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Archive for January, 2011

Falcons need to find help at defensive end

January 25th, 2011 Comments off

It seems most everyone can agree that a major area of weakness for the Falcons team and defense is their pass rush. The Falcons inability to provide adequate pressure on Aaron Rodgers was a big reason why the Falcons defense was embarrassed in its poorest showing of the year, giving up 48 points in a postseason loss.

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Ray Edwards: The New John Abraham?

John Abraham had a resurgent year, going from 5.5 sacks in 2009 to 13 in 2010. But I would argue that overall, while Abe’s production improved in the sack department, his ability to get to the quarterback wasn’t significantly better. As many may have noticed by looking at the final regular season stats for Moneyball, Abraham was credited with 6.5 quarterback pressures and 5.5 quarterback hits in addition to his 12 sacks (one of his official sacks was credited as a hit under Moneyball rules). A year ago, he had 3.5 Moneyball-credited sacks along with 18 pressures and 3 hits. For those unfamiliar with the Moneyball concept, a QB pressure is considered when a defender’s pressure on a QB results in an incomplete pass. So if one were to add up sacks, pressures, and hits all as positive pass rushes (PPRs), then in 2009, Abe had 24.5 and this past year 24 PPRs.

Now I’m not quite sure how to quantify the net difference between having 7.5 more sacks in one year and 9 less pressures/hits. I’d certainly argue that a sack should count a bit more because it results in a loss of yardage, which is probably better for a defense than an incompletion. But I don’t know quite how much better, and figuring that out might be best left to other experts.

But the bigger story from 2009 to 2010 may not be how much or little Abraham improved, but the significant dropoff from other members of the Falcons front. Most notably Kroy Biermann and Jonathan Babineaux. Biermann went from 27 PPRs in 2009 to 14 this past year. Babineaux dropped from 26 PPRs last year to 15.5. The combination of Thomas Johnson, Peria Jerry, and Vance Walker a year ago combined for 10 PPRs. This year with Jerry, Walker, and Corey Peters running the show that number was roughly the same at 10.5. But Jamaal Anderson, Chauncey Davis, and Lawrence Sidbury combined for 21.5 PPRs in 2009. But this year, the Falcons only got 11 from those same players, including no production from Sidbury.

It’s clear that the Falcons probably need to work on getting more pressure from the outside for next year. Who knows what sort of changes could occur with Abraham being a year older. Will Biermann and Babineaux bounce back to their previous 2009 form? How much improvement can Jerry and Peters show? All questions that won’t be answered until the 2011 season begins. But in the meantime the Falcons would be smart to try and improve the area so that there isn’t even more decline next season.

Now getting to free agency, who knows if there will be free agency this off-season. Most signs seem to point to a protracted lockout this off-season, which will preclude any form of free agency from occurring. But for the sake of argument, let’s assume (although it might be more along the lines of pretending) that free agency does occur this off-season. But we still won’t be even sure what type of free agency occurs. Will it be the free agency of a year ago where only players with six or more years of experience were allowed to test the open market as unrestricted free agents? Or will it feature like it has for most of the past with fourth-year players allowed to hit the market? I don’t know, but I present two possible options in either case.

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Four Falcons honored with All-Pro selections

January 24th, 2011 Comments off

The Falcons continued to garner postseason honors with four members being named to the Associated Press’s All-Pro team. Wide receiver Roddy White and defensive end John Abraham were both named first team All-Pros, while running back Michael Turner and fullback Ovie Mughelli earned second team honors.

White was also named to the PFW/PFWA All-NFL team earlier this month. This is the first time White has been honored by the Associated Press. He held the most votes among the wide receivers with 47 out of 50 AP voters casting him on their ballots. Abraham earned his 2nd 1st-team All-Pro honors, last receiving it in 2001. He received 21 votes for second most among defensive ends.

Turner had the third most votes among running backs with 8, but also received one vote as a fullback. Mughelli had 13 votes, second most among fullbacks.

Also receiving votes from the Falcons were kicker Matt Bryant, running back Jason Snelling, offensive tackles Tyson Clabo and Sam Baker, as well as defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux and cornerback Brent Grimes. Bryant received 4 votes out of 50 AP voters, fifth-most among kickers. Snelling received 1 vote, placing him seventh among fullbacks. Both Clabo and Baker received a vote each, with twelve other offensive tackles receiving more votes. Babineaux also had a single vote, placing him tied for sixth among defensive tackles. Grimes had 3 votes, seventh-most among cornerbacks.

Grimes joins Pro Bowl squad

January 24th, 2011 Comments off

Falcons corner Brent Grimes will join eight other teammates and his coaching staff in Honolulu this week, as he’s been added to the NFC’s Pro Bowl roster due to the absence of Charles Woodson. Woodson bowed out because his team, the Green Bay Packers, will be in the Super Bowl, to be played on February 6.

This marks the first Pro Bowl for Grimes, who was tied for the team lead with 5 interceptions this year and among the league leaders with 23 passes defended. Offensive tackle Tyson Clabo was also added to the NFC squad last week as a replacement. They will be joined by the Falcons coaching staff and seven other teammates for the all-star game that will played this Sunday in Honolulu.

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Moneyball – Week 19 Review

January 22nd, 2011 Comments off

I avoided watching this game for a couple of days, and going through it again was kind of like what I imagine having teeth being pulled. I knew it had to be done, and I was dreading it this morning. But knew it was best to get it over with, and I was hurrying through it hoping it would be over quickly. And now I feel like I’m better for it, but there is still some lingering pain.

This game was lost in the second quarter. Too many mistakes and not enough plays were made there, and the Falcons gave up too much to the Packers, who were too good a team to give it back in the second half.

The Falcons took the 14-7 lead on Weems kickoff return score, and had the defense made a stop on the next drive then this game should have been a lot different. But then when they gave up another touchdown, allowing the Packers to tie the score, the Falcons had opportunity to push the lead further, but blew it with Ryan’s interception in the endzone.

On that drive, the false start by Harvey Dahl really hurt them as a 2nd & 9 became a 2nd & 14. Then the sack given on the next play where Ryan should have hit Douglas in the flat but held onto the ball too long led to the 3rd & 21. Then with the underthrow, and Jenkins slipping in the endzone, you basically had the same 14-point swing costing the Falcons this time, that essentially won them their previous matchup against the Packers. Then when the Falcons got the ball back later in the quarter, Dahl gave up a sack which forced them into the situation on 2nd & 19 with 10 seconds left to try and get back some yards to get a makeable field goal. Had that sack not been given up, the Falcons could have had an easy 43-yard field goal for Bryant to make. But another poor throw by Ryan led to the pick six.

The Falcons had opportunities to get back into the game in the third quarter, but the reversed call on the Jenkins catch pretty much killed any chance they had, leading to a punt instead of a first down. The missed opportunity on the onside kick also hurt them. Their chances of winning at that point were extremely low, but if they had gotten the onside and then scored, the game would have at least been more interesting down 14 points with most of the fourth quarter to play.

Ryan didn’t have a particularly bad game, but the few mistakes he did make were critical. The sack he took on the blitz, and the two interceptions on underthrown balls, and  then the botched snap in the third quarter were really the only mistakes he made. But they were huge ones. And had those been less consequential mistakes like poor throws, this could have been a very different game.

The running game was doing well early on, but the poor defensively play by the Falcons and their need to pass the ball practically every down from the second quarter on took Turner out of the game. Tony Gonzalez was a non-factor in this game, and I’m still not sure if it was because Charles Woodson & Co. did such an excellent job or just because Ryan wasn’t looking to him. It seemed like in past games that there would have been opportunities for Gonzo that Ryan would have forced in there. But I have the suspicion that for the most part, Ryan chose not to challenge Woodson out of fear and respect.

The blocking and pass protection were not particularly good. Surprisingly, Sam Baker was the lone Falcon blocker that did not get credited with giving up a sack. Relative to the rest of the unit, he had a good game. Clabo had his struggles early on, and Dahl and McClure had troubles adjusting on some stunts by Clay Matthews. Throw in Dahl’s penalties, and it was a very forgettable game for the front five.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLOCK
SPEC
PEN
TOTAL
Michael Turner$0$6-$1$0$0$0$5.00
Roddy White$0$0$5$0$0$0$5.00
Sam Baker$0$0$0$3$0$0$3.00
Eric Weems$0$0$0$0$3$0$3.00
Ovie Mughelli$0$1$0$1$0$0$2.00
Matt Ryan$3$0$0$0$0-$2$1.00
Will Svitek$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Todd McClure$0$0$0$0.5$0$0$0.50
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0$0.5$0$0$0.50
Michael Jenkins$0$0$3$0$0-$3$0.00
Brian Finneran$0$0$1$0$0-$1$0.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Harvey Dahl$0$0$0$0$0-$1-$1.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00

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Are we overreacting?

January 21st, 2011 Comments off

I’ve heard a lot of talk since the Falcons loss to the Packers from my fellow Falcon fans of the things that need to be changed in order to get to that mountaintop of the Super Bowl. The Packers exposed the Falcons quite a bit in that game, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. And it had many a Falcon fan reeling. Wondering what needs to happen for the Falcons to be playing on this upcoming Sunday and being the team to beat in the NFC and NFL.

And you’ve heard a lot from Falcon fans, but the truth is that we’re probably overreacting as fans. I’ve heard many talking about making major changes to the roster and coaching staff. Some want one or both coordinators to be dismissed in order to revamp their entire offensive and/or defensive schemes. Others are looking at the list of free agents and thinking the Falcons should go after some of those big names.

And once again, we’re probably overreacting. If anything, considering that the Falcons are now in the thick of a tough bunch of NFC teams should only indicate that the path that Thomas Dimitroff and Mike Smith have set us upon is working. The Falcons only three seasons ago were widely considered to be the worst team in the NFL. And now the Falcons are within a game or two of the Super Bowl.

Should the Falcons make changes this off-season? Absolutely. But do the Falcons need to go out and get the biggest name free agents in order to do so? No. Do the Falcons need changes among their coaching staff? No. Coaches should re-examine their systems and go through some tweaks to those systems and schemes, but nobody needs to lose their job over the Falcons finishing 13-3.

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Clabo headed to Hawaii

January 20th, 2011 Comments off

Falcons offensive tackle Tyson Clabo has been added to the NFC’s Pro Bowl team since Philadelphia Eagles tackle Jason Peters pulled out of the game. Clabo was the first alternate for offensive tackles.

He will be the eighth Falcons player to play on the squad, as well as joining the team’s coaching staff in the all-star game that will be played later this month.

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Musgrave joins Vikings

January 19th, 2011 Comments off

Falcons quarterback coach Bill Musgrave joined the Minnesota Vikings coaching staff as the team’s new offensive coordinator.

Musgrave was believed to have the inside track to the same position with the Cleveland Browns, but opted to join the Vikings under new head coach Leslie Frazier. Musgrave joined the Falcons as quarterbacks coach in 2006, and added assistant head coach to his title last season.

According to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC, a potential candidate to replace Musgrave as quarterbacks coach is Jeff Jagodzinski. Jagodzinski was an assistant coach, working with the offensive linemen on the Falcons staff in 2004-05, before joining the Green Bay Packers in 2006 as offensive coordinator. He then became head coach at Boston College in 2007, where he coached Matt Ryan. He was fired by Boston College after the 2008 season, spent the 2009 off-season as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator before being fired prior to the start of the regular season. And then coached the Omaha Nighthawks in the United Football League this past year before being fired earlier this month.

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Falcons sign seven off practice squad

January 18th, 2011 Comments off

The Falcons signed seven of their eight practice squad members to future contracts. Among them: tight end Marquez Branson, center Rob Bruggeman, wide receivers Tim Buckley, Brandyn Harvey, and Andy Strickland, defensive end Emmanuel Stephens, and offensive tackle Jose Valdez.

The only member of the practice squad that was not re-signed was linebacker Robert James. James served a four-game suspension at the beginning of the season. He was a fifth round pick by the team in 2008.

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Musgrave in demand

January 18th, 2011 Comments off

Chris Mortensen of ESPN reports that Falcons quarterbacks coach and assistant head coach Bill Musgrave is set to interview for vacant offensive coordinator positions with three teams: St. Louis Rams, Minnesota Vikings, and the Cleveland Browns.

Per Mortensen, Musgrave is set to interview with the Browns today and the Vikings tomorrow. Musgrave has twice been an offensive coordinator at the NFL level, working in that role for the first four games of the 2000 season with the Carolina Panthers, as well as two years (2003-04) in Jacksonville. Musgrave also called plays for two seasons (2001-02) at the University of Virginia. He joined the Falcons staff as quarterbacks coach in 2006. He added assistant head coach to his title last season.

Per the ESPN report, Musgrave is regarded as a potential successor to current offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey here in Atlanta. Mularkey is considered a head coaching candidate for the future, having interviewed with the Cleveland Browns earlier this month. There are currently no head coaching vacancies in the NFL, but Mularkey could likely be a candidate next season.

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White and Weems make All-NFL team

January 17th, 2011 Comments off

Pro Football Weekly.com in conjunction with the Pro Football Writers of America announced their All-NFL team, not to be confused with the All-Pro teams announced by the Associated Press. Two Falcon players made it: wide receiver Roddy White and specialist Eric Weems. No Falcons made the PFWA team a year ago, although Michael Turner and John Abraham did earn honors in 2008.

White led the league in receptions (115) and was second in receiving yards (1,389). Weems led the Falcons with 16 tackles on special teams, as well as being one of only two players in the league that returned both a kickoff and a punt for touchdowns during the regular season.

Both White and Weems also earned Pro Bowl bids, along with five other Falcon players. They will be familiar with the coaches of the NFC squad, as it will be helmed by Mike Smith and the rest of the Falcons staff. The Pro Bowl will be played in two weeks in Hawaii.

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