Takeaways from Last Week – March 10, 2014

March 10th, 2014 Comments off
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Jon Asamoah

This weekend the NFL instituted it’s second “legal tampering” signing period, allowing free agents to begin negotiating with prospective teams before the official free agency period starts on Tuesday afternoon, March 11.

Already the Atlanta Falcons have been linked to a number of potential free agents, including guard Jon Asamoah, safety Mike Mitchell, and cornerback Champ Bailey.

But the Asamoah linkage seems strongest with multiple outside sources indicating that the Falcons interest in Asamoah is high.

While I like Asamoah quite a bit as a player, I’m not sure that he is a good fit in Atlanta. But apparently it seems like I’m in the minority in that regards.

As for Caplan’s assessment, I would have to respectfully disagree. Asamoah is a player that ideally fits in a zone-heavy blocking scheme because he’s very athletic, but not overly powerful.

The Falcons have incorporated more zone-blocking into their ground attack under offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter the past two years, but still primarily a man-blocking team.

The Falcons have made an effort to emphasize size with their line acquisitions in recent years, evidenced by additions like Terren Jones, Lamar Holmes, Phillipkeith Manley and Peter Konz the past few years since Koetter joined the team. If you’re trying to be an offense that features a lot of zone-blocking, targeting plus-sized linemen, many of whom weigh in excess of 330 pounds is largely counterintuitive.

And the lines that Mike Tice and Wade Harman coached in Chicago and Baltimore respectively emphasized size and/or man-blocking.

Could the team’s interest in Asamoah suggest a shift in their blocking? Perhaps, but more than likely the answer is no.

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Report: Falcons ‘Extremely Interested’ in Asamoah

March 9th, 2014 Comments off

Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post cites unknown league sources that the Atlanta Falcons are “extremely interested” in Kansas City Chiefs offensive guard Jon Asamoah, an impending free agent.

While the official start of free agency begins Tuesday afternoon, teams are currently allowed to legally “tamper” by talking with potential free agents until then. No reports yet on whether Asamoah and the Falcons are actively discussing a contract. But the Falcons are not alone in their reported interest in Asamoah, as reports surfaced early Saturday that the New York Jets were another team that intended to make a play for him.

Asamoah is considered one of the premier guards potentially available in free agency, along with teammate Geoff Schwartz. However, Asamoah lost his starting job to Schwartz last season thanks to a shoulder injury suffered in Week 11. Asamoah missed the Chiefs’ season-opener with a calf injury, but started the next nine games at right guard before being sidelined and sitting the bench for the final six games.

Prior to last year, Asamoah started a combined 31 games at right guard in 2011 and 2012. He was originally a third-round pick by the Chiefs out of Illinois in 2010.

You can check out my assessment of Asamoah’s strengths, weaknesses and how he potentially fits in Atlanta.

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FalcFans Weekly Round-Up – March 9, 2014

March 9th, 2014 Comments off
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Eric Ebron

Publishing weekly round-ups dealing with various Atlanta Falcons news was a regular event during the abyss known as 2011 NFL Lockout. Since then, I haven’t had much need for them but I figure that it is time to dust them off this offseason.

Partially because my day job has me traveling a lot during the week which limits the number of timely updates and posts I can have during the week involving Falcons-related items. So they will be partially house-cleaning for any stories I may not have written during the week.

I will also aggregate some articles, both Falcons-related and not, that I think are worthy of views that were posted during the past week.

***

The Falcons are actively working on retaining some of their own free agents including defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux, center Joe Hawley, and guard Mike Johnson according to reports.

Rounding up news involving Falcons free agents is that defensive tackle Peria Jerry is also unlikely to be retained, prompting some celebration.

***

North Carolina tight end prospect Eric Ebron joins the list of potential draft picks being openly in favor of playing for the Falcons. South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney previously voiced his favor for Atlanta as a potential landing zone. Here’s what Ebron had to say:

I would love to play for the Falcons. Julio Jones, Roddy White and Matt Ryan – I would love to play with those guys. Those are big shoes to fill, which I’m not afraid of. I can’t walk into the league expecting to be Tony G. I’m just going to compete as hard as I can as myself.

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Falcons Pro Day Round-Up 3/8

March 8th, 2014 Comments off
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews

Recapping all the latest from the Atlanta Falcons in regards to pro day visits and draft interest from this past week:

Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff was present at Texas A&M on Tuesday to mingle with old colleagues and check out offensive tackle Jake Matthews. Matthews was the main attraction since quarterback Johnny Manziel and wide receiver Mike Evans opted not to work out, instead waiting for a later workout planned for March 27. Matthews stuck with positional drills, standing on his Combine numbers from last month.

Matthews is considered a potential target for the Falcons at the top of May’s draft.

Of those that did participate, running back Ben Malena measured in at 5-8, 194 pounds and did 27 bench reps of 225 pounds, ran a 4.54-second 40 time and jumped 33.5 inches on his vertical leap.

***

D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC reports that the Falcons sent two representatives to Clemson’s pro day on Friday, including new hire Billy Devaney, to check out that school’s top prospects.

While wide receiver Sammy Watkins drew a lot of praise from onlookers, Ledbetter touts quarterback Tajh Boyd’s performance. Boyd, who struggled during the Senior Bowl, was able to rebound by completing 66 of 67 scripted passes at his workout throwing to receivers like Watkins.

Read more…

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Falcons Hire Defensive Assistant

March 8th, 2014 Comments off

Jason Munz of the Jackson Clarion-Ledger reports that the Atlanta Falcons have hired former Southern Mississippi assistant coach Andrew Thacker as a defensive assistant.

Thacker spent one season on the Golden Eagles staff after three seasons as a graduate assistant at Oklahoma State. There he worked with the team’s linebackers. He also spent two years as a graduate assistatnt at Central Florida following his playing career as a safety at Furman.

During his time at Furman, Thacker earned All-Southern Conference Academic Honor Roll all four seasons. He finished his career with 43 starts at both free and strong safety, tallying 254 career tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, one sack, four interceptions, eight passes broken up, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and a blocked kick. He also ran track at Furman as a member of the school’s 4×100 meter relay team.

Thacker, 28, is a native of Cumming, GA.

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Free Agent Focus: Lamarr Houston

March 5th, 2014 Comments off

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Lamarr Houston

As mentioned earlier this week, the next of potential free agent targets for the Atlanta Falcons worth examining is Oakland Raiders defensive end Lamarr Houston.

Houston doesn’t distinguish himself as the best available pass-rusher this offseason, but is probably the best fit for the multiple defense run by Mike Nolan here in Atlanta.

Houston spent the bulk of his first three seasons in Oakland playing left defensive end, where he excelled as a run defender. He finished in the top 10 according to Pro Football Focus’ run-stopping grades among 4-3 defensive ends in those years, with top 5 finishes in each of the past three seasons.

But Houston’s role in 2013 changed. In their attempts to feature him more as a pass-rusher, the Raiders switched Houston to the right side of the defense where he no longer rushed with his hand on the ground. Instead he spent the bulk of the season playing with his hand off the ground. Essentially Houston was transformed into the league’s largest rush linebacker.

He responded with a career-high six sacks and two forced fumbles and matched his career-high of 69 tackles from 2012. Clearly those numbers don’t indicate a world-class pass-rusher, but Houston is able to consistently get pressure despite not tallying a bunch of sacks. He has totaled 126 pressures (according to Pro Football Focus) combined over the past four years, compared to the 107 that current Falcon edge-rusher Osi Umenyiora has accumulated.

Listed at 300 pounds, it’s likely that Houston played at something closer to 280 this past season. He looked very similar in his build to Jonathan Babineaux back when he was listed at 285 in his younger days in Atlanta.

Strengths:

  • Good first step that does a good job bull-rushing because he can convert speed to power.
  • Adept at getting leverage against the run and making stops in pursuit.
  • Athletic and rangy for a big man that is comfortable dropping into coverage and playing in space.

Weaknesses:

  • Complementary rusher that is not a guy that you want anchoring a pass rush as the “top dog.”
  • Doesn’t have the bulk or size to consistently hold up inside against bulkier guards.
  • Lacks top-end burst and quickness to beat premier left tackles.

Read more…

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Jason Snelling Hangs It Up

March 4th, 2014 Comments off

AP Photo/Phil Coale

Jason Snelling

The Atlanta Falcons announced this evening that running back Jason Snelling has opted to retire from the NFL after seven seasons as a pro. Snelling spent the entirety of his career with the Falcons after being a seventh-round pick in 2007. Only fellow ’07 draft selection Justin Blalock along with 2005 selections Jonathan Babineaux and Roddy White have longer tenures with the team.

Snelling turned 30 this past December, finishing a career in which he appeared in 96 games with six starts. His career marks of 363 carries and 1,420 rushing yards ranks 19th and 20th, respectively, on the team’s all-time list. He also caught 168 passes for 1,249 yards, and combined for 17 total touchdowns during his career.

Snelling played both running back and fullback during his time in Atlanta, serving as an injury fill-in at both positions throughout his career. His best season came in 2009 when he replaced an injured Michael Turner as the team’s lead rusher for the final six games. He finished that season with a career-high 613 rushing yards.

A notable special teams player as well, Snelling recorded 39 stops over his career in that capacity and led the team with 18 special teams tackles in 2008.

Snelling dealing with the possibility of life after football was hinted when he decided not to travel with the team for an away game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers following an arrest in November. Snelling cited personal issues as the reason for his absence at the time.

He was entering the final year of a three-year contract he signed in 2012. His retirement frees up $1.375 million in 2014 salary cap space per Over the Cap.

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Falcons Eye Mack at Buffalo Pro Day

March 4th, 2014 Comments off

SB Nation’s Bull Run reports that Falcons area scout Mike Potts was expected to be on hand at the University at Buffalo’s pro day today among representatives from 19 other teams. There, Potts would get the chance to see outside linebacker Khalil Mack, one of the premier draft prospects this year.

After an impressive Combine performance last month where Mack clocked a 4.65-second 40-yard dash, today he was able to improve his time to somewhere between 4.53 and 4.55 seconds according to several stopwatches. Mack failed to improve upon his 23 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press from the Combine today. Also at Indianapolis, Mack lept 40 inches on the vertical jump as well as timed 7.08 seconds in the three-cone drill.

Mack finished his career as Buffalo’s all-time leader in sacks (28.5), tackles for loss (75) and forced fumbles (16).

Other Buffalo prospects trying to take advantage of the high attendance were running back Branden Oliver (26 bench reps, 4.63-second 40), safety Okoye Houston (4.56 40) and cornerback Najja Johnson (4.38 40).

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Falcons Check Out Robinson at Auburn Pro Day

March 4th, 2014 2 comments

Reports surfaced this morning that the Atlanta Falcons had sent representatives to Auburn University for that school’s pro day today. Most likely they were on hand to see Auburn’s bevy of draft prospects including Greg Robinson, widely considered this year’s most talented offensive tackle.

But it was outside linebacker Dee Ford who stole the show, working out for the first time due to sitting out at last month’s Combine in Indianapolis because of a back injury. Ford showed no ill effects, impressing with a 40-yard dash time of 4.54 seconds, 29 bench reps of 225 pounds, a broad jump of 10 feet, 4 inches and vertical jump of 35.5 inches. He also weighed in at 244 pounds, eight pounds lighter than his weight at Indianapolis.

Robinson also dropped weight since the Combine, down five pounds at 327 pounds. He mostly stood on his Combine numbers, as he wowed observers in Indianapolis with a 4.92-second 40 time, 9 foot-5 inch broad jump and 32 bench reps. Robinson is already beginning to line up private workouts with one scheduled with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers later this week.

Other notes from workouts on Tuesday for Auburn were:

  • Defensive back Blake Poole was timed a 4.38 seconds in his 40-yard dash.
  • Fullback Jay Prosch ran a 4.72-second 40 and did 27 bench reps.
  • Cornerback Chris Davis ran a 40 in 4.51 seconds and jumped 40.5 inches on his vertical.
  • Running back Tre Mason stood on most of his Combine results but did run a 6.7-second three-cone.
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Peters Re-Ups for One Year

March 4th, 2014 Comments off

The Atlanta Falcons announced today that defensive tackle Corey Peters agreed to a one-year contract. Peters was an impending free agent, as the period where players can officially join new teams begins a week from today. Per Scott Carasik of Draft Falcons, Peters’ deal is worth $1.5 million minus playing-time incentives.

Originally a third-round pick out of Kentucky by the Falcons in 2010, Peters has been a regular starter since joining the team. He is coming off his most productive season, tallying career-highs of 46 tackles and five sacks. Peters suffered a torn Achilles tendon at the end of this past season however, limiting his potential market. He had successful surgery in January and is currently in a walking boot for a few more weeks.

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