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Posts Tagged ‘Blalock’

An Auburn Reunion in Atlanta?

February 26th, 2012 Comments off
ICON SMI

Grubbs (69) and Dunlap (77) pose on the right with Auburn teammates

It is not a big secret that a major need for the Falcons headed into the off-season is improving their performance in the trenches. They got whipped up front by the New York Giants in the playoffs, as well as teams like Houston during the regular season. It exposed their inability to compete at the higher levels, which has been a big reason why the team has yet to win its first postseason game under Mike Smith. Getting stronger on the offensive line can be a major step forward to try and correct that issue.

D. Orlando Ledbetter wrote a few weeks back about whether or not the Falcons should try to sign Marcus McNeill, if the San Diego Chargers choose to part ways with him next month. It seems like that is a likely conclusion since the Chargers can clear $10 million in cap space by making the move. The key part of the equation will be whether McNeill can pass a physical, having suffered from chronic neck and spinal injuries over the years. He finished the year in San Diego on injured reserve due to suffering neck injuries that forced him out of two games in late October and November. He had off-season neck surgery following 2008, and had two surgeries on his knees last year in February and August.

When McNeill has been healthy, he’s been very good. The massive run blocker would be an upgrade at left tackle for the Falcons. One of the major issues with Sam Baker there has been his inability to get push in the ground game. McNeill has only been recorded with giving up 12.25 sacks over the past four seasons in 50 games played, according to STATS LLC. Compared to Baker, who according to STATS has given up 16.5 sacks in the last 28 games he’s played in Atlanta over the past two years.

An interesting proposition for the Falcons could be teaming McNeill with a former college teammate at Auburn in free agent guard Ben Grubbs. The pair started alongside each other for two seasons at Auburn before McNeill became a second round pick in 2006. Grubbs stayed for another year and was taken in the first round by the Baltimore Ravens in 2007. Grubbs has since developed into one of the better offensive guards in the league, playing in his first Pro Bowl this past year. Known for his solid run blocking and pass protection skills, he would be an upgrade at that position for the Falcons over Justin Blalock. Blalock has been serviceable to solid over his tenure in Atlanta, but is by no means a lynchpin for the team on the left side.

Grubbs is a free agent, one which the Ravens are intent on keeping. But the Ravens will be hard-pressed because they won’t be able to use their franchise tag on him (that will be reserved for running back Ray Rice), and Grubbs stands to make a pretty penny on the open market. With Carl Nicks set to hit free agency as well, and deals signed by players like Jahri Evans and Davin Joseph in recent years, whoever winds up with Grubbs is likely going to have to spend big.

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Categories: Features Tags: , ,

Moneyball 2011 – Week 11 Review

November 21st, 2011 Comments off

A solid performance for the offense, although there wasn’t anything great about. Matt Ryan had a solid game managing the offense, with only 1 poor throw on the day. Michael Turner had several nice runs and was his old powerful self, breaking tackles on some of them.

The Falcons were able to spread the ball around to different receivers with Julio Jones out of the lineup, with Michael Palmer and Eric Weems getting some action in the passing game. Roddy White had a nice bounce-back game from last week, although he still wasn’t perfect. But he made some nice grabs on the day. Tony Gonzalez and Harry Douglas also were solid.

The blocking was solid, with Ryan having good protection. Justin Blalock didn’t have a great day, missing 3 blocks, although it is worth noting most of them came when he was pulling or supposed to hit an assignment on the second level. Neither of those two things have ever really been his strength.

Overall, it was a solid performance for the offense. But nothing special. This is the type of game that is giong to be quickly forgotten because there really wasn’t anything notable to happen in it. The struggles the team had converting in the redzone are a chief concern, and it’s hopefully something that can be nipped in the bud.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLOCK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Matt Ryan$13$2$0$0$0$0$15.00
Michael Turner$0$14-$1$0$0-$3$10.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$6$1.5$0$0$7.50
Roddy White$0$0$5$0$0-$1$4.00
Harry Douglas$0$0$4$0$0-$0.5$3.50
Todd McClure$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Will Svitek$0$0$0$2.5$0-$1$1.50
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Michael Palmer$0$0$1$0$0$0$1.00
Antone Smith$0$0$0$0$1$0$1.00
Jason Snelling$0-$1$1$0$0$0$0.00
Eric Weems$0$0$0$0$1-$1.5$0.50
Justin Blalock$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00
Joe Hawley$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00

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Moneyball 2011 – Week 9 Review

November 8th, 2011 Comments off

This was a solid execution of the Falcons signature game plan. They wanted to run the ball well, and they did. They minimized penalties and mental mistakes, with Svitek’s holding call being the lone play that stood out in the negative. Big earnings for Turner, Rodgers, and even Snelling and Jones got into the act. The offensive line graded out its best this week collectively mainly because of their ability to beat the Colts in the trenches.

But this game was really a tale of the potential of the Falcons two rookies in Jacquizz Rodgers and Julio Jones. Rodgers had a solid game and the Falcons need to get him more touches on offense. Most of his touches in this game came in garbage time and they need to find more ways to get him the ball earlier in the games. Good things just tend to happen when he touches the ball.

But of course the star of this game was Julio Jones who made a lot of great things happen despite only a handful of touches in this game. His two big plays in the passing game and his two rushing attempts were big plays for this team.

Matt Ryan was up and down in this game. He looked particularly bad at the end of the first half with three poor passes on the final series. Most of his earnings ($8) came off the two big plays by Jones, and most would agree that Jones did the brunt of the work there. But he had some nice throws in the second half of the game, but overall it was a nondescript performance for him despite the high earnings. Which is probably similar to what you could describe Ryan’s overall season as.

Up front, Svitek was the highest earner mainly because I don’t subtract for pressures given up. Considering he was facing Dwight Freeney, some of his struggles were expected as Freeney’s spin move killed him a couple of times. Overall, the best game goes to Justin Blalock. Blalock’s two missed blocks came on the Falcons final two offensive series when the game was pretty much over and they were trying to run out the clock. Hawley was serviceable at right guard, but from this performance it should not be seen as a permanent option.

Mike Cox had a nice debut as a Falcon. He missed a couple of blocks, but he also a couple of impressive blocks early on. Snelling even contributed once on a Rodgers as a lead blocker. Going forward, until Cox works out some of the kinks, the Falcons should probably platoon the pair of them in Ovie’s vacant spot.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLOCK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Julio Jones$0$4$8$1$0$0$13.00
Matt Ryan$11$1$0$0$0$0$12.00
Michael Turner$0$11$1$0$0$0$12.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$8$1$0$0$0$9.00
Jason Snelling$0$4$0$1$0$0$5.00
Roddy White$0$0$4$0$0$0$4.00
Will Svitek$0$0$0$4$0-$1$3.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$3$0$0$0$3.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Eric Weems$0$0$0$0$1.5$0$1.50
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Todd McClure$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Mike Cox$0$0$0$0.5$0$0$0.50
Joe Hawley$0$0$0-$0.5$0$0-$0.50

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Moneyball 2011 – Week 3 Review

September 27th, 2011 Comments off

The tale of this game is the failure of the Falcons offensive line. The Bucs pretty much dominated the line of scrimmage with their front four. Brian Price was a monster, and Adrian Clayborn and Gerald McCoy each made their shares of plays. Garrett Reynolds was the only positive earner mainly because I don’t deduct for multiple pressures given up, as he gave up three. I don’t know if the Falcons have ever had a game where basically all five of their blockers should have been in the red. Justin Blalock struggled against Price, after being far and away our best blocker in the first two outings. I gave him credit for a half-sack on Mason Foster’s sack in the third quarter, where McClure botched the snap. I gave McClure the other half credit because of that botched snap.

The ground game was non-existent mainly because the Falcons struggled to get any real push, but because of how sluggish a runner that Michael Turner looked in this game. Turner looked his age in this one, and if he’s going to continue to play as slow as he has this year, the Falcons are going to have to resort to new ways of manufacturing rushing yards, such as a lot of dink and dunk throws to Harry Douglas, Julio Jones, and Roddy White and try to get those guys in space. The team might also want to try and mix in Jacquizz Rodgers a lot more.

Matt Ryan put up some numbers thanks to some earnings when the Falcons went into no-huddle or the two-minute drill, but he did not have a good game. Ball security seems to be an issue in the pocket. If you’re wondering why he went to Jacquizz Rodgers instead of an open Tony Gonzalez on that fourth down play at the goalline that was broken up by Corey Lynch, it was because Gonzo was covered by Ronde Barber who had broken up two passes already on that drive, and had an outstanding game overall, Pro Bowl caliber. The Falcons receivers had good games with Roddy White and Julio Jones both doing some good things after the catch. I don’t know the exact number, but I think Jones had around 40 or more yards after the catch. Roddy’s 3 drops are a little disturbing, although I think fatigue had a lot to do with the last one where he was wide open near the goalline.

I think the Falcons could have done a better job on their play-call on 3rd & 15 just before they opted to kick the field goal down 6 points with 4 minutes left in the 4th quarter. They could have had a play that had a better checkdown for Ryan over the middle that would have allowed them to still get 7-8 yards to make it a much more manageable 4th down if they decided to go for it, instead of practically sending all 3 of their receivers into the endzone.

And what the heck has happened to Ovie Mughelli? Besides that TD grab vs. the Eagles (which was about as mundane as TD grabs get), he has been very very quiet this year.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLOCK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Matt Ryan$11$2$0$0$0-$4$9.00
Julio Jones$0$0$8$0$0$0$8.00
Roddy White$0$0$7$0$0$0$7.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$2$2$0$0-$1$3.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$3$0$0$0$3.00
Harry Douglas$0$0$2$0$0$0$2.00
Garrett Reynolds$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Michael Turner$0$1$0$0$0$0$1.00
Eric Weems$0$0$0$0$1$0$1.00
Todd McClure$0$0$0-$0.5$0$0-$0.50
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00
Antone Smith$0$0$0$0$0-$1-$1.00
Sam Baker$0$0$0-$2$0$0-$2.00
Ovie Mughelli$0$0-$1-$1$0$0-$2.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0-$1.5$0-$2-$3.50

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Moneyball 2011 – Week 2 Review

September 20th, 2011 Comments off

The Falcons did not have their most stellar performance against the Eagles, but they made plays at critical points in the game to pull out the victory.

Offensively, Matt Ryan did not really get going until the fourth quarter, where he earned $7 of his $9.50 passing the ball. Michael Turner had a good start with $7 in the first half, but went quiet until his big runs late in the game. Tony Gonzalez was money in this game with his two touchdown grabs and ability to move the chains. Roddy White and Julio Jones were fairly quiet for most of the game, although they had some key catches at certain points in the game. But at least from the Eagles perspective, they should feel happy about their two highly paid corners containing both White and Jones pretty much the entire night.

Up front, the blocking was hit and miss just like last week. Sam Baker really struggled going against Trent Cole, which was the same issue he had a year ago. Reynolds gave up an early sack but had a fairly solid game the rest of the way. Clabo also struggled on the outside getting beat by Jason Babin several times. Blalock was the best up front, and Hawley had his really good moments as well as his share of mental errors and mistakes. If and when McClure returns, the Falcons can iron out many of the inconsistencies.

The Falcons inability to move the ball on the ground in the third quarter was a big reason why the Eagles were able to get back into the game and take a 10-point lead then.

Ryan saw a lot of pressure throughout the game from the edges, but some of it was on him getting happy feet in the pocket after he took a couple of early hits.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Michael Turner$0$9$2$0$0$0$11.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$9$1.5$0$0$10.50
Matt Ryan$9.5$1$0$0$0-$1$9.50
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$3$0$0$0$0$3.00
Roddy White$0$0$3$0$0$0$3.00
Ovie Mughelli$0$0$2$0$0$0$2.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Harry Douglas$0$0$1$0$0$0$1.00
Julio Jones$0$0$1$0$0$0$1.00
Garrett Reynolds$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Eric Weems$0$0$0$0$1$0$1.00
Reggie Kelly$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00
Michael Palmer$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0-$1.5$0$0-$1.50
Joe Hawley$0$0$0$0$0-$2-$2.00
Sam Baker$0$0$0$2.5$0$0-$2.50

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Falcons to pass on signing Edwards

July 25th, 2011 Comments off

D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC reports that the Falcons will reportedly pass on signing Minnesota Vikings defensive end Ray Edwards when free agency begins in the coming days after the end of the NFL lockout. Ledbetter cites rumors and gossip discussed among NFL beat writers that were in Atlanta during last week’s owners meetings. The Falcosn will also be unlikely to sign Carolina Panthers end Charles Johnson, as he will be the top priority for the Panthers to keep.

Ledbetter also indicates that the Falcons will prioritize re-signing their own free agents, and at the top of that list will be offensive tackle Tyson Clabo. And also that guard Harvey Dahl will take precedent over Justin Blalock, as the Falcons plan to re-sign at least two of their three starting offensive linemen.

It is also expected that linebacker Stephen Nicholas will leave for greener pastures, by joining the New York Giants.

Categories: News Tags: , , , , ,

Camp Battles 2011: Offensive Line

July 13th, 2011 Comments off

Like the running back position, this unit could be heavily influenced by free agency. The Falcons will have to make important decisions on three of their starters: Tyson Clabo, Harvey Dahl, and Justin Blalock.

Clabo is likely to be a high priority for the team to retain. And if they do so, it will go a long way to solidify their front line and maintain some continuity. It remains to be seen whether the Falcons will prefer to keep either Dahl or Blalock, although it seems likely at least one will remain. Dahl is probably the safer bet since he appears to be a favorite of position coach Paul Boudreau.

Ideally, the Falcons will be able to keep all three players. If they are successful in achieving that goal, then competition during camp at this position won’t be particularly compelling. The most interesting battle will likely then be between Jose Valdez and Will Svitek for the swing tackle position. Valdez’s practice squad eligibility is likely to expire this season, so if the Falcons want to continue to develop him, they will probably need to do so by giving him a regular roster spot.

However, if even one of those free agents depart, it will make things a lot more interesting. If all three depart, it’s likely to be a free-for-all.

The most likely candidate to replace Blalock at left guard is Mike Johnson. He got the majority of reps there last summer, and he’d be the front runner. Johnson didn’t have a great summer a year ago, but the team was high on him when they drafted him in the third round and will give him every opportunity to win the vacant position.

His most likely competition will come in the form of Garrett Reynolds, who is also the primary reserve at right guard behind Dahl. Reynolds also adds the value of playing right tackle as well, although his primary position in inside. His chances of earning a starting job will increase if Dahl is the one that departs, although Johnson would probably be the top candidate there as well for reasons mentioned previously.

If Clabo isn’t kept, then Svitek is likely to be the front runner to replace him and he’ll be pushed by both Reynolds and Valdez. Svitek is the more known commodity and proven run blocker, making him a good fit at right tackle. Valdez is an intriguing dark horse, showcasing his superior athleticism last summer.

Left tackle Sam Baker is unlikely to be pushed in camp, as the Falcons will likely want to retain as much continuity as possible. The same goes for veteran center Todd McClure. Second-year pro Joe Hawley is his heir apparent. Hawley also garnered reps at guard last season, but probably won’t be a serious contender to become a starter there unless Johnson and/or Reynolds struggle.

The Falcons drafted Andrew Jackson to bolster depth and competition. But he’ll be hard-pressed to make his way into the likely to be nine roster spots unless at least two of the Falcons free agents depart. He is most likely to be competing for a practice squad spot, although a solid summer may convince the team to keep ten blockers instead of the typical nine.

Also on the roster is Rob Bruggeman, although he remains a long shot unless there is an injury to one of the centers. The Falcons probably will sign a few undrafted or street free agents to fill out the roster here, with all just being camp bodies competing for a chance to make the practice squad.

Falcons Weekly Round-Up 7/1

July 1st, 2011 Comments off

Recapping news and headlines involving the Falcons from the week of June 26…

ICON SMI

Stephen Nicholas

‘Big’ Chance Nicholas returns

The Florida Times-Union visited Falcons linebacker Stephen Nicholas at his youth football camp last weekend to discuss the possibility of what he might do this season. Nicholas is a prospective free agent. Nicholas indicated that he wants to test the market, but also said there is a “big” chance that he will return to Atlanta. The Falcons tagged Nicholas with a restricted free agent tender, which he did not sign. But if the Collective Bargaining Agreement is made before the start of the 2011 season, then Nicholas due to having four years of experience should become an unrestricted free agent. Nicholas was a regular attendee of the Falcons player-organized “Camp Exile” during the month of June. (Source: Tania Ganguli, Florida Times-Union)

Schillinger at around 85 percent

Writing up some observations from the Falcons player-organized “Camp Exile,” D. Orlando Ledbetter indicates that free safety Shann Schillinger, who is coming off a broken ankle he suffered in the penultimate game of last season is around 85 percent recovered. Schillinger indicated that he is making steady progress daily on his recovery and can participate in football-related drills, including 7-on-7 drills at Camp Exile. He appeared with a notable limp during the final practice. Schillinger is expected to have a bigger role this year on defense, as he will be tasked with replacing veteran Erik Coleman. (Source: D. Orlando Ledbetter, Atlanta-Journal Constitution)

Mularkey excited about the upcoming year

Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey was enjoying some vacationing time in Cherrokee County, North Carolina when the Andrews Journal caught up with him to discuss the upcoming season. Mularkey spoke on his desire to try and keep the Falcons offensive line intact, due to three of the team’s five starter being impending free agents.

We had five fantastic guys last season. They are a special group, and I wish we could keep them together forever. They are one of the most physical offensive lines in the league. If we don’t sign them back up, it will be disappointing … but that is just business in the NFL.

Mularkey also broached the topic of the Falcons incoming rookie class, praising wideout Julio Jones. He also expressed confidence that even without contact with the coaches, those rookies would be getting a lot of help from Matt Ryan during player-organized workouts, calling the team’s fourth-year quarterback a “coach on the field.” (Source: Robert Horne, Andrews Journal)

Falcons ‘not panicked’ about O-line

On the subject of the potential impending shakeup of the Falcons offensive line, Dan Pompei writes that the Falcons wont’ be too worried if they lose multiple starters via free agency. Offensive tackle Tyson Clabo, and guards Harvey Dahl and Justin Blalock are potential free agents. Per Pompei, the team is confident that three of the linemen they have drafted over the past three drafts: Garrett Reynolds, Mike Johnson, and Joe Hawley, can potentially fill the voids left by any of those players. Reynolds has worked primarily as a reserve at right guard behind Dahl, but played right tackle while in college, making him a possible candidate to replace Clabo. Johnson played left guard last season behind Blalock. Hawley has worked primarily as the backup center behind Todd McClure, but has also gotten reps at the guard spots as well. (Source: Dan Pompei, National Football Post)

Jackson working out on his own

Falcons took Fresno State guard Andrew Jackson in the seventh round of this year’s draft. And while he did not attend any of the team’s player-organized workouts since being drafted, or will be attending along with some of his other new teammates at the NFLPA-organized rookie symposium this week, Jackson has been keeping busy. He has been staying in shape and working out at facilities at his alma mater. He also has spent time visiting local high school football camps to talk to the kids about football. (Source: Anthony Barstow, Grass Valley Union)

Dahl vs. Blalock: Who Stays, Who Goes

June 15th, 2011 Comments off
Icon Sports Media, Inc.

Harvey Dahl

On Monday, I stated that the team’s first priority when it comes to free agency if and when it begins was re-signing tackle Tyson Clabo. But shortly after, the Falcons are going to be in a situation where they are asked to prioritize one of their guards.

 

Ideally, the Falcons can bring back both left guard Justin Blalock and right guard Harvey Dahl. But they may be put in a situation where they have to push for one to stay, and be willing to let the other walk when it comes to negotiatons.

And there is certainly is a worthwhile debate on either side when deciding which of the two players should be kept first.

PRODUCTION

First, let’s start break down their 2010 seasons statistically. I’ll be using Moneyball for this. Over the course of the entire 2010 season they were about even, winding up with $24 earned for Blalock and $25 for Dahl.

Blalock’s production was fairly consistent throughout the entire season, earning $5, $7, $5.5, and $6.5 in each respective quarter. Dahl’s spiked in the middle of the season, starting with a $4.5 over the first quarter, then $10.5, $10, and finishing with $0 earned in the final quarter of the season. Clearly we can see that Blalock ended the season relatively strong in comparison to Dahl.

Blalock did get better as the year went on. In the first half of the season, he tallied 10 missed blocks and 5 pressures allowed. In the final 8 games, he had only 3.5 missed blocks and no pressures allowed. That dichotomy was not seen with Dahl, as he had 5 missed blocks in each half of the season, and allowed 3 pressures in the first half and 4.5 in the second half of the year.
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Should the Falcons draft an Offensive Lineman?

March 9th, 2011 Comments off
Icon Sports Media, Inc.

OT Sam Baker

I keep seeing a bunch of mocks having the Falcons take an offensive linemen in the first round of the draft, and frankly from where I’m sitting, I think the odds are very, very, very low that happens. In fact, I think the odds are fairly low that the Falcons will take an offensive lineman at any point in the draft, let alone the first round. And I’ll explain why, and much of it has to do with the labor strife the league is currently undergoing.

I’m not certain what is going to become of the CBA labor situation the rest of this week or going forward. But let’s look at both scenarios: (1) the pessimistic one where a lockout occurs and there is essentially no player movement between now and the draft and afterwards. And (2) the optimistic one in that a new CBA gets hammered out at some point in the next seven weeks before the draft and that we get some semblance of free agency and a relatively normal off-season. How does either scenario affect the Falcons offensive line situation?

We know that Tyson Clabo, Harvey Dahl, and Justin Blalock all had their contracts expire at the end of the 2010 season. The Falcons quickly were able to re-sign reserve Will Svitek last week, getting him locked up for two more seasons as a Falcon. But those three players that aren’t yet signed represent 60% of the Falcons starting lineup, and arguably the best 60%. Clabo landed a Pro Bowl bid this year, and Harvey Dahl quietly had a second solid year in a Falcon uniform. And even Justin Blalock, the player I thought going into this season was the weakest link of the front five improved his play, and arguably was our most consistent blocker over the second half of the season.

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