
Tuesday, July 22 Rookies report
Wednesday, July 23 Veterans report
Friday, July 25 Practice 3:30 – 5:50 p.m. (open to the public)
Saturday, July 26 Practice 3:30 – 5:50 p.m. (open to the public)
Sunday, July 27 Practice 3:30 – 6:05 p.m. (open to the public)
Monday, July 28 Practice 3:30 – 6:05 p.m. (open to the public)
Tuesday, July 29 Practice 3:30 – 6:05 p.m. (open to the public)
Wednesday, July 30 Players’ Day Off (No Media Availability)
Thursday, July 31 Practice 3:30 – 6:05 p.m. (open to the public)
Friday, August 1 “Friday Night Lights” at Archer High School (Lawrenceville)
6:45 – 9:10 p.m. (open to the public)
Saturday, August 2 Practice 3:30 – 5:30 p.m. (open to the public)
Sunday, August 3 Practice 3:30 – 6:05 p.m. (open to the public)
Monday, August 4 Combined Practice w/Tennessee 3-5:30 p.m. (open to the public)
Tuesday, August 5 Players’ Day Off (No Media Availability)
Wednesday, August 6 Practice 3:30 – 6:05 p.m. (open to the public)
Thursday, August 7 Pregame Walkthrough (No Media Availability)
Friday, August 8 Falcons vs. Miami Dolphins
7:00 p.m. ET – CW69
Saturday, August 9 Practice 4:30 – 5:45 p.m. (open to the public)
Sunday, August 10 Players’ Day Off (No Media Availability)
Monday, August 11 Practice 3:30 – 5:50 p.m. (open to the public)
Tuesday, August 12 Practice 10:00 a.m. – 12:35 p.m. (open to the public)
Wednesday, August 13 Combined Practice w/ Houston Texans (Houston, TX)
Thursday, August 14 Combined Practice w/ Houston Texans (Houston, TX)
Friday, August 15 Pregame Walkthrough (No Media Availability)
Saturday, August 16 Falcons at Houston Texans
8:00 p.m. ET – CW69
Sunday, August 17 Players’ Day Off (No Media Availability)
Monday, August 18 Practice 10:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. (closed to the public)
MANDATORY MINICAMP REVIEW
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