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Falcons soar above Dolphins

August 24th, 2012 Comments off
Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Roddy White catches a TD

The Falcons got their first preseason win of 2012 by taking down the Miami Dolphins 23-6. The Falcons had seven straight preseason games, their last victory being a road win over the Dolphins on August 27, 2010.

Matt Ryan had another solid performance, completing 18 of 26 passes for 220 yards and a touchdown. Dominique Davis had another impressive night in limited work, completing 2 of 3 passes for 53 yards and a score of his own. Chris Redman had 36 passing yards on 4 of 7 passing. Michael Turner led rushers with his most extensive work, getting 35 yards on the ground on 10 carries. Dimitri Nance added 3 carries for 12 yards, and Antone Smith had 10 more yards on 4 carries. Julio Jones led receivers with 4 catches for 90 yards. Tony Gonzalez also had 4 catches for 24 yards. Turner (3 catches, 36 yards) and Harry Douglas (3 catches, 20 yards) also contributed. Roddy White caught Ryan’s touchdown, ending his night with 2 catches for 28 yards. Tim Toone’s only catch of the night was a 39-yard touchdown from Davis. Matt Bryant hit on all 3 of his field goal attempts of 45, 44, and 51 yards. Erik Folk missed his lone field goal attempt of 32 yards. Matt Bosher punted 5 times for an average of 43.6 yards with 2 placed inside the 20-yard line. Jacquizz Rodgers returned 1 kickoff for 40 yards. Toone had 2 punt returns for 21 yards, while Dominique Franks had a pair of punt returns for 8 yards. The Falcons offense had some struggles converting on third downs early in the game, with only 2 successful conversions on 7 attempts in the first half.

Defensively, the Falcons held tough. The Dolphins were plagued by a ton of dropped passes, which was also a cause of why they only converted 3 of 15 third down attempts. The Dolphins offense was held to 246 total yards, were sacked twice and had two turnovers. Thomas DeCoud led defenders with 5 tackles and an interception. John Abraham (2 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble), Akeem Dent (3 tackles), Cliff Matthews (1 tackle, 1 fumble recovery), Dunta Robinson (3 tackles), Asante Samuel (3 tackles), Lawrence Sidbury (2 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble), and Sean Weatherspoon (3 tackles) all had noteworthy games.

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Categories: News Tags: , , ,

Camp Battles 2012: Secondary

July 19th, 2012 Comments off
Bob Donnan-US PRESSWIRE

Dunta Robinson

One of the most interesting battles that will come in training camp this summer will occur in the secondary, as the Falcons look to shuffle their depth at cornerback.

With the addition of Asante Samuel joining Dunta Robinson and Brent Grimes, the Falcons are now three-deep at the cornerback position, and intend to take full advantage of that this season. The nickel package is expected to often be utilized as the Falcons base package with the intent of getting the best 11 defenders on the field at the same time.

But what needs to occur first in camp, is which of the three players will emerge as the two everydown players. Two of the players will play virtually every snap on defense, with the third nickel corner subbing in on passing situations. That third corner will play the majority of snaps on defense overall, but it won’t be every snap. Last year when Grimes was healthy, he and Robinson averaged about 63 snaps per game as starters, while the nickel corner was on the field (a combo of Kelvin Hayden, Dominique Franks, and Chris Owens) for about 36 snaps per game. The latter number is likely to increase, potentially to as high as 45-50 snaps per game.

Robinson and Grimes are the incumbents, and as such got most of the first team reps during the off-season. That means that Samuel will be coming off the bench as the nickel corner. If that remains the case into the season, then in those nickel situations Samuel will play on the outside across from Grimes with Robinson moving inside to the slot corner spot. This is arguably the best usage of the three players since among the three Samuel is the weakest in run support and thus limiting his first and second down reps could streamline his usage. But at the same time, Samuel is also the best playmaker of the group, and thus it would make sense to maximize that ability by putting him on the field as much as possible. Robinson on the other hand is the least likely to make plays in coverage, and while his strength has historically been run support, that was an area where he struggled throughout the 2011 season. He’ll need to show the coaching staff this summer that 2011 was an aberration, and his former toughness against the run has returned.

Franks, Owens, and Darrin Walls will be competing for the opportunity to be the first player off the bench in the event of an injury. Franks is the most likely of the group to win the job. He had his share of moments last year as an injury replacement for Grimes down the stretch. While Franks is not well-suited to playing in the slot, he does have a solid skillset that can make him a potentially effective starter on the outside. And given the looming contract issues that both Robinson and Grimes face in the future, the team may want to groom Franks as a potential replacement come 2013.

The addition of Samuel to the roster means that the Falcons could be parting ways with either Owens or Walls. Walls shined last summer but in the face of minimal competition due to the fact that he was competing with other undrafted free agents. He won’t have such a luxury this year, as he’ll likely be going directly up against Owens for the fifth and likely final cornerback slot. Owens has struggled throughout the years when lined up in the slot, but when he’s been an outside corner as a rookie and late last year, he has been a solid reserve. That experience and versatility coupled with Owens being one of the team’s better producers on special teams should give him an edge to win the job. But it’s no slam dunk. Owens is entering the final year of his contract, and while Walls is probably never going to be a better player than Owens in the long run, the fact that Walls is two years younger and cheaper could give him a slight edge in the competition. The key for Walls is showing that he can also be a very good special teams player. The positive for Walls is that he remains eligible for the practice squad, so it’s possible they could keep both.

There will be added competition at cornerback this summer. The team picked up Robert McClain in the off-season as well as adding undrafted free agents Marty Markett and Peyton Thompson. McClain was a solid special teams player as a rookie in 2010 with the Panthers. And Markett is a track guy from South Carolina that could potentially be an excellent gunner. Thompson has solid cover skills and the sort of toughness that could also make him a capable special teams player. Because of their potential to impact on special teams, all three players have a legit chance of making the roster.

At safety, the starters are settled with Thomas DeCoud at free safety and William Moore at strong safety. The team made a good decision to upgrade their depth by signing veteran Chris Hope. Hope will be the primary backup at strong safety, but he also posseses the experience to fit nicely as the team’s top backup at free safety as well. All three players have firm holds on their roster spots.

The key competition at safety will come for who wins the fourth safety spot. Shann Schillinger will compete with rookie draft pick Charles Mitchell, along with undrafted rookies Chad Faulcon and former practice squad player Suaesi Tuimaunei. Schillinger is one of the team’s top special teams players, which gives him an edge in the competition. But the team likes Mitchell and his skillset should also translate well to producing on special teams. Mitchell is not a great cover guy, but is an ace run defender despite being undersized. Schillinger has not shown a lot on defense the past two summers but he’s a free safety while Mitchell is a pure strong safety. And since Hope is primarily a strong safety, that also gives Schillinger the potential nod. The Falcons may opt to keep five safeties particularly if Schillinger manages to win the job, but Mitchell may also be destined for the practice squad at least early in the year. As for Faulcon and Tuimaunei, they are likely competing for practice squad spots, but will be hard-pressed to do so especially if the Falcons manage to keep five safeties. Their best chances will be impacting on special teams.

Why Brent Grimes Didn’t Get a Long-Term Deal

July 17th, 2012 1 comment
Andrew Weber- US PRESSWIRE

Brent Grimes

The Monday, July 16 deadline for when franchise players could get long-term deals done passed without Falcons corner Brent Grimes getting one. That outcome was not a surprise given how little movement and noise had been made in recent weeks.

The Falcons appear to be in a position to play wait and see with Grimes. The team picked up Asante Samuel this off-season, and the team is trying to get a return on their substantial investment in Dunta Robinson this year by moving him inside in nickel situations. Essentially, if Grimes has a good season then he’ll likely land the long-term deal he seeks next off-season. But the Falcons want to be sure that they are not committing another huge deal to a player that does not deserve it. Because while the Falcons brass won’t admit it, they aren’t too thrilled about the Robinson deal they gave out two years ago.

Robinson received $57 million over six years, and nearly $25 million in guaranteed money. That was and remains roughly market value for a top No. 1 corner. Unfortunately, Robinson has been anything but that caliber of player. On the other hand, Grimes has been. You would be hard-pressed to find a corner outside Darrelle Revis and Samuel that has collectively played better the past two seasons than Grimes. Yet the Falcons appear to be reluctant to make such a big investment unless they deem that player to be essential. And right or wrong, it’s clear that this team doesn’t view Grimes as an essential piece.

And from a certain perspective that is understandable, now that the team has added Samuel and decided to move Robinson inside to the slot. If Samuel continues to play at a high level, and there is a significant uptick in Robinson’s play so that he appears to solidify a nickel spot that has been a major weakness for this defense for three years running, then committing $50 million or more to Grimes isn’t the smartest financial decision. Especially when you have players like Dominique Franks and Chris Owens on the roster. While they are not nearly the players that Grimes is, the Falcons only have to commit roughly $1.9 million to the pair over the next two seasons. Had the Falcons given Grimes the exact same contract as Cortland Finnegan received from the Rams this off-season (5 yrs., $50 million), that figure would be around $24 million. So while you may only be getting one half of the player, you’re getting him for one-twelfth the price.

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Falcons re-up with DeCoud

March 6th, 2012 Comments off

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the Falcons have agreed to terms with safety Thomas DeCoud, who was on the verge of becoming an unrestricted free agent next week.

Terms of the deal were undisclosed. DeCoud has been a starter for the Falcons at free safety since 2009. He was a third round pick for the team in 2008, playing exclusively on specail teams as a rookie. In 2009, he was elevated to the starting lineup and had 68 tackles and 3 interceptions. This past year, he posted career highs with 85 tackles and 4 interceptions.

Earlier today in other free agent-related news, the team announced that tight end Michael Palmer and running back Antone Smith had signed their exclusive rights tenders. Both player as players with two years of experience were tendered at the $540,000 level. Both players will be restricted free agents after the 2012 season.

UPDATE: Schefter reports that the terms of DeCoud’s deal are $17.5 million over five years with $4 million in guaranteed money.

Categories: News Tags: , , ,

FalcFans Podcast – Episode 14 (Two Parts)

February 27th, 2012 Comments off

Ryan and I get together in this first part of a two-part episode to talk Falcons off-season once more with some updates on free agency, draft, and the Combine. We run down our thoughts on several current Falcons including Sam Baker, Michael Turner, John Abraham, and of course the obligatory Joe Hawley argument. We also share our thoughts on which free agents and draft prospects the Falcons should target in order to improve the team in some key areas. We also give our perspectives on whether the Julio Jones looks better or worse with the value of hindsight.

In part two, we talk about Brent Grimes and Curtis Lofton and their futures in Atlanta as well as comparign Thomas DeCoud and Reggie Nelson. We also talk about a bunch of non-football topics including UFC, dating, technology, social media, and about past and future guests on the show.

Part 1:

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Duration: 1 hour, 25 minutes

Part 2:

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Duration: 1 hour

 

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Free Agent Focus: Safeties

February 15th, 2012 1 comment

ICON SMI

Thomas DeCoud

The Falcons have two free agents that they have to decide whether to keep or let test the market: starting free safety Thomas DeCoud and utility backup James Sanders. In a perfect world the Falcons probably manage to hang onto both, but given other priorities, it’s possible one or both players slip through the cracks.

DeCoud has been up and down as a Falcon, but he’s generally been solid as the team’s free safety. Sanders was a nice late summer addition because he can play either safety spot, filling in that depth role vacated by Erik Coleman. There was some hope that when Sanders was signed, he could give the Falcons cause to let DeCoud walk if need be. But Sanders did not quite play at that level this year. He was serviceable when asked to fill in, but was not a significant upgrade when he was on the field versus when DeCoud suited up.

New defensive coordinator Mike Nolan will have to make a decision on whether he thinks DeCoud or Sanders can potentially be the quarterback of the secondary in this new scheme. Or he will have to find another option.

One obvious alternative choice would be DaShon Goldson, a player that Nolan drafted in San Francisco. Goldson is coming off a breakout season where he had 6 interceptions. The concern with Goldson is that up until this year, he really was not anything more than an above average player. And any team that is going to pay him will have to determine if his emergence was due to his natural progression and development, or simply because of the introduction of a new scheme by Vic Fangio. If it’s the latter, then there is a buyer’s beware on him.

Outside Goldson, there are few free safeties that jump out for the Falcons to sign. Jim Leonhard (Jets) has a bit of the intangibles that the Falcons probably would want as leader in their secondary, but he’s finished his second straight season on injured reserve and will be 30 in October. His teammate Brodney Pool is a ballhawk, but a bit too one-dimensional as he’s a suspect run defender.

Reggie Nelson is known by head coach Mike Smith, and played well as a rookie in 2007. But in the ensuing years after Smith’s departure, his play dropped off significantly. But he had a nice bounce-back season this past year in Cincinnati. But the issue with Nelson is whether you can count on him to maintain that level of play.

One other player near the top of the list is Tennessee’s Michael Griffin. Griffin has not quite developed into the elite safety the Titans envisioned when they made him their top pick in 2007. But he is a fast, athletic safety that at least offers some upside.

But in truth, there are no obvious upgrades over a player such as DeCoud on the market. When examining their entire bodies of work, nobody’s really stands out above his. This is the classic sort of free agent market where mid-level starting safeties get overpaid. If the Falcons can re-up with DeCoud on a hometown discount, that probably makes the most sense.

If the Falcons lose Sanders and are looking for more of a utility backup, one option out there is Jordan Babineaux, younger brother of Jonathan. Babineaux can play either safety spot as well as nickel cornerback, giving the team options there. But in the end, the Falcons should probably try and keep both DeCoud and Sanders. If they were to prioritize one over the other, then DeCoud is probably the better choice. But if the Falcons are going to want to find a player that is a significant upgrade at free safety, they will need to focus on finding him in the draft.

Categories: Features Tags: , ,

Moneyball 2011 – Week 11 Review

November 21st, 2011 Comments off

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

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

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

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

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

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Moneyball 2011 – Week 10 Review

November 15th, 2011 Comments off

A really tough outing for the Falcons as they had multiple opportunities to win this game, but could not take advantage. This is traditionally how the Falcons have played the Saints over recent years, and why they have lost most of those games. A dropped ball here, a penalty there, a blown assignment there, and it all adds up to the Falcons coming up short at the end of the day.

Personally, I think the decision to go for it on fourth down in overtime was the right call. If you can’t get 8 inches, then you probably don’t deserve to win. I didn’t agree with the play call on that play though, with less than a foot to go I think you just sneak it up the middle rather than handing it off to Turner.

For the most part, Matt Ryan had a really good game. He continues to struggle with throwing the ball downfield, as 6 of his 8 poor throws were deep (20+ yard) passes. He does a good job on the majority of his throws from 15-20 yards, but once you start pushing his throws to 25 yards or more, he tends to struggle. I’m still not in love with the Falcons overall play-calling and design of their passing plays, although there were several calls during this game that I think are good ones from Mularkey. I just want to see the Falcons use those plays more. Getting 4 or 5 options on the field at the same time, and running more vertical routes with clear outs worked very well for this team in the fourth quarter. We should be doing more of those plays earlier in the game, and particularly on first downs rather than running the ball into the pile for 1 or 2 yards.

Michael Turner had a strong start to this game, earning $7 of his $13 on the first series. But after that, he was pretty non-descript. Had a few more nice runs, but he didn’t do much. Part of that was because of the blocking. The blocking was solid early on, but as the game wore on the Falcons could not get any push.

Cameron Jordan was punking Tyson Clabo throughout this game. Will Svitek doesn’t really seem to be an improvement over Sam Baker in pass protection, although his run blocking is much better. But Ryan’s interception is probably just as much on him giving up the pressure to Will Smith as it is on Roddy White for dropping the ball. Joe Hawley is probably our meanest offensive linemen, but he’s miscast as a guard because of his inability to get consistent push. McClure is clearly starting to slow down, and Blalock is solid, but that doesn’t bode well for your offensive line when he’s your best blocker. He’s the type of player that should be your third best blocker.

Roddy White really struggled in this game, and without even checking I’m sure this is by far his worst earning since I started doing Moneyball in 2009, and probably is one of his worst games since his rookie year. One of his penalties was a ticky tack call (the offensive P.I.), but his blocking was bad in this game, and he just didn’t really seem to have his head in the game. Speaking of officiating, this game was pretty sloppy in that realm. The Falcons got some calls, the Saints got some calls, but I feel like the refs missed some calls. There was a hold on Jonathan Babineaux late in the game, that I felt they missed. There was a block in the back on Martez Wilson that I thought they missed on Sproles one good punt return. And the pass to Roddy in the endzone at the end of the game that could have won it, I thought it was certainly debatable if Greer got there too early for a pass interference. But I tend to cut the refs some slack, but I’m not sure this is going to get a lot of positive grades for Terry McAulay & Co. when it comes time to picking who officiates in the playoffs and Super Bowl.

Tony Gonzalez was money in this game, but the Falcons just didn’t get him the ball enough. Harry Douglas had an outstanding game, and when the Falcons spread the field, that’s where most of his plays were made. It was also nice to see the Falcons get Eric Weems involved as well. And this is another knock on Mularkey, but why can’t either of these two players get involved in the offense unless Julio Jones is out of the game. They combined for 11 catches, and I would say probably on 9 or 10 those plays, they were good play calls and designs. Yet, they never seem to run those same plays when Jones is on the field, and thus both players essentially disappear whenever Jones is in the lineup.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLOCK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Michael Turner$0$13$1$0$0-$1$13.00
Matt Ryan$12$0$0$0$0$0$12.00
Harry Douglas$0$0$8$0$0$0$8.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$4$1$0$0$5.00
Jason Snelling$0$1$4$0$0$0$5.00
Joe Hawley$0$0$0$3$0$0$3.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$4-$1$0$0$0$3.00
Todd McClure$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Mike Cox$0$0$0$2$0-$1$1.00
Will Svitek$0$0$0$2$0-$1$1.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Julio Jones$0$0$1$0$0$0$1.00
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Reggie Kelly$0$0$0$0$0-$1-$1.00
Eric Weems$0$0$1$0$0-$4-$3.00
Roddy White$0$0$3-$3$0-$4-$4.00

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Moneyball 2011 – Week 7 Review

October 25th, 2011 1 comment

The Falcons were effective with their ball control attack in this game. The secret to their success was mainly their defense, but more on that later. It was a good day and a good win, and we might look back at it later this season and might say this one salvaged our 2011 season. That is of course, if the Falcons can build off this win after the bye and have some momentum going into the second half of the season.

Michael Turner had a solid day rushing, and Jacquizz Rodgers had a nice run to finish the game. I know I sound like a broken record, but I still wonder why the Falcons don’t use him more. Every time he touches the ball, good things seem to happen.

Matt Ryan did not have a great game. He did well early on third downs, but in the second half his accuracy, touch, and timing started to deteriorate, which is why he had the high number of poor throws (10). It’s been a while since Ryan had that many off throws in a game. He had some nice throws and plays (notably his TD pass to White), but overall it was a very hot and cold, inconsistent performance. I’m sure the ankle injury didn’t really help matters in the second half.

And the Falcons did a fairly good job handling the Lions pass rush. Their problem was the amount of missed blocks in the ground game. Garrett Reynolds really struggled in this game with a bunch of missed blocks and his penalties. Part of it was blocking Suh, part of it was his bum ankle, but most of it was just him not being that good. Outside the play where he stepped on Ryan’s ankle, Svitek had a solid game filling in for Sam Baker.

Congratulations are due to Tony Gonzalez for his his accomplishment as the game’s second leading all-time receiver. He had a solid game. Both White and Douglas also had solid games as well.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLOCK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Michael Turner$0$10-$1$0$0$0$9.00
Jason Snelling$0$1$2$1$1$0$5.00
Roddy White$0$0$5-$1$0$0$4.00
Harry Douglas$0$0$4$0$0-$1$3.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$4-$1$0$0$3.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$2$1$0$0$0$3.00
Matt Ryan$1$2$0$0$0-$1$2.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$2$0-$1$1.00
Todd McClure$0$0$0$1
$0$0$1.00
Will Svitek$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Eric Weems$0$0$0$1$1-$1$1.00
Mike Johnson$0$0$0$0$0-$1-$1.00
Ovie Mughelli$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00
Chris Redman-$1$0$0$0$0$0-$1.00
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0-$1$0-$1-$2.00
Garrett Reynolds$0$0$0-$3$0-$3-$6.00

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Falcons Highlight of the Week

September 29th, 2011 Comments off

Despite a mediocre at best offensive effort for the Falcons in Week 3, that side of the ball still dominates the highlights of last week’s loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The winning highlight goes to Julio Jones, for his 49-yard grab that set up the Falcons only touchdown of the game. Falcon fans finally got a chance to see the big play potential that caused the Falcons to give up so much in this year’s and next year’s draft to get him.

Jones big catch

Honorable Mentions:

Tony Gonzalez’s TD grab

Roddy White’s 30-yard catch and run

Thomas DeCoud’s redzone interception

Categories: Features Tags: , , , ,