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Atlanta Falcons Training Camp Preview 2014: Wide Receiver

July 16th, 2014 No comments

Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE

Julio Jones (left) and Roddy White

The Atlanta Falcons head into the 2014 season with the same basic trio that they have sported for the past three seasons, yet for perhaps the first time ever in that span there are some causes for concern.

The biggest being the health of Julio Jones. Jones is recovering from a foot injury that cost him the final 11 games of the 2013 season and has been rested for all of the offseason.

While the word all offseason long has been that the team is resting Jones in preparation for training camp, there is no guarantee that he’ll even see much action when camp does arrive.

The Falcons have been clear that they won’t rush Jones back, which could lead to him missing all or most of the preseason if he’s not 100 percent within the first week or two of camp. Expectations are that Jones will return for the regular season opener against the New Orleans Saints, but the Falcons probably won’t risk jeopardizing that even if it means playing Jones at 98 percent.

That translates to the possibility that Jones will sit out all of the preseason with the possible exception of the third game against the Tennessee Titans. If Jones is not 100 percent by mid-August, it likely means that he will skip that Titans game and go into the regular season with limited work in pads.

In the meantime, the Falcons should have Roddy White and Harry Douglas to fill any void. White also missed much of the offseason as he was dealing with a family matters due to the murder of his brother. But expectations are that White will be back for training camp and may have a new contract as well.

Douglas is coming off a career-high season in which he led the Falcons in receptions and yards. His play this summer will be a big factor as he is the team’s primary option to fill the void left by the retirement of tight end Tony Gonzalez. The Falcons are expected to employ three wide receivers significantly more to try and compensate for Gonzalez’s loss. Douglas played in 59 percent of the team’s offensive plays in 2012, but that figure increased to 86 percent in 2013 (per premium website Pro Football Focus). It’s likely that his workload in 2014 will mirror his 2013 one.

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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 70 “Do You Remember Where You Were When Courtney Roby Signed?”

July 8th, 2014 1 comment

Allen and I are joined by The Falcoholic staff writer, Matt Chambers to discuss our favorite NFL team: the Atlanta Falcons once more. Matt’s fifth appearance on the podcast includes discussion of newly signed wide receiver Courtney Roby and the injury to Drew Davis. We also dive into Hard Knocks and training camp storylines along with some possible emerging undrafted rookies. Sean Weatherspoon, Paul Worrilow, Prince Shembo and Sam Baker are also discussed along the way.

Episode 70: Do You Remember Where You Were When Courtney Roby Signed? [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 7 minutes

Allen covers the Falcons for Pro Football Spot. His twitter handle is: @Allen_Strk.

Matt Chambers can be found on twitter: @FalconsM5, and also writes for The Falcoholic.

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! For Android users, DoubleTwist is a good app to listen as well. You can also subscribe directly to our feed at the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/falcfans/LXSt

Falcons Place WR Drew Davis on Camp PUP List

July 5th, 2014 No comments
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Drew Davis

The Atlanta Falcons announced earlier today that wide receiver Drew Davis would be placed on the training camp or active/Physically-Unable-to-Perform (PUP) list. Davis suffered an unspecified foot injury requiring surgery that will keep him out of practice for the next six weeks, which will include the start of training camp practices on July 25.

The active/PUP list designation means that Davis will be held out of practices in training camp until team doctors clear him. When he is cleared, he will be able to resume practicing immediately. There is a possibility that defensive tackle Corey Peters could go on the training camp PUP list as well, according to a report in June.

There is a distinction between the types of PUP lists allowed for a player. One is strictly used for training camp, which is the active version mentioned above that Davis will go on. The other is the reserve version that is used for the regular season. In that version, a player is barred from playing or practicing for the first six weeks of the regular season. After which, there exists a five-week window in which the player is allowed to return to practice and play. Once a player resumes practicing within that window, there is a three-week period in which they can be returned to the active roster. If the player is unable to return, then he will finish the year on the injured reserve.

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Atlanta Falcons Takeaways from Last Week – June 30, 2014

June 30th, 2014 Comments off
Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

Darius Johnson could be a factor in Atlanta’s future

The Atlanta Falcons made a move this past week, signing wide receiver Courtney Roby. But Roby should instead be referred to as a special teams player, because that is what his role, if any, will be with the Falcons this season. Roby is basically a direct challenger for Drew Davis’ roster spot.

Davis has gotten by over the past few years on his ability as a special teams player. While Davis has made a handful of plays at the wide receiver position, he’s clearly shown to any that are paying attention that he is not a viable candidate to be a significant contributor on offense.

The most important skill that an NFL wide receiver can possess is the ability to separate from coverage. And the simple truth is that Davis has rarely done that in his few years with the Falcons. Most of his catches are the result of broken coverages rather than instances where he simply beat an opposing corner and made a play.

Frankly, that important skill-set has been missing from the majority of Falcons receivers over the years. In truth, only Roddy White and Julio Jones have possessed it in abundance. Michael Jenkins and Harry Douglas are decent at it, but by no means special in that regard. Both can do separate, but not on a consistent enough basis that makes them more than quality reserves.

Brian Finneran, Marty Booker, Eric Weems, Darius Johnson and Kevin Cone have also all struggled with this issue during the past six seasons. This issue isn’t helped by the fact that besides Jones, the Falcons have invested very little in terms of the draft in the wide receiver position. Since drafting Douglas in the third round of the 2008 NFL Draft, the Falcons have drafted just two wide receivers since: Jones and Kerry Meier. That is a league low when the average NFL team has drafted roughly six (5.8 to be exact) wide receivers over the past six drafts.

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Falcons Add WR Courtney Roby

June 27th, 2014 Comments off
Byron Hetzler-US PRESSWIRE

Courtney Roby

As first reported by FOX Sports’ Mike Garafolo, the Atlanta Falcons have announced that they have signed free agent wide receiver Courtney Roby. Roby most recently played for the New Orleans Saints (2008-12), where he primarily played on special teams.

Roby, 31, originally was drafted by the Tennessee Titans in the third round of the 2005 NFL Draft and played two seasons with them before being released. His most productive season as a wide receiver came as a rookie when he caught 21 passes for 289 yards and a touchdown. He was also the team’s primary kickoff returner that season, averaging 22.5 yards on 22 returns. He was cut in 2007, and briefly spent time with the Cincinnati Bengals and Indianapolis Colts in 2007 and 2008 before signing on with the Saints midway through the ’08 season. Over the next three seasons, Roby only caught two passes for 17 yards with the Saints but averaged 25.6 yards on 94 kickoff returns with one returned for a touchdown in 2009. In 2011, he stopped being the team’s kickoff return specialist and was just primarily a specialist on cover teams. He would earn the distinction as the team’s special teams captain in 2011.  He was cut by the Saints prior to the 2013 season and has been out of football since. Roby did work out for the Falcons at the start of last season when the Falcons were exploring depth options with an injured Roddy White.

Roby likely will push for a reserve spot at wide receiver, possibly as a direct challenge to Drew Davis, who serves as one of the team’s gunners on punt coverage. Roby led the Saints in special teams tackles in 2012 with 11, and was among their top performers from 2009 to 2011 with 31 combined tackles. Over the past two years, Davis has combined for 12 special teams tackles.

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Falcons Blow Halftime Lead to Packers in 22-21 Loss

December 8th, 2013 Comments off
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Tony Gonzalez is tackled by a Packers defender.

The Atlanta Falcons blew a halftime lead to lose to the Green Bay Packers 22-21. The Falcons were up 21-10 at the midway point, but were unable to generate any offense in the second half to prevent the Packers comeback. The Falcons have three possessions in the final seven minutes of the fourth quarter to retake the lead and win the game, but failed to capitalize on any of them. Atlanta’s record falls to 3-10 for the 2013 season.

Matt Ryan led the team, completing 20 of 35 passes for 206 yards with a pair of touchdowns and an interception. His interception came on the final offensive play of the game, but had mostly been solid up to that point. Steven Jackson led rushers with 71 yards on 15 carries. Roddy White led receivers with eight catches for 74 yards. Jacquizz Rodgers and Tony Gonzalez each had three receptions for 33 and 25 yards respectively. Gonzalez had a touchdown grab for two yards. Drew Davis caught Ryan’s other touchdown on his lone reception for 36 yards. Matt Bryant missed on his only field goal attempt, a 52-yarder that fell short. Matt Bosher punted four times for an average of 44.5 yards, with two kicks being placed inside the 20-yard line. Robert McClain returned one punt return for eight yards, while Rodgers averaged 21 yards on six kickoff returns. The Falcons started strong on third down conversions, converting four of six in the first half, but finished only converting two of seven in the second half. Atlanta netted only 285 total yards on offense, their second-lowest output of the season.

Defensively, the Falcons gave up 334 total yards, including 112 yards on the ground, marking their tenth consecutive game in which they have given up 100 or more rushing yards to an opponent. The Falcons forced two Packer turnovers, an interception and forced fumble on a sack. The interception resulted in a 71-yard touchdown return for Sean Weatherspoon. Paul Worrilow led the defense with 12 tackles, including one for a loss, 1.5 sacks, and 1 pass deflection. Robert Alford (5 tackles); Malliciah Goodman (1 tackle, 1 fumble recovery); Jonathan Massaquoi (5 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1.5 sacks); Robert McClain (5 tackles); William Moore (6 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble); Zeke Motta (6 tackles); Corey Peters (5 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 sack); Desmond Trufant (5 tackles, 1 tackle for loss); and Weatherspoon (7 tackles, 1 interception, 1 pass deflection) had noteworthy performances.

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Takeaways from Week 9

November 4th, 2013 Comments off
http://www.sportingcharts.com/dictionary/nfl/adjusted-net-yards-per-pass-attempt.aspx

How Much of the Falcons struggles are on Matt Ryan?

It’s the halfway mark of the season and the Falcons sit at 2-6. The 2013 season is clearly upside down, as I projected before the season that they would be 6-2 at this point.

The Falcons were competitive on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers through three and a half quarters, but things got away from them in the final nine minutes. The final 34-10 score was not quite an accurate reflection of the game in its entirety.

This was definitely a winnable game for the Falcons. Through the first 51 minutes of the game, there was only 2 minutes where the Panthers held anything more than a one-score lead. But the Falcons offense could not really get anything going throughout the game. They had a total of six possessions where they could have taken a lead and failed to do so.

Three of those drives were three-and-outs, two ended on Matt Ryan interceptions, and one resulted in a field goal that should have been a touchdown but for a holding call on Garrett Reynolds negating a Steven Jackson touchdown run.

Throw in the multiple first downs that the Falcons gave up on defense on penalties and 3rd-and-longs, and the Falcons seemed to keep getting in their own way.

The Falcons aren’t a well-coached team right now as they are playing with little passion and fire. They look like a bad team as opposed to a good team that is playing badly.

There still is a little semblance of hope in the forms of the expected returns of wide receiver Roddy White and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon in the near future. Hopefully White comes back next week against Seattle, and Weatherspoon the following week against Tampa Bay.

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Takeaways from Week 8

October 28th, 2013 2 comments
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

How Much Change Will Arthur Blank Demand in 2014?

The big question last week was whether or not Atlanta’s win over Tampa Bay was because they caught a bad team on the verge of collapse or because the Falcons were finally showing signs of life after a disappointing start to their 2013 season.

Well, judging from their performance on Sunday in their 27-13 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, it certainly doesn’t appear to be the latter.

The Falcons season appears to be done as the team now falls to 2-5 and with upcoming matchups against better teams than Arizona in Carolina, Seattle, and New Orleans over the next four games, they will be hard-pressed to get back to .500. While anything is possible on any given Sunday, the Falcons would need so many things to go their way to pull victories over those teams. And very little has gone the Falcons way this year.

Time for the Youth Movement

We’ve reached the point in the year where the main focus is going to be evaluating much of the young talent on the roster. But thanks to the plethora of injuries the Falcons have suffered this year, they already are evaluating a lot of their younger players. Players like Jonathan Massaquoi, Joplo Bartu, Paul Worrilow, Desmond Trufant, and Robert Alford are now logging serious reps on defense. And the Falcons are going to get long looks at their young receivers such as Drew Davis, Darius Johnson, and Levine Toilolo going forward. The positive is that the experience gained by these players should make them better NFL players. Unfortunately for the Falcons, that likely won’t really pay off until 2014 and beyond.

But the Falcons will need to start mixing in other young players more. I’d like to see Ryan Schraeder get mixed into the lineups on game day. He shouldn’t supplant any starter, but he should be given a couple of series here and there. Let’s face it, Jeremy Trueblood is not a long-term option for the Falcons. As explained two weeks ago, due to price tag and draft status, the Falcons have a vested interest in Sam Baker and Lamar Holmes, respectively, seeing the field. But that is not the case with Trueblood even though he hasn’t been the weakest link among the Falcons starting five, he is the most expendable of the group. The Falcons should try to give Schraeder a couple of series in the coming weeks, and see how he handles going up against players like Charles Johnson, Chris Clemons, and Cameron Jordan as an important evaluation tool on his future.

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Ryan Picked Off Four Times in Atlanta’s loss to Arizona

October 27th, 2013 Comments off
Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Ryan is sacked by Cardinals linebacker Marcus Benard

Limited hope remains for the 2013 Atlanta Falcons season following a 27-13 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. The Falcons record falls to 2-5 and with a tougher schedule upcoming, they may be hard-pressed to find more than a couple of wins on the rest of their schedule. The Falcons got outplayed by the Cardinals from the start, falling into a 21-6 hole at halftime, and any chance of coming back was negated by four second-half interceptions from Matt Ryan.

Ryan struggled, attempting a career-high 61 passes and completing 34 of them for 301 yards, 1 touchdown, and 4 interceptions. The Falcons ground attack was pathetic, with Ryan leading the team with 13 yards rushing on a single carry. Jacquizz Rodgers rushed for 8 yards on a pair of carries, while Steven Jackson returned to the lineup for the first time since Week 2 to rush for 6 yards on 11 carries. Harry Douglas led receivers with 12 catches for 121 yards. Drew Davis had 5 catches for 77 yards and a touchdown while Darius Johnson caught 4 passes for 40 yards. Tony Gonzalez was limited to just 3 catches for 26 yards. Matt Bryant connected on both of his field goal attempts of 24 and 30 yards. Matt Bosher punted 4 times for an average of 45.8 yards with 2 punts placed inside the 20-yard line. Robert McClain returned a pair of punts for an average of 13.5 yards, while Rodgers had two kickoff returns for a 27-yard average. The team generated only 292 total yards on 79 offensive plays. The Falcons continued to struggle in the red zone, converting only 1 of their 3 trips there. They converted 8 of 20 third down conversion attempts (40-percent), but the story offensively was the fact that four of their five  offensive series ended in turnovers in the second half.

Defensively, the Falcons got gashed by the Cardinals rushing attack early. They gave up 201 rushing yards on 30 carries, including 153 on 13 carries in the first half. Atlanta was somewhat effective against the pass, allowing just 172 passing yards by Carson Palmer on 18 throws, sacking him three times and picking him off once. They even got stops on third down, allowing the Cardinals to convert only 3 of 10 attempts (30-percent). But the damage was done early in the game, with the Cardinals able to put points on the board thanks to some big plays in the first half. Jonathan Babineaux led defenders with 7 tackles, including 3 tackles for loss, a sack, and a forced fumble. Robert Alford (2 tackles, 1 pass defended); Joplo Bartu (5 tackles, 0.5 sacks); Peria Jerry (1 tackle, 0.5 sacks); William Moore (3 tackles); Corey Peters (3 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 sack); Asante Samuel (3 tackles, 1 interception); Desmond Trufant (4 tackles, 1 pass defended); and Paul Worrilow (6 tackles) had noteworthy games.

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How the Falcons Offense Matches Up against the Bucs Defense

October 19th, 2013 Comments off
Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Harry Douglas Will Need a Big Week 7

The desperate Atlanta Falcons take on the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a battle that will decide who resides in the basement of the NFC South division as the loser will reside in last place.

One of the bright spots for the Bucs this season has been their defense, which has played well despite their inability to win a game. The Falcons will be playing with a depleted offense this week, thanks to injuries to top wideouts in Julio Jones and Roddy White, as well as missing running back Steven Jackson for the fourth consecutive game. The Falcons are forced to dig deep in order to find a way to attack this Buccaneer defense.

How the Bucs decide to deploy their defense could really impact how the Falcons offense operates. The addition of cornerback Darrelle Revis has really enhanced a Bucs secondary that was among the worst in the league in 2012. The past two weeks Falcons opponents have opted to bracket and double Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez alongside Jones. Now with Jones out of the mix, it will mean Gonzalez will be the focus of the Falcons offense and opposing defense. The Bucs would be smart to try and have Revis shadow Gonzalez throughout the day whenever possible. But that will require the Bucs to ask to play Revis more inside. While Revis is capable, it will mean that the Bucs will have to make significant adjustments to their defense. If the Bucs choose to do that, a way the Falcons can attack him is by lining Gonzalez up as an inline tight end and trying to run directly at him. In the passing game, the Falcons can try to group their receivers in trips sets and try to create confusion in the Bucs secondary.

If not and the Bucs try a more traditional defense, it will feature a lot of using their safeties, Mark Barron and Dashon Goldson, against Gonzalez. The Bucs haven’t faced many top tight ends this year besides Jimmy Graham in Week 2. Graham proceeded to catch 10 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown, leading the Saints receivers. If that is the case, it’s clear that Gonzalez has the ability to exploit that matchup favorably for the Falcons offensive attack.

If Revis is shadowing Gonzalez, then it will leave the Falcons other receivers on islands against the Bucs lesser defensive backs. Starting cornerback Johnthan Banks has had his ups and downs this year as a rookie. But he could match up favorably against a receiver like Harry Douglas, who will be the de facto No. 1 receiver for the Falcons. Douglas isn’t very big, and Banks has good size to be an effective press corner. If the Bucs opt to employ Banks to try and press Douglas on the outside, then it will be hard for sixth-year wideout to get off the line of scrimmage and be effective. The Falcons could mitigate that some by putting Douglas mostly in the slot away from Banks, and against the smaller, less physical Leonard Johnson, the Bucs’ normal slot corner. If Revis is freed up from shadowing Gonzalez, then Douglas will be hard-pressed to get open against one of the league’s premier cornerbacks. The Falcons will try and find ways to feature Douglas with most of the defensive attention going towards Gonzalez. Douglas is at his best on shorter, quicker routes that are designed to get him in space and make us of his speed and explosiveness after the catch. The Falcons may try some screens with Douglas and shallow crossing patterns to try and feature this ability.

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