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Archive for June, 2008

Horn allowed to seek trade

June 30th, 2008 Comments off

According to the AJC’s Steve Wyche, Falcons receiver Joe Horn and his agent have been given clearance to gauge interest of other NFL teams in a prospective trade. Horn told the Wyche in May that he wanted to be traded by the Falcons mainly due to decreased playing time. However per Wyche, Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff has indicated that there has been no activity on the trade front involving Horn. Per Wyche, Horn’s agent has talked to the Dallas Cowboys about a deal, but there has been no discussions between the Cowboys and Falcons. Earlier this week, reports surfaced that the Cowboys were interested in acquiring Horn. However on Friday, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones denied interest.

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Ranking the NFL: Defensive Lines

June 30th, 2008 Comments off

The defensive line grades are up. I tried not to over-emphasize one great player, and tried to give credit to teams a bit more that had multiple impact players along their lines. Depth and the strength of the rotation matters as well. I tried my best not to make too big a bias towards stopping the run or rushing the passer. I think I found a pretty good balance, but if there is any skewing, it’s probably towards pass rush. Total points awarded for defensive lines was 48 points.

RNK TEAM        PTS  GRADE
1 Vikings 40 A-
2 Patriots 33 B+
3 Bears 32 B
4 Ravens 30 B
5 Saints 30 B
6 Colts 29 B
7 Giants 29 B
8 Steelers 29 B
9 Chargers 28 B-
10 Packers 28 B-
11 Bills 27 B-
12 Eagles 27 B-
13 Seahawks 27 B-
14 Buccaneers 26 B-
15 Texans 26 B-
16 Titans 26 B-
17 Browns 24 C+
18 Cowboys 24 C+
19 Jaguars 24 C+
20 Panthers 24 C+
21 Rams 23 C+
22 49ers 22 C+
23 Bengals 22 C+
24 Jets 22 C+
25 Broncos 21 C
26 Cardinals 21 C
27 Redskins 21 C
28 Falcons 20 C
29 Lions 20 C
30 Chiefs 19 C
31 Raiders 17 C-
32 Dolphins 15 C-

Why are the Falcons 28th? Simply put, because outside Abraham, no one has emerged as an impact player. The Falcons have pretty good depth, but they need one of their three other starters to emerge as a playmaker. Personally, I think you’ll see significant improvement from Anderson and Babineaux this year, but I’m not sure it’s going to be enough where the Falcons defensive line is considered good in relative times.

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Horn to Cowboys?

June 28th, 2008 Comments off

NFL.com’s Adam Schefter reports that the Dallas Cowboys perhaps will have interest in acquiring Falcons wide receiver Joe Horn to shore up their wide receiver depth. The Cowboys are currently embroiled in a dispute with disgruntled reserve receiver Terry Glenn over an injury waiver. Horn has been linked to possibly being a candidate to be released by the Falcons since the spring, and even reportedly requested a trade from the team in May.

Horn’s value to the Falcons was lessened when the team drafted Louisville receiver Harry Douglas in the third round this past April. Horn is not expected to start this season, losing his job to second-year player Laurent Robinson. Horn caught 27 passes in 12 games last season for the Falcons, but only averaged 9 yards per catch and scored 1 touchdown, less production than expected when the team signed him to a four-year $19 million contract in March 2007. As part of that deal, Horn’s 2008 base salary of $2.5 million is fully guaranteed.

So far, the Falcons have indicated that they have no plans on parting ways with Horn. It remains to be seen if that will be the case as the summer progresses.

UPDATE: ESPN’s Ed Werder cites a team source that confirms Schefter’s report that the Cowboys have initiated internal discussion about acquiring Horn. However, Dallas Morning News columnist Brian Davis reports that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones denied interest in Horn to ESPN during an Arena Football game on Friday night.

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The Sam Baker Experiment

June 27th, 2008 Comments off

A large degree of Falcon fans were very skeptical of Sam Baker’s ability to be an effective left tackle on the NFL level when the team traded up to get him in the first round. And you can count me as one of them.

Look, I think Baker is a solid player. He was very productive at USC, and I think in general he’s a very good blocker and offensive linemen. But that doesn’t mean he can stick at left tackle, which takes a unique player to be effective there.

It seems likely that Sam Baker will get the chance to start for this team this year at left tackle. It seems the coaching staff is doing everything in their power right now to make that possibility a certainty. So I wonder, if/when Baker takes over the starting job, how long a leash should he be given?

I’m not outright predicting that Baker will fail, I’m just asking if he does, when do you pull the plug? How much time is too much (or too little) time before you move on and go in a different direction?

From my perspective it’s one year for Baker. Look I’m not saying completely give up on him after one season. But unless Baker flashes real potential as a starter during his rookie season, I think the Falcons need to start planning on making a move. No, Baker doesn’t need to be the next incarnation of Tony Boselli or even Joe Thomas right away, but if he’s going to struggle and give up a bunch of sacks week after week, then I say pull the plug on him at left tackle, and try him at a new position.

Personally, I’m more confident of Baker’s ability to play inside than outside, due to his short arms. Yeah, I know that can be a bit overblown. There are plenty of successful short-armed left tackles in the league. But it’s not the measure of his arms per se, it’s the fact that he plays short-armed. Other guys with short arms, it’s not so obvious when you watch them play, and they make up for it with superior technique and footwork. Which, in Baker’s case I think he can (and hopefully will) be able to do. His best asset is his technique and footwork and hopefully that continues to be the case.

But I think Baker could be a very effective guard, or perhaps even a Pro Bowl center. He’s not particularly strong so he doesn’t really have the strength to match up with big defensive tackles inside, but at center, his lack of strength and inability to push the pile won’t be an issue.

All I’m saying is that if Baker struggles at left tackle this year, much in the same way that Justin Blalock did at left guard last year, then I think in 2009 he needs to be moved inside. I don’t want to see this team’s and Baker’s time wasted just so that the powers that be in Atlanta can justify their selection of Baker if from the start it’s apparent that it’s not working. It’s not often that the Oakland Raiders are seen as a team worth emulating, but in this case we should learn from their experience with Robert Gallery.

Hey and look on the bright side, even if Baker struggles mightily this season, perhaps he’ll wind up being the guy that ends Todd McClure’s “reign of terror” at center. ;)

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Biermann signs

June 26th, 2008 Comments off

The Falcons signed fifth round pick Kroy Biermann to a four-year contract. Biermann at only 6’3″ 246 pounds is expected to play defensive end for the Falcons. He won the Buck Buchanan award for the top defensive player in the FCS (formerly Division I-AA) with 70 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss, 16 sacks, and 5 forced fumbles. For his career at Montana, Bierman had 56 tackles for loss, 33 sacks, 9 forced fumbles, and 7 fumble recoveries.

Biermann’s signing leaves the team with only three of its eleven 2008 draft picks unsigned: first round offensive tackle Sam Baker, second round linebacker Curtis Lofton, and fifth round linebacker Robert James.

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Ranking the NFL: Offensive Lines

June 26th, 2008 Comments off

Okay, now it’s time to rank the offensive lines around the league. This position gets a full 48 points in value. I must say though that these rankings are less about production, and more about talent level. And it also does skewer towards pass protection more so than run blocking. There are some teams at the bottom that run the ball very well, but are basically at the bottom because they can’t pass block.

RNK TEAM       PTS  GRADE
1 Chargers 38 A-
2 Patriots 37 A-
3 Eagles 32 B
4 Cowboys 32 B
5 Buccaneers 32 B
6 Colts 31 B
7 Packers 30 B
8 Redskins 30 B
9 Titans 29 B-
10 Seahawks 27 B-
11 Vikings 27 B-
12 Giants 25 C+
13 Browns 25 C+
14 BEngals 25 C+
15 Jets 24 C+
16 Saints 23 C+
17 Broncos 23 C+
18 Jaguars 22 C+
19 Bills 22 C+
20 Rams 22 C+
21 Cardinals 20 C
22 Panthers 20 C
23 Bears 19 C
24 Texans 19 C
25 Ravens 19 C
26 Steelers 18 C
27 Dolphins 16 C-
28 Lions 16 C-
29 Falcons 16 C-
30 Chiefs 15 C-
31 49ers 14 C-
32 Raiders 14 C-

Why are the Falcons 29th? Some of you are probably thinking they should be 32nd, but I don’t think the Falcons offensive line is as bad as it often gets accused of being. It’s bad, but not terrible. I think injuries really hurt us last year. But the main reason we aren’t at the very bottom is I believe our depth is superior to most of the other teams near the bottom of the list. Frankly, as far as our depth goes, we should probably be in the top half of teams. Unfortunately, our starters (i.e. the guys that matter) just aren’t that good.

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Falcons cut Datish

June 23rd, 2008 Comments off

The Falcons cut 2007 sixth round pick center Doug Datish on Monday afternoon. Datish is the first of any of the 2007 draft class to be released from the team. Datish missed all of last season due to a wrist injury he suffered early in training camp.

He was a three-year starter at Ohio State, manning three different positions: left guard, left tackle, and center. He was the starting center for the Buckeye team that lost to the Florida Gators in the National Championship Game in January 2007.

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Falcons sign Douglas and veteran safety

June 20th, 2008 Comments off

The Falcons signed third round pick wide receiver Harry Douglas on Friday as well as free agent safety Deke Cooper. Douglas is the seventh rookie draft pick to sign with the team.

Douglas was a highly productive player at Louisville. He caught a total of 173 passes for 2,924 yards and 15 touchdowns while there as a two-year starter. He was most productive as a senior, catching 71 passes for 1,159 yards (16.3 avg) and 7 scores. He is expected to compete for playing time as the team’s No. 3 or No. 4 wide receiver this season.

Cooper started 15 games for the Carolina Panthers last season at free safety. He finished with 59 tackles and 3 interceptions. The six-year veteran spent years with the 49ers and Jaguars before joining the Panthers last year. The Falcons released safety Jimmy Williams earlier this week, and Cooper’s signing indicates that the team is still unsure about its young and unproven safety depth.

The team also released offensive linemen Mike Butterworth and Kurt Quarterman, defensive end Derrick Jones, and safety Jamal Lewis. Both Butterworth and Lewis were undrafted rookies the team signed this off-season. Quarterman and Jones spent last year with the team on both the practice squad and briefly on the active roster.

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Ranking the NFL: Tight Ends

June 19th, 2008 Comments off

I probably should have just lumped this in with receivers, but I wanted to sort of factor in the run blocking aspect of this position. And instead of strictly grading teams on how good a group of receivers they havee, I tried to factor in guys that can push the pile as well. Although I must say, it is still biased towards receivers, since I counted more in favor of a guy who is a top-tier pass catcher than a guy that is one of the better run blockers for this position group. Maximum points is 24.

RNK TEAM       PTS GRADE
1 Chargers 19 A-
2 Cowboys 17 B+
3 Giants 16 B
4 Titans 15 B
5 Browns 15 B
6 Steelers 15 B
7 Chiefs 15 B
8 Colts 15 B
9 Rams 14 B-
10 Texans 14 B-
11 Ravens 14 B-
12 Redskins 14 B-
13 Jaguars 13 B-
14 Bears 13 B-
15 Jets 13 B-
16 Broncos 13 B-
17 Buccaneers 13 B-
18 Saints 12 C+
19 Bengals 12 C+
20 Vikings 11 C+
21 Patriots 11 C+
22 Eagles 11 C+
23 49ers 11 C+
24 Cardinals 9 C
25 Dolphins 8 C
26 Lions 8 C
27 Seahawks 7 C-
28 Packers 7 C-
29 Bills 7 C-
30 Raiders 7 C-
31 Falcons 6 D+
32 Panthers 4 D

Why are the Falcons so low? While Hartsock, Milner, and whoever should fill in ably as far as the Falcons are concerned in the ground game, they still leave a lot to be desired as receivers. And at some point in the year, you are going to have use for a tight end that can open up the middle of the field in the passing game. And that’s something the Falcons clearly lack, unless either of those players can come out of their shell and blossom.

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Falcons get time off before camp

June 19th, 2008 Comments off

Head coach Mike Smith decided to forgo the three-day mini-camp next week and gave the Falcons team time off until they resume workouts on July 26 for training camp. Players will report on July 25.

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