Atlanta Falcons Training Camp Preview 2014: Quarterback

July 14th, 2014 No comments

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

T.J. Yates

Every since Matt Ryan first won the job in his first summer with the team in 2008, the Atlanta Falcons starting quarterback position has been settled. Instead the brunt of the question marks and competition at the position comes in the battle for the right to back up Ryan each year.

This year will be no different, as the team traded for former Houston Texans quarterback T.J. Yates last month to fill that role. Yates seemingly should be an upgrade over Dominique Davis, who previously held the mantle of the team’s No. 2 quarterback before his untimely release.

Unlike Davis, Yates has legit NFL starting experience, having started six games during his rookie season in 2011.

Upon his release, Davis indicated that the Falcons planned to keep only one backup on the roster behind Ryan, and that their decision to acquire Yates essentially made the decision who that would be before any real competition took place.

But that doesn’t mean Yates is by any means a lock to make the roster. As the team saw in the summer of 2012, there was a similar situation where Chris Redman should have had the backup spot all wrapped up. However, Redman struggled and allowed a bright-eyed, then undrafted rookie with the name of Davis to oust him from the roster.

This summer, young players like Sean Renfree and Jeff Mathews hope to repeat that history.

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Atlanta Falcons Takeaways from Last Week – July 14, 2014

July 14th, 2014 No comments
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Ryan

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was snubbed from the NFL’s annual player-voted top 100 list. Ryan ranked 17th on the list a year ago following a career-best season in 2012. But after a dismal season from the Falcons in 2013, Ryan fell completely off the list. It marks the second time in three seasons that Ryan has not been elected by his peers as one of the league’s best 100 players.

As I wrote a year ago, I’ve never been a big fan of the top 100 because I think there is a clear bias in the voting. The fact that Ryan failed to be listed indicates one of those biases, which penalizes good players on bad teams. Exactly half of the players voted on the list played on one of the dozen playoff teams in 2013.

Several positions are poorly represented, indicating another bias. Last year, only six offensive linemen made the list. This year, that number increased to 10, but that still is far too few given the importance of impact blockers. There is still too much of a bias towards “fantasy” players, with 43 of the top 100 being either quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers or tight ends.

The simple fact that Ryan has only made the Top 100 list once in the past three years is very indicative of the lack of respect. Joe Flacco played very poorly last year, yet was voted 58th. We can say that is due to the Super Bowl bias. Simply put, because Flacco has a ring, he’s probably going to be grandfathered onto the list most years. After ranking 43rd in 2013, Eli Manning fell off the list entirely this year. So presumably if Flacco is once again terrible in 2014, then he might find his way off the list. But despite the widespread belief that Ryan is superior to Flacco as a quarterback, the Ravens team success allows Flacco to be among the top 60 players, while Ryan cannot crack the top 100.

But I can forgive that Super Bowl bias somewhat even though I disagree with it. But the one quarterback ranked ahead of Ryan that I struggle to grasp is Detroit’s Matt Stafford. Stafford has been voted onto the top 100 list for three consecutive years, and I’m just curious what his peers are seeing that the rest of us aren’t. Yes, Stafford has a rocket arm, one of the strongest in the league. But besides that, there isn’t much else to like about his game.

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FalcFans Weekly – July 13, 2014

July 13th, 2014 No comments
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Julio Jones

I know I have not done much of these weekly recaps since the spring but given the dearth of football-related events at this point in the calendar year, it would be a good idea to bring it back. Here’s recapping some interesting Atlanta Falcons-related reads (and listens) I found this week:

In case you were wondering what Falcons defensive tackle Corey Peters has been up recently, I conducted an interview of him on Falcons Central Radio on Pro Football Central.com.

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Grantland’s Robert Mays wrote a preview of the Falcons this year, with a focus on the 2011 draft-day trade for wide receiver Julio Jones. Mays states what I currently think about that trade, a change from a previous opinion, in that the trade had both a positive and negative impact on the team. Basically the Falcons would not have gotten as far as they did in 2012 without the trade, but also would not have sunk as low in 2013. It’s worth a read and also makes a key point towards the end, which is the Falcons’ success in 2014 seems to be firmly fixed on the health of Jones.

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ESPN’s Vaughn McClure assesses that the Falcons’ biggest key to success in 2014 is returning to being an offensive juggernaut. McClure writes that will be the team’s key to success for the upcoming seasons. And similarly, the health of Jones will matter there, but McClure also points out the offensive line upgrades made by the team this offseason in acquiring guard Jon Asamoah and tackle Jake Matthews will be key. Hard to argue against McClure’s conclusions. The Falcons defense isn’t poised to be anything more than above average this year (at best) and until the team makes a similar investment in upgrading their pass rush, it’s unlikely that will be the case in any season in the near future.

On ESPN, voters also expressed their opinion that Morten Andersen’s game-winning kick against the Minnesota Vikings in the 1998 NFC Championship Game that sent the Falcons to their first (and only) Super Bowl appearance is the greatest play in team history. It edged out Michael Vick’s impressive overtime run against the same team in 2002.

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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 70 “Do You Remember Where You Were When Courtney Roby Signed?”

July 8th, 2014 1 comment

Allen and I are joined by The Falcoholic staff writer, Matt Chambers to discuss our favorite NFL team: the Atlanta Falcons once more. Matt’s fifth appearance on the podcast includes discussion of newly signed wide receiver Courtney Roby and the injury to Drew Davis. We also dive into Hard Knocks and training camp storylines along with some possible emerging undrafted rookies. Sean Weatherspoon, Paul Worrilow, Prince Shembo and Sam Baker are also discussed along the way.

Episode 70: Do You Remember Where You Were When Courtney Roby Signed? [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 7 minutes

Allen covers the Falcons for Pro Football Spot. His twitter handle is: @Allen_Strk.

Matt Chambers can be found on twitter: @FalconsM5, and also writes for The Falcoholic.

If you have any questions and comments, you can hit us up on Twitter, post in the forums in the podcast thread, or drop an e-mail at: pudge@falcfans.com.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, and be sure to rate us there! For Android users, DoubleTwist is a good app to listen as well. You can also subscribe directly to our feed at the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/falcfans/LXSt

Atlanta Falcons Takeaways from Last Week – July 7, 2014

July 7th, 2014 No comments

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Harry Douglas

The NFC South is expected to be one of the more competitive divisions in all of the football this season. But that is nothing new.

It’s a division so competitive, that no team in its 12-year existence has ever won the division in consecutive years. And I doubt that streak is broken in 2014.

The Carolina Panthers won the division in 2013, being carried by one of the league’s premier defenses and their ability to win a bunch of close games. After losing their two opening games last year by one score, the Panthers won all five one-score games in the second half of the season.

That ability to win close games is often the difference between whether or not you can win the division or not. The Panthers and Atlanta Falcons have benefited from it the most in the years where they have managed to win the division. In years where the Panthers won the NFC South (2003, 2008 and 2013), they have posted a combined 19-6 record in one-score games. The Falcons record is 20-6 in their three division-winning seasons (2004, 2010 and 2012).

Since the division’s creation beginning with the 2002 season, the Falcons have played in the greatest amount of one-score games (100) within the four-team group and also have the best winning percentage (56.5 percent). No team has benefited more from their ability to win close games than the Falcons under head coach Mike Smith.

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Falcons Place WR Drew Davis on Camp PUP List

July 5th, 2014 No comments
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Drew Davis

The Atlanta Falcons announced earlier today that wide receiver Drew Davis would be placed on the training camp or active/Physically-Unable-to-Perform (PUP) list. Davis suffered an unspecified foot injury requiring surgery that will keep him out of practice for the next six weeks, which will include the start of training camp practices on July 25.

The active/PUP list designation means that Davis will be held out of practices in training camp until team doctors clear him. When he is cleared, he will be able to resume practicing immediately. There is a possibility that defensive tackle Corey Peters could go on the training camp PUP list as well, according to a report in June.

There is a distinction between the types of PUP lists allowed for a player. One is strictly used for training camp, which is the active version mentioned above that Davis will go on. The other is the reserve version that is used for the regular season. In that version, a player is barred from playing or practicing for the first six weeks of the regular season. After which, there exists a five-week window in which the player is allowed to return to practice and play. Once a player resumes practicing within that window, there is a three-week period in which they can be returned to the active roster. If the player is unable to return, then he will finish the year on the injured reserve.

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Report: Falcons In Talks with Free Agent LB Will Witherspoon

July 4th, 2014 No comments
Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

Will Witherspoon

Apparently the Atlanta Falcons’ interest in a veteran linebacker was not satisfied with the recent signing of free agent Tim Dobbins, as a report from WHJG, an NBC affiliate in Panama City, Florida, indicates that free agent linebacker Will Witherspoon has been in talks with the Falcons as well as the St. Louis Rams about playing another year of football.

Witherspoon, who will turn 34 in August, is a 13-year NFL veteran that spent last season with the Rams. Originally drafted out of Georgia by the Carolina Panthers in the third round of the 2002 NFL Draft, Witherspoon spent four years with the Panthers before his first stint with the Rams (2006-09). He was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles during the 2009 season and then signed as a free agent with the Tennessee Titans the following spring. He spent three years with the Titans before re-joining the Rams again last summer.

Witherspoon has started 153 of 189 career appearances, and recorded 26 sacks and 14 interceptions over his 13-year career. Last season with the Rams, he began the season as their starting strongside linebacker while incumbent Jo-lonn Dunbar served out a four-game suspension. Witherspoon started three games with the Rams in 2013, recording 12 tackles and an interception.

It is unknown if the Falcons interest in Witherspoon remains or was concurrent with their interest in Dobbins and veterans Jonathan Vilma and Nick Barnett in June. The team was looking for depth to replace injured linebacker Sean Weatherspoon at the time, and opted to sign Dobbins.

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Atlanta Falcons Takeaways from Last Week – June 30, 2014

June 30th, 2014 No comments
Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

Darius Johnson could be a factor in Atlanta’s future

The Atlanta Falcons made a move this past week, signing wide receiver Courtney Roby. But Roby should instead be referred to as a special teams player, because that is what his role, if any, will be with the Falcons this season. Roby is basically a direct challenger for Drew Davis’ roster spot.

Davis has gotten by over the past few years on his ability as a special teams player. While Davis has made a handful of plays at the wide receiver position, he’s clearly shown to any that are paying attention that he is not a viable candidate to be a significant contributor on offense.

The most important skill that an NFL wide receiver can possess is the ability to separate from coverage. And the simple truth is that Davis has rarely done that in his few years with the Falcons. Most of his catches are the result of broken coverages rather than instances where he simply beat an opposing corner and made a play.

Frankly, that important skill-set has been missing from the majority of Falcons receivers over the years. In truth, only Roddy White and Julio Jones have possessed it in abundance. Michael Jenkins and Harry Douglas are decent at it, but by no means special in that regard. Both can do separate, but not on a consistent enough basis that makes them more than quality reserves.

Brian Finneran, Marty Booker, Eric Weems, Darius Johnson and Kevin Cone have also all struggled with this issue during the past six seasons. This issue isn’t helped by the fact that besides Jones, the Falcons have invested very little in terms of the draft in the wide receiver position. Since drafting Douglas in the third round of the 2008 NFL Draft, the Falcons have drafted just two wide receivers since: Jones and Kerry Meier. That is a league low when the average NFL team has drafted roughly six (5.8 to be exact) wide receivers over the past six drafts.

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Falcons Add WR Courtney Roby

June 27th, 2014 No comments
Byron Hetzler-US PRESSWIRE

Courtney Roby

As first reported by FOX Sports’ Mike Garafolo, the Atlanta Falcons have announced that they have signed free agent wide receiver Courtney Roby. Roby most recently played for the New Orleans Saints (2008-12), where he primarily played on special teams.

Roby, 31, originally was drafted by the Tennessee Titans in the third round of the 2005 NFL Draft and played two seasons with them before being released. His most productive season as a wide receiver came as a rookie when he caught 21 passes for 289 yards and a touchdown. He was also the team’s primary kickoff returner that season, averaging 22.5 yards on 22 returns. He was cut in 2007, and briefly spent time with the Cincinnati Bengals and Indianapolis Colts in 2007 and 2008 before signing on with the Saints midway through the ’08 season. Over the next three seasons, Roby only caught two passes for 17 yards with the Saints but averaged 25.6 yards on 94 kickoff returns with one returned for a touchdown in 2009. In 2011, he stopped being the team’s kickoff return specialist and was just primarily a specialist on cover teams. He would earn the distinction as the team’s special teams captain in 2011.  He was cut by the Saints prior to the 2013 season and has been out of football since. Roby did work out for the Falcons at the start of last season when the Falcons were exploring depth options with an injured Roddy White.

Roby likely will push for a reserve spot at wide receiver, possibly as a direct challenge to Drew Davis, who serves as one of the team’s gunners on punt coverage. Roby led the Saints in special teams tackles in 2012 with 11, and was among their top performers from 2009 to 2011 with 31 combined tackles. Over the past two years, Davis has combined for 12 special teams tackles.

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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 69 “Legion of Zoom”

June 27th, 2014 No comments

logoAllen and I are joined by third wheel Rashad James to discuss all the big news from the month of June surrounding the Atlanta Falcons, including the injury to Sean Weatherspoon, pickups of Tim Dobbins and T.J. Yates, and their future appearance on HBO series’ Hard Knocks. Other topics include: Brandon Flowers, Matt Ryan, Harry Douglas, D-Block, NFL Top 100 players, San Diego Chargers fanhood, the best wide receiver duo in the league and the Miami Heat.

Episode 69 – Legion of Zoom [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 9 minutes

Allen covers the Falcons for Pro Football Spot. His twitter handle is: @Allen_Strk.

Rashad can be found on twitter with the handle: @100K_Jay.

If you have any questions and comments, you can hit us up on Twitter, post in the forums in the podcast thread, or drop an e-mail at: pudge@falcfans.com.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, and be sure to rate us there! For Android users, DoubleTwist is a good app to listen as well. You can also subscribe directly to our feed at the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/falcfans/LXSt