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Falcons Cut Eleven, Two Put on IR

August 30th, 2013 Comments off

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Banks

The Falcons announced initial cuts as the team works its way down to the league-mandated 53-man roster limit by tomorrow. The Falcons waived eleven players and placed two on injured reserve. The injured players were quarterback Sean Renfree and tight end Andrew Szczerba. They will need to make nine more moves before tomorrow’s 6 pm deadline.

The eleven players released included linebackers Brian Banks and Pat Schiller, guard Theo Goins, defensive tackles Neal Huynh and Micanor Regis, cornerbacks Terrence Johnson and Peyton Thompson, safety Charles Mitchell, offensive tackle Alec Savoie, kicker Jeremy Shelley, and running back Ronnie Wingo. Besides Johnson and Mitchell, all of the players waived today remain eligible for the team’s eight-man practice squad which is set to be established on Sunday.

Banks was signed by the Falcons this off-season after spending the better part of the past decade incarcerated due to false rape conviction. Schiller spent last year on the Falcons’ practice squad after a strong preseason, but was passed this summer by Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu. Regis and Thompson also spent last season with the Falcons on their practice squad. Huynh, Savoie, Shelley, and Wingo were undrafted rookies signed this past spring. Johnson was briefly with the team last season before being added to a future contract at the end of the season. Mitchell was a sixth round pick in 2012 and played ten games as a reserve last season.

Renfree was a seventh round pick for the team this past April and suffered an injury to his throwing shoulder last night during the third quarter of the game. Renfree injured his throwing arm in his final collegiate game. Szczerba also was injured during last night’s game as well with an undisclosed leg injury.

Training Camp: Day 13 Report

August 11th, 2013 Comments off

Today represents the team’s final day of training camp open to the public. The Falcons won’t actually break camp until next weekend. After a day off following the team’s preseason loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, the Falcons returned to practice on Saturday. Here is what was reported:

  • Jay Adams took over for Daniel Cox in highlighted five takeaways from Saturday’s practice. Those include Paul Worrilow’s Thursday night performance against the Bengals, Julio Jones’ return to practice, the play of the Falcons young corners, as well as thoughts from Asante Samuel and Kroy Biermann.
  • Robert James was held out of practice, presumably due to an undisclosed injury he suffered in Thursday night’s matchup that limited him to only five snaps.
  • It appears the Falcons are trying to figure out ways to get both Jacquizz Rodgers and Steven Jackson on the field at the same time:

  • The official site posted Mike Smith’s transcript from his post-practice interview. Smith highlighted the two rookie corners, Matt Bosher, Lamar Holmes and Ryan Schraeder. Also spoke on Peter Konz’s play and Brian Banks’ progress. He also mentioned that newly signed offensive tackle Jeff Nady will get work at right tackle.

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 34 “Everything Bengals”

August 10th, 2013 Comments off

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

Ep. 34: Everything Bengals [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 6 minutes

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

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

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

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, and be sure to rate us there! You can also subscribe directly to our feed at the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/falcfans/LXSt

Reactions to Falcons-Bengals (Defense)

August 9th, 2013 Comments off

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Banks got his first football action in a decade

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

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

Defensive End

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

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

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Five Falcons to Watch Tonight vs. Bengals

August 8th, 2013 Comments off
Phil Sears-US PRESSWIRE

Dominique Davis

You might have thought I cheated by putting six Falcon players, but I didn’t. I have five Falcons and one Bengal. And watching that one Bengal will allow you to watch multiple Falcon players. But these are a handful of Falcons that I think certainly deserve to draw a lot of eyeballs in tonight’s preseason opener against the Cincinnati Bengals.

QB Dominique Davis

Matt Ryan may only see a series or two in the preseason opener if anything, which should give Davis a lot of work with the starters. While he won’t have Julio Jones or Tony Gonzalez to throw to, he should get plenty of time with players like Harry Douglas and Chase Coffman, as well as many of the Falcons starters up front, a considerable uptick from what he was predominantly working with last preseason as the fourth string quarterback to start off. If Davis picks up where he left off last summer, he’s well on his way to locking down the No. 2 spot behind Matt Ryan.

OT Lamar Holmes/Ryan Schraeder

Holmes will get the start at right tackle. I would not be surprised to see Holmes get the brunt of the work in the first half and give way to Schraeder at some point in the second or third quarter. I also would not be surprised for the Falcons to pull the plug fairly early on Sam Baker at left tackle, and give Schraeder reps on the left side in the first half, so the possibility that they can evaluate both Schraeder and Holmes at the same time. The Bengals front line is a formidable unit, and with ends like Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap, all of the Falcons tackles will have their backs against the wall. Luckily for them, it’s doubtful that they will see either starter for extended reps.

MLB Brian Banks

Tonight’s game will mark Banks’ first real football action in a decade since he was falsely incarcerated as a top high school prospect. Banks has received plenty of work in recent months with the Falcons, but ostensibly when he hits the field he will be even rawer than your typical rookie due to all the time and learning lost. While the expectation won’t be that Banks will be a monster his first game in, it will be important for him to try and limit the mental errors he makes. And if he can make a couple of plays here and there, particularly against the run, that will be a bonus.

CB Desmond Trufant

I suspect Trufant will get the start at right corner. It’s a shame that Bengals wideout A.J. Green will be out of the lineup since Trufant would get an opportunity to test himself against one of the league’s best. Or at least another opportunity, since he gets two of those opportunities every day in practice going against Jones and Roddy White. Instead he should get plenty of work against the Bengals new de facto No. 1 receiver in the absence of Green which is Mohamed Sanu. Well, he was likely to see a lot of Sanu regardless, since he is the receiver that typically lines up against the right side. Sanu isn’t the fastest receiver, but he’s got good size and athleticism which allows him to make plays on the ball even when you have him blanketed. That should be a good first test for Trufant as he prepares to get ready for Marques Colston and Lance Moore in Week 1.

TE Tyler Eifert

I mention Eifert because he’s likely to get extended reps in his first preseason action. The 6’6″ 250 first round pick has had a strong camp and will be a difficult matchup for the Falcons starting linebackers, let alone the backups. With Sean Weatherspoon out of the lineup, it will be a good opportunity for Akeem Dent to showcase any abilities he possesses in coverage. And certainly if any of the reserves fare well if/when matched up on an island against Eifert, it could greatly benefit their chances of making the Falcons final roster. Essentially you’re watching Eifert to see which Falcon defender is covering him on that given play.

Training Camp: Day 2 Report

July 27th, 2013 Comments off

Here’s the buzz and news that emerged on the second day of Falcons camp. Once again, hat tip to the AJC for providing a transcript of some of the post-practice interviews.

    • The Falcons added Syracuse wide receiver Marcus Sales to the roster. Sales tried out with the Falcons following the draft, but went unsigned as an undrafted free agent. Sales finished his career at Syracuse strong, with career highs of 64 catches, 882 yards (13.8 avg), and 8 touchdowns.
    • The Falcons also named another addition to their training camp roster.
    • Brian Banks clearly appreciated the magnitude of the moment and situation he has earned for himself during his first practice with the team on Thursday.
    • Knox Bardeen indicated that rookie cornerbacks Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford looked a little green during their first day. It seems their struggles continued on Day 2, as they continue to take their lumps against one of the NFL’s premier receiving duos in Roddy White and Julio Jones.

    • Daniel Cox of Atlanta Falcons.com gives five excellent observations from the second day of camp, including Steven Jackson’s usage in the passing game, Drew Davis and Kevin Cone’s progress at wide receiver in their third seasons with the team, Trufant and Alford’s abilities to have short memories when it comes to getting beat in coverage, Kroy Biermann’s continued usage as a “joker” in Mike Nolan’s defense, and Chase Coffman’s ability to benefit from Tony Gonzalez’s absence.
    • Matt Ryan doesn’t mind that Gonzalez will being getting time off from camp due to the strong rapport the pair have built over the past four seasons. Ryan spent some time with Gonzalez in Southern Cali to strengthen their bonds this off-season. And Ryan likes the opportunity it presents him to get some of the other tight ends involved, echoing Cox’s sentiments about Coffman.
    • Ryan also feels that Peter Konz is off to a good start in his transition to center, where he is more comfortable. Given the switch over to Konz at center, left guard Justin Blalock is taking on more of a leadership role with the offensive line as they tried to build continuity given the departure of 13-year veteran Todd McClure.

Camp Battles 2013: Linebacker

July 20th, 2013 1 comment
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Banks will be the center of attention this summer

The Falcons are set in regards of their three starters at the linebacker position. Stephen Nicholas, Akeem Dent, and Sean Weatherspoon all return to man the strongside, middle, and weakside linebacker spots, respectively.

The battle that could occur however among them is to see who lines up beside Weatherspoon in the team’s nickel subpackage. Nicholas filled the spot in 2012, but Dent is expected to man the job in 2013 after Nicholas had an unimpressive season in coverage. To put in bluntly, Dent’s inability to take the gig this summer would be nothing short of an abject failure on his part given his superior athleticism and youth.

The bigger questions that will come at linebacker will be which players fill depth roles. The Falcons carried five linebackers on their roster last year. They can get away with that since several of their defensive ends such as Kroy Biermann and Jonathan Massaquoi also double as outside linebackers in several of their packages.

Robert James is the lone candidate that actually made the roster last year, spending his year working on special teams where he was effective. Last season actually marked the first time that James actually made the Falcons opening day roster after being a fifth round pick in 2008. He has spent most of his previous years off and on the practice squad. The Falcons clearly have managed to keep James around for a reason, meaning he still stands a good chance to be back in 2013. He flashed good speed and range last summer, in what was certainly his most impressive preseason. But his ability to stick may depend less on his own play, but more on whether other candidates emerge.

That includes Pat Schiller, who had a strong preseason a year ago to make the team’s practice squad. Schiller has a good head on his shoulders and offers potential to add depth at all three linebacker spots if need be. If he can showcase that he’s a capable special teams player, then he stands a very good shot at making the final 53.

But much of the attention will be focused on Brian Banks, the player with the remarkable comeback story that had him falsely imprisoned for years after being one of the top high school linebackers in the nation years ago. Banks will be competing for a reserve middle linebacker spot. If Banks makes the team it likely won’t be because he’s expected to impact on defense, but because of his potential value on special teams. There is no doubt that Banks is a project given the fact that he never played college football, but he certainly would be a feel-good story for the franchise which frankly gives him an edge if the competition is close.

The other linebacker options include three undrafted rookies in Joplo Bartu, Nick Clancy, and Paul Worrilow. Bartu played defensive end in college, while Clancy hails from the Boston College pipeline that has put a few linebackers in the league the past few years. Worrilow is an athletic specimen from Delaware. All three have decent odds of making the roster if they can impress on special teams, but more than likely they will be practice squad candidates.

Due to the lack of established depth, linebacker remains a position the Falcons could potentially address at the end of camp when cuts are made. More than likely the Falcons will be looking for a player that can provide the same value that Mike Peterson did a year ago, which is to be able to add depth at multiple positions as well as contribute on special teams. Among the players currently on the roster, Schiller offers the best potential to fill that role, but if he doesn’t step up and inspire confidence in the team they could look elsewhere.

Takeaways from Last Week – July 1

July 1st, 2013 Comments off
The Sun Chronicle/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports

Hernandez is arraigned in court

Obviously the big news of last week surrounds New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who was indeed arrested and charged with the murder of Odin Lloyd.

Personally, I’m already tired of the story. But I can’t blame the media for doing their job. I noted on twitter that the media’s coverage of this has annoyed me, with the minute-by-minute updates about every little thing. I compared it to the coverage of Vick when he was arrested, which I recalled was extensive but not to the level that Hernandez’s case is now. And then I realized that it had everything to do with social media. Twitter was only in its fledgling stage back in the summer of 2007, with estimates that in April of 2007 (when Vick story first broke) there were about 50,000 active weekly users. Twitter just announced a few months ago, that figure was over 200 million. That’s 4,000 times as many tweets being sent out over a six-year period of growth.

My problem with it stems from watching shows like Law & Order. They arrest a character and then the next scene is typically the trial. There is a long gap between those events, typically months and/or years in our justice system yet producers and writers know that makes for poor television. We’re in the midst of that with Hernandez. When he goes to trial, then maybe I’ll care about the daily developments. But until then, I could do without eight different sportswriters blogging about every minute detail of his bond, bail, cars getting impounded, etc.

One of the issues the NFL faces in light of this series of events is their image issue. You have a lot of blowhards in the media suggesting that the league has a crime/gang/violence problem. The league doesn’t have any of that. Hernandez and the players that have had recent run-ins with the law (e.g. Ausar Walcott, Josh Brent, Adam Jones, Joe Lefeged) literally represent about 1% of the players in the National Football League currently. The reality is that every year in the time between minicamps and OTAs in June and when camps open in late July, some players will get into trouble. Face it, you have twenty somethings with disposable income having a month off work, and it’s going to lead to some of them getting into trouble. It would be no different than if you handed out 6 and 7-figured salaries to any group of men between the ages of 21 and 30. And I’d probably bet you that non-athletes would be far more troublesome in said situation.

The issue of course is that this year, you happen to have one of those players charged with murder. And it’s not just anybody. It’s one of the best players on one of the best teams in the league. So it becomes a very big blip on people’s radar screens, probably bigger than it deserves. Not to suggest that the murder of Odin Lloyd is not a big deal. But I certainly don’t believe this is an issue that is suddenly systemic of the NFL as a whole.

What will be interesting is to see how Roger Goodell and the league handles this issue. They are going to find a way to “protect the shield” as the perception of the league is largely negative at this point in time. Goodell is essentially the CEO of a multi-billion dollar corporation. And corporations like that don’t liken any publicity is good publicity. I don’t know what actions they’ll take, but I’m certain some are forthcoming.

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