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The Lelie Trade: 1 Week Later…

August 30th, 2006 Comments off

I’m still not positive about this trade. I don’t think you trade a backup RB on a team that likes to run the ball as much as the Falcons do for a WR that is going to at best be your 4th option in your passing game.

I think the 80-120 carries that Duckett would get this year are more important than the 25-35 passes Lelie is likely to catch this year.

But I will say that this trade does look good on paper. Lelie gives the Falcons speed and a proven deep threat, something neither Jenkins or White has been able to show except for on 1 or 2 plays last season.

But I still question Vick’s ability to properly use Lelie. Vick has the arm strength to definitely utilize the deep ball like Chandler and Jeff George did in Falcon years past, but he doesn’t have the touch of either of those players. Chandler’s bombs to Terance Mathis in ’98 and George’s to Bert Emanuel circa 1995 were really things of beauty. Can Vick do the same with Lelie? That remains to be seen.

I guess I can force myself to put on a little bit more of an optimistic front, but deep down I don’t see this team as having the personnel (namely Vick), coaching staff (namely Knapp) that is going to be able to use Lelie to his fullest.

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Pudge’s Power Rankings – August

August 30th, 2006 Comments off

Okay, so I’m tardy in my planned rankings by a week. Sue me. Well I have them now, and I still plan on updating these one more time to be posted early opening week.

As far as changes go, these are an attempt to reflect some of the issues, improvements, and disappointments teams have faced through three weeks of the preseason. Again, it’s the preseason, so we don’t put too much stock into it.

RNK TEAM          OVR   RTG   PREV 1. Patriots      7.37  7.60   +1 2. Broncos       8.07  7.50   -1 3. Seahawks      7.47  7.47   +1 4. Chargers      7.53  7.44   +1 5. Bears         7.00  7.41   -2 6. Panthers      8.27  7.39    - 7. Dolphins      7.10  7.31    - 8. Cowboys       8.23  7.27   +1 9. Jaguars       7.23  7.15   -110. Ravens        7.13  6.95    -11. Redskins      7.27  6.70    -12. Buccaneers    7.73  6.61   +413. Colts         6.70  6.57    -14. Chiefs        6.97  6.56   -215. Cardinals     6.43  6.55   -116. Falcons       7.23  6.53   +117. Steelers      6.83  6.47   -218. Eagles        6.80  6.27   +119. Bengals       6.50  6.17   -120. Giants        7.10  6.13    -21. Jets          5.00  5.83    -22. Packers       4.83  5.71    -23. Rams          5.60  5.71    -24. Texans        5.27  5.62    -25. Browns        5.57  5.58    -26. Bills         5.10  5.58    -27. Vikings       4.97  5.53   +128. Titans        5.57  5.51   -129. Lions         4.77  5.39   +130. Raiders       5.07  5.23   +231. 49ers         4.43  5.15    -32. Saints        5.57  5.06   -3
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Preseason Game #2 AT Green Bay Review

August 26th, 2006 Comments off

Okay week 2 down the drain and it was more painful to watch the second time around folks! For better or worse, here’s the review.

Offense:

Running game: Complete opposite of the first game with the exception of T.J. Duckett (Good luck in Washington TJ!!). Norwood mostly looked like he was just trying to hit the primary hole instead of reading and reacting, cutting, etc. It also didn’t help that he had to work with an offensive line that was mostly 3rd stringers who have virtually no chance of making the team.

Breakdown of passes:

Vick: 5/7, 59 yards, 1 TD/1 INT, 1 rush for 12 yards. 2 incompletions were bad throws but only 1 bad decision. The first incompletion was a shot to the endzone that was over Roddy White’s head. Not a bad decision at all on Vick’s part, just not a catchable pass. The second was thrown on the run and off the back foot and took off resulting in being overthrown and intercepted. I’m sure Vick wanted that one back. Overall, a very good performance.

Schaub: 5/9, 61 yards, 0 TD/1 INT, 1 rush for 3 yards. 3 bad passes and 1 pass defended. This one was just okay. Schaub threw into double coverage looking for Blakley and the INT was tipped causing it to go behind Pathon and careening off Pathon’s body for the TD.

Randall: 2/3, 23 yards, 0 TD/1 INT, 1 rush for 29 yards. Randall gets the “Bless his heart” award. To be in the 4th quarter behind that cast of backup offensive linemen had to be nerve-racking. His only incompletion was a tipped ball at the line that ended up an INT, certainly not his fault. A solid performance especially under the circumstances.

Shockley: 1/5, 10 yards, 0 TD/0 INT, 2 rushes for 14 yards. 2 bad throws, 2 passes defended. Again, tough to grade with the lack of o-line protection but certainly didn’t help his case to make the team but probably didn’t hurt it either.

Drops (1): Jerious Norwood (1).

Sack responsibility: First sack belongs to Vick for holding the ball too long. Lehr allowed pressure but the pocket held for 3.5 seconds which is adequate (not great but barely enough). Second sack goes to Norwood for not picking up the blitzing Carroll. Third sack is a bit of a combined effort. Omiyale allowed initial pressure which forced Randall up and Jason Randall couldn’t hold up against Montgomery. Fourth sack goes to Shawn Draper on the very next play as Montgomery went right past him. The final sack goes to Trevor Hutton who allowed pressure forcing Randall to take off and fell a yard short of at least getting to the line.

Pass blocking: First unit was fine. The backups (without a 2nd string tackle and both guards) weren’t impressive at all.

Defense:

Run defense was better this week but not good enough (evidenced by the Grady Jackson signing). Bozeman and Lavalais just aren’t the answers against the run. Lake is good against the pass but we’ve got plenty of pass rushing DT’s. Shropshire and Tommy Jackson are young and experienced but do have potential. Hopefully, they’ll learn from Grady Jackson and spell him as needed.

The pass coverage was okay but very hard to judge because it was mostly vanilla zone defense.

D-line got 2 late sacks (Lavalais, Jackson helped and Lake). Carrington got pressure several times but couldn’t cash in. Mallard also had an opportunity or two but whiffed as well.

Special Teams:

Rossum had 1 kickoff return and it was fantastic. The rest were pretty much just your standard 23 or so yards, nothing memorable at all. Jennings appears to have the speed to be an effective returner but I haven’t seen anything in the games to take the job away from Rossum yet.

Koenen was awesome on his FG attempt and his punts.

Things that really need improvement:

1. Run defense.
3. O-line depth
4. Closing the deal tackling

Offensive MVP: TJ Duckett
Defensive MVP: Demorrio Williams (5 tackles, 3 assists)
Special Teams MVP: Michael Koenen.

Goat of the Week: Backup o-linemen

Camp Battle progress:

3rd QB: I’m still leaning towards Randall but it’s a very slight lead.

RB: We traded Duckett as I asked the question last week. Does Cobb get a shot at returning or do we just go with Norwood OR does Jackson get a good look at #3 RB?

WR: Jenkins continues to do his job. White’s hands looked better this week (in limited time). Out of the young guys only Youngblood and Jennings caught passes. With Lelie in the mix now, that leaves competition for 2 slots. I think Jennings gets 1 and I think Youngblood has the lead on the 5th.

TE: Blakley definitely is a very solid option as a backup for Crump. No sacks allowed by Blakley or Fells but hard to tell who’s blocked better. Beverly has been used almost exclusively as a blocker. I think Blakley has a good lead on Fells right now. Whether or not Fells can beat out Beverly, that’s a good question

DE: I don’t know if we carry a 4th DE but maybe Carrington gets a look at practice squad.

DT: No standouts this week. I thought Lavalais was decent against the pass with 1 sack and 1 tip (unfortunately turned into a long TD reception). Jackson still found ways to make a few plays just not enough to be a starter yet. It would surprise me to see 6 DT’s and 3 DE’s carried. With Grady Jackson, Shropshire and T. Jackson being the NT’s while Coleman, Babineaux and Lavalais work UT.

LB: Outside of the normal crew, I really like John Leake. I don’t know if there’s room for him on the team or not but he’s aggressive and also very good on special teams.

CB: Good to see Webster out there. I think this group will look much better during the regular season.

S: Turnbull didn’t really follow up his first week’s performance. Cam Newton played fairly well against the run but was late a few times on pass coverage. Chris Crocker WOW! What a hitter!

K: Koenen, no question. Just a matter of who handles kickoffs.

Let me know your thoughts and questions otherwise:

Next up: @Tennessee this Saturday, August 26th!

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My thoughts on the Duckett-Lelie trade

August 23rd, 2006 2 comments

I’m going to be blunt and honest. I hate the Duckett-Lelie trade. Lelie is just not a receiver that fits our offense. On the boards, I posted a simple stat that in my mind sums up the stupidity of this trade:

31 touchdowns vs. 12.

The first figure is the number of times Duckett has reached the endzone in his short career, and the second of course is Lelie’s.

Call Duckett a bust and I’d disagree with you. Call him a disappointment, and I’d agree. But Lelie is the exact same player, but in Denver’s baggage. The problem now is that he is stuck on a team and depth chart that has no use for him. This team has no use for a top notch third wideout if the starters are up to par. The only reason why Finneran had so much success last season was because he was better than any of the starters: both Whites and Jenkins.

From all indications, hopes, and desires that would and should not be the case this year whether he was healthy or not.

This is not a team or offense that is designed to significantly use three wide receivers. Sure, Lelie gives this team a lot of speed and a definite vertical threat (something Roddy has yet to show), but last I checked we were running a West Coast Offense, not the Air Coryell scheme of Mike Martz. Why do you think Lelie “failed” in Denver in Shanahan’s West Coast? Because he doesn’t do anything besides go deep and won’t catch short and intermediate passes.

What this brings to this offense is yes a guy that can help in keeping defenders honest, but that’s only if he’s on the field. Are we going to transform into a single back, 3-WR offense now? If so, I love the fact that we decided to do this 3 days after we broke training camp (note the sarcasm!).

I hate this trade. I was on record of saying if the Falcons traded Duckett to New York for Justin McCareins it was a dumb trade. Lelie and McCareins are basically the same player except McCareins is a little taller, Lelie a little faster and has somewhat better hands.

Duckett may have been a disappointment during his four years here, but he was an extremely valuable role player that was a major contributor to why the Falcons finished tied for second last season in third down conversions.

Here’s hoping that the trade is somehow voided in the coming hours between this posting and it’s officialization.

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Preseason Game #1 Vs. New England Review

August 12th, 2006 5 comments

After seeing it live and watching the video, preseason week 1 is in the books.

Here’s what I saw:

Offense:

Running game: Our most effective weapon and continues to be. Everyone was impressive.

Breakdown of passes:

Vick: 3/4, 26 yards, 0 TD/0 INT, 1 rush for 16 yards. Honestly, you can’t ask for anything more than what Vick did. Had it not been for a Roddy White drop he’d have been perfect on his drive.

Schaub: 7/13, 102 yards, 1 TD/1 INT, 1 rush for 7 yards. 3 bad passes, 2 drops and 1 thrown away to avoid sack. Other than the INT, which should have either been a TD or sailed out of the endzone instead of being underthrown like a wounded duck, it was a solid performance.

Randall: 5/9, 82 yards, 1 TD/0 INT, 1 rush for 29 yards. 3 bad passes, 1 drop. One of the bad passes should have been a gift INT but Randall got fortunate on that one. I would say he was as effective as Schaub and grade out as solid.

Shockley: 4/10, 40 yards, 0 TD/0 INT, 2 rushes for 12 yards. Actually played better than the numbers show. Of his 6 incompletions, 2 were due to drops, 2 were due to spikes to stop the clock and 1 was thrown away to avoid a sack which leaves just 1 overthrow.

Drops (6): Roddy White (2), Jason Randall (2), Adam Jennings (1), Kevin Youngblood (1).

Sack responsibility: First sack goes to Weiner as he was beaten by Vrabel. Second one goes to McCrary as he was eaten alive by Woods on a blitz. The last sack goes on Omiyale getting beaten by Banta-Cain.

Pass blocking: For the most part was solid. Once the younger guys came in there were some breakdowns but that’s expected.

Defense:

Run defense wasn’t good at all. Looked like a combination of 3 things. First, the o-line going through our d-line and getting to the second level, the LB’s. Guards vs. LB’s is a size disadvantage that usually gets lost. Second, LB’s not hitting the gaps and getting caught in traffic. This works hand in hand with #1. Third, poor tackling. This is amazing, as I wrote the first part of this last season and didn’t have to change a word. Hope they get this issue fixed.

The pass coverage was pretty good but definitely vanilla and not scheme specific.

D-line only got 1 sack (Abraham) and got decent pressure at times but the backups couldn’t close the deal.

Special Teams:

Outside of Cobb, I didn’t see anything impressive from out returners.

Koenen and Yelk kicked off very well with the exception of one of Yelk’s kicks which only got to the 9.

Koenen connected on all 4 of his FG’s and all were from impressive distances.

Things that really need improvement:

1. Run defense.
3. WR’s catching the ball.
4. Closing the deal tackling

Offensive MVP: Jerious Norwood
Defensive MVP: John Abraham (4 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble that led to a TD)
Special Teams MVP: Michael Koenen.

Goat of the Week: Our run defense

Camp Battle progress:

3rd QB: Both were solid and I think this battle is fairly equal. If I had to go with one right now, I’d say Randall based on experience alone.

RB: Norwood ran as well as the blocking allowed but was a very effective receiver out of the backfied. Perhaps we trade Duckett for a WR and Cobb stays as #3 as a returner?

WR: Jenkins stepped up and I also thought Youngblood did a lot of good things (especially selling out over the middle to set up the game winning field goal). Roddy White MUST develop hands. I thought Bergeron ran pretty good routes as well. This unit has a lot of work to do.

TE: Daniel Fells really impressed me with his hands. It will be interesting to see how the battle between Blakley, Beverly and Fells shakes out.

DE: Savage may have taken the lead at #4 DE but needs to work on closing the deal.

DT: Only Shropshire and Jackson stood out to me. I thought Lavalais was fairly effective in pass rushing but that’s about it.

LB: Beck and Leake really peformed well, especially on special teams.

CB: I thought Williams did well for his first game and the vanilla D. Cash also did well.

S: Not much to say yet but Turnbull probably turned some heads with his ability to hit and be around the ball.

K: If his leg can handle it all year, Koenen wins and competition is over.

Let me know your thoughts and questions otherwise:

Looking forward to next week @Green Bay next Saturday, August 19th!

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Falcons in Canton

August 7th, 2006 Comments off

With all the buzz about the Hall of Fame this past weekend, I began to think about whether any Falcons would get in anytime soon. Now, unlike the Baseball Hall of Fame, players do not get inducted for a specific team per se, so there are already individuals in the Hall with Falcon connections. Norm Van Brocklin and Art Shell, both in the Hall as players, were Falcon coaches. Eric Dickerson played 4 games with the Falcons in 1993.

The big four Falcon greats on the bubble are of course Tommy Nobis, Claude Humphrey, Jeff Van Note, and Jessie Tuggle. I discount Deion Sanders because he’s a shoe-in to get in when he is able come 2011.

Humphrey notably has been a finalist 3 of the past 4 years, but has yet to get in. So of course he seems the most likeliest candidate to get his bust in Canton anytime soon. I decided to look at some of the accomplishments of these Falcons compared with their contemporaries already in the Hall. And by contemporaries I looked only at players that basically began their careers within three or so years of each other, assuming then that these players hit their primes at about the same time.

For Nobis, who played during the “Butkus Era” of linebackers, the thing that hurts Mr. Falcon’s chances of getting into the Hall is that he was elected to only 1 All-Pro team. While players like Butkus, Willie Lanier, and Dave Wilcox all saw six or more. One factor going in Nobis’s favor however is that he was named to the 1960s All-Decade Team. So eventually he has a chance of getting in I believe. But only 2 of the 5 linebackers on that team are currently in the Hall (Butkus and Ray Nitschke), and Larry Morris and Dave Robinson are missing. I would say that as it stands right now, Nobis’s chances of getting enshrined are pretty slim, at least for the forseeable future. Perhaps maybe in 2020…

For Humphrey, he’s already close, and I think eventually will get in. His 122 career sacks is practically enough alone to get him in. Humphrey was not named to any All-Decade team, but currently only 4 contemporaries are in the Hall right now (Joe Greene, Alan Page, Jack Youngblood, and Elvin Bethea). But like Nobis, Humphrey is hurt by the small number of All-Pro teams he was voted to (only two) compared with the rest of his peers (Bethea had the lowest with four). Again, I think Humphrey can eventually get in, but it’s not going to be in the next few years. Jack Youngblood was a finalist 8 times over the course of 11 years before he finally was elected. If Humphrey was to follow a similar path, he would likely not be elected until 2013 or so.

Van Note is no different story from Humphrey and Nobis in that his HOF chances are limited by the low number of All-Pro teams he was on (just one). Many of his contemporaries are already in the Hall. Of the 10 linemen named to the 1970s All-Decade, all of them are in the Hall, with Rayfield Wright being the last of them this year. Van Note was not on that team of course, but his accomplishments (6 Pro Bowls) probably mean he would have made the 2nd unit if there one existed. Of those 1970s blockers, 3 of which were perennial NFC Pro Bowl mates of Van Note in Dan Dierdorf, Wright, and Ron Yary. Jim Langer is the only contemporary center that is in the Hall. Like Van Note, he appeared in 6 Pro Bowls, but also played in 3 Super Bowls and was All-Pro 5 times. Van Note may get in, but it’s probably going to be a while from now just like Nobis. But I would believe that Nobis and Humphrey are closer than he is.

Tuggle just became eligible this past year, having finished his career in 2000. I’m less optimistic about Tuggle because he was already spurned from the All 1990s Team. The NFL elected Levon Kirkland to the team rather than Tuggle for unexplained reasons. Not to mention that the league explicitly mentioned that it was accounting for the entire decade rather than a few years (thus why someone like Ray Lewis did not make the unit). Tuggle, a 5-time Pro Bowler between 1992 and 1998 was spurned for Kirkland, a 2-time Pro Bowler only in 1998 and 1999, and a guy that started only 7 years out of the entire decade (compared to Tuggle’s 10), and was overshadowed (rightfully so) in Pittsburgh until about 1997 by other top (and better) linebackers such as Kevin Greene, Greg Lloyd, and Chad Brown. Greene was of course on the All-Decade team, but both Lloyd and Brown were more deserving than Levon Kirkland. Seriously, if they were going to put a 2-time Pro Bowler on this team at linebacker, it should have been Ken Norton rather than Kirkland. To this day, I hate Levon Kirkland for these reasons. Currently, however no 1990s-era linebacker is yet in the Hall. Derrick Thomas will likely be the first. He is the only eligible All-Decade team member that has been a finalist. Kevin Greene and Cornelius Bennett (another ex-Falcon) were also All-Decade players that have been eligible, and Hardy Nickerson will be so for next year’s class. I would imagine that Tuggle is not going to get in before any of these guys, not to mention Junior Seau when he becomes eligible in 2011. Tuggle I think is in the same boat as Nobis, and may have a shot after 2020 or so, but probably not before then. I’m not even sure Biscuit will get in. Sure, he played in 5 Pro Bowls and 5 Super Bowls, but he too was limited by his All-Pro status, because as far as I’m aware of, he’s was All-Pro only once.

All this talk of Hall of Fame then starts to make me wonder about current Falcons. Although I’m sure some might mention Vick or Crumpler as potentials, I would say unless Vick wins a Super Bowl, or Crumpler goes to 4 or 5 more Pro Bowls, both are longer shots than any of the guys I mentioned previously. Right now, I would say Keith Brooking and his 5 Pro Bowls is the most likely current Falcon to get HOF attention. But I would say that Brooking probably needs to go to at least 2 more Pro Bowls before I start to believe that he has any better of a chance than Tuggle.

So although, there is one Falcon currently enshrined (Dickerson), it doesn’t seem like anytime soon we’ll be seeing players that one could call true Falcons (i.e. played a few seasons with the team). At least until 2011 when Primetime gets in. After that, it’s anybody’s guess if or when a Falcon gets it. But I believe at least one of the guys I mentioned will eventually be recognized.

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Finn in the bin

August 1st, 2006 Comments off

Well Finneran is the first major casualty of camp this year. Torn ACL in his right knee. What was it the fifth or sixth practice? Well that always seem to be the case with the NFL each summer. Someone usually goes down on the very first day of camp, and each team usually loses a player for a significant time during the first week.

On the boards we called Finn “Clutchy Butterfingers.” He didn’t have the surest hands (thus the butterfingers moniker) but he always managed to come up with the clutch catch or play when we needed one from our receivers (thus the other moniker). A bit oxy moronic, but Finneran someone fit it to a tee.

I can’t really be brief about what Finneran brings to the table. He’s Vick’s favorite WR (thus far) as they’ve been working together since Vick’s first practice. They both were on the 2nd team units back in 2001. He is an ace on special teams. He’s a great redzone target. He is our sure-handed punt returner that when someone is hurt, DeCamillis sends him in to make the fair catch. He even has logged some minutes on defense in prevent defenses because his 6-5 frame is handy on those hail mary plays.

Nobody is going to be able to replace him. The Falcons are talking to Ricky Proehl, and hopefully they sign him. Everyone compared Finn to McCaffrey when he came into the league, but I might want to say that he resembles Proehl a bit more. They aren’t the same size, but they play similarly. Proehl is a sure-handed guy that has made a living over recent years being a reliable vet. Like Finn last year, when he outplayed the Falcons starting pair of WRs, Proehl outplayed Keary Colbert last year in Carolina.

I’m not sold on Pathon’s ability to fill in for Finn. Not too long ago, Pathon was a decent starter. But considering he’s struggled to make rosters over the past year tells me that his skills have diminished significantly.

Oh and don’t worry Falcon fans, Dez White and Peerless Price are both currently employed by other NFL teams, so they won’t be options. You can sleep easy for now.

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