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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 44 “Tampa Bay is a Dumpster Fire”

October 25th, 2013 Comments off

Allen and I are joined once again by Rashad James, making his second consecutive appearance on the podcast to discuss the Atlanta Falcons win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 7. We discuss some of the standout players from the game including William Moore, Malliciah Goodman, Harry Douglas, and Desmond Trufant. We also take a look at the play of the Falcons young linebackers and whether or not they have what it takes to turn into good NFL linebackers. In their preview of Week 8, we discuss how much impact a healthy Steven Jackson can bring, whether or not there needs to be changes made at punt returner, how the Falcons left tackle matches up with John Abraham, and whether the Falcons defense can take advantage of Arizona’s lackluster offensive attack.

Ep. 44: Tampa Bay is a Dumpster Fire [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 1 minute

Allen writes for TJRSports.com as well as the Pro Football Spot. 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 sign Thomas Howard; Add safety Baker to Practice Squad

October 22nd, 2013 Comments off

The Atlanta Falcons signed free agent linebacker Thomas Howard today to replace linebacker Jamar Chaney, who the team cut. They also signed safety Sean Baker to the practice squad to replace wide receiver Darius Johnson, who was promoted to the active roster on Saturday. Chaney was first signed by the team in September after the injury to linebacker Sean Weatherspoon that landed him on the short-term injured reserve.

Howard went unsigned as a free agent this past summer, as he was recovering from a torn ACL that he suffered at the outset of the 2012 season with the Cincinnati Bengals. Howard first joined the Bengals following the lockout in 2011 after five seasons with the Oakland Raiders, including four as a starter at weakside linebacker. Howard was originally drafted in the second round by the Raiders out of Texas Tech in 2006. For his career, he has started 78 games and recorded 492 tackles, 6 sacks, 7 interceptions, and 6 forced fumbles. His father, Thomas Howard Sr., played nine seasons in the NFL with the Kansas City Chiefs (1977-83) and St. Louis Cardinals (1984-85).

Baker is a first-year safety that was originally an undrafted free agent out of Ball State with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2012. He was cut at the end of camp, but later re-signed at the end of the season to the Bucs’ practice squad. He spent this past summer in Tampa Bay’s training camp before getting released again. He was a four-year starter at Ball State and a two-time All-MAC honoree. He finished his career as the school’s all-time career interception leader with 18. Also added 338 career tackles, 39 pass breakups, 6 forced fumbles, and 3 defensive touchdowns.

Falcons Select Eight for Practice Squad

September 1st, 2013 Comments off
Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

Darius Johnson

The Falcons announced their initial eight-man practice squad this afternoon. Seven of the players were released by the Falcons within the past week, including fullback Patrick DiMarco, quarterback Seth Doege, wide receivers Darius Johnson and James Rodgers, cornerback Jordan Mabin, guard Phillipkeith Manley, and defensive tackle Adam Replogle. The eighth member of the unit will be tight end Mickey Shuler, most recently with the Arizona Cardinals.

All the players except Doege were released by the Falcons yesterday in the team’s final cutdowns. Doege was a part of the team’s cutdown to 75 players last week. Doege, Johnson, and Replogle were undrafted rookies signed by the Falcons this past spring. Rodgers and Manley both will have their second stints on the team’s practice squad. DiMarco and Mabin were players added to the roster this summer that managed to impress enough in camp to stick around.

The Falcons mark the sixth team Shuler will play for since being a seventh round choice of the Minnesota Vikings in 2010 out of Penn State. He was cut by the Vikings during his first training camp, and then was picked up by the Miami Dolphins where he finished the year. The Dolphins cut him the following summer, and then he was added to the Vikings’ practice squad for a month before being elevated to their active roster. He was cut again by the Vikings last summer, and finished the season on the practice squad of the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders brought him back with a future contract this past January, but he would not make it through OTAs and was waived in May. The Bills claimed him, but he was waived again on the eve of training camp on July 27. The Arizona Cardinals then claimed him, but he was cut on Tuesday by the Cardinals. For his career, Shuler has appeared in 6 games, including a pair of starts, all with the Dolphins in 2010. He caught a pair of passes for 44 yards combined that season. Shuler is actually named after his father, who was an All-Pro tight end predominantly with the New York Jets in the 1980s.

He is predominantly known for his blocking ability. You can click here to read a scouting report of Shuler from the 2010 draft.

Falcons get to 53 with 9 more cuts

August 31st, 2013 Comments off

Just before the deadline, the Falcons officially announced the last nine cuts. The team had already made 13 moves yesterday in their effort to get down to the 53-man roster limit by 6 pm Eastern today. Among those cut were: fullback Patrick DiMarco, linebacker Robert James, wide receivers Darius Johnson, Martel Moore, and James Rodgers, cornerback Jordan Mabin, guards Phillipkeith Manley and Jacques McClendon, and defensive tackle Adam Replogle.

These moves may not be the final moves the Falcons make in regards to their roster as they have typically also picked opposing teams’ players off the waiver wire in recent years. Tomorrow the Falcons can establish their eight-man practice squad as well.

These moves indicate that at least for the time being, the Falcons will keep four undrafted free agents on their roster in linebackers Joplo Bartu and Paul Worrilow, as well as offensive tackles Terren Jones and Ryan Schraeder. Guard Harland Gunn made the roster, beating out both Manley and McClendon. Wide receiver Kevin Cone retained his spot as the team’s fifth receiver. The Falcons currently have six running backs on their roster including fullback Bradie Ewing. The team opted to keep Antone Smith and Josh Vaughan at tailback, after it seemed likely only one would stick around. Other bubble players that seemingly have retained jobs are cornerback Dominique Franks and defensive tackle Peria Jerry. The Falcons also retained all of their draft picks, except quarterback Sean Renfree who went on injured reserve yesterday.

Dominique Davis is the team’s lone backup quarterback as of now. Again, the Falcons could continue to make more moves in the next week as they fine-tune their roster in preparation for their season-opening game against the New Orleans Saints on September 8.

Reactions from Falcons-Jaguars

August 30th, 2013 Comments off

Another thorough and extremely long post of reactions from last night’s game. I’ll give some more firm Conclusions: now that we have all four preseason games to evaluate. I’ll focus mainly on what the backups did and whether or not they managed to earn roster spots.

Quarterback

What I Saw:: Davis once again was very inconsistent. He made some poor decisions, some poor reads, and some poor throws. He struggled throwing accurate balls downfield. He had a few really nice throws that were on the money. But in general, he makes his receivers work much harder than they should because of his inaccuracy. When the 2-minute drill kicked off at the end of the half, he was throwing on time and in a rhythm on the throws that the ball came out quickly. But when he gets time in the pocket a few plays later, he struggled making those throws. I think part of that is because of his footwork/mechanics. When he can just make his drop and then throw off his back foot, he’s fine. But when you force him to have to get his feet under him and/or reset them, he messes up causing some errant throws and balls to sail. I felt sorry for him at the end of the game, you could tell he didn’t want to come back into the game. The pass protection just was subpar at the end of the game with the third stringers in the game. Sean Renfree only got a bit of work before he got injured, suffering some sort of injury to his throwing arm as he landed wrong while trying to throw the ball away. I hate to say it but that injury might wind up being fortunate for the Falcons, as it might force them to bring in another backup that can potentially push/overtake Davis on the depth chart down the road. It’s obviously not good for Renfree, who suffered a major injury to his throwing arm at the end of December. If this is another major one, it will be two major ones in 8 months and puts his NFL future in jeopardy.

Conclusions: Davis has talent, but he needs at least another year of refining before he’s a legit No. 2 quarterback in the NFL. He’s just too inaccurate and stares down his reads too much (almost threw 3 picks because of it). You see the flashes which you like and thus why he still has developmental potential. But the Falcons coaching staff will have to work extra hard to make him effective if he ever gets into a real game this season. Renfree even without the injury is just a project that the team was hoping could carry the clipboard for a year, and maybe in 2014 as he’s more comfortable in the system could start to show some promise. His injury might throw a wrench into that plan. He just did not look good this summer in limited action even before the injury.

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Three Key Position Battles to Watch Tonight vs. Jaguars

August 29th, 2013 Comments off

Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

Darius Johnson is poised to make a bid for the roster tonight

While the majority of the Falcons roster is fairly settled, there remain some roster spots open. And many of them come at a few key positions, where a clear-cut winner has yet to emerge. Here are three key position battles where the player who has the best performance tonight against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the Falcons preseason finale could emerge the winner, while the loser seeks employment elsewhere.

Fifth Wide Receiver: Darius Johnson vs. Kevin Cone

The Falcons top four wideouts appear locked in with Roddy White, Julio Jones, Harry Douglas, and Drew Davis atop the depth chart. The Falcons have traditionally kept five wide receivers over the years, with the fourth and fifth players primarily playing special teams.

That helps Kevin Cone, who has been effective working on punt and kickoff coverage dating back to 2012. But Cone has been disappointing thus far on offense. That’s where Darius Johnson has shined. Johnson is the opposite of Cone, in that he’s small, but very quick and explosive. He has been highly productive working with the second and third team offenses. While Cone has made some contributions there, they have been too few and far between. While Cone’s hands have shown improvement from a year ago, he has struggled to separate from coverage.

Johnson did get reps as a return man during his days at SMU, and his speed and quickness could potentially be an asset there in the event that Harry Douglas or Jacquizz Rodgers go down with injuries. But his smaller size remains an obstacle when it comes to coverage on special teams. It didn’t stop a player like Eric Weems from excelling over the years in Atlanta in that realm, but Johnson is a ways from proving himself to be another Weems.

How this final game plays out will determine who wins the job. Cone’s a much more proven commodity as far as special teams goes, while Johnson seems to possess greater offensive potential. The Falcons will ultimately have to decide which they value more. But in both players’ cases, it will help if Cone has a good night on offense, and/or Johnson can make a few plays on special teams. What helps Cone in his bid for a roster spot is that he isn’t eligible for the practice squad, while Johnson is. The Falcons would then have to decide whether they want to risk exposing Johnson to waivers. It would be iffy at best if Johnson cleared them, considering he is currently ranked tied for third in the league in receptions going into the final preseason game. That is likely to catch some receiver-needy team looking for a quick, slot-type to develop.

Another factor that could be in play might be the questionable health of Roddy White. While White is expected to suit up for the Falcons Week 1, if there are any setbacks with his recovery from an ankle injury between now and then, the Falcons could be tempted to carry six receivers on the roster for the opening week as insurance. That could ensure that both players wind up being kept.

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Reactions to Falcons-Titans

August 25th, 2013 Comments off

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Not sure Mike Smith will find a lot to like upon review

One of the more interesting takeaways I had from this Tennessee game may be the fact that Mike Smith refused to use any of his timeouts at the end of the game. The Titans got the ball back with less than four minutes to go in the fourth quarter and the Falcons had all three timeouts. By not using those timeouts, Smith let 93 seconds bleed off the clock between plays to get down to the two-minute warning. The possibility existed that had he used those timeouts and the defense had made a stop on third down, he could have gotten another possession to evaluate his young players on offense. But he chose not to.

It’s hard to try and infer what that means. It would seem that he was a little bit disgusted with the Falcons play on the evening (I don’t blame him) and just wanted to get out of Nashville as soon as possible. But I do feel for the young offensive players who may find themselves unemployed over the next 48 hours without getting that last opportunity to showcase their skill.

Here are my positional thoughts on the performances in the game:

Quarterback

What I Saw: I thought Ryan handled himself fairly well given all the pressure he saw. He seemed lock into Julio Jones for the most part, and it’s not hard to see why. Jones was open quite a bit working against Alterraun Verner for much of the night. There was a couple of poor throws by Ryan, but given that the Falcons play-calling was fairly vanilla, he didn’t have Roddy White, and the pass protection broke down consistently on third down, there’s really not a lot he can do. Dominique Davis continues to frustrate me. He has talent and he made a couple of good throws and reads in this game. But he continues to be very erratic with his accuracy on downfield throws. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t be too worried about it. Davis has shown more than enough ability to merit being kept on this roster as a developmental backup. But he has not yet shown anywhere close to the ability I expect in a No. 2 quarterback. Now part of that may be because I hold backup quarterbacks to a slightly higher standard than most. And it’s clear to me that standard is much higher than the Falcons have given the likelihood that Davis will enter the season as Ryan’s top backup. As a method of comparison, only 2 of Ryan’s 8 incompletions were the results of poor throws. For Davis, 5 of his 7 incompletions were because of his own inaccuracy.

Conclusions?: It’s going to be interesting to see how the Falcons divide reps next week against Jacksonville. Traditionally the Falcons let one quarterback handle the entire game, with Davis being the likeliest candidate. It’ll be interesting to see if the Falcons try to mix Renfree into the game to get him some extra work, or will they be content to let him hold a clipboard this year. If I was to wager, I would expect Davis to play the entire game, since he is the guy that needs the most amount of work.

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Ravens streak past Falcons in comeback

August 15th, 2013 Comments off
Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Torrey Smith bolts past Falcons defense for a score

The Falcons went up early against the Baltimore Ravens, but a late fourth quarter comeback led to their second loss of the preseason by a score of 27-23. The Falcons wound up blowing a 16-point lead in the second half.

Matt Ryan was solid despite seeing some pressure in this game, completing 8 of 15 passes for 97 yards and a touchdown. Dominique Davis came into the game in the second quarter, and finished the night completing 8 of 10 passes for 98 yards. Sean Renfree mopped up, completing 8 of 16 passes for 63 yards. On the ground, Steven Jackson was also solid with 42 yards gained on 8 carries. Josh Vaughan led Falcons rushers with 44 yards on 5 carries. Jacquizz Rodgers added 28 yards on 10 carries and a touchdown. Julio Jones shined with the starters, catching 3 passes for 55 yards and a touchdown. Darius Johnson led Falcons receivers with 6 grabs for a total of 50 yards. Drew Davis (4 catches, 45 yards), Antone Smith (2 catches, 40 yards), and Chase Coffman (3 catches, 30 yards) also made contributions in the Falcons’ passing attack. Matt Bryant connected on a 45-yard field goal, and Jeremy Shelley had a pair of field goals from 42 and 29 yards to give the Falcons their other scores. Matt Bosher punted six times for an average of 41.7 yards with 2 punts placed inside the 20-yard line. Robert Alford returned a pair of punts for 29 yards (14.5 avg) and Harry Douglas also returned a punt for 2 yards. All the Ravens kickoffs resulted in touchbacks. The Falcons were able to gain 255 yards of total offense in the first half, with 16 first downs and converted 4 of 8 third downs. They did not fare as strongly in the second half, with 167 total yards, 11 first downs and only 3 of 10 on third down conversions.

Defensively, the Falcons really bottled up the Ravens offense. While they gave up a pair of big plays for scores, the Ravens struggled to move the ball throughout the first three quarters. The Ravens’ starters played the entire first half, and only were able to accumulate 131 yards of total offense, 3 first downs, and converted only 1 of 5 third downs. In the second half, despite the big plays, the Falcons defense only allowed 118 yards of total offense. Paul Worrilow led defenders for the second consecutive game with 6 stops. He also added a sack and a tackle for loss. Among regulars, Jonathan Babineaux (3 tackles, 2 tackles for loss), Akeem Dent (2 tackles, 1 for loss); Robert McClain (3 tackles), and Asante Samuel (2 tackles, 1 interception) had standout performances. Among the backups, Joplo Bartu (3 tackles), Dominique Franks (no tackles, 1 interception, 3 passes defended), Kemal Ishmael (2 tackles), Charles Mitchell (2 tackles, 1 for loss), and Adam Replogle (2 tackles, 1 sack) had noteworthy games. Ishmael also added a pair of stops on special teams as well. The Falcons did give up a 78-yard punt return for a touchdown, the second score allowed in as many preseason games this summer.

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