Damien Williams

Falcons Activate OL Elijah Wilkinson From IR, Designate OL Matt Hennessy For Return

Still in the mix for their first NFC South title since 2016, the Falcons made some moves on offense Monday. Multiple offensive linemen are moving back into the picture for the run-oriented squad.

The Falcons activated Elijah Wilkinson from IR and designated Matt Hennessy for return. Even after Wilkinson’s activation, the Falcons still have five injury-return moves remaining. Hennessy has been out of action since Week 9; Wilkinson since Week 8.

[RELATED: Falcons To Place Marcus Mariota On IR]

After a multiyear run as a Broncos spot starter, when he was primarily asked to fill in for Ja’Wuan James due to the latter’s 2019 injury and 2020 opt-out, Wilkinson landed with the Bears last season. Chicago used Wilkinson as a starter just once in 2021, but he won Atlanta’s left guard job out of training camp this year. Wilkinson, 27, has started all seven games he has played this season. A knee injury halted that stretch.

Atlanta’s starting center from 2020-21, Hennessy lost his job to Drew Dalman ahead of this season. The third-year blocker filled in for Wilkinson at guard in Week 9. The Falcons have run out four starting left guards this season. Hennessy, Colby Gossett and ex-Jet Chuma Edoga have seen time since Wilkinson’s injury. The 5-8 team will be better-positioned at this spot in Week 15, particularly if it activates Hennessy by Saturday’s deadline. The Falcons let Jalen Mayfield‘s IR-return window close last week, ending the former third-round pick’s season.

Although the Falcons are in good shape for IR activations, they released Damien Williams from their injured list Monday. The veteran running back, who joined Wilkinson in coming over from the Bears (along with ex-Chicago GM Ryan Pace) this offseason, has been out since September due to a rib injury. Williams is believed to be healthy, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

Williams, 30, worked as the Chiefs’ top backfield option between Kareem Hunt and Clyde Edwards-Helaire‘s Kansas City stays and played a major role in the team’s Super Bowl LIV-winning push. Williams scored 10 touchdowns between the 2018 and ’19 postseasons. The Chiefs released Williams in 2021, after a COVID-19 opt-out, and he logged 40 carries alongside David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert last season. The Falcons have turned to Tyler Allgeier and Caleb Huntley more in Williams’ absence, and both young players will not see a Williams activation disrupt their roles.

Minor NFL Transactions: 9/17/22

Today’s minor moves around the league, including practice squad elevations for tomorrow’s action:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

  • Promoted from practice squad: CB Daryl WorleyWR Raleigh Webb

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

New York Giants

New York Jets

New Orleans Saints

Pittsburgh Steelers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Washington Commanders

Falcons Place RB Damien Williams On IR

The depth in the Falcons’ running game will be tested somewhat over the next several weeks. The team announced on Saturday that Damien Williams has been placed on IR due to a rib injury, meaning that he will miss at least the next four games. 

Williams, 30, spent the first four years of his career in Miami. He operated strictly as a rotational rusher and special teamer, never registering a start. A much more productive, two-year stint in Kansas City followed, where he racked up over 1,100 scrimmage yards and 13 total touchdowns. The former UDFA put up less impressive numbers last season with the Bears.

As a free agent, Williams signed a one-year deal with the Falcons, whose front office now includes ex-Bears GM Ryan Pace. That provided the team with an experienced back to make up for the departure of Mike Davis, following his release. In his Falcons debut last week against the Saints, Williams received just a pair of carries and totaled two yards.

Atlanta will be able to move forward with Cordarrelle Patterson as their lead back in Williams’ absence, of course, but they will now exclusively rely on inexperienced options below him on the depth chart. 2021 fifth-rounder Avery Williamsas well as rookies Tyler Allgeier and practice squad elevation Caleb Huntley will operate as Patterson’s backups on Sunday.

With 120 rushing yards and a touchdown in the team’s season opener, Patterson may not need much in the way of support when the Falcons visit the Rams, or for the next several contests after that. If he does, though, the team will be missing one of its more experienced offensive contributors.

Falcons Notes: QB Camp Reps, RB, NT Competitions

For the first time since 2008, the Falcons will have a starting quarterback not named Matt Ryan when the upcoming season begins. The team added Marcus Mariota as a short-term solution at the position, then drafted Desmond Ridder as a long-term option to succeed him.

The former has starting experience dating back to his time with the Titans, and will look to establish himself as a No. 1 again after two years as a backup with the Raiders. The latter, meanwhile, had an historic career at Cincinnati, leading the Bearcats to the CFP playoffs in 2021. Their lack of a track record at the NFL level made the Falcons a candidate to add a camp arm, but the team is investing fully in their top two passers.

As detailed by D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, training camp reps will be split between Mariota and Ridder, with Feleipe Franks primarily focusing on his transition to TE. “When you look at it in terms of the quarterbacks for live periods of practice, there is not a lot [of] taxing amount of periods where the ball is being thrown,” said offensive coordinator Dave Ragone when speaking about a concentrated workload for the pair. With little expected of the team in 2022, dividing the reps only two ways is a sensible step for the Falcons as they search for a new franchise signal-caller.

Here are a few other notes from the Peach State, both from Ledbetter’s positional breakdowns:

  • The Falcons ranked 31st in the league in rushing last season, so their attempts at improving their ground game will be the subject of much attention this year. Cordarrelle Patterson is set to return, after he totalled a career-best 1,166 scrimmage yards in 2021. He will not enter camp as the undisputed No. 1 back, however; RBs coach Mike Pitre said that there will be a “wide open” competition involving the veteran Swiss Army knife, free agent signing Damien Williamsand younger options like rookie Tyler Allgeier and Avery Williamswho is converting from cornerback. Head coach Arthur Smith did add, however, that the Falcons will “continue to try to enhance ” Patterson’s overall role in the offense.
  • On the defensive side of the ball, nose tackle will be another positional battle to watch. Either Vincent Taylor 0r Anthony Rush will earn a starting spot alongside Grady Jarrett in the heart of the d-line. Eddie Goldman was the most experienced option for a first-team role until his unexpected retirement decision was confirmed earlier this week. Taylor and Rush have each bounced around to multiple teams in their careers, but will have an opportunity for significant snaps in their debut seasons with the Falcons, who ranked 27th against the run in 2021.

Falcons Sign RB Damien Williams

Damien Williams is taking his talents to Atlanta. The free agent running back is signing with the Falcons, reports NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport (via Twitter).

Williams is inking a one-year deal with Atlanta. Doug Kyed of PFF tweets that the deal is worth $1.62MM, including a $500K signing bonus. ESPN’s Field Yates tweeted earlier today that the running back was set to meet with the Falcons organization.

The 29-year-old spent the 2021 season with the Bears, but his numbers were a far cry from what he put up during his stint with the Chiefs. After collecting 1,127 yards from scrimmage and 13 touchdowns in two years with Kansas City, Williams finished 2021 with only 267 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns in 12 games (two starts). However, the RB clearly made an impression on former Bears GM Ryan Pace, who is now working in Atlanta’s front office.

Williams spent the first four seasons of his career with the Dolphins. It’s been a while, but the RB also had a stint as a kick returner during his time in Miami.

In Atlanta, Williams will be joining a depth chart that was led by free agent Cordarrelle Patterson last season. At the moment, Atlanta has Mike Davis, Qadree Ollison, and Caleb Huntley under contract.

Minor NFL Transactions: 10/23/21

Here is the run of Week 7 Saturday minor moves:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Kansas City Chiefs

  • Promoted: LB Darius Harris, LB Christian Rozeboom
  • Placed on IR: TE Jody Fortson

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

New York Giants

New York Jets

San Francisco 49ers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Washington Football Team

Bears Place Damien Williams On Reserve/COVID-19 List

Amid what is expected to be a lengthy stretch without starter David Montgomery, the Bears may also be without their second-string running back in Week 6. Damien Williams is now on the team’s reserve/COVID-19 list.

Williams’ Thursday placement on the coronavirus list will make his suiting up against the Packers on Sunday a difficult task. Vaccinated players can return after a positive test if they receive two negative COVID tests 24 hours apart. Unvaccinated players who test positive are shut down for 10 days. Williams tested positive, Pro Football Focus’ Doug Kyed tweets.

[RELATED: Bears Move Montgomery To IR]

This development will likely force the Bears to give the ball-carrying keys to rookie Khalil Herbert. The sixth-round pick logged just three carries in Chicago’s first four games but split time with Williams against the Raiders, taking 18 handoffs and gaining 75 yards.

Williams was a COVID-19 opt-out last year, skipping the Chiefs’ 2020 season. He had previously been effective after stepping in as a starter post-Kareem Hunt in Kansas City, but the opt-out ended his run with the team. The Chiefs cut Williams earlier this year, leading the 29-year-old back to the Bears.

Through five games, Williams’ rushing total sits at 137 yards. He has added two touchdowns this season. Williams expressed hesitation on being vaccinated in June, though he said he expected to do so at some point. His October vaccination status is unclear.

Extra Points: Newton, Patriots, Williams, Bears, XFL

It was widely known that Patriots quarterback Cam Newton wasn’t his self physically during his last couple years with the Panthers. But he recently revealed just how bad his health situation was. In a video he just posted this past week (that was recorded in September of 2020), Newton said he hadn’t felt good in years, via Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com. “Last time I’ve been healthy?” Newton said. “Honest, 2016.”

I threw an interception,” Newton explained, describing the shoulder injury he first suffered in December of 2016. “I tried to go make the tackle, and I tried to push him out, and I extended my arm, and I messed up my AC joint. And ever since then, there’s just been a part of me that’s just been a wounded dog. Like a wounded lion almost. Just, ‘I’m not right.’ I feel good at times, but when I’m running I still feel it. So instead of running them over, I’m going to turn this shoulder and just go down.” Newton went on to say that he had felt like the shoulder finally healed ahead of his 2020 season with the Patriots. Obviously that season didn’t go how anybody around the team hoped for, and it’s curious timing as to why Newton posted this video now. He’s expected to battle it out with rookie Mac Jones for the starting job in training camp.

Here’s more from around the football universe as we wrap up a sleepy Sunday:

  • Damien Williams was a hero in the Chiefs’ Super Bowl LIV win, but he opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 and his mother having cancer. He was then released by Kansas City back in March, and promptly signed with the Bears within 10 days. It sounds like he knew exactly where he wanted to go, as Larry Mayer of the team’s official site passes along. “Sitting out a year and then coming back, I really didn’t want to learn a whole new system,” Williams said. “Coming here and kind of having the same system, same plays, it was easy for me.” Williams was referring to the similarity in Matt Nagy’s offensive scheme to Andy Reid’s. Nagy, of course, is part of the ever-growing Reid coaching tree, and was an assistant under him from 2008 all the way until becoming Chicago’s head coach in 2018. Clearly the familiarity was important to Williams, who turned 29 in April. With David Montgomery, Tarik Cohen returning from an ACL tear, and now Williams, the Bears should have a solid backfield in 2021.
  • We heard this past week that the XFL and CFL would not be pursuing a potential partnership/merger. That doesn’t mean we’ve heard the last of crossover talk. MLSE, the company that owns the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts, was the “catalyst for the XFL discussion,” within the league, sources told Dan Ralph of the Toronto Star. Ralph highlights the Argonauts breaking off and joining the XFL for their spring 2023 season as a possible solution. It’d be interesting to see, and could serve as a potential test-run for the NFL one day playing games in Toronto, something that has long been talked about.

Bears To Sign Damien Williams

The Bears are adding to their running back room. Chicago has agreed to terms on a deal with free agent Damien Williams, a source told Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). It’s a one-year pact, he notes.

Williams was a COVID-19 opt out of the 2020 season, and the Chiefs then cut him last week after the drafting of Clyde Edwards-Helaire made him expendable. As Rapsheet points out there’s some familiarity here, as Bears head coach Matt Nagy is an Andy Reid protege who runs a similar offensive scheme. New Bears offensive coordinator Bill Lazor also coached Williams in Miami.

An Oklahoma product, Williams got his NFL start as an UDFA with the Dolphins in 2014. After four years there as a role player, Williams signed with the Chiefs in 2018 and took on a bigger load. In 2019 he was the team’s leading rusher despite playing in only 11 games, carrying the ball 111 times for 498 yards and five touchdowns.

In Kansas City’s Super Bowl win that season he came up huge, rushing for 104 yards and scoring two touchdowns. That’s the last game he’s played. He’ll turn 29 next month, and will join a backfield that includes last year’s workhorse David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen returning from injury.

Chiefs To Release RB Damien Williams

Damien Williams opted out of the 2020 season; he will now be looking for a new team for the 2021 slate. The Chiefs are cutting the veteran running back, per NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter).

The Chiefs, who have since established Clyde Edwards-Helaire as their centerpiece back, will save $2.7MM in cap space by releasing Williams. Barely a year after making a case for Super Bowl LIV MVP honors, the soon-to-be 29-year-old is now on the market.

After the Chiefs’ ugly Kareem Hunt situation led to his release midway through the 2018 season, Williams emerged as a key player. He held the team’s starting running back job throughout the 2019 season, holding off LeSean McCoy for the position. Williams also scored 10 total playoff touchdowns as a Chief, doing so in just five postseason games.

A former Dolphins backup, Williams signed with the Chiefs in 2018. Shortly after the team cut Hunt, it moved to extend Williams on a two-year, $5.1MM deal. Because of Williams’ COVID-19 opt-out choice, that deal tolled to 2021. But after the team once was set to deploy a backfield featuring both Williams and Edwards-Helaire, the latter will continue to operate as the featured cog.