Archive for August, 2012

Reynolds vs. Konz: Who Should Start?

August 27th, 2012 Comments off
Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

Garrett Reynolds

In watching the preseason action so far this summer, I think the Falcons could potentially have a dilemma on their hand. Well, dilemma may be an overly strong word for the situation. They have a ‘situation’ in which they have two potential viable options to start this season at right guard.

Garrett Reynolds has gotten most of the first-team reps at right guard throughout the off-season, training camp, and in the preseason games. Peter Konz, the team’s top draft pick has worked with the second units and done well. Reynolds struggled last year at the start of the season, and the team was forced to pull the plug on him. But due to his work ethic and toughness, he was able to regroup this off-season and earn the brunt of the work. Konz has been playing catch-up since joining the Falcons. After spending three seasons exclusively at center during his collegiate days in Madison, Wisconsin, he basically had to learn the guard position. Konz has made solid progress so far and has made the battle for the starting spot pretty close.

Reynolds has shown improvement from a year ago, but he still shows the same flaws that he showed when he was struggling as the starter. He’s just too tall. And that’s no fault of Reynolds, but playing inside at center or guard is all about leverage, and the low man wins. And being 6-7 and 5/8ths works to any guard’s detriment. It’s rare to see a guard of that size be effective long-term in the NFL. Essentially, to overcome that abundance of height, your technique has to be darn near perfect. And thus far this summer in the preseason games, I’m not ready to say Reynolds is there. Better than last year? Yes. But quite where he should be? Nope. This is most apparent in pass protection, where Reynolds has to be better about bending his knees and using his hands to get low to deal with the quality defensive tackles he’ll see this year. Konz has done well in pass protection. While only a few inches shorter than Reynolds at 6-5, Konz appears a bit more comfortable in pass protection. His days as a center gives him the upper hand as far as being able to use his hands better and staying in front of the dumpier defensive tackles.

But the one thing that Reynolds has going over Konz is it appears that the former is the superior run blocker. Konz was a solid run blocker at Wisconsin for a center, but just hasn’t quite developed the power necessary to really push defenders off the ball. Reynolds has shown that he’s a bit better there at creating that necessary space for a back like Michael Turner as a straight-ahead run blocker. But where Konz does seem to be a bit better than Reynolds is at pulling and blocking on the move. If the Falcons are intent on using more zone runs up front this year, that might negate some of what Reynolds brings to the table.

The Falcons could go either way. Reynolds is arguably the safer choice because that is who Clabo and McClure have worked most with, and thus theoretically the potential for continuity issues coming up being less. But if the Falcons do opt to go with Reynolds, the presence of Konz plus his 2011 performance probably does mean that the leash could be very short headed into the season.

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Scouting Report: Asante Samuel

August 27th, 2012 1 comment
Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

Asante’s ‘G Stance’

Last week, I started things with scouting Sean Weatherspoon. Now it’s time to look at the Falcons only major pre-draft off-season addition still with the team: Asante Samuel, and what skills he brings to the table in 2012.

Pros: Samuel is an instinctual cover corner with good ball skills, awareness, and excellent anticipation. Does a good job challenging throws when he’s in position, and makes quarterbacks have to work to complete passes against him. Will jump slants and outs, able to make the big play. Does a solid job working in both man and zone coverage. Plays balanced and has good hips to match up man to man. He’s comfortable playing in space. Hard to beat deep due to his ability to play deep zones. Does a nice job covering crossing routes as well. Does his best work when he’s allowed to play off coverage, which allows him to keep things in front and read the quarterback.

Cons: Is lacking and lazy in run support. Is a poor tackler with bad technique, as he tends to duck his head and rarely wraps up. Relies too much on chopping legs of defender in open field, which is effective at times but very inconsistent. Doesn’t work to get off blocks, and tends to shy away from run support assignments, letting the other 10 guys on the field do most of the work. Too often gives up too much cushion when working in off coverage. Can be attacked on the deep posts for those reasons. Will get caught looking in the backfield at times, and give up the easy completion. Can get burned due to his gambling ways, biting on double moves. At times will leave his safety out to dry because he’ll bite on the underneath pattern and leave his safety on an island deep. Can be effective in press, but not good when asked to try and jam receivers at the line.

2012 Outlook: Samuel is a ball-hawk that has earned a strong reputation over the years for his ability to create turnovers and make the big play. While he’s not always the most disciplined corner, that reputation has allowed him to get away with things that lesser corners probably could not. This means he’s a “field-tilter” because opposing quarterbacks tend to shy away from him, and effectively takes his man out of the play, allowing his teammates to channel things to the opposite field. His struggles in run support are well-known and well-documented, but the Falcons are hoping that limiting his exposure there by playing him in the nickel will streamline his production.

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Peters to NFI while Falcons cut Wilson

August 26th, 2012 Comments off
Andrew Weber- US PRESSWIRE

Corey Peters

The Falcons announced today that to get down to their 75-man roster limit, the team waived QB John Parker Wilson and placed DT Corey Peters on the reserve/non-football injury list. As such, Peters is ineligible to play for the first six weeks of the regular season. He suffered a foot injury during the off-season, and has missed the entire training camp and preseason because of it.

Wilson was first signed by the Falcons in 2009 as an undrafted free agent, and made the team. For two seasons he sat the bench as the third quarterback. Last summer, the team opted to release him at the end of training camp after a lackluster preseason but he was signed to the practice squad. He was promoted to the Falcons active roster last December where he finished out the season. Wilson was outplayed this summer by undrafted rookie Dominique Davis.

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Falcons make cuts to pare roster

August 25th, 2012 Comments off

The Falcons announced roster moves today to pare their roster down to 75 players. The players cut included: TE Chase Coffman, LB Max Gruder, K Erik Folk, RB Richard Medlin, FB Lee Meisner, DE Louis Nzegwu, WR Kenny Stafford, and TE Aron White. The team also officially placed OT Will Svitek on injured reserve. They also reached injury settlements with DT Eli Joseph and CB Darrin Walls.

These moves put the Falcons roster down to 77 players, which means they will have to cut two more players before Monday’s 4 pm Eastern deadline.

Coffman and Medlin were additions made since the start of training camp. Joseph was signed on the eve of training camp. Folk, Gruder, Meisner, Nzegwu, Stafford, and White were undrafted free agents signed after the draft. Walls was an undrafted free agent last summer that made the Falcons roster and played in 5 games, recording 1 tackle on defense and 1 on special teams. Svitek was injured last week.

The Falcons will travel to Jacksonville take on the Jaguars on Thursday night. The league has a mandated deadline on Friday night at 9 pm Eastern to get their rosters down to 53 players. Starting  on Saturday, teams will be allowed to set their eight-man practice squads.

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Falcons soar above Dolphins

August 24th, 2012 Comments off
Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Roddy White catches a TD

The Falcons got their first preseason win of 2012 by taking down the Miami Dolphins 23-6. The Falcons had seven straight preseason games, their last victory being a road win over the Dolphins on August 27, 2010.

Matt Ryan had another solid performance, completing 18 of 26 passes for 220 yards and a touchdown. Dominique Davis had another impressive night in limited work, completing 2 of 3 passes for 53 yards and a score of his own. Chris Redman had 36 passing yards on 4 of 7 passing. Michael Turner led rushers with his most extensive work, getting 35 yards on the ground on 10 carries. Dimitri Nance added 3 carries for 12 yards, and Antone Smith had 10 more yards on 4 carries. Julio Jones led receivers with 4 catches for 90 yards. Tony Gonzalez also had 4 catches for 24 yards. Turner (3 catches, 36 yards) and Harry Douglas (3 catches, 20 yards) also contributed. Roddy White caught Ryan’s touchdown, ending his night with 2 catches for 28 yards. Tim Toone’s only catch of the night was a 39-yard touchdown from Davis. Matt Bryant hit on all 3 of his field goal attempts of 45, 44, and 51 yards. Erik Folk missed his lone field goal attempt of 32 yards. Matt Bosher punted 5 times for an average of 43.6 yards with 2 placed inside the 20-yard line. Jacquizz Rodgers returned 1 kickoff for 40 yards. Toone had 2 punt returns for 21 yards, while Dominique Franks had a pair of punt returns for 8 yards. The Falcons offense had some struggles converting on third downs early in the game, with only 2 successful conversions on 7 attempts in the first half.

Defensively, the Falcons held tough. The Dolphins were plagued by a ton of dropped passes, which was also a cause of why they only converted 3 of 15 third down attempts. The Dolphins offense was held to 246 total yards, were sacked twice and had two turnovers. Thomas DeCoud led defenders with 5 tackles and an interception. John Abraham (2 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble), Akeem Dent (3 tackles), Cliff Matthews (1 tackle, 1 fumble recovery), Dunta Robinson (3 tackles), Asante Samuel (3 tackles), Lawrence Sidbury (2 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble), and Sean Weatherspoon (3 tackles) all had noteworthy games.

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Falcon Players To Watch Tonight vs. Dolphins

August 24th, 2012 Comments off

Tonight marks the final dress rehearsal for the regular season, at least as far as the starters go. They will likely play the entire first half and a bit into the third quarter as well. Most of the guys you’ll see on the field during that time period are locks to make the roster. Next week, most of those same players will sit for the preseason finale. The third preseason game is often considered to be the most important because it more closely mirrors the intensity of the regular season. With that in mind, here are some Falcon players that you should be keeping your eyes on against the Miami Dolphins:

Michael Turner – Turner has rushed 8 times for a total of 14 yards this preseason, not a good look for him. He has been successful on two of those runs. He hasn’t had great blocking up front, but he needs to step it up against the Dolphins. Turner wants to silence the doubters and having a solid performance in his final preseason action will be a key aspect in doing so.

Sam Baker – Baker has been really spared this summer, with both Terrell Suggs and Carlos Dunlap, Baltimore and Cincinnati’s top pass rushers, respectively being out of the games. Baker has yet to really be tested. Well this week, he should get tested against Cameron Wake, and it should be a nice indicator whether the Falcons brass was right to have confidence in Baker in 2012.

Lamar Holmes – Holmes will make his preseason debut tonight and should get a ton of reps. He’ll be one to watch to indicate whether the Falcons have good depth at left tackle. Holmes is not in the mix to start given his lack of reps, but he can answer questions about whether the Falcons might need to look at other tackles come cutdown days if he doesn’t have a good performance tonight.

Kerry Meier – I’ll keep harping on Meier needing to emerge until he does. Meier needs to show that he is capable of stepping into the lineup in the event of an injury to Jones, White, or Douglas, and has yet to do so. It would be nice to see him go out in the first half or so against the Dolphins starters and make a play. He missed the Bengal game with a leg injury and needs to play and produce against the Dolphins.

Ray EdwardsLast time I mentioned that Edwards stock was down due to the fact that he was being pulled off the field in nickel situations. This week if that remains the case, then Edwards makes the most of his pass rushing situations against the Dolphins.

Akeem Dent – Dent is back after missing last week’s game with a concussion. He had his ups and downs against the Ravens, and needs to come back with a performance against the Dolphins that shows more ups than downs. In particular, he needs to improve in coverage to at least give the team faith that he won’t be totally lost if he has to pull extended reps there during the regular season.

Scouting Report: Sean Weatherspoon

August 22nd, 2012 Comments off
Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

Sean Weatherspoon

As has been the case the past two summers, I will look at evaluating some of the Falcons current players. Will be looking to assess their strengths, weaknesses, and what fans can expect to see from them in 2012. Let’s kick things off with the player that anchors the defense in Sean Weatherspoon.

Pros: Spoon possesses very good range and speed, able to make plays anywhere on the field from sideline to sideline. Does a good job as a “run and hit” linebacker, able to flow to the football and make plays in pursuit. He has good instincts when it comes to reading and reacting to plays, and does a good job taking good angles to the football. Packs some power and pop as a tackler, and will lower the boom to deliver a big hit to the ballcarrier. Has very good athleticism with good flexibility and hips, making him an ideal coverage linebacker. Capable of matching up with some of the league’s better tight ends. Is a very effective blitzer due to his speed and short-area burst, able to explode upfield and into the backfield to disrupt the pass. Has a loquacious and jubilant personality that makes him effective in a leadership position.

Cons: Not always a reliable tackler and can be overpowered at the point of attack. Doesn’t do a great job getting off blocks at the point of attack, causing him to get caught up in traffic against the inside run. Also has some difficulty getting off blocks in space, particularly when it comes to screens. Despite his natural skillset, still needs to develop better awareness when in coverage. Aggressive play can get him in trouble at times by bordering on being overaggressive.

2012 Outlook: Weatherspoon was arguably the best 4-3 outside linebacker in the NFL last season, joining the ranks of players like Lance Briggs, Daryl Smith, and Chad Greenway in a position group that has largely dominated by 3-4 players that get nationwide recognition. It’s one of the reasons why Weatherspoon is still a bit under the radar from a national perspective. With new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan calling the shots, the Falcons will continue to look at Spoon as being one of the lynchpins of their defense. He was good enough last year to earn defensive MVP honors from this site and was overlooked in Pro Bowl voting. But this upcoming season, those things hopefully will change as Weatherspoon should be poised for his first Pro Bowl appearance.

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MJD to Falcons doesn’t make a lot of sense

August 22nd, 2012 1 comment
Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

Maurice Jones-Drew

Yesterday, news broke that Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew following some inflammatory comments by Jaguars owner Shahid Khan, was open to a trade. And it caused an uproar, as well it should because MJD as he is affectionately known, is the Jaguars best player and it made a lingering holdout into a major drama.

And as is often the case, dots began to be connected for the possibility that if MJD was traded, he could find his way north from Jacksonville to Atlanta. On one hand, it makes sense. His former offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter is here, and current head coach Mike Smith along with several other assistants currently in Atlanta were also in Jacksonville in 2006 when he was first drafted.

Much of the off-season talk in Atlanta has centered around whether or not Michael Turner is past his prime. I for one, fall in line as one of those people that believe Turner is well on the downside of his career. Getting a player like MJD, the league’s top rusher from a year ago certainly would be an upgrade at the running back position. MJD is younger than Turner as well as more explosive and versatile.

Even if you can get past the fantasy that the Jaguars would trade MJD, which is an extremely high hurdle to jump. Even as of this morning, the MJD camp is backing off their trade demands simply because they know they’re not going to get them. Jacksonville is not going to trade their best player. But you can never say never, so let’s assume that Jones-Drew is being shopped. It still doesn’t make too much sense for the Falcons.

Firstly, while Jones-Drew is younger than Turner by about 3 years, they have nearly identical career workloads as far as rushing attempts go, with MJD having 67 more than Turner. When counting carries up until the age of 27, Jones is fairly high on the list particularly for modern running backs. Among players drafted in the past decade, he’s only exceeded by Steven Jackson in terms of touches before the age of 28. The point being MJD is not as spry a 27 as most.

He had knee surgery prior to 2011. Clearly, his performance last year showed that he suffered no major ill effects from that. But what is interesting is throughout the 2011 season, MJD was limited in most of the Jaguars’ Wednesday practices. It was likely to keep him well-rested to play down the stretch (where an ankle injury bothered him). It’s a practice that the Falcons do as well, but largely with their 30+ year old veterans like Tony Gonzalez, Todd McClure, and John Abraham. It’s a red flag that indicates that his body may be breaking down sooner rather than later.

The other main issue is the price tag, both when it comes to what the Falcons would need to give up to secure MJD from Jacksonville, as well as any extension he would want. The reason this holdout began is because he wants a raise. And he likely wants to be among the highest paid running backs in the league, after seeing the big extensions signed by Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte, Ray Rice, Arian Foster, etc. over the past year or so. Not only would the Falcons have to part ways with a high round pick, but then also pay a high premium in salary to secure MJD.

The Falcons are moving towards a pass-first offense, as they should. Centering the offense around Matt Ryan in the hopes it elevates his game is the team’s best chance to win a championship in the immediate future. So going out and giving up what they would need to get MJD doesn’t make much sense in that context. Like it has become the case in most NFL cities, the running back is becoming a complementary position in Atlanta. And there’s no need to ship a first or second round pick plus pay $40-50 million to a complementary player, even one as capable as MJD.

The bottom line is that MJD would be a short-term solution that requires long-term commitment. The Falcons have given away far too many premium picks over the past three drafts to merit doing it a fourth year in a row, especially for a player that is on the verge of hitting the same wall that many accuse Turner to be currently parked in front of.

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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 18 “Bengals-Falcons Recap”

August 21st, 2012 3 comments

Ryan and I get together to discuss and recap the Falcons preseason loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, and our takeaways from the game. We discuss which players and position groups we thought stood out in the game, as well as a few that did not. Discussions center around our respective concerns about the offensive line, especially in the wake of an injury to a key backup. We discuss the A.J. Green vs. Julio Jones debate, Dominique Davis and the Falcons backup QB situation, which players might get axed with the looming cutdown date, and how much of a role Michael Turner should play in the Falcons offense this year. In non-football related discussion, you even get to hear Ryan’s take on what shows were popular around 2006 as well as his views on the Batman cinematic franchise.

Ep. 18: Bengals-Falcons Recap [Download]

Duration: 1 hour


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With Svitek out, Holmes must be ready

August 21st, 2012 Comments off

Lamar Holmes

Lamar Holmes has had a quiet beginning to his career in Atlanta. Not long after being drafted, he suffered a foot injury that kept him out of OTAs and mini-camps. Then with the start of training camp, very little buzz surrounded him. He even sat out the first two preseason games. This Friday, against the Dolphins, Holmes will dawn his Falcon uniform for game action the first time, and a lot of fans’ eyes will be glued to him.

Will Svitek is out for the year with an upper arm injury. Svitek was the team’s swing tackle, poised to be inserted in the lineup if either of the team’s starting tackles: Sam Baker or Tyson Clabo go down with injury. Svitek was trusted. He outperformed Baker for the final 10 games of last year. Holmes is a question mark.

Due to the lingering concerns over whether Sam Baker is truly ready to make the step up, fans would love to have a known commodity like Svitek behind him, ready to pick up the slack in the event of injury or poor play. After all, Baker has missed a total of 14 games over the past four seasons due to injury. Odds are certainly in the favor of whomever is his backup, will log a couple of starts each year.

Holmes is going to have to be ready.

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