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2012 Key Player: Ray Edwards

May 31st, 2012 Comments off
US PRESSWIRE

Ray Edwards

Edwards was the obvious pick for this year’s most disappointing player, which is why he will be a key player to watch in 2012. As I mentioned in the linked piece, Edwards was a marginal improvement in 2011 in the pass rush department over the much-maligned Jamaal Anderson. After the season, Edwards’ lack of production was blamed on his bothersome knee that was operated on during last year’s lockout. But one wonders just how much the knee was really bothering him since he missed a total of three practices and was limited in three others all year long due to the knee injury, out of a total of fifty-one.

But regardless of whatever is to blame for Edwards lack of production, the bottom line is that in 2012 he has to step up his play. The Falcons paid him a hefty salary to improve the team’s pass rush. And while the pass rush did take positive steps last year, the Falcons are going to need more of that if they hope to make the playoffs and make a deep run in 2012. The Falcons pass rush has been a problem area for much of Mike Smith’s tenure as the head coach. The Falcons suffered through three seasons hoping that Jamaal Anderson would improve, and Kroy Biermann would emerge as the bookend player to John Abraham. That never happened, and thus when the team signed Edwards, they hoped those issues were over.

That did not prove to be the case in 2011, and needs to be the case in 2012, otherwise Ray Edwards may not last much longer as a Falcon. The team is desperately looking for someone that can take the mantle of the team’s top and most feared pass rusher from John Abraham in the coming years, and Edwards is in prime position. One of the reasons why the Falcons have struggled over the years in beating some of the league’s more prolific offenses such as the Saints and Packers has been because of their inability to get consistent pressure on the quarterback. If the Falcons intend to close the gap on such teams in 2012, they will need to do a better job getting after the quarterback.

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Year-End Superlatives: Most Disappointing Player

January 5th, 2012 Comments off

At midseason, the pick was Matt Ryan due to some inconsistent play during September coupled with high expectations going into the season. But now, a new winner has clearly emerged.

That player is none other than Ray Edwards, who I discussed briefly when talking about the team’s top newcomers before. But Edwards was a major disappointment, considering the Falcons brought him in to improve their pass rush. And while the Falcons pass rush did improve overall, it was hard to tell just by looking at Edwards.

When you examine the fact that Edwards played twice as many snaps as Jamaal Anderson did last year in terms of plays where he was asked to rush the passer, yet generated the same number of hits and pressures is very telling. Sure, Edwards wound up with 3.5 more sacks, but if you really go back and look at all of those sacks, they become a lot less impressive.

In all of the cases of his sacks, they came on plays were a teammate of his was able to get pressure as well and essentially flush the QB into Edwards waiting arms.  Against Green Bay, his first sack of the year was the result of Aaron Rodgers spinning out of the grasp of Vance Walker into Edwards waiting arms. He had a sack in each of the Panthers games, and in one it came as a result from he, Babineaux, and Abraham all meeting Cam Newton practically at the same time. Edwards only wound up with the sack because it was to his side of the pocket where Newton slid to avoid the hits from Babineaux and Abraham off his backside. In the other Panther game, Edwards got backside pressure off the edge, but Babineaux got interior pressure, and with Babs in his face, Newton fled deeper in the pocket into the arms of Edwards. And then his half-sack against the Jaguars was shared with Abraham, because Abraham knocked Gabbert into Edward’s arms.

Now if you want to make the case that because the team’s overall pass rush improved, that Edwards presence and value was to help free up his teammates, then I will certainly buy that argument. And I will also buy that there were perhaps instances where teammates were assisted by Edwards in getting their own sacks just like he was by them.

But the fact still remains that the difference between Edwards and Anderson was fairly marginal, and that’s not at all what the Falcons were expecting nor paid for. Here’s hoping that Edwards is next year’s pick for Most Improved Player.

And just for the sake of argument, I would have also considered Sam Baker and Dunta Robinson. But in Baker’s case, he wasn’t particularly good in 2010, and many folks wanted him to be benched then. So the fact that he was benched this year in the eyes of many was just long overdue. And Robinson had enough good moments down the stretch to really keep him totally out of the doghouse.

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Year-End Superlatives: Top Newcomer

January 5th, 2012 Comments off

This is meant to distinguish which non-rookie addition to the team (i.e. free agent) stood out the most. At the midpoint, Kelvin Hayden was the pick. By year’s end, I can’t really take it away from him.

Hayden missed the last five games with injury, which is sort of damning that none of the other players were able to step up and take this honor from him in that span. And those other options would be Ray Edwards, James Sanders, and Reggie Kelly.

More on Edwards will come later, but he certainly did not produce anywhere to the level many expected from him. He was rarely a factor as a pass rusher, and while he made solid contributions as a run defender, the Falcons already had that player in Jamaal Anderson before.

Sanders got numerous opportunities to perform, having started for Thomas DeCoud early in the year, and William Moore later when he was out with injury. And while Sanders was okay, he never really stood out either against the pass or a run defender.

And don’t get me started on Reggie Kelly. He brought nothing to the table. He was tasked to be a blocker, but did very little there, and his lone reception was practically on account of charity by Matt Ryan.

So again, you’re stuck with Kelvin Hayden. Hayden was a solid pickup in the nickel. He wasn’t great all the time, but he at least inspired confidence that unlike Chris Owens, he was not going to get abused in that role. And while he gave his share of receptions, rarely were they big, game-changing ones like constantly seemed to be the case when Owens was in that role.

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Falcons Defensive Highlight of the Year

December 31st, 2011 Comments off
Getty Images from Yahoo! Sports

Peters gives the stiff arm

Defensive highlights usually don’t get quite as much pub as the offensive ones. But Falcons defenders have made their share of big plays. And it was hard choosing which one was the best of the year.

Kroy Biermann’s pick six in Week 1 was a very impressive play, but probably doesn’t seem as great since it was in a one-sided loss. Ray Edwards fumble recovery the following week against the Eagles probably would get more points if he had taken it the distance for a score. Corey Peters did take John Abraham’s sack-strip of Blaine Gabbert vs. Jacksonville all the way to the house, but that wasn’t his most impressive play of the year.

So in the end, it has to go to Peters for his one-handed interception against the Panthers which gave the Falcons the ball back late in that game, and a few plays later they sealed the victory.

Other plays that get honorable mention:

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 12 “2012 Free Agency”

December 30th, 2011 Comments off

Ryan and I discuss 2012 free agency and going position by position to look at what prospective free agents that the Falcons could or should target. We each give a bevy of players that we think could be good additions to the team next year. During the course of our discussion, we touch on several current Falcons including Brent Grimes, Michael Palmer, Curtis Lofton, Ray Edwards, Joe Hawley, Mike Johnson, and Spencer Adkins.

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Moneyball 2011 – Week 15 Review

December 20th, 2011 Comments off

A pretty outstanding performance in this game for the Falcons. The Jaguars basically failed to show up for this one, and the Falcons took full advantage of their no-show.

Matt Ryan had little issue moving the ball through the air, with Roddy White having an outstanding game. Julio Jones also made some really nice plays and catches, but this really was all about Roddy. Tony Gonzalez had a very quiet game. MIchael Turner was solid on the ground, as were Jason Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers in spots. The Falcons offensive line had their struggles trying to get push against the Jaguars front, but they were able to get the job done.

The best performance up front was probably by Clabo, as well as McClure and Blalock having solid games. Hawley had his good moments as well as his bad ones. He gave up a hit that should have been a sack had Ryan not quickly checked it down to Turner. But he continues to show that he’s filled in ably for Harvey Dahl as the team’s dirtiest blocker. He was able to draw a personal foul penalty on Nate Collins by virtue of getting away with horse-collaring Collins down the field away from the ball. Then when Collins retaliated after the whistle, that drew the flag, giving the Falcons a first down instead of punting. The next play, Ryan hit White on an easy 29-yard touchdown pass to put the Falcons lead to 41-0. Jeremy Mincey gave Will Svitek and the others fits throughout the night. Honestly watching this game, I would have to say that Jacksonville’s front seven is really potentially good. The Falcons missed 12 blocks because they got overwhelmed at the point of attack. But their secondary was really bad in this one, but thats understandable when you’re starting third string corners.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLOCK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Roddy White$0$0$13$0$0$0$13.00
Matt Ryan$13$0$0$0$0-$1$12.00
Michael Turner$0$10$0$0$0$0$10.00
Julio Jones$0$1$6-$1$0$0$6.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$4$0$0$0$0$4.00
Jason Snelling$0$3$0$0$0$0$3.00
Todd McClure$0$0$0$2.5$0$0$2.50
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0$1.5$0$0$1.50
Mike Cox$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Harry Douglas$0$0$1$0$0$0$1.00
Chris Redman$1$0$0$0$0$0$1.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Reggie Kelly$0$0$0$0$0-$1-$1.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00
Eric Weems$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00
Joe Hawley$0$0$0-$1$0-$1-$2.00
Will Svitek$0$0$0-$2$0$0-$2.00

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Moneyball 2011 – Week 14 Review

December 13th, 2011 Comments off

A strong second half performance for the Falcons in this one, which has been a rarity for this team this year.

Matt Ryan had a good game, managing it well and putting his receivers in position to make plays. But the receivers really stepped up this week after a very poor game against the Texans last week. White, Jones, and Gonzalez all made some really good plays and catches. Jones only had -$1 going into the fourth quarter, and his two touchdowns earned him good money. But besides those two big plays, he was pretty quiet. Both White and Gonzalez really made some nice catches in this game, bailing out Ryan on some less than impressive throws. But the main thing with Ryan was that he looked more comfortable in this game, unlike last week, which seemed to be because of that boost in confidence in his receivers.

The blocking was improved this week, although Sam Baker looked lost for the most part at right guard. Baker just doesn’t have the ability to win in a short area to be an effective pass protector inside. Hawley wasn’t much better but he definitely can win a short area. McClure had a solid game, and Blalock had his moments preying on the weak Panthers interior. Svitek had his hands full against Charles Johnson, and it showed in his earnings. Clabo was solid was solid all game long. The ground game was solid with Turner having several nice runs.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLOCK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Matt Ryan$17$0$0$0$0-$1$16.00
Michael Turner$0$9$0$0$0$0$9.00
Roddy White$0$0$7$0$0-$1$6.00
Julio Jones$0$0$6$0$0$0$6.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$5-$1$0$0$4.00
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0$3$0$0$3.00
Todd McClure$0$0$0$3$0$0$3.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$0$3$0$0-$1$2.00
Eric Weems$0$0$0$0$2$0$2.00
Joe Hawley$0$0$0$2$0-$1$1.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Reggie Kelly$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Jason Snelling$0$0$0-$0.5$0$0-$0.50
Michael Palmer$0$0-$1$0$0$0-$1.00
Will Svitek$0$0$0-$1.5$0$0-$1.50
Sam Baker$0$0$0-$2$0$0-$2.00

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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 11 “Lot O’ Gripes”

December 9th, 2011 Comments off

Ryan and I are back after a long lay-off to talk about the Atlanta Falcons chances down the stretch as they chase a wildcard spot in the NFC. A lot of frustration has been building in the weeks since we last got together to talk Falcons football, and in this extended episode we vent much of it. Topics of discussion are the recent loss to the Houston Texans as well as some of our expectations for the team’s upcoming game against the Carolina Panthers. Both of us wonder if the Falcons, particularly their offense is ready to take the next step forward. We discuss whether there should be a change at the running position, and whether certain veteran players including an unnamed Pro Bowl wide receiver might potentially be on the trading block after the season.  We also discuss whether the Falcons coaches are doing everything they can to get this team playing their best as the postseason looms. I give my typical anti-Peria Jerry and Reggie Kelly rants, and Ryan voices his displeasure over many of the moves the Falcons have made in recent off-seasons. We both ponder whether the Falcons problems stem from them having too many weapons.

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Moneyball 2011 – Week 13 Review

December 6th, 2011 Comments off

This was potentially one of the most frustrating watches of the year. It was not that shocking to me that the Falcons lost this game. A great deal of people got caught up in the notion that T.J. Yates was the Texans starting quarterback, which was the same mistake that they made when Dennis Dixon was the starting quarterback of the Steelers last season. But in both cases, those people forgot to realize that the strength of both of those teams rested on thei rushing attack and their defense. The Texans defense is not as good as the Steelers defense from a year ago, but still more than good enough to slow the Falcons offense. And slow it, they did.

Matt Ryan got off to a very rocky start. His inability to throw the deep ball effectively has inhibited the Falcons offense all year long, and it was no more apparent than the opening series of this game, where two poor throws to an open White and Jones really did change the face of this game. If the Falcons hit one of those, it’s extremely likely they are touchdowns. And instead of the Falcons being down 10 points midway through the second quarter, they would be up 7 points a minute into the game. Then Ryan’s two interceptions on the ensuing drives kill their momentum, although granted neither of those throws were completely his fault as Turner threw off his timing on the flea-flicker and Jones zigged when he should have zagged on the second one.

But truthfully, besides those initial series, the rest of the game Ryan played fairly well. The Falcons had a ridiculous amount of drops in this game (8). Three consecutive ones occur on the final series of the first half which killed any chance that the Falcons move down the field and at least get three points. Really the only other mistakes Ryan makes are on the pair of delay of game penalties. The second of which was a critical mistake because it comes on a 4th & 1 with 2:35 left in the game that the Falcons actually convert and would have put them in prime scoring position to tie the game. But of course the penalty nullifies the play.

He also saw quite a bit of pressure, as the Texans pass rush was basically able to pin their ears back in the second half, particularly in the fourth quarter and the Falcons blockers did not do a great job holding up. Svitek struggled in this game, as did pretty much all of the other blockers in this game. He gave up 2.5 pressures, but had another and a sack-strip negated by defensive penalties. It’s become apparent to me that while Svitek is better than Sam Baker is today, he’s not better than Baker was a year ago, which was considerably less than where Baker was in 2009. It’s fascinating to look at the Falcons left tackle position has gotten considerably worse since 2008. Svitek has done his best to maintain the status quo from a year ago. And it makes you start to realize that since the decline of Bob Whitfield, the Falcons have been fairly middling at that position. But that’s probably a topic worth broaching in the off-season. Joe Hawley also did not have a great game, and it’s clear that if the Falcons actually want to get some serious production from the right guard position they should move on in another direction. Presumably, they are playing Hawley there to get him reps for his eventual move to center. I think Hawley still has a future as the starting center, but the Falcons need to give Kirk Chambers a try at some point. Either as a replacement for Svitek at left tackle or as a right guard. Otherwise, Chambers presence on the roster is a complete and under waste.

The Falcons ground attack was pretty useless. Turner had basically two nice runs, and 9 wasted runs. And one wonders that against the fast Texans defense, that giving Jason Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers more reps would have been smart.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLOCK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Matt Ryan$7$1$0$0$0-$2$6.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$4$0$0$0$4.00
Jason Snelling$0$4$0$0$0$0$4.00
Michael Turner$0$4$0$0$0$0$4.00
Harry Douglas$0$0$2$0$0$0$2.00
Roddy White$0$0$2$0$0$0$2.00
Antone Smith$0$0$0$0$2$2.00
Tyson Clabo$0$0$2$0$0-$1$1.00
Julio Jones$0$0$2$0$0-$1$1.00
Joe Hawley$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Eric Weems$0$0$0$0$0.5$0$0.50
Will Svitek$0$0$0$1$0-$1$0.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Mike Cox$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00
Todd McClure$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00

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Baker could return this week, Jones might not

November 18th, 2011 Comments off

The Falcons released their injury report this week, and Sam Baker was listed as questionable after limited participation in all three days of practice. Baker missed the past three games with a back injury. Two weeks ago he was reportedly expected to miss 3-4 weeks. He has been replaced by Will Svitek in the team’s past three outings.

Wide receiver Julio Jones was also listed as questionable, despite not practicing all week due to re-aggravating a hamstring injury in last week’s loss to the Saints. Jones suffered the original injury in a Week 5 loss against the Packers, missed two games, but then returned two weeks ago to have a big game against the Colts. If Jones is unable to go on Sunday, he will be replaced by Harry Douglas who is coming off a career high performance against New Orleans.

Expected to miss a second consecutive game is William Moore (quadricep), as he also did not practice this week. James Sanders will start in place of him at strong safety.

Several other players were listed as probable for this weekend’s game against the Tennessee Titans. Harry Douglas (thigh), Ray Edwards (knee), and Antone Smith (knee) all were able to participate fully in the past two days of practice and were probable. Brent Grimes (knee) and Jason Snelling (hamstring) were both limited on Wednesday and Thursday, but participated fully in Friday’s practice. Curtis Lofton (ankle) was added to the injury report after Thursday, but also went full bore on Friday. John Abraham and Todd McClure were also included on the injury report, but only because both were held out of Wednesday’s practice for non-injury related rest. They had full participation in both Thursday and Friday’s practices.

The Titans linebacker corps is shaken up with starters Gerald McRath (hamstring) and Barrett Ruud (groin) both listed as questionable on their injury report. Both were able to practice fully on Friday. Backup linebacker Colin McCarthy (knee) is also questionable after missing the last two days of practice. Defensive end Dave Ball will miss the game with a concussion.