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2014 Falcons Preseason Stock Report – Week 3

August 26th, 2014 1 comment

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Devin Hester

It’s another week and another Atlanta Falcons preseason game to evaluate. This time it’s a loss to the Tennessee Titans, but there were many positives to take away from the game mainly because the starters looked impressive. But let’s examine which players have raised their stock and also lowered it within the past week.

STOCK UP

WR Devin Hester

Hester made a couple of plays, including a nice 31-yard touchdown catch where he was able to generate big yards after the catch. But Hester’s most impressive play may have been a speed out late in the second quarter that went for 16 yards. That play occurred when the Falcons offense was in the no-huddle and trying to mount a scoring drive at the end of the first half. Hester blew past Coty Sensabaugh on that play, and it was a display of Matt Ryan recognizing the situational mismatch and Hester taking advantage of it. His 31-yard catch was more the result of Titans cornerback Jason McCourty slipping out of his break and safety Bernard Pollard being out of position to try and make a tackle after a quick slant. It was an excellent play and showcased Hester’s ability after the catch. It’s something the Falcons can build off, trying to take advantage of Hester’s ability to make plays with the ball in his hands.

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Atlanta Falcons Takeaways From Last Week – August 25, 2014

August 25th, 2014 No comments
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Jake Matthews

The biggest question marks surrounding the Atlanta Falcons entering this past Saturday’s preseason game against the Tennessee Titans centered on the team’s offensive tackle position.

But thankfully, both starting tackles: Jake Matthews and Lamar Holmes performed well against the Titans. Both players of course had their share of lapses, which comes with the territory of being a developing NFL player, but the Falcons should emerge with a good deal of confidence from that game based off their collective performance.

While Matthews missed a couple of blocking assignments against the Titans, he more than held his own against quality competition he faced in defensive tackle Jurrell Casey and edge-rusher Kamerion Wimbley. Casey is one of the best defensive tackles in the league, and while he had a solid overall performance against the Falcons, there were several times when Matthews was able to thwart and control him. Wimbley’s production has steadily declined since a nine-sack season in 2010, but outside one or two snaps was unable to get the better of Matthews.

Those are both positive signs. Compared to the play of the Falcons tackles from a year ago, there would have been very few instances where they would have managed to control the likes of Casey and would have looked overmatched almost every snap. The fact that Wimbley’s play has declined over the past three seasons is indicative of Matthews’ strong performance as well. It would have been more concerning had Wimbley gotten the better of him several times.

Matthews showed against the Titans that he indeed has a bright future ahead of him. While there will still be breakdowns and penalties from time to time, the Falcons should be confident in their ability to move forward with Matthews protecting Matt Ryan’s blindside. There certainly could be a number of games on the horizon where Matthews struggles, but the Falcons shouldn’t feel like the offense is going to be held back from having a rookie like him at left tackle.

That is a very positive development for not only the Falcons this season, but also moving forward. The Falcons just simply haven’t gotten a lot of good news when their offensive line has been involved over the past few years.

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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

Hard Knocks Episode 1 Recap – Tough, Smart Football

August 6th, 2014 No comments

Hard KnocksIf you happened to miss the first episode of the HBO documentary series Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Atlanta Falcons last night, don’t worry. I’m here to help you out and fill you in on what you missed.

I’m not going to give you a shot-for-shot breakdown of the entire hour-long episode, just a brief summary of what you missed and my favorite (and not so favorite) moments.

The first episode basically showed the Falcons in the lead-up to training camp and their first week of action through last week’s Friday Night Lights event. We got to see the off-field lives of several players in what they were doing in the days/weeks leading up to camp, including Bear Pascoe (farming), Steven Jackson (exhibiting art), Tyler Starr (working out and being a father), Harry Douglas (packing) and Kroy Biermann (being a reality TV star).

We saw the coaches meet before camp and emphasize their plan to increase effort and toughness with head coach Mike Smith demanding that they instill “tough, smart football.”

Of course, the first episode made note of the numerous fights that dotted the first week of work. Jacques Smith can certainly attest to how hard Ryan Schraeder hits.

We got a glimpse of what I assume was the rookie talent show, which featured all the rookies getting up in front of the team and performing a skill. Roddy White showed his displeasure with the singing talents of Jeff Mathews and Jacob Pedersen by pelting them with empty water bottles as they exited stage left. Ra’Shede Hageman won’t have a second career in music, but his teammates seemed to enjoy his rendition of R. Kelly’s “Feelin’ On Yo Booty.” Dezmen Southward however stole the show with his impression of special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong. Even though I don’t have a clue how Armstrong talks or acts, it was still hilarious.

The show did a nice job contrasting the living situations of William Moore, a veteran who bought a brand new house with his $30 million contract last year, and that of rookie Devonta Freeman. Freeman seemed to find the world’s smallest bathtub to be luxurious somehow.

Other highlights include:

  • I went “icky balooky” for Terrell Owens’ cameo.
  • Peria Jerry telling Mike Smith that he is retiring
  • Roddy was just as much the character you think he is
  • Nothing puts a period on a point better than slurping a Capri Sun.
  • Steven Jackson got to show his leadership. Didn’t realize until now how much older he is than everybody else in the running back room. Must be tough when nearly everybody is between six and nine years younger than you.
  • Donte Rumph’s nickname of “Cupcake” and how he worked to shed it.
  • The show did no favors for Harry Douglas, who revealed that he uses women’s deodorant. Based off perhaps five minutes of screen-time in this episode alone, I’ll have a large repertoire of Douglas jokes for the next several months.

If you get the opportunity, tune in next week since a preview of the second episode promised a Sean Weatherspoon appearance.

Falcons 2014 Training Camp: Day 2 Report

July 26th, 2014 Comments off
From AtlantaFalcons.com

Roddy White. From AtlantaFalcons.com

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

  • As usual, let’s kick things off with Jay Adam’s five takeaways from Day 2. Adams discusses linebacker Kroy Biermann’s return from injury, the team’s padded practice schedule, wide receiver Bernard Reedy’s potential emergence, the battle for the nickel cornerback spot and Julio Jones’ day off.
  • ESPN’s Vaughn McClure expresses his own observations from the day including further elaboration of the battle for nickel cornerback, Reedy, and the play of the Falcons pass-rushers.
  • Head over to AtlantaFalcons.com to check out today’s photo gallery from practice The posted picture above shows wide receiver Roddy White and other Falcons players interacting with the crowd as the team underwent its first-ever “Falcons Walk,” kicking off practice with a stroll through the crowd on their way to the practice field.
  • The AJC provides video of today’s practice and post-practice interviews with general manager Thomas Dimitroff, head coach Mike Smith and offensive tackle Jake Matthews.
  • The Falcons filled the roster spot left open from the waiving of Darius Johnson by signing wide receiver Jabin Sambrano. Sambrano is a former undrafted rookie out of Montana signed by the Indianapolis Colts in 2012. Sambrano was put on injured reserve by the Colts in that summer after suffering a concussion in training camp. He was later released by the Colts and ended the season on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers practice squad. He was re-signed by the Colts the following offseason, but was cut at the end of their 2013 camp. He finished last year with the Jacksonville Jaguars on their practice squad before being released in the offseason. He has spent the past few months in Canada with the B.C. Lions before getting another chance in the NFL with the Falcons.
  • Read more…

Jones, Biermann To Be Limited At Start of Training Camp

July 25th, 2014 Comments off

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Julio Jones

ESPN’s Vaughn McClure has the scoop on Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith’s appearance 92.9 the Game this morning. During his appearance, Smith detailed the team’s plans for the practicing schedules of wide receiver Julio Jones and linebacker Kroy Biermann, both of whom are recovering from major injuries in 2013.

Every other day, Jones will receive a day off from practice, while Biermann will practice two days and then receive time off every third practice. Jones is recovering from a foot injury that sidelined him for the final 11 games of 2013. Biermann missed 14 games after tearing his Achilles tendon in Week 2 of last season.

Smith also indicated that he expects defensive tackle Corey Peters to be removed from the active/Physically-Unable-to-Perform (PUP) list quickly. Like Biermann, Peters is also recovering from an Achilles tear that caused him to miss the Falcons 2013 season finale.

Categories: News Tags: , , ,

Atlanta Falcons Training Camp Preview 2014: Linebacker

July 22nd, 2014 Comments off

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. 22 Kroy Biermann

July 18th, 2014 Comments off

Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Kroy Biermann

I’m counting down the top 40 players on the Atlanta Falcons, and let’s continue with 22nd-ranked player: outside linebacker Kroy Biermann.

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

Total Score: 53/100

Last year’s rank: 19
Player Grade: 54/100
Teams he is starter: 15 out of 32
Teams he is best position player: 0 out of 32
Teams he is role player: 26 out of 32
Peak-Year Bonus: +1
Positional Bonus: +4

Despite hardly playing last season, Biermann’s ranking goes largely unchanged. Mainly because while Biermann is by no means a star, he’s a very effective role player that could carve out a starting spot for roughly half the teams in the league, mostly at strong-side linebacker.

Biermann has developed over his tenure in Atlanta, being one of the few, true success stories among their late-round picks selected under general manager Thomas Dimitroff.

Biermann has grown for a situational rusher to a full-fledged starter at strong-side linebacker. While Biermann has no outstanding skill set in his repertoire, under defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, he has blossomed in a versatility starter for the team.

If there is any strength to Biermann’s game, it’s likely his run defense which is surprisingly good considering he’s only 260 pounds. Biermann understands how to get leverage, using his smaller frame to get lower than opposing blockers and get stops there.

2014 potentially marks the final season of Biermann in Atlanta. Coming off a torn Achilles tendon, unless he can bounce back to his 2012 level as an asset in Nolan’s defense, he could be hard-pressed to earn a substantial contract from Atlanta in 2015, especially if a young linebacker like Tyler Starr shows growth in his rookie season.

But it could be hard to get rid of Biermann next year, even at age 30. Even if it’s not as a starting outside linebacker for the Falcons, again Biermann adds value as a rotational run-defender and situational pass-rusher. His versatility means that he can play both linebacker and defensive end for the team.

And while he’s never looked like an impact pass-rusher outside maybe the first few weeks of the 2009 season, he does show relatively consistent ability as a complementary rusher. Ideally, Biermann would be the third or fourth guy in a team’s rotation. However in Atlanta, for much of his career he has been counted upon to be the second option.

If other young pass-rushers show enough growth this season, it may lead to the ironic conclusion that when Biermann is finally poised to settle into the role he should have always been in, he will no longer be on the team.

Categories: Features Tags: , ,

Atlanta Falcons 2014 Rookie Scouting Report: Tyler Starr

May 29th, 2014 2 comments
Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE

Tyler Starr

A breakdown of Atlanta Falcons’ 2014 NFL Draft seventh-round pick, former South Dakota edge-rusher Tyler Starr.

BIO

Height: 6’4″
Weight: 250
College: South Dakota
40 Time: 4.95 (Combine)
Three-Cone: 6.64 (Combine)

He was born on January 25, 1991 and attended George-Little Rock High School in George, Iowa.

He redshirted his first year at South Dakota, and then sat out the next year due an academic problem where he did not have enough credits. When he finally got on the field as a redshirt sophomore in 2011, he broke out with a 14-sack season while starting 11 games at defensive end. He also had 51 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, one pass breakup, seven forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. He would earn first team All-Great West Conference honors that year. During his junior season he moved to outside linebacker where he started 10 of 11 games. He finished the season with 74 tackles, seven for loss, four sacks, two pass breakups, two forced fumbles and a blocked kick. He would earn second team All-Missouri Valley Football Conference honors and received one vote as one of 20 Buck Buchanan Award finalists (award given to top defensive player in FCS sub-division). He also earned MVFC honor roll, showing his academics had gotten in good standing. As a senior, he started 11 of 12 games at outside linebacker, recording 71 tackles, 15 for loss, nine sacks, one interception, four pass breakups and four forced fumbles. He placed ninth in voting for Buck Buchanan Award finalists, earned MVFC Defensive Player of the Year honors and was a first team all-conference selection. He was also named second team FCS All-American by the Associated Press. Starr finished his career tied for the school’s all-time lead in sacks with 27.

He participated in the East-West Shrine All-Star game at the end of the year, where he had an impressive week of practice. Known for his aggressive play, he was ejected during a game as a senior for a targeting penalty. He launched himself into Missouri State’s quarterback with the crown of his helmet. He also worked hard to improve his academics over course of his career, but had reputed bouts of immaturity at a young age that led to his struggles to get on the field until his third year at South Dakota.

Had an impressive Combine performance, as his three-cone time was the best posted by a true linebacker since 2006. Possesses 32.5-inch arms and 9.5-inch hands. He had a 32-inch vertical, 9-foot, 8-inch broad jump, and the fourth-fastest short shuttle of 4.15 seconds at the Combine.

2013 GAMES WATCHED

Date
Opponent
TFL
Stop
Sack
Press
Hit
FF
Miss Tkl
Key Blkd
Pen
Pen. Type
Sep-07Kansas012201210N/A
Nov-02Youngstown St.00.51401030N/A
Date
Opponent
Tgt
Rec.
Yds
YAC
TD
UC
YPT
INT
PD
Sep-07Kansas2153002.5001
Nov-02Youngstown St.1140161040.0001

SKILLS
The grading system is based on a 10-point scale: 1-pathetic, 2-poor, 3-weak, 4-below average, 5-average, 6-above average, 7-good, 8-very good, 9-excellent, 10-elite.

Speed (6.5) - Starr’s speed looks better on tape than his timed speed. He shows good ability in pursuit and can make plays by chasing down slower backs from the backside. Can collapse the edge quickly to get penetration and make stops in the backfield. Has good speed to run with tight ends down the seam when asked to don so. Clocked a 4.85-second 40 time at his pro day.

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Takeaways from 2014 NFL Draft – May 12, 2014

May 12th, 2014 1 comment
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Falcons 2014 Top Selection: Jake Matthews

Normally I write my weekly takeaways column on Sunday afternoon or evening with the intention of it being posted first thing Monday morning around 8:00 a.m. This week, that was no the case.

That’s partly to blame for the fact that it was Mother Day’s weekend, and instead of doing all the things I normally would have done on a Sunday afternoon/evening to get this weekly column posted, I decided to spend time with my mother, who had driven four hors from Virginia to North Carolina to witness my sister-in-law’s graduation from grad school. In the interest of being a good son, my mother took precedent over this column.

Secondly, I had not watched all of the Atlanta Falcons 2014 draft picks play yet. And the column after the draft is the one devoted to my thoughts on whether I believe the Falcons’ draft was a good one or not.

Because unlike most people, I try to be informed before giving my opinions. If you want to know my take on any of the Falcons undrafted free agents, I don’t have one because I haven’t seen any of them play. Until I do, which will be in the first preseason game, my opinion on them will remain largely non-existent.

I was born in 1983, so I spent a significant portion existing in a world without the internet. That was a world where people couldn’t post their opinions, thoughts or insights with the click of a button on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or in Yahoo! News comments.

Back in those times, the only people that were given a platform to express opinions were people that had earned that right to be called experts in their give fields. There was a filter, and it was one that you had to work hard to break through.

The idea that Courtney Love could be involved in finding a missing plane in that time was laughable at best. Instead of social media, people expressed their opinions to companions and family members in their respective living rooms, kitchen dinner tables or bars.

But that age doesn’t exist anymore, and now people are free to give their opinions with no filter. Today, everything is thrown at the wall, and it’s only a matter of what sticks.

Why am I telling you this? Because one of the things I find fascinating is how everybody, including those least informed, will give their opinions on the draft. Besides watching a YouTube highlight clip and reading a bunch of online scouting reports, most people aren’t informed about most of these players with their own eyes.

It often leads to people have overly optimistic expectations about a particular draft prospect, or overly pessimistic ones. There is no longer a middle ground. And people should know that most things fall into that middle area.

I’m saying all this because I believe it will take time to see how these draft prospects develop. Patience is really the key, and while it won’t stop me from having an opinion today, I’m at least aware of the fact that what my opinion today is relatively meaningless in the big picture. That big picture will be determined by where the Falcons 2014 draft picks are three to five years from now.

What will this column will entail from this point is my best guess on where those players will be at that point. While that guess is an educated one based off informed analysis from watching these guys play a handful of collegiate games, it is still a guess nonetheless.

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