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Douglas Shines in Falcons Win over Buccaneers

October 20th, 2013 Comments off
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Harry Douglas explodes for a 149-yard game against Tampa Bay

The Atlanta Falcons got their second win of the season with a 31-23 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Falcons avoided falling into last place in the NFC South with a win over the winless Bucs. The team held the lead from start to finish, getting a big boost with an early defensive touchdown by Thomas DeCoud.

Matt Ryan led the Falcons with a strong performance despite missing several key receivers in Roddy White and Julio Jones. Ryan completed 20 of 26 passes for 273 yards and 3 touchdowns. Jacquizz Rodgers led the team in rushing with a mere 16 yards on 8 carries. Jason Snelling fared no better with 14 yards on 7 carries. Rodgers also led the team’s receivers with 8 catches for 46 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Harry Douglas also had a brilliant day, catching 7 passes for a career-high 149 yards and a touchdown. Tony Gonzalez added a pair of catches for 30 yards in a relatively quiet performance. Matt Bryant hit on his lone field goal attempt of 23 yards. Matt Bosher had 4 punts for an average of 48 yards, with 1 being placed inside the 20-yard line. Robert Alford fumbled his lone punt return of the day, while Rodgers returned his lone kickoff return for 21 yards. Offensively, the Falcons weren’t great, generating only 291 total yards and converted just 3 of 9 third downs. But they were effective in the red zone, converting on 2 of 3 trips and were able to score when necessary with a couple of big pass plays to compensate for a lackluster rushing attack. Ryan connected on five passes of 20 or more yards.

Defensively, the Falcons were pretty solid. While they gave up 337 total yards, much of that was due to the Bucs playing catch-up. They did allow 111 yards rushing on the day, but were able to get off the field on third downs, allowing the Bucs to convert just 5 of 17 attempts there. They also got stops in the red zone, allowing a touchdown only once on the Tampa’s four trips there. The Falcons did generate an early turnover, with a sack-strip by William Moore, leading to a 30-yard touchdown run off the fumble recovery by DeCoud. Joplo Bartu led defenders with 10 tackles, and also added 2.5 tackles for loss, and 0.5 sacks. Robert Alford (1 tackle, 2 passes defended); DeCoud (7 tackles, 1 fumble recovery); Akeem Dent (4 tackles); Peria Jerry (4 tackles, 1 sack, 1 tackle for loss); Jonathan Massaquoi (2 tackles, 0.5 sacks); Robert McClain (2 tackles, 1 tackle for loss); Moore (7 tackles, 1 sack, 2 passes defended, 1 forced fumble); Asante Samuel (5 tackles, 1 pass defended); Desmond Trufant (7 tackles, 1 pass defended, 1 forced fumble); Osi Umenyiora (4 tackles); and Paul Worrilow (4 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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Will Alford be an Upgrade at Punt Returner?

October 17th, 2013 Comments off

ESPN’s Vaughn McClure reported earlier this week that Atlanta Falcons rookie cornerback Robert Alford will take over punt return duties from wide receiver Harry Douglas this week. Douglas is expected to take a bigger role on offense with the season-ending injury to Julio Jones and Roddy White being sidelined with a hamstring injury.

Alford got reps in the preseason as a punt returner, but struggled to impact there at times. He did manage to outproduce Douglas during the summer, averaging 10.2 yards on 5 punt returns versus Douglas’ 8.8-yard average on 4 returns. Alford overly relied on getting to the edge when working as a punt returner throughout the summer. Due to his speed, if he can beat the opposing team to the edge, he can be dangerous. Unfortunately, in the NFL that strategy proves only effective when punters out-kick their coverage, an uncommon occurrence. Douglas was more effective at making the first defender miss, and then getting upfield. That is a necessary skill for an NFL punt returner, even if it only results in a handful of yards per return. Some times as a punt returner you have to understand that not every return can be taken back for six, and settling for 5-10 yards is not a bad thing.

For Alford to have success, he’ll need to learn this skill. Coupled with his speed, as he may be among the two or three fastest players on the roster, that should make him a more effective return threat.

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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 42 “The Mayans Were Wrong”

October 12th, 2013 Comments off

Allen and I are back and more sullen than ever as they recap the Atlanta Falcons Monday Night Football loss to the New York Jets. Things we discuss: How the Falcons defense made Geno Smith look extremely poised; The offensive line’s struggles and problems that will likely continue the rest of the season; Matt Ryan and Jacquizz Rodgers being two of few bright spots on offense; Concerns over the defense and special teams; Whether Levine Toilolo is the only hope among the Falcons non-star receivers; Whether Robert McClain has played well enough to keep his job; Red Zone Efficiency; I apologize to Osi Umenyiora… Finally we discuss the impact of Julio Jones’ injury and whether trading for a player such as Josh Gordon would be a good move; Trading Tony; How the Falcons can turn their season around; Corey Peters and whether he’s earned a new contract; What happened to Stephen Nicholas?; and finish up with some around the league stuff, where I find a way to call out Drew Davis.

Ep. 42: The Mayans Were Wrong [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 3 minutes

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

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

Why Trading for Josh Gordon Is a Smart Move for the Atlanta Falcons

October 9th, 2013 2 comments
Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Gordon

The Falcons are in a dire predicament in light of the news that Julio Jones is likely out for the season. Their offense is now without a No. 1 receiver, at least until Roddy White and his ankle and hamstring are fully healed. In the meantime the Falcons will have to be reliant on Tony Gonzalez to carry the offense from the tight end position. Not too dissimilar from the days under Michael Vick when Alge Crumpler was the de facto top option in the Falcons passing offense.

Can the team win that way? Perhaps, but it will be extremely difficult. In those days, the Falcons were able to get away with that style of play because it was buoyed by having one of the league’s premier rushing attack. Currently, the Falcons rank 25th in rushing yards per game and 17th in yards per carry. Much closer to average than back in 2004-06 where they led the league in both categories in each of those seasons.

Crumpler was also a much more effective vertical threat than Gonzalez currently is. In 69 games played with the Falcons thus far, Gonzalez has 23 receptions of 20 or more yards. In his final 62 games in a Falcon uniform, Crumpler had 50. That ability to provide big plays makes a dramatic difference in whether or not a receiver can carry an offense.

Even with the healthy returns of Roddy White and Steven Jackson, the best-case scenario for the Falcons offense over the remainder of the 2013 season will be reminiscent of the 2010 Falcons offense. It’s certainly possible, but given the state of the Falcons offensive line, that is more wishful thinking than anything. That 2010 rushing attack was dominant against some opposing fronts (4 games of 150+ rushing yards that season), but effective against most (12 games of 85+ yards). The Falcons have eclipsed 85 yards only twice this year: in the season opener against the New Orleans Saints, thanks largely to a 50-yard run by ackson, and against the Miami Dolphins. A healthier Jackson isn’t going to suddenly morph Garrett Reynolds and Jeremy Trueblood into Harvey Dahl and Tyson Clabo in their primes.

If the Falcons have any chance of turning their season around and making a late push towards a wild card slot, they need to rely on the arm of Matt Ryan. But that arm will be limited if the Falcons do not have a vertical threat in the offense that can affect how opponents play the Falcons. Julio Jones’ mere presence of the field makes defenses play the Falcons differently. They have to respect the deep ball on all plays because of Jones. Jones forced defenses to bracket him with safety help over the top, because he is capable of running past every corner in the NFL.

In recent weeks, NFL teams have devised a new way of playing the Falcons which is by doubling Gonzalez as well. Coupled with the bracketing of Jones, defenses are forcing a beat up White, Harry Douglas, and the rest of the Falcons unproven receivers to beat them. And it clearly has worked against the Falcons. Without Jones to help keep defenses honest, it will only get worse.

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Five Keys to Improve Pass Protection vs. Rams

September 14th, 2013 Comments off

The Falcons pass protection played poorly in their season-opening loss to the New Orleans Saints last week. Quarterback Matt Ryan was sacked three times and saw pressure on 75% of the Falcons third downs, preventing the team’s ability to mount drives and score points.

The Falcons offensive line will face even more scrutiny this week as they face the St. Louis Rams, who have one of the better pair of defensive ends in the league in Chris Long and Robert Quinn. Quinn is coming off a three-sack performance against the Arizona Cardinals last week, including stripping quarterback Carson Palmer twice on blindside hits. One positive for the Falcons may be that Long may not be 100-percent due to him nursing a hip injury. But regardless the Falcons’ line will need to step up this week to deal with that potent Rams’ pass rush.

Complicating matters is the fact that left tackle Sam Baker is questionable this week with a knee injury. It may force the Falcons to shuffle around their offensive line. Right tackle Lamar Holmes, who is coming off an abysmal game where he was readily worked over by Cameron Jordan may move to left tackle to face Quinn. Then newly signed right tackle Jeremy Trueblood may be inserted into the starting lineup. The Falcons may also have to consider starting undrafted rookie Ryan Schraeder at left tackle, as he is Baker’s primary backup.

Even with a healthy Baker the Falcons would need to work extra hard to try and deal with the Rams’ pass rush. Now that he’s injured, it will have an even greater impact on the game. Here are five things the Falcons may do to try and offset these issues the best they can:

Personnel: More Max Protect

As Chad Walton indicated in his review of the Saints game, the Falcons did not make significant use of two-tight end sets (12 or 22 personnel). That should change this weekend as the Falcons will use more max protection sets to try and chip and slow down the Rams’ edge rushers. Max protect refers to protections that have at least seven blockers trying to protect the quarterback. But one of the drawbacks of max protect is that it limits how many receivers run routes, limiting the quarterback’s throwing options. This puts more emphasis on those receivers needing to separate from coverage. That could put the Falcons at a disadvantage this weekend since their two best “man beaters” on the outside in Julio Jones and Roddy White are nursing injuries, limiting their effectiveness. This will put more focus on Tony Gonzalez and Harry Douglas to step up their play.

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Six Falcons Starters Questionable vs. Rams

September 14th, 2013 Comments off

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Julio Jones (left), Roddy White

Yesterday, the Falcons released their injury report for Sunday’s matchup against the St. Louis Rams, the team’s home opener. On it, six Falcons starters were listed as questionable including: defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux (knee), offensive tackle Sam Baker (knee), wide receiver Julio Jones (knee), cornerback Asante Samuel (thigh), linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (knee), and wide receiver Roddy White (ankle). All six were limited in Friday’s practice. For Babineaux, Baker, and White, that was the only practice they participated in all week long. Jones missed Wednesday’s practice, but was limited on Thursday and Friday. While Samuel and Weatherspoon were limited throughout the week.

White and Samuel’s injuries stem from the preseason, while the others were suffered in the Falcons’ Week 1 loss to the New Orleans Saints.

Earlier this week, Falcons head coach Mike Smith indicated that White is expected to play this Sunday after spending the season opener in a limited role and mainly as a decoy. That led to increased reps for wide receiver Harry Douglas. With Jones also limited, the Falcons may count more on fourth wide receiver Drew Davis this week as well.

Samuel missed the season opener, and the team had Robert McClain start in his place. Rookie cornerback Robert Alford was promoted into McClain’s vacated nickel cornerback spot.

Babineaux is the team’s starter at right defensive tackle, which leads to him also getting work at defensive end in the multiple fronts employed by defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. His primary backup is Travian Robertson, who was inactive last week. Although if he’s unable to go it will likely fall upon Malliciah Goodman and Cliff Matthews for increased reps. They combined for only 14 snaps last week against the Saints (per Pro Football Focus). Peria Jerry would like get the start.

In the case of Baker, the Falcons have been getting newly signed tackle Jeremy Trueblood up to speed in preparation for the possibility that he starts this weekend. Trueblood was signed over a week ago and could make his debut at right tackle. That could potentially slide starting right tackle Lamar Holmes over to left tackle, the position he played as a rookie and while in college at Southern Miss. It could also mean playing time for undrafted rookie Ryan Schraeder, who is the team’s primary backup at that position.

Weatherspoon’s injury could lead to increased reps from Joplo Bartu or Paul Worrilow. Both are undrafted rookies and played solely on special teams in their NFL debuts last week. If Weatherspoon was to miss the game, Stephen Nicholas would likely be start at weakside linebacker, as he did in the preseason when Weatherspoon was limited by a finger injury. That would likely lead the Falcons to utilize defensive end Kroy Biermann more as a strongside linebacker than defensive end. Nicholas did not play a single defensive snap last week due to the Falcons ability to play Biermann as well as their reliance on the nickel subpackage.

Also listed on the Falcons’ injury report as probable were safety Thomas DeCoud (knee), Jerry (knee), and Matthews (neck). All three players were limited in practice on Wednesday, but fully participated in both Thursday and Friday practices.

Notable injuries for the Rams include: tight end Cory Harkey (probable/knee), defensive end Chris Long (questionable/hip), cornerback Quinton Pointer (out/thigh), running back Daryl Richardson (probable/foot), and safety Darian Stewart (doubtful/thigh).

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 38 “How Much Money Did They Pay Baker?”

September 12th, 2013 Comments off

Allen and I recap our thoughts on the Atlanta Falcons Week 1 loss to the New Orleans Saints. Including our thoughts on the Falcons promising young corners … The play of the front four including how Osi Umenyiora stacks up against John Abraham … Akeem Dent’s coverage abilities … The play of tackles Lamar Holmes and Sam Baker and if/when a change could be made up front … Steven Jackson’s performance in his first game as a Falcon … Harry Douglas’ Ascension to Stardom … Later we switch our attention to the Falcons Week 2 matchup against the St. Louis Rams which include: What Matchup issues Chris Long and Robert Quinn might present to the Falcons OL … How crowd noise can benefit the Falcons at home … Cortland Finnegan and a young Rams secondary’s ability to match up against the Falcons receivers … The Falcons pass rush and how it might affect the game … Whether Asante Samuel is needed to help bottle up the explosive Rams receivers … At the end, we re-hash their opinions on other Week 1 performances including their observations from both Monday Night Football games, as well as Lavonte David, Pittsburgh Steelers, etc.

Ep. 38: How Much Money Did They Pay Baker? [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 19 minutes

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

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

Saints Swarm Ryan and Falcons in Opener

September 8th, 2013 Comments off
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan gets sacked by Parys Haralson

The Falcons dropped a tough divisional loss to the New Orleans Saints 23-17 in their 2013 NFL season opener. The Falcons had an opportunity to take the lead with a score in the final minutes, but Falcons receivers could not reel in Matt Ryan’s passes to win it.

Matt Ryan led the team, completing 25 of 38 passes for 304 yards, 2 touchdowns, and an interception. Ryan saw significant pressure as he was sacked three times and hit six times. Steven Jackson had an impressive debut with 77 yards on the ground on 11 carries, including a 50-yard run. Julio Jones led receivers with 7 catches for 76 yards and a touchdown. Tony Gonzalez had the Falcons other score, finishing the game with 3 catches for 36 yards. Harry Douglas (4 catches, 93 yards) and Jackson (5 catches, 45 yards) also had standout performances. Roddy White, who was injured, was limited with just 2 catches for 19 yards. The Falcons offensively got off to a good start, taking an early 10-0 lead over the Saints, but the Falcons couldn’t sustain it. They did have 367 total yards and converted only 3 of 11 third downs. Matt Bryant connected on his lone field goal attempt from 23 yards out. Matt Bosher had six punts for an average of 46.8 yards, with 2 placed inside the 20-yard line. Harry Douglas returned a pair of punts for 21 yards.

Defensively, the Falcons got off to a good start, keeping the Saints scoreless through the first quarter. Asante Samuel was a gameday scratch, and the team was forced to start Robert McClain at left cornerback, and promote Robert Alford to nickel back. Akeem Dent led the Falcons defense with 11 tackles, including 2 for loss. Alford (1 tackle, 1 interception, 2 passes defended), Kroy Biermann (5 tackles, 1 tackle for loss), Thomas DeCoud (7 tackles, 1 tackle for loss), Peria Jerry (1 tackle, 1 sack), McClain (10 tackles, 1 pass defended), William Moore (8 tackles), Corey Peters (6 tackles, 1 sack), Desmond Trufant (5 tackles), and Sean Weatherspoon (7 tackles, 1 tackle for loss) had notable games. The Saints put up 419 total yards and converted 6 of 13 third downs (46%).

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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