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Matt Bryant Hits Kick in Overtime to Beat Bills

December 1st, 2013 Comments off

Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Bryant kicks the game-winning 36-yard field goal in overtime

The Atlanta Falcons won their third game of the 2013 season with a 34-31 overtime win over the Buffalo Bills in Toronto. The Falcons were able to stall a pair of potential game-winning drives by the Bills at the end with timely fumble recoveries, the latter of which led to a 36-yard game-winning field by Matt Bryant in overtime.

Matt Ryan led the way with 311 yards passing and a touchdown, completing 28 of 47 passes. The Falcons found success on the ground, as Steven Jackson led the team with 84 yards on 23 carries (3.7 avg) and a pair of rushing touchdowns. Antone Smith added a 38-yard touchdown on his lone carry of the day. Roddy White had a resurgent game with a team-leading 10 catches for 143 yards, exceeding his highs of the year. Harry Douglas (6 catches, 73 yards) and Tony Gonzalez (4 catches, 42 yards, 1 touchdown) also made contributions to the passing game. The Falcons 423 total yards is their second-most of the season and were solid on third downs, converting 10 of 18 attempts (56-percent). They also scored touchdowns on 2 of their 3 red-zone trips.

Defensively, the Falcons got gashed for 405 total yards, including 195 on the ground. But did a decent job getting off the field on third downs (6 of 15 for the Bills) and were able to force a pair of turnovers off fumbles. Paul Worrilow led the team in tackling with 9 stops, including a tackle for loss. Robert Alford (2 tackles, 1 pass deflection, 1 fumble recovery); Jonathan Babineaux (3 tackles, 1 tackle for loss); Thomas DeCoud (4 tackles); Peria Jerry (4 tackles); Jonathan Massaquoi (8 tackles, 1 tackle for loss); Robert McClain (5 tackles, 1 pass deflection, 1 forced fumble); William Moore (6 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 2 pass deflections, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery); Desmond Trufant (1 tackle, 1 pass deflection); Osi Umenyiora (6 tackles); and Sean Weatherspoon (7 tackles, 1 pass deflection) had noteworthy games.

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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 48 “Soft Spot for the Jaguars”

November 20th, 2013 1 comment

On this week’s episode, Allen and I are joined by Matt Chambers, a writer for the Falcoholic. We express our condolences over the death of Thomas Howard before getting into the discussion about our favorite team: the Atlanta Falcons. We discuss whether defensive coordinator Mike Nolan is to blame for the defensive troubles seen stemming from Bobby Rainey’s breakout performance in Week 11. We break new ground by mentioning the name Jadeveon Clowney for the first time on the podcast, and begin to look ahead to next spring’s draft, as well as discuss many of the misses from past years’ drafts. We discuss whether Steven Jackson is expendable, and just how much Antone Smith’s performance against the Buccaneers means to his future role with the team. That brings us to a discussion of what the Falcons future plans should be at the running back position. We discuss the “mass benching” that occurred vs. Tampa Bay, and how it could affect things particularly on the offensive line. We close with Matt by discussing the upcoming matchup against the New Orleans Saints in Week 12, and whether or not a blowout is inevitable. Allen and I then have a long discussion about other teams around the league because it’s more interesting than anything going on with the Falcons.

Episode 48: Soft Spot for the Jaguars [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 19 minutes

Allen writes for TJRSports.com as well as the 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! You can also subscribe directly to our feed at the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/falcfans/LXSt

Takeaways from Week 11

November 18th, 2013 2 comments
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Arthur Blank

I said last week that an Atlanta Falcons loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would be the rock-bottom point of this dismal 2013 season. But perhaps I will be wrong as it may in fact be this week’s upcoming matchup against the New Orleans Saints. If the Falcons get eviscerated in a primetime game by a hated rival, that would be the lowest point of the year for many folks.

I don’t consider myself among them. The Falcons have been blown out by the Saints even in years that they were pretty good, just look at the 45-17 loss in 2011. I fully expect the Saints to crush the Falcons this week in the Georgia Dome, and I feel a great amount of sympathy for Falcon fans that will be on-hand to watch it.

For me, Sunday’ loss to the Bucs was the worst. The margin of victory was not accurately reflected in the 41-28 final score. The Bucs held a 32-point lead with two minutes left in the third quarter, and only thanks to them basically shutting it down for the final quarter and the Falcons finally showing a bit of pride did they shrink that margin to 13 points.

The Falcons offense continues to struggle with their very conservative game plan and play-calling. They are suddenly trying to be a run-first team because they’ve become abundantly aware of the fact that their passing attack stinks, for lack of a better term. But they really only have themselves to blame for that, because as I’ve pointed out numerous times, they opted to sign Brian Robiskie rather than making a “bold” move for a real NFL receiver six weeks ago.

And now the Falcons have resorted to trying to run behind one of the weakest offensive lines in the league. It’s the playoff loss to the New York Giants extrapolated over four games rather than just four quarters. The Falcons offense was shut out in that game because they built their offensive game plan around running with a declining Michael Turner behind a subpar offensive line. But at this point, the Falcons wish their offensive line was as good as that 2011 unit.

Offensive Line or Wide Receiver Biggest Miscalculation?

That’s evidenced by the ability to convert in short-yardage situations. In 2011, there were 62 times where the Falcons ran the ball with 2 yards to go, and they were able to convert for a first down or touchdown on 47 of them, which is 75.8-percent. You could even discount the first 10 games of the season when Turner was actually good, before he seemed to hit a wall down the stretch and see a much better run-blocking unit. In the final 6 games of the regular season, the Falcons were still able to convert 15 of 19 of those short-yardage situations, still 78.9-percent. Compare that to the entirety of this year, where the Falcons have converted on 11 of 21 short-yardage situations, which is 52.4-percent.

But in truth, I don’t believe the Falcons offensive line is significantly worse than the unit from a year ago. In 2012, the Falcons converted on 29 of 48 short-yardage situations (60.4-percent). But obviously, the offense as a whole is significantly worse from last year. And it stems mostly from the fact that the “Big Four” in Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Roddy White, and Tony Gonzalez have seen a sharp decline in their production this year.

I expected there to be a drop-off in their production this year, as last season was a ridiculously good one from those guys. But I did not expect the drop-off to be as significant as it has been this year. And that is the  real issue with this year’s downturn. The Falcons have proven that they can get by with their subpar offensive line play, if they are getting premium production from their passing attack. And while I’ve discussed this teams miscalculations in regards to their offensive line changes over the years, what really has been the major miscalculation was the belief that the Falcons passing attack wouldn’t fall off a sheer cliff.

I’ve been saying for some time that the Falcons needed to upgrade their depth at wide receiver. And I’ll continually pound the table to suggest that the team’s failure to do so in the off-season and following Jones’ injury is a key reason for this team’s downfall. But even with that said, I never would have expected the Falcons offense to perform so poorly as it has without such a move. They still should be better than what they’ve been as of late this year.

And this is where the subject I really want to discuss this week comes into play: coaching.

Dirk Koetter may be Mike Smith’s Downfall

I won’t say that Mike Smith has no chance of saving his job, but I do think that following the loss to Tampa Bay, the chance that Smith is patrolling the sidelines in 2014 for the Falcons shrinks to under 10-percent. I won’t rehash too many of the reasons why I believe Smith’s time in Atlanta is nearing its end, as I discuss many of them in last week’s column and also in my article yesterday for the Bleacher Report.

But the main points are that, as I mentioned above, the Falcons have hit rock-bottom and haven’t been this bad a football team since the lowest point of 2007. That was a season which was arguably the lowest point of this team’s long history of mediocrity and certainly the lowest of Arthur Blank’s time as team owner. And it’s those reminiscent feelings that I think will prompt Blank to move on from Smith at the end of this year. You can’t be as bad a football team as the Falcons have been over the past four weeks and expect the head coach to keep his job, especially given the expectations that surrounded the Falcons going into this year, and will continue in 2014.

And if Smith does get fired, he may be ultimately taking the fall for Dirk Koetter. The fact that this team has Matt Ryan at quarterback, Tony Gonzalez at tight end, and a competent albeit unspectacular Harry Douglas at wide receiver means that the offense should be better than it currently is. I don’t expect greatness, but they should be better than this.

In reviewing the All-22, I’m not seeing a lot of things that I think could help improve the offense. The Falcons aren’t running enough play-action, nor are they taking any measured shots down the field. Last year, they often utilized max protect to offset the weakness of the pass protection to get those big plays downfield. I don’t see much of that nor enough of the “Four Verticals” that the Koetter offense is supposed to be predicated off.

There were unconfirmed rumors that following the 2006 season, one of the reasons why Jim Mora was dismissed was because he was unwilling to throw offensive coordinator Greg Knapp under the bus by firing him. I don’t know if that is true, but it would not surprise me that if Mike Smith is allowed to keep his job next year, it will be dependent on his willingness to cut Koetter loose.

And I’m not sure going with a familiar face like Bill Musgrave is going to cut it to replace Koetter. One of the reasons why I’m open to the Jon Gruden rumors, is because I’m confident that if Gruden was the head coach, it would result in a sharp improvement from the offense. The last time Gruden had a quarterback of Ryan’s caliber, it was Rich Gannon, and relative to his era, Gannon was arguably better than Ryan is to his.

Gruden Could Have Greater Success in Atlanta than Tampa Bay

A big reason why Gruden failed in Tampa Bay was instability at the quarterback position, but that wouldn’t be a problem here in Atlanta with him and Ryan working together for the long haul.

The big question surrounding Gruden is how much personnel power he is seeking. He had a significant amount in Tampa Bay once Rich McKay left at the end of 2003. One would hope that Gruden would be aware of the notion that Atlanta would present a unique opportunity for him. If you’re a high-profile coach like Gruden, Brian Billick, or Bill Cowher, you want significant pull if you’re going to depart your cushy broadcasting job to patrol the NFL sidelines again. But you also want a good quarterback as well since all of those coaches have shown that winning is much easier when you have one. And I don’t think you’re going to find many opportunities that have both a good quarterback and an organization also willing to defer personnel power. And while his respect within the Falcons fan base has diminished considerably, I do think Thomas Dimitroff is well-respected enough around the league that somebody like Gruden should be willing to work alongside him.

Whether the feeling is mutual remains to be seen. But it’ll be interesting because I suspect the situation that may arise in Atlanta in 2014 may be similar to the situation that McKay was fleeing in Tampa Bay, where ownership forced a coach on the GM, and the latter ultimately lost the power battle. And one wonders in all these years that Blank and McKay have worked beside one another and had the latter whispering in the ear of the former, whether or not Blank is averse to that scenario.

But there’s still a chance that Mike Smith salvages his job. But it will stem from this Falcon team playing much better than it has over the past month. But at this point, I just don’t see it happening. After a certain point, it’s going to be too little, too late. For me, I think we’ve already reached that point.

Elsewhere in the NFL…

Not much I want to take away from this past week, besides the fact that four notable undrafted free agents and late round picks really shined this weekend. Two of them were rookies with the Oakland Raiders this past summer. The other faced the Falcons on Sunday.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Antone Smith

Quarterback Matt McGloin came into Raiders camp as a fourth arm, as the Raiders appeared poised to go with Matt Flynn, Terrelle Pryor, and fourth round pick Tyler Wilson as their three quarterbacks. But the undrafted passer out of Penn State managed to quickly pass Wilson on the depth chart. And with Pryor’s unseating of Flynn, McGloin entered the season as the No. 2 for the Raiders.

I thought McGloin looked good in the preseason, but was not expecting him to have much success against the tough Houston Texans defense on Sunday. But he managed the game competently as he completed 18 of 32 passes for 197 yards and 3 touchdowns. It is enough to spark a potential quarterback controversy between him and Terrelle Pryor, who has struggled mightily over the past month.

The other Raider player was defensive end David Bass, who is now with the Chicago Bears. Bass was drafted in the seventh round by the Raiders out of Missouri Western State. He too popped during the preseason for the Raiders, but was cut and claimed by the Bears. He started last week for the Bears due to the injury to Shea McClellin, but this week against the Baltimore Ravens he got a pick-six which was pivotal for the Bears win. It occurred in the second quarter, and without those additional points, the Bears are unlikely to beat the Ravens in overtime. Bass is one of those late-round developmental ends that the Falcons have been so found of, but has enough quickness, burst, and athleticism to suggest he might develop into a capable rotational pass rusher down the road.

The other player is Buccaneers running back Bobby Rainey. I was disappointed the Falcons didn’t claim Rainey back when the Cleveland Browns waived him last month.

The Bucs picked him up and it paid off with a 163-yard effort against the Falcons, following a 45-yard effort against the Miami Dolphins a week ago in the final three quarters once Mike James went down with an injury. Rainey is a player that first came upon my radar prior to the 2012 draft as a smaller, but skilled back at Western Kentucky. He went undrafted and was picked up by the Ravens, and continued to impress me on the handful of preseason games I saw of him. He began that year on Baltimore’s practice squad, but was promoted for a few weeks before a knee injury cost him the rest of his 2012 season. This summer the Ravens cut him, which drew the ire of Ravens fans everywhere.

The Browns picked him up, and while his production was subpar in six games (13 carries for 34 yards, 2.6 avg), I noticed when I was doing my homework on Josh Gordon, that Rainey still ran with the burst and quickness that I recalled seeing the year before. It reminded me a lot of Jacquizz Rodgers, thanks to their shared short, squat builds. And I had the feeling that if the Falcons picked up Rainey, they could potentially groom him into a better replacement for Jason Snelling than Josh Vaughan could be.

But the Bucs snatched him up, and it paid off for them on Sunday. Obviously, the Bucs had waiver priority due to their worse record back on October 22 when Rainey was cut. So maybe the Falcons did try to claim him, but couldn’t.

But my sadness over not getting Rainey was somewhat abated by the play of Antone Smith on Sunday. If Sunday’s game didn’t cement the thought that the Falcons need to have a screen package for Smith every week on offense, then I don’t know what will.

Bucs Streak Past Falcons in 41-28 Blowout

November 17th, 2013 Comments off
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Vincent Jackson makes a one-handed catch over Asante Samuel

The Falcons got blasted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a game that featured a 32-point third quarter deficit, but ultimately resulted in a 41-28 win for the Bucs. Both teams records now stand at 2-8 at the bottom of the NFC South, but while the Bucs have won two straight, the Falcons have lost four straight.

Matt Ryan had another lackluster performance, completing 19 of 36 passes for 254 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions, which included a pick-six. He gave way to Dominique Davis in the fourth quarter, who completed 5 of 7 passes for 34 yards, before he exited the game with an injury. Antone Smith led the team in rushing with 88 yards despite only a pair of carries. One of which he took to the house for a 50-yard scoring run. Steven Jackson added 41 yards on 11 carries. Harry Douglas and Tony Gonzalez each led the team with 6 receptions for 134 and 51 yards, respectively. Douglas caught an 80-yard touchdown. White scored the Falcons other touchdown, and finished the game with 3 catches for 36 yards. Matt Bryant hit on two of his field goal tries from 46 and 49 yards, while Matt Bosher punted twice. He had one punt blocked, and only had a 24-yard punt on his other one. Robert McClain averaged 8 yards on a pair of punt returns. The Falcons managed to convert only 1 of 7 third down conversion attempts.

Defensively the Falcons got gashed allowing 410 total yards, including 186 rushing yards. The Bucs only converted 3 of 11 third down attempts but had a number of big plays early. The Bucs had four plays of 20 or more yards in the second quarter, which helped them score 21 points. Paul Worrilow led the Falcons with 16 tackles, including one for a loss. Jonathan Massaquoi (4 tackles, 1 tackle for loss); Robert McClain (7 tackles, 1 pass defended); William Moore (7 tackles); Desmond Trufant (4 tackles); Osi Umenyiora (3 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 2 sacks); and Sean Weatherspoon (9 tackles) had notable games.

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Moneyball 2013 – Week 2 Review

September 17th, 2013 Comments off

This was one of the more one-dimensional offensive efforts I can recall seeing from the Falcons. There have been plenty of times the past few years where the Falcons running game was virtually non-existent, but it never seemed this bad. One measly yard in the first half? And as I mentioned yesterday, when the Falcons (and frankly most NFL teams) are this bad at running the ball, they find it hard to win.

Yet the Falcons did, and that was mainly due to the performances of Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, who were outstanding in this game. The Falcons made ample use of Jones’ ability on screens, as I counted five screens to him in this game. In truth, only two of them were effective (tallying 38 combined yards), but they contributed to scoring drives. And of course, Jones’ 81-yard catch was also pivotal in this game. As it truly was the Falcons’ lone big play of the game, as they had to rely on a lot of short and intermediate throws due to the lack of the running game and poor pass protection.

On the subject of pass protection, once again another poor performance for tackles Sam Baker and Lamar Holmes. Baker really struggled in the first quarter vs. Robert Quinn, giving up three of his hurries, one of his pressures, and his only missed block in that quarter. Relatively, he played better the rest of the game giving up only a sack, pressure, and hurry over the final three quarters. Holmes’ struggles came in the second quarter, giving up three of his four hurries to Chris Long in that quarter.

It was no surprise that either struggled, since Quinn and Long are arguably one of the two or three best pairs of pass-rushing ends in the league. I’ll give Baker a bit of a pass because he was dealing with a knee injury and he seemed to adjust somewhat to Quinn’s speed after the first series. I will be a little harder on Holmes because many of his struggles came on instances where his technique was poor. Too often it was if he didn’t understand that you are allowed to punch and use your hands. Holmes also got away with a false start on the opening series that was instead called against Chris Long for an offsides. Without that missed call from the refs, the Falcons likely would have begun the game with a three-and-out rather than eventually scoring a touchdown, and it might have been a drastically different game.

As for the rest of the line, they were relatively solid. Blalock had the best game. He missed a block on the first play of the game, but after that he did a pretty good job despite giving up a sack to Eugene Sims. Reynolds gives a bit too much ground than I would like in pass protection. Ryan’s quick trigger has not made that an issue yet, but there may be a game down the road against a good defensive tackle where that will become a problem. But Reynolds is doing good things as a run blocker. Konz has not been having the sort of performances that I was expecting after a strong preseason. He had his hands full with Michael Brockers throughout the game. He hasn’t been playing poorly by any means, but he is far from dominant, which he seemed to flash during the summer.

The line gave up pressure on five of the 13 third down attempts, which is an improvement from last week. So that’s a positive I guess since they basically cut last week’s number in half.

The running game was limited mainly due to blocking, but there were a few carries by Jacquizz Rodgers where he did not hit the hole hard. In the future, the Falcons may try to avoid running him up the middle. He just was a bit too tentative, and if the team wants him to be an effective runner, they should stick to the counters and stretches that were more effective last year. But more of his runs were stopped because of poor blocking than his own poor running.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLK
ST
PEN
TOTALS
Matt Ryan$21$0$0$0$0$0$21.00
Julio Jones$0$0$11$0$0$0$11.00
Jason Snelling$0$5$4$0$0$0$9.00
Harry Douglas$0$0$5$0$0$0$5.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$2$3$0$0$0$5.00
Steven Jackson$0$0$3$0$0$0$3.00
Garrett Reynolds$0$0$0$3$0-$1$2.00
Bradie Ewing$0$0$2$0$0$0$2.00
Antone Smith$0$0$0$0$2$0$2.00
Peter Konz$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Roddy White$0$0$1$0$0$0$1.00
Drew Davis$0$0$0$0$1$0$1.00
Kevin Cone$0$0$0$0$1$0$1.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$3-$2$0-$1$0.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Sam Baker$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00
Levine Toilolo$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00
Lamar Holmes$0$0$0-$1$0-$1-$2.00

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Moneyball 2013 – Week 1 Review

September 11th, 2013 Comments off

This was your classic Falcons-Saints game where the Saints proved victorious. The Falcons had numerous opportunities to steal the win, but they didn’t take advantage of enough of them.

The Falcons couldn’t move the ball against the Saints as the game progressed mainly because of their woes in pass protection. From my count, the Falcons gave up pressures or hurries on 8 of their 12 third/fourth down attempts, which shows you why it is not surprising that they only converted 3 of them. Thus why most of their drives after the first quarter were stalled.

Lamar Holmes had a really bad game. And the only reason his earnings aren’t lower than they are, is because I don’t subtract points for pressures and hurries given up. I probably should, but I don’t because otherwise our offensive linemen would be in the negative almost every week. Cameron Jordan just worked over Holmes, as I counted 3 hurries and 2 pressures from Jordan alone when working against Holmes. The one time it wasn’t Jordan that beat Holmes on a pressure, it came off a stunt from Tyrunn Walker, where Holmes couldn’t get outside quick enough after releasing Jordan inside to Reynolds.

Sam Baker also had one of his weaker games. I did notice early in the game (maybe the second series?) Baker got his leg rolled up from behind and was slow to get up. Did the affect him the rest of the game? Perhaps, and it’s interesting that he sat out Wednesday’s practice with a knee ailment.

Maybe that is an excuse for his shoddy play. Twice Baker got beat when the Falcons were inside the 5-yard line. The first time came in the 1st quarter, when Galette beat him on 3rd down forcing Ryan to throw it away and the team to settle for a field goal instead of scoring a touchdown. The second time came when he gave up a hurry to Curtis Lofton at the end of the game on Ryan’s lob to Gonzalez. I only considered it a hurry rather than pressure because Ryan did seem to hold onto the ball a bit too long waiting for Gonzalez to get open.

Speaking of Ryan, I thought he had a good game. But at the very end on the last two plays where first Steven Jackson and then Gonzalez couldn’t reel in the game-winning touchdown, he seemed to lock on both guys early on. Jackson definitely should have caught his pass. Gonzalez should have too, given that he is the G.O.A.T., but at least in his case he has the excuse that Kenny Vaccaro tipped it just before it hit his hands. Given that Ryan was running for his life most of the game, he probably deserves MVP honors for the game.

The running game was mostly non-effective. Not due to Jackson, who on several plays made something out of nothing. But the Falcons couldn’t consistently create push and open holes. They might want to mix in some more stretch plays, as it seemed that early on some of their early success occurred when guys were blocking on the move.

Roddy White clearly was not fully healthy and was a decoy for most of the game. Harry Douglas stepped up and filled in ably. Jones played well, the only negative being that fumble he had which was one of several plays that really turned the Falcons’ fortunes. The holding call on Baker that negated a 3rd down conversion to Douglas at midfield was another killer.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLK
ST
PEN
TOTALS
Matt Ryan$15$2$0$0$0-$1$16.00
Steven Jackson$0$7$3$0$0$0$10.00
Harry Douglas$0$0$6$0$0$0$6.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$5$0$0$0$5.00
Julio Jones$0$0$5$0$0-$2$3.00
Bradie Ewing$0$0$2$1$0$0$3.00
Garrett Reynolds$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Antone Smith$0$0$0$0$2$0$2.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Levine Toilolo$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Roddy White$0$0$1$0$0$0$1.00
Peter Konz$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Lamar Holmes$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00
Sam Baker$0$0$0-$1$0-$1-$2.00

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Falcons get to 53 with 9 more cuts

August 31st, 2013 Comments off

Just before the deadline, the Falcons officially announced the last nine cuts. The team had already made 13 moves yesterday in their effort to get down to the 53-man roster limit by 6 pm Eastern today. Among those cut were: fullback Patrick DiMarco, linebacker Robert James, wide receivers Darius Johnson, Martel Moore, and James Rodgers, cornerback Jordan Mabin, guards Phillipkeith Manley and Jacques McClendon, and defensive tackle Adam Replogle.

These moves may not be the final moves the Falcons make in regards to their roster as they have typically also picked opposing teams’ players off the waiver wire in recent years. Tomorrow the Falcons can establish their eight-man practice squad as well.

These moves indicate that at least for the time being, the Falcons will keep four undrafted free agents on their roster in linebackers Joplo Bartu and Paul Worrilow, as well as offensive tackles Terren Jones and Ryan Schraeder. Guard Harland Gunn made the roster, beating out both Manley and McClendon. Wide receiver Kevin Cone retained his spot as the team’s fifth receiver. The Falcons currently have six running backs on their roster including fullback Bradie Ewing. The team opted to keep Antone Smith and Josh Vaughan at tailback, after it seemed likely only one would stick around. Other bubble players that seemingly have retained jobs are cornerback Dominique Franks and defensive tackle Peria Jerry. The Falcons also retained all of their draft picks, except quarterback Sean Renfree who went on injured reserve yesterday.

Dominique Davis is the team’s lone backup quarterback as of now. Again, the Falcons could continue to make more moves in the next week as they fine-tune their roster in preparation for their season-opening game against the New Orleans Saints on September 8.

Reactions from Falcons-Jaguars

August 30th, 2013 Comments off

Another thorough and extremely long post of reactions from last night’s game. I’ll give some more firm Conclusions: now that we have all four preseason games to evaluate. I’ll focus mainly on what the backups did and whether or not they managed to earn roster spots.

Quarterback

What I Saw:: Davis once again was very inconsistent. He made some poor decisions, some poor reads, and some poor throws. He struggled throwing accurate balls downfield. He had a few really nice throws that were on the money. But in general, he makes his receivers work much harder than they should because of his inaccuracy. When the 2-minute drill kicked off at the end of the half, he was throwing on time and in a rhythm on the throws that the ball came out quickly. But when he gets time in the pocket a few plays later, he struggled making those throws. I think part of that is because of his footwork/mechanics. When he can just make his drop and then throw off his back foot, he’s fine. But when you force him to have to get his feet under him and/or reset them, he messes up causing some errant throws and balls to sail. I felt sorry for him at the end of the game, you could tell he didn’t want to come back into the game. The pass protection just was subpar at the end of the game with the third stringers in the game. Sean Renfree only got a bit of work before he got injured, suffering some sort of injury to his throwing arm as he landed wrong while trying to throw the ball away. I hate to say it but that injury might wind up being fortunate for the Falcons, as it might force them to bring in another backup that can potentially push/overtake Davis on the depth chart down the road. It’s obviously not good for Renfree, who suffered a major injury to his throwing arm at the end of December. If this is another major one, it will be two major ones in 8 months and puts his NFL future in jeopardy.

Conclusions: Davis has talent, but he needs at least another year of refining before he’s a legit No. 2 quarterback in the NFL. He’s just too inaccurate and stares down his reads too much (almost threw 3 picks because of it). You see the flashes which you like and thus why he still has developmental potential. But the Falcons coaching staff will have to work extra hard to make him effective if he ever gets into a real game this season. Renfree even without the injury is just a project that the team was hoping could carry the clipboard for a year, and maybe in 2014 as he’s more comfortable in the system could start to show some promise. His injury might throw a wrench into that plan. He just did not look good this summer in limited action even before the injury.

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Jaguars prevail over Falcons in preseason finale

August 29th, 2013 Comments off

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Jonathan Massaquoi celebrates a touchdown with teammates

Despite a pair of opportunities to win the game late, the Falcons dropped their fourth preseason game to the Jacksonville Jaguars by a score of 20-16. The Falcons end their 2013 summer winless in the exhibition season, hoping to reverse their fortunes next Sunday when they open the season on the road against the New Orleans Saints. The overwhelming majority of Falcons starters got their rest on the evening, with the backups making their final bids for roster spots. The Falcons will have to cut down their roster from 75 to 53 players by Saturday.

Dominique Davis got the start at quarterback and was inconsistent for much of the night. He completed 18 of 35 passes for 175 yards with an interception. He was pulled from the game at halftime, but due to an injury to Sean Renfree, he was forced back into the game. Renfree finished 3 of 5 for 1 yard before his injury that forced him out of the game. Davis added 23 yards on the ground on a five carries. Josh Vaughan however led the team in rushing with 83 yards on five carries, including a 65-yard touchdown. Chase Coffman and Antone Smith each had four receptions for 47 and 23 yards, respectively. Darius Johnson was targeted a team-high nine times, but only caught a single pass for 11 yards. Kevin Cone (2 catches, 25 yards), James Rodgers (2 catches, 11 yards), and Jason Snelling (2 catches, 10 yards) also contributed. Jeremy Shelley got the work at kicker, but missed a 48-yarder which he followed by making a 42-yarder. He also missed an extra point following the Falcons’ first touchdown. Matt Bosher was forced to punt seven times due to struggles offensively, averaging 44.3 yards with a pair placed inside the 20-yard line. Robert Alford returned a pair of kickoffs for 34 yards, while Jacquizz Rodgers had a 27-gain on his lone kickoff return. Alford also added a pair of punt returns for 20 yards as well. The Falcons struggled on third downs, converting only 4 of 17 attempts. They managed to have 176 yards rushing on the night with 344 yards total.

The Falcons defense stepped up in the second half, and overall limited the Jaguars to 275 total yards. They bottled up the Jaguars’ second half passing attack, limiting them to just 46 yards on 15 attempts. For the entire night, the Jaguars converted just six of their 18 third down attempts. The Falcons defense was able to generate points thanks to a scoop and score by Jonathan Massaquoi, as well as pick off Jaguars’ passers twice. Robert James led defenders with 7 tackles on the night, including one for loss. Massaquoi added 4 tackles of his own, with a sack, forced fumble, recovery, and the aforementioned touchdown. Robert Alford (3 tackles, 1 interception, 2 passes defended), Joplo Bartu (4 tackles, 1 for loss), Zeke Motta (4 tackles), Adam Replogle (2 tackles, 1 for loss, 1 pass defended), Travian Robertson (2 tackles, 2 for loss), Shann Schillinger (3 tackles), Desmond Trufant (2 tackles, 1 interception, 2 passes defended), and Paul Worrilow (3 tackles) had noteworthy games.

The Falcons defense got off to a strong start. Pressure from Cliff Matthews forced an incompletion from Chad Henne on the first play from scrimmage. Two plays later, Robert Alford stepped in front of a Henne pass for the interception. That gave the Falcons prime field position at the Jaguars’ 29-yard line less than a minute into the game. But the Falcons offense had a hard time moving the ball, and a holding penalty on Phillipkeith Manley set up a 3rd & 21, which the Falcons were unable to convert on a 11-yard completion from Dominique Davis to Drew Davis. Jeremy Shelley came on the field to attempt a 48-yard field goal, but the kick sailed wide left leaving the Falcons without points off their initial turnover. The Falcons defense held on the ensuing Jaguars’ series that moved the ball 19 yards on six plays before forcing a punt by Bryan Anger that was downed at the Falcons own 9-yard line. After Jason Snelling burst up the middle for a 9-yard gain on first down, Snelling was bottled up for no gain on his two subsequent carries in short-yardage. That forced Bosher to punt, with the Jaguars taking over at their own 40-yard line. After an initial incompletion, Chad Henne completed four straight passes to get the ball into the redzone. Jordan Todman then burst up the middle for an 18-yard run into the endzone to put the Jaguars on the board with less than five minutes to go in the first quarter.

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Roster Talk: Locks and Bubble Players

August 28th, 2013 1 comment

Back at the start of training camp, I made my projections on who would make the Falcons final roster. And frankly, I feel very good about most of them. I feel like I might be in the single digits with the number of ones where I was off on, which should work out to be only about a sixth of the roster. I’ll take that.

But on the eve of the Falcons final preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, I want to discuss which players on the roster are locks versus those that are likely on the outside looking in. I’ll break down all 75 players and put them into four categories which should determine their status for the impending Falcons final 53.

Locks

These players from the start were really in no danger to get released. While they may not have all been 100%, they were in the upper part of the 90th-percentile, and thus were more at risk to be injured than cut by the Falcons.

Among them are a few rookies, who weren’t in danger of getting released one bit such as their top four picks this past April. Their play in training camp and the preseason was to determine how much they’d play when the regular season begins, not whether the Falcons would carry them on the roster.

Quarterback: Matt Ryan
Running Backs: Steven Jackson, Jacquizz Rodgers, Jason Snelling
Wide Receivers: Roddy White, Julio Jones, Harry Douglas
Tight Ends: Tony Gonzalez, Levine Toilolo
Offensive Line: Sam Baker, Justin Blalock, Peter Konz, Lamar Holmes, Garrett Reynolds, Joe Hawley
Defensive Ends: Kroy Biermann, Osi Umenyiora, Jonathan Massaquoi, Malliciah Goodman
Defensive Tackles: Corey Peters, Jonathan Babineaux, Travian Robertson
Linebackers: Sean Weatherspoon, Akeem Dent
Cornerbacks: Asante Samuel, Robert McClain, Desmond Trufant, Robert Alford
Safeties: Thomas DeCoud, William Moore
Special Teams: Matt Bryant, Matt Bosher, Josh Harris

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