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Archive for November, 2012

Jones, Spoon questionable against Cardinals

November 16th, 2012 Comments off

Today, the Falcons released their injury report for Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals. On it, wide receiver Julio Jones (ankle) and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (ankle) were listed as questionable. Neither player practiced during the week, and according to head coach Mike Smith will be game-time decisions. Jones suffered his injury during the first half of last week’s loss to the New Orleans Saints, but later returned to the game in the third quarter. Weatherspoon has missed the past two games with his injury.

Wideout Kevin Cone (groin) and safety Charles Mitchell (calf) also missed the week of practice nd were listed as out for the Cardinals game. It’s the third consecutive game missed for Cone, while the second for Mitchell.

Also listed as questionable were defensive end John Abraham (back), running back Michael Turner (groin), and defensive tackle Vance Walker (ribs). All three players were limited in practice for all three days of practice this week. Listed as probable on this week’s report were defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux (thigh), wide receiver Harry Douglas (ankle), tight end Tony Gonzalez (shoulder), linebacker Stephen Nicholas (groin), and linebacker Mike Peterson (foot). Peterson fully participated in all three days of practice, while Babineaux, Douglas and Gonzalez were full participants on Thursday and Friday. Nicholas was upgraded on Friday and fully participated in practice for the first time all week.

Douglas and Peterson will likely replace Jones and Weatherspoon in the lineup, respectively if the pair sit. The injury to Abraham plus the release of Ray Edwards this week could mean a significant increase in reps for Lawrence Sidbury, Cliff Matthews, and/or Jonathan Massaquoi at defensive end. Turner’s injury could lead to the team giving increased reps to Jacquizz Rodgers and/or Jason Snelling at running back.

Moneyball 2012 – Week 10 Review

November 15th, 2012 Comments off

Sorry for the delay in getting this up. I know the rest of the world has moved on from this game, and re-hashing why the Falcons lost this game so late in the week is not fun.

I thought offensively the Falcons did a lot of good things, but there was too long a gap (particularly the second and third quarters) where they were unable to put points on the board, which caused them to get in too deep a hole to dig out of. One of the trends I’ve noticed with this year’s team as well as past years’ is that they rarely give you a solid three or four quarters of strong play. I think that is a big reason why they have struggled to win big games, including in the playoffs. That sort of inconsistency is fine if you’re facing Carolina, Minnesota, or Oakland, but simply can’t cut it against teams like New Orleans.

Matt Ryan played well, but he seemed to play with a bit of a sped up clock due to the pressure he was seeing. I think that pressure was a major contributor to the drought in scoring. I did like the fact that the Falcons continue to show the ability to generate explosive plays downfield. That is going to be the key to whether this offense can really rise to the top because that was sorely lacking over the first month or so of the season. Gonzalez continues to play at a high level and he might really be doing himself a disservice by retiring. Even if he’s only 75% the player he is this year from now on, he could easily remain a premier TE in this league for another 4 or 5 years. The Falcons clearly missed Jones, and it’s no coincidence that their struggles to put points on the board were primarily when he was out of the game.

This game exposed many of the masses to really how poor the Falcons running game is this year. In key games, they are essentially one dimensional and if they get into a situation where they need to get a single yard on the ground, they are very likely to fail. I don’t really want to point fingers at Koetter, but I do think his decision to run Turner on that 3rd & 1 at the goal line was not a good decision. Frankly, I bet he called it not because he actually thought the play would work but because he didn’t want the talking heads and second guessers talking about how they threw it 3 straight times from the goal line with Michael Turner in the backfield. Or maybe because of some pipe dream from the coaches that there is some semblance of physicality with this offense. Memo to Koetter and Mike Smith, if you thought there was a physical element to this offense, then you haven’t been watching them this year. I suggest you embrace the fact that you are a finesse team. Not saying you should shoot to throw the ball 50 times a game, but in the do or die situations, keep the ball in Matt Ryan’s hands, your best player, rather than Turner who might now be sixth best on offense due to the ascendancy of Jacquizz Rodgers.

The Falcons just can’t win up front. I noticed many instances where if guys could hold a block for more than a split-second, it could have sprung Turner for longer runs. Turner just lacks the burst to take advantage of those short-lived creases, and the Falcons need to be willing to give Rodgers and Snelling more reps as runners. The ground game will still be terrible, but potentially not as terrible.

I don’t wish to pile on Turner as many have done this week, but the Falcons brass have had an overwhelming sense of denial to how much he had left in the tank this year. I can’t be too harsh on him, because Turner has stepped up in recent weeks. But this game showed that in these bigger games, he’s been at best a non-factor and at worst a liability.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Matt Ryan$16$1$0$0$0$0$17.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$9$0$0$0$9.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$3$4$0$0$0$7.00
Julio Jones$0$0$5$0$0$0$5.00
Roddy White$0$0$5$0$0$0$5.00
Michael Turner$0$2$0$1$0$0$3.00
Harry Douglas$0$0$2$0$0$0$2.00
Mike Johnson$0$0$2$0$0$0$2.00
Peter Konz$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Tommy Gallarda$0$0$0$0$1$0$1.00
Jason Snelling$0$0$0$0$0.5$0$0.50
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
D.J. Davis$0$0$0$0$0-$1 -$1.00
Antone Smith$0$0$0$0$0-$1-$1.00
Sam Baker$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00
Todd McClure$0$0$0-$1$0-$1-$2.00
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Toone, Coffman added to roster

November 13th, 2012 Comments off

In light of the team’s decision to cut defensive end Ray Edwards last night, today the Falcons made several roster moves to fill the void. Wide receiver Tim Toone was signed and tight end Chase Coffman was promoted from the practice squad. Coffman replaces tight end Tommy Gallarda, who was placed oninjured reserve. Replacing Coffman on the practice squad is tight end Andrew Szczerba.

Toone spent training camp with the Falcons and was one of the final cuts made prior to the regular season. Toone could potentially push for a role on special teams as the punt returner, a role he performed well during the preseason. Gallarda injured his shoulder during Sunday’s loss to the New Orleans Saints. Coffman was added to the practice squad early in the season after being a roster addition during the middle of training camp.

Szczerba is an undrafted rookie out of Penn State that spent the summer with the Dallas Cowboys before being part of the final roster cutdown. He caught 14 career passes during his collegiate career, working primarily as a blocker.

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Falcons dump Ray Edwards

November 12th, 2012 Comments off

In what is a surprising move, NFL insider Jay Glazer tweeted that the Falcons would be cutting ties with defensive end Ray Edwards earlier this evening. The move comes as a surprise due to the fact that it is a mid-season release of a player that was the team’s top free agent addition following the lockout of last summer.

Edwards came to the Falcons after several seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, earning a reputation as one of the league’s up and coming pass rushers. In five seasons in Minnesota, including four as a starter Edwards tallied 29.5 sacks. Last year with Atlanta, after coming off a knee injury, Edwards had a disappointing 3.5 sacks. This past off-season, now healthy and with the introduction of Mike Nolan as the team’s defensive coordinator, greater production was expected of Edwards. What resulted was the loss of his starting job to Kroy Biermann and very limited playing time, predominantly serving as a run defender. In 9 games and 4 starts this season, Edwards recorded no sacks and just 9 tackles.

More than likely, Edwards’ release will lead to increased reps for Lawrence Sidbury, as well as Cliff Matthews and rookie Jonathan Massaquoi. Both Matthews and Massaquoi have been inactive for the majority of Falcons games this season.

Falcons drop one against rival Saints

November 11th, 2012 Comments off
John David Mercer-US PRESSWIRE

Saints defender knocks away pass to Gonzalez

The Falcons suffered their first loss of the 2012 season at the hands of NFC South divisional rival the New Orleans Saints. In a 31-27 loss on the road, the Falcons got off to a quick start, but then struggled to get stops as the Saints were then able to take a lead. But the Falcons got their act together and had two opportunities in the final minutes of the game to pull out the win, but fell short both times. The Falcons record moves to 8-1.

Matt Ryan set a career high with 411 yards passing. He also completed 34 of 52 passes, had 3 touchdown passes, and an interception. On the ground the Falcons got very little. Jacquizz Rodgers led the team in rushing with 29 yards on 3 carries, most of that coming on an 18-yard run. Michael Turner had only 15 yards on 13 carries with most of that coming on a 9-yard run. Tony Gonzalez had a big day, catching 11 passes for 122 yards and a pair of touchdown catches. He would get his 100th and 101st career touchdown catches in the contest. He passed Steve Largent and Tim Brown with those plays to move up to 6th all-time in career touchdown catches. Roddy White (7 catches, 114 yards), Julio Jones (4 catches, 75 yards), Harry Douglas (4 catches, 49 yards), and Rodgers (4 catches, 33 yards) would also make contributions in the air. Offensive lineman Mike Johnson caught Ryan’s other touchdown pass, on his lone reception for a single yard. Matt Bryant hit on both of his field goal tries of 37 and 20 yards. Matt Bosher had three punts for an average of 46.7 yards, with one placed inside the 20-yard line. Dominique Franks had a pair of punt returns for 9 total yards, while Douglas had one return for no gain. The Falcons got no opportunities to return kickoffs, as all were touchbacks. Throughout the game, the Falcons really struggled to run the ball in short-yardage situations and near the goalline. They had 6 tries inside the redzone, and scored touchdowns on half of them.

Defensively, the Falcons struggled to slow down the Saints offense in the first half. They gave up 440 total yards on the day, with 268 coming in the first half. Akeem Dent led defenders with 9 tackles. Kroy Biermann (3 tackles); Thomas DeCoud (6 tackles), Robert McClain (4 tackles, 1 pass deflection); William Moore (6 tackles); Stephen Nicholas (7 tackles, 1 sack); Mike Peterson (5 tackles); Dunta Robinson (7 tackles,  1 pass deflection); Asante Samuel (2 tackles, 1 interception, 3 pass deflections); and Vance Walker (4 tackles) had noteworthy games. The defense stepped up in the second half, limiting the Saints to convert on 2 of 7 third down attempts and holding them to 172 total yards. The Saints had 116 rushing yards on 13 carries (8.9 avg) in the first half, but gained just 32 on 16 carries (2.0 avg) in the second half.

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Moneyball 2012 – First Half Stats

November 11th, 2012 Comments off

These are the stats for the first half of the season according to Moneyball. Here is a glossary of the abbreviations in the tables. Here are the rules of Moneyball, if you are not familiar with it.

Click here the stats from the first quarter of the season. Here are last year’s stats from the first 8 games, as a method of comparison.

PASSING
1st
3rd
20+
40+
TD
PT
INT
Skd
TOTALS
Matt Ryan58 (28)30 (16)18 (11)5 (2)17 (6)32 (17)6 (4)4 (2)$108.00 ($48)

Matt Ryan is blowing away last year’s first half by a mile.

RUSHING
5+ yd
10+
1st
3rd
YAC(5+)
TD
MH
TOTAL
Michael Turner21 (15)13 (4)4 (3)1 (1)3 (1)4 (2)0$63.00 ($32)
Jacquizz Rodgers7 (1)2 (2)01 (1)3 (3)02 (2)$13.00 ($7)
Matt Ryan3 (2)2 (1)02 (1)01 (0)0$11.00 ($5)
Jason Snelling1 (1)1 (1)1 (0)0000$4.00 ($3)
Julio Jones001 (1)1 (1)1 (1)00$3.00 ($3)
Tony Gonzalez00002 (1)00$2.00 ($1)
Harry Douglas0001 (1)000$1.00 ($1)

Turner is down from a year ago. His earnings from the second quarter of last year ($53) nearly match his first half total this year ($63).

RECEIVING
1st
3rd
20+
40+
YAC
TD
Drop
TOTALS
Roddy White17 (7)12 (6)7 (4)2 (0)6 (4)4 (1)1 (0)$53.00 ($23)
Tony Gonzalez24 (12)6 (2)2 (1)02 (1)4 (1)2 (1)$40.00 ($17)
Julio Jones8 (6)6 (2)9 (5)1 (1)8 (5)5 (2)5 (1)$38.00 ($23)
Jacquizz Rodgers4 (1)3 (3)009 (4)1 (0)3 (2)$15.00 ($6)
Harry Douglas5 (2)01 (1)01 (0)01 (0)$6.00 ($3)
Jason Snelling02 (1)001 (0)1 (1)0$5.00 ($3)
D.J. Davis0100110$4.00 ($0)
Michael Turner0001 (0)2 (1)1 (0)4 (2)$2.00 (-$1)
Michael Palmer01 (1)00000$1.00 ($1)
Tommy Gallarda0000001 (1)-$1.00 (-$1)
Lousaka Polite0000002 (1)-$2.00 (-$1)
Joe Hawley0000002 (2)-$2.00 (-$2)

Roddy is blowing away his totals from a year ago. Gonzo is also up, and so is Julio by quite a bit. Jones earned nearly as much over the past four games ($23) as he did for the first eight of last year ($29). Rodgers has doubled his total from last year at this point, while Douglas is about half as much as 2011.

BLOCKING
KB Run
KB Rec
KB 1st
KB 3rd
KB TD
KB Pass
SA
MB
QBPA
TOTALS
Justin Blalock4 (1)01 (0)01 (0)005 (3)3.5 (2.5)$13.00 ($3)
Todd McClure1 (0)1 (1)3.5 (3.5)001 (0)3 (1)5 (3)3 (2)$11.50 ($5.5)
Garrett Reynolds1 (0)00.5 (0.5)01 (1)001 (1)6 (3)$10.50 ($3.5)
Tyson Clabo3 (0)002 (0)01 (0)4 (0)2 (2)11.5 (8)$6.00 ($5)
Sam Baker0001 (1)1 (1)02 (1)5 (4)7.5 (5.5)$4.00 ($1)
Roddy White2 (2)1 (1)002 (0)001 (1)0$4.00 ($2)
D.J. Davis1 (1)01 (1)000000$2.00 ($2)
Tommy Gallarda1 (0)00000000$1.00 ($0)
Jason Snelling001 (1)000000$1.00 ($1)
Harry Douglas00001 (0)001 (1)0.5 (0)$0.00 (-$1)
Mike Johnson0001 (0)001 (0)00$0.00 ($0)
Peter Konz00002 (2)004 (4)0$0.00 ($0)
Michael Turner000000002.5 (0)$0.00 ($0)
Kevin Cone00000001 (1)0-$1.00 ($0)
Jacquizz Rodgers0000001 (1)01 (0)-$1.00 (-$1)
Lousaka Polite1 (0)000001 (1)2 (0)0.5 (0)-$2.00 (-$1)
Tony Gonzalez00001 (0)004 (0)0-$3.00 ($0)

Collectively, the offensive linemen have improved slightly in pass protection (10% less sacks/pressures allowed) and much more in terms of run blocking (30% less missed blocks) in comparison to the first half of last year.

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Weatherspoon among others out for Saints game

November 9th, 2012 Comments off

The Falcons released their injury report today for this Sunday’s upcoming contest against the New Orleans Saints. A number of Falcons players were on this week’s injury report, including linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (ankle), wide receiver Kevin Cone (groin), and safety Charles Mitchell (calf), all of whom were declared out for the game. All three players missed the entire week of practice.

Also appearing on the report were a number of questionable players including: defensive tackles Jonathan Babineaux (hamstring) and Peria Jerry (knee), and cornerbacks Robert McClain (hip) and Chris Owens (heel). McClain and Owens were added to the injury report today after being limited in today’s practice. Both Babineaux and Jerry were limited throughout the week’s three days of practice.

Defensive end John Abraham (elbow), tackle Sam Baker (ankle), wideout Harry Douglas (ankle), cornerback Asante Samuel (hip), and running back Jason Snelling (illness) all also appeared on the report, but are listed as probable. Abraham was able to fully participate in all three days of practice. Both Baker and Samuel were limited on Thursday while fully participating on Thursday and Friday. Douglas was limited until fully participating in today’s practice. Snelling missed Wednesday practice, but was full go on Thursday and today.

With Weatherspoon out, Mike Peterson will likely enter the starting lineup in the base defense, with Akeem Dent taking over Spoon’s duties in the nickel. Both Cone and Mitchell will be missed on special teams. Babineaux and Jerry’s injuries leave the team relatively thin at defensive tackle, as Corey Peters is still recovering from a foot injury that kept him out of the first six games of the season. It could mean Vance Walker and Travian Robertson get increased reps on Sunday. McClain and Owens are the team’s top two backups at cornerback, being key components of the team’s nickel and dime packages. That could potentially be tested given the Saints proclivity to use three, four, and five wideouts on the majority of their plays.

Moneyball 2012 – Week 9 Review

November 8th, 2012 Comments off

Despite scoring only 19 points, I was impressed with how the offense performed against the Cowboys. Breakdowns in pass protection and their inability to run the ball in the early part of this game prevented them from finishing some drives. But for the most part, the Falcons had little issue moving the ball against the Cowboys defense.

Matt Ryan had an excellent game despite not throwing a touchdown. Roddy White and Julio Jones for chunks of this game appeared uncoverable to Dallas defenders. The Cowboys only effective way of slowing down the Falcons passing attack was with pressure, something they got regularly in the first three quarters. But when things counted late the O-line stepped up, protected Ryan, and opened some running lanes for Turner.

I think Turner may have looked the most like his former self in this game, running hard, and breaking a number of tackles. The Falcons goalline and short-yardage blocking has been abysmal this year, so it was nice to see Turner pound it in from 3 yards out for the team’s lone touchdown on the night. In previous efforts, it might have taken the team 3 or more plays to run it in from that distance. Konz got the key block on that play, and had a much improved effort than he did last week. Clabo continues to struggle in pass protection despite not giving up any pressures or sacks. I counted five “hurries” he gave up, which I’ve previously explained are times when pressure happened but did not result in an incompletion, or there was light enough pressure where the QB had to rush a throw or move off his spot. The rest of the line combined for just two hurries. So while Baker’s earnings were less, I think he had the better game among the tackles. Overall, a subpar effort up front which has been a regular occurrence this season.

The team cut Lousaka Polite this week. You might make the case that this was his strongest lead blocking effort of the season, but that isn’t really saying much since he was fairly poor in all other games. The dropped pass, missed assignments, and poor pass protection combined to force the team’s hand. Personally if I was calling the shots in Atlanta, I would just move Snelling to fullback. Cox is largely serviceable, and probably won’t be a Falcon next year (due to Ewing’s return), thus I’d try to find some developmental guy to use his roster spot on. Or perhaps give Matthews or Massaquoi more reps on gameday with the extra spot. But it’s fairly inconsequential. And who knows, maybe Cox actually helps improve the ground game down the stretch.

Rodgers really came through with two critical third down conversions. I really want to see the Falcons do a better job integrating their entire receiver corps with Harry Douglas being largely an afterthought. I have no answers to offer them. I think one of the issues for Douglas in this particular game was the quality of Dallas’ corners, and his continued struggles with beating press and tight man coverage.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Matt Ryan$16$1$0$0$0$0$17.00
Michael Turner$0$11-$1$0$0$0$10.00
Roddy White$0$0$9$1$0$0$10.00
Julio Jones$0$2$6$0$0-$1$7.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$0$4-$1$0$0$3.00
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$2$0$0$0$2.00
Peter Konz$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Todd McClure$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Michael Palmer$0$0$1$0$0$0$1.00
Jason Snelling$0$1$0$0$0$0$1.00
Antone Smith$0$0$0$0$1$0$1.00
Sam Baker$0$0$0-$2$0$0-$2.00
Lousaka Polite$0$0-$1-$1$0$0-$2.00

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Midseason Superlatives 2012

November 7th, 2012 Comments off

A year ago at the midpoint I gave my picks for who I thought were some of the top performers for several superlative awards. I am doing the same this year.

Offensive MVP: Matt Ryan

Without a doubt Matt Ryan has been the most valuable player on offense. What a difference a year makes, as I had Ryan midway through last season as the most disappointing player (although he did bounce back to get the MVP by year’s end). But honestly without Ryan’s performance this year, I think the Falcons would be looking at just 5 or 6 wins instead of 8 right now. That is how much better I think Ryan is this year in comparisen to last year. He’s blossoming in Dirk Koetter’s offense and is in the mix for league MVP honors, not just some given out by some silly Falcon blog.

I should also note that on any team not helmed by Matt Ryan, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez would also get love. Both are playing at elite levels for their respective positions, although Ryan certainly has a hand in that.

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Cox replaces Polite at fullback

November 7th, 2012 Comments off

The Falcons earlier today announced the signing of fullback Mike Cox and the release of Lousaka Polite. The team also announced that guard Jacques McClendon was signed to the practice squad. He replaces Phillip Manley, who was elevated to the active roster yesterday.

Cox was cut by the Falcons this past summer after losing a training camp competition to Polite. Cox originally joined the Falcons in October 2011 as an injury replacement for Ovie Mughelli.

Polite signed with Atlanta midway through camp after rookie fullback Bradie Ewing went down with a season-ending injury. In his stint with the team, Polite started 5 of 6 games, catching a single pass for 8 yards.

McClendon originally entered the league as a fourth round pick with the Indianapolis Colts in 2010. He played in four games with the Colts in his rookie season. He was cut the following summer and was picked up by the Detroit Lions. He was inactive for four games before being released. He rejoined the Lions after 2011 but was cut this past summer. He was briefly on the Pittsburgh Steelers practice squad in October before joining the Falcons. During his college career at Tennessee, he started 26 career games at right guard and earned Academic All-SEC honors twice.

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