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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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Ravens streak past Falcons in comeback

August 15th, 2013 Comments off
Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Torrey Smith bolts past Falcons defense for a score

The Falcons went up early against the Baltimore Ravens, but a late fourth quarter comeback led to their second loss of the preseason by a score of 27-23. The Falcons wound up blowing a 16-point lead in the second half.

Matt Ryan was solid despite seeing some pressure in this game, completing 8 of 15 passes for 97 yards and a touchdown. Dominique Davis came into the game in the second quarter, and finished the night completing 8 of 10 passes for 98 yards. Sean Renfree mopped up, completing 8 of 16 passes for 63 yards. On the ground, Steven Jackson was also solid with 42 yards gained on 8 carries. Josh Vaughan led Falcons rushers with 44 yards on 5 carries. Jacquizz Rodgers added 28 yards on 10 carries and a touchdown. Julio Jones shined with the starters, catching 3 passes for 55 yards and a touchdown. Darius Johnson led Falcons receivers with 6 grabs for a total of 50 yards. Drew Davis (4 catches, 45 yards), Antone Smith (2 catches, 40 yards), and Chase Coffman (3 catches, 30 yards) also made contributions in the Falcons’ passing attack. Matt Bryant connected on a 45-yard field goal, and Jeremy Shelley had a pair of field goals from 42 and 29 yards to give the Falcons their other scores. Matt Bosher punted six times for an average of 41.7 yards with 2 punts placed inside the 20-yard line. Robert Alford returned a pair of punts for 29 yards (14.5 avg) and Harry Douglas also returned a punt for 2 yards. All the Ravens kickoffs resulted in touchbacks. The Falcons were able to gain 255 yards of total offense in the first half, with 16 first downs and converted 4 of 8 third downs. They did not fare as strongly in the second half, with 167 total yards, 11 first downs and only 3 of 10 on third down conversions.

Defensively, the Falcons really bottled up the Ravens offense. While they gave up a pair of big plays for scores, the Ravens struggled to move the ball throughout the first three quarters. The Ravens’ starters played the entire first half, and only were able to accumulate 131 yards of total offense, 3 first downs, and converted only 1 of 5 third downs. In the second half, despite the big plays, the Falcons defense only allowed 118 yards of total offense. Paul Worrilow led defenders for the second consecutive game with 6 stops. He also added a sack and a tackle for loss. Among regulars, Jonathan Babineaux (3 tackles, 2 tackles for loss), Akeem Dent (2 tackles, 1 for loss); Robert McClain (3 tackles), and Asante Samuel (2 tackles, 1 interception) had standout performances. Among the backups, Joplo Bartu (3 tackles), Dominique Franks (no tackles, 1 interception, 3 passes defended), Kemal Ishmael (2 tackles), Charles Mitchell (2 tackles, 1 for loss), and Adam Replogle (2 tackles, 1 sack) had noteworthy games. Ishmael also added a pair of stops on special teams as well. The Falcons did give up a 78-yard punt return for a touchdown, the second score allowed in as many preseason games this summer.

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Ryan Has His Money, Now He Needs More Help

July 27th, 2013 Comments off
Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

Matt Ryan

Matt Ryan got paid, and deservedly so. While he may not have the accomplishments that put him on par with the other most highly-paid quarterbacks in the league, it certainly doesn’t make him any less deserving of being in that peer group.

And by accomplishments, we’re talking about playoff wins and Super Bowls.

Now that Ryan is being paid handsomely for his services with the Falcons, more scrutiny is going to come towards him even if he doesn’t feel it. Rightly or wrongly, quarterbacks are largely judged by how many playoff wins and Super Bowl rings they have.

I personally believe those things often get overrated when assessing individual quarterbacks. Postseason success is largely billed as reflective of quarterbacks, but it is in fact reflective of the entire team that he plays on. Teams win games, not necessarily quarterbacks. While quarterbacks are the most important aspect of a team, football is not like basketball where you can be a championship contender by having one transcendent player. Just look at Drew Brees in New Orleans, who by the way had zero playoff wins in his first five seasons (one less than Ryan). Brees has helmed the Saints for seven seasons, and three of those seasons the Saints did not finish with a record above .500. Their lack of success in those seasons was largely because of their poor defensive play which ranked among the ten worst teams in the league in all three seasons. Brees will ultimately be enshrined in Canton for his tenure with the Saints, but it’s clear that even a quarterback of his caliber can’t do it all on his own.

And that’s the point I’m getting to with Ryan. While the Falcons have rewarded Ryan with a resplendent contract, they need to get him more help if they hope that he ultimately will have greater postseason success moving forward.

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Ranking the Falcons: No. 7 Jonathan Babineaux

July 25th, 2013 Comments off
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Jonathan Babineaux

Coming in as the 7th-ranked player is Falcons defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux. Click here to read about how the scoring system for these rankings was devised.

Total Score: 82

Player Grade: 72 out of 100
Teams he could start for: 31 out of 32
Teams he is best position player: 23 out of 32
Teams he could find role on: 32 out of 32
Peak-Year Bonus: +0
Positional Bonus: +3

Babineaux finishes just a notch above Osi Umenyiora mainly because there is far less clutter at the top of the defensive tackle position around the league. So much so that there is only one team in the league, the Buffalo Bills, that has a pair of tackles that would force Babineaux to come off the bench.

Babineaux is not the player that he was a few years back. His 2009 season was one of the better seasons a Falcons defensive lineman has had in recent memory. But Babineaux is still a very good player, that shines at being disruptive. He was moved around a lot more last year in Mike Nolan’s defense, playing a lot of reps at defensive end. And unlike John Abraham, Babineaux adapted fairly well to his role. While the monster games from Babs are coming fewer and farther between, he still gives a relatively steady level of production each week.

Most of his production last year came during the middle portion of the year, an 8-game stint between Weeks 5 and 14 where Nolan started to use Babs more as an end in 3-man fronts. During that stint, he recorded 11 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, 5.5 pressures, and 3 quarterback hits. It should be noted that Babineaux finished with 14/3/7.5/4 in those categories, indicating he was very quiet in the other eight games he played last year.

The hope for the Falcons is that with a second year in Nolan’s system, the Falcons can get that higher level of production out of him for all sixteen games, or as many as possible. The Falcons will likely employ a steady mix of Babineaux playing end when they utilize a 3-man front, and kicking inside in 4-man fronts. Babineaux is entering the final year of his contract, and potentially his final year in Atlanta because of it. He’ll turn 32 in October and it’s going to be difficult for the Falcons to justify a long-term contract for him, comparable to how they dealt with Abraham following 2011. But if Babineaux can put up the sort of high-level of production he’s capable of doing this year, it will certainly make the Falcons think twice about letting him walk next season.

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Camp Battles 2013: Defensive Tackle

July 19th, 2013 Comments off
ICON SMI

Peria Jerry is on the bubble to make team

Like many other positions, there is no real concern over the starters at defensive tackle for the Falcons as Jonathan Babineaux and Corey Peters both return. Babineaux has been a fixture since the 2008 season, and Peters since 2010. Peters missed last summer with a foot injury that limited his effectiveness in 2012. He hopes to respond with a stronger year that can be buoyed into a long-term contract by the team.

The bigger questions at this position come in terms of the depth. The Falcons have already been linked to free agent Richard Seymour as a possible addition throughout the summer, although talks were broken off in June. Then, Seymour sounded like a player prepared to retire if no NFL team was willing to meet his price. The possibility still remains that Seymour could be signed to the team. If so, then he almost certainly will be the team’s top reserve at the position. If not, then there will be a fairly wide-open competition for the spot.

The incumbent is former first round pick Peria Jerry, who has had a disappointing career in Atlanta. Jerry becomes a potential candidate for release as the team could save nearly a million dollars against their 2013 cap by doing so. But that will only come if the team is comfortable with one of the other defensive tackles being the top backup at the position.

The likeliest player would be second-year Travian Robertson. Robertson garnered limited playing time last year, but had an impressive summer showcasing his ability to be a disruptive run defender and capable pass rusher. Also in the mix is Micanor Regis, who also had a good summer last year alongside Robertson. Regis is athletic and offers more size to plug the middle in run defense. He can potentially play a role at the nose tackle position when the Falcons incorporate more 3-man fronts on their defense.

But to unseat Jerry, at least one if not both are going to need to have strong summers. Robertson is as close to a lock to make the final roster, regardless of whether it’s as the third or fourth player in the rotation. At this point, Regis may be looking more at a practice squad spot. But the Falcons carried five defensive tackles last year on the roster (Vance Walker being the other), and Regis adds similar potential value to the unit as the bulky run defender like Walker.

Also in the mix will be undrafted rookies Adam Replogle and Neal Huynh. Replogle is an athletic player that offers potential as a pass rusher. Huynh is more of a run stopper that can add depth at nose tackle. Both players are longshots to make the final roster, but certainly will be prime candidates to make the practice squad.

The Falcons interest in Seymour indicates the possibility, if not likelihood that they could be looking for more help at this position by the end of summer even if Seymour isn’t picked up. If Seymour is the indicator, an established veteran that is well-versed in both a 3-4 and 4-3 defense would be a prime candidate.

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 31 “Thank God for Jake Delhomme”

July 2nd, 2013 6 comments

This week, Allen and I are once again joined by Tom Melton to discuss some of the upcoming roster and depth chart battles we expect to see in Atlanta Falcons training camp. We break down the battle along the right side of the offensive line as well as what could shake up with the battle for key depth positions at quarterback and tight end … We look at every level of the defense as battles rage at all the position groups. Tom weighs in on how Richard Seymour could help the Falcons … We discuss the depth at linebacker along with what if any of the young players could step up to help the Falcons pass rush … We dive into whether or not this year’s defensive line will live up to some past units and whether Falcon fans have been spoiled by past success up front … It wouldn’t be a Tom Melton episode without some patented Dunta Robinson bashing … We discuss their favorite young punter in the NFL and his name isn’t Matt Bosher … We discuss whether the loss of Tyson Clabo or John Abraham will hurt the team more and then reminisce on some of our favorite Predator moments over the years … Peter Konz’s future is discussed as well as Justin Blalock’s tuba playing … Jason Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers’ values are also discussed. Note: This episode does contain explicit language, so it is NSFW!

Ep. 31: Thank God for Jake Delhomme [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 3 minutes

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

Tom Melton can be found on twitter: @TMeltonScouting, and also writes for his own draft blog and NFL Draft Monsters.

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