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Five Falcons to Watch Tonight vs. Ravens

August 15th, 2013 Comments off

This second preseason game will likely feature a longer look at the Falcons starters, who played three series and much of the first quarter in their opener against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Several of the same five players that I indicated you should keep your eyes on against the Bengals would probably be my choices again this week, including Dominique Davis, Ryan Schraeder, and Desmond Trufant. But I opted to go with a new quintet of players just to keep things fresh.

WR Marcus Jackson

Drew Davis appears to being solidifying his grip on the fourth wide receiver spot on the depth chart, but no one yet has emerged as the front-runner for the fifth and final spot. Jackson has earned praise in camp alongside Martel Moore, and thus needs to turn that into production on the field. Tonight will be as good a time as any to start.

TE Levine Toilolo

Toilolo had a disappointing performance against the Bengals, not necessarily because he did not catch a pass, but because he looked  overwhelmed as a blocker. Toilolo needs to rebound this week and show that he is an effective blocker, as well as potentially showcase his potential as a receiver. He needs to show that he can do at least one of those things well, otherwise he may find himself hard-pressed to see the field come the regular season.

OC Peter Konz

Konz will be going up against All-Pro nose tackle Haloti Ngata when facing the Ravens’ starters. Ngata is one of the best in the business and will be a very tough matchup for any center. Even if Konz fares poorly, it will be a good litmus test for him going into the season. His predecessor, Todd McClure, routinely struggled going up against 3-4 nose tackles, both good and bad, throughout his career. It will be worth watching to note whether Konz has those same issues moving forward.

DE/DT Cliff Matthews

Matthews, similar to Toilolo, looked a bit overwhelmed in the preseason matchup against the Bengals. He appeared to have the majority of his work come inside at defensive tackle, but seemed to get pushed around too much, unable to get off blocks. Matthews is a high-motor that did an excellent job at run defense when he was a much smaller end last year. He needs to showcase that the bulk he added this off-season to get more reps inside is paying dividends by being more stout against the run there.

S Charles Mitchell

One of the issues facing this Falcon team is depth at the safety position given the durability issues that have plagued William Moore almost every season he’s been with the team. Mitchell is the most talented of the group of young safeties and he’ll need to step up to provide confidence that he could fill in if Moore was to go down again. A strong performance against the Ravens could inspire that confidence.

Training Camp Stock Report Week 1

August 3rd, 2013 Comments off

It’s been over a week since Falcons began training camp on July 25, and it’s time to look at which players have distinguished themselves (and those that have not) with our weekly stock report. Expect the next one to be up after the Falcons Thursday night matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals next week.

Stock Up

 

Chase Coffman/Levine Toilolo

Coffman has been taking full advantage of the absence of Tony Gonzalez from the Falcons lineup, catching everything that comes his way. Toilolo is also making good ground as well, and it seems like the Falcons will no longer be hurting for depth at tight end as they have been in past seasons.

Martel Moore

Moore got off to a fast start in camp, working the corners on the roster that aren’t named Asante Samuel. The competition for the fourth and fifth receiver spots are fairly wide open. Moore has shown he can make plays on offense, but perhaps the secret to his making the final roster will be if he can showcase his prowess on special teams.

Ryan Schraeder

Schraeder has generated quite a bit of buzz working with the reserve offensive line units. He’s a player that could manage to make the roster as the ninth offensive lineman and backup to left tackle Sam Baker.

Peter Konz

By all accounts, Konz has had a solid camp, quieting any concerns whether or not the Falcons would see a precipitous dropoff this year at center due to the retirement of Todd McClure.

Cliff Matthews/Malliciah Goodman

Both Matthews and Goodman are off to good starts to camp. Both are expected to be in the mix to play defensive end when the Falcons want to add size to the lineup. Both players are hitting the scales around 280 pounds, and should be in the mix to spell Jonathan Babineaux when the Falcons go to their 3-man fronts at left defensive end. They will also likely be asked to play inside in 4-man fronts to add some quickness inside. Any concerns over whether either player would be able to carve out a significant role in the rotation seem to be evaporated given their start.

Joplo Bartu

Bartu’s name is generating a bit more buzz in recent days. His athleticism and speed have been drawing rave reviews. Bartu has a chance to win a backup outside linebacker position, particularly as a backup to Stephen Nicholas on the strongside.

Stock Down

 

Lamar Holmes

It’s been fairly quiet on the Lamar Holmes front. He is expected to be pushing Mike Johnson for the starting right tackle spot in one of the few starting positions that was truly open to competition, but there hasn’t been much buzz surrounding Holmes. While there hasn’t been a ton of buzz surrounding Johnson either, it does seem like he clearly has the lead. If Holmes doesn’t step up in the coming weeks, this competition could be over before it even really began.

Desmond Trufant

It’s probably not fair to put Trufant on this list. He had a rocky beginning to camp, but by all accounts has improved significantly as camp has progressed. He’ll have plenty of time to get his stock back up the rest of the way, so by no means should anybody be in panic mode. But Trufant is/was expected to win the starting right cornerback position, and the simple truth is that if the season began today, it would be a question of whether he would be in that role.

Camp Battles 2013: Defensive End

July 18th, 2013 Comments off
Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

Jonathan Massaquoi’s growth could make a difference in 2013

The Falcons appear to be set with their two starters at the defensive end position. Free agent pickup Osi Umenyiora will draw the tall order of replacing one of the team’s all-time best in John Abraham at right defensive end. Kroy Biermann will once again fill in as the team’s left defensive end.

But the rest of the position will feature heavy competition as a number of young players compete not for starting spots, but for placement and reps in the team’s rotation.

The likeliest candidate to serve as the team’s third defensive end will be Jonathan Massaquoi, who enters his second season with the team. He played very little on defense last year, with most of his play coming on special teams. He was very effective there and coupled with his upside as a pass rusher, he’s in no danger to be cut. But the Falcons will look for him to have a good summer as he is the candidate most likely to figure into the Falcons nickel subpackage if/when Umenyiora and Biermann aren’t on the field. The multiple fronts presented by defensive coordinator Mike Nolan could easily feature all three, especially given Biermann’s ability to drop into coverage like a linebacker.

Another player that is assured of making the final roster is 2013 fourth round pick Malliciah Goodman. Goodman’s best shot at earning playing time will more than likely come on run downs in the team’s base package as they look to get more size on the field. While Biermann is a consistent run defender, Umenyiora is not, and it’s likely that Massaquoi won’t be asked to play a major part in that role. Goodman possesses good physical tools to develop long-term into an effective pass rusher, but probably his best chance of earning lots of initial playing time will be proving himself as a run defender.

The past three seasons the Falcons have opted to keep at least five defensive ends on the roster, although last year that number was six until the November release of Ray Edwards. That probably will be the case again with Cliff Matthews and Stansly Maponga rounding out the depth chart. If the Falcons only opt for five on the roster, Matthews is the likelier candidate. Given his ability to help as a run defender, high motor, and value on special teams he has a leg up on Maponga, who missed most of the offseason coming off a leg injury. While Maponga offers better long-term value down the road as a pass rusher, he’s unlikely to offer immediate value to the rotation. If the Falcons do opt to keep six ends on the roster, Maponga will likely be the last and is primed to spend most of the year on the team’s inactive list each Sunday. Not unless he can showcase special teams prowess along the same lines of Matthews and Massaquoi a year ago, and show he’s 100% recovered from his injury. While Maponga isn’t guaranteed to make the team’s 53-man roster, he’s almost certainly a lock to be carried on the team’s practice squad at a minimum.

Two other players that the Falcons will bring to camp but are longshots to make the roster are undrafted rookies Cam Henderson and Brandon Thurmond. Henderson has a solid frame (6-4/260) with good arm length (over 34 inches) that passes the eyeball test when it comes to NFL defensive ends. Thurmond is shorter, squatter player with short arms but had excellent production while at Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Between the two, it really doesn’t matter who looks better in a uniform, it will come down to any production they can produce on the field. If either player can impress with a strong preseason, the Falcons might opt to carry a seventh defensive end on their practice squad.

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 31 “Thank God for Jake Delhomme”

July 2nd, 2013 6 comments

This week, Allen and I are once again joined by Tom Melton to discuss some of the upcoming roster and depth chart battles we expect to see in Atlanta Falcons training camp. We break down the battle along the right side of the offensive line as well as what could shake up with the battle for key depth positions at quarterback and tight end … We look at every level of the defense as battles rage at all the position groups. Tom weighs in on how Richard Seymour could help the Falcons … We discuss the depth at linebacker along with what if any of the young players could step up to help the Falcons pass rush … We dive into whether or not this year’s defensive line will live up to some past units and whether Falcon fans have been spoiled by past success up front … It wouldn’t be a Tom Melton episode without some patented Dunta Robinson bashing … We discuss their favorite young punter in the NFL and his name isn’t Matt Bosher … We discuss whether the loss of Tyson Clabo or John Abraham will hurt the team more and then reminisce on some of our favorite Predator moments over the years … Peter Konz’s future is discussed as well as Justin Blalock’s tuba playing … Jason Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers’ values are also discussed. Note: This episode does contain explicit language, so it is NSFW!

Ep. 31: Thank God for Jake Delhomme [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 3 minutes

Allen writes for TJRSports.com as well as the Bleacher Report. His twitter handle is: @Allen_Strk.

Tom Melton can be found on twitter: @TMeltonScouting, and also writes for his own draft blog and NFL Draft Monsters.

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. 30 “Norv Turner’s Neck Meat”

June 15th, 2013 Comments off

This week, Allen and I are joined by Rashad James to talk about the latest happenings with the Falcons. Those include discussion of changes to the right side of the line and whether it will work in the Falcons favor … Addressing the depth and rotation at defensive end and which players might step up opposite Osi Umenyiora to help the Falcons pass rush … Concern over depth at linebacker and which young players might step up including Pat Schiller and Brian Banks … Falcons depth at safety and whether or not more usage of Mike Nolan’s Big Nickel is on the horizon … Roddy White’s future in Atlanta … Revisiting the Julio Jones trade and other potential options … NFC South Division Race talk … Offseason Grades … Falcons Mount Rushmore … Are the Houston Texans for real?

Ep. 30: Norv Turner’s Neck Meat [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 4 minutes

Allen writes for TJRSports.com as well as the Bleacher Report. 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

Falcons Needs: Defensive End

February 6th, 2013 Comments off
Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

Falcons may have big plans for Jonathan Massaquoi in 2013

Normally I would have followed up my needs assessment of the offensive line with a look at several of the offensive linemen that the Falcons could target. But due to the sheer amount of linemen I need to watch on film, I’m just going to skip ahead to other position needs and get to those free agents at a later date. So now it’s time to start to take a look at the Falcons needs on defense, beginning with the defensive ends.

The Falcons have their starters for next year already on the roster in John Abraham and Kroy Biermann. Abraham did not take to his new role in Mike Nolan’s defense as cleanly as hoped, but it would be an shock if he’s not retained. He is the Falcons best pass rusher by far. Biermann proved to be a valuable commodity in the team’s nickel subpackage that for much of the year became predominantly their base package due to his versatility. But the Falcons certainly need to upgrade their pass rush, as it was rarely affected the outcomes of games in 2012.

Both starters are signed through 2014, but the team probably will want an heir apparent under fold before then to succeed Abraham. Thus the Falcons will be looking for developmental talent in the draft more than likely. The ideal situation will be finding a young pass rusher in the draft that can make Abraham more of a part-time player and split reps with both ends. Due to the versatility of Nolan’s scheme, that will likely be a player that is comfortable playing both with his hand on the ground and off it. Abraham primarily played as a stand-up end with his hand off the ground. Biermann did both, but as a pass rusher mainly put his hand on the ground. When he stood up, Nolan often asked him to drop into coverage. The ideal player for the Falcons is someone that can do all three: rush like a linebacker, rush like an end, and also be fairly effective dropping into coverage. The prototype for this type of player would be Von Miller. An obviously, there are very few Von Millers that exist in the world, so the Falcons will probably be looking to settle for “Von Miller Lite.” A big part of the Falcons plan moving forward may rest in hoping that Jonathan Massaquoi develops into this type of player. But if they come across another player early in the draft that also fits this description, they should definitely pull the trigger.

The Falcons may seek free agent options as there will be a few that could come in and become immediately valuable starters. But given the failure that was Ray Edwards, the Falcons may be a bit hesitant to dive headlong into the free agent waters.

Another decision the Falcons will have to make is whether to re-sign Lawrence Sidbury, who will be an unrestricted free agent. Sidbury has flashed potential as a pass rusher, but his struggles against the run and his inability to perform on special teams have caused him to be inactive more often than not in his four-year Falcon career. While the Falcons do have nice backup options in Cliff Matthews and Massaquoi eagerly waiting for extended reps in 2013, it may be hard for the Falcons to justify letting a good pass rusher like Sidbury walk given their issues in that area. It may all boil down to price tag. If Sidbury is willing to accept a short-term deal that commits a minimal amount of guaranteed money, then the Falcons probably will be willing to keep him. If not, then he’ll likely be able to find greener pastures elsewhere.

Given the likelihood that the Falcons will add a pass rusher early in the draft, it means that they may not ultimately miss Sidbury as five ends certainly should suffice. Especially if the Falcons continue to rotate defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux at left end as they often did in the latter half of 2012.

Falcons dump Ray Edwards

November 12th, 2012 Comments off

In what is a surprising move, NFL insider Jay Glazer tweeted that the Falcons would be cutting ties with defensive end Ray Edwards earlier this evening. The move comes as a surprise due to the fact that it is a mid-season release of a player that was the team’s top free agent addition following the lockout of last summer.

Edwards came to the Falcons after several seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, earning a reputation as one of the league’s up and coming pass rushers. In five seasons in Minnesota, including four as a starter Edwards tallied 29.5 sacks. Last year with Atlanta, after coming off a knee injury, Edwards had a disappointing 3.5 sacks. This past off-season, now healthy and with the introduction of Mike Nolan as the team’s defensive coordinator, greater production was expected of Edwards. What resulted was the loss of his starting job to Kroy Biermann and very limited playing time, predominantly serving as a run defender. In 9 games and 4 starts this season, Edwards recorded no sacks and just 9 tackles.

More than likely, Edwards’ release will lead to increased reps for Lawrence Sidbury, as well as Cliff Matthews and rookie Jonathan Massaquoi. Both Matthews and Massaquoi have been inactive for the majority of Falcons games this season.

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 19 “Cuts and Around the League”

August 29th, 2012 Comments off

Ryan and I are back to recap the preseason win over the Miami Dolphins, as well as talk about the cuts the Falcons made over the weekend to get down to the 75-man roster limit. We discuss how we think the final roster could shape up as well and preview a bit of what we expect to happen in Week 1 against the Kansas City Chiefs. We get into discussions about a few Falcon players. Such as some of the young guys that appear to be stepping up including Lamar Holmes, Cliff Matthews, Micanor Regis, Akeem Dent, and the drama surrounding the backup QB position. Veteran players such as Corey Peters and Dunta Robinson are discussed also. We also discuss many topics around the league from Larry Fitzgerald’s praise of the Falcons offense, the Vontae Davis trade, and the Dolphins QB Controversy. We even get to have a lengthy discussion about Ryan’s favorite team the Dallas Cowboys, and how their current predicament with Dez Bryant relates to the Falcons. You’ll even hear our thoughts on the upcoming release of EA’s Madden NFL 13.

Ep. 19: Cuts and Around the League [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 7 minutes

 

If you have any questions and comments, you can hit us up on Twitter, post in the forums in the podcast thread, or drop Ryan an e-mail at: ryan-valdez@live.com. Don’t forget to drop by every week to hear our live broadcast at: ustream.tv/channel/falcfans-show

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. You can also subscribe directly to our feed at the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/falcfans/LXSt

Roster Talk: Defense

August 28th, 2012 Comments off
Fernando Medina-US PRESSWIRE

Is Schillinger on the bubble?

Earlier, I broke down many of the position battles and how the roster could break on the offense. Now I’m going to turn my attention to the defense which seems to have a lot less question marks.

Most of the roster spots seem relatively sewn up, but the last few spots at each position group still seem to be up in the air. And guys will have one last opportunity on Thursday night in Jacksonville to showcase their skills to make one last pitch for the roster and/or practice squad.

Defensive End

The Falcons have kept five defensive ends each of the past few years, but I think this year they will possibly keep a sixth. Keeping five has been their M.O. mainly because they had a young developing prospect that they didn’t trust would clear waivers to make the practice squad due to the league’s premium on pass rushers. In 2009 and 2010, it was Lawrence Sidbury that filled that role, and a year ago it was Cliff Matthews’ turn. As evidenced by Sidbury in 2010 and Matthews last year, whoever that player is rarely gets a chance to play on defense. Thus that would make keeping six seem like extravagance, since now you have two guys that are spending most Sundays inactive. But I think the battle between Jonathan Massaquoi and Matthews has been that close, that I don’t think the team wants to part with either. Massaquoi’s potential as a pass rusher probably means he’ll be higher on the depth chart than Matthews if push came to shove. But Matthews has played well this summer and played consistently with a high motor. So high in fact that you could make the argument he has the best motor of any of the ends on the team. And that’s not the type of player I could see the Falcons cutting when it comes down to it. Matthews still remains eligible for a practice squad spot, but if any team pops in tape of the Falcons previous three preseason games, one of the 31 other teams is certainly going to be impressed enough to snatch him up similar to how the Browns pounced on Emmanuel Stephens last year.

Best Guess for Final 53: Abraham, Edwards, Biermann, Sidbury, Massaquoi, Matthews

Read more…

Falcon Players to Watch Tonight vs. Bengals

August 16th, 2012 Comments off

Looking at several Falcon players that are in prime position in tonight’s preseason matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals to stand out and make a big push to make this Falcons team come September.

  • WR Kevin Cone – While the offensive production of Cone and the other receivers is what is easiest to pay attention to, the key for Cone making the Falcons roster will be his performance on special teams. With D.J. Davis already putting some nice highlights there last week, it’s time for Cone to step up and start to make some key contributions. Otherwise regardless of his offensive potential, he won’t be a Falcon in 2012.
  • WR Kerry Meier – Meier was highlighted last week, and will be so again. Against the Ravens, he played with the first unit taking over the third wide receiver spot for Harry Douglas and did not notch any production. With Douglas returning to the lineup, he’ll likely be pushed to the second units where he can start to make an impact on offense. While Meier’s roster spot is pretty much locked up, he needs to start producing on offense to verify that the Falcons depth is not weak at this position.
  • DE Cliff Matthews – Matthews had a nice performance last week against the Ravens, and will need another solid to strong one tonight. He’s in a battle with Jonathan Massaquoi for the fifth defensive end spot. If push comes to shove, it’s likely that Matthews will be the odd man out if the team is forced to choose only one of the pair. But both players have performed well enough to think the Falcons might try and keep six ends. But that will only become a possibility if Matthews continues to play well.
  • DT Micanor Regis – While Travian Robertson’s play was highlighted from last week’s preseason opener, Regis also made some things happen against the Ravens. Regis has the sort of bulk and presence in the middle to play the nose in a three-man front. While it seems doubtful that he’ll win an outright roster spot, continuing to play well this summer likely can lock up a practice squad spot for him. But his roster chances are enhanced if Vance Walker sits out once more tonight.
  • LB Mike PetersonHe will get the start tonight for an injured Akeem Dent. Few have ever questioned Peterson’s ability to defend the run, and if Dent cannot show he’s significantly better in pass coverage, then it’s possible the team could lean towards the veteran Peterson as the starting middle linebacker. But he’ll need to stand out against the Bengals for that possibility to occur.
  • CB Dominique Franks – It won’t really be Franks coverage abilities that will be worth monitoring, but his return skills. With the team electing not to use Douglas on returns, Franks has a perfect opportunity to solidify his hold on the position. Another productive night could be the nail in the coffin for that competition.
  • S Shann Schillinger – Charles Mitchell made a bit of a name for himself last week on defense, and it’s time for Schillinger to step up his game a little. While Schillinger has proven himself to be one of the team’s best special teams players, he needs to showcase that he does offer some upside on regular defense to really solidify his roster prospects.