Ito Smith

Giants To Sign RB Corey Clement

The Giants are set to sign running back Corey Clement, as Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News writes. Clement auditioned on Friday and Saturday, impressing coaches and beating out a handful other vets vying for a spot on the team’s offseason roster. That group included fellow RB Ito Smith, per Leonard. 

Clement is best known his Super Bowl LII touchdown and taking the Eagles’ “Philly Special” snap. He spent the last four years with the Birds, though his usage has fluctuated over time. In 2019, he did not see a carry in four games. Last year, after Jordan Howard left, he still only saw 21 carries in 15 games, spending most of his time on special teams.

All in all, Clement has logged 655 yards and seven touchdowns off of 163 carries, plus 37 catches for 340 yards and two touchdowns. Now, he’ll look to solidify his place behind Saquon Barkley and Devontae Booker.

Smith, meanwhile, will look for work elsewhere. The 2018 fourth-round pick cut by the Falcons in April, even though he’s shown a penchant for game-changing plays in the past. As a rookie, Smith made noise with 6.4 yards per carry in an admittedly small sample. He hasn’t looked quite as sharp lately, but he still managed to take 63 carries for 268 yards (4.3 ypc).

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Falcons Release Ito Smith

The Falcons have released running back Ito Smith, per a club announcement. It’s a surprising move, given the Falcons’ so-so collection of RBs. 

[RELATED: Falcons To Sign Cordarrelle Patterson]

Smith, a 2018 fourth-round pick, has spent all three of his NFL seasons to date with the Falcons. In total, he’s logged 175 carries for 689 yards and 55 catches for 314 yards with six all-purpose touchdowns. His penchant for game-changing plays put him on the radar as a rookie and he had considerable buzz after averaging 6.4 yards per tote on a limited sample. Then, an early-season injury slowed his momentum in 2019. He returned last year to take 63 carries for 268 yards (4.3 ypc) and one rushing TD, plus 17 grabs for 75 yards and three receiving TDs.

Despite his solid work as a reserve, new head coach Arthur Smith has other plans in mind. Recent signee Mike Davis figures to take on a leading role in the backfield with support from Qadree OllisonTony Brooks-James, and fullback Keith Smith. There’s still work to be done in that area, so the Falcons will likely target zone scheme-friendly running backs early in the draft.

Releasing Smith will save the Falcons $920K against the cap with $155K in dead money.

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Falcons Place RB Ito Smith On IR

For the second straight season, Ito Smith will land on the injured reserve. The Falcons announced today that they’ve placed the running back on the injured reserve (via the team’s website). Atlanta promoted offensive lineman Sean Harlow from the practice squad to take the open roster spot.

Smith, a 2018 fourth-round pick, was expected to play a bigger role in the Falcons’ backfield following Tevin Coleman‘s move to the 49ers. However, he’s seen even less work during his sophomore campaign; after rushing for 315 yards and four touchdowns on 90 carries last season (14 games), he’s only compiled 106 yards and one touchdown on 22 carries this year (seven games). He’s also hauled in 11 receptions for 87 yards this season, which is about on pace with his rookie numbers.

With Smith sidelined, the Falcons will likely turn to former fifth-rounder Brian Hill. The 24-year-old has appeared in four games this season, rushing eight times for 40 yards and one touchdown. The Falcons are also rostering Kenjon Barner and Qadree Ollison.

Harlow was a fourth-round pick by the Falcons back in 2017, but he hasn’t seen the field during two stints with the organization. Offensive lineman Wes Schweitzer was ruled out of Sunday’s game with a concussion, and coach Dan Quinn told Will McFadden of AtlantaFalcons.com that Harlow could somewhat replace his injured teammate’s versatility.

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Falcons Notes: Julio, Neal, Allen, Smith

We learned earlier today that the Falcons may already have a new deal in place for star receiver Julio Jones, but GM Thomas Dimitroff declined to put a timetable on the negotiations. As Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com writes, Dimitroff did express optimism that the two sides would reach an accord.

Dimitroff said, “[w]e have the utmost faith that Julio is coming here and he’s taking care of his business while he’s here, and we’ll keep plugging away with [Jones’ agent] Jimmy [Sexton]. We have a very good working relationship and respect for Jimmy Sexton and CAA, and I’m confident [the deal] will get done.”

Sexton could not be reached for comment, but after getting long-term deals for Grady Jarrett and Deion Jones done this month, it looks like the Falcons will give Julio Jones his new contract in short order.

Now for more from Atlanta:

  • We heard back in May that the Falcons’ starting safety tandem of Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen, who suffered major injuries that ended their 2018 seasons prematurely, were expected to be ready for training camp, and that turned out to be true. As Ledbetter writes, Allen returned to the practice field Monday and went through most of the team drills, and Emmanuel Morgan of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution says that Neal has participated in drills and has taken reps with the first-team defense. Unfortunately, the club lost backup safety J.J. Wilcox for the season after he tore his ACL on Monday.
  • The Falcons plan to expand RB Ito Smith‘s role this season, as Morgan writes in a separate piece. Smith will serve as the club’s No. 2 back behind Devonta Freeman, and he will look to improve his pass protection and his ability to hit holes at full speed while continuing to refine his abilities as a pass catcher. Running backs coach Matt Brock hinted that the club may only carry three RBs, so the battle for the No. 3 spot behind Freeman and Smith is one that he expects to be highly competitive.
  • Defensive lineman Michael Bennett suffered a broken ankle on Monday, but he could return this season, as D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets.
  • The Falcons signed veteran DL Allen Bailey yesterday.

Falcons Place RB Ito Smith On IR

The Falcons have placed running back Ito Smith on injured reserve, per a team announcement. With that, the Falcons will be forced to play against the Panthers and Bucs without the services of their No. 2 RB. 

Smith saw an unexpected spike in usage this year after the loss of star Devonta Freeman. The fourth-round rookie would up with 90 carries for 315 yards and four scores over 14 games and, at times, he flashed serious potential. His 3.5 yards per carry average isn’t anything to write home about, but part of the blame falls on the team’s inconsistent offense as a whole. Smith also got involved in the passing game and ends his year with 27 catches for 152 yards.

Coleman will become an unrestricted free agent in March, so Smith figures to continue as a major piece in the Falcons’ offense next year. While he lacks the patience and experience of Coleman, the Falcons seem prepared to give him a larger share of the workload.

I would say Ito is best on the inside zone runs,” coach Dan Quinn said recently. “He can line a (defender) up in the hole and use his change of direction and break a guy off where Tevin often times will toss it outside and see the wide zone and stretch the defense and then try to get a vertical cut…. You’ve seen Ito enough now, it’s his change of direction when a guy is trying to size him up … where Tevin would try to use the angle and use his speed to break a guy off.”

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Draft Pick Signings: 5/9/18

Today’s draft pick signings:

  • The Falcons have agreed to terms with second-round cornerback Isaiah Oliver, fourth-round running back Ito Smith, sixth-round receiver Russell Gage, and sixth-round linebacker Foyesade Olukom. That leaves Atlanta with just two remaining unsigned draft picks, first-round wideout Calvin Ridley and third-round defensive tackle Deadrin Senat. None of the four selections signed by the Falcons today figure to have much of a 2018 role, but given the strength of Atlanta’s roster, the club was able to target future value. Oliver fits the Falcons’ size requirements for a defensive back and could help out down the line, while Smith is a hedge against Atlanta failing to sign Tevin Coleman, who will become a free agent at season’s end.
  • Fifth-round offensive lineman Tyrell Crosby has signed his rookie deal with the Lions. Crosby surprisingly fell to Day 3 of the draft after many analysts pegged him as at least a Day 2 selection. Although he played tackle at Oregon, Crosby could shift to guard in Detroit, especially given the presence of incumbent tackles Taylor Decker and Ricky Wagner. Crosby may compete to start at left guard, but with Graham Glasgow likely locking down that position, Crosby is probably looking at reserve duty for 2018.
  • The Steelers have inked their first rookie to a contract, as fifth-round rookie running back Jaylen Samuels is now signed. Samuels, a North Carolian State product, was something of a jack-of-all-trades during his collegiate days, and it won’t be surprising if he sees action at fullback, tight end, or receiver during his rookie season in Pittsburgh. Long-term, Samuels could be a candidate to replace Le’Veon Bell, who will once again play under the franchise tag in 2018.
  • Fifth-round wideout Justin Watson has singed his rookie pact with the Buccaneers, tweets Jenna Laine of ESPN.com. Watson posted excellent athletic testing results and put up outstanding production at Pennsylvania, but he’s coming from a small school and Lance Zierlein of NFL.com says Watson “doesn’t move with desired suddenness.” Watson likely won’t factor into Tampa Bay’s offense this season, but could carve out a role on special teams.
  • The Patriots didn’t land a first-round quarterback as many had projected, but they did pick LSU signal-caller Danny Etling in the seventh round, and he’s now under contract. New England doesn’t figure to keep three quarterbacks on its roster, so Etling will likely (at best) spend the 2018 season on the club’s practice squad. It’s possible he’s just a camp arm.