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Atlanta Falcons Training Camp Preview 2014: Defensive Tackle

July 21st, 2014 No comments

Andrew Weber- US PRESSWIRE

Corey Peters

The Atlanta Falcons will feature more competition at the defensive tackle position in regards to their reserves since their starting lineup was solidified in the offseason by the signing of Paul Soliai.

As I explained in the write-up on the Falcons defensive ends, all signs point to the Falcons adopting more of a 3-4 schematic look in their base attack on defense this season. The addition of Soliai is a big part of that reason for he is the prototypical 3-4 nose tackle.

Big, strong and capable of absorbing double teams, Soliai gives the Falcons something they did not truly have with Corey Peters last season. Peters was capable in performing some of those roles, but was by no means the classic version of the 3-4 nose that usually weighs in above 320 pounds. Coupled with Peters’ recovery from injury, it was clear the Falcons were going to need more help at the position.

They found that in Soliai with a substantial long-term contract. If offensive tackle Jake Matthews is the jewel of the draft class, then Soliai is that for free agency based purely off his contract. And thus, it doesn’t make sense for a team to spend as much money as they did on 3-4 players like Soliai and defensive end Tyson Jackson and not utilize them in the manner that suits them best.

Soliai will start for the Falcons, but will likely be pulled off the field in most passing situations. That was the case in Miami as Soliai had a tendency to wear down over the course of games. The Falcons will need to find a way to minimize that.

A heavy rotation with Peters could be one answer, but that is dependent on his health. Peters told me himself that he is expecting to return for the regular season opener, and if that is the case then he’ll be able to earn reps replacing Soliai in passing situations.

Unlike some 3-4 teams, the Falcons will likely utilize a four-man front when they employ their nickel sub-packages on passing downs. It’s likely that the same starting lineup the team featured up front last season: Osi Umenyiora and Jonathan Massaquoi at the end spots with Peters and Jonathan Babineaux at tackle will be their go-to group. That potentially puts the team’s four best pass-rushers (minus linebacker Kroy Biermann) on the field at the same time.

Read more…

Atlanta Falcons Training Camp Preview 2014: Defensive End

July 20th, 2014 No comments

Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Tyson Jackson

The Atlanta Falcons are undergoing a revamp of their defensive fronts this year, and it will begin with the defensive end position.

Under defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, the Falcons have employed a multiple defense, which means it is not strictly a 4-3, nor is it a 3-4 scheme. It’s a hybrid between the two and for the most part over the two years that Nolan has been in Atlanta, it could be most accurately termed a 4-3 scheme with 3-4 principles.

But things might change in 2014 as the Falcons may flip it, opting for a 3-4 scheme with 4-3 principles instead. That change is signaled by the team’s expensive additions up front this offseason, including defensive end Tyson Jackson.

Jackson spent the past five seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs playing in a 3-4 scheme, and is the second-highest paid defensive lineman on the roster behind only nose tackle Paul Soliai. Given that level of investment and the fact that Jackson has little experience playing in a 4-3, it does appear that at least for the team’s base packages, the Falcons will feature a lot more three-man fronts.

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Atlanta Falcons Takeaways from Last Week – June 9, 2014

June 9th, 2014 Comments off
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Smith

It is June and this is usually the dead time in the NFL’s offseason, and often is the time when I become the most pessimistic in my outlook on my favorite football team, the Atlanta Falcons.

I don’t think that’s a coincidence. Once the NFL Draft is done, there is a sizable gap of downtime before the start of training camps in late July. Typically there is a couple of weeks of continued offseason fervor as rookies and veterans come together to work out in mini-camps and offseason team activities (OTAs) in earnest.

But usually once June hits, most of the buzz on the incoming draft class and the first looks at the veterans dies down and there’s basically six to eight weeks of waiting. It’s really the only time of year where coverage of the NFL takes a back seat to NBA playoffs, NHL playoffs, Major League Baseball, and other sports in America. Football takes a break, and this period from early June to late July is the true offseason of the league.

I myself also took a bit of a break last week. One of my relatives passed at the end of May and I was traveling to go to their funeral last weekend. That did not allow me much time to contemplate the Falcons to any degree worth writing my normal takeaways column to be published on Monday.

And I decided to take a bit of a break over the rest of the week to decompress before getting back to the grind this week.

It’s going to be an interesting summer because it’s the first time since 2008 that there is really any strain of real pessimism within the fan base. It’s a relatively foreign feeling when considering the Mike Smith Era overall. The Falcons streak of five consecutive winning seasons was snapped last year to the tune of a 4-12 record.

This offseason, the Falcons wound up with a high draft pick and serious questions about their ability to compete for a playoff spot in 2014. This offseason became one that is all too familiar for long-time Falcon fans like myself.

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Atlanta Falcons Takeaways from Last Week – May 26, 2014

May 26th, 2014 Comments off
David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Ra’Shede Hageman

Last week, I discussed some of the reasons why I liked the Atlanta Falcons’ selection of Jake Matthews with their top pick in the 2014 NFL draft. This week, I believe it’s only fair if I talk a little more in-depth about the next Falcons selection, defensive lineman Ra’Shede Hageman.

I consider “defensive lineman” to be Hageman’s position because I’m not sure exactly how the Falcons will use him. And that is what gives me some of the trepidation about his ability to immediately translate as an impact player in Atlanta.

If my scouting report on Hageman wasn’t clear, it’s not that I doubt his impact potential. Hageman could be one of the more dominant defensive linemen in the NFL if he fully reaches that potential. But I think that belief also creates problems for him in the form of  lofty expectations.

I remember back in 2007 when expectations followed Jamaal Anderson to Atlanta. And yes, I apologizing for invoking that very painful memory for you.

Personally I had not seen Anderson play at Arkansas, because the period between 2005 and 2007 were years that I had cut back on watching college football due to focusing on and handling team needs and free agency for the draft website, The Huddle Report.

But after watching one of those ESPN’s SportsCenter the week of the draft and seeing the Atlanta Journal-Constution’s Terrence Moore say that the Falcons the Falcons were going to select Anderson with the eighth overall pick, my reaction was, “Who?”

That offseason, most of what I had been hearing were three names for the Falcons with the eighth overall selection: running back Adrian Peterson, safety LaRon Landry and defensive tackle Amobi Okoye. My heart was set on Peterson, but felt Landry was a worthwhile consolation prize.

I never really gave Anderson much thought before Moore’s proclamation. I knew the Falcons needed another pass-rusher to team with John Abraham due to the departure of long-time leader Patrick Kerney that offseason. But I guess I figured that we could target an end in a later round where pass-rushers like LaMarr Woodley and Charles Johnson could be found rather than using it on our top pick for someone that throughout the process I hadn’t been hearing a ton about.

But we got Anderson and I can still recall all the message boards and online, post-draft stories touting Anderson’s potential to be a double-digit sack artist with comparable skillset to Mario Williams. And despite knowing little about Anderson, I bought into the hype.

But I decided to start watching college football again that fall, so that I could never be blindsided by a pick again. Because despite the post-draft, summer hype, what occurred with Anderson during the fall was tough to stomach.

It was like his pass-rush ability never existed. He was just so slow and so poor at fighting off blocks.

Again, I did not see Anderson play at Arkansas. I can only really guess to what he looked like, but I see similar red flags with Hageman.

Comparison of Hageman and Anderson Not Meant As Knock

Does that mean that I think Hageman will be a bust? No.

Read more…

Falcon Sign Rookies Matthews and Hageman to Contracts

May 21st, 2014 Comments off

The Atlanta Falcons announced today that they agreed to terms with the top two selections in the 2014 NFL Draft: offensive tackle Jake Matthews and defensive lineman Ra’Shede Hageman. Earlier this month, Matthews and Hageman were selected in the first and second rounds of the draft, respectively. Both agreed to undisclosed four-year deals, although because Matthews is a first-round selection, the Falcons have an option for a fifth year on the deal.

Matthews was the sixth overall selection out of Texas A&M and is expected to immediately start at right tackle. Hageman was the 37th selection out of Minnesota and is expected to push for time in the team’s defensive line rotation. He’s expected to play defensive end, but will also add depth at tackle.

Today’s signings leave third-round safety Dezmen Southward and fourth-round running back Devonta Freeman as the only unsigned members of the team’s nine-player draft class. Five of the team’s other selections signed over the weekend.

Categories: News Tags: , , ,

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 67 “Coming to Terms With Prince Shembo”

May 18th, 2014 Comments off

I am joined by Jeanna Thomas of The Falcoholic to give a more positive spin on the Atlanta Falcons 2014 draft class plus some of the early developments in the team’s rookie mini-camp. The conversation then dives deep into a discussion of Falcons fourth-round selection, linebacker Prince Shembo, and his alleged off-field incident during his time at Notre Dame. We do our best to figure out how they can reconcile our issues over the incident.

Episode 67 – Coming to Terms With Prince Shembo [Download]

Duration: 41 minutes

Jeanna writes for The Falcoholic and can be found on twitter: @jeannathomas. You can read Jeanna’s article referred to in the episode by clicking here.

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

Atlanta Falcons 2014 Rookie Scouting Report: Ra’Shede Hageman

May 15th, 2014 1 comment
David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Ra’Shede Hageman

A breakdown of the Atlanta Falcons’ 2014 second-round pick, Minnesota defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman.

BIO

Note: Before proceeding, I think you should take the time and opportunity to read an excellent feature on Hageman done by SB Nation’s John Rosengren from last November. I based a lot of my assessments about Hageman’s character based off the information I read in Rosengren’s piece as well as other available sources online. I have not met Hageman, and therefore some of these assessments are unfair on my part without such face-to-face interation. But nonetheless, in efforts to providing the best available online content revolving around the Atlanta Falcons, I would be remiss if I did not consider it.

Height: 6’6″
Weight: 310
College: Minnesota
40 Time: 5.02
Bench Press: 32

His name is pronounced “Ruh-SHEED HAYG-men” although he was born Ra’Shede Knox on August 2, 1990. He was in foster care system until age 7 before he and his younger brother, Xavier, were adopted by Eric and Jill Hageman. He attended Washburn High in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

As a redshirt freshman, he played in eight games as a backup, ending the season with five tackles. He was suspended for the final four games that year due to academic issues. He returned as a sophomore to appear in 13 games as a backup, with 13 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and a forced fumble. The following spring he was arrested while trying to break up a bar fight and was charged with disorderly conduct, although the charges were eventually dropped. The ensuing fall, he earned starting position with 12 starts. He had 35 tackles, 7.5 for loss, six sacks, one forced fumble and a pair of pass breakups. As a senior, he was voted a captain and Team MVP and started all 13 games at defensive tackle. He finished the season with 38 tackles, 13 for loss, two sacks, one interception, eight pass breakups and two blocked kicks.

Possesses impressive wingspan with 34.25-inch arms and 10.25-inch hands.

2013 GAMES WATCHED

Date
Opponent
TFL
Sack
Hit
Pressure
Run Stop
PD
Key Blkd
Pen
Pen Type
Sep-28Iowa00212110N/A
Nov-09Penn State00000100N/A
Nov-23Wisconsin20000.5000N/A
Dec-27Syracuse20120001personal foul

SKILLS
The grading system is based on a 10-point scale: 1-pathetic, 2-poor, 3-weak, 4-below average, 5-average, 6-above average, 7-good, 8-very good, 9-excellent, 10-elite.

Strength (9.0) – He wins largely with strength and power alone, possessing an abundance of both. That allows him to be a mismatch for most collegiate guards and tackles when put on an island. Forced him to draw more double teams as a senior because of it. He has a thick frame, but has the potential and capacity to get bigger and stronger. Did 32 bench reps at the Combine.

Point of Attack (5.5) – Has the strength to hold the point of attack and anchor, keeping blockers off his linebackers. But does not know how to use his hands to disengage from blocks to get off them to make the play. Struggles to beat double teams because of his inability to shed blocks. Is more of a penetrative interior player that doesn’t have ideal quickness and burst to reliably penetrate. When he does anchor and make a play at the point, it’s usually when he’s clogging the middle with his body rather than actually defeating block and wrapping up a ballcarrier. Read more…

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 66 “Tear Down Your Hopes and Dreams”

May 13th, 2014 Comments off

Allen and I are joined by The Falcoholic contributor, Murf Baldwin, to discuss our thoughts on the Atlanta Falcons 2014 draft class. Murf gives a less than glowing assessment of the Falcons picks, including whether or not Ra’Shede Hageman and Dezmen Southward offered good value in the second and third rounds. We wonder whether or not the Falcons pass rush has been significantly improved and break down whether Devonta Freeman and their late-round picks add anything to the roster that wasn’t already there. Allen and I finish with a brief discussion of our hopes for the NBA playoffs, our usual around the league segment, as well as Allen’s explanation on why he could not make a triumphant return to Radio City Music Hall to witness the draft.

Episode 66 – Tear Down Your Hopes and Dreams [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 26 minutes

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

Murf writes for The Falcoholic, Roll Bama Roll and can be found on twitter: @MurfBaldwin.

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

Takeaways from 2014 NFL Draft – May 12, 2014

May 12th, 2014 1 comment
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Falcons 2014 Top Selection: Jake Matthews

Normally I write my weekly takeaways column on Sunday afternoon or evening with the intention of it being posted first thing Monday morning around 8:00 a.m. This week, that was no the case.

That’s partly to blame for the fact that it was Mother Day’s weekend, and instead of doing all the things I normally would have done on a Sunday afternoon/evening to get this weekly column posted, I decided to spend time with my mother, who had driven four hors from Virginia to North Carolina to witness my sister-in-law’s graduation from grad school. In the interest of being a good son, my mother took precedent over this column.

Secondly, I had not watched all of the Atlanta Falcons 2014 draft picks play yet. And the column after the draft is the one devoted to my thoughts on whether I believe the Falcons’ draft was a good one or not.

Because unlike most people, I try to be informed before giving my opinions. If you want to know my take on any of the Falcons undrafted free agents, I don’t have one because I haven’t seen any of them play. Until I do, which will be in the first preseason game, my opinion on them will remain largely non-existent.

I was born in 1983, so I spent a significant portion existing in a world without the internet. That was a world where people couldn’t post their opinions, thoughts or insights with the click of a button on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or in Yahoo! News comments.

Back in those times, the only people that were given a platform to express opinions were people that had earned that right to be called experts in their give fields. There was a filter, and it was one that you had to work hard to break through.

The idea that Courtney Love could be involved in finding a missing plane in that time was laughable at best. Instead of social media, people expressed their opinions to companions and family members in their respective living rooms, kitchen dinner tables or bars.

But that age doesn’t exist anymore, and now people are free to give their opinions with no filter. Today, everything is thrown at the wall, and it’s only a matter of what sticks.

Why am I telling you this? Because one of the things I find fascinating is how everybody, including those least informed, will give their opinions on the draft. Besides watching a YouTube highlight clip and reading a bunch of online scouting reports, most people aren’t informed about most of these players with their own eyes.

It often leads to people have overly optimistic expectations about a particular draft prospect, or overly pessimistic ones. There is no longer a middle ground. And people should know that most things fall into that middle area.

I’m saying all this because I believe it will take time to see how these draft prospects develop. Patience is really the key, and while it won’t stop me from having an opinion today, I’m at least aware of the fact that what my opinion today is relatively meaningless in the big picture. That big picture will be determined by where the Falcons 2014 draft picks are three to five years from now.

What will this column will entail from this point is my best guess on where those players will be at that point. While that guess is an educated one based off informed analysis from watching these guys play a handful of collegiate games, it is still a guess nonetheless.

Read more…

Falcons Select Ra’Shede Hageman In Second Round of 2014 NFL Draft

May 9th, 2014 Comments off
Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Ra’Shede Hageman

The Atlanta Falcons selected Minnesota defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman with their second-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, the 37th overall selection.

Hageman helps beef up the Falcons defensive line, a noted goal of the team this offseason. At 6’6″ 310 pounds, Hageman is a massive upgrade to potentially play inside and outside in the Falcons hybrid defensive scheme. Hageman played under the Falcons coaching staff for the North squad during the Senior Bowl all-star game in January. At February’s Scouting Combine, he ran a 5.02-second 40-yard dash and did an impressive 32 bench reps of 225 pounds. He also had a 35.5-inch vertical jump.

Hageman had a couple of issues during his career at Minnesota, being suspended four games at the end of his sophomore season for academic reasons. He was also arrested during the course of breaking up a bar fight the following year, but the charges were dropped. He would assume a starting job that season and record 35 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and six sacks. As a senior, he had 38 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and two sacks as he earned captain honors. He also had an interception and a pair of blocked kicks.

Categories: Draft Central, News Tags: ,