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Titans’ pass rush swallows Falcons

August 24th, 2013 Comments off

Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Ryan was sacked five times vs. Tennessee

The Falcons remain winless in the 2013 exhibition season as they dropped another game to the Tennessee Titans by a score of 27-16. The Falcons starters struggled to produce points on their limited redzone opportunities.

Matt Ryan led the Falcons, completing 11 of 19 passes for 138 yards. He saw ample pressure as he was sacked five times in just over a half of play. He gave way to Dominique Davis in the third quarter, who completed 7 of 14 passes for 105 yards, a touchdown and an interception. On the ground, Steven Jackson led the team with 51 yards on 12 carries. Davis added 45 of his own on a pair of attempts. Julio Jones and Darius Johnson tied for the team lead with 4 receptions each for 81 and 62 yards, respectively. Johnson had a touchdown, the Falcons’ only of the night. Chase Coffman and Tony Gonzalez also got into the act with a pair of catches each for 24 and 21 yards, respectively. Jackson also had a trio of receptions for 15 yards. Jeremy Shelley worked in for Matt Bryant, who sat out the game with back spasms. Shelley connected on 3 of 4 field goal tries from 27, 31, and 32 yards. He missed a 46-yarder. Matt Bosher had 4 punts for an average of 51 yards with 2 placed inside the 20-yard line. Jacquizz Rodgers had a lone kickoff return of 32 yards, while Harry Douglas returned a pair of punts for a combined 22 yards. The Falcons offense struggled to protect their quarterbacks, allowing six sacks on the night from the Titans defense. They struggled on third downs, converting on 4 of 12 attempts for the game, with the starters only converting 1 of 7 tries. They did not convert touchdowns on any of their three redzone tries.

Defensively, the Falcons got off to a good start but could not maintain that early momentum. They allowed the Titans to convert half of their fourteen third down tries, and also allowed touchdowns on 3 of 4 redzone attempts. They did force a pair of Titans turnovers and did manage to generate 10 points off them. Kroy Biermann led the group with 7 tackles, including a pair of sacks and three tackles for loss. Robert Alford (6 tackles, 3 pass deflections), Joplo Bartu (4 tackles, 1 forced fumble), Thomas DeCoud (1 tackle, 1 fumble recovery), Akeem Dent (6 tackles), William Moore (6 tackles), Corey Peters (3 tackles, 1 sack, 2 tackles for loss), Desmond Trufant (4 tackles), and Sean Weatherspoon (3 tackles) had notable games.

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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 35 “Ravens Recap/Titans Preview”

August 20th, 2013 1 comment

Allen and I are joined by Dave Choate of the Falcoholic to discuss the Falcons preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens. We talk of the players that impressed us the most in the game: Peter Konz and the solid offensive line play, Steven Jackson’s improvement, Paul Worrilow’s emergence, and the battle between Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford… Stephen Nicholas, and how safe his roster spot is… Whether Lamar Holmes has solidified the starting right tackle spot, or whether the Falcons should be on the lookout for help there in free agency… Potential of adding a defensive tackle to bolster the interior rotation and later discuss some specific names… Dave then breaks down some of the players he thinks are sleepers that could wind up making the roster and gives his thoughts on how the depth at wide receiver might shape up. And whether Michael Jenkins could help bolster that position… Thoughts on the Baltimore Ravens, their off-season moves, and whether or not they can repeat as champions… Reviewing some of the matchups that could be interesting this week against the Tennessee Titans… Discussion of the Falcons subpar pass rush and tight end depth… Von Miller’s suspension and how that could affect the Denver Broncos season and AFC playoff picture.

Ep. 35: Ravens Recap/Titans Preview [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 21 minutes

Allen writes for TJRSports.com as well as the Bleacher Report. His twitter handle is: @Allen_Strk.

Dave writes for The Falcoholic and can be found on twitter: @TheFalcoholic.

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! You can also subscribe directly to our feed at the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/falcfans/LXSt

Preseason Week 1 Stock Report

August 11th, 2013 Comments off

Andrew Weber- US PRESSWIRE

Corey Peters

A week ago, I discussed some of the players that bolstered their stock up or down during the first part of training camp. Now it’s time to look at which players did the same in the first preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Some of these thoughts were previously expressed in my offensive and defensive reactions article from a few days ago. But these are the players that I think really helped or hurt their stock when it comes to solidifying their respective positions and/or making an impression to earn a spot on the roster.

Stock Up

 

RB Ronnie Wingo – Wingo ran with authority and power while working with the third team units against the Bengals. He did drop one pass, and he’ll need to showcase that he can produce in the passing game if he has a chance to make the roster. That goes both for catching the football and in pass protection, something he didn’t get much opportunity to do against the Bengals. He took advantage of the absence of Antone Smith, who’s grip on the fourth running back position appears a little more tenuous. But among the backup running backs not named Jacquizz and Jason, Wingo appears to be the best runner.

OC Peter Konz – Konz had a nice debut at center against the Bengals, showing that he was capable in pass protection and run blocking. The beauty of being a center is that you don’t have to do a whole lot to look good. But Konz did all the right things, playing balanced and with leverage and getting good position as a run blocker. He’ll best tested even more this next week against Baltimore Ravens nose tackle Haloti Ngata. Blocking Ngata is often like trying to block out the sun, nearly impossible. If Konz fares well against him, then things will definitely be looking up.

DT Corey Peters – After missing all of camp and the first half of the regular season last year with a foot injury, Peters appeared poised and ready to show out in his contract year. He did not disappoint in the opener, as the Bengals struggled to move the ball on the ground when they ran to his side. He has never been the sort of disruptive force up front that Jonathan Babineaux is (which was also on display against the Bengals), but Peters did show his ability to anchor and get off blocks at the point of attack against what is a fairly good Bengals blocking interior. He appears in regular season form, which bodes very well for Peters in 2013.

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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 34 “Everything Bengals”

August 10th, 2013 Comments off

Allen and I are joined once again by Matt Chambers to recap the Falcons preseason opener against the Cincinnati Bengals. We each give our thoughts on some of the things we liked and did not like about the game. You’ll hear our thoughts on the rumors of Steven Jackson’s demise…How Garrett Reynolds, Lamar Holmes looked and how it could affect the offensive line play in 2013…Paul Worrilow vs. Akeem Dent…The pass rush and whether some of the young defensive linemen are ready to step up…Robert McClain, Desmond Trufant, and Robert Alford and how they looked against the Bengals…The greatness of Dane Sanzenbacher…Brian Banks and what are his chances of making the roster…Dominique Davis’ performance and how the backup QB position may play out…The greatness of Jason Snelling…Whether Chase Coffman is for real…What to look forward to in upcoming preseason games, including next week’s matchup against the Baltimore Ravens.

Ep. 34: Everything Bengals [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 6 minutes

Allen writes for TJRSports.com as well as the Bleacher Report. His twitter handle is: @Allen_Strk.

Matt Chambers can be found on twitter: @FalconsM5, and also writes for Grits Blitz blog.

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! You can also subscribe directly to our feed at the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/falcfans/LXSt

Reactions to Falcons-Bengals (Defense)

August 9th, 2013 Comments off

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Banks got his first football action in a decade

It’s time to look at what the Falcons defense and special teams did against the Bengals in their preseason debut. From the scoreboard (34 points allowed) it would seem not particularly good. But there were some bright spots. As with what I did for my offensive reactions, I will go through each position group and highlight what I saw from individuals and make loose conclusions about them and their respective position battles.

Again remember, it’s only the first preseason game and thus players will have plenty of opportunities to either improve or decline in upcoming games as well as camp practices.

Defensive End

What I Saw: Osi Umenyiora stood out when he got the opportunity to work against Anthony Collins on the second Bengals series. He got credit for a pressure, beating him with an inside move. He also got in the face of Dalton on a botched screen play although Corey Peters made the play there (more on that to come). Kroy Biermann started opposite him and looked solid defending the run. Osi did not fare as well in that area, struggling to get off blocks at the point of attack. He did make one stop (again teaming with Peters), but that was when he came off the edge on the backside pursuit. Massaquoi and Maponga got mixed in with the reserves. Malliciah Goodman and Neal Huynh also received snaps on the edge. I don’t recall Cliff Matthews getting much edge work, so I’ll hold off on discussing him until I get to the tackles. Massaquoi looked sharp as a pass rusher, as he seemed to be one of the few Falcons reserves up front that could beat individual blocks. He got a sack and a pair of hits from either side of the line. He was able to beat a cutblock by Tyler Eifert to make a stop vs. the run, but there was another time where he was out of position on a play-action rollout. Goodman didn’t do a lot when he played at end. Maponga did get a hurry/hit on a play at left end. That followed Massaquoi’s sack, both of them badly beating Dennis Roland. Roland is a player I considered as a potential pickup after cuts to bolster depth at right tackle, but I think after last night’s performance we might want to scratch him off the list. Overall, outside those few plays the Falcons struggled to get pressure off the edge and had to rely a lot on blitzing and stunts to manufacture pressure, which also wasn’t all that effective. Cam Henderson and Brandon Thurmond got work at the end of the game, but didn’t really stand out.

Conclusion?: It would’ve been nice to see Osi work over Andrew Whitworth like he did Collins, but Whitworth sat out of the game. In the immortal words of Denny Green, Osi, Massaquoi, and Biermann are what we thought they were. Other than that, not much to take away from this position. Goodman and Maponga looked like rookies still growing into their roles, so we’ll have to see what improvements they make in the coming weeks.

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Falcons to add dime to the mix

August 8th, 2013 Comments off
Icon SMI

Dominique Franks

One of the more interesting developments I was hoping to see this year was whether or not the Falcons would incorporate more dime subpackages into their defense. The dime differs from the nickel subpackage due to the fact that it features six defensive backs rather than five. The Falcons made limited use of the dime a year ago, but at least for the preseason appear willing to experiment. Falcons head coach Mike Smith had these comments following Wednesday’s practice:

When you start talking safeties and corners, those are guys that usually contribute on all four special teams. It’ll be fun to watch those guys. I think we’ve got a number of guys that will work and you’ll see play the dime position. Again, this is what the preseason is all about. It’s about evaluating your roster.

The Falcons did make more usage of dime at the end of the regular season last year when injuries hurt their secondary, particularly with William Moore and Chris Owens out of the lineup. In that subpackage, Dominique Franks worked his way on the field, often lining up as a safety on the back-end.

In fact, the dime subpackage might represent Franks best opportunity to retain his hold on a roster spot in 2013. The expectation are that both rookies Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford will surpass him on the depth chart at cornerback, leaving him as the fifth corner. The fifth corner is often used as a special teams-only player, particularly when it comes to coverage units. The only reason why Franks was active last season on Sundays was because of his role as the team’s punt returner, but that appears to be very much in jeopardy heading into 2013.

In reality, if the Falcons do use more dime this year, it may mean greater opportunities for the loser of the battle between Trufant and Alford at right cornerback, as the Falcons will likely field four corners and two safeties in the dime.

One of the benefits of dime is potentially to help the Falcons better match up with some of the top-level tight ends they will see this year. It was a strategy the Houston Texans tried to employ to only limited success last year against the New England Patriots in 2012. While it did not work in terms of execution, the idea behind it is sound. Given that the best cover men on a defense are its corners and if a team is going to try and match up man to man against quality receivers and tight ends, it makes sense to maximize the number cornerbacks on the field as opposed to linebackers, who are notably weaker there. Given the fact that all of the Falcons linebackers struggled in coverage in 2012, and defensive coordinator Mike Nolan frankly had to throw the entire kitchen sink at Jimmy Graham to try and contain him last year, it makes sense to find a more permanent solution.

Two offenses the Falcons are set to face in 2013 that make ample use of the two-tight end set are New England and San Francisco. Given New England’s issues however, it doesn’t appear that installing a dime subpackage will need to be a priority heading into the season. But as Smith indicated it makes sense to see how things fare during the preseason where the wins and losses don’t count, and roster evaluation is the priority.

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Quizz expected to handle kickoffs again in 2013

August 8th, 2013 Comments off
Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

Jacquizz Rodgers

When probed about cornerback Robert Alford’s usage on special teams during a post-practice interview Wednesday, Falcons head coach Mike Smith indicated that the Falcons intend to use Jacquizz Rodgers as their primary kickoff returner this year:

We’ve got some competition [at the returner positions] as well. We think Jacquizz Rodgers will be the guy that will probably will return kickoffs during the regular season but we’ve got some other guys we want to take a look at as well.

Although previously speculated that Rodgers could potentially give way to one of the rookies as the team’s kickoff returner, the Falcons appear content for Quizz to continue in that role. With the expectation that his workload on offense will be lightened from a year ago, Rodgers may be in a better position in 2013 to produce there.

I’ve previously discussed the notion that Alford might be the Falcons best alternative option. Quizz’s brother James also was extensively worked on kickoffs last summer and likely should get opportunities again this summer in the preseason. It’s also been mentioned that Dominique Franks will also be in the mix for the kickoff gig. However it will appear the brunt of the competition for the return gigs will come at punt returner, where the Falcons appear to be actively trying to replace Franks, who struggled in that role a year ago.

Categories: News Tags: , ,

Takeaways from Last Week – August 5

August 5th, 2013 Comments off
David Kohl-US PRESSWIRE

Carlos Dunlap

Today the Falcons begin their joint practice sessions with the Cincinnati Bengals as they prepare for their preseason opener against them on Thursday night. Two days of practice, which all of the players look forward to because it’s nice to hit someone that is not your teammate. One of the more interesting developments that could come from this session will be if any fights occur. I could be mistaken but generally speaking it seems like the number of training camp fights is a lot lower with Mike Smith than previous regimes.

One of the drawbacks for these two days of joint practices will be the absence of Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green. Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford have both taken their fair share of lumps from Roddy White and Julio Jones through the first week-plus of training camp, and it would be nice to see them go against another top wideout. Green injured his knee last week, and is expected to be held out by the Bengals for this first week of preseason if not the next week. He is by far their primary offensive weapon, and they don’t want to risk further injury to him.

If there was another matchup that I’d be curious to see is how right tackles Mike Johnson and Lamar Holmes handle standout Bengals left defensive end Carlos Dunlap. Dunlap is one of the premier situational pass rushers in the league. So much so that he just earned a $40 million contract, despite the fact that he’s only technically started two games in three seasons in Cincinnati. We won’t know how much work either party will see in Thursday’s game, so how they fare in practice against a premier pass rusher like Dunlap could determine a lot about how much confidence the team has in either player. It’s probably too late for the Falcons to try and make a move in free agency to bolster the position if they don’t like what they see this week. But it could go a long way to determining just how the Falcons handle their protections this year. Most NFL teams tend to roll their protections to the left side in order to protect the blindside of the quarterback, with the Falcons being among those teams. But given all the question marks that the Falcons could have on the right side with a pair of unproven starters in Garrett Reynolds at right guard, and either Johnson or Holmes at tackle, the Falcons might have to do the opposite. Given the Falcons have invested nearly $80 million in the left side of their offensive line, it would only make sense then that they should feel comfortable enough with them to put them more on an island.

Another fascinating development will be getting to see these joint practices and the upcoming preseason game portrayed on HBO’s series Hard Knocks. The cameras are enveloping Bengals training camp for the second time in the series’ history. The Falcons have indicated that they are interested in the show in the past, but have said that the timing wasn’t right. Personally, I believe the Falcons want to be on Hard Knocks. Arthur Blank very much strikes me as the type of owner that would be very open to the idea of millions of viewers seeing the greatness that is the organization he’s built in Atlanta. But they also don’t want to deal with the potential for distractions it creates. I think they are waiting until after they win a title before we’ll see the NFL Films crew descend upon Flowery Branch. But until then, we’ll just have to settle for the taste we’ll likely receive in the second episode, which will air next Tuesday.

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Takeaways from Last Week – July 29

July 29th, 2013 Comments off
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Should Stephen Nicholas be worried?

Training camp has begun for the Falcons. And it’s still early, but there have been a few interesting developments.

A lot has been made of the beatings that rookie corners Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford have had at the hands of Julio Jones and Roddy White. It’s somewhat silly, given it’s their first few days in camp. They are going up against arguably two of the ten best receivers in the league (I’d love to meet the person that would argue against it). And they are rookies after all. Frankly, if Patrick Peterson didn’t set the world on fire as a rookie, and he was the best cornerback prospect to come out since Champ Bailey, then why would anybody expect either Trufant or Alford to not suffer through growing pains? The key for them is going to be how much progress they show over the course of camp and the preseason. And then they’ll face Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints in the season opener. And I have no doubt that Sean Payton and Brees are going to very purposefully attack them in that game. And my expectations are that Payton and Brees will get the better of them more than they won’t. But even then, I won’t be upset. In regards to Trufant, Alford, and Robert McClain, it’s less about how good they are in September, but how good they are in January. After all, everyone expects this Falcon team to make the playoffs and make a title run.

It’s hard to tell who is ahead in some of the other position battles that dot the roster. What limited word we’ve heard about the right tackle position, suggests that Mike Johnson is still slightly ahead of Lamar Holmes. But one can’t put too much stock in one observation during one drill. We’ll see how that plays out the rest of summer. In past summers, things usually start to pick up by the second preseason game for offensive line battles so we’ll see how that goes.

It’s going to be interesting to see how the tight end battle plays out with Tony Gonzalez’s prolonged absence from camp. Chase Coffman and Tommy Gallarda appear to be getting much of the first-team reps thus far, with Levine Toilolo working as a reserve. While Toilolo’s roster spot isn’t really in jeopardy, we’ll have to see if he can leapfrog either in the coming days and weeks. As I’ve mentioned before, what sort of summer Toilolo has could have significant impact on how the rest of the roster plays out at that position. If he shines as a blocker, then Gallarda loses a bit of value. If he shines more as a receiver, then Coffman loses a bit of his luster there.

Defensively, there isn’t any direct competitions per se that I’m paying attention to. I’m more curious to see and hear how the Falcons use certain players like Kroy Biermann and Osi Umenyiora, who seem to getting a lot of time playing on their feet thus far. Eventually, I’m curious to see how the competition between Akeem Dent and Stephen Nicholas plays out for the second linebacker in the nickel. I fully expect Dent to win the job, but I’m curious how it all plays out. I’d like to see Dent win the job handily, that would give me more confidence that things are looking up for the Falcons coverage abilities from the linebacker position. There is some risk that Nicholas winds up a cap casualty at the end of camp. I don’t expect that to happen, but I also didn’t expect the Falcons to cut John Abraham at the beginning of the off-season. The Falcons cap situation currently (projected at roughly $5.7 million in cap space after Ryan’s extension) doesn’t call for the team to really need to purge salary at the end of the summer. As I’ve noted before the Falcons can save $905,000 against the cap by cutting Peria Jerry. Well actually that’s not true, the savings really only becomes $498,000 when you factor in a player like Micanor Regis (2013 cap hit of roughly $407,000) would then take up a roster spot and eat into those savings.

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Training Camp: Day 3 Report

July 27th, 2013 Comments off

Recapping once more what media outlets were discussing from the third day of the Atlanta Falcons 2013 training camp:

  • John Manasso shed a bit more light on the expected absence of tight end Tony Gonzalez, who departed camp today. He’ll be expected back to participate in the final two preseason games (on August 24 and 29 vs. Tennessee and Jacksonville respectively). When he returns prior to that point still remains unknown.
  • Desmond Trufant’s confidence is up. Confidence is a necessary trait for quality corners. Goes along with a short memory, something Trufant is going to have going up against these Falcon receivers.
  • Martel Moore has earned praise from several outlets for his work during the first two days of camp. The latest being from Manasso and Jay Adams.
  • Osi Umenyiora is getting reps as a stand-up pass rusher, although he’s not sure how much he’ll be asked to do that on Sundays. Well if he was to ask John Abraham, the answer would be “a lot.”
  • Looks like a foursome might be emerging that is vying for the punt returner spot. To no surprise, Harry Douglas, Dominique Franks, Robert Alford, and James Rodgers got reps today. Douglas and Franks worked on the unit last season. Alford returned punts while at SE Louisiana. Rodgers split reps with his brother Jacquizz last summer on kickoff returns, but also got reps on punts during his collegiate career at Oregon State.
  • And as usual, Daniel Cox recounts five observations from the third day of camp, an obligatory read.