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New Falcons In The Fold


The Falcons closed a busy week of player activity with the signing of two free agents, linebacker Lofa Tatupu and guard Vince Manuwai.

Tatupu, who will turn 30 in November, is trying to come back from injuries that derailed a stellar early career as a linebacker for Seattle. The former second-round pick in 2005 earned Pro Bowl honors in his first three seasons in the NFL and was an All Pro in '07. He was also a team captain while with the Seahawks.

The former USC linebacker didn't play during the 2011 season after being released by the Seahawks following a 2010 season in which he still managed to record 88 tackles, one sack, eight pass defelections, one interception returned for a touchdown and one forced fumble.

His recent injury history has challenged his attempt to earn another job in the NFL, but the Falcons deal with him perhaps signals his health is back to a place that allowed him to play in 63 of 64 regular season games from 2005 to 2008.

Recently Dan Pompei of the National Football Post wrote that the linebacker is still more than capable of making things happen on the football field.

"Teams are more concerned about whether or not Tatupu can make it through a season than whether or not he still has ability," wrote Pompei. "The linebacker still can make plays."

A look below at Tatupu's pick-six from 2010 shows an intelligent player, who despite injuries, is capable of making an impact. The linebacker position, while violent, is a position where players experience longevity due to required intelligence it takes to play the position.

Vince Manuwai is credited with being a significant factor behind Jacksonville's dominant running game in recent years. A third-round pick in 2003 by Jacksonville, the guard was an instant starter, starting in 14 of the 15 games he played in as a rookie. For the following three seasons he started in every game and in 2007 he remained a starter, only missing one game due to an injury.

In 2008 knee injuries took him out after one game for the entire season and he returned in 2009, but it was a season plagued by overcoming the previous year's injuries. He lost his starting role in 2010, but regained it and started the final 11 games of the year.

Those final 11 games of the year showed that Manuwai is still an aggressive and dominant lineman, paving the way for a tremendous season for Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew. Many pointed to Manuwai's insertion back into the starting lineup as a factor that season.

Jones-Drew said simply of Manuwai during the late-season run: "He's the guy that's making it happen."

While neither Manuwai or Tatupu may return to their starting roles of seasons past, it's clear they've got the talent to perform in the NFL. Even in backup roles for the Falcons, the depth they bring at their positions is considerable.

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