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Moneyball Update – Week 15

July 25th, 2010 Comments off

This truly was a defensive battle. Both offenses struggled throughout the game, although I do think the Jets struggles were mainly because of the inexperience of their quarterback, while the Falcons struggles were because the Jets defense is really, really good.

Not a great game in terms of earning cash for Moneyball offensively. The running game picked up as the game wore on, and Jason Snelling made a very good 20-yard run on the game-winning drive that was critical. Jerious Norwood had some nice third down conversions on passes out in the flat. Ryan didn’t play great and had 4 passes that should have been picks dropped by Jets defenders. Gonzalez and Roddy were both contained for most of the game, but both players made key catches on the final drive, with Gonzo catching the game winner and Roddy making a key third down conversion that put us deep in Jets territory. The Jets blitz gave the Falcons fits, particularly early, although they were a bit better late in the game at handling it. The interesting thing I’ve noticed about the blocking up front is how much less effective a run blocker Tyson Clabo appears to be with Ojinnaka playing beside him. He doesn’t get as good push or position in recent games with Dahl out of the lineup as he did earlier in the season. The blocking wasn’t bad considering who were facing, but not exactly a strong performance either.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLOCK
SPEC
PEN
TOTAL
Jerious Norwood$0$4$4$0$0$0$8.00
Jason Snelling$0$8-$1$0$0$0$7.00
Matt Ryan$6$0$0$0$0$0$6.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$4$0$0$0$4.00
Michael Jenkins$0$0$1$1$0$0$2.00
Sam Baker$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Michael Turner$0$1$0$0$0$0$1.00
Marty Booker$0$0$1$0$0$0$1.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Todd McClure$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Ovie Mughelli$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Roddy White$0$0$1$0$0-$1$0.00
Quinn Ojinnaka$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Justin Peelle$0$0$0$0$0-$1-$1.00
Will Svitek$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00
Eric Weems$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00

Defensively the Falcons were able to make some plays. Sanchez threw 3 picks, although in all three cases I think they were the result of poor throws/decisions rather than great plays made by the defenders. But still, Grimes had 2 and DeCoud 1. The Falcons were stacking the box for most of the game which kept the Jets running game in check.  Chauncey Davis probably had the best game of his career, finishing with a tackle for loss, QB pressure, and the blocked field goal that gave the Falcons fairly good field position to set up the game-winning drive. He also got into a fight with Nick Mangold and played a lot of defensive tackle, summing up a pretty great day for him. Coverage was better in this game, but the Jets threw a lot of short passes besides the big bomb to Braylon Edwards. Again, I imagine if it wasn’t Mark Sanchez and a more experience and better QB lining up under center for the Jets, then we probably would have lost this one.

PLAYER
DEF
SPEC
PEN
TOTAL
Stephen Nicholas$2.5$1.5$0$4.00
Mike Peterson$3$0$0$3.00
Brent Grimes$3$0$0$3.00
Chauncey Davis$2$1$0$3.00
Thomas Johnson$2$0$0$2.00
Kroy Biermann$1.5$0$0$1.50
John Abraham$1$0$0$1.00
Jonathan Babineaux$1$0$0$1.00
Curtis Lofton$1$0$0$1.00
Erik Coleman$1$0$0$1.00
Chevis Jackson$1$0$0$1.00
Vance Walker$1$0$0$1.00
Matt Bryant$0$1$0$1.00
Antoine Harris$0$1$0$1.00
Spencer Adkins$0$1$0$1.00
Charlie Peprah$0$0.5$0$0.50
Thomas DeCoud$0$0$0$0.00
Lawrence Sidbury-$1$0$0-$1.00
Michael Koenen$0-$1-$1-$2.00
Chris Owens-$2$0$0-$2.00

Advanced Stats from Week 15:

Dropped Passes (2): Gonzalez, Snelling
Sacks Allowed (0)
Poor Throws (5): Ryan
QB Pressures Allowed (2): Baker, McClure
Missed Blocks (5): Ojinnaka (2), Blalock, Svitek, Weems
QB Pressures (2): Davis, Owens
Missed Tackles (2): Coleman, Sidbury

Categories: Features Tags: ,

Moneyball Update – Week 14

July 25th, 2010 Comments off

This was another hard game to watch, because the Falcons had opportunities to win this game, but just didn’t make those plays when they needed to. A poor throw here, blown coverage there, dropped pass here, questionable play call there and this game could have been won.

Chris Redman had a solid game and continued to show that the key difference between the offense under Redman vs. the offense under Ryan is that Redman is much more willing to challenge downfield than Ryan. Now that can get him into trouble at times as he did force a throw downfield into double coverage to Roddy White that resulted in the game-clinching interception by Jonathan Vilma. But it also means that the Falcons can at times make up for it with explosive plays in the passing game. Jason Snelling had a nice game, and Jerious Norwood had some nice runs I couldn’t help but notice especially early in the game that the offense seemed to stall when Norwood was given the ball. When a drive would start with Snelling toting the rock, the offense would move the ball, and then the Falcons would get into the Saints redzone, Norwood would get a carry and then a few plays later we were kicking field goals. Jenkins had an up and down game, dropping a wide open deep pass that would have been a touchdown. It was slightly overthrown, but he could have caught it. But he did catch another deep pass, and seemed to do very well against Darren Sharper in man coverage all day. Jason Snelling made some nice plays in the passing game, and Tony Gonzalez and Roddy White each had their moments as well. The blocking was solid as they were able to create some holes in the ground game, and Redman saw very little heat. Got to give credit to Sam Baker, who gave up 3 pressures in the previous Saints game, but not one in this one despite not being 100%. Also Justin Blalock effectively was able to pick up some of the slack in the ground attack and made some key blocks with Dahl out with injury.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLOCK
SPEC
PEN
TOTAL
Jason Snelling$0$8$6$0$0$0$14.00
Chris Redman$10$0$0$1$0$0$11.00
Jerious Norwood$0$5$0$0$0$0$5.00
Michael Jenkins$0$0$5$0$0$0$5.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$4$0$0$4.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$3$0$0$0$3.00
Roddy White$0$0$3$0$0$0$3.00
Eric Weems$0$2$0$0$1$0$3.00
Ovie Mughelli$0$0$1$0$0$0$2.00
Sam Baker$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Quinn Ojinnaka$0$0$0$2$0-$1$1.00
Todd McClure$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Brian Finneran$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00

The Falcons defense struggled early in this game making stops on third downs. And the Saints were able to make long drives and score touchdowns. The Saints converted 7 of their first 8 third down attempts. But they picked up their play in the latter half of the third quarter, making some stops to allow the offense to get back into the game. This game also showcased just how good a QB that Drew Brees is. The Falcons got some pressure on Brees during the early portion of the game, but he was able to elude it at times and make the throw despite taking the hit or having a guy in his face. Coverage was iffy, although I do think other than one big play given up, Chris Owens had a solid game in the secondary. Brees seemed to pick on Grimes a lot in this game, although I wouldn’t say he was a problem. He had a INT negated by a question P.I. call. I don’t agree with the call, but I understand why the ref made the call. It probably should have been illegal contact, and not a P.I., but it doesn’t matter. Peterson got beat twice for touchdowns, once again showing that he is questionable in coverage, but had a pretty decent day vs. the run. Abraham had a nice game, and probably had a few pressures negated because of the quality of Brees and lack of strong coverage in the secondary.

It was also nice to see competence in the kicking game for the first time all year.

PLAYER
DEF
SPEC
PEN
TOTAL
John Abraham$3$0$0$3.00
Matt Bryant$0$3$0$3.00
Chauncey Davis$2$0$0$2.00
Chevis Jackson$2$0$0$2.00
Michael Koenen$0$2$0$2.00
Jamaal Anderson$1$0$0$1.00
Kroy Biermann$1$0$0$1.00
Spencer Adkins$0$1$0$1.00
Jonathan Babineaux$1$0-$1$0.00
Curtis Lofton-$0.5$0$0-$0.50
Stephen Nicholas-$0.5$0$0-$0.50
Lawrence Sidbury-$0.5$0$0-$0.50
Thomas DeCoud$0$0-$1-$1.00
Erik Coleman-$1$0$0-$1.00
Chris Owens-$1$0$0-$1.00
Brent Grimes$0$0-$3-$3.00
Mike Peterson-$4.5$0$0-$4.50

Advanced Stats from Week 14:

Dropped Passes (2): Finneran, Jenkins
Sacks Allowed (0)
Poor Throws (4): Redman
QB Pressures Allowed (1): Gonzalez
Missed Blocks (2): McClure, Clabo
QB Pressures (3): Babineaux (2), Abraham
Missed Tackles (4): Abraham (1), Babineaux (1), DeCoud (1), Peterson (0.5), Lofton (0.5)

Categories: Features Tags: ,

Camp Battles ’10: Safety

July 25th, 2010 1 comment

The safety position may feature one of the few legitimate competitions for a starting position.

The battle may come between incumbent strong safety Erik Coleman and second-year player William Moore. It was obvious last season that when the Falcons took Moore in the second round of the draft, they envisioned him as a starter. But an injury early in camp derailed his chances of winning that job. And the Falcons plugged in Thomas DeCoud at free safety, and moved Coleman from his natural spot to the strong safety position. Coleman was serviceable as a starter, but his drop in production from 2008 to 2009 indicates that he is not a natural fit at his current position. So if Moore puts together a strong summer, then odds are he can win that position, and Coleman will be relegated to utility reserve.

But the Falcons won’t force Moore into the starting lineup after missing almost the entirety of his rookie year due to injury. They can afford to give him another year to develop before putting him into the lineup. The key for Moore’s chances of winning the job is if he can show that the mental awareness and discipline is there for him to man the starting position. Knowing his assignments in coverage are key for his success.

But after those three players, the competition is wide open. The Falcons may only need to keep four safeties because Coleman can play two positions. And that fourth spot will likely come down to Matt Giordano or Shann Schillinger. And who wins that battle will likely be largely dependent on who plays well on special teams this summer, since that is primarily what that player will do in the regular season. Giordano has more experience, but Schillinger is a rookie draft pick and thus has more long-term value. That probably gives Schillinger a slight edge in the competition.

Gabe Derricks and Rafael Bush are two undrafted free agents that will be in the mix and with good summers of producing on special teams and making some plays on defense could land practice squad roles.

Camp Battles ’10: Cornerback

July 24th, 2010 Comments off
Dunta Robinson

Dunta Robinson

The cornerback position may face the most competition of any unit on the roster from top to bottom.

Essentially the only player that is assured a roster spot is free agent pickup Dunta Robinson. Robinson was the Falcons most major addition to the roster this off-season. Solid preseason play from this position has been a rarity since Mike Smith took over, and the Falcons hope Robinson can help reverse that.

The other starting position will face heavy competition. Brian Williams is the incumbent, re-signed to a one-year contract, but is coming off a knee injury. Williams had already lost a step before the injury, and it remains to be seen if he still has enough in the tank to hold off the youth the Falcons have at the position.

His chief competition should come from Brent Grimes and/or Chris Owens. Grimes played well in the nickel role last season, and was a playmaker late in the year as a starter. Owens didn’t get a ton of playing time until the last month or so of the season, but showed promise. It would appear the team would prefer having one of them manning the other outside spot opposite Robinson.

Williams was utilized as a slot corner last year, and he it remains to be seen if either Owens or Grimes will get opportunities there as well. Last year when WIlliams went down, that position was manned by Chevis Jackson. Jackson had a disappointing sophomore year, but the coaches hope he can bounce back with a strong summer. Because of his experience playing in the slot, he has a legit chance of earning the nickel back position.

Pushing Jackson will be rookie Dominique Franks. A fifth round pick, Franks probably won’t be counted on to make a big impact as a rookie. He will have a chance to push for a reserve role, but more than likely the Falcons will utilize him on special teams at least early on. But a strong summer from Franks could spell and end to Willaims or Jackson’s Falcon career.

The other corner on the roster is Daylan Walker, an undrafted rookie. It’s also possible that fellow rookie Gabe Derricks may get opportunities here as well, despite being listed as a safety. Both players are long shots to make the roster, and essentially will need strong preseason performance to make the practice squad.

The Falcons will certainly keep five corners, but may opt to go for six, especially if Williams and Jackson show enough to merit being kept around.

Camp Battles ’10: Linebacker

July 23rd, 2010 Comments off
Sean Weatherspoon

Sean Weatherspoon

The brunt of the camp conflict at this position will come from Falcons top pick Sean Weatherspoon.

The Falcons drafted Weatherspoon to be an upgrade in speed and coverage abilities on defense. Thus far, they have cross-trained him at both outside spots, but it remains to be seen which position he will primarily play at this summer.

It would seem that strongside linebacker Stephen Nicholas is the likeliest of the starting trio to lose his spot in the starting lineup. Nicholas is a capable blitzer and able run defender, but is a liability in coverage. But at the same time, throughout last year weakside linebacker Mike Peterson also struggled in coverage. Peterson got off to a fast start last season but his played tailed off after the first month. One presumes that Weatherspoon is considered the long-term option to replace Peterson, so it would make sense if the Falcons tried to have him push there immediately, rather than facing the potential of shuffling the linebackers down the road.

There is also the possibility that Weatherspoon could become the starting weakside linebacker, and the team move Peterson to the strongside. But regardless of how the team shuffles the linebacker position, it must start with Weatherspoon having a strong summer. But his draft status gives him a leg up in competition. The Falcons haven’t had a first round pick not start the season opener under MIke Smith and Thomas Dimitroff.

Curtis Lofton is locked in the middle, and the team will be looking to see him make some improvements in coverage this summer.

Coy Wire may lose his status as the top reserve to either Weatherspoon, or whichever incumbent starter is benched. But he still has a firm grasp on a roster spot. He can play all three positions and is a valuable special teams performer.

Because of the versatility of Wire, Weatherspoon, and Peterson, the Falcons presumably can get away with keeping six linebackers on the roster. But normally 4-3 teams keep seven. So that means that there should be two more roster positions left available. The front runner for one of those spots would appear to be Spencer Adkins. Adkins only appeared in five games last year, but the team is looking to see him make further strides this summer. Also in the mix is Robert James, but due to a four-game suspension to open the regular season, he’ll have to have a really strong showing this summer for the team to keep him on. That looming suspension opens greater opportunities for undrafted rookies like Weston Johnson and Bear Woods. Both players will have to shine on special teams, as well as make some impact plays defensively in the preseason.

Camp Battles ’10: Defensive Line

July 22nd, 2010 Comments off

The defensive line is arguably one of the deepest positions on the team’s roster in terms of experience. Largely due to the fact that the team employs a heavy rotation on most Sundays last season.

The return of Peria Jerry could cause a minor shakeup here. His injury last season caused the team to start using Jamaal Anderson more as an interior player. But if he has a healthy return, then Anderson’s versatility is less valued. Couple that with the possibility that Anderson could lose his starting left end spot to Kroy Biermann this summer via competition, and his hold on a roster spot is tenuous.

We do know that John Abraham, Jonathan Babineaux, Kroy Biermann, and Peria Jerry seem to be locks to make the roster. But the guys that fill the remaining four or five slots remains to be seen. Lawrence Sidbury and Corey Peters are likely to be two of those players. How strong a summer Sidbury has could go a long way to how much success the team’s pass rush has in 2010. Peters’ status as a draft pick gives him good odds to making the final roster. But he’s not a lock since Thomas Johnson, Vance Walker, and Dan Klecko may also be breathing down his neck. Of that group, Walker probably stands the best chance to earn the top reserve defensive tackle spot. His play improved as last season wore on coupled with his youth gives him the best long-term potential of any backup tackle besides Peters.

Chauncey Davis is a steady performer on running downs, but the team may find it hard to justify keeping him around if Anderson is kept, and Sidbury improves. But his value as a run defender could become more pronounced if Biermann and Sidbury don’t show enough improvement in that area to be every down players.

Trey Lewis will also be in the mix inside. But he struggled throughout the 2009 season, and unless he has a major resurgence and shows the skill and potential he flashed in 2007, he seems like a roster long shot. Rajon Henley and Emmanuel Stephens are undrafted ends who can earn a practice squad position if they can show some burst and speed off the edge as pass rushers.

Camp Battles ’10: Offensive Line

July 21st, 2010 Comments off

The offensive line may be the only area of the team’s offense that might see a change in the starting lineup this season.

That would likely come at guard, as third round pick Mike Johnson pushes for playing time. More than likely, Justin Blalock will be looking over his shoulder more than Harvey Dahl, since Johnson should have an easier transition to the pros playing on the left side rather than the right. But more than likely, Blalock will retain his starting gig as the Falcons try to build and maintain continuity up front.

Even with the starting lineup likely to go unchanged, there will be a ton of competition for the reserve spots. A typical NFL team only has to keep eight linemen, although the Falcons kept nine for most last season. Because the team will have one or two less players than there are positions on the line, versatility is very important.

Will Svitek can play either tackle position. Quinn Ojinnaka has experience at all five positions. Garrett Reynolds worked both at guard and tackle last summer. Brett Romberg has also played both center and guard in Atlanta. And rookies Johnson and Joe Hawley also have experience playing more than one position in college. Those five players will be the most likely to land the four likely to be available reserve spots.

More than likely, the Falcons would like to keep both rookies on the roster. But just in case neither is quite ready to contribute right away off the bench, the need for the two remaining veterans to be able to play all five positions increases.

Read more…

Camp Battles ’10: Tight End

July 20th, 2010 Comments off

There isn’t going to be a lot of competition for the top two spots as Tony Gonzalez and Justin Peelle are locked in there. The main thrust of camp competition will be for the third and likely final tight end spot. Keith Zinger will try to hold off undrafted rookies Colin Peek and Michael Palmer.

Zinger played well last season as the third tight end in the team’s power and jumbo sets. His blocking potential is an asset, but he has shown little to date as a receiver. Both Peek and Palmer show much more potential in the latter, and if they can hit the ground running in camp in terms of their blocking, they stand a fairly good chance of unseating Zinger. Peek in particular shined in the 2010 National Championship game vs. Texas where he dominated eventual second round pick Sergio Kindle as a run blocker. That performance alone probably gives him the edge in my book.

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Babineaux pleads no contest

July 20th, 2010 Comments off
Jonathan Babineaux

AP

Alex Marvez of FOXSports.com reports that Falcons defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux pleaded no contest to one misdemeanor count of marijuana possession on Monday. He was sentenced to a year of probation and a $1500 fine. Babineaux had a felony marijuana possession stemming from a December arrest reduced to three misdemeanor counts. The other two counts will be suspended if he completes the year-long probation.

Marvez reports that Babineaux still could face discipline from the league, but the reduced charges should alleviate some of the harshness of the punishment. ProFootballTalk indicates that Babineaux should face at least a one-game suspension without pay and potentially one-game fine on top it comparable to the recent punishment handed down to Seahawks linebacker Leroy Hill, who also received a year of probation from a guilty plea for marijuana possession.

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Camp Battles ’10: Wide Receiver

July 19th, 2010 Comments off
Eric Weems

Eric Weems

We should expect to see some heavy competition on the backend of the wide receiver position this summer. Roddy White, Michael Jenkins, and Harry Douglas would appear to be locks to make the final roster. The Falcons will likely keep at least five wideouts, so that means that the remaining eight receivers may only be competing for two spots.

The three most likely to land those spots are Brian Finneran, Eric Weems, and Kerry Meier. Finneran is probably ahead of the pack. The coaches love his versatility and veteran savvy. Finn is able and willing to do anything the coaches ask of him, which makes him an ideal reserve. Meier probably has the next best chances because of his status as a draft pick, and he also shows the potential to be a versatile reserve like Finneran in the future. But one shouldn’t discount Weems. His ability to make the roster however may be directly tied to his performance on special teams and return duties. The return of Douglas probably makes his chances of making the final roster a bit tougher.

Among the rest of the group, it’s more likely that Troy Bergeron, Ryan Wolfe, and Brandyn Harvey stand the best odds. Bergeron will have to be all or nothing because his eligibility for the practice squad has expired. Wolfe and Harvey are undrafted free agents with their best chances of making the roster will be if they can impact on special teams coverage. Also in the mix are Andy Strickland and Tim Buckley. Their best chances also will be on their ability to perform on special teams, coupled with their ability to show some explosive playmaking potential in preseason games. But all of them are longshots to make the roster and instead will primarily be competing for a chance to land on the practice squad as the team regularly keeps a wideout there for depth.