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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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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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Reactions to Falcons-Ravens

August 16th, 2013 5 comments
Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Peter Konz stood out against Baltimore

Just like last week, I’ll post my reactions to the Falcons’ performances in their second preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens. For the most part, I thought the Falcons had a good performance. Here I’ll try to recount the performances of as many players on the roster as possible and some basic conclusions about how it could effect the roster and potentially the season.

Quarterback

What I Saw: Ryan saw some pressure in this game, but again the Falcons gameplan with the starters was to try and keep him from getting hit with some quick throws and reads. Ryan made several nice throws downfield in this game, hitting Jones on a 32-yarder. Davis played better in this game, but it appeared the Falcons were definitely trying to help him out with their play-calling. He didn’t make a read downfield until his fourth throw to Coffman near the end of the first half. Outside that throw and the throw to Drew Davis that he fumbled at the end of the first half, Dominique Davis didn’t make any throws that were more than 5 or so yards in this game. He made some good throws and some nice runs to keep the offense in rhythm, but his solid play seemed to be more a result of Koetter’s play-calling than Davis really playing at a high level. Renfree entered the game at the end of the third quarter and was erratic. He made a couple of nice throws that were dropped. He appeared much more willing to throw the ball downfield as only a few of his throws were 5 or less yards. His accuracy was too erratic however, but I like the willingness to pull the trigger on downfield throws, a desirable trait in an NFL quarterback.

Conclusion?: No Seth Doege in this game, which means it’s highly doubtful he sticks on the team or practice squad. I think Koetter’s defense of Davis earlier this week and his play-calling indicates the team is intent on using Davis as the No. 2 and are willing to work harder to make him look better. Renfree appears set as the No. 3 and I didn’t see anything in this game to suggest that the pair should flip spots. But it’ll be interesting to see how their battle unfolds next summer, which will hopefully be the next time we see them hit the field once the regular season starts.

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Takeaways from Last Week – August 12

August 12th, 2013 Comments off
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Is Vick the one to lead the Eagles in 2013?

I don’t feel the need to really discuss the Falcons preseason opener against the Cincinnati Bengals. I spent 4,300 words breaking down nearly every player on the roster on both offense and defense, an hour-long podcast, as well as seeing which players’ stock is up and down following the game.

But the one thing I do think is worthwhile mentioning about the preseason opener is just many of the reactions I’ve seen and read about it. For whatever reason, people seem to have what I believe to be an overreaction to preseason games in general, but particularly the first one. If I am to wager a guess as to why that is, it’d be that since it’s really the first real football action we’ve seen in six months, people tend to probably overrate it. Similar to if you’re on a diet and you’ve decided to cut out soda or pizza. If you were to a regular consumer of either and then went six months without it, you might think that first sip of cola or slice of pepperoni is among the greatest thing you’ve ever eaten. Even if it is just the generic brand you bought for $0.89 at the local grocery store, or the crappy pizza from your local parlor that makes Pizza Hut look like gourmet stuff.

It’s not surprising that many fans do this. They are probably just aping what the media is doing, whose job it seems to be only about overreacting to things.

Take for instance the happenings in Philadelphia. First, Riley Cooper mouths off and says a racial slur. This might be a controversial viewpoint to some, but I don’t get what the big deal is. Cooper did what tens (if not hundreds) of millions of (white) Americans have done in the past, especially when they have imbibed alcohol. The only difference is that Cooper is semi-famous and it was posted on YouTube. I’m certainly not trying to condone what Cooper said, but why is the media coverage of this incident to the degree like he is/was the first person to use a racial slur. If you just paid attention to television, you would think Cooper and Paula Deen were the only people to use a racial slur in the past twenty years.

The other thing in Philly is how quickly everyone seems to be slamming the door on the quarterback competition between Michael Vick and Nick Foles. I don’t deny that Vick’s performance against the New England Patriots likely means he’s the front-runner and likely winner of the job going into the regular season. In fact, it’s not really the notion that people believe the competition is over since I’m fairly confident that it is over as well. But it’s the notion that Vick’s performance in the preseason opener means that all the question marks that the Eagles have at that position are answered.

Vick threw an extremely pretty pass to DeSean Jackson for a score against New England. But hitting deep passes to Jackson really hasn’t been Vick’s problem over the years. It’s been managing games and limited turnovers. His performance against New England did nothing to indicate those won’t continue to be issues for Chip Kelly and the Eagles to try and overcome this season.

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Preseason Week 1 Stock Report

August 11th, 2013 Comments off

Andrew Weber- US PRESSWIRE

Corey Peters

A week ago, I discussed some of the players that bolstered their stock up or down during the first part of training camp. Now it’s time to look at which players did the same in the first preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Some of these thoughts were previously expressed in my offensive and defensive reactions article from a few days ago. But these are the players that I think really helped or hurt their stock when it comes to solidifying their respective positions and/or making an impression to earn a spot on the roster.

Stock Up

 

RB Ronnie Wingo – Wingo ran with authority and power while working with the third team units against the Bengals. He did drop one pass, and he’ll need to showcase that he can produce in the passing game if he has a chance to make the roster. That goes both for catching the football and in pass protection, something he didn’t get much opportunity to do against the Bengals. He took advantage of the absence of Antone Smith, who’s grip on the fourth running back position appears a little more tenuous. But among the backup running backs not named Jacquizz and Jason, Wingo appears to be the best runner.

OC Peter Konz – Konz had a nice debut at center against the Bengals, showing that he was capable in pass protection and run blocking. The beauty of being a center is that you don’t have to do a whole lot to look good. But Konz did all the right things, playing balanced and with leverage and getting good position as a run blocker. He’ll best tested even more this next week against Baltimore Ravens nose tackle Haloti Ngata. Blocking Ngata is often like trying to block out the sun, nearly impossible. If Konz fares well against him, then things will definitely be looking up.

DT Corey Peters – After missing all of camp and the first half of the regular season last year with a foot injury, Peters appeared poised and ready to show out in his contract year. He did not disappoint in the opener, as the Bengals struggled to move the ball on the ground when they ran to his side. He has never been the sort of disruptive force up front that Jonathan Babineaux is (which was also on display against the Bengals), but Peters did show his ability to anchor and get off blocks at the point of attack against what is a fairly good Bengals blocking interior. He appears in regular season form, which bodes very well for Peters in 2013.

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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 34 “Everything Bengals”

August 10th, 2013 Comments off

Allen and I are joined once again by Matt Chambers to recap the Falcons preseason opener against the Cincinnati Bengals. We each give our thoughts on some of the things we liked and did not like about the game. You’ll hear our thoughts on the rumors of Steven Jackson’s demise…How Garrett Reynolds, Lamar Holmes looked and how it could affect the offensive line play in 2013…Paul Worrilow vs. Akeem Dent…The pass rush and whether some of the young defensive linemen are ready to step up…Robert McClain, Desmond Trufant, and Robert Alford and how they looked against the Bengals…The greatness of Dane Sanzenbacher…Brian Banks and what are his chances of making the roster…Dominique Davis’ performance and how the backup QB position may play out…The greatness of Jason Snelling…Whether Chase Coffman is for real…What to look forward to in upcoming preseason games, including next week’s matchup against the Baltimore Ravens.

Ep. 34: Everything Bengals [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 6 minutes

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

Matt Chambers can be found on twitter: @FalconsM5, and also writes for Grits Blitz blog.

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

Where do Falcons turn at right tackle?

August 7th, 2013 1 comment
Dale Zanine-US PRESSWIRE

Bryce Harris: Could the Falcons turn to a familiar face for help?

Mike Johnson is down and not likely to return anytime soon for the Falcons. It puts the pressure on Lamar Holmes to step up and man the right tackle position that most were expected him to win outright when the team opted to cut Tyson Clabo in the off-season.

Pressure will be on Holmes this year, as the Falcons offensive line is the biggest weakness on their offense. It has struggled throughout each of the past two regular seasons, allowing too much pressure to reach Matt Ryan, and not being able to clear running lanes to produce for the ground attack.

The likely scenario for the Falcons will be to wait and see. As I outlined earlier this offseason when it came to the possibility of signing a veteran like Eric Winston to bolster the right tackle position, the Falcons have a vested interest in their young players developing at the position. Signing a veteran will only really prevent that development, and it’s not something one should expect the Falcons to make immediately, if at all.

Undrafted rookie Ryan Schraeder has been earning a ton of praise thus far in camp, and fellow rookie Terren Jones has also had his moments. The Falcons will likely give all three players along with Alec Savoie opportunities in these first two preseason games to see if they can step up and ably fill the void.

Johnson was by no means a proven commodity at the position, but the belief was that via competition between him and Holmes, the Falcons could be firm that they had solidified that spot the best they could. Without a veteran player like Johnson in the mix, it will be a hard to gauge exactly where Holmes is.

If the Falcons do go shopping for right tackles, Sean Locklear, Jammal Brown, and Winston Justice likely top the free agent lists. Locklear is a versatile player that served as the Giants swing tackle last year. He started 9 games in 2012: one at left tackle, and the rest at right tackle due to an early season injury to David Diehl. But Locklear wound up tearing his ACL in December and is unlikely to be ready for the start of the regular season.

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Training Camp: Day 11 Report

August 7th, 2013 Comments off

Yesterday the Falcons held the second of two joint practice sessions with the Cincinnati Bengals in preparation for Thursday night’s preseason opener against the team in the Georgia Dome. Here are the buzz generated from yesterday’s camp session:

The notable news from yesterday was the injury to tackle Mike Johnson at the start of practice as he suffered a dislocated ankle and broken left leg, likely ending his season. The Falcons began working Lamar Holmes and then Ryan Schraeder into the lineup.

Grits Blitz points out that two observers in CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco and FOX Sports’ Alex Marvez were praising of Schraeder, who has impressed nearly all observers thus far in camp.

Fox Sports’ John Manasso discusses some of the concerns facing the Falcons front now that Johnson is injured. While D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC discusses some of the potential options on the free agent market that the Falcons could face, as well as giving up an update on the team’s cap space.

Despite news that wide receiver Julio Jones will miss the preseason opener, it does appear that the injury he has is a minor one as he was still working during practice yesterday.

The time table of Sean Weatherspoon’s return from injury isn’t quite know, but he’s likely to be out a couple of weeks per Mike Smith via Jay Adams. Weatherspoon suffered a badly dislocated finger on Monday and was held out of Tuesday’s practices. Editor’s Note: It should be noted that during his tenure as Falcons head coach Smith has consistently underestimated the time tables for players’ returns. So a couple of weeks could easily translate into Spoon missing the entire preseason if that trend continues.

Training Camp: Day 10 Report

August 6th, 2013 Comments off

The Falcons will have another joint practice session today with the Cincinnati Bengals, this time in shells. Here are the media reports from Day 10 of the Falcons practice:

  • The big news from Monday was reports of injuries to linebacker Sean Weatherspoon and wide receiver Julio Jones. Per Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, Weatherspoon suffered a badly dislocated finger on his left hand. He left practice early, and might be held out of the Falcons preseason opener. Jones got limited reps in Monday’s practice for precautionary reasons. La Canfora also discusses Brian Banks and the Falcons young corners in his write-up of the Falcons.
  • Daniel Cox’s five observations from Monday include discussion of Lamar Holmes getting reps with the first team and Desmond Trufant’s progress through the course of camp.
  • The team’s official site also has a transcript from Mike Smith’s post-practice interview.
  • The AJC has the team’s first official depth chart.
  • Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer has some notes from the Bengals perspective but which also include highlighting a few individual performances from Falcons.

D. Orlando Ledbetter also tweeted some takes on the matchups between the two teams in the trenches: