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Falcons lose first round pick Jerry for the season

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is reporting that defensive tackle Peria Jerry, who was the Falcons first round pick in April, will miss the rest of the season after suffering a knee injury in a win over the Panthers on Sunday.

This might not sound like a significant loss given that Jerry was a rookie and defensive tackles are rarely in the limelight, but this is a blow to the Falcons’ defensive line. Jerry was quickly emerging as a solid interior pass-rusher and offered a nice complement to John Abraham and Jonathan Babineaux on Atlanta’s D-line.

The Falcons rotate their defensive linemen on game days, so Trey Lewis, Thomas Johnson and Vance Walker will all see playing time at the tackle position next to Babineaux. Unfortunately, none of the three provide the pass rush that Jerry does, although maybe the big-bodied Lewis (who was impressive as a rookie in 2007 before a knee injury sidelined him for the entire ’08 season) can help the Falcons fix a leaky run-defense that is allowing 5.1 YPC.

This is a bad time for the Falcons to lose a pass rusher with a trip to New England and a pissed-off Patriots team on the docket.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @TheScoresReport. You can also follow TSR editor Gerardo Orlando @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom, and you can follow TSR editor Anthony Stalter @AnthonyStalter.

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Merry Christmas, Matt Ryan. His name is Tony Gonzalez.

Tony GonzalezMatt Ryan might as well change his birthday from May 17 to April 23, because that’s the day Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff traded a 2010 second round pick to Kansas City in exchange for future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez.

After hauling in five passes for 73 yards and a touchdown in Atlanta’s 19-7 win over Miami in Week 1, Gonzo followed up that performance with a seven-catch, 71-yard effort in the Falcons’ 28-20 victory over the Panthers on Sunday. He also caught his second touchdown pass of the year after Ryan found him on a 24-yard completion late in the first quarter to give Atlanta a 7-3 lead.

It’s still early, but Gonzalez is turning out to be one of he best offseason acquisitions of the year. He’s such a mismatch on safeties and linebackers that it’s almost unfair that the Falcons can use him in the red zone. And when he’s not catching passes, he frees up Roddy White (6 receptions, 53 yards, 1 TD) and other receivers to make plays in the passing game.

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USA Today Preseason Polls: Florida No. 1

The USA Today Coaches’ Top 25 college football coaches’ poll has been released and to no surprise, Florida ranks No. 1.

Here’s the top 15 (via ESPN.com):

1. Florida
2. Texas
3. Oklahoma
4. USC
5. Alabama
6. Ohio State
7. Virginia Tech
8. Penn State
9. LSU
10. Mississippi
11. Oklahoma State
12. California
13. Georgia
14. Oregon
15. Georgia Tech

The most intriguing team to watch this year in the top 15 is Ole’ Miss. The have a solid quarterback in Jevan Snead a true playmaker in Dexter McCluster, a couple of quality receivers and several capable rushers. But the one thing that could keep the Rebels from taking that next step is the play of the offensive and defensive lines. They lost two significant pieces of both lines last year when Michael Oher and Peria Jerry were drafted into the NFL. Can they replace both of those players and make some noise in the SEC?

Another team to at least keep an eye on this year is North Carolina, who is ranked 20 in the preseason poll. They lost receivers Hakeem Nicks and Brandon Tate to the NFL, but their offense is still chockfull of potential and their defense was incredibly opportunistic last year. I’m not saying the Heels will challenge for a national title this season, but they’ll be competitive.

The Heisman race is going to be fun to watch all year, too. Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow, Colt McCoy and Terrelle Pryor hold the edge going into the season, but watch out for sleepers like Evan Royster, Jonathan Dwyer and Jahvid Best.

2009 college football spring predictions: Florida No. 1

As spring practices wrap up across the country, Andy Staples of SI.com ranked the top 25 college football teams entering the 2009 season. You can see Staples’ rankings by clicking the link above.

I’m intrigued by a couple of teams on his top 25, most notably Ole’ Miss (No. 7), Ohio State (No. 9) and TCU (No. 11).

Ole’ Miss is going to give a lot of SEC teams trouble this year with 16 total starters (8 on offense, 8 on defense) returning from last year, including quarterback Jevan Snead, who enters his second full season as a starter after throwing 26 touchdowns last season. They lost key components in offensive tackle Michael Oher and defensive tackle Peria Jerry, but they essentially return the same team that beat Florida, LSU and stomped Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl last year. (Not to mention also gave Alabama a game in Tuscaloosa.)

Out of the teams Staples ranks in his top 10, Ohio State has the fewest returning starters at nine. But quarterback Terrelle Pryor will only continue to improve with more playing time and running back Dan “Boom” Herron will ease the loss of Beanie Wells to the NFL. The Buckeyes should also have one of the best defensive fronts in the Big Ten, with end Lawrence Wilson and tackle Cameron Heyward set to return.

TCU turned a lot of heads last year after compiling an 11-2 record, including impressive wins over BYU and Boise State in the Poinsettia Bowl. They had one of the fastest defenses in the nation last year and they held opponents to a staggering 11.3 points per game. But they lost seven starters on the defensive side of the ball, which was obviously their strength, so it’ll be interesting to see how they’ll stack up with Utah again in the Mountain West.

Another team to keep an eye on is Oregon State, who returns two explosive playmakers in running back Jacquizz Rodgers and wide receiver James Rodgers. But as Staples writes in his top 25 rankings, quarterback Lyle Moevano is coming off offseason shoulder surgery and will battle senior Sean Canfield in preseason practice.

65 Observations about the 2009 NFL Draft

I’m going to channel my inner Peter King and dole out a crap load of quick-hit thoughts on last weekend’s NFL draft, which by the way, was one of the more unpredictable drafts I have ever witnessed.

Below are 65 observations from the 2009 NFL Draft. Why 65? I don’t know – don’t worry about it. Originally I came up with 62, but I know that some people freak out when things aren’t in round numbers, so I added three more. But the number 65 means nothing, so don’t waste time searching for its meaning.

Obviously these are all my opinions and feel free to debate them. But before you do, I already know that it supposedly takes three seasons to fully grade a draft and that no prospect is a sure thing. Again, I’m projecting here – so lighten up and let’s strike up some good debates.

1. Outside of the fact that he’s now a millionaire and could buy a small country, I kind of feel bad for Matthew Stafford. You know some halfwit fan or media member can’t wait to utter the comment, “For $72 million, he should have made that pass.” I hate the fact that money plays such a huge role in sports because when you get down to it, completing a pass, making a catch or kicking a field goal has nothing to do with how many zeros are on your paycheck.

2. I know I’m not saying anything new here, but the rookie salary structure is a joke. When teams don’t even want a top 5 pick anymore because of the financial burden that comes with it, there’s a huge problem.

3. The kid could turn out to be the next Ryan Leaf on the field, but Lion fans have to at least take comfort in the fact that Matthew Stafford is saying all the right things at this point. He did an interview with the NFL Network on Sunday and he talked about how he wants to be a starter right away, but also wants to learn and be patient in his development. From all accounts, he looks like he has a great head on his shoulders.

4. If Tyson Jackson turns out to be the next Richard Seymour like Chiefs’ GM Scott Pioli believes, then nobody is going to remember (or care) that he was taken with the third overall pick in a weak draft class.

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