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Archive for February, 2011

Grimes: Well Deserving of an Extension

February 25th, 2011 1 comment
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Brent Grimes

This is not me reporting any insider information, just using conventional wisdom. But the Falcons are probably thinking hard about giving cornerback Brent Grimes an extension, just only waiting for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement to be agreed upon so that they can properly navigate future financial waters properly.

Grimes’ contract is up, but because he only has three accrued seasons of experience, he’d be a restricted free agent under the old rules of free agency. My expectation is that when a new CBA is struck, it will reinstitute those old rules as nothing the union or owners have said in the two years since we’ve known this battle was coming has indicated they were unhappy with that aspect governing when a player becomes a free agent.

So that would mean that at the end of the 2011 season, Grimes would be an unrestricted free agent. Cornerbacks are one of the premium positions that most teams put a lot of stock into being strong at, along with quarterback, left tackle, and pass rusher. That means if Grimes makes it to the open market, he could be really hard to keep because of an offer someone else makes.

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2011 Mock Draft – 3 Rounds

February 21st, 2011 Comments off

When I posted a mock two weeks ago, I expected that the next one I would post on the site would wait until after the Combine. But I’ve decided in all my wisdom to do another one before the Combine, but this time I’ve decided to include three rounds instead of one. An asterisk (*) indicates an underclassman.

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Moving Up? QB Cam Newton

1. Carolina Panthers – QB Blaine Gabbert, Missouri*
I still think the Panthers will take a quarterback with their top pick, and I think when all is said and done Gabbert will be the pick.

2. Denver Broncos – DE Da’Quan Bowers, Clemson*
With the Broncos move to the 4-3 under John Fox, getting another pass rusher to team with Dumervil will be important.

3. Buffalo Bills – QB Cam Newton, Auburn*
With Fitzpatrick under center, the Bills are one of the teams at the top that can afford to take Newton high in the draft because they won’t be forced to play him right away.

4. Cincinnati Bengals – DT Nick Fairley, Auburn*
While the Bengals need wide receiver help, they can’t pass on a defensive playmaker like Fairley here in the draft.

5. Arizona Cardinals – WR A.J. Green, Georgia*
Green will be a great complement if they keep Fitzgerald, but also a good replacement if they move him.

6. Cleveland Browns – DT Marcell Dareus, Alabama*
With the Browns expected make a switch to the 4-3, getting a force in the middle like Dareus will go a long way.

7. San Francisco 49ers – OLB Von Miller, Texas A&M
The 49ers need some pass rush help, and Miller is considered the premier guy in that realm by many.

8. Tennessee Titans – QB Jake Locker, Washington
The post Vince Young era in Tennessee begins with Jake Locker.

9. Dallas Cowboys – CB Patrick Peterson, LSU*
Jerry Jones can’t pass up an athlete like Peterson to help improve a porous Dallas secondary.

10. Washington Redskins – WR Julio Jones, Alabama*
Whoever is the Redskins new quarterback will appreciate a target like Jones on the outside.

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Getting More Explosive on Offense: Part 2

February 17th, 2011 1 comment

So continuing on from earlier about how the Falcons need to get more explosive on offense, what sort of pieces can the Falcons find out there that can help them.

Well with the uncertainty of the Collective Bargaining Agreement this off-season, we cannot be sure if the Falcons can rely on free agency to help them at the position. It would be a shame really because this is potentially a very strong crop of free agent receivers.

Players like Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, Malcom Floyd, Steve Smith (from the Giants), Steve Breaston, Sidney Rice, Lance Moore, and James Jones highlight this class, which doesn’t include Vincent Jackson, who was recently franchised by the Chargers.

So that may mean the Falcons will have to rely on the draft to upgrade their wide receiver corps. Players such as Maryland’s Torrey Smith or Pitt’s Jon Baldwin are expected to be available options in the latter half of the first round. Both provide vertical potential due to either speed or size and would be potentially explosive additions to the Falcons lineup.

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Getting More Explosive on Offense: Part 1

February 17th, 2011 Comments off

There should be no doubt to anyone that the Falcons have to manage somehow to get more explosive on offense. The team ranked last in the league in terms of how many of their pass attempts resulted in 20+ yard completions, even behind the Carolina Panthers. On the opposite end of the spectrum, teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers were among the league leaders in that area on offense, so one certainly sees how it can be beneficial to an offense.

One of the issues the Falcons face however is the fact that quarterback Matt Ryan isn’t known for his arm strength. Ryan isn’t weak-armed, it’s just that in comparison to passers like Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers, there are just throws that he’s not going to be able to make on a consistent basis. Case in point is the big 58-yard bomb Roethlisberger hit Antonio Brown on in the Steelers-Ravens matchup that set up the Steelers go-ahead touchdown for the Steelers in the final minutes of that game. Not to say that Ryan is completely incapable of making that throw, it’s just unlikely those types of plays are going to be a big part of the Falcons offensive repertoire with Ryan at the helm.

So the Falcons will likely have to find other ways to create “splash” plays in the passing game without relying on the 40 and 50-yard bombs. More likely, the Falcons should probably focus on getting more vertical plays between 20 and 30 yards, which is right up Ryan’s alley as far as arm strength is concerned.

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Bratkowski agrees to take over as QB coach

February 13th, 2011 Comments off

The team announced late Friday night that former Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski had agreed to become the Falcons new quarterbacks coach, replacing Bill Musgrave, who took over as the Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator last month.

Bratkowski, 55, spent ten seasons as the Bengals offensive coordinator, first joining the team in 2001. Prior to that he spent time as the wide receivers coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he shared time with current Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey, who was then the Steelers tight ends coach. Prior to his stint in Pittsburgh, he was the offensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks for four seasons under Dennis Erickson, after three seasons as the receivers coach. Prior to that, he was an assistant at several colleges, serving as an offensive coordinator for the entirety of the 80s. Most prominently he served for three years at the University of Miami (1989-91), where he was part of two national championship teams under Erickson.

His father, Zeke, was an All-American quarterback at the University of Georgia before spending 15 seasons in the NFL, most notably as the backup to Bart Starr on the Vince Lombardi-led Packers of the 1960s.

Despite having little experience as a position coach for quarterbacks, his knowledge of Mularkey’s offense and stint tutoring Carson Palmer for the past 8 years in Cincinnati should allow him to help Matt Ryan, who is coming off a career year in 2010.

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Falcons cut Coleman, re-up with Wire

February 9th, 2011 Comments off
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Coy Wire

Jay Adams of AtlantaFalcons.com reports that the team has signed linebacker Coy Wire to a two-year extension and parted ways with safety Erik Coleman. The move to release Coleman has been in the pipeline since yesterday. Wire’s contract expired at the end of the 2010 season, and he was set to become a free agent.

Wire has added valuable depth for the Falcons since joining the team in 2008. He’s played in 47 games with 5 starts, recording 31 tackles, 1 forced fumble, and 3 recoveries in that span. He also has been among the leaders each year and has combined for 32 special teams tackles the past three years.

Coleman’s value to the team was diminished due to the emergence of William Moore this past year. Moore replaced an injured Coleman in Week 2 and never relinquished the job. He finished the year with 71 tackles and 5 interceptions. In the same role in 2009, Coleman had 115 tackles and no interceptions.

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Dimitroff named league’s top executive

February 9th, 2011 Comments off
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Thomas Dimitroff

The Sporting News announced that they have named Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff as their NFL Executive of the Year. The award is voted on by 47 NFL front office personnel including other GMs, owners, and coaches. Dimitroff led the voting with 13 votes, and Kansas City Chiefs GM Scott Pioli came in second with 8 votes.

Dimitroff was hired by the Falcons before the 2008 season after serving as the director of college scouting for the New England Patriots for five seasons. Dimitroff’s personnel moves have been instrumental for the quick turn-around of the Falcons and their having three consecutive winning seasons for the first time in franchise history. He has brought in veterans such as Michael Turner, Tony Gonzalez, and Dunta Robinson the past three off-seasons, as well as spearheading the Falcons draft selections of Matt Ryan, Curtis Lofton, Kroy Biermann, and William Moore.

Dimitroff is currently amidst negotiations for a well-deserved contract extension with the Falcons.

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Falcons set to release Coleman

February 8th, 2011 Comments off
Erik Coleman

Erik Coleman

NFL.com’s Jason La Canfora reports that the Falcons are expected to release safety Erik Coleman according to league sources.

Coleman, 27, began this past year as the starting strong safety, a role he held last season, but a knee injury cost him some early goes. During which William Moore emerged and failed to relinquish the job when Coleman was able to return. Coleman finished the year with 18 tackles in 12 games. Coleman was one of the team’s first signings in the offseason in 2008, serving that year as the starting free safety before moving to the strong safety position a year ago to make way for Thomas DeCoud.

According to ESPN’s Pat Yasinskas, the Falcons can free up $2.5 million by releasing Coleman.

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2011 Mock Draft

February 7th, 2011 Comments off

Now that the Super Bowl is over the draft order is finalized, it’s time to take a look at what the 2011 NFL Draft. Quite a bit has changed since the last time I posted one of these on the site. Here are my pre-Combine projections for what the first round might look like…

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Potential No. 1? QB Blaine Gabbert

1. Carolina Panthers – QB Blaine Gabbert, Missouri
Just like was the case a year ago when nobody began to really start to connect the dots between Sam Bradford and St. Louis with the top pick until after the Combine, I think that will be the case with the Panthers. Carolina has every reason to take Gabbert No. 1. Sure, they already have Jimmy Clausen. But nothing Clausen did last year made it seem like he was poised to compete in this division, where he’d be facing the likes of Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, and the emerging Josh Freeman. Gabbert has the ability to potential to match those guys. Gabbert is a big, strong-armed, and accurate passer. And there’s no way the Panthers can come through this draft process and believe that he isn’t a significant upgrade over Clausen.

2. Denver Broncos – DT Nick Fairley, Auburn
With the switch to the 4-3, the Broncos are going to need some pressure up front. And Fairley provides much of that on the interior. Fairley was a dominant force throughout this past year, and due to the successful rookie season of Ndamukong Suh, he will be highly coveted this April. Personally, I don’t think Fairley is in the same class as Suh, but he’s a good fit in Denver because he can be that physical, yet highly disruptive presence inside that should team well with Elvis Dumervil on the outside.

3. Buffalo Bills – DE Da’Quan Bowers, Clemson
The Bills desperately need talent on defense and pass rush help, and Bowers is the best available. They play a predominantly 3-4 scheme, but they do hybridize it with a lot of 4-3 looks. Bowers is a good fit in this defense because he’s big and strong enough to play defensive end, but also athletic and quick enough to play in space and get some looks at linebacker. His selection will likely cause them to be more 4-3 and less 3-4, which is not a bad thing since the vast majority of their personnel fits the former scheme better.

4. Cincinnati Bengals – WR A.J. Green, Georgia
With the looming issues with Chad Ochocinco nee Johnson, and the likelihood that Terrell Owens was one and done with the team, the Bengals will need another primetime target on the outside. Especially with Carson Palmer wanting out, he’ll need some weapons to calm his discontent. Green reminds me a lot of Randy Moss in that he’s tall, lean, fast, and has great ball skills. He’ll be a dynamic weapon in that division and immediately give the Bengals a weapon on the outside to help them contend in the future.

5. Arizona Cardinals – OT Tyron Smith, USC
This seems like a down year for offensive tackles as far as quality at the top, but we haven’t not had a tackle taken in the Top 10 since 2005, and I don’t expect that streak to end. Smith is a good fit in Arizona because he has the athleticism to play left tackle, but the experience playing on the right side. That gives the Cardinals options moving forward with whether or not they want to move Levi Brown back to right tackle or keep him on the left side. Smith is an athletic marvel that may not be considered one of the Top 10 guys today, but probably by the end of the Combine, I suspect you’ll start to see him rise up collective boards.

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Smitty gets 3-year extension

February 3rd, 2011 2 comments
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Mike Smith

Jay Adams of Atlanta Falcons.com reports that the team has announced a three-year extension signed by Falcons head coach Mike Smith.

Smith was entering the last year on the original four-year deal he signed with the Falcons when they hired him prior to the 2008 season. In three years as the Falcons head coach, he has compiled a 33-15 record, with two playoff appearances and a division crown. A year ago, he became the first coach in the team’s 44-year history to record back to back winning seasons. And with last year’s 13-3 mark, he has extended that streak from two to three seasons. He is 17 wins away from passing Dan Reeves as the winningest coach in franchise history. Now he will have three more years to achieve such a mark.

The Falcons have been actively working to get general manager Thomas Dimitroff an extension as well according to reports.

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