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The Ray Edwards Debate

June 30th, 2011 1 comment

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Ray Edwards

It’s been no secret that Minnesota Vikings defensive end Ray Edwards has been the radar of at least the Falcons fandom for quite some time, and according to some sources the Falcons brass themselves.

We first broached the topic of Ray Edwards back in late January. At the time I was non-committal about the prospect of signing Edwards. I have a much more firm opinion about the prospect of the Falcons adding Edwards now, which I will share in a moment.

But first, I want to cite the discussion that has picked up in recent weeks about the possibility of signing Edwards. And I think that discussion is largely linked to the optimism that is emerging about the potential for there to be some semblance of free agency before the start of the season and a relative return to normalcy for the NFL off-season after the lockout ends.

The AJC’s Dawson Devitt wrote a very detailed piece discussing whether Edwards is a good fit or not in Atlanta. He raised a good point about the fact that Edwards is not just a third wheel, but a fourth wheel on the Vikings defensive line, playing opposite Jared Allen, and beside Kevin Williams and Pat Williams. Does this make Edwards look better than he actually is because of the talent around him? This issue is important, because the Falcons have made this mistake before. It happened in 2005 when the team signed Ed Hartwell. A young and upcoming linebacker that played beside the likes of Ray Lewis, Adalius Thomas, and Terrell Suggs in Baltimore. Injuries definitely limited Hartwell while he was in Atlanta, but even the rare times when he was healthy, he was fairly non-descript. The Falcons bounced him after the 2006 season, and he has yet to catch on with another NFL team since.

After Devitt’s article, danzinski, a writer for the fan-blog The Viking Age wrote a not so complementary response about Edwards. Here is the noteworthy excerpt:
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Spoon’s growth could boost Falcons defense

June 29th, 2011 Comments off
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Sean Weatherspoon

When the Falcons drafted linebacker Sean Weatherspoon with last year’s first round pick, they were hoping that together with middle linebacker Curtis Lofton, it would form a stabilizing core in the middle of the team’s defense.

Weatherspoon got off to a promising start as a rookie, but a mid-season injury derailed much of his progress. If he can bounce back and have a strong 2011 season, then the Falcons defense can potentially make the next step going forward.

Spoon has the potential to be the team’s best linebacker and essentially the heart of the defense. While Curtis Lofton has him on seniority, Spoon is the superior player in terms of speed and versatility. Not only does he have the potential to be an impact performer against the run, but also against the pass, which is a major area of weakness for Lofton.

Spoon also has the potential to play multiple positions for the Falcons. He got reps at both outside spots last year, but started the season as the team’s strongside linebacker. Where he plays in 2011 will largely depend on whether the team decides to bring back free agents Mike Peterson or Stephen Nicholas. All signs seem to point to Peterson being the preferred candidate to return, which will likely mean Spoon will remain on the strongside. But the team also drafted Akeem Dent, and it seems that his future prospects are at the same position. Meaning that eventually, Spoon should find a home at his more natural weakside position.

Spoon made his share of rookie mistakes last year. He was caught out of position several times in coverage as well as against the run, and missed some tackles. But he also flashed his playmaking ability, showing his speed and range, and showing he can be an effective blitzer and cover man at times.

The key for him is adding experience and continuity. Staying on the field for the entire 16-game season should go a long way for his development and progress.

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Falcons Weekly Round-Up 6/24

June 24th, 2011 Comments off

Falcons Wrap Camp Exile

The Falcons finished their final day of what has been dubbed “Camp Exile” on Wednesday. That was the name of the player-organized sessions which primarily featured 7-on-7 workouts between offensive and defensive players. Matt Ryan, Curtis Lofton, and Coy Wire got majority credit for organizing the workouts that had varying attendance between 20 and 35 teammates over recent weeks. Perhaps the most noteworthy accomplishment for the camp was the ability for Ryan and top rookie wide receiver Julio Jones to lay a foundation and work to build a rapport for the upcoming season. (Source: D. Orlando Ledbetter, AJC)

Roddy confident about Falcons offense

On an appearance on NFL Network on Sunday Night, Falcons receiver Roddy White was brimming with confidence and expectations when asked about the potential success that the Falcons could have with rookie receiver Julio Jones added to the mix. White compared it to the famous St. Louis Rams offense of 1999, often dubbed the “Greatest Show on Turf.” It currently ranks as the 5th most potent scoring offense in NFL history, and until it’s record was broken by the 2007 Patriots, ranked first in terms of point differential between points scored and allowed by the defense.

It’s going to be special. It’s going to remind you of the greatest show on turf. We got a lot of explosive players and you know, I see a lot more explosive plays coming out of our offense. [Julio Jones] is a guy that can get downfield and make those things happen. And more one on one coverages with me so I can do my thing and get explosive plays.

(Source: NFL.com)

Snelling wants to stay in Atlanta, but willing to explore options

In an interview with Mike Florio on Pro Football Talk Live, Falcons running Jason Snelling shared his thoughts on the current CBA negotiations as well as his potential future with the Falcons. Snelling is expected to be an impending free agent if the new Collective Bargaining Agreement returns to players with four years or more being unrestricted free agent. Snelling indicated that he would like to return to the Falcons as they are at the top of his list, but also would be willing to explore other options in free agency if possible. (Source: Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk)

Domestic case dropped against Owens

June 22nd, 2011 Comments off

D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that at today’s family violence hearing, the case against Falcons cornerback Chris Owens was dismissed by a Gwinnett County Superior Court. Last week, LaTia Terry, Owens’ ex-girlfriend and mother of their 9-month old son, filed a police report alleging that Owens destroyed $15,000 worth of items in her apartment although charges were never filed against him.  The case was dismissed when Terry and Owens agreed to work together to establish parental rights and shared parenting time.

Owens denied the allegations, indicating that Terry was unhappy with their relationship and sought “revenge.”

Last year, Owens was named Falcons Man of the Year due to his work in the community and nominated for the league-wide Walter Payton Award.

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Pass Protection is Key for Quizz

June 17th, 2011 Comments off
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Jacquizz Rodgers

The Falcons moved up in the fifth round to select Oregon State running back Jacquizz Rodgers this past April. The team is hopeful that Rodgers can provide a spark on the ground using his trademark quickness that allowed him to rack up 3,877 rushing yards during three seasons at Oregon State. Another big part of Rodgers success was in the passing game, catching 151 passes for 1,056 yards to give him the second-most yards (4,933) from scrimmage in the country over the past three years.

But in order for Rodgers to make an immediate impact on offense for the Falcons will highly depend on his ability to pass protect. Pro Football Focus published numbers indicating that Michael Turner and Jason Snelling are two of the better pass protecting running backs in the league over the past three seasons. Turner scored a 3.93 pass blocking efficiency rating over the past 3 seasons, while Snelling had a rating of 4.3. Even Jerious Norwood wouldn’t have been much further down with a 4.71 rating. The Falcons relied heavily on Snelling in pass protection last season on third downs.

It’s no doubt that the Falcons will try to mix Rodgers in on third downs. His potential as a pass catcher is far greater than any back on the roster. His burst, vision, and quickness makes him an ideal candidate on screen passes, and is the type of guy that can pick up big yards after the catch when Matt Ryan checks down to him. But how much production he can achieve in the passing game will depend on his ability in pass protection.

But the most important aspect of a third down back is his ability in pass protection. More often than not on third downs, he’s going to be blocking more than actually running or catching the football.

Rodgers has potential there, but his lack of size hurt him at various times during his Oregon State career. He has the toughness for an undersized guy that you like to see, showing an edge comparable to players like Maurice Jones-Drew. But if he cannot be trusted in pass protection, then whatever advantage is gained from his potential as a receiver will be negated by the risk of injury to franchise player Matt Ryan that is raised if Rodgers isn’t up to par. Clearly, the Falcons have a fairly reliable set of blockers with Snelling and Turner to turn to. So if Rodgers cannot perform on a comparable level, then he’ll be on the outside looking in.

The expectations for Rodgers this year should be that he may take some time before he can garner significant reps on offense. As the season wears on however, should be a good indicator to what Rodgers is doing in pass protection, which will likely be directly linked to his playing time. All that said, Rodgers probably is not going to have a huge rookie season. But his development in the passing game will likely determine the future of Jason Snelling beyond this year. Snelling is a prospective free agent, but presumably will be re-signed before the 2011 season commences. But his long-term future in Atlanta may be directly linked by how much Rodgers can contribute on third downs.

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Falcons Weekly Round-Up 6/17

June 17th, 2011 Comments off
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Ryan and White celebrate the game-winner in 2010

Recapping news and headlines involving the Falcons from the week of June 12…

Roddy shows up

Roddy White participated in his first player-organized workout on Tuesday this week. White had been absent at the player-organized Falcons workouts this off-season thus far this season. Per quarterback Matt Ryan, White showed up in good shape and was productive in his first practice. Last week, White was in his hometown of James Island, SC for a youth football camp. (Source: D. Orlando Ledbetter, AJC)

Sanders to represent Falcons in HOF

The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced that 2011 inductee and former Falcons cornerback Deion Sanders sent in his Falcons helmet along with a game ball from 1990 to Canton as part of a special exhibit that will be devoted to the 2011 inductee class.

Sanders was a first round pick by the Falcons in 1989, starring for five seasons with the Falcons before joining the San Francisco 49ers in 1994. He then played five seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, and then joined the Washington Redskins in 2000. Sanders initially retired, but came out of retirement to spend two seasons with the Baltimore Ravens in 2004 and 2005. Sanders made 8 Pro Bowls during his 13-year NFL career, including 3 in Atlanta.

When he left Atlanta in 1993, he was the team’s all-time leader in punt return touchdowns, kickoff return touchdowns, and kickoff yardage. Those records have since been eclipsed. He currently sits seventh all-time on the Falcons interception leaders list with 24, as well as tied for the lead with 3 interception return touchdowns.

The gameball comes from a 38-17 win over the Cincinnati Bengals on a Sunday Night matchup on October 28, 1990. In that game, he returned a 79-yard punt for a touchdown, which continues to hold the record for longest in team history.

The 2011 class will be enshrined at Canton’s Fawcett Stadium on August 6, 2011. Sanders will be inducted along with defensive lineman Richard Dent, running back Marshall Faulk, linebackers Chris Hanburger and Les Richter, tight end Shannon Sharpe, and NFL Films founder Ed Sabol. (Source: Pro Football Hall of Fame)

Falcons promote Polk

The team announced that they had promoted pro scout DeJuan Polk to pro personnel coordinator. Polk first joined the organization in 2006 where he worked as a pro personnel assistant. He became Midwest regional scout in the college scouting department in 2008 and then moved back to pro scouting the following year.  (Source: Jay Adams, AtlantaFalcons.com)

Babineaux gets a Day

Falcons defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux is being honored by the Atlanta City Council for his off-field and charity work. Monday, June 20 will be declared “Jonathan Babineaux Day.” Babineaux contributes to over 50 Atlanta-area charities and non-profit organizations. He made donations exceeding $50,000 worth of Falcons home game tickets, some of which were awarded to deaf and blind children in order to experience their first NFL game. Babineaux, along with his brother Jordan, a defensive back for the Seattle Seahawks, established the Babineaux Family Foundation in 2005, which raises funds for lupus research. The brothers’ foundation will host its seventh annual golf tournament on Saturday, June 25 in Beaumont, Texas. Proceeds will benefit the Lupus Foundation, area student scholarships, and local community development. (Source: Sarah Baldwin, CBS Atlanta)

Dunn awarded with Jefferson

Falcons minority owner and former running back Warrick Dunn has been honored with the Jefferson Award, one of the country’s highest honors for community service. They were created in 1972 to be a Nobel Prize for public service. Along with 16 others, Dunn will receive the award in the category of Outstanding Athlete in Service and Philanthropy at a gala in Washington, DC on Tuesday, June 21.

Dunn started his Homes for the Holidays program in 1997, his rookie season in the NFL with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to honor his late mother’s dream of homeownership. Through his foundation, Dunn has awarded over 100 homes to single-parent families in Atlanta, Baton Rouge, Tallahassee, and Tampa areas. Dunn’s mother was a Baton Rouge police officer that was gunned down while off-duty in 1993, two days after Dunn’s 18th birthday, leaving him in charge of the care of his five siblings.

Dunn joined the Falcons in 2002, and played six seasons with the team. He retired after the 2008 season, a year after re-joining the Buccaneers. He bought a minority stake in the Falcons organization from Arthur Blank in December 2009.

Last year, Oakland Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha was honored in Dunn’s category, and Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning won the award in 2006. (Source: Heather Dinich, ESPN)

Should the Falcons trade Jenkins?

June 15th, 2011 1 comment
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Michael Jenkins

ESPN’s Pat Yasinskas lists Falcons wideout Michael Jenkins as a player that could be offered up via trade once the lockout ends. It’s no secret that Jenkins future in Atlanta is tenuous when the team paid a king’s ransom to move up in the draft to take Julio Jones with the sixth overall pick. But does that mean that Jenkins should be gone as soon as possible?

What can the Falcons get for Jenkins? Last year, a number of wide receivers changed teams, but very few of them did so for premium value. Looking over those trades, probably the best the Falcons can hope for is a 5th round pick. That’s what the Jets gave up to get Santonio Holmes. The Bucs traded a 6th round pick for Reggie Brown, and the Chargers and Rams traded sevenths for Patrick Crayton and Mark Clayton, respectively. Honestly, I think it’s much more likely that the Falcons would have to be willing to settle for a sixth or seventh round pick. Holmes and Brown were traded prior to the 2010 draft, and Clayton and Crayton were traded in September. Considering the lockout may end at some point this summer, it’s likely that it’s going to be closer to the value given up for the latter pair rather than the former.

Is that a worthwhile trade for the Falcons? I would think Jenkins is more valuable than a sixth round pick next year. Even if he’s playing third fiddle to Jones and Roddy White, Jenkins is still probably going to catch 30-50 passes this year. That seems a lot more valuable than a late round pick next year.

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Owens allegedly trashes ex’s apartment

June 15th, 2011 Comments off

TMZ reports that the ex-girlfriend of Falcons corner Christopher Owens alleges that the player smashed up her apartment. Owens is the father of LaTia Terry’s 9-month old son. According to a Gwinnett County police report, Terry left her home late Sunday night and did not return until the next morning. She had locked the door when she left and returned to a locked apartment, as there were no signs of forced entry.

According to the police report, there were holes in the dry wall and on the flat screen television. Pictures were found on the floor with holes in them, as well as broken items in the baby’s room (crib and lamp) and master bedroom (mirror). Inside the master closet, jewelry, shoes, clothes, and purses worth an estimated $15,000 were found in a pile with bleach poured over them.

Terry filed a temporary protective order against Owens on Monday. The police have yet to officially name Owens as a suspect in the case according to the AJC, although a police spokesman indicated that charges could be filed and an arrest could be made in the future once more information is known.

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Dahl vs. Blalock: Who Stays, Who Goes

June 15th, 2011 Comments off
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Harvey Dahl

On Monday, I stated that the team’s first priority when it comes to free agency if and when it begins was re-signing tackle Tyson Clabo. But shortly after, the Falcons are going to be in a situation where they are asked to prioritize one of their guards.

 

Ideally, the Falcons can bring back both left guard Justin Blalock and right guard Harvey Dahl. But they may be put in a situation where they have to push for one to stay, and be willing to let the other walk when it comes to negotiatons.

And there is certainly is a worthwhile debate on either side when deciding which of the two players should be kept first.

PRODUCTION

First, let’s start break down their 2010 seasons statistically. I’ll be using Moneyball for this. Over the course of the entire 2010 season they were about even, winding up with $24 earned for Blalock and $25 for Dahl.

Blalock’s production was fairly consistent throughout the entire season, earning $5, $7, $5.5, and $6.5 in each respective quarter. Dahl’s spiked in the middle of the season, starting with a $4.5 over the first quarter, then $10.5, $10, and finishing with $0 earned in the final quarter of the season. Clearly we can see that Blalock ended the season relatively strong in comparison to Dahl.

Blalock did get better as the year went on. In the first half of the season, he tallied 10 missed blocks and 5 pressures allowed. In the final 8 games, he had only 3.5 missed blocks and no pressures allowed. That dichotomy was not seen with Dahl, as he had 5 missed blocks in each half of the season, and allowed 3 pressures in the first half and 4.5 in the second half of the year.
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Clabo should be top priority

June 13th, 2011 Comments off

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Tyson Clabo

Apparently, there is reason to be optimistic about the end of the lockout. Whispers of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement coming to fruition seems to be growing into a low murmur. That is a good sign.

What all that means if that potentially within a month or so, free agency may finally hit in 2011. And not the odd 2010 version of it, where only players with six or more years of experience were allowed to hit the market. Instead, it may be the glorious, old system were players with four or more years of experience were allowed to test the open market.

You know, that great system that caused so many NFL teams to overpay above average players like they were going to be the ones to fix their franchises. The one where teams would hand out 8-figure signing bonuses like they were going out of style to players that would be replaced before their five and six-year deals were halfway done.

Yep, those were the good ole days.

And if those days return, then the Falcons will have to make some quick decisions. First and foremost should be locking up right tackle Tyson Clabo.

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