(Here’s our weekly nine items at 9 a.m. Wednesday on the Atlanta Falcons, otherwise known as the Cover 9@9 blog!)
1. The no spin zone. Falcons cornerback Chris Williamson, who played at Florida and Minnesota, didn’t stay unemployed long after he was cut by the New York Giants last year.
Williamson, who played at Gainesville High, was signed immediately by the Falcons. The Giants had drafted him in the seventh round of the 2020 draft.
Early in training camp, the 6-foot and 205-pound cornerback, has turned some heads. Now, that the pads are on, Williamson must continue to impress the coaches.
“The ball may not be going his way,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said. “You have to go back and look to see the practice film to make sure that he was good on his assignments. Some players, they may flash every day, but it just depends.
“The ball may never come his way. He did his job and was there in run support. He was sound in coverage. We’ll assess that every day. So for, we’ve been happy with Chris. All of these guys are going to get every opportunity, and we’ll evaluate it day to day and week to week.”
The exhibition games will be important for Williamson.
“With all of those guys, that’s why I’m excited about the (exhibition) season, because of that,” Smith said. “It’s new staff. Year 1 of a new program. We feel like we’ve got good competition in a lot of spots. We actually get to go out, in those (exhibition) games, they will tell a lot about a lot of guys.”
Williamson, 24, was a four-star recruit (Rivals) and started his career at Florida. He transferred to Minnesota and sat out the 2107 season.
Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@
Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@
He was a standout wide receiver and defensive back at Gainesville, where he played with Deshaun Watson. He had 76 catches for 1,402 yards and 20 touchdowns on offense. He was a Class 5A All-State honoree.
“I’m not too far from home,” Williamson said. “That’s always a nice thing. Camp has been going real good.”
Williamson was disappointed when the Giants released him Dec. 3. The Falcons signed him officially Dec. 9.
“I can’t complain, to come back home and be closer to the family,” Williamson said. “My son was just born. It was nice to come back home and be around some family and some good home cooking.”
Williams is hoping to make the roster.
“It was a journey,” Williamson said. “I started at Brookwood High School and transferred to Gainesville High School. I played with Deshaun Watson. Then from there on it’s been a journey to University of Florida, then to Minnesota, the Giants and to the Falcons. I’m here now and blessed to be in this position.”
Why did he leave Florida and the SEC to go to cold of Minnesota and the Big Ten?
“I just wanted a change of scenario,” Williamson said. “Just wanted a fresh start. "
Williamson fine with rowing the boat with the Golden Gophers under dynamic coach P.J. Fleck.
“Minnesota definitely has their fair share of Georgia boys on the team,” Williamson said. “That’s one thing that coach Fleck wanted to emphasize. He wanted to get some speed from down South. I knew (Rashod) Bateman (of Tift County). I was extremely close with him. I knew he was going to be a special player.”
Bateman was drafted in the first round of the 2021 NFL draft by the Baltimore Ravens.
The Falcons were last in the league in pass defense last season and dumped most of their secondary over the offseason. There are several openings.
Williamson has a plan to land him a spot.
“Honestly, just control the (things he can control),” Williamson said. “I’m not worried about anything that I can’t control. Just come out here each and every day and continue to get one percent better each day.”
He tried to focus on one small thing during each practice.
“Just keep stacking (good days),” Williamson said.
He was drafted 247th overall by the Giants.
“There was some adversity, honestly,” Williamson said. “I got injured. I had to deal with that. They put me on the practice squad and released me.”
Williamson is aware that the Falcons are revamping their secondary after not re-signing Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Darqueze Dennard. Holdovers, Isiah Oliver and Kendall Sheffield must impress the new staff and are not considered roster locks.
“The one way to describe it was that it’s an opportunity here,” Williamson said. “I came here at the end of the season under the old staff. They signed coach Smith, and I just became a part of his staff. I just see it as an opportunity. I’m just going to continue to work each and every day.”
Sometimes being at home could be a distraction.
“The one thing I can say about my family is that they know I’m in camp mode,” Williamson said. “They know I’m locked down right now. They can see me after camp, and we can chop it up and get a nice meal or something like that. But they know that when I’m in camp mode to kind of leave me alone.”
2. Oluokun’s contract. Falcons linebacker Foye Oluokun, who has become a starter after he was drafted in the sixth round of the 2018 draft out of Yale, doesn’t want to discuss possibly landing a lucrative contract.
“If I just play well, things will work out,” Oluokun said. “I’m not going to discuss contracts.”
3. Atkins activated. John Atkins, who signed June 17 to help fill the Falcons’ 90-man roster, was activated from the NFL’s Reserve/COVID-19 list Tuesday, according to the NFL transaction listings.
Atkins, 28, of Thomson, was put on the list at the start of training camp and has missed five practices.
Atkins has spent time with the Patriots and Lions. He has played in 14 NFL games and made six starts over two seasons. He had 22 tackles and one tackle for loss. He’s 6-foot-3 and 320 pounds.
He opted out of last season during the coronavirus pandemic.
Atkins played four seasons with the Bulldogs and finished his career with 81 tackles, 3.5 for losses, five pass breakups and a fumble recovery over 48 games. He made 38 tackles as a senior nose tackle in 2017.
4. Foreman has workout. Former Houston and Tennessee running back D’Onta Foreman, who starred at Texas, worked out for the Falcons on Tuesday, according to his agent.
Foreman, 25, was drafted in the third round (89th overall) of the 2017 draft.
The 6-foot-1 and 236-pounder has played in 17 NFL games and made one start.
Foreman rushed 323 times for 2,028 yards and 15 touchdowns during his junior year in 2016. He won the Doak Walker Award as the top running back in the nation.
He played with the Texans in 2017 and 2018. He was with the Titans in 2020 and played in six games and had 22 carries for 95 yards. Falcons coach Arthur Smith was the Titans offensive coordinator last season.
Running back Caleb Huntley, an undrafted free agent from Ball State, was requested by the media for Tuesday, but was not made available.
5. Brotherhood relocation program: The ‘Brotherhood’ is in a new ZIP code.
Former Falcons coach Dan Quinn is in his first season as Dallas’ defensive coordinator. He is joined by a few former Falcons in the latest season of HBO’s training camp series, “Hard Knocks.”
Quinn — who takes over a defense that allowed a franchise-worst 473 points — makes a few appearances in the show’s first trailer ahead of its 10 p.m. Tuesday season debut.
The series runs for five episodes, with new episodes airing Tuesdays until the start of the regular season.
This is the Cowboys’ third appearance on the show that started in 2001. The Falcons was featured in the 2014 season under new coach Mike Smith.
Former Falcons on the roster include: Damontae Kazee, who is listed as the first-team free safety; while Keanu Neal is the second-team middle linebacker behind Jaylon Smith in the depth chart released for Thursday’s Pro Football Hall of Fame game against the Steelers.
6. Rookie offensive linemen off to good start: Falcons right tackle Kaleb McGary has missed all five of the team’s practices, and there has been no real update on why he was placed on the physically-unable-to-perform list at the outset of training camp.
“He’s another guy that’s doing everything that we’re asking him to do,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said. “I don’t anticipate being much longer, but again, it’s hard to give a firm timetable because we have to do what’s in the best interest of the player and the team.”
With McGary and Matt Gono out, rookie Jalen Mayfield has been working with the first-team offense at right tackle. Also, rookie fourth-round pick Drew Dalman worked with the first team while rotating with left guard Josh Andrews.
“These young offensive linemen, they are all in there fighting it out,” Smith said. “It was their first day in pads. They are only a couple practices (into) the NFL, but I’m really pleased with that rookie class and the way that they are working right now.”
7. Pitts’ wingspan: Falcons rookie tight end Kyle Pitts has a longer wingspan — 83-3/8 inches — than any wide receiver or tight end in the NFL over the past 20 years.
Pitts’ wingspan was on display Tuesday as he captivated the fans on the hill when he soared over cornerback Fabian Moreau to get his hands on a high pass from Matt Ryan in the end zone.
He kept battling and came down with the ball.
“It’s no secret that he’s a huge target,” Smith said. “Kyle knows what the expectations are for him. It’s good to see him make those plays. You have to make them in practice and you build on them to where you make them in the games. It was encouraging to see him make those plays that we expect him to make.”
Pitts is off to a good start in training camp.
“He’s done a really good job,” Smith said. “Kyle has done everything that we’ve asked him. We’re trying to bring him along the right way. When you draft somebody that high, there are a lot of expectations going on. It’s a long journey. It’s so hard for those (young guys) to focus in the present, day to day because there are unbelievable expectations thrown on him. He’s got to understand the big picture and progress everyday.”
8. Davison out: Falcons defensive tackle Tyeler Davison did not practice Tuesday.
“Tyeler is working through something,” Smith said. “I would not expect it to be anything long term, but we’ll see.”
Davison, a run stuffer who took a pay cut to return in the offseason, was a quality starter in 2020. He finished with 36 tackles and two missed tackles over 520 snaps (48%). He started 15 of 16 games and had three hurries and one knockdown.
9. The AJC’S projected depth chart: The Falcons signed Cameron Nizialek and released Sterling Hofrichter on Tuesday.
For now, Nizialek and Maggio will battle for the punter job.
Nizialek spent time on the practice squad in 2020.
“Sterling, he’s not healthy,” Smith said. “He’ll rehab. It’s not the end of the road for Sterling. We needed the roster spot because we had to add a healthy punter.”
WR 18 Calvin Ridley, 83 Tajae Sharpe, 88 Frank Darby, 13 Christian Blake, 86 Antonio Nunn, 3 J’Mon Moore
WR 14 Russell Gage, 17 Olamide Zaccheaus, 12 Chris Rowland, 82 Austin Trammell, 16 Jeff Badet
LT 70 Jake Matthews, 74 William Sweet, 72 Willie Beavers
LG 68 Josh Andrews, 77 Jalen Mayfield, 66 Willie Wright (COVID-19 list) , 62 Bryce Hargrove
C 61 Matt Hennessy, 67 Drew Dalman, 65 Joe Sculthorpe
RG 63 Chris Lindstrom, 64 Ryan Neuzil, 75 Kion Smith, 71 Sam Jones
RT 76 Kaleb McGary (PUP list), 73 Matt Gono (PUP list), 77 Jalen Mayfield, 69 Jason Spriggs
TE 8 Kyle Pitts, 81 Hayden Hurst, 85 Lee Smith, 87 Jaeden Graham, 46 Parker Hesse, 80 Ryan Becker, 89 John Raine
QB 2 Matt Ryan, 5 AJ McCarron, 15 Feleipe Franks
HB 28 Mike Davis, 84 Cordarrelle Patterson, 30 Qadree Ollison, 25 Javian Hawkins, 42 Caleb Huntley
FB 40 Keith Smith
DL 90 Marlon Davidson, 55 Steven Means, 95 Ta’Quon Graham, 79 Chris Slayton
DL 97 Grady Jarrett, 93 Zac Dawe, 94 Deadrin Senat (PUP list), 98 John Atkins
DL 96 Tyeler Davison, 50 John Cominsky, 99 Jonathan Bullard, 69 Olive Sagapolu
OLB 56 Dante Fowler (COVID-19 list), 92 Adetokunbo Ogundeji, 42 Shareef Miller, 52 Emmanuel Ellerbee, 36 Tuzar Skipper
ILB 45 Deion Jones, 51 Brandon Copeland, 53 Erroll Thompson
ILB 54 Foyesade Oluokun, 43 Mykal Walker, 48 Dorian Etheridge
OLB 91 Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, 49 Kobe Jones, 59 George Obinna
RCB 22 Fabian Moreau, 20 Kendall Sheffield, 29 Chris Williamson
LCB 24 A.J. Terrell, 33 Tyler Hall, 34 Darren Hall, 38 Marcus Murphy, 41 J.R. Pace
NCB 26 Isaiah Oliver, 25 Delrick Abrams, 35 Avery Williams
FS 23 Erik Harris, 27 Richie Grant, 37 Dwayne Johnson
SS 21 Duron Harmon, 32 Jaylinn Hawkins, 39 T.J. Green, 38 Marcus Murphy
K 7 Younghoe Koo
P 9 Dom Maggio, 6 Cameron Nizialek
LS 47 Josh Harris
KO 7 Younghoe Koo
KR 84 Cordarrelle Patterson, 12 Chris Rowland, 35 Avery Williams
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