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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 74 “The 80th Time”

August 19th, 2014 No comments

Allen and I are joined by The Falcoholic, Dave Choate, to discuss the current state of the Atlanta Falcons following their disappointing preseason performance against the Houston Texans. We discuss the Falcons offensive tackle situation and possible solutions in light of Sam Baker’s injury. Our discussion centers around whether the Falcons current options on the roster: Lamar Holmes and Gabe Carimi, can solidify the spot or does the team need more help. We then get into discussion of the returns of Corey Peters and Dwight Lowery; Kroy Biermann’s waning popularity; and roster battles involving Prince Shembo, Tyson Jackson and Malliciah Goodman. Dave departs, allowing Allen and myself to get into our usual around the league discussion.

Episode 74 – The 80th Time [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 5 minutes

Allen covers the Falcons for Pro Football Spot. His twitter handle is: @Allen_Strk.

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

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

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, and be sure to rate us there! For Android users, DoubleTwist is a good app to listen as well. You can also subscribe directly to our feed at the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/falcfans/LXSt

Five Falcon Players to Watch Tonight vs. Texans

August 16th, 2014 No comments

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Sam Baker

Unlike last week where the focus was on several young players trying to carve out roles with the team, this week’s Atlanta Falcons players to keep eyes on are mostly established veterans. That is because the Falcons starters will likely play at least the entire first quarter tonight against the Houston Texans. It will be their most extensive action thus far and should be more informative about whether or not certain roster positions and players are ready to assume significant roles this season.

Sam Baker

Baker was arguably the team’s best blocker among their starting five against the Miami Dolphins last week, but will face a significant test against rookie edge-rusher Jadeveon Clowney on Saturday.

While Clowney is far from a proven playmaker in only his second NFL game, he does present a significant challenge for a player like Baker, who throughout his career has struggled against players with top-level speed and quickness off the line. That certainly can be said of Clowney even at this point in his career, and it will be notable if Baker can perform well against him in this game. He had a good two days of practice against Clowney this past week, and we’ll have to see if that carries over into the game tonight.

Read more…

Falcons 2014 Training Camp: Day 15 Report

August 13th, 2014 No comments
David J. Phillip/From AJC.com

Roddy White, Arian Foster (middle) and Andre Johnson. From AJC.com

Let’s take a look at the various tweets, articles, reports, news and rumors that surfaced from the 15th day of Atlanta Falcons training camp earlier today:

The Falcons held combined practices with the Houston Texans today in Houston. Much of the focus centered on the battles in the trenches, where Falcons linemen faced Texans pass-rushers in J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney.

Left tackle Sam Baker fared pretty well when going against the rookie Clowney, although they had a bit of a back and forth.

Rookie right tackle Jake Matthews was able to go against both Clowney and Watt. Matthews had his Hall of Fame father, Bruce and other family members on hand to witness the action. Jake’s little brother Luke, might be following the family tradition.

Not to be left out of the action, backup right tackle Ryan Schraeder seemed to also relish his opportunities to square off with Clowney. Left guard Justin Blalock on the other hand, did not fare quite as well against Watt, getting beat a couple of times. Blalock was not alone, as his backup Mike Johnson also struggled.

Along with the Matthews family, several local Falcon players had the support of nearby family members at practice including defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux and running back Jacquizz Rodgers. Linebacker Joplo Bartu will have a family reunion of sorts at Saturday’s game against the Texans.

Outside the trenches, the Falcons-Texans practice featured a few new Falcons mixing it up with a few former Falcons. Fullback Maurice Hagens is making his bid for a roster spot by getting after it with linebacker Akeem Dent. Matthews also go to work against defensive end Lawrence Sidbury.

Running back Devonta Freeman is showing strides in pass protection, the key to unlocking more playing time this season.

Free safety Dwight Lowery also got to mix it up with some real contact after missing time with a concussion.

The team also welcomed back Tim Dobbins against his former team today. Dobbins had missed the past few days with an ankle injury suffered in the Falcons win over the Miami Dolphins last Friday night.

Jay Adams has the usual five things we learned from practice.

Vaughn McClure of ESPN has the skinny on other noteworthy observations from today’s session.

On the opposite side of the coin, ESPN Texans blog writer Tania Ganguli noticed how a few Texans corners matched up against Falcons wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones. As far as Texans fans are concerned, today’s practice saw the return of several key players. That includes Falcons quarterback T.J. Yates, who is still loved by a segment of Texans fans. The Texans also put out video of today’s practice.

2014 Falcons Preseason Stock Report – Week 1

August 12th, 2014 No comments
Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Kemal Ishmael

This is my second instance of trying to access which Atlanta Falcons players have raised their stock or lowered their stock through the early part of the summer. Unlike before which was based off the first week of training camp practices, we now have a preseason game to incorporate.

STOCK UP

RB Antone Smith

Smith’s performance against the Miami Dolphins was a standout one where he was able to flash big-play potential on a run and a pass, if not for the fact that both were nullified by penalties. His first, a 34-yard catch on a simple checkdown was wiped out by an illegal formation penalty on wide receiver Harry Douglas. On that play, Smith made a simple catch over the middle, but was able to use his speed to outrun angles by Dolphins linebackers for the big gain. His next big play came in the second quarter, where he burst off the right side of the line, juked a defender and then outran the Dolphins defense on a 76-yard sprint to the endzone. That was held up due to a holding call on right tackle Jake Matthews. But despite the penalties, the plays have the Falcons exploring ways in which they can have Smith be a regular part of the Falcons offense this season.

Read more…

2014 Falcons Training Camp Stock Report – Week 1

August 2nd, 2014 No comments
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Julio Jones is spectacular

It’s been more than a full week since the Atlanta Falcons conducted their first practice of training camp last Friday, July 25. It’s now time to take stock on what we’ve seen over the past eight days.

STOCK UP

DT Travian Robertson

I can honestly say that I’ve been a fan of Robertson for some time. He’s popped out in each of the past two preseasons, and I even considered him a lock to make the roster a year ago. Yet it never translates to playing time for Robertson during the season. Lawrence Sidbury seemingly suffered from the same fate in Atlanta, and it would be a shame if it happened to Robertson. But he’s done his best to pop to several observers with dominant performances against centers Joe Hawley and Peter Konz in one-on-one pass-rush drills. And it’s also fair to say that Robertson’s chances of sticking improve with the recent retirement of defensvie tackle Peria Jerry. The Falcons will likely be looking to spell nose tackle Paul Soliai in many pass-rush situations. Corey Peters would be an obvious option there since he played that exact role last season in Atlanta, but he’s recovering from an Achilles tear. There are optimistic reports that Peters will be healthy Week 1, but if not, then Robertson could fill the void behind Soliai.

WR Julio Jones

I have to be honest a second time. I did not expect Julio Jones to be as good as he’s been this early in camp. When reports came out in early June that Jones was expecting to play Week 1, it hinted that he might see little or no action during the preseason. And that may prove true when it comes to actual games, but Jones is at least seeing a fair bit of action in practice. Jones is on the one day on, one day off practice schedule. The Falcons know that he is the biggest factor in the team’s overall success this season, and don’t want to risk re-injury. Jones has lit up every practice he’s appeared in, which has been four so far. Read more…

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 71 “All About the Roster”

July 28th, 2014 No comments

FalcFans.comAllen and I are back to discuss the state of the Atlanta Falcons roster, including recent changes involving Pat Angerer and Darius Johnson. Then we compare notes with Vaughn McClure of ESPN’s projection of the Falcons final roster before discussing upcoming ideas about future podcast episodes, the Falcons Mount Rushmore and Jevon Kearse.

Episode 71: All About the Roster [Download]

Duration: 1 hour

Allen covers the Falcons for Pro Football Spot. His twitter handle is: @Allen_Strk. You can check out Allen’s Mount Rushmore article here.

Vaughn’s roster projection discussed in the podcast can be found clicking here. Since recording the episode however, Vaughn has released an updated roster projection here.

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! For Android users, DoubleTwist is a good app to listen as well. You can also subscribe directly to our feed at the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/falcfans/LXSt

Atlanta Falcons Training Camp Preview 2014: Linebacker

July 22nd, 2014 No comments

Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Joplo Bartu

There are a lot of questions surrounding the Atlanta Falcons linebacker position, with a number of unproven players being asked to contribute larger roles in 2014.

For the Falcons, things took a turn for the worse when linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, the unit’s leader and best player, was injured in June with a torn Achilles. Weatherspoon’s loss has forced the team to look in the others’ directions to compensate.

Much of the void left by Weatherspoon is expected to be filled by middle linebacker Paul Worrilow. Among the three projected starters, Worrilow is the most solidified in his role. As a second-year player, he will have to take on a much larger mantle, becoming the unit’s top playmaker and leader on defense.

While Worrilow possesses the necessary traits for leadership, it remains to be seen if he can perform up to them. Worrilow came out strong last summer as an undrafted free agent to make the team, and this summer will need a similar emergence to lead the team.

Strong-side outside linebacker Kroy Biermann is expected to return from his own Achilles injury to flank Worrilow on the edge. After using Biermann as a bit of a “joker” player in his first season under defensive coordinator Mike Nolan in 2012, the team moved him fully to linebacker last summer. But Biermann was injured too early in the season to know if that transition was successful. Thus, he’ll have to prove himself again this summer.

Beside Worrilow at the other inside position that is expected to replace Weatherspoon is Joplo Bartu. Bartu, a 2013 undrafted free agent like Worrilow, also quickly impressed the coaching staff last summer with his range and athleticism. He quickly carved out a role in the sub-packages due to his coverage potential, and relative to his undrafted status as a rookie, played well in 2013. But there have been recent concerns over whether the coaching staff is ready to place the same amount of trust in him this year.

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Ranking the Falcons 2014: No. 27 Joplo Bartu

July 17th, 2014 Comments off

Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Joplo Bartu

I’m counting down the top 40 players on the Atlanta Falcons, and let’s continue with 27th-ranked player: linebacker Joplo Bartu.

To read the methodology I devised to rank the Falcons players, click here.

Total Score: 50/100

Last year’s rank: N/A
Player Grade: 52/100
Teams he is starter: 12 out of 32
Teams he is best position player: 0 out of 32
Teams he is role player: 21 out of 32
Peak-Year Bonus: +4
Positional Bonus: +3

Bartu essentially came from nowhere last season as an undrafted rookie who carved out a quick role in the team’s linebacker rotation, almost immediately stealing snaps in nickel situations from linebacker Stephen Nicholas.

And he wound up having a pretty solid rookie season in 2013 given his humble origins. But now, he will be asked to do a lot more given that Sean Weatherspoon is out for the season. Bartu is the main candidate currently on the roster expected to replace Weatherspoon and if he isn’t up to the task, the Falcons lack viable alternatives.

But there should be a great deal of confidence that Bartu will be ready. While Bartu lacks Weatherspoon’s natural gifts and experience, he is no slouch as the team’s second best athlete at linebacker. With capable hips and very good short-area closing speed, Bartu has what it takes to be an effective two-way linebacker versus both the run and pass. And given his history as a defensive end in college, there’s little doubt he can be an effective blitzer (3.5 sacks in 2013).

Bartu had some early growing pains last year, notably a breakdown in coverage against the Miami Dolphins that was arguably the back-breaking play for the Falcons in the final minutes. But as the season wore on, his play improved to the point that over the final few games when Weatherspoon was officially out for the season, Bartu was arguably the team’s best linebacker.

Bartu will carry a heavy burden in 2014, but it will be his opportunity to show that he has the potential to be a long-term fixture in the Falcons starting lineup.

It’s not to say that he’s expected to take his rightful place among the league’s best linebackers in 2014, but if he can build off a solid rookie year while showing improvement and eliminating some mistakes, then there’s a lot of promise that Bartu will become a familiar name to Falcons fans for years to come.

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Atlanta Falcons Takeaways from Last Week – June 16, 2014

June 16th, 2014 Comments off
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Sean Weatherspoon

Once again, the Atlanta Falcons have lost linebacker Sean Weatherspoon to a major injury. This time it is for the rest of 2014 due to a torn Achilles heel which he suffered last Tuesday during practice.

There seems to be three presiding theories on what Weatherspoon’s impending absence will mean to the Falcons.

There’s the conservative theory that losing Spoon is not a huge loss. The presences of second-year linebackers in Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu will allow the Falcons defense to navigate the loss of its leader to a competent level.

This theory makes sense given Worrilow and Bartu had to perform the same task a year ago as undrafted rookies. They certainly will be better prepared to fill Spoon’s shoes with a full year under their belts.

But it still does not adequately encompass the loss of Spoon on the field. Which creates the second theory: that Spoon’s absence will have a dramatic negative effect on the team’s defense in 2014.

That is also somewhat fair given the simple fact that neither Worrilow and Bartu are Sean Weatherspoon.

Falcons Have a Leadership Void That Needs to be Filled

Weatherspoon was the defensive leader for a reason. That being that he is one of the team’s best players on the field and has a natural outgoing personality that makes him capable of adopting a leadership role. Neither Worrilow nor Bartu are of Spoon’s talent level on the field, and while Worrilow especially, has shown solid leadership traits, he is not the defensive leader.

Leadership in the National Football League often comes simply from the fact that you’re the best player on the field. Leaders are supposed to rally the troops and when the team needs it and have to be the guys to step up in the face of adversity. Simply put, you can’t lead from the bench.

That being said, it would be more advantageous for the Falcons if Desmond Trufant was the second-year player that stepped up and took on a leadership role in Spoon’s absence versus either Worrilow or Bartu. Trufant was the team’s best defender a year ago and he’ll need to have possibly an even better second season to follow up. Other players like William Moore, Jonathan Babineaux, Osi Umenyiora, Kroy Biermann and Jonathan Massaquoi will also have to step up in the locker room as well as produce on the field.

Read more…

Weatherspoon Ruptures Achilles, Out for 2014 Season

June 10th, 2014 Comments off
Icon Sports Media, Inc.

Sean Weatherspoon

Today the Atlanta Falcons announced that linebacker Sean Weatherspoon ruptured his Achilles tendon and is expected to miss the entire 2014 season. Weatherspoon suffered the injury while running with the team’s training staff earlier today. Weatherspoon was in the process of rehabbing a knee injury that ended his 2013 season, having opted against offseason knee surgery to repair the injury. Weatherspoon also missed time in 2013 with a foot injury, which landed him on the teams’ short-term injured reserve for half the season.

Weatherspoon, nicknamed “Spoon,” is the team’s most vocal leader on defense and with the departure of Stephen Nicholas, was on the verge of becoming the “old man” of the linebacker group at the age 26. Spoon’s absence is a substantial blow to the position group as well as the defense as a whole.

In his absence, Joplo Bartu is likely to fill in as the team’s weak-side linebacker in their 4-3 sets, as well as inside when the team employs 3-4 looks. During Spoon’s early-season absence in 2013, Paul Worrilow filled in at that position but will be expected to start at middle linebacker in both sets this year. Spoon’s injury will open up opportunities for rookies like Marquis Spruill, Yawin Smallwood, and Prince Shembo, who is getting more looks at inside linebacker than outside. The injury also increases the chances that Akeem Dent, a bubble player, could stick on the team given the lack of experienced depth. The Falcons may seek to add veteran help to bolster the position given the relative youth and inexperience of the current players on the roster.

While the team is currently ruling out Spoon to play in 2014, it may be possible that he could return late in the season. San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree suffered an Achilles tear last season in late May and returned to the 49ers at the start of December, roughly missing six full months. In 2012, Baltimore Ravens pass-rusher Terrell Suggs tore his Achilles in early May and returned to the field in late October, again roughly a six-month absence. Such a prognosis would indicate that the earliest Spoon could return is mid-December, but given the fact that he was already not fully recovered from a knee injury likely throws such optimism out the window. Both Crabtree and Suggs were completely healthy at the time of their injuries.

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