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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 66 “Tear Down Your Hopes and Dreams”

May 13th, 2014 Comments off

Allen and I are joined by The Falcoholic contributor, Murf Baldwin, to discuss our thoughts on the Atlanta Falcons 2014 draft class. Murf gives a less than glowing assessment of the Falcons picks, including whether or not Ra’Shede Hageman and Dezmen Southward offered good value in the second and third rounds. We wonder whether or not the Falcons pass rush has been significantly improved and break down whether Devonta Freeman and their late-round picks add anything to the roster that wasn’t already there. Allen and I finish with a brief discussion of our hopes for the NBA playoffs, our usual around the league segment, as well as Allen’s explanation on why he could not make a triumphant return to Radio City Music Hall to witness the draft.

Episode 66 – Tear Down Your Hopes and Dreams [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 26 minutes

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

Murf writes for The Falcoholic, Roll Bama Roll and can be found on twitter: @MurfBaldwin.

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

Draft Needs: Falcons Looking to Replace Weatherspoon at Linebacker?

May 1st, 2014 Comments off

When you separate their need for a pass-rusher, the Atlanta Falcons appear relatively secure at linebacker. The unit is anchored by Sean Weatherspoon and the team got production from undrafted free agents Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu in 2013, with only room to get better in 2014.

But there may not be as much security as it initially seems. Weatherspoon is coming off an injury-filled season and is entering his contract year where he’ll be set to hit free agency in 2015. Worrilow and Bartu fared well for rookies, but are far from proven at the position.

The team also has Akeem Dent in the mix, adding depth and helping out on special team. But Dent has struggled the past two years when asked to start. And it’s telling in how quickly the Falcons pulled the plug on him as the starting middle linebacker last year in favor of Worrilow, given Dent’s much higher draft status. At this point, the team should only see Dent as an experienced backup in the event of another injury at the position.

The key is Weatherspoon, who is slowly recovering from a knee injury suffered late last year. Spoon also missed a significant portion of 2013 with a foot injury and whether or not he can stay healthy is an unanswered question. He has missed a total of 17 games due to injuries over four seasons with the Falcons. If Spoon comes back in 2014 and has a strong year and avoids injury, it’s likely the Falcons will look to re-sign him to a long-term contract to continue anchoring the defense. But if not, then the team may need to be prepared to move on.

Bartu flashed some things late in the year as a replacement for Spoon but he’s far from a proven commodity. Bartu has good athleticism, but needs to improve in his instincts and awareness for the position. He spent his rookie season primarily playing strong-side linebacker as an injury fill-in for Kroy Biermann, but could move to the weak side if the team is successful in adding an edge pass-rusher in the draft. But at this point Bartu remains a developmental option as opposed to someone that can be penciled in right now as a future starter.

Worrilow had a strong rookie year and showed excellent instincts and awareness given his youth and lack of experience. He will need to continue to get better as a tackler and in coverage to truly take that next step to becoming a trusted starter. But the presence of Dent behind him and the fact that he handled starting duties for an extended period last year should have the Falcons more confident in his future than that of Bartu.

Outside the current four, there are no other true linebackers on the roster. The Falcons will be in the market to add another insurance policy at the position, someone that not only adds depth but also is a potential candidate to be a starter in the near future.

The Falcons need another athletic linebacker that can play on passing downs, since that deficiency led to Dent’s benching as well as the eventual dismissals of Curtis Lofton and Stephen Nicholas.

Given that Spoon is a former first-round pick, any player taken in the middle rounds of the 2014 draft won’t be on the same plane athletically. But the higher said prospect is selected, the better an athlete he’s likely to be.

Any draft pick selected may be relegated mainly to special teams as a rookie, but in the event of Spoon’s departure in 2015, he should offer some potential to compete with Bartu for the vacated starting position. Ideally, Weatherspoon will have a great 2014 and any draft pick selected this year will be used as a capable backup in the event of another injury down the road.

Ultimately the Falcons can’t really control what happens in 2014 in terms of whether Spoon stays healthy, or whether Bartu and Worrilow take those next steps in their NFL development. The goal of adding a linebacker in the middle rounds of the 2014 draft is about giving themselves an insurance policy in case some or none of those things happen.

Team Needs: Falcons Need More Athletes at Linebacker

February 6th, 2014 1 comment

Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Joplo Bartu

The adversity the Atlanta Falcons faced at linebacker in 2013 should benefit the team in 2014.

The team was without stalwarts Stephen Nicholas and Sean Weatherspoon for much of last season. Nicholas dealt with injuries in training camp, and ultimately lost his job as the team looked at younger, more athletic options in Joplo Bartu at strong-side linebacker position. Weatherspoon missed most of the regular season with an injury, and it thrust Paul Worrilow into the limelight after a promising summer.

Both undrafted rookies, Bartu and Worrilow, got a wealth of experience playing significant roles with the team in 2013. So much so that it is very likely that both will open up this offseason in starting roles with Bartu manning the strong side and Worrilow starting in the middle as Weatherspoon resumes his duties at weak-side linebacker.

Now Nicholas has since been released, and the team is searching to upgrade their depth at linebacker. Particularly in Bartu, the Falcons finally got another “plus” athlete on the roster besides Weatherspoon, and needs to continue that trend into 2014. Nicholas could once be described that, but time and age really started to catch up to him in 2012 where he was continually abused by opposing tight ends. Despite the upgrade in terms of athleticism from Bartu, the Falcons still struggled to check opposing tight ends in 2013. But one hope is that with a year’s worth of experience under his belt, there will be improvement from Bartu moving forward.

Worrilow was so good as Weatherspoon’s replacement at weak-side linebacker that he eventually replaced Akeem Dent as the team’s starting middle linebacker roughly a third of the way through the season. While Dent did show improvement after a lackluster 2012 season, his limited speed, range, and coverage ability just proved to be too much of a liability. While not the world’s greatest athlete himself, Worrilow proved an upgrade in those areas. But more importantly, he was a far more instinctual defender in his first season in Atlanta than Dent had showed in three years. But Dent is expected to return and help out on special teams, an area where he’s excelled at in the past, and add depth in the middle.

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2013 Year-End Superlatives: Rookie of the Year

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

Desmond Trufant

After earning defensive most valuable player, cornerback Desmond Trufant is an obvious choice for Atlanta Falcons rookie of the year.

Not only did Trufant’s season far exceed any and all expectations for a rookie, but it also was a stellar season by veteran standards. He was constantly around the ball and finished the year with an official tally of 19 pass deflections, matching the production of Asante Samuel from last year, and the most by a Falcons cornerback since Brent Grimes had 23 in 2010.

Trufant showed top-shelf ball skills and was able to match wits with some of the league’s premier wide receivers like Vincent Jackson and Steve Smith, even earning the latter’s respect.

Other potential contenders would have been linebackers Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu. Frankly, Worrilow had the sort of season that would be universally considered rookie of the year material (127 tackles, 2 sacks) if not for exceptional play of Trufant.

Categories: Features Tags: , , ,

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 55 “2013 Awards Extravaganza!”

January 14th, 2014 1 comment

Allen and I get together once again to discuss our choices for various awards stemming from the Atlanta Falcons 2013 season. Included are our choices for the team’s most valuable player, offensive and defensive players of the year, most improved player, biggest disappointment, and most underrated and overrated players among several other individual honors. During the course of our discussion, I explain my hatred for Harry Douglas for the umpteenth time, and also where I rank Matt Ryan among the league’s top quarterbacks following his play in 2013. After divvying out our awards, we get into a discussion about the winners and losers from the second round of the playoffs, as well as our expectations for the upcoming conference championship games.

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 55 2013 Awards Extravaganza! [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 18 minutes

Allen writes for TJRSports.com as well as the Pro Football Spot. 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

Moneyball 2013 – Week 17 Review

January 2nd, 2014 Comments off

This was a hard loss for the Atlanta Falcons to review.

And that was mainly because of how poor the offensive line performed. Throughout the year, I have been adamant in the belief that the Falcons haven’t been aggressive enough in terms of their offensive game-planning to try and generate big plays. And I have consistently heard that the Falcons can’t throw down the field because their offensive line is too porous. Well, this was in fact the first game where I saw that belief was a reality. You may recall both of my reviews from Panthers games last year, where I made note of how the Falcons front got whooped. It was the same again this year, but even worse.

I had to check the notes I’ve been keeping since Week 9, but the 23-yard pass to Tony Gonzalez was only the third time since then where the Falcons attempted a deep pass on their opening drive. And the Falcons then tried to go down the field on the second play of their next series, but Roddy White was doubled on a deep in and Matt Ryan settled for a five-yard checkdown to Steven Jackson. Two designed deep plays in the first quarter? That hasn’t happened once since Week 9.

But going back to the protection issues, that latter play was an instance where the Falcons used max protect, with eight blockers to help Ryan. But pressure still got to him on that play, as Greg Hardy was able to beat Lamar Holmes and deliver a hit on Ryan from behind. That wasn’t the only instance where the Falcons used max protect and the Panthers pass rush still managed to beat it.

This game was essentially the Greg Hardy Show. Hardy was a pass deflection away from hitting for the “pass-rushing cycle,” a distinction that Cameron Jordan achieved in Week 12. Hardy finished with four sacks, two pressures, two hits, and a hurry. Almost no blocker was immune from the Wrath of the Kraken, with Justin Blalock being the only member of the starting five that did not get beat by Hardy. Lamar Holmes and Tony Gonzalez were routinely beaten with Holmes getting beat for a sack, hit, pressure, and hurry and Gonzalez giving up 1.5 sacks and half a hit. Gonzalez’s issues signaled poor protections by the Falcons in which there were too many instances where he was asked (along with a chipping running back) to try and block Hardy, and I don’t think it worked once. It was a rough way for Gonzalez to finish his career, being overused as a blocker and performing poorly at it.

I’m ready to give up on Peter Konz. It’s not the fact that Konz was exceptionally bad in this game (he fared worse a year ago). But the skills and tools simply aren’t there with Konz. He’s stiff with poor footwork and hand usage and he just appears to be moving in molasses. It was a complaint I once had for Lamar Holmes last summer when he was coming off injury and a rookie. Konz just doesn’t have an excuse to be as slow as he is. Harland Gunn is by no means a good guard, but he’s much better than Konz because he isn’t slow and makes up for his lack of size and strength with aggression.

Joe Hawley is the goat for this game for his botched snap at the end, although he didn’t have too bad a performance relative to the other blockers. But that probably is because he was the only one not to give up a sack. Ultimately for this game it’s degrees of crappiness, with Hawley and Blalock’s crap doesn’t smell as bad as the other starters.

Offensively, I thought the Falcons did a good job using screen passes to supplement their running game. None of the plays went for more than seven yards, but they were often utilized on first downs instead of running it into the teeth of a good Panthers defensive line. And given our blocking issues, I think that was a smart call on Dirk Koetter’s part.

Roddy White got credited with three drops, which matched his season total up until now. The critical one came in the fourth quarter with the Falcons driving. It happened on a 3rd-and-10, forcing the Falcons to settle for a 37-yard field goal that put them down 21-20. White was running a slant, and the safety was in position to make the tackle before he reached the first down. It was possible he could have broken the tackle and gotten the first, but my bet is that he would have been stopped a yard or two shy. But it begs the question, would Mike Smith had gone for it on 4th-and-1 down four points with 7:14 on the clock? The outcome of that potential decision changes the narrative for this game somewhat, especially if Smitty had opted to kick. The right decision in that situation (at Carolina’s 19-yard line) would have been to go for it. But given all the questionable decisions Smith has made this year, I’m not confident at all that he would have made the right call.

As for the pick-six, I’ll blame both Ryan and Harry Douglas. But that play really signaled exactly what I was referring to a few weeks ago when I discussed the poor rapport of Ryan and Douglas. Ryan stared down the throw from the jump, allowing Melvin White to read it easily. But Douglas clearly was not expecting the ball to come out quickly with White in off-coverage. By the time he turned around to wait for the pass, the ball was already behind him and White made an easy play. I’m sure we’ll continue to hear a lot of things out of Flowery Branch about how Matt Ryan is really comfortable with Harry Douglas but the proof is in the pudding. After two months of him being a primary target and six years of working together, their rapport is worth no more than the pile of crap that the offensive line was. Tom Brady had a great rapport with Wes Welker, but then Julian Edelman emerged this year. That is something that the Falcons should consider when they are making the decision about whether Douglas is worth keeping in 2014.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Matt Ryan$11$0$0$0$0$0$11.00
Steven Jackson$0$5$5-$0.5$0$0$9.50
Jason Snelling$0$5$2$0$0$0$7.00
Harry Douglas$0$0$5$0$0$0$5.00
Roddy White$0$0$2$1$0-$1$2.00
Patrick DiMarco$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Harland Gunn$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Peter Konz$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Joe Hawley$0$0$0$1$0-$2-$1.00
Lamar Holmes$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00
TEAM$0$0$0$0$0-$1-$1.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$1-$2.5$0$0-$1.50
Ryan Schraeder$0$0$0-$2$0$0-$2.00

Read more…

49ers Survive Falcons With Game-Winning Pick-Six

December 24th, 2013 Comments off

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Navorro Bowman returns an interception 89 yards for the game-sealing touchdown

The Atlanta Falcons lost another tough one with a 34-24 defeat at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers. The game marked the final regular season contest played by the 49ers in Candlestick Park. The Falcons got off to an early lead, pulling ahead by a score of 10-3 at halftime. But the 49ers then scored 17 unanswered points before the Falcons got get back on the scoreboard. Ultimately the Falcons were in position to pull ahead, having marched the ball inside the 49ers’ 10-yard line with 1:31 left to go in the game. But Matt Ryan’s pass to Harry Douglas was tipped off 49ers cornerback Tramaine Brock into the hands of linebacker Navorro Bowman, who then returned it 89 yards for a touchdown, sealing the game for the 49ers.

Ryan led the way completing 37 of 48 passes for 348 yards, two touchdowns, and a pair of interceptions. Steven Jackson led the team in rushing with 53 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown. Roddy White led receivers with 12 catches for 141 yards and a touchdown. Tony Gonzalez caught eight passes for 63 yards and a touchdown. Douglas finished with five catches for 46 yards, while Drew Davis had three catches for 70 yards. Matt Bryant hit on his lone field goal attempt from 35 yards out. Matt Bosher punted five times for an average of 48.8 yards with two kicks placed inside the 20-yard line. Robert McClain averaged 16.5 yards on a pair of punt returns, while Jacquizz Rodgers had 50 yards on two kickoff returns. The Falcons offense was able to generate 402 total yards, mostly coming in the air. They also were able to convert eight of 15 third down attempts and scored touchdowns on half of their four red zone trips.

Defensively, the Falcons gave up 379 total yards, including 199 yards on the ground. The defense got off to a good start, limiting 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to just 69 yards passing in the first half. The 49ers also only had 52 rushing yards and were only able to convert one of five third downs in the first half. But that changed in the second half, as San Francisco generated 266 total yards, including 147 on the ground. They also were able to convert on three of four third down attempts and had no issues moving the ball at will against the struggling Falcons defense. Joplo Bartu led defenders with 11 tackles, including one for loss. Thomas DeCoud (5 tackles); Jonathan Massaquoi (1 tackle, 1 sack); Robert McClain (2 tackles, 1 pass deflection); William Moore (5 tackles); Stephen Nicholas (10 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 pass deflection); Corey Peters (1 tackle, 1 sack); and Paul Worrilow (5 tackles) had noteworthy games.

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Takeaways from Week 15

December 16th, 2013 Comments off
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Osi Umenyiora is likely to become another expendable veteran player

The Atlanta Falcons offense sunk to new depths of ineptitude and ineffectiveness, despite defeating the Washington Redskins on Sunday.

Against the league’s worst scoring defense, the Falcons offense was only able to mount two successful offensive series, and netting just seven points off those two drives.

Thankfully the Redskins turned the ball over seven times, which helped give the Falcons 20 points thanks to short fields and they were able to win the game.

But of course the key point of the game was Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan’s decision to go for the win rather than settling for overtime. Shanahan called for a two-point conversion with the Redskins down a point with less than 20 seconds to go. Desmond Trufant broke up the throw to Pierre Garcon, and the Falcons were able to hold onto the lead and eventually gain the win. It was a ballsy, and in many eyes stupid call.

I don’t consider myself one of those people that would call it stupid. I generally don’t fault coaches or players for being aggressive. Obviously there is a thin line between being appropriately aggressive and stupidly aggressive. And I wouldn’t argue against anyone that said Shanahan crossed that line.

The reasons why it could be considered stupid is because the Falcons offense really did nothing all game. And thus in overtime, there’s no reason to think that the Falcons can mount a drive to win. The Redskins had marched the ball up and down the field for 476 total yards, and as long as they don’t cough it up, there’s every reason to believe Washington had the advantage if it went into overtime.

You know what I’m going to say. The Falcons didn’t have a single play of 20 or more yards, and it’s not a coincidence in my eyes that their offense really struggled. On those two aforementioned good drives, the Falcons were able to convert five of six third down tries but were zero for eight on their other seven possessions.

People will continue to blame the subpar play of the offensive line for why the Falcons struggle to generate those big plays, but as the win over the Bills showed two weeks ago, having a leaky front doesn’t preclude you from taking shots downfield.

The real problem the Falcons have is that they lack the weapons that can create those plays down the field. Matt Ryan attempted just three deep passes in the entire game, with Roddy White being the lone receiver to reel in one. White had a 19-yard catch on the opening series, the longest play of the day for the Falcons. Again, probably not a coincidence that was the one drive where the Falcons offense managed to move the ball and finish with a touchdown.

Read more…

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 46 “It’s Just a Numbers Game”

November 5th, 2013 Comments off

This week, Allen and I are joined by the Falcoholic himself, Dave Choate, to discuss the current state of the Atlanta Falcons. Now at the midpoint of the 2013 season, we discuss in-depth the issues facing this team for the remainder of this season and the following years. We discuss the things they liked and disliked in the Falcons Week 9 loss to the Carolina Panthers, and also preview the upcoming matchup in Week 10 versus the Seattle Seahawks. We talk about Matt Ryan’s struggles and whether he is as good as advertised; Roddy White’s beef with Richard Sherman; the play of young linebackers like Joplo Bartu and Paul Worrilow and the bright futures ahead of them; the young cornerbacks in Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford and how their progress is a sign that the team’s drafting may not be as bad as previously thought; and what sort of changes Arthur Blank may wind up instituting at the end of this season in both the front office, coaching staff, and roster; We look ahead some of the potential veterans that could find themselves playing in other uniforms in 2014; and Allen and I finish by looking at several of the issues around the league including Richie Incognito, Andrew Luck, and the overrated Kansas City Chiefs.

Ep. 46: It’s Just a Numbers Game [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 21 minutes

Allen writes for TJRSports.com as well as the Pro Football Spot. His twitter handle is: @Allen_Strk.

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

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 44 “Tampa Bay is a Dumpster Fire”

October 25th, 2013 Comments off

Allen and I are joined once again by Rashad James, making his second consecutive appearance on the podcast to discuss the Atlanta Falcons win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 7. We discuss some of the standout players from the game including William Moore, Malliciah Goodman, Harry Douglas, and Desmond Trufant. We also take a look at the play of the Falcons young linebackers and whether or not they have what it takes to turn into good NFL linebackers. In their preview of Week 8, we discuss how much impact a healthy Steven Jackson can bring, whether or not there needs to be changes made at punt returner, how the Falcons left tackle matches up with John Abraham, and whether the Falcons defense can take advantage of Arizona’s lackluster offensive attack.

Ep. 44: Tampa Bay is a Dumpster Fire [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 1 minute

Allen writes for TJRSports.com as well as the Pro Football Spot. His twitter handle is: @Allen_Strk.

Rashad can be found on twitter: @SaucedUp_Boss

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