Falcons wide receiver Roddy White (ankle), cornerback Asante Samuel (thigh) and linebacker Stephen Nicholas (thigh) were all limited in practice Friday and were listed as questionable for Sunday’s season opener against the New Orleans Saints at 1 p.m. at the Superdome.
Falcons center/guard Joe Hawley (illness) and kicker Matt Bryant (back) both fully participated in practice and were listed as probable for the game.
White has a streak of 128 consecutive starts heading into the Saints game.
In NFL injury-report language “questionable” means the player has a 50-50 percent chance of playing.
The Saints have 11 players listed on their injury report.
Offensive tackle Terron Armstead (stomach), running back Travis Cadet (foot), wide receiver Marques Colston (foot), guard Jahri Evans (back), outside linebacker Junior Gallette (hamstring), linebacker Kevin Reddick (shoulder), offensive tackle Zach Strief (back), wide receiver Nick Toon (chest) and outside linebacker Martez Wilson (elbow) all fully participated in practice and were declared probable.
Defensive end Glenn Foster (ankle) and safety Isa Abdul-Quddus (ankle) did not practice and were declared out for Sunday.
Dominant defense: With four former Pro Bowlers, one player who's consistently played at a Pro Bowl level in defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux and a linebacker, Sean Weatherspoon, on the verge of Pro Bowl status, the Falcons hope that they can rise in the defensive rankings in 2012.
“I think that we can be dominant,” said safety Thomas DeCoud, who made his first trip to the Pro Bowl last year. “I think that this is the year that we can show that we’re a top-tier defense in this league and can be consistent. I think we’ve been kind of streaky in what we’ve been able to do the past couple of years. But I think this is a year that we can dominate for 16 games.”
Strong safety William Moore made his trip to the Pro Bowl last season. Defensive end Osi Umenyiora is a former two-time Pro Bowler, and Samuel is a four-time Pro Bowler. Surprisingly, Babineaux has never been selected to the Pro Bowl. Weatherspoon had a Pro Bowl campaign going last season before an injury slowed him.
“I believe we can (be dominant),” Weatherspoon said. “I’m looking forward to that. We will keep working. We’ve got a great test to start off this week.”
Helpful hands: DeCoud believes the additions of Umenyiora and rookie cornerbacks Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford will help the defense.
“We need the young corners to make plays on the ball like they did this preseason,” DeCoud said. “That’s a good sign for us.”
Double trouble: Saints coach Sean Payton is back on the sideline after missing the 2012 season because of a league suspension for his part in the team's bounty scandal. Tight end Jimmy Graham is healthy again after playing with a wrist injury last season that he said made catching passes painful.
Weatherspoon said those two factors would give the Saints a boost.
“I expect them to be aggressive,” Weatherspoon said. “I’m pretty sure they want to get Jimmy involved early. I’m pretty sure coach Payton wants to come out and send a message that he’s back. He’s their leader.”
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