Falcons expecting camp battles at right guard, linebacker
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) There could be more last-minute additions to the Atlanta Falcons' roster, possibly before training camp opens Thursday.
General manager Thomas Dimitroff and coach Dan Quinn already believe they have a stronger roster after an 8-8 finish in Quinn's 2015 debut. Quinn said he expects stiff competition at several positions, including right guard, linebacker and tight end.
The Falcons signed tight end Arthur Lynch and wide receiver Corey Washington on Wednesday and announced the retirement of safety Charles Godfrey.
The moves left the Falcons with 88 players, two below the maximum.
Lynch, from the University of Georgia, was a fifth-round pick by Miami in 2015 who was signed to Denver's practice squad last year. Washington had five receptions for 52 yards with the Giants as a rookie in 2014. Godfrey had 12 tackles and a forced fumble in eight games with Atlanta last season.
Following Tuesday's release of wide receiver and return specialist Devin Hester, Dimitroff said ''there's no major push'' to reach 90 players. He said he's still looking at free agent defensive end Dwight Freeney.
Quinn said he and Dimitroff also have discussed re-signing outside linebacker Brian Schofield.
The 29-year-old Schofield had 30 tackles and two sacks for Atlanta last season.
There already have been changes at linebacker. Second-year player Vic Beasley Jr. will play outside linebacker in the base defense and will be an edge rusher in nickel packages.
Rookies Deion Jones and De'Vondre Campbell and free-agent signees Courtney Upshaw, Sean Weatherspoon and LaRoy Reynolds are expected to add speed at linebacker. Jones, a second-round pick from Louisiana State, and Campbell, a fourth-rounder from Minnesota, earned compliments for the way they picked up the defense in the offseason.
Even Paul Worrilow, the team's leading tackler each of the last three seasons, could be pushed by the new talent.
''We've been pleased with the progress of Jones and Campbell,'' Quinn said Tuesday. ''We're going to have a battle on our hands with Worrilow and Spoon and Reynolds and some of the other guys.
''I love the speed we've added defensively. I can't wait for that part of our game to come to life. It's going to make differences in the way we rush, the style that we play. We're probably going to play some more man to man, knowing we have the ability to do that.''
Quinn said Chris Chester will open camp as the starting right guard. Rookie Wes Schweitzer and Mike Person are other candidates. Tackle Tom Compton also will be given a look at guard.
Because of the signing of free-agent center Alex Mack, Quinn listed offensive line as one of the team's strengths. That claim hasn't been made by a Falcons coach in several seasons.
Quinn also likes his talent and depth at running back and tight end, where Devonta Freeman and Jacob Tamme are the returning starters.
Freeman was a breakout star in 2015, when he rushed for 1,056 yards and had 73 catches for 578 yards. Second-year player Tevin Coleman could play a bigger role behind Freeman.
Tamme was third on the team, behind Julio Jones and Freeman, with 59 catches for 657 yards in 2015. Rookie Austin Hooper of Stanford will join Levine Toilolo, D.J. Tialavea and Lynch in the competition with Tamme.
''I love our group of tight ends,'' Quinn said. ''I feel that's for sure one (strength). We've got some big guys, we've got some pass-catchers.''
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