Scouting Report: Falcons Look Tough

Despite suffering a season ending injury to their top Draft pick, the Atlanta Falcons still have a lot of weapons. New acquisition Tony Gonzalez is one of them.

For the second consecutive year, one of the Falcons first-round draft picks is suffering early injury woes.

Last season, left tackle Sam Baker, who was selected with the 21st pick in the draft, battled early-season concussion issues and back surgery. He played in eight games and made five starts.

Defensive tackle Peria Jerry, who was the 24th player taken in the 2009 draft, suffered an injury to his left knee against the Panthers on Sunday and will miss the rest of the season.

He was placed on injured reserve and Vance Walker, a seventh-round pick, was called up from the practice squad.

Jerry missed time in minicamp with a right knee injury. He left the season opener with a chest injury.

After a Carolina pass play in the fourth quarter, Jerry lay on the ground for several minutes before being helped to the sideline with an apparent injury to his left knee. Soon after, Jerry was assisted onto a cart and taken off the field.

"I was on the sideline when I saw him go down," said backup defensive tackle Thomas Johnson. "I ran out because I knew I had to go in (place of Jerry). I just took a knee and prayed for him."

Jerry was coming along just fine.

"He was doing a good job (against Carolina)," defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux said. "Every time he gets in there, his object is to get better, and I think he's been doing that week to week."

Jerry, the 24th overall pick in the draft, had trouble with injuries at Ole Miss, missing time because of injuries to his foot, hand, ankle and knee. Before the 2008 season, he had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee, the same knee he sprained in minicamp. He also missed the NFL Combine with a sore groin.

Johnson and Trey Lewis, who was in active for the first two games, will likely pick up Jerry's playing time. Lewis played nine games as a rookie in 2007, starting five, but missed all of last season with a knee injury suffered in the offseason.

Johnson made the Falcons in training camp after not having played an NFL game since 2006. On several occasions, the Panthers double-teamed him on Sunday.

"Can't do anything but be ready," said Johnson, who will likely move into the starting lineup. "That's what training camp's for, to get yourself prepared for this kind of situation."

Notes:

--RB Jason Snelling, one of the Falcons special teams mavens, had to play from scrimmage after backup running back Jerious Norwood left the game with a "head" injury.
He caught his first touchdown pass and gained 37 yards on six carries.
"He's such a big physical running back for us and such a great change of pace from Jerious and Mike (Turner)," quarterback Matt Ryan said. "He's just another guy that can come in there and make plays."
Norwood was injured in the first quarter on a Ryan interception. He did not return to the game and was not in uniform in the second half. While the team did not provide an injury report following the game, Snelling said Norwood was "fine."
"Anytime the coaches expect you to come in and fill in a situation, they don't expect any dropoff and I don't either, as a player," said Snelling, who subbed on many of the third-down packages that Norwood typically plays. "It felt good to come out there and get plays and make plays."
--The offensive line did not allow a sack of quarterback Matt Ryan. Since Ryan became the starter in 2008, the performance marked the eighth time the offensive line did not allow a sack.
--With a 28-20 win against the Carolina Panthers, the Falcons improved to 2-0 on the season. The win marks the first 2-0 start for the Falcons since 2006 and the seventh time in franchise history.
Four of those 2-0 starters were wasted as the team went on to post losing records.
However, in 2004 and 1998 they went on the NFC Championship Game and the Super Bowl, respectively.
--Tight end Tony Gonzalez scored the 78th touchdown of his career on a 24-yard touchdown reception toward the end of the first quarter. He has now posted touchdown receptions in the opening two games of the season for only the second time in his career (first time since 2002).

Player News:
--CB Brian Williams' blocked punt was the first for the Falcons since a 2004 regular season (Week 17) meeting against the Seattle Seahawks at Qwest Field.
--LB Mike Peterson forced his second fumble in as many weeks, and punched the ball out at the 4:15 mark in the third quarter.
--DB Thomas DeCoud has his first career fumble recovery.
--P/KO specialist Michael Koenen recorded a touchback on all five of his kickoffs, tying a team record which was originally set against Carolina on September 3, 1995.
--WR Eric Weems returned a Panthers kickoff 41 yards in the second quarter, setting a new career-high.


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