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Falcons Check Out Robinson at Auburn Pro Day

March 4th, 2014 2 comments

Reports surfaced this morning that the Atlanta Falcons had sent representatives to Auburn University for that school’s pro day today. Most likely they were on hand to see Auburn’s bevy of draft prospects including Greg Robinson, widely considered this year’s most talented offensive tackle.

But it was outside linebacker Dee Ford who stole the show, working out for the first time due to sitting out at last month’s Combine in Indianapolis because of a back injury. Ford showed no ill effects, impressing with a 40-yard dash time of 4.54 seconds, 29 bench reps of 225 pounds, a broad jump of 10 feet, 4 inches and vertical jump of 35.5 inches. He also weighed in at 244 pounds, eight pounds lighter than his weight at Indianapolis.

Robinson also dropped weight since the Combine, down five pounds at 327 pounds. He mostly stood on his Combine numbers, as he wowed observers in Indianapolis with a 4.92-second 40 time, 9 foot-5 inch broad jump and 32 bench reps. Robinson is already beginning to line up private workouts with one scheduled with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers later this week.

Other notes from workouts on Tuesday for Auburn were:

  • Defensive back Blake Poole was timed a 4.38 seconds in his 40-yard dash.
  • Fullback Jay Prosch ran a 4.72-second 40 and did 27 bench reps.
  • Cornerback Chris Davis ran a 40 in 4.51 seconds and jumped 40.5 inches on his vertical.
  • Running back Tre Mason stood on most of his Combine results but did run a 6.7-second three-cone.
Categories: Draft Central Tags: , ,

Takeaways from Last Week – March 3, 2014

March 3rd, 2014 1 comment
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Thomas Dimitroff addresses the media at the Combine

After hearing general manager Thomas Dimitroff on the Rich Eisen Podcast this past week, I’m thinking that the Atlanta Falcons may not be as intent on upgrading the pass rush as much as they are with other areas of their roster, including their offensive line. Most of their conversation centered on the value of the Combine and how teams assess the things they see or don’t see in Indianapolis in the final evaluations of things.

Here are some interesting excerpts with my commentary. Editor’s Note: Dimitroff’s initial excerpted comments were taken from the middle of his conversation with Eisen, while the latter one was taken from the end. But since they are related, I feel they work together in context.

Eisen: Let’s talk about your Falcons right now. For the lack of a better way to put it, what in the world happened with the Falcons last year?
Dimitroff: Oh wow. 4-12. You think about that, going from 13-3 to 4-12, what an incredible decline. We know that. Someone mentioned that it was an historical decline. I believe there were a number of things that were going on with our season and no one wants to complain about the injuries. Everyone’s dealt with injuries. Interestingly enough we were handling the injuries to a spot and then when Julio went down, we dropped into a pit that we weren’t able to pull ourselves out of. That was unfortunate, that was something that was disheartening to me because I thought our resiliency and our ability to do something like that was much stronger given the five, six, and seven-year talent that we had versus the earlier years when we had first and second-year guys. So that was tough. I’ve also said and I’ve said this publicly, I really believe that it was a mis-assessment and a misevaluation of the readiness of that offensive line to come together for Matt. Because in the end we still have stuff to do on our D-line. But if we’re not protecting the guy spinning the ball, to our point earlier, we’re not going to be a prolific offense and we’re not going to be an elite football team. So we didn’t protect him properly and Matt was not able to step up in the pocket and throw. I thought he did an admirable job dealing with what he had to. He was waylaid many, many times as you know. But he is such a fantastic leader. I’m happy with how he responded.

Eisen: So in reading into your comments about the Falcons…offensive line? I know I don’t want you to show your cards here, because obviously there are many weeks to go before this May draft. Offensive line? Would that be an easy concept to target what you’re looking at in the draft this year?
Dimitroff: You know I looked at many and we have looked at many positions and many opportunities to look at free agency. I’ve always said this, you know that: free agency, look at the draft, see where we can get the best value and the best football player. Again, no mystery that we need to fortify both fronts. That’s going to be important for us. So, you look at O-line, you look at D-line, you look at our linebackers. You can rush the passer as a linebacker as well. You can do certain things that can protect our offensive threat, i.e. Matt Ryan in many ways. But we know as well as anyone if you don’t have stoutness in front of a quarterback and you don’t provide the pocket, you have little chance of being successful in this league.

It’s comments like these that make me think the Falcons using their top draft selection on a pass rusher is anything but a forgone conclusion. It’s very interesting that besides injuries, the first thing that Dimitroff mentioned in response to what went wrong with the Falcons in 2013 was offensive line play.

What that says is that the Falcons may see their pass protection as the bigger priority in regards to upgrading this offseason versus the pass rush. Now, that could manifest in a number of ways. But more than likely, it would appear that the team won’t simply settle on Gabe Carimi as the lone upgrade to the unit this offseason.

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Takeaways from Last Week – February 24, 2014

February 24th, 2014 Comments off
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Jadeveon Clowney speaks at the Combine on Saturday

Discussion of the possibility of the Atlanta Falcons trading up made headlines this past weekend following general manager Thomas Dimitroff’s press conference on Friday at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. And of course the dots are being connected to the possibility that South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is the primary target.

But I’m going to pump the brakes on getting too “icky-balooky” over Dimitroff’s revelation. Because frankly, it wasn’t much of one. Dimitroff said nothing in his presser that he hasn’t said leading up to the past two drafts. The only real difference is that Dimitroff made these comments not in April but in February at the Combine, a place where a record number of media members have gathered. Of course it’s going to create headlines and generate buzz when you have such a magnified media presence.

It’s no different than the revelation that Clowney is interested in being a Falcon. Of course he is as Clowney should be interested in any team that is going to take him very high in the draft.

Does this mean that a Clowney-Atlanta marriage is one made in heaven? Perhaps, but there is still a long way to go in the draft process before we reach that fateful evening on May 8.

I indeed hope the Falcons find a way to get Clowney, as he is a once in a generation sort of prospect. I can recall three times in the past where I have been exuberant about a Falcons draft selection. The first was in 2001 when the team’s move to trade up for Michael Vick was first announced. The second came when the team selected Matt Ryan in 2008. And the third was when the team traded up for Julio Jones in 2011. While I didn’t initially approve of that trade, Jones’ talent was to a degree that had me excited about the potential he could bring to the team.

But it is that Jones trade that has me currently hesitant about another move to climb the boards to get Clowney. Unfortunately, when revisiting the Jones trade, there is a tendency to draw a line in the sand with people on either side suggesting that it was all good or alternatively all bad for the Falcons. It’s much more complicated than that, with both costs and benefits to the trade.

I have little doubt that the Falcons would not have achieved the highs of 2012 without making the move to acquire Jones. But at the same time, I don’t think the lows of 2013 would have been quite as bad in the absence of the trade either.

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Pre-Combine Two-Round 2014 Mock Draft

February 19th, 2014 4 comments
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Blake Bortles

With my first mock draft done roughly two weeks ago, it was carefully thought out but utterly pointless. As I’ve noted before, mock drafts done before free agency are nothing more than a shot in the dark because free agency is a big part of the process. A team like Kansas City, that I predict takes a safety with their first-round pick could easily go out and sign a free agent like Jairus Byrd, thus nixing that notion.

This time I won’t say that I didn’t give it careful consideration, but I made a concerted effort to mix things up. I didn’t want to just shuffle a handful of picks and act like I had given you something new to consider. So I made a significant effort to not have any of the teams select the same player that I projected in my first mock draft. However, I didn’t fully succeed, as four teams wound up picking the same player again.

But here’s my second mock with a second-round projection added on to give you something even more to consider.

I also wanted to post this before this weekend’s Scouting Combine because it probably will help illustrate my point later on how many moving parts there are to the draft process. I’m not sure if I’ll do another mock before free agency or wait until after, but it’s going to be interesting to see how much shakeup in draft prognostication occurs from now until then.

1. Houston Texans – QB Blake Bortles, Central Florida*
New Texans head coach Bill O’Brien was beat by Bortles and UCF in State College this past year, which is one link many are drawing to why they believe the team will prefer Bortles over the other quarterbacks in this draft. In that game, Bortles did play very well. I simply don’t see the Johnny Manziel links given O’Brien’s system since he needs a pocket passer to run his system, not a scrambler like Manziel. And I could understand why somebody might look at Bortles and favor his upside due to his mobility and size over Teddy Bridgewater, who is by all accounts more polished.

2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington) – WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson*
It would have been easy for me to switch up this pick from Greg Robinson to Jake Matthews, but I went with a bit more of a left-field selection. Ultimately because the Rams really need a player like Watkins. GM Les Snead has said the team doesn’t need a No. 1 receiver, but they really do, if they have any hope of salvaging Sam Bradford’s career. He has shown himself to be the sort of quarterback that won’t elevate average receivers, but needs at least one dynamic weapon like Watkins that can help elevate him.

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Categories: Features Tags: ,

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 58 “Is Matt Ryan Elite? Regardless Get Clowney!”

February 19th, 2014 Comments off

I was joined by long-time Atlanta Falcons fan and season ticket holder Danny Lanier to discuss whether quarterback Matt Ryan is elite and if he’s not, then what he and/or the team need to do in order for him to take that next step. We discuss the lack of signature moments for Ryan as a pro and Danny questions whether the team needs to refocus its identity around improving the defense by acquiring a trascendent star. I wonder if Ryan is too cerebral and compare the Falcons’ 2013 season to their playoff loss to the New York Giants in 2011. Danny weighs in on his thoughts on the Falcons planned personal seat licenses (PSLs) at the new stadium, as well as whether Ryan could benefit from the departure of Tony Gonzalez. We both give our expectations for the upcoming season at the end of the episode.

Episode 58: Is Matt Ryan Elite? Regardless Get Clowney! [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 18 minutes

Danny wrote a pair of articles for the Falcholic which can be found here:

Feb. 4: Has the Super Bowl Window Already Closed on Matt Ryan and the Falcons?
Feb. 10: So…What Does Matt Ryan Need To Do To Become an “Elite” QB?

And don’t forget Allen Strk 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

2014 Falcons Mock Muncher (Updated Feb. 17)

February 17th, 2014 1 comment
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Auburn’s Greg Robinson is becoming more popular as a potential Falcons target

The offseason is here and it is time to look at the many mock drafts that have been published around the internet’s top draft websites focusing on what the so-called draft experts are projecting the Atlanta Falcons to do with the sixth overall pick.

This is the third update with a total of 93 mocks munched from the beginning of January through mid-February. Anthony Barr still holds the lead, appearing in 27 total mocks. But Greg Robinson is starting to close the gap by appearing in 21 total, 12 of which have come in February. That latter figure is tied for the lead for the month with Jake Matthews, who has appeared in 24 total mocks thus far. Robinson is also tied for the lead in “unique” mocks with Barr with a total of 16. There’s more on what constitutes a unique mock after the jump.

2.17 – NFL.com (Pat Kirwan): OT Greg Robinson, Auburn
2.17 - Walter Football (Charlie Campbell): OLB Khalil Mack, Buffalo
2.17 – NFL Draft Geek: OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
2.17 – FF Toolbox (Users): OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
2.13 – Draft Daddy (Glenn Bernardi): OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
2.12 – Walter Football: OLB Khalil Mack, Buffalo
2.12 – Draft King: DE Kony Ealy, Missouri
2.12 – Ourlads: DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
2.12 - Draft Tek: OLB Anthony Barr, UCLA
2.12 – Draft Season (Lomas): OT Greg Robinson, Auburn
2.12 – FF Toolbox (Rob Warner): OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
2.11 – NFL.com (Daniel Jeremiah): OLB Khalil Mack, Buffalo
2.11 – CBS Sports (Rob Rang): OLB Khalil Mack, Buffalo
2.11 – CBS Sports (Dane Brugler): OT Greg Robinson, Auburn
2.11 – CBS Sports (Pete Prisco): OT Greg Robinson, Auburn
2.11 – TFY Draft Insider: OT Greg Robinson, Auburn
2.11 – FF Toolbox (Matt De Lima): DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
2.10 – NFL.com (Charles Davis): OT Greg Robinson, Auburn
2.10 – Blogging Dirty: DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
2.10 - Draft Season (Onebar): OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
2.09 – Draft Ace: OLB Anthony Barr, UCLA
2.07 – FOX Sports (Joel Klatt): OLB Anthony Barr, UCLA
2.07 – Draft Season (Ultimate): OT Greg Robinson, Auburn
2.06 – ESPN Insider (Todd McShay): OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M (subscription required)
2.06 – ESPN Insider (Mel Kiper): OLB Anthony Barr, UCLA (subscription required)
2.06 – Football’s Future: OLB Anthony Barr, UCLA
2.06 – SI.com (Doug Farrar): OT Greg Robinson, Auburn
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Categories: Draft Central Tags: ,

Takeaways from Last Week – February 17, 2014

February 17th, 2014 Comments off

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Eric Fisher’s strong Combine workout benefited him greatly in 2013

This week, the NFL Scouting Combine kicks off in Indianapolis. Next to draft weekend and the first week of free agency, this week represents one of the more pivotal points of the NFL’s offseason.

It’s the first time that all 32 NFL teams are going to be in one place. Sure, all NFL teams sent representatives to Mobile, Alabama for the Senior Bowl in January, but that is primarily for scouts. Not to mention, two teams were busy with their Super Bowl preparations, limiting their ability to have a large presence in Mobile. That is not the case for Indianapolis, where the Combine signals that the beginning of free agency is right around the corner (March 11).

This is where teams can really start to talk shop about potential moves that are forthcoming in the offseason. While trades won’t become official until March 11, teams can start to sniff around about possible moves at the Combine. I’m sure that with the trades that sent Alex Smith to Kansas City last March and the rights to Robert Griffin III to Washington the year before, talks began in earnest or picked up steam during the week of the Combine.

Agents are also putting out feelers for their respective clients that are on the verge of hitting free agency. It’s that sort of furtive tampering that resulted in the NFL adopting the three-day window before the start of the league year that allows teams to openly negotiate with prospective free agents.

It’s also during this period that NFL teams can begin to designate certain free agents as franchise or transition players. That also means that negotiations for players and teams that want to avoid using the franchise or transition tag really pick up in earnest during the week of the Combine.

All in all, it’s a big week for NFL teams with a lot of things that go on behind closed doors that fans like you and me aren’t privy to and can only guess at. But that doesn’t mean that the Combine doesn’t have value to the everyday fan like ourselves.

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Takeaways from Last Week – February 10, 2014

February 10th, 2014 Comments off
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Tony Gonzalez points to the fans in his final game in Atlanta

You think like a fan, not like a man.

And I’m referring to the portion of the Atlanta Falcons fanbase that became critical of tight end Tony Gonzalez in light of the excerpts from Seth Wickersham’s article that appeared in this week’s ESPN the Magazine.

That article shed a light on the frustration that Gonzalez felt during the course of the Falcons 2013 season. It was supposed to be a year where the team was in contention for the Super Bowl. Instead, it became a year in which the Falcons were contending to be the worst team in the NFL.

Any man (or woman) would be frustrated in that scenario. Nothing Gonzalez expressed in Wickersham’s article was any more negative than what I myself have vocalized about the Falcons this year, or heard a litany of other fans say. Thus, being upset with Gonzalez probably makes you a hypocrite.

Gonzalez came out of retirement to win a Super Bowl, not for the glory of the Atlanta Falcons. And his venting over not being able to win that Super Bowl doesn’t make him a villain, but simply a human like the rest of us.

Frankly the only negative thing I can say about Wickersham’s piece is mistaking Jarrett Bush for Morgan Burnett.

I recommend picking up a copy of the magazine and reading it if you can. If not, Gonzalez went on CBS Radio with Doug Gottlieb on Friday and expressed the same sentiments during that interview.

Now if you read or listen and still come away upset with Gonzalez, then so be it. But the issue probably isn’t Gonzalez, it’s probably you.

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Team Needs: Falcons Will Decide DeCoud’s Future at Safety

February 8th, 2014 Comments off

The safety position for the Atlanta Falcons is potentially in flux this offseason as the team has a decision to make in determining whether or not to keep starting free safety Thomas DeCoud.

That decision will need to be made by March 15, as that is the day in which $2.25 million of his $4.2 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed. If that day comes to fruition, the team will lock in DeCoud for one more season as the starter and hope he bounces back to the form he showed in 2012 when he made the Pro Bowl with a team-leading six interceptions. But it doesn’t seem likely given that in the majority of his five seasons as the team’s starting free safety, DeCoud has rarely risen above mediocrity. And he’s also coming off a 2013 campaign that was by far the worst of his career. Instead, the Falcons could opt to cut ties with DeCoud and free up $3 million in cap space for 2014 (per Over The Cap).

Factoring into that decision will likely be the Falcons’ determination on whether they can find a better replacement this offseason. As it currently sits, the team is unlikely to find that upgrade already on the roster. Rookie Zeke Motta replaced an injured DeCoud for two games this past year and struggled. He looked a step slow in coverage, a no-no for any potential starter at free safety. Fellow 2013 draft pick Kemal Ishmael appeared in only a handful of games solely on a special teams, a role he may be ideally suited for. But it’s unlikely the team would give a serious nod to an untested player like him.

Thus if the Falcons are going to find an upgrade, it will have to be either in free agency or the draft. There should be plenty of options in free agency with some promising younger players as well as older veterans that could solidify the position. Given the Falcons are likely to go young at cornerback, it might be smart to add a more experienced hand at safety. But the team could easily decide that the youth trend should continue on the back-end of the secondary as well and look for a draft pick to try and solidify the position long-term.

Team Needs: Falcons Need Size and Experienced Depth at Cornerback

February 7th, 2014 1 comment

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Robert Alford (23) and Desmond Trufant (21)

The recent release of Asante Samuel has created a hole at cornerback for the Atlanta Falcons when there wasn’t one before. That hole should be filled with a veteran corner that can upgrade the unit with some much-needed size.

As the team sits today, only two cornerbacks are under contract: Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford, both entering their second seasons. Well, technically Jordan Mabin and Saeed Lee are both also under contract, although neither are expected to figure significantly into the team’s plans in 2014. Mabin and Lee probably can only be expected to compete for the fifth cornerback spot, indicating that the Falcons will need to add at least two more cornerbacks this offseason.

One of those spots almost certainly will go to impending restricted free agent Robert McClain. McClain is a valuable reserve due to his ability to play in the slot, as well as the fact that he played well as a punt returner late last season. McClain also is the team’s most accomplished cornerback in terms of run support, an area where both Trufant and Alford were inconsistent during their rookie seasons.

But in terms of pass coverage, Trufant certainly was far from inconsistent. By year’s end, his play had become the steadiest of anybody on the defensive roster. Alford had his fair share of ups and downs, but showed enough promise that the team is confident that he can enter 2014 penciled in as Samuel’s replacement in the starting lineup.

The Falcons might opt to keep Dominique Franks, an unrestricted free agent, as the fourth cornerback. However, the team should be able to find a better option than Franks this offseason. While Franks has shown the ability to play in the dime sub package in the past, he would be an inferior option to McClain in such a role, and also is a very limited contributor on special teams. Franks has flashed ability in the past as a reserve on defense, showing the capability that he is at least competent there. That makes his primary value only worthwhile in the event of an injury to one of the starters, where he’d likely be promoted to the nickel role.

Such an injury is likely given the Falcons history, as the team has not had two corners start all 16 games in the same season since Ray Buchanan and Ashley Ambrose did in 2001. If that trend continues, then it’s imperative the team attempt to upgrade their depth in 2014.

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