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Archive for November, 2007

Weiner makes 3 OTs on IR

November 30th, 2007 Comments off

The Falcons announced that offensive tackle Todd Weiner was placed on injured reserve on Thursday after undergoing season-ending surgery on his left knee. Weiner had struggled with knee injuries for the majority of the season, suffering it first to his right knee in the Week 5 loss to the Tennessee Titans and underwent surgery. After missing the next three weeks, he returned two weeks ago against the Carolina Panthers, but injured the left knee a week later versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Weiner is the third offensive tackle to wind up on the injured reserve for the Falcons, all with left knee injuries. Wayne Gandy began the season as the starting left tackle, but was also injured against the Titans tearing his left ACL. Renardo Foster replaced him for the next two weeks, but also ended his season with a torn left ACL. Weiner started the first 5 games of the season at right tackle before his first knee injury. When he returned, he was switched to the left side.

Quinn Ojinnaka has started two games thus far at left tackle as a repalcement for Weiner, including last week’s contest against the Indianapolis Colts. He is expected at least for now to continue in that role. If not him, Terrance Pennington may get a long look at the position as the Falcons try to build depth for next season. Pennington got his first action of the season last week against the Indianapolis Colts. He has Ojinnaka beat in overall experience. He started 9 games last season as a rookie at right tackle for the Buffalo Bills.

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Falcons working on extending Boley

November 28th, 2007 Comments off

The AJC’s Steve Wyche reports in his blog that the Falcons are currently begun talks to extend the contract of linebacker Michael Boley. Boley’s contract expires at the end of the season and he is slated to become a restricted free agent in March. If a deal cannot be done by then, the Falcons are expected to tender him at a high level in order to gain compensation in case another team signs him. They will also be given the right of first refusal, which means that if another team attempts to sign him the Falcons will be given the chance to match their offer.

Wyche reports that the Falcons have not engaged in contract talks with two more impending free agents: safety Chris Crocker and linebacker Demorrio Williams. Both Crocker and Williams will be unrestricted free agents after this season.

Wyche also reports that the Falcons are not talking to cornerback DeAngelo Hall about an extension, likely due to the incidents between Hall and the current coaching staff. Hall will not become a free agent until after the 2008 season, so there is still time for the team. Hall has indicated in the past his desire to get the best possible deal.

You can find an updated list of the Falcons upcoming free agents for next year and future years at FalcFans.com.

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Colts stuff Falcons on Thanksgiving

November 23rd, 2007 Comments off

Getty Images/Chris Graythen Despite a fast start, the Falcons eventually fell to the Indianapolis Colts 31-13 in their second ever Thanksgiving Day game. The Falcons got off to a quick 10-0 lead in the first quarter, but struggled in the second quarter as they were down 21-13 at the half.

Joey Harrington led the team passing for 155 yards while completing 14 of 30 attempts with a touchdown and two interceptions. On the ground, Warrick Dunn rushed for 70 yards on 17 carries (4.1 avg). Dunn became the 22nd NFL running back to surpass 10,000 career rushing yards as well on the day. Jerious Norwood added 33 yards on 6 carries (5.5 avg). Roddy White led receivers with 6 catches for 104 yards (17.3 avg) and the team’s only touchdown. Alge Crumpler added 3 grabs for 14 yards. The offense was able to maintain possession of the ball for over 11 minutes in the first quarter and converted 3 of 7 third down attempts. But for the rest of the game, they were unable to sustain drives and converted just 2 of 8 third down attempts.

Defensively, the Falcons had a strong start forcing the Colts potent offense to stall and punt on its first two drives. But poor field position and a porous pass defense hindered their success in the second quarter. Michael Boley led defenders with 9 tackles, including 3 sacks, and forced a fumble. Demorrio Williams (6 tackles), Keith Brooking (6 tackles, 1 sack), DeAngelo Hall (5 tackles, 1 interception), Chris Houston (4 tackles, 2 passes defended), Jamaal Anderson (4 tackles), and Chris Crocker (3 tackles, 2 passes defended) had noteworthy performances.

Morten Andersen connected on his two field goal tries of 34 and 30 yards in the first half. Michael Koenen had 4 punts averaging 50 yards and put 1 inside the Colts 20-yard line. Jerious Norwood returned 6 kickoffs for an average of 26.3 yards, while on punt returns Adam Jennings was forced to fair catch both his attempts.

The Falcons will travel to St. Louis next week to take on the Rams, hoping that the extra few days of rest will allow them some time to regroup and get another victory. The Falcons have won 2 of 3 games against the Rams since leaving the NFC West, including most recently a playoff victory in 2004. However, the Falcons have not won in St. Louis since 1998, losing four straight in that venue.

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Game #10 VS Tampa Bay Buccaneers Review

November 22nd, 2007 Comments off

I knew I wanted to get this one done before Thanksgiving dinner to ensure that I still had my appetite. I may not have finished this one soon enough. Leftwich was off, the line couldn’t protect long enough for his long delivery, a couple of early horrible calls by the officials, negative plays in general, a defense getting worn down and one of the worst days I’ve ever seen by a single offensive lineman in my lifetime.

Here’s what I saw:

Offense:

Running game: Dunn (15/32), Snelling (2/13) and Norwood (2/4). Effective Runs (4 yards or more)-Dunn, 5; Snelling, 2 and Norwood, 1. Dunn also had 8 catches for 40 yards and Norwood had 2 catches for 10 yards.

Breakdown of passes:

Leftwich: 15/27, 0 TD, 2 INT. Breakdown of incompletions: 4 Bad passes, 6 Drops, 3 passes defended. Byron could have helped the WR’s out by throwing better balls but at the same time, they could have done a lot more as well. The first INT came as a result of a miscue by Blalock and Dunn not picking up a rusher which resulted in Byron getting drilled as he was throwing. The second was due to Ojinnaka getting beat and the defender disrupting Byron’s throwing motion. He also had 3 fumbles all of which were a result of being in the motion of throwing.

Harrington: 16/20, 139 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT. Breakdown of incompletions: 2 Bad passes, 1 Drop and 1 throw away. Joey played his game and it’s tough to rate the performance since half of the attempts came on the Falcons’ last drive and not really in crunch time.

Drops (7): The crew came up with 8 but I just didn’t see another I could justify as a drop. White, 2; Jenkins, 1; Robinson, 1; Dunn, 3.

YTD Drops (30):

Jenkins 7
White 7
Crumpler 3
Horn 3
Dunn 6
Norwood 1
Blakley 1
Robinson 2

Run blocking: Not a lot of success to the edges nor was there success in short yardage situations again. It’s obvious that Petrino doesn’t have confidence calling short yardage plays up the middle and also that we’ve simply got to get more power along the line.

Pass blocking: Big regression this week but mostly from the two young tackles. I can understand Clabo missing since this is his first year’s worth of game experience playing the position but not Ojinnaka. Truly one of the worst efforts I’ve seen from a lineman.

Sack responsibility (4): First one is on Clabo and Blalock resulting in the fumble return for a TD. Second goes to Ojinnaka. Boselli said that it wasn’t a bad job and while Leftwich did get 3 seconds there was no way for him to get rid of the ball without another fumble occurring. Third is also on Ojinnaka which forced a fumble that we were fortunate to get back. Fourth is also on Ojinnaka.

YTD Sacks (32):

Scheme 2.0
Norwood 2.5
Gandy 1.0
Forney 3.0
Harrington 6.5
Weiner 1.5
Blalock 7.0
McClure 2.0
Dunn 1.0
Foster 1.0
Clabo 1.5
Ojinnaka 3.0

Note: QB responsible sacks are those that he has at least 3 seconds and either chose to try to scramble or stayed in the pocket when the better decision would be to throw it away. Also includes those rushing attempts that go for 0 or negative yardage that for some reason are counted as a sack.

Defense:

Run defense: Was very solid early but with early injuries to Coleman and Lewis wore down in the 2nd half and wilted.

Pass Defense: While yardage was low, D-Hall bit on a play fake which resulted in a TD and Alex Smith was left wide open for another.

Sacks: Abraham got the lone sack.

Special Teams:
Norwood had 5 official kickoff returns, 1 that resulted in a re-kick and no touchbacks: 1. from the 7, 19 yards; 2a. from the 11, 15 yards(Bucs offsides re-kick); 2b. from the 8, 21 yard return. 3. from the 11, 27 yards; 4. from the 9, 21 yards (negated by holding penalties on Mughelli and Nicholas); 5. from the 13, 87 yards and touchdown (negated by holding penalty on Nicholas). Solid and had the touchdown stood it certainly would have been excellent.

Babineaux had 1 kickoff return for 8 yards on a short kick.

Jennings had 4 official punt returns, 1 that resulted in a re-kick and 1 punt downed by Tampa: 1. from the ATL 43, 7 yards; 2. from the ATL 12, 4 yards (Holding on Tampa tacked on the end); 3. from the ATL 37, 1 yard; 4a. from the ATL 31, 16 yards (Tampa was offsides/should have declined it); 4b. from the ATL 13, 3 yards. Nothing special.

Koenen had 7 punts: 1-47 yards to the TB 8, 7 yard return. 2-30 yards to the TB 13, no return. 3-37 yards to end zone, touchback (chop block penalty added on and Harris could have had it down at the 1 or 2) . 4-46 yards to the TB 22, -3 yard return. 5-31 yards to the TB 15, no return. 6-42 yards to the TB 36, -1 yard return. 7-24 yards to the ATL 45, no return. Outside of the last punt a very good day.

Kickoffs: Koenen had 2 kickoffs: 1. to the -1, 21 yard return; 2. to the 27, -1 yard return. Good distance on the first and the last was more like a long squib quick.

Field Goals: None

Special Teams coverage: Except for the penalties was very good.

Things that really need improvement:

1. O-line needs to get more push, reach the second level and put defensive players on their backs.
2. Eliminate negative yardage plays (penalties, negative rushes, and sacks).
3. Get healthy.

Offensive MVP: Joey Harrington (16/20, 139 yards, 1 TD/0 INT and more importantly was very supportive of Leftwich when some would have pouted about being benched)

Defensive MVP: John Abraham (2 tackles, 1 sack, 1 hurry) and was held all day and it wasn’t called.

Special Teams MVP: David Irons (2 tackles).

Goat of the Week: Quinn Ojinnaka (3 sacks allowed and 3 penalties).

Let me know your thoughts and questions otherwise:

Next up: VS Indianapolis Colts, November 22nd!

Hope all have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving!

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Harrington to start vs. Colts

November 21st, 2007 Comments off

The Falcons have made a short-term decision on who will be the starting quarterback at least for tomorrow night’s matchup against the Indianapolis Colts. Joey Harrington will replace an injured Byron Leftwich in the starting lineup. Leftwich is listed among several Falcons as doubtful the Thanksgiving Night matchup against the Colts. Leftwich suffered an injured tailbone in last week’s loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Head coach Bobby Petrino was noncommittal on whether Harrington or Leftwich would get the start afterwards during this week’s press conference: “Since this is such a short week, we are worrying about the Indianapolis game right now. We’ll have a little break after that and we’ll see how everything goes.”

In other injury news, the Falcons listed tight end Dwayne Blakley (concussion), wide receiver Joe Horn (hamstring/foot), and offensive tackle Todd Weiner (knee) also as doubtful. Blakley is expected to be replaced by Courtney Anderson, a free agent pickup from a week ago. Rookie Laurent Robinson has filled in for Horn the past two weeks and will likely do again for a third consecutive week. Weiner was replaced by Quinn Ojinnaka at left tackle during last week’s game when he went out with injury. Ojinnaka is expected to do so again, although there might be a chance that Terrance Pennington may be given some reps on Thursday at left tackle.

Also on the injury report was tight end Alge Crumpler who was listed as probable with a foot injury.

Coleman and Lewis go on IR

November 20th, 2007 Comments off

The Falcons were dealt a severe blow at defensive tackle on Tuesday when they placed both starters Rod Coleman and Trey Lewis on injured reserve. To improve depth, the Falcons signed defensive tackle Jesse Mahelona, promoted defensive end Kevin Huntley from the practice squad, and re-signed end Derrick Jones to the practice squad.

Both Coleman and Lewis suffered their injuries this past weekend against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Coleman injured his triceps and hand on his right arm, while Lewis suffered a severe right knee injury. Depth was already a concern at the position after the release of starter Grady Jackson three weeks ago. After Jackson’s release, Lewis was promoted permanently as the starter at nose tackle. Coleman only returned from injury just five weeks ago.

Jonathan Babineaux and Montavious Stanley are expected to replace Coleman and Lewis, respectively. Babineaux started the first few games of the season in place of Coleman at the undertackle position. Stanley has gotten extensive playing time as the reserve nose tackle much of the season and now will be counted on to start. The team added free agent Tim Anderson a few weeks ago. He’s been inactive thus far, but will likely be counted on to have a much bigger role in the ensuing games.

Mahelona was a fifth round pick of the Tennessee Titans a year ago. Last season as a reserve with the Titans, he recorded 11 tackles and 1 sacks in 10 games. He was released by the Titans after being inactive for Week 1 this season, and joined the Miami Dolphins in October. He was inactive for a single game before the Dolphins released him.

Huntley has been off and on the Falcons practice squad several teams thus far this year. He was originally signed on September 12 and then released on October 9. He was re-signed on October 29. Jones originally joined the team’s practice squad on October 17, but was released two weeks ago.

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Falcons stumble against Bucs

November 18th, 2007 Comments off

AP/John Amis The Falcons looked inept for the most part as they were beaten 31-7 by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home. The team falls to 3-7, ending their two game winning streak.

Byron Leftwich got the start after missing the past two games, but struggled as he completed 15 of 28 passes for 106 yards with 2 interceptions. He was replaced by Joey Harrington with less than five minutes to go in the third quarter, but he was not much of an improvement. Harrington completed 16 of 20 passes for 139 yards with a touchdown late to prevent the shutout. Warrick Dunn led rushers with 32 yards on 15 carries (2.1 avg) and also caught 8 passes for 40 yards. Michael Jenkins led receivers with 73 yards on 9 catches (8.1 avg). Adam Jennings caught the team’s only score, which was a 7-yard score with little more than a minute to go in the game. He finished the game with 2 catches for 11 yards. Roddy White (4 catches for 28 yards) and Alge Crumpler (3 catches for 28 yards) also contributed. The Falcons offense under Leftwich was only able to convert 1 of 10 third down tries.

Defensively, the Falcons were not much better. They were fairly solid in the first half, only allowing 7 offensive points for the Bucs and the Bucs did not convert any of their 4 third down attempts. But could not hold them in the second half giving up 17 points and allowing the Bucs to convert 50% of their 6 third down tries. Keith Brooking led the team with 8 tackles and also added a fumble recovery. Michael Boley (7 tackles), Jonathan Babineaux (5 tackles), John Abraham (2 tackles, 1 sack), and Chris Houston (2 tackles, 1 forced fumble) had noteworthy games.

On special teams, the Falcons had seven points negated by a holding penalty on Stephen Nicholas after Jerious Norwood took a kickoff 87 yards. Norwood finished the game with 5 kickoffs for an average of 22 yards. On punt returns, Adam Jennings had 3 returns for 14 yards. Michael Koenen had 7 punts for an average of 36.7 yards with 4 being put inside the 20-yard line. The Falcons also had a season-high 11 penalties against them.

The Falcons will host the Indianapolis Colts (8-2) this upcoming Thursday on Thanksgiving Day. It marks the Falcons second Thanksgiving game. They defeated the Detroit Lions in 2005. The Colts have an all-time record of 1-0-1 on Thanksgiving, their last game coming in a 41-9 beating of the Lions in 2004.

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Game #9 AT Carolina Panthers Review

November 17th, 2007 Comments off

Outside of the first drive and a portion of the second half, the offense struggled but the defense came through in flying colors allowing only 2 field goals in the game.

Here’s what I saw:

Offense:

Running game: Dunn (26/89, 1 TD), Pinner (1/-3) and Harrington (1/2). Effective Runs (4 yards or more)-Dunn, 7. Dunn also had 3 catches for 51. He was a majority of the offense in the game.

Breakdown of passes:

Harrington: 19/26, 192 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT. Breakdown of incompletions: 3 Bad passes, 3 Passes defended and 1 Drop. Joey made some good plays and managed the game. From what I saw, 2 of the defended passes could have possibly been completions with more arm strength. Also, there were a couple of short completions on 3rd down that he had plenty of time on and could have looked past the sticks to continue the drive.

Redman: 1/1, 9 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT. Nice job of coming in cold and picking up the 3rd down conversion.

Drops (1): White.

YTD Drops (23):

Jenkins 6
White 5
Crumpler 3
Horn 3
Dunn 3
Norwood 1
Blakley 1
Robinson 1

Run blocking: Outside of the short yardage push issue still existing, I noticed that our linemen aren’t getting to the second level. This contributed heavily to Dunn’s low YPC number. Had the blocking gotten to the second level (linebackers in particular) then more yards would have been gained but with the linebackers roaming free, they were able to quickly close the hole for a 1 or 2 yard gain.

Pass blocking: Much, much better this week. Hopefully, the improvement is a sign of things to come. The sacks that did occur were due to guards not coming off their double teams to pick up a stunt or a delayed linebacker blitz.

Sack responsibility (2): Forney was engaged in a double-team and didn’t pull off to pick up Diggs in time. The second sack was a result of a stunt by Rucker that Blalock didn’t pick up in time.

YTD Sacks (28):

Scheme 2.0
Norwood 2.5
Gandy 1.0
Forney 3.0
Harrington 6.5
Weiner 1.5
Blalock 6.5
McClure 2.0
Dunn 1.0
Foster 1.0
Clabo 1.0

Note: QB responsible sacks are those that he has at least 3 seconds and either chose to try to scramble or stayed in the pocket when the better decision would be to throw it away. Also includes those rushing attempts that go for 0 or negative yardage that for some reason are counted as a sack.

Defense:

Run defense: Very stout effort allowing only 90 yards on 28 carries.

Pass Defense: Very good. Noticeably better on RB’s and TE’s and a very good effort all around.

Sacks: Rod Coleman got both sacks.

Special Teams:

Jennings had 3 kickoff returns and no touchbacks: 1. from the goal line, 25 yards; 2. from the 11, 21 yards; 3. from the 3, 21 yards. Solid day returning.

Jennings had 5 punt returns and 1 fair catches: 1. from the ATL 15, -2 yards; 2. from the ATL 30, 7 yards; 3. from the ATL 31, 2 yards; 4. from the ATL 21, 6 yards (negated by illegal block by McIntyre); 5. from the ATL 32, 23 yards. Not a lot of opportunity to do much but came through on the last one to set up the game-winning TD.

Koenen had 8 punts: 1-40 yards to the CAR 20, no return. 2-49 yards to the CAR 26, 15 yard return. 3-51 yards to CAR 22, 8 yard return. 4-49 yards to the CAR 32, 33 yard return. 5-50 yards to the CAR 14, no return. 6-47 yards to the CAR 9, 7 yard return. 7-49 yards to the CAR 30, 10 yard return (negated by holding penalty). 8-50 yards to the CAR 20, 2 yard return. Excellent distance.

Kickoffs: Koenen had 5 kickoffs: 1. to the 4, 28 yard return; 2. to the 1, 28 yard return; 3. to the -2, 21 yards; 4. to the end zone, touchback; 5. to the 27, 14 yard return. Very good day for Koenen.

Field Goals: Andersen went 2/2. Good from 36 and 47. Absolutely no doubt that 47 is his limit.

Special Teams coverage: Very spotty. Robinson had a pretty good day for the Panthers.

Things that really need improvement:

1. O-line needs to get more push and reach the second level.
2. Eliminate negative yardage plays (penalties, negative rushes, and sacks).
3. More throws beyond 10 yards.

Offensive MVP: Warrick Dunn (89 yards rushing, 51 yards receiving, 1 TD)
Defensive MVP: Chris Houston (8 tackles, 2 passes defended)

Special Teams MVP: Michael Koenen.

Goat of the Week: Laurent Robinson (fumble resulting in Carolina’s only touchdown).

Let me know your thoughts and questions otherwise:

Next up: VS Tampa Bay Buccaneers, November18th!

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Falcons make roster moves

November 13th, 2007 Comments off

One Falcon rookie will have his season begin, while another one will have his season end. The Falcons promoted running back Jason Snelling from the practice squad, and also placed tight end Martrez Milner on injured reserve. Snelling was the team’s seventh round pick this past April, while Milner was selected in the fourth round. Snelling had spent the first ten weeks of the season on the team’s practice squad after leading the team in rushing during the preseason. Milner had played primarily as a reserve, but had seen substantial playing time throughout the season due to injuries to Dwayne Blakley and Alge Crumpler. He finishes the season with 9 catches for 50 yards. To make room for Snelling, the team released linebacker Travis Williams. Replacing Milner will be tight end Courtney Anderson.

In four preseason games, Snelling had 41 carries for 174 yards (4.2 avg) and also caught 7 passes for 35 yards (5.0 avg). His preseason performance however was not enough to earn him a roster spot, as the team decided to go with a more experienced running back in Artose Pinner. Due to the recent injury to Jerious Norwood, and the struggles of Pinner as a situational runner, the team is expected to give Snelling a long look in short yardage situations.

Williams was promoted to the active roster from the practice squad a month ago. In three games he appeared in, he recorded 3 stops on special teams.

Anderson appeared in 2 games this season with the Detroit Lions. He was waived by the Miami Dolphins at the end of training camp, after being released by the Oakland Raiders at the end of July. He started 28 games for the Raiders over the past three seasons, catching 62 passes for 763 yards (12.3 avg) and 6 touchdowns. He was originally a 7th round pick out of San Jose State in 2004.

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Mid Season Review

November 13th, 2007 Comments off

Okay, I should have done this last week instead of this week. But I’m glad I waited a week. Last team after the quarter season review we had just come off a win, and it seemed like things were looking up. Well they weren’t. But now after two wins, it does generally seem like things have gotten better.

OFFENSE

Quarterback – Harrington has struggled and Leftwich hasn’t done a whole lot in his roughly 4 quarters of play. But Harrington has led the team to two wins the past two weeks, despite not playing particularly well. This position has been a problem over the second quarter, after seeming like a strength over the first quarter. GRADE: C-

Running Back – Dunn has played much better over the past two games, and Norwood has played well whenever he’s been on the field. THis position doesn’t look like a major weakness anymore, but it still remains that the Falcons ground game is far from good. It’s just getting better so far. If Dunn keeps this up and Norwood comes back soon, this position may actually be halfway decent. GRADE: C+

Receivers – While the big plays aren’t really there, this position has been a model of consistency this season. There have been a few drops but not nearly to the degree that plagued this team last season. Roddy has been solid all season long. Robinson and Jenkins have made contributions, and Horn’s play has improved as the season has wore on. GRADE: B+

Offensive Line – This unit got off to a rocky start, giving up 13 sacks in the first two games. Since then, the unit has given up 15 sacks in 7 games, which in terms of what the Falcons normally do in a season is actually pretty great. This unit is far from strong, but it has managed to survive some injuries, as it’s started five different offensive tackles. GRADE: C-

Offensive MVP: Roddy White
Runners Up: Jerious Norwood, Todd Weiner

Overview – Putting points on the board has been an issue. Protecting the QBs has been an issue. The offense right now is weak and at this point, can probably only be relied upon to put up 2 touchdowns per game, and that’s all. Outside Norwood’s runs, there aren’t many big plays on this unit. They are average at best, and generally one of the weaker units in the league. GRADE: C

DEFENSE

Defensive Line – Injuries plagued this unit early on, but it has managed to survive. Abraham hasn’t been a monster each week, but he’s generally been good and for the most part has provided almost all the Falcons pass rush. Coleman looks to be improving after missing the first five games. Babineaux, Lewis, and Stanley have made contributions. Grady Jackson is gone, which is a loss, but doesn’t seem like a huge loss anymore. Anderson hasn’t done too much in terms of making plays, but he’s proved he’s not a liability against the run, which was believed of him. Hopefully, his pass rush skills will be showcased before the season is through. GRADE: B

Linebackers – This position has been somewhat spotty. Boley has been the picture of consistency and will probably be the only Falcon getting serious Pro Bowl consideration. Brooking and Williams however have been the spotty ones. Brooking has had some decent games, but it’s clear he’s at the end of the road. Williams is far from a playmaker, and besides two “gimme” interceptions, he’s been borderline invisible. GRADE: B

Secondary – This unit has shown immense improvement over the weeks. At the beginning of the year, I believed this was the weakest unit on the entire team. But in recent weeks, they’ve been able to make plays versus the pass and the run. Milloy looked done until two very good games the past two weeks. Hall despite his early season issues, has played well in recent weeks. Frankly, Hall is having his best season this year despite all the drama. Houston looks to be coming on as a decent No. 2 cornerback. Crocker and even Jimmy Williams have made contributions in recent weeks as well. This unit is looking like it’s beginning to gel. GRADE: B

Defensive MVP: Michael Boley
Runners Up: John Abraham, Lawyer Milloy, DeAngelo Hall

Overview – The defense has played well over the past month, at least relatively. They’ve made stops and essentially won 2 games when the offense could not due to their lack of scoring. The Giant game has been the only one where they gave up more than 28 points, an on average are giving up about 21 points this season. They are far from one of the better units in the NFL, but they are good enough to get this team some wins against lesser opponents. GRADE: B

Special Teams – This unit has some issues early on, but has been pretty decent over the rest of the season. Andersen is excellent inside 45 yards, but beyond that point, he’s bad. But despite this, I have very little confidence in him generally unlike last year. Koenen has been solid as both a punter and kickoff guy. He’s helped the defense a lot with field position in recent weeks. Jennings is beginning to come on as a return man, after a very very mundane first month or so of the season. Norwood is a capable kickoff return guy. And coverage units aren’t great, but generally don’t give up too much. GRADE: B

Coaching – Play-calling has a lot to be desired, but that seems overridden by the fact that this team seems hungrier and plays harder as the game wears on each week. This team is still competitive to the very end, with the Giant game being the lone exception, which is what you like to see when you are a 3-6 team. GRADE: B

Rookies – All but 2 of the teams’ 11 rookies have played this year. Datish is on IR, and Snelling has spent the entire year on the practice squad. Anderson and Blalock have started every game so far, and haven’t been great, but shown some ability. Anderson hasn’t shown much as a pass rusher, and Blalock has struggled in pass protection, but a lot of his mistakes have been mental more so than physical it seems. Houston and Lewis have essentially become regular starters as the season has wore on, outplaying Sanders and Jackson. Robinson has been a valuable No. 3 receiver and has seemingly taken that job from Jenkins in recent weeks. Milner is a quality backup that has made some grabs in recent weeks with Crumpler injured. Nicholas’s reps on defense have diminished over the course of the year, but he’s still a valuable contributor on special teams. As are Stone and Irons. So far the Falcons have gotten serious contributions from this rookie class, moreso than any other year in recent memory.

Most Valuable Rookie: Trey Lewis

Second Half Outlook – The second quarter was bad at first, but got good after the bye. Hopefully the Falcons can build off the momentum of the past two weeks, beat the Bucs this week, probably lose to the Colts the week after, but come back and win some more game
s against the Rams, Saints, etc. It’s a possibilty that this team may only lose 1 or 2 more games the rest of the way. I doubt that happens, but I do think there is a distinct possibility that we could win 3 or 4 more games the rest of this season to get to 6-10 or 7-9 assuming the performances of the past two weeks is not just a fluke.

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