Archive for October, 2007

Bye Week Blues

October 25th, 2007 Comments off

Okay, so we have the pleasure and pain of not seeing the Falcons play this weekend. Pleasure, because yours and my sanity couldn’t stand another loss. And the pain because of course despite their ineptitude, they are still our beloved Falcons.

Hopefully the team can regroup after the bye. I pray that Petrino will come to his senses and at least try to feature Norwood in this offense against the 49ers. Put him in the backfield, line him up in the slot, play him on returns. Norwood has just as much capability to be our version of Reggie Bush or Brian Westbrook as the next guy. But the only way that can happen is if Petrino tries it. The Era of Warrick Dunn is over, everyone knows this. Everyone except one person: Bobby Petrino.

Under Dan Reeves, the Falcons were terrible following the bye week. The only team Reeves ever won a game following the bye was his first season, in which we beat the Saints to get our first win of the season. But over the next six seasons, we lost every post-bye week game. Until Jim Mora came to town, and we played well the week after the bye in both 2004 and 2005. We lost last year to the Giants, had two good games following that and basically the bottom dropped out.

Traditionally the bye week is seen as an unfair advantage for one team, as they get an extra week to prepare. I don’t know if it’s true, but I’ve heard that statistically-speaking, the edge a team gains coming off a bye is relatively insignificant. And that does make some sense. Really, coaches don’t really get an extra week to prepare, because they usually let all of the guys off for the bye week. So in the end, it usually only amounts to perhaps one or two days. And as I’m sure old Danny Boy would say, it’s less about the gameplans the coaches devise, and more about the execution of said gameplans by the players.

But the bye week comes at a relatively auspicious time for the Falcons. We have two key players injured in Byron Leftwich and Todd Weiner. Weiner may be able to come back vs. the 49ers, which should keep Quinn Ojinnaka out of the lineup. Leftwich won’t play against the 49ers, but if we get lucky that might be the only game he misses.

The best thing I can hope for now this year is a quarterback controversy on this team. Because that means that under Joey Harrington, the Falcons may win the next two games, so that if/when Leftwich is ready to come back vs. Tampa Bay, Petrino may actually have to think about benching him. I could care less who actual starts the game at quarterback, I just care about winning.

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Leftwich has surgery; out 3-4 weeks

October 24th, 2007 Comments off

The Falcons announced that quarterback Byron Leftwich had surgery on his ankle Wednesday morning. And because of it he is expected to miss 3-4 weeks per Bobby Petrino. According to Petrino, Leftwich is shooting for a return in two weeks, but team doctors have indicated the 3-4 week prognosis as the more likely one.

Leftwich underwent a procedure in which he had screws inserted into his ankle in order to help promote and improve healing. Leftwich injured his ankle this past weekend against the New Orleans Saints midway through his first start of the season.

In the meantime, Joey Harrington will resume the starting position. Harrington started the first six games of the season, but was demoted last week in favor of Leftwich.

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Jackson’s release a football decision

October 24th, 2007 Comments off

Falcons head coach Bobby Petrino indicated that the team’s decision to release veteran defensive tackle Grady Jackson was football-related, implying that it had nothing to do with Jackson’s lawsuit filed against the organization during the off-season.

The Falcons had carried five defensive tackles on the roster all year long due to the injury to Rod Coleman which forced him to miss the first five games. Now that Coleman is healthy as well as Jonathan Babineaux who had also missed time due to injury, the team deemed it necessary to cut one of their “extra” tackles per Petrino. Jackson was the choice. Petrino also indicated how impressive rookie Trey Lewis has been. Lewis worked mostly at nose tackle during the summer, but had move to the other tackle position due to the injuries to Colemand and Babineaux.

However, not all parties deem Jackson’s release to be purely about football. For the second time this season, cornerback DeAngelo Hall expressed some dissatisfaction with the organization and coaching staff over Jackson’s release to the AJC. Hall also broached the topic of his contract status with the AJC, indicating his desire to be paid a lucrative contract overrides his desire to stay in Atlanta:
“I got one more year left on my deal. I feel I can go out and get a ton of money, whether it’s here or somewhere else.”

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Falcons dump Grady

October 23rd, 2007 Comments off

Getty Images/Doug Benc The AJC’s Steve Wyche reports that the Falcons released starting nose tackle Grady Jackson today. No specific reasons were given why Jackson was released. The team plans to promote rookie Trey Lewis into the starting lineup.

Lewis has started two games opposite Jackson in relief of injured starter Rod Coleman and his replacement Jonathan Babineaux so far this season. Coleman returned to the lineup against the New York Giants. Lewis has played well, tallying 15 tackles and an interception in six games this year.

Jackson was embroiled in some off-season controversy involving a lawsuit filed against the Falcons. But it was resolved and Jackson received a one-year contract extension. It is unknown if this roster move stems from that or from something else more recent involving Jackson.

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Foster out for season

October 23rd, 2007 Comments off

Updating previous reports, Renardo Foster is the second Falcons left tackle to land himself on the injured reserve, meaning that he will no longer suit up for the team this season. Foster tore his left ACL on Sunday against the New Orleans Saints. That is the same injury that Wayne Gandy suffered two weeks ago against the Tennessee Titans, which also landed him on injured reserve.

The Falcons plan to start Quinn Ojinnaka at left tackle in two weeks when they host the San Francisco 49ers. The team has a bye this week. To fill Foster’s spot on the roster, the team signed ex-Buffalo Bills tackle Terrance Pennington.

Pennington, a 7th round pick out of New Mexico for the Bills last season, started 9 games at right tackle in 2006. He was released by the Bills at the end of training camp, having lost his job to free agent Langston Walker.

In other Falcons news, the AJC reports that the Falcons worked out free agent defensive Quentin Moses on Tuesday. Moses was released last week by the Arizona Cardinals, after being cut by the Oakland Raiders during the summer. Moses was drafted in the third round by the Raiders this past April. He worked out with the Kansas City Chiefs last Friday, and according to the AJC has another one scheduled with the Miami Dolphins today.

Moses likely is a candidate for the Falcons practice squad. The team added defensive end Derrick Jones last week. Jones was an undrafted rookie free agent with the Pittsburgh Steelers this past summer, but was released by the Steelers at the end of the summer. The team also signed ex-Raiders end Kevin Huntley earlier in the season to the practice squad. The Falcons recently parted ways with defensive end Josh Mallard, which leaves the team with only three players at that position, creating some depth issues.

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No update on Foster

October 22nd, 2007 Comments off

Injured offensive tackle Renardo Foster underwent an MRI on Monday morning, but the Falcons have no disclosed the results. Foster injured his left knee late in this past weekend’s loss to the New Orleans Saints. However, head coach Bobby Petrino did not sound optimistic in his Monday press conference indicating that the team might have to look at adding a free agent.

Foster, starting his second game on Sunday as a replacement for Wayne Gandy, went down in a similar way to Gandy in the loss to the Tennessee Titans two weeks ago. Gandy tore his ACL and is now done for the entire season. Foster suffered a torn ACL in his left knee in 2004 while he was at Louisville.

The Falcons are beat up currently at offensive tackle with Gandy out and fellow starter at right tackle Todd Weiner also injured. Weiner suffered a knee injury as well in the Titans game and has missed the past two weeks. The initial prognosis indicated that Weiner would be out for 2-6 weeks. He’s already missed two games, being replaced by guard Tyson Clabo. If Weiner is able to return soon, the potential loss of Foster would dramatically be reduced. But without him, the team might be forced to start backup right tackle Quinn Ojinnaka on the left side. Ojinnaka replaced Foster on Sunday after his injury. The team also signed tackle Harvey Dahl off the San Francisco 49ers practice squad two weeks ago. Neither Ojinnaka or Dahl have started an NFL game.

The Falcons will have a bye this week, which should give Weiner extra time to recover and also more time to find a potential replacement for Foster if need be.

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Former Falcons TE Mitchell dies

October 21st, 2007 Comments off

Former Falcons tight end Jim Mitchell died on Saturday from an apparent heart attack. Mitchell turned 60 on Friday. The Shelbyville Times-Gazette reports that a friend found him unconscious on the front steps of his house on Saturday morning, he died later that day at Bedford County Medical Center.

Mitchell played 11 seasons with the Falcons between 1969 and 1979. He finished his career with 305 receptions for 4358 yards (14.3 avg) and 28 touchdowns. Those marks rank him first among tight ends on the Falcons all-time receiving lists, while fourth overall in receptions and yards. He was originally a fourth round pick out of Prairie View A&M in 1969 by the Falcons. He earned Pro Bowl bids in 1969 as a rookie and also in 1972.

Following his professional football career, he coached at Morehouse and Morris Brown Colleges. He then returned to his native Shelbyville, TN to volunteer as an assistant coach at Central High and Liberty School and organized local football camps. Mitchell suffered from diabetes-related health problems in recent years.

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Leftwich out 2-4 weeks

October 21st, 2007 Comments off

Getty Images/Doug Benc Per, Jay Glazer of FOX Sports reports that Byron Leftwich is expected to miss 2-4 weeks with a high right ankle sprain. Leftwich suffered the injury during the third quarter of today’s loss against the New Orleans Saints.

Leftwich has battled injuries throughout his career. He has already suffered what was deemed a minor sprain to his right ankle earlier this season. Last season as the starter for the Jacksonville Jaguars he missed ten games due to an injury to his left ankle. He broke that same ankle in 2005 and was out for six weeks, missing five games. In 2004, he tore the lateral cruciate ligament in his left knee. He missed three starts due to that injury. Leftwich’s inability to make it through a season healthy certainly played a major factor in why he was released by the Jaguars this past summer.

Even with the most optimistic prognosis thus far, Leftwich will miss at least one game. But the team’s upcoming bye week may be slightly fortuitous, which will allow him an extra week to recoup without missing time. Leftwich was recently promoted to the starting position. In his absence, Joey Harrington is expected to replace him.

There has been no definitive injury update for offensive tackle Renardo Foster who was carted off the field in the fourth quarter with a left leg injury. Wayne Gandy, the player whom Foster has been replacing, was carted off the field two weeks ago against the Tennessee Titans after suffering a left knee injury. He was placed on injured reserve with a torn ACL. Foster, an undrafted rookie free agent, had only made his second NFL start on Sunday. Quinn Ojinnaka finished the game at left tackle. If Foster’s injury is serious it is unknown yet if the Falcons will use the bye week to try and add more help at that position.

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Leftwich injured in Saints loss

October 21st, 2007 Comments off

Getty Images/Doug Benc The “Byron Leftwich Era” may have already ended no sooner than it started. Leftwich went down midway in the third quarter in his starting debut with the Falcons, as the team lost to the New Orleans Saints 22-16. Leftwich played relatively well while in the game, but once again squandered opportunities hurt the Falcons as they fall to 1-6 on the season.

Leftwich completed 15 of 23 passes for 145 yards with a touchdown strike before getting hurt. Harrington entered the game and was 12 of 18 for 128 yards. On the ground, Jerious Norwood led the team with 38 yards on 6 carries, while Warrick Dunn had 13 carries for 28 yards. Roddy White played well at receiver, catching 8 passes for 110 yards and a touchdown. Michael Jenkins (6 catches for 69 yards) and Laurent Robinson (3 catches for 53 yards) also contributed. The Falcons offense dominated time of possession in the first half, holding onto the ball for more than 20 minutes. But they settled for field goals in two early red zone opportunities, and were unable to move the ball with the good field position after recovering an onside kick after the second field goal.

Defensively, the Falcons played tough for the majority of the game, but couldn’t make stops at pivotal moments in the final quarter. They allowed 310 total yards by the Saints offense and only allowed them to convert 1 of their first 8 third down attempts. Keith Brooking led tacklers with 10 stops. Michael Boley (9 tackles), DeAngelo Hall (6 tackles and also had an interception negated by penalty), Demorrio Williams (7 tackles, 1 interception), and Chris Houston (4 tackles) had noticeable performances. Following Morten Andersen’s third field goal to put the team up 16-14 in the fourth quarter, the Saints were successful in driving the ball 69 yards on 11 plays to take the lead. And then were successful on their two point conversion attempt to extend the lead to six. On that drive, the Saints converted 3 third downs, with the last one counting as a Reggie Bush touchdown.

On special teams, Andersen was 3 for 3 on field goals, making attempts from 38, 33, and 21 yards out. Michael Koenen had 6 punts for an average of 44.2 yards, putting 3 inside the Saints’ 20-yard line. Adam Jennings had 4 punt returns for an average of 9.3 yards. Jennings also recovered Koenen’s successful second quarter onside kick.

The Falcons will get a break and a chance to regroup with a bye next week. Then they will host the 2-6 San Francisco 49ers on November 4. During 35 years as a divisional rival in the old NFC West, the Falcons were consistently dominated by the 49ers as their record during that span was 25-43-1. But in their only matchup since the divisional realignment five years ago, the Falcons won 21-19 in their 2004 season opener. They are slightly better at home against the 49ers, having won 3 of their last 4 there.

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Crumpler and Sanders on injury report

October 19th, 2007 Comments off

The Falcons released their Friday injury report and there weren’t any significant changes from a week ago. For the second straight week, tackle Todd Weiner (knee) and linebacker Stephen Nicholas (ankle) are both listed as out for this Sunday’s matchup against the New Orleans Saints. The notable changes occurred with tight end Alge Crumpler listed as doubtful due to a knee and ankle injury. Fullback Corey McIntyre, the team’s special teams captain is also doubtful with a hamstring injury. Cornerback Lewis Sanders (shoulder) is questionable.

Weiner will be replaced for the second straight week with Tyson Clabo at right tackle. If Crumpler does not play, then Dwayne Blakley is expected to make the start. Whether Sanders is healthy enough to play on Sunday may not determine if he starts or not since it is believed that rookie Chris Houston may already be very close to passing him on the depth chart.

Also on the injury report listed as probable are defensive tackles Jonathan Babineaux and Rod Coleman, quarterback Joey Harrington, and wide receiver Joe Horn. Babineaux and Coleman were limited in practices on both Thursday and Friday, but still should play. Harrington had limited participation in practice all week, but with his recent demotion, his health is less of an issue. Horn’s injury probably won’t threaten his chance to play due to his eagerness to play against his former team.

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