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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.

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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 54 “Tony Gonzalez Tribute”

January 7th, 2014 Comments off

Allen and I discuss the G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time): Tony Gonzalez, in ourr tribute to his career as an Atlanta Falcon. We reminisce about our first reactions to the trade that went down in 2009 that brought Gonzalez from Kansas City to Atlanta, our favorite catches and plays over the years, and debate which of the past five seasons was Tony’s best in Atlanta. We also discuss the chances of whether Gonzalez decides not to hang it up and what is the next step for him in retirement. We also discuss the future of the Falcons own tight ends, and whether Levine Toilolo has shown enough to carry the mantle. Afterwards, we get into our ‘Around the League’ section where we discuss the first weekend of playoff action with a good bit on the dramatic Colts-Chiefs matchup, as well as previewing and picking games for this upcoming weekend’s playoff action. This episode does contain some NSFW language!

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 50: Tony Gonzalez Tribute [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 10 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

Takeaways from Week 12

November 25th, 2013 Comments off
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Thomas Dimitroff Will Face Greater Scrutiny in 2014

Last week, Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank gave head coach Mike Smith a vote of confidence. That was followed up on Thursday, with further elaboration that Blank fully intends to bring Smith and GM Thomas Dimitroff back for 2014. Then later on Thursday, the Falcons played their best game since Week 7.

Maybe, Blank should have backed Smith a month ago.

Blank indicated in Silver’s report that regardless of how the Falcons finish this year, the Terrible Twosome in Smith and Dimitroff will be back. I guess that nips my belief that if the Falcons were to finish 2-14 or 3-13 that Smith would be fired. Although never say never. The Falcons could revert back to getting blown out for the final five games, and I think Blank would have to strongly consider making a change.

But truth be told, I don’t want the Falcons to blow things up. Or at least, I don’t want to feel like the Falcons have to blow things up.

What is most concerning about Blank’s comments is that it may lead to this team not making major changes to their “process.”

For the most part over the years, I have backed the so-called “process.” But the problem with the Falcons process is that it represents very little progress.

Complacency, more so than Injuries are Falcons Downfall

The story of this season will center on injuries and complacency. This team has obviously suffered a number of injuries which have limited their ability to field a competitive team. My personal opinion is that the amount of injuries doesn’t explain how uncompetitive this team has been since the bye week, but I’m sure that is going to be what the Falcons chalk their struggles up to this off-season.

Read more…

Takeaways from Week 11

November 18th, 2013 2 comments
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Arthur Blank

I said last week that an Atlanta Falcons loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would be the rock-bottom point of this dismal 2013 season. But perhaps I will be wrong as it may in fact be this week’s upcoming matchup against the New Orleans Saints. If the Falcons get eviscerated in a primetime game by a hated rival, that would be the lowest point of the year for many folks.

I don’t consider myself among them. The Falcons have been blown out by the Saints even in years that they were pretty good, just look at the 45-17 loss in 2011. I fully expect the Saints to crush the Falcons this week in the Georgia Dome, and I feel a great amount of sympathy for Falcon fans that will be on-hand to watch it.

For me, Sunday’ loss to the Bucs was the worst. The margin of victory was not accurately reflected in the 41-28 final score. The Bucs held a 32-point lead with two minutes left in the third quarter, and only thanks to them basically shutting it down for the final quarter and the Falcons finally showing a bit of pride did they shrink that margin to 13 points.

The Falcons offense continues to struggle with their very conservative game plan and play-calling. They are suddenly trying to be a run-first team because they’ve become abundantly aware of the fact that their passing attack stinks, for lack of a better term. But they really only have themselves to blame for that, because as I’ve pointed out numerous times, they opted to sign Brian Robiskie rather than making a “bold” move for a real NFL receiver six weeks ago.

And now the Falcons have resorted to trying to run behind one of the weakest offensive lines in the league. It’s the playoff loss to the New York Giants extrapolated over four games rather than just four quarters. The Falcons offense was shut out in that game because they built their offensive game plan around running with a declining Michael Turner behind a subpar offensive line. But at this point, the Falcons wish their offensive line was as good as that 2011 unit.

Offensive Line or Wide Receiver Biggest Miscalculation?

That’s evidenced by the ability to convert in short-yardage situations. In 2011, there were 62 times where the Falcons ran the ball with 2 yards to go, and they were able to convert for a first down or touchdown on 47 of them, which is 75.8-percent. You could even discount the first 10 games of the season when Turner was actually good, before he seemed to hit a wall down the stretch and see a much better run-blocking unit. In the final 6 games of the regular season, the Falcons were still able to convert 15 of 19 of those short-yardage situations, still 78.9-percent. Compare that to the entirety of this year, where the Falcons have converted on 11 of 21 short-yardage situations, which is 52.4-percent.

But in truth, I don’t believe the Falcons offensive line is significantly worse than the unit from a year ago. In 2012, the Falcons converted on 29 of 48 short-yardage situations (60.4-percent). But obviously, the offense as a whole is significantly worse from last year. And it stems mostly from the fact that the “Big Four” in Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Roddy White, and Tony Gonzalez have seen a sharp decline in their production this year.

I expected there to be a drop-off in their production this year, as last season was a ridiculously good one from those guys. But I did not expect the drop-off to be as significant as it has been this year. And that is the  real issue with this year’s downturn. The Falcons have proven that they can get by with their subpar offensive line play, if they are getting premium production from their passing attack. And while I’ve discussed this teams miscalculations in regards to their offensive line changes over the years, what really has been the major miscalculation was the belief that the Falcons passing attack wouldn’t fall off a sheer cliff.

I’ve been saying for some time that the Falcons needed to upgrade their depth at wide receiver. And I’ll continually pound the table to suggest that the team’s failure to do so in the off-season and following Jones’ injury is a key reason for this team’s downfall. But even with that said, I never would have expected the Falcons offense to perform so poorly as it has without such a move. They still should be better than what they’ve been as of late this year.

And this is where the subject I really want to discuss this week comes into play: coaching.

Dirk Koetter may be Mike Smith’s Downfall

I won’t say that Mike Smith has no chance of saving his job, but I do think that following the loss to Tampa Bay, the chance that Smith is patrolling the sidelines in 2014 for the Falcons shrinks to under 10-percent. I won’t rehash too many of the reasons why I believe Smith’s time in Atlanta is nearing its end, as I discuss many of them in last week’s column and also in my article yesterday for the Bleacher Report.

But the main points are that, as I mentioned above, the Falcons have hit rock-bottom and haven’t been this bad a football team since the lowest point of 2007. That was a season which was arguably the lowest point of this team’s long history of mediocrity and certainly the lowest of Arthur Blank’s time as team owner. And it’s those reminiscent feelings that I think will prompt Blank to move on from Smith at the end of this year. You can’t be as bad a football team as the Falcons have been over the past four weeks and expect the head coach to keep his job, especially given the expectations that surrounded the Falcons going into this year, and will continue in 2014.

And if Smith does get fired, he may be ultimately taking the fall for Dirk Koetter. The fact that this team has Matt Ryan at quarterback, Tony Gonzalez at tight end, and a competent albeit unspectacular Harry Douglas at wide receiver means that the offense should be better than it currently is. I don’t expect greatness, but they should be better than this.

In reviewing the All-22, I’m not seeing a lot of things that I think could help improve the offense. The Falcons aren’t running enough play-action, nor are they taking any measured shots down the field. Last year, they often utilized max protect to offset the weakness of the pass protection to get those big plays downfield. I don’t see much of that nor enough of the “Four Verticals” that the Koetter offense is supposed to be predicated off.

There were unconfirmed rumors that following the 2006 season, one of the reasons why Jim Mora was dismissed was because he was unwilling to throw offensive coordinator Greg Knapp under the bus by firing him. I don’t know if that is true, but it would not surprise me that if Mike Smith is allowed to keep his job next year, it will be dependent on his willingness to cut Koetter loose.

And I’m not sure going with a familiar face like Bill Musgrave is going to cut it to replace Koetter. One of the reasons why I’m open to the Jon Gruden rumors, is because I’m confident that if Gruden was the head coach, it would result in a sharp improvement from the offense. The last time Gruden had a quarterback of Ryan’s caliber, it was Rich Gannon, and relative to his era, Gannon was arguably better than Ryan is to his.

Gruden Could Have Greater Success in Atlanta than Tampa Bay

A big reason why Gruden failed in Tampa Bay was instability at the quarterback position, but that wouldn’t be a problem here in Atlanta with him and Ryan working together for the long haul.

The big question surrounding Gruden is how much personnel power he is seeking. He had a significant amount in Tampa Bay once Rich McKay left at the end of 2003. One would hope that Gruden would be aware of the notion that Atlanta would present a unique opportunity for him. If you’re a high-profile coach like Gruden, Brian Billick, or Bill Cowher, you want significant pull if you’re going to depart your cushy broadcasting job to patrol the NFL sidelines again. But you also want a good quarterback as well since all of those coaches have shown that winning is much easier when you have one. And I don’t think you’re going to find many opportunities that have both a good quarterback and an organization also willing to defer personnel power. And while his respect within the Falcons fan base has diminished considerably, I do think Thomas Dimitroff is well-respected enough around the league that somebody like Gruden should be willing to work alongside him.

Whether the feeling is mutual remains to be seen. But it’ll be interesting because I suspect the situation that may arise in Atlanta in 2014 may be similar to the situation that McKay was fleeing in Tampa Bay, where ownership forced a coach on the GM, and the latter ultimately lost the power battle. And one wonders in all these years that Blank and McKay have worked beside one another and had the latter whispering in the ear of the former, whether or not Blank is averse to that scenario.

But there’s still a chance that Mike Smith salvages his job. But it will stem from this Falcon team playing much better than it has over the past month. But at this point, I just don’t see it happening. After a certain point, it’s going to be too little, too late. For me, I think we’ve already reached that point.

Elsewhere in the NFL…

Not much I want to take away from this past week, besides the fact that four notable undrafted free agents and late round picks really shined this weekend. Two of them were rookies with the Oakland Raiders this past summer. The other faced the Falcons on Sunday.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Antone Smith

Quarterback Matt McGloin came into Raiders camp as a fourth arm, as the Raiders appeared poised to go with Matt Flynn, Terrelle Pryor, and fourth round pick Tyler Wilson as their three quarterbacks. But the undrafted passer out of Penn State managed to quickly pass Wilson on the depth chart. And with Pryor’s unseating of Flynn, McGloin entered the season as the No. 2 for the Raiders.

I thought McGloin looked good in the preseason, but was not expecting him to have much success against the tough Houston Texans defense on Sunday. But he managed the game competently as he completed 18 of 32 passes for 197 yards and 3 touchdowns. It is enough to spark a potential quarterback controversy between him and Terrelle Pryor, who has struggled mightily over the past month.

The other Raider player was defensive end David Bass, who is now with the Chicago Bears. Bass was drafted in the seventh round by the Raiders out of Missouri Western State. He too popped during the preseason for the Raiders, but was cut and claimed by the Bears. He started last week for the Bears due to the injury to Shea McClellin, but this week against the Baltimore Ravens he got a pick-six which was pivotal for the Bears win. It occurred in the second quarter, and without those additional points, the Bears are unlikely to beat the Ravens in overtime. Bass is one of those late-round developmental ends that the Falcons have been so found of, but has enough quickness, burst, and athleticism to suggest he might develop into a capable rotational pass rusher down the road.

The other player is Buccaneers running back Bobby Rainey. I was disappointed the Falcons didn’t claim Rainey back when the Cleveland Browns waived him last month.

The Bucs picked him up and it paid off with a 163-yard effort against the Falcons, following a 45-yard effort against the Miami Dolphins a week ago in the final three quarters once Mike James went down with an injury. Rainey is a player that first came upon my radar prior to the 2012 draft as a smaller, but skilled back at Western Kentucky. He went undrafted and was picked up by the Ravens, and continued to impress me on the handful of preseason games I saw of him. He began that year on Baltimore’s practice squad, but was promoted for a few weeks before a knee injury cost him the rest of his 2012 season. This summer the Ravens cut him, which drew the ire of Ravens fans everywhere.

The Browns picked him up, and while his production was subpar in six games (13 carries for 34 yards, 2.6 avg), I noticed when I was doing my homework on Josh Gordon, that Rainey still ran with the burst and quickness that I recalled seeing the year before. It reminded me a lot of Jacquizz Rodgers, thanks to their shared short, squat builds. And I had the feeling that if the Falcons picked up Rainey, they could potentially groom him into a better replacement for Jason Snelling than Josh Vaughan could be.

But the Bucs snatched him up, and it paid off for them on Sunday. Obviously, the Bucs had waiver priority due to their worse record back on October 22 when Rainey was cut. So maybe the Falcons did try to claim him, but couldn’t.

But my sadness over not getting Rainey was somewhat abated by the play of Antone Smith on Sunday. If Sunday’s game didn’t cement the thought that the Falcons need to have a screen package for Smith every week on offense, then I don’t know what will.

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

Takeaways from Last Week – May 13

May 13th, 2013 Comments off
NFL: NFC Championship-San Francisco 49ers at Atlanta Falcons

Mike Smith may deserve an extension along with Matt Ryan

I’m not sure if this is my final takeaway from the Falcons 2013 draft, but I the more I look at it, the more I like it. At least if judging on this lone criteria, that being that the Falcons targeted athletes.

My main takeaway from the Falcons loss against the 49ers this past January was that the 49ers were clearly a better team. I had been hopeful that the Falcons could get off to a fast start which could negate that somewhat. Because I knew that over the course of four quarters, the 49ers were just a better team, with more athletes that could dominate the game physically in the trenches as well as at the offensive skill positions.

So when I look at the 2013 draft, I see the Falcons appearing to be targeting more athletes than normal. Players like Robert Alford, Malliciah Goodman, and Levine Toilolo really epitomize that in that all three I would consider players with a lot more athletic upside than polish as of today. One could label all three projects, which is something the Falcons haven’t seemed to target in their previous five drafts under Thomas Dimitroff.

I don’t think those three players or any of the Falcons rookies this year really would slant things in the Falcons favor if they were to meet the 49ers again, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Which leads me to my next point, which is what are the expectations for the Falcons 2013 season. I know there are many within the fanbase that expect the Falcons to get over the hump and into the Super Bowl in 2014. You won’t count me among them.

Read more…

Falcons Agree to Build New Stadium in Downtown Atlanta

March 7th, 2013 1 comment

Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank and Atlanta city mayor Kasim Reed announced an agreement this afternoon between the team and the city for a new stadium to be built in downtown Atlanta. The deal has not been finalized yet, and the final site for the new stadium won’t be chosen until it is. But it appears likely that a site adjacent or near the current Georgia Dome will be chosen.

Under the proposed deal, $200 million will be contributed by the city via the hotel-motel tax. The Falcons will be responsible for $800 million themselves, as well as $50 million in infrastructure costs. There will also be investment by the Arthur Blank Family Foundation in adjacent neighborhoods for economic improvements and developments. The city and the team also reached an agreement that there will be equal opportunity for women and minority-owned businesses to participate in construction of the new stadium.

The team and the Georgia World Congress Center Authority, who owns the Georgia Dome, came to a non-binding agreement last year to build a new retractable roof stadium. The Falcons intend to begin playing in the new stadium in 2017, although construction won’t begin at least until the team and GWCCA finalize terms. They appear one step closer now.

Categories: News Tags: ,

Falcons Weekly Round-Up 7/15

July 15th, 2011 Comments off

Recapping the news and headlines involving the Atlanta Falcons from the week of July 10…

Clabo trying to end the lockout

Tyson Clabo flew to New York along with the player representatives of all 32 teams in this latest (and hopefully final) slate of negotiations between the players and the owners to end the NFL lockout, which as of this morning reached its 125th day. But Clabo has a more prominent role, as he has been in the room with other top player reps as part of actual negotiations. Joining Clabo, are Colts center Jeff Saturday, Ravens and former Falcons corner Domonique Foxworth, retired players Sean Morey, Don Davis, and Pete Kendall, along with NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith and counsel. Clabo was invited to represent the face of the hundreds of impending free agents that will be directly affected by the end of the lockout. Recent reports indicate that progress is slow, but steadily being made. Reports indicate that a breakthrough was made on Thursday in terms of the rookie wage scale. (Source: Pro Football Weekly)

Falcons 35th most valuable team in the world

Forbes did a ranking of the 50 most valuable sports teams in the entire world, and the Falcons rated 35th among them with an estimated value of $831 million. All 32 NFL teams were represented on the list and the Falcons placed 26th among them. At the top of the list was the world famous soccer team, Manchester United being valued at over $1.8 billion. They were followed by the Dallas Cowboys and New York Yankees. Making the list were two NBA teams, two Formula-1 racing teams, 8 soccer teams, and 6 MLB teams. (Source: Kurt Badenhausen, Forbes)

Falcons somewhat difficult to root for

The Business Journals did a study rating the fan difficulty of all the pro sports teams in the four major sports in North America and the Falcons placed 15th among the 32 NFL teams. Their methodology included rating each team’s success over the past ten years and their overall success since their inception to find out which teams are most disappointing to their fan base. The Detroit Lions rated as the most disappointing NFL franchise, while the New England Patriots followed by the Pittsburgh Steelers were the least disappointing. The Falcons did better than other Atlanta-based teams, with the Atlanta Hawks placing 4th most disappointing among NBA franchises, and the Winnipeg Jets (nee Atlanta Thrashers) were 7th among NHL teams. The Atlanta Braves did much better as they were the only Atlanta-based team to earn a negative grade, which in this study indicated a relative ease in rooting for them. They placed 20th among the 30 Major League Baseball teams. (Source: G. Scott Thomas, The Business Journals)

White becomes spokesperson for USA Wrestling

USA Wrestling has started a new campaign which is urging high school athletes to compete in both wrestling and football, as both sports have historically competed for the same players. And to do so they tapped Falcons receiver Roddy White. White was a two-time state champion at James Island Charter High School in his native South Carolina and played both sports at the time. White invited ten wrestlers and the school’s coach with him to Colorado Springs to USA Wrestling’s Olympic Training Center this week to get a brand new experience and see Olympic champions work out. Four of the wrestlers play both sports just as White did. (Source: Jeff Hartsell, Charleston Post and Courier)

Categories: News Tags: , , ,

Dunn returns to Falcons as minority owner

December 17th, 2009 Comments off
Warrick Dunn

Warrick Dunn

Former Falcons running back Warrick Dunn has rejoined the team, but this time as upper management as it was reported that he has been approved to purchase a minority stake in the organization. NFL owners voted unanimously to approve the deal, which should be finalized by March 1, 2010.

Arthur Blank still maintains a 90-percent majority in ownership of the team. Blank has already sold minority stakes in the team earlier this year.

Dunn played for the Falcons between 2002 and 2007. His 5,981 rushing yards rank second all-time on the team behind Gerald Riggs. Coupled with 1,635 receiving yards, his 7,616 total yards from scrimmage rank third all-time in the franchise. Along with six seasons he played for the Falcons, Dunn also played six seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, from whom he retired following the 2008 season. Including his Tampa totals, he is currently ranked 19th in rushing yards with 10,967 and 15th in yards from scrimmage with 15,306. He was voted to three Pro Bowls and was voted Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2004. Not only known for his accomplishments on the field, Dunn was noted for his off-field contributions and community relations in both Atlanta and the Tampa Bay Area.

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