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How the Falcons Defense Matches Up Against the Bucs Offense

October 19th, 2013 Comments off
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Falcons must slow down Doug Martin

The Atlanta Falcons offense isn’t in a favorable matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense on this weekend’s Week 7 NFC South divisional matchup. Thus the Falcons may need their defense to step up and tip the scales in their favor.

The Falcons defense has struggled throughout this year, largely because their pass defense has given up a bunch of yards, big plays, and created very little turnovers. That will need to change this week, as the Falcons may need some turnovers to give their limited offense extra opportunities to score.

The Bucs top wideout is Vincent Jackson, and they will line him up all over their offense to create mismaches. He’s been effective in the slot, where he will draw the assignment of Robert McClain, who has struggled this year. If McClain is going to turn around his season and retain his spot in the lineup, he will need to bounce back this week.

The Falcons will also need Desmond Trufant and Asante Samuel to play well on the outside, and potentially create a couple of turnovers as well. Mike Williams is expected to work his way back into the lineup this week, and will likely get a lot of looks against Trufant, testing the rookie cornerback.

But the Bucs offense is heavily reliant on their rushing attack. The focus of the Falcons defense this week will be on stopping Doug Martin. They will get help in the form of guard Carl Nicks’ absence due to an infection in his foot. That will likely put Gabe Carimi or Ted Larsen as the starting left guard. Carimi is a good run blocker, but a questionable pass protector. Larsen is a more natural center, and lacks the strength to get push in the ground attack. The Falcons defensive tackles in Corey Peters and Jonathan Babineaux will try to exploit that weakness, regardless of who gets the start. Right guard Davin Joseph also hasn’t had the best season either, and thus the Falcons will need to control the line of scrimmage.

That will take pressure off the Falcons linebackers to have to make plays. The defense should get a boost from the return of middle linebacker Akeem Dent. While Dent has struggled in coverage this year, he’s been effective agains the run. That could make a difference, giving the Falcons the front necessary to slow down Martin.

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Falcons Fall Short in Comeback Against Patriots

September 30th, 2013 Comments off
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Aqib Talib breaks up the potential game-tying pass to Roddy White in the final minute

The Atlanta Falcons mounted a late comeback, but ultimately fell short in a 30-23 loss to the New England Patriots. The Falcons were down 17 points with six minutes left in the fourth quarter and were in a position to tie the game with under a minute on the clock. But wide receiver Roddy White could not extend for Matt Ryan’s pass on fourth down with 41 seconds in the game, and the Patriots prevailed.

Matt Ryan looked a bit off on the night, but finished with a career-high 421 yards while completing 34 of 54 pass attempts. He also threw a pair of touchdowns with one interception. On the ground, Jacquizz Rodgers had a team-leading 32 yards on 7 carries (4.6 avg) while Jason Snelling added 26 yards on 8 carries (3.3 avg). Tony Gonzalez had an excellent night, catching 12 passes for 149 yards (12.4 avg) and both of Ryan’s touchdown passes. Julio Jones (6 catches, 108 yards), Rodgers (6 catches, 56 yards), and Harry Douglas (5 catches, 68 yards) also made notable contributions in the passing game. Matt Bryant connected on all three of his field goal attempts from 23, 45, and 25 yards. Matt Bosher had a trio of punts for an average of 45.7 yards, with a pair placed inside the 20-yard line. Harry Douglas returned one punt for six yards, while Rodgers had a single kickoff return for 29 yards. The Falcons continue to struggle to convert in the red zone, scoring a touchdown on only one of six trips there. While they managed to convert 5 of 8 third down attempts in the first half, that fell to only 1 of 6 in the second half.

Defensively, the Falcons gave up a season-high 448 total yards, including 288 in the second half. The Patriots were able to convert 7 of 13 third downs and scored touchdowns on 2 of 3 red zone trips. They also gave up a season-high 132 yards on the ground, largely thanks to a 47-yard scoring run by LeGarrette Blount. Akeem Dent led defenders with 8 tackles on the night, including one for loss, although an injury forced him to exit from the game late. Robert Alford (4 tackles); Jonathan Babineaux (3 tackles, 2 QB hits); Joplo Bartu (6 tackles, 1 tackle for loss); Thomas DeCoud (5 tackles); Jonathan Massaquoi (2 tackles, 1 tackle for loss); Robert McClain (4 tackles); William Moore (4 tackles);Corey Peters (5 tackles); Desmond Trufant (6 tackles, 1 pass defended); and Osi Umenyiora (4 tackles) had noteworthy games.

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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 40 “A Sense of Urgency”

September 27th, 2013 Comments off

Allen and I are back to discuss the Falcons disappointing loss to the Miami Dolphins in Week 3 as well as preview what we hope to be a rebound win against the New England Patriots in primetime in Week 4 … Questions we try to answer in this episode: 1. Are the Falcons playing with a sense of urgency? 2. Will their schedule in the coming weeks help them get out of this rut? 3. Do the Falcons need to add more pass rush help? 4. Is Stephen Nicholas headed to the bench or the unemployment line? 5. How will Steven Jackson’s injury impact the next few weeks? 6. What is wrong with Thomas DeCoud? We also discuss the play of some of the young players in the secondary, whether veteran players on the defensive line are up to snuff, and whether Matt Ryan deserves criticism for the mistakes made against the Dolphins. We also look around the league at the recent Browns trade rumors, Josh Freeman, and I may be abandoning the Eagles bandwagon.

Ep. 40: A Sense of Urgency [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 5 minutes

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

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

Baker, Jackson Out vs. Dolphins

September 20th, 2013 Comments off

The Falcons announced their injury report for Sunday’s road matchup against the Miami Dolphins today. On it, offensive tackle Sam Baker was listed as out with knee and foot injuries after a week of not practicing. Running back Steven Jackson (hamstring) is also out, although his absence was known earlier this week.

Baker will likely be replaced at left tackle by starting right tackle Lamar Holmes. In Holmes’ stead, Jeremy Trueblood will be elevated to the starting lineup at right tackle. Holmes was Baker’s primary backup at left tackle as a rookie in 2012, but moved to right tackle this year after the departure of Tyson Clabo. Holmes has struggled thus far at right tackle this year, as Baker has at left tackle. The Holmes-Trueblood combination was inserted for the final three snaps of the Falcons’ win over the St. Louis Rams last week.

Questionable on the team’s injury report are wide receiver Julio Jones (knee), defensive tackle Cliff Matthews (neck), cornerback Asante Samuel (thigh), and wide receiver Roddy White (ankle). Both Jones and Matthews were limited in all three days of practice this week with their respective injuries. Samuel sat out Wednesday and Thursday practices, but was limited on Friday. White missed practice on Wednesday, but was limited the remaining two days.

Jones was questionable a week ago, but still managed to match career-highs of 11 catches and 182 yards against the Rams. Matthews also was limited last week by his neck injury and exited the game early after re-aggravating the injury on special teams, but later returned against the Rams. Samuel missed the season opener against the Saints with his thigh injury, and was pulled early against the Rams. In his absence, Robert McClain and Robert Alford have been working at left cornerback. Roddy White has been limited in both of the Falcons’ first two games, with the bulk of snaps opposite Jones being performed by Harry Douglas.

Defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux missed Friday practice with a non-injury related absence. Linebacker Akeem Dent fully participated today after after being limited the two previous days with a shoulder injury. Similarly, center Peter Konz was limited two days with a knee injury before fully participating today. All three of them were listed as probable on the team’s injury report.

For the Dolphins, cornerback Dimitri Patterson (groin) and nose tackle Paul Soliai (knee) were declared out this week on their injury report. Safety Chris Clemons (hamstring), quarterback Pat Devlin (ankle), linebacker Koa Misi (knee), center Mike Pouncey (ankle), and wide receiver Mike Wallace (groin) were declared questionable. Notably, quarterback Ryan Tannehill (right shoulder) was listed as probable after being limited early in the week, but fully participating on Friday.

Six Falcons Starters Questionable vs. Rams

September 14th, 2013 Comments off

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Julio Jones (left), Roddy White

Yesterday, the Falcons released their injury report for Sunday’s matchup against the St. Louis Rams, the team’s home opener. On it, six Falcons starters were listed as questionable including: defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux (knee), offensive tackle Sam Baker (knee), wide receiver Julio Jones (knee), cornerback Asante Samuel (thigh), linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (knee), and wide receiver Roddy White (ankle). All six were limited in Friday’s practice. For Babineaux, Baker, and White, that was the only practice they participated in all week long. Jones missed Wednesday’s practice, but was limited on Thursday and Friday. While Samuel and Weatherspoon were limited throughout the week.

White and Samuel’s injuries stem from the preseason, while the others were suffered in the Falcons’ Week 1 loss to the New Orleans Saints.

Earlier this week, Falcons head coach Mike Smith indicated that White is expected to play this Sunday after spending the season opener in a limited role and mainly as a decoy. That led to increased reps for wide receiver Harry Douglas. With Jones also limited, the Falcons may count more on fourth wide receiver Drew Davis this week as well.

Samuel missed the season opener, and the team had Robert McClain start in his place. Rookie cornerback Robert Alford was promoted into McClain’s vacated nickel cornerback spot.

Babineaux is the team’s starter at right defensive tackle, which leads to him also getting work at defensive end in the multiple fronts employed by defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. His primary backup is Travian Robertson, who was inactive last week. Although if he’s unable to go it will likely fall upon Malliciah Goodman and Cliff Matthews for increased reps. They combined for only 14 snaps last week against the Saints (per Pro Football Focus). Peria Jerry would like get the start.

In the case of Baker, the Falcons have been getting newly signed tackle Jeremy Trueblood up to speed in preparation for the possibility that he starts this weekend. Trueblood was signed over a week ago and could make his debut at right tackle. That could potentially slide starting right tackle Lamar Holmes over to left tackle, the position he played as a rookie and while in college at Southern Miss. It could also mean playing time for undrafted rookie Ryan Schraeder, who is the team’s primary backup at that position.

Weatherspoon’s injury could lead to increased reps from Joplo Bartu or Paul Worrilow. Both are undrafted rookies and played solely on special teams in their NFL debuts last week. If Weatherspoon was to miss the game, Stephen Nicholas would likely be start at weakside linebacker, as he did in the preseason when Weatherspoon was limited by a finger injury. That would likely lead the Falcons to utilize defensive end Kroy Biermann more as a strongside linebacker than defensive end. Nicholas did not play a single defensive snap last week due to the Falcons ability to play Biermann as well as their reliance on the nickel subpackage.

Also listed on the Falcons’ injury report as probable were safety Thomas DeCoud (knee), Jerry (knee), and Matthews (neck). All three players were limited in practice on Wednesday, but fully participated in both Thursday and Friday practices.

Notable injuries for the Rams include: tight end Cory Harkey (probable/knee), defensive end Chris Long (questionable/hip), cornerback Quinton Pointer (out/thigh), running back Daryl Richardson (probable/foot), and safety Darian Stewart (doubtful/thigh).

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 38 “How Much Money Did They Pay Baker?”

September 12th, 2013 Comments off

Allen and I recap our thoughts on the Atlanta Falcons Week 1 loss to the New Orleans Saints. Including our thoughts on the Falcons promising young corners … The play of the front four including how Osi Umenyiora stacks up against John Abraham … Akeem Dent’s coverage abilities … The play of tackles Lamar Holmes and Sam Baker and if/when a change could be made up front … Steven Jackson’s performance in his first game as a Falcon … Harry Douglas’ Ascension to Stardom … Later we switch our attention to the Falcons Week 2 matchup against the St. Louis Rams which include: What Matchup issues Chris Long and Robert Quinn might present to the Falcons OL … How crowd noise can benefit the Falcons at home … Cortland Finnegan and a young Rams secondary’s ability to match up against the Falcons receivers … The Falcons pass rush and how it might affect the game … Whether Asante Samuel is needed to help bottle up the explosive Rams receivers … At the end, we re-hash their opinions on other Week 1 performances including their observations from both Monday Night Football games, as well as Lavonte David, Pittsburgh Steelers, etc.

Ep. 38: How Much Money Did They Pay Baker? [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 19 minutes

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

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

Mike Smith: Roddy Will Play on Sunday

September 11th, 2013 Comments off
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Roddy White

The Falcons announced their injury report for Wednesday, which included wide receiver Roddy White who did not practice due to the high ankle sprain he suffered in the preseason. Jay Adams of AtlantaFalcons.com quotes Falcons head coach Mike Smith:

We kept Roddy out and, again, he’s the guy that played for us (last) week and we anticipate that he’ll play this coming week.

The Falcons will face the St. Louis Rams on Sunday, coming fresh off their Week 1 loss to the New Orleans Saints.

When White initially went down with his injury in the Falcons’ second preseason contest against the Baltimore Ravens, it was expected that White would be ready to play in the season opener against the Saints. He did play on Sunday, but was limited to 37 snaps (per Pro Football Focus). Per White, he was supposed to play only 10-15 snaps against the Saints. Initially labeled a low-ankle sprain, on Sunday it was revealed that the injury was in fact the more severe high ankle sprain.

White was limited to just two catches for 19 yards with limited mobility and burst. Since being a first round pick for the Falcons in 2005, White has never missed a game, now having logged 129 consecutive games played with the Falcons.

The Falcons worked out a trio of free agent wide receivers yesterday in Courtney Roby, Mohamed Massaquoi, and Lavelle Hawkins according to Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post. Likely in preparation for the possibility that White may sit out the game.

Roby, 30, is a former Saint that played primarily as a special teams player and kickoff returner since 2008. During that span, he only caught a pair of passes for 15 yards. He was cut at the end of camp by the Saints.

Massaquoi, 26, was a second round pick with the Cleveland Browns in 2009 out of the University of Georgia. He signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars this past off-season, but was released midway through camp. He spent little more than a week with the New York Jets before being released a second time. Over four disappointing seasons with the Browns, he started 43 games and caught 118 passes for 1,745 yards (14.8 avg) and 7 touchdowns. He is cousins with current Falcons defensive end Jonathan Massaquoi.

Hawkins, 27, is a former fourth round pick with the Tennessee Titans in 2008 out of California. He had several lackluster seasons. Most of his production came in 2011, where he finished fourth on the team with 47 receptions for 470 yards (10.0 avg) and a touchdown. Like Massaquoi, he has already been cut a couple of times this past year. He was initially released by the Titans in May, before spending the next three months with the New England Patriots before getting purged at the start of training camp. He was picked up by the San Francisco 49ers and was productive during the preseason with 7 catches for 104 yards and a touchdown, but was cut at the end of camp thanks to some mental breakdowns in their preseason finale.

Also listed on the Falcons’ injury report were defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux, offensive tackle Sam Baker, and wide receiver Julio Jones as not having participated on Wednesday due to various kneel ailments. Safety Thomas DeCoud, defensive tackle Peria Jerry, and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon were also limited on Wednesday due to knee injuries. Defensive end Cliff Matthews (neck) and cornerback Asante Samuel (thigh) were also limited. Samuel was inactive on Sunday due to his lingering thigh injury suffered during the summer.

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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How the Falcons Scheme for Jimmy Graham

September 4th, 2013 Comments off
Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

Jimmy Graham drags Stephen Nicholas

One of the things that stood out in the Falcons two matchups against the New Orleans Saints last year was how different the two games were in regards to Saints tight end Jimmy Graham’s performances. In the first contest, a loss for the Falcons in the SuperDome, Graham was the best player on the field for the Saints passing attack, finishing with a team-leading 146 yards on 7 catches. He scored a pair of touchdowns and also caught a 46-yard pass that set up what proved to be the Saints’ game-sealing field goal. But in the second game, where the Falcons won in the Georgia Dome, Graham was marginalized. He caught only a single pass in the first half, and was held out of the endzone on a total of 4 catches for 59 yards. Those numbers are even made more impressive by the fact that over the course of the second game, Drew Brees dropped back to pass 18 more times, thus giving Graham much more opportunity to pad his stats. In the first game, Brees targeted Graham on roughly a quarter of his dropbacks (8 targets, 33 dropbacks), but that was more than halved in the second game (6 targets, 51 dropbacks).

What changed? A variety of factors could be considered for why the Falcons were much more effective at covering Graham the second time around. Part of it was venue. While Graham’s numbers home versus away the past two seasons as a starter are similar, with only minor variations in receptions and yards, he has managed to catch nearly twice as many touchdown passes at home (13) than he does on the road (7). The Falcons also got a lot more pressure on Drew Brees in the second game, which had him rattled from his five interceptions. When you’re throwing it so much to the other team, it’s hard to complete passes to your top target. But the biggest takeaway I had was how Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan changed his approach for dealing with Graham.

There’s no doubt that Graham is the centerpiece of the Saints passing attack. While Marques Colston is technically their No. 1 receiver, Graham is such a difficult matchup problem due to his speed, size, and athleticism that defenses must focus the majority of their attention on him or else fear getting burned. If Nolan wasn’t aware of this fact prior to the Falcons first matchup against the Saints last year, he certainly became acquainted with that notion during the game. The Falcons appeared in the second contest to have a much more concerted effort to contain Graham.

Nolan mixed up his looks with how he dealt with Graham. The Falcons rolled a lot of their coverages to Graham in the middle of the field, with both safeties Thomas DeCoud and William Moore not being far from Graham on most snaps. DeCoud drew a number of one-on-one assignments against Graham in the first half of the game. In the second half, the Falcons switched it up by putting linebacker Stephen Nicholas on him more often than not. But either safety wasn’t far.

This sort of blanket coverage put other Falcon defenders in tougher situations as they couldn’t consistently rely on safety help. Asante Samuel left that game early with an injury, and was replaced by Chris Owens. Owens had one of his best performances in that game. Robert McClain was often matched up against Marques Colston in the slot, and handled him effectively. Sean Weatherspoon was tasked with trying to deal with the explosive Darren Sproles for much of the game, and had his share of struggles there.

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Reactions to Falcons-Ravens

August 16th, 2013 5 comments
Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Peter Konz stood out against Baltimore

Just like last week, I’ll post my reactions to the Falcons’ performances in their second preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens. For the most part, I thought the Falcons had a good performance. Here I’ll try to recount the performances of as many players on the roster as possible and some basic conclusions about how it could effect the roster and potentially the season.

Quarterback

What I Saw: Ryan saw some pressure in this game, but again the Falcons gameplan with the starters was to try and keep him from getting hit with some quick throws and reads. Ryan made several nice throws downfield in this game, hitting Jones on a 32-yarder. Davis played better in this game, but it appeared the Falcons were definitely trying to help him out with their play-calling. He didn’t make a read downfield until his fourth throw to Coffman near the end of the first half. Outside that throw and the throw to Drew Davis that he fumbled at the end of the first half, Dominique Davis didn’t make any throws that were more than 5 or so yards in this game. He made some good throws and some nice runs to keep the offense in rhythm, but his solid play seemed to be more a result of Koetter’s play-calling than Davis really playing at a high level. Renfree entered the game at the end of the third quarter and was erratic. He made a couple of nice throws that were dropped. He appeared much more willing to throw the ball downfield as only a few of his throws were 5 or less yards. His accuracy was too erratic however, but I like the willingness to pull the trigger on downfield throws, a desirable trait in an NFL quarterback.

Conclusion?: No Seth Doege in this game, which means it’s highly doubtful he sticks on the team or practice squad. I think Koetter’s defense of Davis earlier this week and his play-calling indicates the team is intent on using Davis as the No. 2 and are willing to work harder to make him look better. Renfree appears set as the No. 3 and I didn’t see anything in this game to suggest that the pair should flip spots. But it’ll be interesting to see how their battle unfolds next summer, which will hopefully be the next time we see them hit the field once the regular season starts.

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