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 Post subject: Takeaways from Last Week – August 19
PostPosted: Mon Aug 19, 2013 9:48 am 
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Takeaways from Last Week – August 19
August 19th, 2013 Aaron Freeman Edit Leave a comment Go to comments
ICON SMI

Could we see the return of Mike Peterson?

Roddy White is injured, and I’m not worried. At least I should say I’m not worried right now. If White is out of the lineup in Week 1, then I’ll be worried.

But I’m pretty calm at this point in time, even knowing that White will miss the rest of the preseason with an ankle injury that he suffered on Thursday night against the Baltimore Ravens.

The Falcons now have three weeks for White to get some rest and hopefully heal what the team termed a “minor” injury. Initial reports seem to confirm the lack of severity on this injury, suggesting White could suit up within a week if this were the regular season. But to be honest, I don’t fully buy that. The Falcons routinely have underestimated the amount of time it would take for their players to return. One famous example came in 2010 when Michael Jenkins suffered a shoulder injury in early August that was originally slated to put him out 4-6 weeks. Jenkins did not suit up for a Falcons game until 10 weeks later.

Now it should be noted that since 2010 I don’t recall any other blatant misreads of a player’s recovery. And the team may be a lot better today now three years removed at estimating the timetables for players’ recoveries. But generally speaking, I tend to add a week or two to all prognoses that the Falcons release about their injured players. The fact that the Falcons usually don’t put a timetable on players’ returns is also indicative that they also realize that it only opens themselves up for more criticism.

But the term “minor” is such a relative term. It could be minor in the sense that it may only keep him from practice or playing for a week or two. It could be minor in the sense that it won’t require surgery, but could keep him out of the lineup for a month or more. We really won’t know until Wednesday, September 4, when the Falcons practice report for Week 1 is released and it says either FP (full participation), LP (limited participation), or DNP (did not practice) to indicate where White’s status is. My personal philosophy is que sera sera, thus there is no sense worrying about things you cannot control.

And losing White is arguably the lesser of two evils, at least compared to losing Julio Jones. While I think Richard Sherman’s “dissing” of White several months ago went a bit too far (by saying he’s a product of the system), I do think there is a small sliver of a kernel of truth to what Sherman was saying in that White isn’t as good a player as Jones. Jones is the player that really makes the Falcons offense go, at least in the sense that it changes the way teams try to defend the Falcons. I do think there is a lot more overlap in regards to how the Falcons normally use White in comparison to his replacement, Harry Douglas.

But to be honest, all of this is fairly theoretical because the Falcons have never had to play without White. White has not missed a single game in eight seasons with the Falcons, and it would be a shame for that streak to end in 2013. So we don’t really know what the Falcons offense would look like without White. He’s missed snaps in games due to nicks and other minor stuff, but nothing that really forced him to be missed a huge chunk of time. The best example I could come up with of the Falcons having to try and operate an offense sans White was in Week 9 in 2010 against the Tampa Bay Bucs, where he injured his knee and missed most of the first half. The Falcons leaned on Brian Finneran to help move the chains in that game as he had three first half catches, two of which came on third downs. Tony Gonzalez got the brunt of the work in the passing game, with seven first half targets (Gonzalez had seen that much of a first half workload just three times prior in 23 games with the Falcons).

But it should be noted that was a team that had Michael Jenkins instead of Julio Jones, and was much more of a run-oriented offense than what the Falcons will feature this year under Steven Jackson. Jones and Gonzalez should easily be able to pick up the slack in the passing game, while Douglas is a much more improved player than he was in 2010. In that Bucs game, he did not have a single catch and wasn’t targeted once during the first half when White was injured. That was the year that Douglas was a bit slow returning from his knee injury the year before. Douglas has made it a habit of stepping up and producing when Jones has missed time the past two seasons, and I suspect could do the same for White. Not to mention, the Falcons play-calling and quarterback play is much improved from 2010 as well.

It’s not to suggest that losing White is no big deal. Because it certainly is. And if he were to miss the season opener against the New Orleans Saints, I would be hard-pressed to pick the Falcons to win that game. But I’m not sure I would even if I knew White was playing. I just don’t think the Falcons have to revamp the way they play with White out of the lineup. Jones is the team’s only “true” deep threat, in that teams have to adjust their coverages to respect the deep ball from him. White can and did make plays down the field last year, but most starting cornerbacks aren’t afraid of White running by them like they are with Jones. The Falcons played White more in the slot last year, a role that Douglas is used to. The Falcons would certainly miss White on third downs, but it’s about time that Jones showed he could also be a chain mover, and not just a big play threat. And the Falcons still have Gonzalez to pick up most of the slack in that regards. The main issue is that Douglas isn’t truly a “man beater” like White is. So when defenses slant their coverages away from White to deal with Jones, Roddy can make them pay because he does an excellent job separating from man coverage and making difficult grabs in traffic. That is one of Douglas’ biggest limitations. But I suspect Koetter’s play-calling would adjust to a certain degree and try to utilize Douglas on a lot of shorter, quick routes that are designed to get him the ball quickly and in space to use his superior burst and quickness after the catch. That could suck up the coverage and then allow either Douglas or Jones to go over the top downfield.

Again, the Falcons would have their fair share of obstacles to overcome, but it wouldn’t be the biggest loss in the world if White was to miss a game or two moving forward. At least that is what I’m telling myself to convince myself to not worry.

***

Three weeks ago I wrote about the possibility of the Falcons cutting several veteran players such as Stephen Nicholas, Peria Jerry, and Antone Smith among others. I made some bad calculations in regards to the numbers the Falcons would save from cutting them because I forgot that we’re now in August and the cuts made at the end of the camp count the same as post-June 1 cuts. Meaning that the full unpaid portion of a player’s signing bonus does not immediately accelerate as dead money, but is essentially spread over two seasons.

So here are the updated numbers for the players I mentioned:

Stephen Nicholas – My biggest miscalculation belongs to Nicholas, who the Falcons can cut and save roughly $2.1 million against this year’s cap by going with a young linebacker like Joplo Bartu. Nicholas has three years left on his contract, and thus only $1 million of his unpaid signing bonus accelerates as dead money in 2013, essentially cutting his $2.5 million base salary from the team’s payroll (roughly $406,000 of which will be taken up by Bartu or another undrafted rookie on the final 53). That will also mean that the Falcons will carry $2 million in dead money in 2014, but that is only half of what Nicholas’ cap hit was going to be.
Antone Smith – By keeping either undrafted rookie in Ronnie Wingo or Donald Russell, the Falcons would wind up saving roughly $224,000 against the cap in 2013. Cutting Smith would slash his $630,000 base salary, $406,000 of which would be taken up by either of the two young running backs. Smith would then have another dead money hit of $32,500 in 2014.
Garrett Reynolds – His release would save the Falcons about $309,000 in cap space this year if he was axed in favor of Theo Goins. The Falcons remove Reynolds’ $715,000 base salary, of which Goins would take up roughly $406,000. Then the Falcons would carry $250,000 in dead money again in 2014, but that would still amount to over $2 million in savings due to his $2.185 million base salary coming off the books.
Jason Snelling – If he was to get cut in favor of one of the undrafted rookie running backs, the Falcons would save roughly $444,000 due to his $850,000 base salary getting slashed in favor of the much smaller number that Wingo/Russell would carry. The Falcons would then have to eat an additional $358,333 in dead money in 2014.
The numbers for Peria Jerry ($498,000) and Joe Hawley ($224,000) were initially correct due to the fact that both players are in their final contract years, and thus all of their remaining bonus will accelerate this year and won’t be spread out over the next two years.

As I mentioned before, I do not think Reynolds, Snelling, or Hawley have to lose any sleep over potentially losing their jobs. Reynolds appears entrenched as a starter thanks to the injury to Mike Johnson knocking out his main competition. Hawley hasn’t taken a single rep at right guard through two preseason games, and the Falcons appear content with him being their swing guard/center on Sundays. And Snelling is Snelling, arguably the team’s most valuable backup due to his ability to contribute in a variety of ways.

But Nicholas does indeed have to be worried about his job, as does Jerry and Smith. All three could easily be cut by the team to reap the salary cap benefits going into September. People should also remember that if a player is on the team’s 53-man roster on opening day of the season, his salary becomes guaranteed. It would not be shocking to see the team cut a player like Nicholas to avoid guaranteeing his $3.5 million cap hit in 2013, in order to bring him back the following week at a lower price. The Falcons pulled this exact move in regards to Brett Romberg at the start of the 2011 season. The Falcons instead kept Rob Bruggeman on the roster for opening day at a much cheaper price. Bruggeman was cut Monday after the Falcons’ season opener against the Chicago Bears, and Romberg was brought back, where he remained for the rest of the season.

It’s possible the Falcons could try and do the same with Nicholas this year. I personally don’t feel the Falcons should just cut Nicholas outright. While Paul Worrilow has been impressive thus far in preseason, I don’t think he’s anywhere close to being ready to be a regular contributor for the Falcons in 2013. Frankly, I don’t think anybody really is. Pat Schiller might be the closest simply because he’s spent a year in Mike Nolan’s scheme. But Schiller is probably a player that shouldn’t get more than 10 snaps on regular defense in a given week. While the Falcons have Sean Weatherspoon and Akeem Dent to man the two primary linebacker positions in their nickel package, and have shown the ability to work in Kroy Biermann as the strongside linebacker in their base package, I don’t want this team to be one injury away from having to play one of these young players full-time. It should be noted that Sean Weatherspoon has missed a total of 8 games over the past three seasons, and has already been nicked up this summer due to his finger dislocation. The main issue is playing in nickel coverage. Biermann can be used in coverage, but his primary value is still rushing the quarterback. In the event of an injury to Dent or Weatherspoon, he’d be asked to play linebacker exclusively and be asked to play a lot more coverage than he should. Or it would mean calling on one of the young players to produce a lot more in coverage, something I don’t think any of them are ready for. Look, the fact that the team didn’t trust Akeem Dent to play on passing downs last year in his second season with the team should indicate that none of these undrafted guys should be expected to do so in their first seasons.

So if the Falcons do cut Nicholas, I think it should be with the intention of bring him back in Week 2 at a lower salary, or with the intent of replacing him with an experience veteran that will play for cheaper. I did read that Mike Peterson is still waiting by the phone and appears ready to go by the team the regular season starts.

Nicholas is a better player at this point in his career, but at least the 37-year old Peterson is a known commodity. And frankly, just for the sake of D-Block, I wouldn’t mind Peterson returning.

I am more worried about Nicholas getting cut and the potentially problems it could pose for the Falcons linebacker depth than I am about Roddy White’s ankle.

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 Post subject: Re: Takeaways from Last Week – August 19
PostPosted: Mon Aug 19, 2013 4:11 pm 
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I think that this news: viewtopic.php?f=2&t=18580 (Nicolas out for pre-season) makes things a bit foggier for Nicholas. Now, we're guaranteed to see Bartu and Worrilow on the field with the first team. If they continue to show what they've been showing so far, and they do it among the starters, then Nicolas is probably heading out the door.

I hate for players to get hurt, but I believe that Nicolas and Spoon being out is a boon to evaluating what we have in our young LBs. It is quite possible that Bartu and Worrilow could determine how well our defense does this year. Bartu is seemingly the only LB that we have that can consistently cover TE's, and Worrilow seems to be a consistent impact play maker. If they can continue what they've done so far, our defense could be considerably better than it was last year.

If, and this is a freaking huge IF, Bartu or Worrilow end up working out, I'll be giving some mad props to TD for finally finding a diamond in the rough.


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 Post subject: Re: Takeaways from Last Week – August 19
PostPosted: Mon Aug 19, 2013 10:34 pm 
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Methinks Bartu is still a big question mark in coverage.

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 Post subject: Re: Takeaways from Last Week – August 19
PostPosted: Tue Aug 20, 2013 12:12 am 
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Pudge wrote:
Methinks Bartu is still a big question mark in coverage.

Undrafted free agent with question marks? Say it ain't so!


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 Post subject: Re: Takeaways from Last Week – August 19
PostPosted: Tue Aug 20, 2013 1:48 am 
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I'm not worried about Roddy being ready. I agree he might start missing a few games
as he gets older and keeps playing " tough wide receiver "

I get worried when I hear Bierman at linebacker..... Yes he gets put in spots and he seems to show up and then make plays; but IMO he's just not quick enough to be a linebacker or a reserve linebacker..... Its fine when he's already back in space; but I
sure don't want him playing the linebacker position for someone hurt.


Worrilow!!!! Look I've said he'd make the team; but now I hope we give him a chance at starting.....More opportunities to watch him cover; and everything else.

Its amazing how when their are opportunities sometimes you find a free agent. When
your squad is set it better be good; because coaches get closed minded about change.

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 Post subject: Re: Takeaways from Last Week – August 19
PostPosted: Tue Aug 20, 2013 9:53 am 
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yay! starters going down in preseason! :dance: :doh:

Fran Tarkenton lives here in ATL, and also does a Sirius radio show...I was listening to a replay last sunday, and he made the comment that he was 100% sure the Falcons would take a step back. He said the OL is amongst the bottom 1/3rd and so is the DL...And he also said that our weapons on O are in the top 1/3rd in the league, if not the top...But he closed by saying that in order NOT to take a step back, the fabulous five ( Ryan,Julio,Roddy,Tony and SJax) need to not miss anytime with injuries. HIs statement was that Matt Ryan would be unable to make up for the loss of one of his weapons due to the additional pressure from our weak OL...


Now, that being said...

Last year I seem to recall him stating on NFL radio last season that Falcons will lose to the Seachickens.

His reasons?

No chance as falcons schedule was one of the worst. They are the 2nd worst 13-3 team in history according to some metric system.

He likes Matt Ryan but thats it.

Sea-chikens have beaten 7 teams with winning record & falcons 2

Falcons are like Notre Dame . All the wins but they are not tough & they cant stop the run.

Sea is like bama & will run all over falcons.

Sea 27-20

http://boards.atlantafalcons.com/topic/ ... ge__st__40

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methinks Franny has a mancrush.... :ninja:

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 Post subject: Re: Takeaways from Last Week – August 19
PostPosted: Tue Aug 20, 2013 10:25 pm 
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I don't get this. Look if the Falcons lose any of the BIg 4 (I'm not counting Ryan), then they are still going to be in the midst of playoff contention. Maybe they finish 9-7 or 10-6 and miss the playoffs on a tiebreaker, but this is still going to be a winning team even without one of their skill position players.

They basically played last year without a RB, and they won 13 games. Despite the gawdy numbers, Julio Jones was an average NFL WR for 75% of 2011, and the Falcons still were 10-6, and Matt Ryan was able to help that 2010 team to a 13-3 record despite being the least explosive, and one of the most conservative offenses in the league.

Now could the Falcons struggle this year? Sure. They could be ravaged by injuries on offense. They could have a revolving door up front, which is never good. THeir defense could struggle and give up a ton of big plays like we saw on the Torrey Smith TD week after week, and coupled with a couple of injuries offensively will basically make them the same team as the Bucs & Saints were last year as a sub .500 team.

That's possible. But 16 games from Matt Ryan, and a "normal" amount of injuries (meaning a few), and this is at worst a 9 or 10-win team. People still don't appreciate how good Matt Ryan is because his playoff record is 1-4 and he has yet to play in a Super Bowl.

If you buy what AdvancedNFLStats.com is selling, here are what some of the top QBs in the league have produced in terms of Win Percentage Added (i.e. wins added) over the past 3 years (only factoring in guys that played all three years and regular season only):

1. Tom Brady (14.80)
2. Aaron Rodgers (14.36)
3. Drew Brees (13.33)
4. Matt Ryan (12.85)
5. Joe Flacco (8.76)
6. Tony Romo (8.57)
7. Eli Manning (8.15)
8. Matt Schaub (7.24)
9. Ben Roethlisberger (7.15)

What that means is that like the 3 guys ahead of him, it takes extreme extenuating circumstances for Ryan to helm a bad/average NFL team. For the Saints, to knock Brees off that pedestal, he needed to have his coach suspended for a year and play opposite an all-time worst defense. Brees had a WPA of 3.36 last year, which was like 8th best in the league. Essentially you had to give him a 4-12 team around him to make the Saints into losers.

I just don't see any scenario as likely where the Falcons wind up fielding a supporting cast/team that is only capable of winning 4 games, because a healthy Ryan alone is going to basically add 3-5 wins every season. It's possible, but would take a series of very unfortunate events.

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 Post subject: Re: Takeaways from Last Week – August 19
PostPosted: Tue Aug 20, 2013 10:52 pm 
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Pudge Wrote
Quote:
Now could the Falcons struggle this year? Sure. They could be ravaged by injuries on offense. They could have a revolving door up front, which is never good. THeir defense could struggle and give up a ton of big plays like we saw on the Torrey Smith TD week after week, and coupled with a couple of injuries offensively will basically make them the same team as the Bucs & Saints were last year as a sub .500 team.


I have felt we've never had huge injuries under Coach Smith. I hope the percentages
don't catch up with us.

I think we will have a revolving door up front, and give up a ton of big plays. If we do stay away from injuries I don't know how good we will be?

This is the first year I've really been worried about Matt Ryan's health. All coaches will test our younger players with blitzes and things they may not have seen full speed. I hope we're ready for it.

Ryan does win a lot!! I give a lot of credit to Mularkey...... We ran the ball and ran the ball; but kept Matt's confidence up and never really just let Matt take a beating... I think that helps a Qb a lot, just like losing playoff games can damage your psych; unless you can convince yourself its still 11 against 11.

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 Post subject: Re: Takeaways from Last Week – August 19
PostPosted: Tue Aug 20, 2013 11:59 pm 
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Cyril wrote:
Ryan does win a lot!! I give a lot of credit to Mularkey...... We ran the ball and ran the ball; but kept Matt's confidence up and never really just let Matt take a beating... I think that helps a Qb a lot, just like losing playoff games can damage your psych; unless you can convince yourself its still 11 against 11.

I'll give Mularkey credit for year one. It was good to bring Ryan along by leaning on Turner. However, after that, Mularkey consistently put Ryan in the position to have to win games on the final drive. Ryan bailed this team out in the fourth quarter over and over and over. I believe that Pudge's number of 3-5 wins per season attributed directly to Ryan goes back to his 2nd year, if not his first year. During that time, plenty of other QBs have had those kinds of opportunities and did not do what Ryan did with them. Those QBs are either no longer in the league, or they're warming benches somewhere. Their coaches are not why they are there.

Ryan is a winner. Not only is he a winner, he's has one of the best starts of any QB ever. At the very least, the stats over his first five years are right there with Manning, Brees, and Brady. His production exploded when Mularkey left. I really don't think that's a coincidence. 1st year without Mularkey, career high yards, completion %, and TD passes. He did this behind the worst offensive line that he's had as a professional, and with a worn out running back.

We continue to go back and forth about Mularkey, but at this point, I have to say that the proof is in the performance. After year one, Mularkey was holding Ryan back. The same was true of Drew Brees under Marty Schottenheimer. Once Brees got away from him, Brees went on to be, "Super QB."

Anywho... I gotta do this whenever you give Mularkey credit. Mularkey is a decent coach when it comes to old-school, smash mouth football. He has no clue what to do with a talented QB.


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 Post subject: Re: Takeaways from Last Week – August 19
PostPosted: Wed Aug 21, 2013 3:59 am 
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Well we of course know we disagree....There are so many Qbs sacked to death, and
it can kill their career. Most of it we can remember right here. Bart, Miller, had surgery before their 5th year.

Mularkey I think helped every year but Ryan's last one; but before then when we played good defenses he either shortened Ryan backstep, or still keep running.
Didn't make him stay in the pocket so long.

You just can't say once Mularkey was gone then Ryan got better, because that's not proof of anything....Ryan kept getting better and perhaps the last year he held him back a little.

Today Ryan has not had a traumatic game or games in his past to remember. Then finally Ryan was ready to do more; it was time for Mularkey to go.

We all saw the deer in a headlight look Ryan used to give; but no more.

To Many coaches have ruined their Qb by letting them just get killed. Mularkey brought Ryan along slowly and now we are reaping the benefits. Look I know Mularkey was no great Offensive genious; but I'll always be grateful he perhaps brought Ryan along an inch too long; vs that inch to quick. So today we do not have a banged up Qb. with fear.

I;m only speaking of how Mularkey brought Ryan along. Not anything else but Ryan has been brought alone so well, and its why he's now got the confidence he has... It was Mularkey who taught Ryan to get the ball out of bounds fast before taking a big hit; and a lot of other things to keep him from getting rattled early and now that's paying off.

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 Post subject: Re: Takeaways from Last Week – August 19
PostPosted: Wed Aug 21, 2013 5:29 am 
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That's just it Cyril, Mularkey instilled that deer in the headlights look in Ryan. Remember when Ryan kept saying, "long is never wrong?" Remember how quickly Ryan would look for the checkdown or otherwise throw the ball out of bounds? Remember that rollout play that we ran over and over and over to no avail?

Mularkey coached Ryan to be afraid to be successful. Again, the proof is in the stats. Ryan was a 60% passer up until last year, when he completed almost 69%. That's a big friggin difference. You cannot coach your QB to be afraid, PERIOD. QBs need to have confidence in everything that they do on the field. When they start second guessing themselves, they play crappy football.


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 Post subject: Re: Takeaways from Last Week – August 19
PostPosted: Wed Aug 21, 2013 5:43 pm 
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We've been over this ad nauseum over the past few years, but here's where I way in on Mularkey vs. Ryan:

I don't think Mularkey began to hold Ryan back until 2011. Ryan was just an average NFL quarterback in 2008 and 2009. He didn't take his first major steps until 2010, and it probably wasn't until that Ravens game where he really was there.

Unfortunately, Mularkey has never had success implementing a pass-first attack. And the Falcons made the moves in 2011 (Jones trade) to become more of that team, piggy-backing off what Ryan had finally shown he could do. Unfortunately, Mularkey couldn't pull his weight.

Then they brought in Koetter, who was capable of implementing a pass-first attack, and we saw last year what that brought to the table. Not to mention, Matt Ryan just being a much better QB than he was before. He was clearly more comfortable in his own skin than he was in the previous 4 years. I think that is evident today.

But again, I don't think you can simply lay all that blame at the feet of Mike Mularkey. I think Mike Smith is equally culpable of that. I think his disciplined, mistake-free approach feeds into the "playing scared" mentality. I think even to this day, it probably has some limiting effect on the team, even though I think the trade-off is that his disciplined approach allows this team to win a lot more close games than they should, and probably adds 2-4 wins every year to their W-L record. Otherwise, they'd just be the Bears, Chargers, or Giants, a talented but eternally frustrating/underachieving team.

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