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Why is the Falcons Offense Struggling?

September 26th, 2011 Comments off
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Ryan is sacked

Through the first three games of the 2011 season, the Falcons offense has been a disappointment. Things that the Falcons did very well in 2010, they have not done very well in 2011. Last year, the Falcons were 3rd in the league when it came to converting third downs. This year, they are currently tied for 13th. A year ago they were 2nd in the league in time of possession, this year they are 27th. They were the least penalized team in the league in 2010, and now they are the 9th most penalized team. The Falcons were last in the league in generating explosive pass plays, and now have made a minimal improvement to 27th ranked in that regards.

The Falcons seem to have only had success scoring points when they are operating in their no huddle attack. That has caused many fans to levy blame upon offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey for the team’s struggles when he’s calling plays. And rightfully so, but it should not be forgotten that one of the reasons why the no huddle is so effective for the Falcons and other NFL teams is because it forces defenses to play vanilla against you. It’s much easier to execute an offense when you don’t have to worry about exotic blitzes, very basic coverages, and the defense playing on its heels and out of breath.

Of course Matt Ryan seems at his best in the no huddle. Any quarterback worth his salt should be.

But what has gone wrong in Atlanta? Are we witnessing a sluggish start for the Falcons, or is this essentially what we’re going to see the rest of the way?

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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.

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Falcons not expected to make splash in free agency

July 13th, 2011 Comments off

NFL.com’s Jason LaCanfora cited league sources indicating that the Falcons have contingency plans in place to deal with the potential departures of free agent offensive linemen Harvey Dahl and Tyson Clabo, who are expected to be hot commodities on the open market if/when free agency occurs after the end of the lockout. LaCanfora also writes that the Falcons may not be big players in free agency as some sources expect with the pursuit of either Nnamdi Asomugha or top defensive ends like Ray Edwards or Charles Johnson.

Per LaCanfora, the Falcons brass may opt to play a wait and see game in regards to free agency, letting this year’s market play itself out in order to get a better foothold and grip on what to expect next off-season when things should return to normal.

It has been previously mentioned that the Falcons’ contingency plans along the offensive line include the possibility of replacing starters like Dahl and Clabo with current backups like Garrett Reynolds and Mike Johnson. Also players such as veteran tackle Will Svitek and Jose Valdez might also be in the mix to replace Clabo at right tackle.

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…

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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
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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
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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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Week 13 Stock Report

December 1st, 2010 Comments off

There was no stock report last year because I was too focused on deep-fried turkey, greens, stuffing, and mac and cheese than which Falcon players had gotten better or worse over the last week. So enjoy this stock report and some left overs if you still got any left.

Stock Up

 

Harvey Dahl – While Tyson Clabo probably wins the award for Mr. Consistency as far as the five starters go, typically Dahl gets the award for Mr. Impact. If and when Dahl blocks well, the Falcons ground game usually follows. Dahl’s play while not stellar, has been consistently at a higher level in recent weeks than earlier in the season.

Peria Jerry – Jerry has put together some fairly solid performances in recent weeks, at least relative to him providing very little in the first few weeks of the season. He’s shown improvement as a pass rusher, and has been able to get penetration at times vs. the run. If the Falcons were looking for another disruptive presence in the middle to team with Babineaux, then Jerry probably is their best option today.

Matt Bryant – Bryant has been money all year long, perfect 12 of 12 on field goals in the dome including several game winners. The Falcons can be very confident down the stretch that if they need a clutch field goal made at home, Bryant will come through.

Mike Peterson – Peterson  still has his struggles in coverage and the Falcons have done their best this season to try and disguise those issues. When Weatherspoon was sidelined, that was much harder to do with Peterson logging many more reps on passing downs. But now that Weatherspoon is back, Peterson can get back to what he does best which is play the run and be a tough presence inside. And he’s done exactly that in recent weeks.

 

 

Stock Down

Corey Peters – In my praise of Vance Walker two weeks ago, I mentioned that Peters has struggled against the run. Those struggles have continued, although not as glaringly so as they were about a month ago. But Peters remains the starter, and I’m not exactly sure why. It appears the Falcons have settled into a rotation where Walker gets a lot of snaps on run downs, and Jerry gets snaps on passing downs. And I guess Peters gets snaps on both because he’s not really excelling anywhere. And while Peters is still a rookie, and prone to rookie mistakes, he just isn’t making an impact when he’s on the field. I’m just not sold at this point in the year if the Falcons want a rotation that features its best interior defenders, he is really in the conversation.

Justin Blalock – Blalock did not play well vs. the Green Bay Packers. And while Sam Baker has merited much of the ire from Falcon fans this season, I think Blalock is more of a problem child on the Falcons weak left side. McClure, Clabo, and Dahl are fairly consistent with their level of play from week to week. The same can be said of Baker. And while that level of play is arguably mediocre most weeks, that’s at least consistently mediocre. Blalock is the blocker that is prone to the most wild swings from week to week and really from snap to snap. He has plenty of good moments, but seemingly just as many if not more more bad ones. And unless he can play at a consistently higher level down the stretch, he seems like the most likely candidate between himself, Dahl, and Clabo to get left out in the cold when the Falcons talk turkey (yes, pun intended!) about contracts after the season.

What to look for this weekend vs. Cardinals

September 18th, 2010 Comments off
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Babineaux: A Difference Maker in Week 2?

I certainly know a lot of Falcon fans were disappointed with the outcome of last week’s game. I was too, but if you had read my preview of the game then you knew exactly what was coming. I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but I think I pretty much nailed that matchup. I’m trying for two in a row.

I watched the Cardinals-Rams game from last week to get prepped for my analysis of this game. And after seeing that game, I have to say that the Rams should have won that game. The Cardinals truly got outplayed, but if not for three interceptions by Sam Bradford, they probably would have lost.

That being said, I don’t expect the Cardinals to lay down for the Falcons. But I don’t see them as nearly a formidable matchup as the Steelers were.

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Falcons keep restricted free agents

April 15th, 2010 Comments off

The Falcons announced today that four of their restricted free agents signed their one-year tenders today. Those players that signed their tenders were offensive linemen Tyson Clabo, Harvey Dahl, and Quinn Ojinnaka, and running back Jason Snelling.

Today was the last day that restricted free agents could sign offer sheets with other teams. No word on whether or not punter Michael Koenen or running back Jerious Norwood signed their tenders, but since they did not sign offer sheets with other teams, they aren’t going anywhere.

Clabo and Dahl will earn $2.521 million in base salary this year. Snelling will make $1.684 million and Ojinnaka $1.176 million. When Koenen and Norwood sign, they will be set to earn $2.73 million and $1.759 million, respectively.