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Archive for July, 2010

Falcons add TE Agnone

July 31st, 2010 Comments off

The Falcons announced their first roster move since the start of training camp with the signing of tight end Robbie Agnone and the release of defensive back Gabe Derricks.

Agnone was cut by the New England Patriots in May after spending most of the 2009 season on their practice squad. He was an undrafted rookie free agent originally signed by the Washington Redskins before the ’09 season. He spent two years at Delaware after transferring from the University of Pittsburgh. In his three seasons with the Blue Hens, he caught a total of 71 passes for 886 yards (12.5 avg) and 11 touchdowns.

Agnone adds depth to the tight end position that may be without undrafted free agent Colin Peek for a period of time. Mike Smith labeled Peek day to day after he injured his right knee during Friday’s afternoon practice. He sat out both of Saturday’s practices.

Derricks was an undrafted free agent signed by the Falcons this past spring out of San Diego.

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Chris Owens: Why He’ll Start in 2010

July 30th, 2010 Comments off
Icon Sports Media, Inc.

Chris Owens

First off, let me point out ATLJBO’s excellent highlight video of Chris Owens on YouTube. Because this was what first put the nugget in my head that Owens would win the competition this year at cornerback. What probably stands out to you as you finish the clip, is how good Owens was against the run last year. He made several big hits and good tackles there. I also noticed this in the final weeks of the season when I was recently reviewing games for Moneyball.

This shouldn’t be underestimated. Over the years, tackling has become a lost art among cornerbacks and defensive backs in general. To the point that if and when you come across a corner that does it well, it makes him stand out. This is one of the reasons why the Falcons brass have been so keen on Dunta Robinson over the years.

I also noticed that the times when Owens was beat in coverage, it was largely due to poor footwork and sloppy technique. I believe that new assistant secondary coach Tim Lewis was indicating this when he was interviewed by the AJC back in February and talked specifically about improving these things. If Lewis is successful at getting these corners to improve their technique and footwork, then Owens stands to potentially benefit the most.

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Falcons agree to five-year deal with Witherspoon

July 30th, 2010 Comments off

Originally reported by Jay Glazer of FOX Sports, the team later confirms that an agreement has been reached on a five-year deal with top pick linebacker Sean Weatherspoon. Weatherspoon marked the last of the teams’ seven draft picks to sign. His signing a deal means that he will not be considered a holdout when the Falcons open training camp practices tomorrow morning.

UPDATE: Adam Schefter of ESPN tweets that Weatherspoon’s deal includes $10.4 million guaranteed and worth a maximum value of $17.4 million.

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Moneyball – Final Tally

July 29th, 2010 Comments off

Okay, so my natural proclivity to procrastinate during the season meant that you had to wait six extra months for this little experiment to be over. And I think I’m going to do it again this year with some possible tweaking and less procrastination. The whole point behind this thing was initially to show which players are the ones that are making plays. And I think it does a fairly good job illustrating that even with its inherent biases towards quarterbacks, running backs, defensive linemen, and against offensive linemen and defensive backs.

For example, Curtis Lofton wound up with a defensive total earning of $0.00. Now that is not to indicate that Lofton had no impact on defense. He very much did. But Lofton made few plays outside of making tackles for loss. He finished second on the team with 17. And while his ability to sniff out the run definitely was a major reason why the Falcons finished the 2009 season with a Top 10 run defense, it was his issues in coverage that negated many of those big plays. Lofton was credited with 11 blown coverages, including 4 for touchdowns (tied with Peterson for the most on the team). And that’s not to say that Lofton is a horrible cover guy, but opposing teams routinely targeted him on third downs and were able to convert too often. And while Mike Peterson had more (14.5) blown coverages, he was able to make up for it at times because he was also credited with 7 passes defended, including four that came on third downs, resulting in a change of possession.

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Moneyball Update – Week 17

July 29th, 2010 Comments off

Okay, it’s finally done.

The Falcons offense really struggled early on in this game. Mularkey tried the no huddle in the second quarter to jump start it. It was better, but the Falcons didn’t get on the board until midway through the quarter on a Bryant field goal, on a drive that was kicked off by a pick thrown by Ryan that didn’t count because of a ticky-tack defensive holding call on Ronde Barber. Overall, Ryan didn’t have a great game. He made some poor throws at times, but he wasn’t bad because he made some really good throws as well. Snelling capped off a strong season with a big game. He got $8 of his earnings on the teams final drive as they were running out the clock. White was the only receiver that really showed up, although Peelle made some nice plays. Not sure why the Falcons offense was so stagnant. The running game wasn’t great in the first half, and Gonzalez was nursing a sore calf, but he played quite a bit. It just seemed out of sync, which looked to be a common theme for this offense in road games.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLOCK
SPEC
PEN
TOTAL
Jason Snelling$0$20$1-$1$0$0$20.00
Matt Ryan$7$0$0$0$0$0$7.00
Roddy White$0$0$6$0$0$0$6.00
Justin Peelle$0$0$5$0$0$0$5.00
Ovie Mughelli$0$1$0$4$0$0$5.00
Jerious Norwood$0$3$2-$1$0$0$4.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$3$0$0$3.00
Todd McClure$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Sam Baker$0$0$0$2$0-$1$1.00
Quinn Ojinnaka$0$0$0$2$0-$1$1.00
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0$2$0-$1$1.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$1$0$0$0$1.00
Michael Jenkins$0$0$1$0$0$0$1.00
Marty Booker$0$0-$1$0$0$0-$1.00
Eric Weems$0$0$0$0$0-$2-$2.00

Defensively, the Falcons had a solid game. They shut down the Bucs ground game, despite their commitment to run the ball. They forced some turnovers on Freeman because they were able to pressure him. The picks by Owens and Grimes probably were the biggest reasons why the Falcons won, because they were able to convert them into 10 points. Abe had a good game, pressuring the quarterback a lot. Babs, Davis, and Biermann also carried their weight up front as well with solid performances. Owens got beat twice on the Bucs only offensive scoring drive, but came back with the pick the next series. He also made plays vs. the run.

PLAYER
DEF
SPEC
PEN
TOTAL
John Abraham$7$0$0$7.00
Chauncey Davis$3$0$0$3.00
Brent Grimes$2.5$0$0$2.50
Kroy Biermann$2$0.5$0$2.50
Jonathan Babineaux$2$0$0$2.00
Stephen Nicholas$1.5$0$0$1.50
Thomas DeCoud$1$0$0$1.00
Matt Bryant$0$1$0$1.00
Michael Koenen$0$1$0$1.00
Erik Coleman$0.5$0$0$0.50
Lawrence Sidbury$0.5$0$0$0.50
Vance Walker$0.5$0$0$0.50
Spencer Adkins$0$0.5$0$0.50
Chevis Jackson$0$0$0$0.00
Mike Peterson-$0.5$0$0-$0.50
Coy Wire-$1$0-$1-$2.00
Chris Owens-$2$0$0-$2.00

Advanced Stats from Week 17:

Dropped Passes (2): White, Booker
Sacks Allowed (1): Norwood
Poor Throws (7): Ryan
QB Pressures Allowed (1): Clabo
Missed Blocks (2): Ojinnaka, Snelling
QB Pressures (9): Abraham (5), Biermann (2), Nicholas (1), Davis (1)
Missed Tackles (2): Peterson, Nicholas

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Progress made on Weatherspoon deal

July 28th, 2010 Comments off

D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC reports that progress has been made in the negotiations between the Falcons and top draft pick Sean Weatherspoon. Per Ledbetter, it’s possible that with a “push” tomorrow morning, Weatherspoon could be signed in time to report on time with the rest of the team for  team meetings on Thursday evening. However, the Falcons don’t hold their first practice until Friday morning at 8:30 AM, giving the team a bit more time to finalize a deal.

As of Wednesday night, only two other first round picks had been signed elsewhere in the league: 24th overall pick Dez Bryant and 27th overall pick Devin McCourty. Weatherspoon was the 19th overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.

The Falcons have not had a prolonged rookie holdout under the Smith-Dimitroff regime. 2008 first round pick Sam Baker did miss part of the team’s first practice due to the league working to approve his contract, while fellow ’08 top pick Matt Ryan and ’09 first rounder Peria Jerry were signed on time. 2007 top pick Jamaal Anderson also missed part of his first practice with the team in training camp. The Falcons haven’t had a prolonged holdout from a top pick since Roddy White nearly missed the entire first week of training camp in 2005.

Three are medically cleared to practice

July 27th, 2010 Comments off

D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC reports that Falcons head coach Mike Smith indicated that three players returning from season-ending knee injuries in 2009, are all medically cleared to practice once the Falcons begin training camp practices on Friday, July 30. Those three players are Harry Douglas, Peria Jerry, and Brian Williams.

According to Smith, all three will be brought along slowly and be limited to one practice a day. The Falcons will open camp with five days of a two-a-day practices. Ledbetter writes that there were notions that all three players could begin camp on the Physically-Unable-to-Perform (PUP) list, indicating their inability to practice.

Douglas suffered a torn ACL during the first week of training camp last summer. Jerry went down with his injury in the second game of the regular season, and Williams in the fifth. Williams also tore his ACL, but the specific details Jerry’s injury has never been disclosed by team officials. According to some sources, it may have been bone related.

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Camp Battles ’10: Final Roster Prediction

July 27th, 2010 Comments off

Here are my pre-camp predictions of what the final 53 man roster will look like based on the outcomes of many of these camp battles.

Quarterback

Starter: Matt Ryan
Backups: Chris Redman, John Parker Wilson

I don’t expect the Falcons to keep only two quarterbacks just because I expect Wilson to show enough this summer to merit the Falcons wanting to develop him long-term as the No. 2 to Matt Ryan.

Running Back

Starters: Michael Turner, Ovie Mughelli
Backups: Jerious Norwood, Antone Smith, Jason Snelling

No real surprise here. I think the Falcons will keep a fifth back because of what they learned last year with keeping Aaron Stecker on the roster for so long due to the durability issues of Norwood. I think Smith wins that gig because he provides Smith, which could be missing from the lineup in the event that Norwood gets hurt again. But this may be a position that the Falcons address at the end of camp with a veteran pickup given the potential of needing a more reliable third down back than what Smith may offer.

Wide Receiver

Starters: Michael Jenkins, Roddy White
Backups: Harry Douglas, Brian Finneran, Kerry Meier, Eric Weems

I think the Falcons will keep six because I think Weems will win one of the return jobs, coupled with the fact that Harry Douglas doesn’t appear to be 100% at this juncture. And I don’t expect that to change over the next month, so the Falcons will want to keep an extra body on the roster for depth.

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Moneyball Update – Week 16

July 26th, 2010 Comments off

The Falcons dominated this game from start to finish, but probably weren’t as efficient offensively as they could have been in the first half.

Matt Ryan had a nice game. The running backs were solid with Norwood and Snelling both making plays. Marty Booker had a big game as the Bills nickel corners couldn’t really cover him. Roddy White had a big game as well. Michael Jenkins didn’t really need to do much, and Tony Gonzalez got hurt halfway through the game. The pass protection broke down a few times as Aaron Schobel gave the blockers some fits. I really have enjoyed Quinn Ojinnaka playing in some of these recent games just because he’s so dirty. He got flagged for a personal foul this game in cleaning off a pile, and there was an instance of him trying to cut block somebody that if he hadn’t whiffed on the block probably wouldn’t have been a legal hit. This wasn’t the first time I’ve seen that. I don’t know if he’s trying extra hard to be nasty because of Dahl being out of the lineup. And I just find it humorous because he has such bad intentions but also pretty bad execution.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLOCK
SPEC
PEN
TOTAL
Roddy White$0$0$13$1$0-$1$13.00
Jason Snelling$0$10$0$0$0$0$10.00
Matt Ryan$11$0$0$0$0-$2$9.00
Jerious Norwood$0$7$0$0$0$0$7.00
Marty Booker$0$1$6$0$0$0$7.00
Eric Weems$0$2$0$0$2$0$4.00
Ovie Mughelli$0$1$0$1$0$0$2.00
Michael Jenkins$0$0$1$1$0$0$2.00
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0$3$0-$2$1.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Aaron Stecker$0$1$0$0$0$0$1.00
Chris Redman$0$1$0$0$0$0$1.00
Keith Zinger$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Quinn Ojinnaka$0$0$0$2$0-$2$0.00
Todd McClure$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Sam Baker$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00
Justin Peelle$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00

Defensively, the Falcons didn’t have a huge challenge ahead of them taking on the Bills offense led by an inexperienced and green Brian Brohm and what was essentially the Bills third string offensive linemen at multiple positions. Grimes and Owens both had intereceptions, which Grimes did a great job breaking on a poorly thrown pass. Sidbury picked up a Chauncey Davis-caused fumble for a touchdown. Kroy Biermann had a good day, as did Erik Coleman and Jonathan Babineaux. All in all the Falcons had very few negative plays against them on defense. You may also recall this was the game where Biermann got to show his kicking prowess. Not sure if it’s because our coverage was especially good today or the Bills kickoff returners stink, but they were held to under 20 yards on every return. The only exception was a 72-yarder that was called back due to holding, which the holding took place 19 yards from where Fred Jackson caught the kickoff, so it still worked out.

PLAYER
DEF
SPEC
PEN
TOTAL
Erik Coleman$4.5$0$0$4.50
Matt Bryant$0$4$0$4.00
Jonathan Babineaux$3$0$0$3.00
Lawrence Sidbury$3$0$0$3.00
Coy Wire$3$0$0$3.00
Kroy Biermann$3.5$0-$2$1.50
Chauncey Davis$1.5$0$0$1.50
John Abraham$1$0$0$1.00
Curtis Lofton$1$0$0$1.00
Chris Owens$1$0$0$1.00
Eric Brock$0$2-$1$1.00
Chevis Jackson$0$1$0$1.00
Thomas DeCoud$0.5$0$0$0.50
Thomas Johnson$0.5$0$0$0.50
Brent Grimes$0$0$0$0.00
Michael Koenen$0$0$0$0.00
Mike Peterson-$0.5$0$0-$0.50
Stephen Nicholas$0$0-$1-$1.00

Advanced Stats from Week 16:

Dropped Passes (0)
Sacks Allowed (3):
Ryan, Baker, Peelle
Poor Throws (7): Ryan
QB Pressures Allowed (3): Baker, Blalock, Ojinnaka
Missed Blocks (3): McClure
QB Pressures (3): Biermann
Missed Tackles (0)

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Camp Battles ’10: Special Teams

July 26th, 2010 Comments off

The Falcons will have an open competition at the kicker position. Matt Bryant is expected to be the frontrunner, but he will be pushed by Steven Hauschka.

Bryant has the experience which likely gives him the edge since the Falcons would like to avoid any inconsistency at the position. But Hauschka has the bigger leg and longer range. The problem is that he has not been particularly effective in clutch kicking situations and showed a tendency to miss some fairly easy kicks last year in Baltimore, leading to his release. But Hauschka also has the added advantage of being 10 years younger than Bryant.

The Falcons will have options, and will likely go with the more consistent of the two. More than likely, the team will alternate them in preseason games to maximize their opportunities.

At punter, Michael Koenen’s job is safe. And while Hauschka was an effective kickoff guy for two years in Baltimore, he doesn’t like he’ll be a serious challenge to Koenen even if he wins the job over Bryant. Joe Zelenka’s job as long snapper appears safe after a good last month of the season in 2009.

The return situation will also feature some heavy competition. Eric Weems is the incumbent returner, and while he may lack explosive speed to really get a lot of big plays, he is fairly consistent with his ability to give the team good field position. Jerious Norwood has more explosive speed on kickoffs, but the team may feel his value on offense makes Weems more desirable there. As a punt returner in 2008, Harry Douglas was fairly good. But he didn’t show the most reliable set of hands and coming off an ACL injury it doesn’t seem like he’ll have that same explosive burst. Dominique Franks will get an opportunity as well. He doesn’t have great speed, but if he can show he can be a reliable set of hands and show some big play potential there, he has a shot to unseat Weems.