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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 55 “2013 Awards Extravaganza!”

January 14th, 2014 1 comment

Allen and I get together once again to discuss our choices for various awards stemming from the Atlanta Falcons 2013 season. Included are our choices for the team’s most valuable player, offensive and defensive players of the year, most improved player, biggest disappointment, and most underrated and overrated players among several other individual honors. During the course of our discussion, I explain my hatred for Harry Douglas for the umpteenth time, and also where I rank Matt Ryan among the league’s top quarterbacks following his play in 2013. After divvying out our awards, we get into a discussion about the winners and losers from the second round of the playoffs, as well as our expectations for the upcoming conference championship games.

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 55 2013 Awards Extravaganza! [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 18 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

Falcons Midseason Superlatives 2013: Stock Up, Stock Down

November 6th, 2013 Comments off
Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Corey Peters

We’ve already looked at the most valuable players and best newcomers through the first half of the 2013 season. We’ll finish our look at the superlative honors by looking at which players have improved the most, and who also has been the biggest disappointment through the first half of the year.

Most Improved Player: Corey Peters

There are a couple of options to choose from here. On the offensive side of the ball, players like Harry Douglas and Garrett Reynolds have stepped up their play from previous years. Akeem Dent at linebacker is a much-improved player from a year ago where he was consistently in my doghouse. Up front, Peria Jerry has also improved to become an effective rotation player from a practical non-entity.

But ultimately it has to go to Corey Peters. I’ve been pretty hard on Peters over the years, as I believe his impact on the defense has been overblown. But he’s bringing it this year, particularly against the run. He’s also had his moments as a pass rusher. But the run defense has improved signficantly from a year ago where it was downright atrocious at times. And while the 2013 Falcons run defense isn’t great, it’s been fairly good, and a lot of credit deserves to go Peters’ way because I believe he’s the biggest catalyst for that improvement.

Most Disappointing Player: Peter Konz

How do you single out one individual on a team full of disappointments? Which player best embodies the high expectations coming into the year as well as the failure to meet them?

Probably the first player that jumps to mind is Steven Jackson. But it raises the question of whether his injury means that he deserves a pass. If yes, then several other injured players are removed from contention, such as Sam Baker. If the answer is no, then that means that all injured players are thusly fair game. And therefore, there’s an even more obvious choice for this honor: Roddy White. But it would feel vindictive to single him out as a disappointment, thus I’ll eliminate injured players from consideration.

Even with that caveat, there are still plenty of players worthy of consideration: Thomas DeCoud, Lamar Holmes, and Jonathan Massaquoi, among others. I think it really just comes down to two prime candidates: Robert McClain or Peter Konz.

In the case of McClain, the expectations were that he would pick up where he left off a year ago, which was as one of the better nickel corners in the league. That hasn’t been the case, and he’s been benched in favor of Alford. Alford’s solid play probably eases the sting of McClain’s disappointment.

Konz was the top rookie last year by default because he was the only guy to really play, not because he played well at right guard. They could potentially bench him or move him back to guard, and promote Joe Hawley at center. But this team has been firmly committed that Konz was the replacement for long-time starting center Todd McClure. And such a move to replace Konz at center, would be an indicator that they are no longer committed to that.

Such a move may not be merited because I believe Konz still could turn into a very good player for the Falcons. But given that his play has at least sewn the seeds of doubt in my own and others’ minds makes him the biggest disappointment thus far this year.

It’s going to be interesting to see at year’s end whether these superlative awards will change hands. One or two typically do.

Categories: Features Tags: , , ,

Falcons Midseason Superlatives 2013: Fresh Faces

November 6th, 2013 Comments off
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Osi Umenyiora

After looking at the most valuable players on offense, defense, and specail teams, now I want to look at which players that are new to the team have stood out in the first half of the year.

Rookie of the Year: Desmond Trufant

Unlike last year, this is a much harder choice to make now. The Falcons are getting more solid play from multiple rookies. Trufant has been logging starters’ reps at cornerback and has been playing well. Robert Alford has seen an increase in snaps in recent weeks, but has also been helping on special teams. Malliciah Goodman and Levine Toilolo have had their moments. Undrafted rookies like Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu have also made major contributions as well.

But in the end, it has to go to Trufant. He’s had his ups and downs as all rookie corners are prone to have, but he’s been able to break up or intercept a pass in every game this year. That’s something that Brent Grimes didn’t even do when he was playing at a Pro Bowl level here in Atlanta.

With the play of the other rookies and potential for more playing time, this award might be even more contentious by year’s end.

Top Newcomer: Osi Umenyiora

This goes to the best non-rookie that is new to the team. There are a couple of choices to consider, but Osi Umenyiora is hands down the winner.

Steven Jackson has had his moments but spent too much of the first half of the year injured to be a consideration. Jeremy Trueblood proctored in the slight improvement the offensive line has seen since the first two games, but individually he has been more mediocre than good.

While I’ve criticized Osi throughout this year as being a disappointment and too often a non-factor, he still remains an effective pass rusher at times. He’s made several game-changing plays through the first half of the year, with sack-strips and a defensive touchdown. And while his ability to put heat on the quarterback probably hasn’t been as great as I would prefer, ultimately he still shows up every game and is consistent, even if underwhelming at times.

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Falcons Midseason Superlatives 2013: Most Valuable Players

November 6th, 2013 Comments off
Josh D. Weiss-US PRESSWIRE

Matt Bosher

It’s time to look at some of the performances of the first half of the 2013 Atlanta Falcons season now that we’ve reached the midpoint. Here are my picks for which players stood out to earn some of these superlative awards.

For this first part, we’ll just focus on the most valuable players in the three phases of the game: offense, defense, and special teams.

Offensive MVP: Matt Ryan

Given the dropoff in production from the Falcons offense since the bye week, one could make an argument that Julio Jones is the most valuable player. But I figured picking him would be far too cynical a choice.

While Ryan’s performance has dropped off the past two weeks, overall he’s played at a high level. The hope is that his performance will bounce back in the second half once he gets a healthy Roddy White back to throw to.

Outside Ryan, Jones, and tight end Tony Gonzalez, there haven’t been many standout performances on the offensive side of the ball. The reality is that without Ryan, this Falcon team would be where Tampa Bay sits: winless and in utter disarray. Relative to most years, the Falcons wouldn’t be called stable this year, but what stability they do have is propped on Ryan’s shoulders.

Defensive MVP: William Moore

In past years, it always seemed like this was John Abraham or Sean Weatherspoon’s award. Well, neither player is still in contention since Abraham was released in the off-season and Weatherspoon has been injured for the majority of the first half of the year.

That means the mantle has passed to Moore for this top defensive honor. Moore hasn’t always been great, but he’s been the player on defense that has been the most consistently good.

The reality is that given how poorly the defense has played this year, there isn’t one player that has really played well. There have just been a mix of solid and mediocre performances. Moore has created a few turnovers, been a force against the run, and been effective in coverage through this season. Overall, the balance tips in his favor more than others.

Special Teams MVP: Matt Bosher

Perhaps it is because the standards have changed in regards to punter Matt Bosher that I’m tentative to give him this award. The “new normal” for Bosher is being a good punter, and thus his play has not really stood out to me this year as compared to a year ago.

I thought about going with gunners Antone Smith or Robert Alford due to their solid play in coverage. But in the end, I still have to give the honors to Bosher, while Smith and Alford deserve honorable mentions.

Bosher’s big leg has helped the Falcons special teams be effective nearly every game in the first half of the season by helping flip field position. While the team has struggled in the other phases of the game, the special teams has become a strength, thanks in large part to Bosher’s consistent play.

And the swagger also helps.

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Ultimate 2013 Predictions

September 5th, 2013 Comments off
John Rieger-US PRESSWIRE

Ryan and Jones lead the Falcons to a fourth consecutive playoff season

The 2013 NFL season kicks off tonight, and it’s once again time for the yearly predictions. You’ll see how I project the Falcons 2013 season to go as well as my projections for the other 31 NFL teams. I’ll also try and estimate some of the stats that Falcons players will have this year. I was fairly accurate on many of those projections last year.

If you heard the latest episode of the FalcFans podcast, where myself and Allen Strk projected the playoff teams, you’re not going to see many significant changes. But there are a few, not that I’ve had a few more days to dwell on things.

2013 ATLANTA FALCONS

Final Record: 10-6 (2nd place in NFC South)

1- at Saints – L
2- Rams – W
3- at Dolphins – W
4- Patriots – W
5- Jets – W
6- bye
7- Bucs – W
8- at Cardinals – W
9- at Panthers – L
10- Seahawks – W
11- at Bucs – L
12- Saints – L
13- at Bills – W
14- at Packers – L
15- Redskins – W
16- at 49ers – L
17- Panthers – W

The rest of the league’s projections continue after the jump.
Read more…

Takeaways from Last Week – July 1

July 1st, 2013 Comments off
The Sun Chronicle/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports

Hernandez is arraigned in court

Obviously the big news of last week surrounds New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who was indeed arrested and charged with the murder of Odin Lloyd.

Personally, I’m already tired of the story. But I can’t blame the media for doing their job. I noted on twitter that the media’s coverage of this has annoyed me, with the minute-by-minute updates about every little thing. I compared it to the coverage of Vick when he was arrested, which I recalled was extensive but not to the level that Hernandez’s case is now. And then I realized that it had everything to do with social media. Twitter was only in its fledgling stage back in the summer of 2007, with estimates that in April of 2007 (when Vick story first broke) there were about 50,000 active weekly users. Twitter just announced a few months ago, that figure was over 200 million. That’s 4,000 times as many tweets being sent out over a six-year period of growth.

My problem with it stems from watching shows like Law & Order. They arrest a character and then the next scene is typically the trial. There is a long gap between those events, typically months and/or years in our justice system yet producers and writers know that makes for poor television. We’re in the midst of that with Hernandez. When he goes to trial, then maybe I’ll care about the daily developments. But until then, I could do without eight different sportswriters blogging about every minute detail of his bond, bail, cars getting impounded, etc.

One of the issues the NFL faces in light of this series of events is their image issue. You have a lot of blowhards in the media suggesting that the league has a crime/gang/violence problem. The league doesn’t have any of that. Hernandez and the players that have had recent run-ins with the law (e.g. Ausar Walcott, Josh Brent, Adam Jones, Joe Lefeged) literally represent about 1% of the players in the National Football League currently. The reality is that every year in the time between minicamps and OTAs in June and when camps open in late July, some players will get into trouble. Face it, you have twenty somethings with disposable income having a month off work, and it’s going to lead to some of them getting into trouble. It would be no different than if you handed out 6 and 7-figured salaries to any group of men between the ages of 21 and 30. And I’d probably bet you that non-athletes would be far more troublesome in said situation.

The issue of course is that this year, you happen to have one of those players charged with murder. And it’s not just anybody. It’s one of the best players on one of the best teams in the league. So it becomes a very big blip on people’s radar screens, probably bigger than it deserves. Not to suggest that the murder of Odin Lloyd is not a big deal. But I certainly don’t believe this is an issue that is suddenly systemic of the NFL as a whole.

What will be interesting is to see how Roger Goodell and the league handles this issue. They are going to find a way to “protect the shield” as the perception of the league is largely negative at this point in time. Goodell is essentially the CEO of a multi-billion dollar corporation. And corporations like that don’t liken any publicity is good publicity. I don’t know what actions they’ll take, but I’m certain some are forthcoming.

Read more…

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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 30 “Norv Turner’s Neck Meat”

June 15th, 2013 Comments off

This week, Allen and I are joined by Rashad James to talk about the latest happenings with the Falcons. Those include discussion of changes to the right side of the line and whether it will work in the Falcons favor … Addressing the depth and rotation at defensive end and which players might step up opposite Osi Umenyiora to help the Falcons pass rush … Concern over depth at linebacker and which young players might step up including Pat Schiller and Brian Banks … Falcons depth at safety and whether or not more usage of Mike Nolan’s Big Nickel is on the horizon … Roddy White’s future in Atlanta … Revisiting the Julio Jones trade and other potential options … NFC South Division Race talk … Offseason Grades … Falcons Mount Rushmore … Are the Houston Texans for real?

Ep. 30: Norv Turner’s Neck Meat [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 4 minutes

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

Rashad can be found on twitter: @SaucedUp_Boss

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

DeCoud, Moore to Pro Bowl; Ryan, Gonzalez to sit out

January 24th, 2013 Comments off
Josh D. Weiss-US PRESSWIRE

DeCoud congratulates Moore

Falcons safeties Thomas DeCoud and William Moore were added to the NFC Pro Bowl roster in the wake of the San Francisco 49ers going to the Super Bowl. They will be replacing 49er safeties Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner in this Sunday’s all-star game.

Also, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan will sit out the game due to a shoulder injury he suffered late in the Falcons loss to the 49ers last Sunday in the NFC Championship Game. Ryan suffered a sprained AC joint in his left non-throwing shoulder. The injury will require up to a month for recovery, but will not require surgery.

Tight end Tony Gonzalez will also not be appearing in this weekend’s Pro Bowl due to personal reasons. He has been replaced by Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph. Gonzalez is expected to be mulling over his NFL future as he is finishing his 16th season in the league. Prior to last Sunday’s loss to the 49ers, reports indicated that Gonzalez was leaning closer to retirement after indicating at the outset of the year that he was 95 percent certain that 2012 would be his final year. Gonzalez’s contract expired once the Falcons season ended.

Wide receiver Julio Jones is the other Falcon player voted to the Pro Bowl team.

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Three Falcons are going to the Pro Bowl

December 26th, 2012 Comments off

The NFL announced the Pro Bowl rosters today, among them included three Falcons players: quarterback Matt Ryan, wide receiver Julio Jones, and tight end Tony Gonzalez. The trio ties the Green Bay Packers, New York Giants, and Washington Redskins as the fifth most among NFC teams. The San Francisco 49ers paced the conference with nine players voted to the squad. Alongside the 49ers and Seattle Seahawks, the Falcons sent three offensive players.

Ryan broke his career-highs for passing yards (4,481), touchdowns (31), completions (394), and passer rating (100.2) this season. Both his yardage total and passer rating rank fifth in the league through 15 games. It marks Ryan’s second Pro Bowl appearance, after being voted to the team in 2010. Jones in his second season is making his first Pro Bowl. Through fifteen games, he has career highs in receptions (76), yards (1,142), and touchdowns (10). His yardage total ranks 11th in the NFL and his touchdowns are 6th highest in the league. Gonzalez is earning his 13th Pro Bowl nod, his 3rd as a Falcon since joining the team in 2009. His receptions (88), yards (889), and touchdowns (8) are the highest since joining the Falcons. His receptions and yards are both second-most among NFL tight ends this season, and his touchdown total is tied for third in the league among his position group.

 

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Midseason Superlatives 2012

November 7th, 2012 Comments off

A year ago at the midpoint I gave my picks for who I thought were some of the top performers for several superlative awards. I am doing the same this year.

Offensive MVP: Matt Ryan

Without a doubt Matt Ryan has been the most valuable player on offense. What a difference a year makes, as I had Ryan midway through last season as the most disappointing player (although he did bounce back to get the MVP by year’s end). But honestly without Ryan’s performance this year, I think the Falcons would be looking at just 5 or 6 wins instead of 8 right now. That is how much better I think Ryan is this year in comparisen to last year. He’s blossoming in Dirk Koetter’s offense and is in the mix for league MVP honors, not just some given out by some silly Falcon blog.

I should also note that on any team not helmed by Matt Ryan, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez would also get love. Both are playing at elite levels for their respective positions, although Ryan certainly has a hand in that.

Read more…