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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.

Categories: Features Tags: , , , ,

Falcons add James and Cone to roster

December 28th, 2011 Comments off

The Falcons promoted wide receiver Kevin Cone and linebacker Robert James to their active roster to replace the spots vacated by cornerback Kelvin Hayden and linebacker Mike Peterson, who were placed on injured reserve yesterday. The Falcons also added linebacker/safety Matt Hansen to the practice squad.

Peterson suffered a torn triceps injury against the Saints on Monday night, and will miss the rest of the season. Hayden has missed the past five games with a dislocated toe, and his season will also now come to an end after a slow recovery. Due to a lingering toe injury from starter Stephen Nicholas, the team is expected to start Spencer Adkins at strongside linebacker for the regular season finale this weekend against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

James and Cone have been on the practice squad since the beginning of the season. James was originally a fifth round pick by the Falcons in 2008. He spent his rookie season on injured reserve, but spent the bulk of the 2009 and 2010 seasons on the practice squad. Cone was an undrafted free agent signed by the team this past summer out of Georgia Tech. He will add some depth at wide receiver due to a groin injury to Kerry Meier.

Hansen also was an undrafted rookie free agent for the Falcons this past summer. Hansen played linebacker at Rhode Island, but spent the bulk of his summer playing safety for the Falcons.

Grimes out ‘a couple’ of weeks

November 30th, 2011 Comments off
Icon Sports Media, Inc.

Brent Grimes

Falcons head coach Mike Smith indicated that cornerback Brent Grimes will miss ‘a couple of weeks’ due to minor surgery on his injured right knee that is scheduled to occur tomorrow. Grimes is expected to miss at least two weeks according to Charles Odum of the Associated Press. He left last Sunday’s game early in the first quarter due to the injury, that he suffered reportedly aginst the Lions in late October and has been sore since.

The Falcons are already thin at cornerback with Kelvin Hayden missing today’s practice due to a toe injury and likely to miss this Sunday’s upcoming game against the Houston Texans. Hayden missed last week’s game. In his absence, Chris Owens filled in at the nickel. But due to Grimes injury, Owens is expected to replace him at left cornerback, and Dominique Franks will likely slide into the nickel role.

Also held out of Wednesday’s practice were linebacker Stephen Nicholas (quad), wide receiver Julio Jones (hamstring), running back Michael Turner (groin), and defensive tackle Vance Walker (groin). The team also sat defensive end John Abraham, center Todd McClure, and tight end Tony Gonzalez, but not for injury-related reasons. McClure had what was deemed a minor procedure on his knee in late August, and missed a total of three games and was limited in two others due to the injury.

Offensive tackle Sam Baker (back) was limited in Wednesday’s practice. Baker returned for last week’s game, after missing four games. Cornerback Dunta Robinson (neck) was able to fully participate in practice, after suffering a stinger early against the Vikings.

Falcons Midseason Superlatives

November 10th, 2011 Comments off
Getty Images from Yahoo! Sports

Corey Peters: up and coming

Here are my picks for the Falcons players most deserving of these superlative awards through the first half of the 2011 season:

Offensive MVP: Tony Gonzalez

This was tough because in recent games, Michael Turner is probably the most valuable player on offense. When Turner runs well, the Falcons tend to win. But I thought Gonzo is deserving because he’s been consistent throughout the entire first half of the season. Turner was pretty average through the first 4 games of the year, although part of that could be blamed on the changes up front. But he just didn’t look like the same Michael Turner that he has been in the past month. He’s now running harder than he was early on, and thus part of his struggles were on him. With that said, Gonzo has been money throughout the year, particularly in the redzone where he is basically our entire redzone offense. Another reason for putting him here, is because I was one of those people that thought after last year, Gonzo was done. Still a solid, productive tight end, but no longer one of the best at his position. Boy, has he shown me I was dead wrong. He still has the best hands in the business, and while his explosiveness isn’t what it once was, he still has made a number of big plays at critical moments in games.

Defensive MVP: Sean Weatherspoon

If you had to pick one Falcon defender that is truly deserving of making the Pro Bowl this year, then it’s definitely Spoon. He’s been playing lights out all year long, making plays vs. the run, as a pass rusher, and in coverage. He’s been a valuable every down defender. While Spoon hasn’t been perfect, like Gonzalez on offense he has made his presence known in virtually every game. While he flashed this level of ability early on as a rookie, he’s taken things to a brand new level. And if he maintains this level of play in the second half of the season, he should definitely be on his way to Hawaii. If I had to choose a runner-up, it would probably be Brent Grimes. But he’s not having quite the impact he was having a year ago, partially because teams are not throwing at him as often as they did a year ago. But Grimes is staying playing at a fairly high level, just isn’t getting as many opportunities to make those big, game-changing impact players like he was a year ago.

Special Teams MVP: Matt Bryant

Who else would you pick? “Money” Matt Bryant has been everything his nickname indicates he should be.

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Moneyball 2011 – Week 9 Review

November 8th, 2011 Comments off

This was a solid execution of the Falcons signature game plan. They wanted to run the ball well, and they did. They minimized penalties and mental mistakes, with Svitek’s holding call being the lone play that stood out in the negative. Big earnings for Turner, Rodgers, and even Snelling and Jones got into the act. The offensive line graded out its best this week collectively mainly because of their ability to beat the Colts in the trenches.

But this game was really a tale of the potential of the Falcons two rookies in Jacquizz Rodgers and Julio Jones. Rodgers had a solid game and the Falcons need to get him more touches on offense. Most of his touches in this game came in garbage time and they need to find more ways to get him the ball earlier in the games. Good things just tend to happen when he touches the ball.

But of course the star of this game was Julio Jones who made a lot of great things happen despite only a handful of touches in this game. His two big plays in the passing game and his two rushing attempts were big plays for this team.

Matt Ryan was up and down in this game. He looked particularly bad at the end of the first half with three poor passes on the final series. Most of his earnings ($8) came off the two big plays by Jones, and most would agree that Jones did the brunt of the work there. But he had some nice throws in the second half of the game, but overall it was a nondescript performance for him despite the high earnings. Which is probably similar to what you could describe Ryan’s overall season as.

Up front, Svitek was the highest earner mainly because I don’t subtract for pressures given up. Considering he was facing Dwight Freeney, some of his struggles were expected as Freeney’s spin move killed him a couple of times. Overall, the best game goes to Justin Blalock. Blalock’s two missed blocks came on the Falcons final two offensive series when the game was pretty much over and they were trying to run out the clock. Hawley was serviceable at right guard, but from this performance it should not be seen as a permanent option.

Mike Cox had a nice debut as a Falcon. He missed a couple of blocks, but he also a couple of impressive blocks early on. Snelling even contributed once on a Rodgers as a lead blocker. Going forward, until Cox works out some of the kinks, the Falcons should probably platoon the pair of them in Ovie’s vacant spot.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLOCK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Julio Jones$0$4$8$1$0$0$13.00
Matt Ryan$11$1$0$0$0$0$12.00
Michael Turner$0$11$1$0$0$0$12.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$8$1$0$0$0$9.00
Jason Snelling$0$4$0$1$0$0$5.00
Roddy White$0$0$4$0$0$0$4.00
Will Svitek$0$0$0$4$0-$1$3.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$3$0$0$0$3.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Eric Weems$0$0$0$0$1.5$0$1.50
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Todd McClure$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Mike Cox$0$0$0$0.5$0$0$0.50
Joe Hawley$0$0$0-$0.5$0$0-$0.50

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Moneyball 2011 – Week 5 Review

October 11th, 2011 Comments off

My vitriol for the play-calling on both sides of the ball in this game has subsided somewhat after reviewing the game. But I’m going to use this entry for Moneyball to vent a little about what I think are some of the problems that have plagued the Falcons this year, which are reasons why I think they have yet to reach their full potential on either side of the ball.

What disappoints me the most is that the Falcons did an excellent job with misdirection plays on their first two series, but pretty much stopped doing that as the game wore on and went back to a more traditional gameplan of just trying to “out-execute” the Packers defense, and it did not work. Ryan missed on a couple of throws, and the offensive line essentially could not handle that gameplan. Tyson Clabo had two drive-killing penalties on 3rd downs, Roddy White had another, Harry Douglas had a catch overturned.

Mularkey did a better job using guys like Douglas, Weems, and White to manufacture yards and stay on schedule in early downs, replacing rushing yards. The Falcons need to continue to do this. While Turner and the ground attack was effective early in the game, in the second half it stopped because just like the Seahawks, the Packers began to stack the box and the Falcons offensive line was unable to get enough push to spring a slow back like Turner. But Mularkey needs to do more of this with screens and quick throws to receivers in the flat. Doing this 2 or 3 times a game is not going to be enough given the Falcons blocking issues.

The offensive line had a nice game, giving Ryan much more time than he’s seen most of this year, but when push came to shove there were too many instances where Ryan was pressured which led to incompletions. Sam Baker’s missed block on Desmond Bishop on 1st down in the fourth quarter was the lone sack the team allowed. But it put the Falcons in a 2nd & 21, and Ryan got too greedy on the next play trying to get it all back and his throw to Gonzo was a few inches overthrown and led to the interception that pretty much ended the game.

I don’t even know why guys like Michael Palmer and Reggie Kelly are on the team. They have contributed next to nothing to this offense. The Falcons just need to go out and sign someone like Alge Crumpler, Ben Patrick, Chris Baker to try and add something to this offense as a second tight end.

The Falcons need to get Jacquizz Rodgers more involved. His quickness can potentially be an asset because he might be able to squeeze through those smaller creases that the offensive line can create that Turner cannot.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLOCK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Michael Turner$0$10$0$0$0$0$10.00
Matt Ryan$6$0$0$0$0$0$6.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$4$0$0$0$4.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$3$0$0$3.00
Jason Snelling$0$0$3$0$0$0$3.00
Julius Jones$0$2$1$0$0-$1$2.00
Roddy White$0$0$3$0$0-$1$2.00
Garrett Reynolds$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0$3$0-$2$1.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$2$0$0$0-$1$1.00
Harry Douglas$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Joe Hawley$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Sam Baker$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00
Reggie Kelly$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00

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Nicholas Out Against Seahawks

October 1st, 2011 Comments off

Last week linebacker Mike Peterson got the start in stead of Stephen Nicholas, who was out with a calf strain. Peterson was spelled on passing downs by Spencer Adkins. It’s likely the Falcons will employ the same rotation this weekend against the Seattle Seahawks since Nicholas was declared out for the second straight week.

Also listed as out on the Falcons injury report, released Friday afternoon, were defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux (knee), running back Jason Snelling (concussion), and defensive end Cliff Matthews (knee). For the third straight game, Peria Jerry will start in place of the injured Babineaux. Snelling suffered his injury last week vs. Tampa Bay and will mean more opportunities for Jacquizz Rodgers as Michael Turner’s primary backup.

Wide receiver Roddy White (thigh) was listed as questionable after being able to go on a limited basis in Friday’s practice after sitting out both Wednesday and Thursday. White has never missed a game entering his seventh season in the NFL.

The Falcons will expect cornerback Kelvin Hayden back this week after being inactive with a hamstring injury last week. Hayden was listed as probable along with offensive tackle Sam Baker (ankle) and linebacker Curtis Lofton (foot). Both Baker and Lofton were limited during Wednesday’s practice but gave full participation on both Thursday and Friday.

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 7 “F***aneers”

September 23rd, 2011 Comments off

Ryan and I get together to recap the Falcons magnificent triumph over the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 2, as well as talk about their upcoming matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. We get into some discussion over Matt Bosher’s kicking, joy over the injury the Falcons defense inflicted upon Michael Vick, and our usual Peria Jerry discussion. As we preview the Bucs game, Ryan shows little concern over our NFC South rival, while I worry about the Falcons suffering from a post-Eagles game hangover. But we both feel that this could be a breakout game for both Julio Jones and Jacquizz Rodgers. We also debate whether the Falcons should be more aggressive on defense and whether their historically sluggish starts on the road are a thing of the past. We get into some fan questions which include discussion on just how high a ceiling Matt Ryan has and whether or not the no huddle offense is the key to unlocking his potential. And finally we end the podcast with discussing how to properly pregame for the pregame.

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Categories: Podcast Tags: , , , , ,

Forbes calls Robinson overpaid

September 21st, 2011 Comments off

Tom Van Riper of Forbes.com lists Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson as the second most overpaid player in the league, behind New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez.

Atlanta Falcons’ cornerback Dunta Robinson, whose $5.5 million salary places him in the top ten at his position despite the fact that he’s never made All Pro and who is ranked by ESPN as the NFL’s 19th best corner.

I wonder if Van Riper factored in the $40,000 hit that Robinson’s salary took this week?

Is Robinson overpaid? Yes. The Falcons paid him to be a premiere No. 1 corner, and he is not, nor is he ever going to be. That ship sailed a long time ago. But Robinson does contribute to this team despite a less than stellar performance last week against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Part of the problem is that Robinson probably won’t ever reach his full potential in the Falcons defensive scheme. Robinson shined as a press man corner with the Houston Texans, but the Falcons seem to like to put him in a lot more zone and off coverage.

But even if the Falcons did play a lot more press man, that still wouldn’t change the fact that Robinson is making more money than he’s worth. But the truth is the Falcons weren’t paying Robinson based on his ability, they were paying him based on stability. While Robinson certainly isn’t a Top 10 No. 1 corner like he’s being paid like, he is one of the better No. 2 corners around the league. And with Brent Grimes on the other side, who definitely has performed like a Top 10 No. 1 corner at various points during the past year or so, it gives the Falcons a very good pair of starting corners.

Now if only the Falcons can stabilize their nickel cornerback situation, things will be looking very good for them in the secondary. Kelvin Hayden definitely gave them reason for optimism last week.

Categories: Features Tags: , ,

Moneyball 2011 – Week 2 Review

September 20th, 2011 Comments off

The Falcons did not have their most stellar performance against the Eagles, but they made plays at critical points in the game to pull out the victory.

Offensively, Matt Ryan did not really get going until the fourth quarter, where he earned $7 of his $9.50 passing the ball. Michael Turner had a good start with $7 in the first half, but went quiet until his big runs late in the game. Tony Gonzalez was money in this game with his two touchdown grabs and ability to move the chains. Roddy White and Julio Jones were fairly quiet for most of the game, although they had some key catches at certain points in the game. But at least from the Eagles perspective, they should feel happy about their two highly paid corners containing both White and Jones pretty much the entire night.

Up front, the blocking was hit and miss just like last week. Sam Baker really struggled going against Trent Cole, which was the same issue he had a year ago. Reynolds gave up an early sack but had a fairly solid game the rest of the way. Clabo also struggled on the outside getting beat by Jason Babin several times. Blalock was the best up front, and Hawley had his really good moments as well as his share of mental errors and mistakes. If and when McClure returns, the Falcons can iron out many of the inconsistencies.

The Falcons inability to move the ball on the ground in the third quarter was a big reason why the Eagles were able to get back into the game and take a 10-point lead then.

Ryan saw a lot of pressure throughout the game from the edges, but some of it was on him getting happy feet in the pocket after he took a couple of early hits.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Michael Turner$0$9$2$0$0$0$11.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$9$1.5$0$0$10.50
Matt Ryan$9.5$1$0$0$0-$1$9.50
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$3$0$0$0$0$3.00
Roddy White$0$0$3$0$0$0$3.00
Ovie Mughelli$0$0$2$0$0$0$2.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Harry Douglas$0$0$1$0$0$0$1.00
Julio Jones$0$0$1$0$0$0$1.00
Garrett Reynolds$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Eric Weems$0$0$0$0$1$0$1.00
Reggie Kelly$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00
Michael Palmer$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0-$1.5$0$0-$1.50
Joe Hawley$0$0$0$0$0-$2-$2.00
Sam Baker$0$0$0$2.5$0$0-$2.50

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