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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 52 “Post-Turner Stress Disorder”

December 17th, 2013 Comments off

Allen and I are joined by Dave Choate of the Falcoholic to recap the Atlanta Falcons’ Week 15 win over the Washington Redskins as well as preview their primetime Week 16 matchup against the San Francisco 49ers. We all agree that it was an ugly win for the Falcons and search for positives that can be taken away. We discuss Mike Shanahan’s decision to go for two, lineup changes to the offensive line, Steven Jackson trucking Josh Wilson, and which San Antonio Spur that Tony Gonzalez compares most to. A lot of this episode centers on the cornerback position with Desmond Trufant, Robert Alford, and Asante Samuel occupying a large chunk of the discussion. I give my thoughts on the evolution of defense and what it could mean for the value of the cornerback position in the future. And of course Allen and I close with discussing the playoff races, the epic collapse of the Dallas Cowboys, the Arizona Cardinals becoming our new favorite team among other NFL topics in their ‘Around the League’ segment.

Episode 52: Post-Turner Stress Disorder [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Allen writes for TJRSports.com as well as the Pro Football Spot. His twitter handle is: @Allen_Strk.

Dave writes for The Falcoholic and can be found on twitter: @TheFalcoholic.

If you have any questions and comments, you can hit us up on Twitter, post in the forums in the podcast thread, or drop an e-mail at: pudge@falcfans.com.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, and be sure to rate us there! You can also subscribe directly to our feed at the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/falcfans/LXSt

Falcons add help at tackle in Trueblood

September 3rd, 2013 Comments off

 Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE

Jeremy Trueblood

The Falcons announced a few roster moves earlier today, signing offensive tackle Jeremy Trueblood. Trueblood replaces Terren Jones, who was waived by the team. The team also released guard Phillipkeith Manley, who was on the practice squad, with an injury settlement. It is likely that Jones will be replace Manley there if/when he clears waivers tomorrow.

Trueblood originally entered the NFL as a second round pick in 2006 out of Boston College. He would start 61 games at right tackle over the next four seasons. He would start the first six games of the 2010 season, but a knee injury forced him out of the lineup and he would lose the job to James Lee. However he did get one more start at the end of the season when Lee himself was out with injury. Trueblood would regain the starting position in 2011 after re-signing with the Bucs following the lockout, starting 15 games that year. But his subpar play coupled with an early-season ankle injury cost him his starting spot in 2012 where he only appeared in 9 games, his only start coming in the season opener. He was signed by the Washington Redskins this past off-season where he was expected to compete for a backup spot with Tony Pashos and Tom Compton this summer. Compton won and Trueblood was cut this last week. He will likely be considered insurance at right tackle after a shaky preseason for starter Lamar Holmes.

Trueblood also worked briefly at right guard for the Bucs last season when injuries required them to shuffle around their lineup following the injury to Carl Nicks, adding some depth and versatility.

Jones did not have a great preseason and thus his retention on the team’s 53-man roster was a mild surprise. He was dubbed more in line with practice squad talent and likely will get that opportunity moving forward. Manley also came off as less than stellar in the preseason, after spending his rookie season in 2012 on the team’s practice squad and subsequently the roster in the second half of the season. He was surpassed by both Harland Gunn and Jacques McClendon at the backup guard positions this summer. Gunn made the Falcons roster, but McClendon was waived and claimed by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Manley’s injury was not disclosed.

Waiver Wire Scouting: Offensive Tackles

September 1st, 2013 Comments off

The Falcons are unlikely to be done with roster moves as they prep for the season opener against the New Orleans Saints one week from today.

It would be surprising to see the Falcons carry six running backs into the regular season, something they’ve never really done. They also retained offensive tackle Terren Jones on the roster, a surprising move considering how raw and inconsistent Jones looked in camp. He seemed much more likely as a practice squad candidate than someone that would make any contributions this season. Instead, it would make a bit more sense if the Falcons targeted a veteran tackle that could serve as insurance in case Lamar Holmes and/or Ryan Schraeder don’t solidify the right tackle position this season instead of Jones.

As far as offensive tackles go, the crop isn’t overly strong. Several of the players I figured to be on the roster bubble earlier this month did wind up getting cut. Dennis Roland, Jeremy Trueblood, Tony Pashos, and Kenny Wiggins all got cut. Bryce Harris was retained by the Saints, instead they cut Marcel Jones and his glorious afro. Jonathan Scott didn’t get the boot in Chicago, J’Marcus Webb did instead. Oakland’s Willie Smith was waived/injured, meaning he will wind up on the Raiders’ injured reserve if he is not claimed.

Of that group, no one leaps out. Pashos is the most established veteran. He just turned 33 earlier this month, and started 12 games with the Cleveland Browns at right tackle in 2011. He could be an emergency stopgap. But Pashos has struggled to stay healthy in recent years as his age has caught up to him.

Roland got worked over in the Falcons preseason matchup against Cincinnati. Trueblood has always been terrible. Wiggins is familiar to Pat Hill, having played for him at Fresno State. He certainly was battle-tested going up against quality defenders in San Francisco all summer. Jones is a massive guy with upside as a blocker, but lost out in a competition to the more consistent Harris. Webb had a lackluster summer, and coupled with a change in coaching staff was swept out the door. He has experience as a starter (44 starts) and can play either side of the line having started at both. Webb is infamous for being the embodiment of a porous Bears offensive line the past three years, and certainly that reputation is somewhat deserved. Although forgotten is that Webb was relatively solid a year ago playing left tackle. He still has far too many lapses, but outside an abysmal performance against Aldon Smith last year, he graded out about as well as Sam Baker did in pass protection (according to Pro Football Focus). That makes Webb the most talented of the group, and to be plugged in potentially as a swing tackle makes some sense.

I think a lot of Falcon fans are optimistic that the Falcons can scour the waiver wire for a player that can be plugged in immediately at right tackle and be an upgrade over Lamar Holmes. Well, that is not going to happen. If a player the Falcons add winds up playing this year, it won’t be under promising circumstances.

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Waiver Wire Scouting: Quarterbacks

September 1st, 2013 Comments off
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Is Vince Young really an option?

The Falcons have lost quarterback Sean Renfree for the season as he suffered an injury to his throwing shoulder in the preseason finale against the Jacksonville Jaguars. That leaves the potential for the Falcons to bring in a veteran quarterback given some of the struggles that Dominique Davis has had this summer.

Several players were released or waived by their respective teams over the weekend, and I want to look at those that I feel could help the Falcons.

First we should delineate between a player being released and waived. Players with less than four years of experience are waived. Meaning that they have to pass through a waiver period of 24 hours. During that time teams are allowed to put a waiver claim on them. If multiple teams put claims on that player, the priority is determined by the team with the worst record. If a player is claimed, then his previous salary is absorbed by the new team. If a player goes unclaimed, then he is free to sign with any team he wants.

A player is released if he has four or more years of experience, and will not be subject to waivers. He’s essentially an unrestricted free agent, no different than if this was March. He’s free to sign and negotiate a brand new deal with any team in the league immediately.

Several of the quarterbacks cut over the weekend will be forced to go through the waivers system, including Greg McElroy (New York Jets), Thad Lewis (Buffalo Bills), and John Skelton (Cincinnati Bengals). Other players such as Brady Quinn (Seattle Seahawks), Trent Edwards (Chicago Bears), David Carr (New York Giants), and Vince Young (Green Bay Packers) were released. Carolina Panthers’ quarterback Jimmy Clausen was waived/injured, which means that if he goes unclaimed he will go on the Panthers’ injured reserve list. And no one will claim him because he’s terrible.

If looking at those names, the one that stands out is Carr. Carr has been the consummate reserve in New York over the years, playing four of the last five seasons there. Carr’s experience (79 career starts) makes him the ideal candidate for the Falcons. He has a quick release, generally makes good decisions, and will have more talent at the receiver positions in Atlanta than he’s ever played with. He contrasts with Dominique Davis, as Carr is more effective throwing the intermediate passes than Davis and doesn’t have problems going to his second progression quickly. Carr also is a better athlete than most realize and would at least stand a decent chance of avoiding pressure behind the Falcons questionable front five.

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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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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 36 “Beggars Can’t Be Choosers”

August 28th, 2013 Comments off

Allen and I are joined by Steve Cohen once again to recap and discuss our observations from the Falcons-Titans games. We discuss some of the problems that plagued the Falcons, notably their pass protection … Discussion of the overall strength of the Falcons roster … Do they need to add help at WR, S, and OL … How is Robert Alford performing … Garrett Reynolds, Lamar Holmes, and who are the weak links up front … Roster cuts and impending decisions … Who will stay or go? … What we want to see in the preseason finale vs. Jacksonville.

Ep. 36: Beggars Can’t Be Choosers [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 16 minutes

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

Steve can be found on twitter: @SteveInBrooklyn

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

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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Takeaways from Last Week – August 19

August 19th, 2013 Comments off
ICON SMI

Could we see the return of Mike Peterson?

Roddy White is injured, and I’m not worried. At least I should say I’m not worried right now. If White is out of the lineup in Week 1, then I’ll be worried.

But I’m pretty calm at this point in time, even knowing that White will miss the rest of the preseason with an ankle injury that he suffered on Thursday night against the Baltimore Ravens.

The Falcons now have three weeks for White to get some rest and hopefully heal what the team termed a “minor” injury. Initial reports seem to confirm the lack of severity on this injury, suggesting White could suit up within a week if this were the regular season. But to be honest, I don’t fully buy that. The Falcons routinely have underestimated the amount of time it would take for their players to return. One famous example came in 2010 when Michael Jenkins suffered a shoulder injury in early August that was originally slated to put him out 4-6 weeks. Jenkins did not suit up for a Falcons game until 10 weeks later.

Now it should be noted that since 2010 I don’t recall any other blatant misreads of a player’s recovery. And the team may be a lot better today now three years removed at estimating the timetables for players’ recoveries. But generally speaking, I tend to add a week or two to all prognoses that the Falcons release about their injured players. The fact that the Falcons usually don’t put a timetable on players’ returns is also indicative that they also realize that it only opens themselves up for more criticism.

But the term “minor” is such a relative term. It could be minor in the sense that it may only keep him from practice or playing for a week or two. It could be minor in the sense that it won’t require surgery, but could keep him out of the lineup for a month or more. We really won’t know until Wednesday, September 4, when the Falcons practice report for Week 1 is released and it says either FP (full participation), LP (limited participation), or DNP (did not practice) to indicate where White’s status is. My personal philosophy is que sera sera, thus there is no sense worrying about things you cannot control.

And losing White is arguably the lesser of two evils, at least compared to losing Julio Jones. While I think Richard Sherman’s “dissing” of White several months ago went a bit too far (by saying he’s a product of the system), I do think there is a small sliver of a kernel of truth to what Sherman was saying in that White isn’t as good a player as Jones. Jones is the player that really makes the Falcons offense go, at least in the sense that it changes the way teams try to defend the Falcons. I do think there is a lot more overlap in regards to how the Falcons normally use White in comparison to his replacement, Harry Douglas.

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Preseason Week 2 Stock Report

August 18th, 2013 Comments off
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Peter Konz appears to have found a home at center

This is the third installment in the weekly stock reports, assessing which Falcon players have improved or diminished their stock for making the Falcons roster and/or potentially contributing in 2013.

Last week I indicated that four players’ stock was down: QB Dominique Davis, TE Levine Toilolo, OT Ryan Schraeder, and CB Dominique Franks. Without going into great detail, all four players improved their performances against the Ravens. Franks stood out the most as he was arguably the most impactful defender on the field once the starters went out. He blanketed Ravens wideout LaQuan Williams, and made it nearly impossible for backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor to complete a pass to the young receiver. But rather than rehash previous players, I’ll indicate some new faces that were able to raise their stock within the past week.

Stock Up

 

RB Antone Smith – After a strong preseason debut by Ronnie Wingo, Smith’s grip on a roster spot seemed a bit more tenuous especially given the time he missed due to injury. But Smith responded with a solid performance against the Ravens. As a rusher, Smith was unimpressive. He rushed for 16 yards on 6 carries (2.7 avg). None of his first five carries proved successful, until his sixth and final carry of five yard where he was able to bounce a play to the edge. He is being pushed for what is expected to be the fourth running back spot by a trio of youngsters in Josh Vaughan, Ronnie Wingo, and Donald Russell. That trio combined for 12 carries and 67 yards (5.6 avg) against the Ravens. Seven of those dozen combined carries (58.3%) were successful runs. Vaughn looked particularly impressive, with his first four carries all counting as successes. But Smith showcased excellent speed, which can be valuable in both the passing game and on special teams. He was able to use that speed on the edge on a pair of catches in the flat that went for a combined 40 yards, almost all of it coming after the catch where he streaked by Ravens’ defenders. That speed also came into handy on special teams where he was able to get downfield quickly and cover punts, including downing one at the Ravens’ own 2-yard line. While Smith doesn’t offer the same long-term potential as a runner that the other young backs on the roster do, he does offer immediate value in the passing game, thus complementing Matt Ryan well, and on special teams, meaning he can be active and contribute every Sunday.

OC Peter Konz – While I did highlight Konz as a player whose stock was rising a week ago, it should be mentioned that it continues to rise after a standout game against the Baltimore Ravens. He faced 4-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and was highly effective in controlling the 340-pounder. As mentioned previously, former Falcons center Todd McClure routinely struggled against big 3-4 nose tackles. But if Thursday night is any indcator, that will no longer be an issue with Konz playing the pivot.

Stock Down

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