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Jackson to Return; White and Snelling Out in Week 8

October 26th, 2013 Comments off
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Steven Jackson

The Falcons announced their weekly injury report yesterday, indicating that wide receiver Roddy White and running back Jason Snelling will be out for this weekend’s matchup against the Arizona Cardinals. White (hamstring/ankle) and Snelling (ankle) both missed the entire week of practice thanks to their respective injuries. Also linebacker Stephen Nicholas (thigh) was held out of practice this week and will miss the game.

But the Falcons got good news as running back Steven Jackson (hamstring) is expected to suit up for the Falcons for the first time since Week 2. Jackson was limited all three days of practice and was declared probable. Typically the Falcons only declare players that fully participate on Friday as probable, but Jackson’s status is indicative that his limited reps this week were more precautionary than necessary.

Also questionable will be offensive tackle Sam Baker (knee) and linebacker Akeem Dent (ankle). Baker and Dent were both limited in all three practices this week. If Baker is unable to go, Lamar Holmes will likely get the start at left tackle, a role he’s filled the past two games with Baker out of the lineup. Dent returned to the lineup last week after missing the Falcons Week 5 contest against the Jets due to the ankle injury he suffered the preceding week against the New England Patriots. Omar Gaither started at middle linebacker against the Jets in Dent’s absence.

Listed as probable on the injury report were cornerback Robert Alford (ankle), tight end Chase Coffman (knee), and defensive tackle Corey Peters (shoulder). Alford was limited on Wednesday, but fully participated in Thursday and Friday’s practices. Coffman and Peters were both limited on the first two days of practice, but saw a full workload on Friday. Alford supplanted Robert McClain as the team’s nickel cornerback last week and also replaced Harry Douglas on punt returns. But the team has indicated that they might look at other players in the latter role given Alford’s costly turnover last week on his lone punt return.

Notable injuries for the Arizona Cardinals include running back Rashard Mendenhall (toe), who is doubtful for the game. It will likely lead to backup Andre Ellington starting for the team on Sunday. Left guard Daryn Colledge (back) and outside linebacker Matt Shaughnessy (knee) are questionable. Colledge’s absence could lead to Nate Potter getting inserted into the lineup, a role he struggled in last week in Arizona’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (hamstring) fully participated in all three days of practice and is listed as probable.

Dent May Return vs. Bucs

October 19th, 2013 Comments off

The Falcons announced their injury report yesterday, where four Falcons players were ruled out for Sunday’s Week 7 matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Questionable on the Falcons injury report is linebacker Akeem Dent, who returned to practice after missing the Falcons Week 5 loss to the New York Jets with an ankle injury. Dent suffered his injury the preceding week against the New England Patriots. In his absence, Omar Gaither has filled in at middle linebacker. Dent was limited in practice on both Thursday and Friday after missing practice on Wednesday.

Among the players listed as out were wide receiver Roddy White and running back Steven Jackson, both out with hamstring injuries. White had been suffering from a high ankle sprain that had him limited in the Falcons early games this season, but injured his hamstring late against the Jets. Jackson has been injured since the Falcons Week 2 win over the St. Louis Rams. Original reports suggested that Jackson was expected to return this week from that injury, but he was unable to practice this week. Neither did White.

Offensive tackle Sam Baker (knee) and tight end Chase Coffman (knee) were also ruled out this week. Baker will miss his second-consecutive game, and third of the season with his knee injury. He started the Falcons Week 4 loss to the New England Patriots, but quickly exited that game after re-aggravating his knee injury that was bothering him since Week 1. Coffman will miss his second game due to injury, suffering his knee injury during practice in the week leading up to the Falcons-Jets matchup. Like Jackson and White, neither Baker or Coffman were able to practice this week.

Also on the Falcons injury report is running back Jason Snelling, who should play as he was listed as probable this week. After suffering a concussion against the Jets, Snelling was able to fully participate in all three practices this week.

Notable injuries for the Bucs include guard Carl Nicks (foot) who is out due to surgery stemming from a MRSA infection. Wide receiver Mike Williams (hamstring) and defensive end Da’Quan Bowers (toe) are questionable. Both players were limited on Wednesday and Thursday, but fully participated in Friday’s practice.

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Steven Jackson’s Status Uncertain for Week 7

October 15th, 2013 Comments off

ESPN’s Vaughn McClure reports that running back Steven Jackson’s status is still a bit uncertain as he works back from a hamstring injury suffered in the first quarter of the Falcons Week 2 win over the St. Louis Rams. McClure first reported three weeks ago that Jackson would likely be out until this weekend’s Week 7 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but Falcons head coach Mike Smith gave no update to Jackson’s status to indicate that he would return to practice this week.

Jackson has missed the Falcons last three games. In his absence, the Falcons have split reps between Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling. Snelling suffered a concussion in the Falcons in Week 6 loss to the New York Jets, but McClure reports that he is expected to return this week.

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Julio Jones likely out for the year

October 8th, 2013 Comments off
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Jones makes a one-handed grab on a 46-yard play vs. Jets

FOX Sports Jay Glazer reports that the Falcons are fearful that wide receiver Julio Jones is out for the remainder of the 2013 season with an undisclosed foot injury. Both the team and Jones are hoping for a better prognosis with a second opinion but are pessimistic.

Jones exited last night’s loss to the New York Jets in the fourth quarter for an undisclosed injury for a few snaps, but was back in the game on the next series. Which included a 46-yard grab with five minutes remaining to set up a Falcons score.  He was targeted only once for the remainder of the game. It was reported by NFL.com’s Jeff Darlington last night that Jones was limping badly from an unknown injury to his lower right leg after the game:

Falcons wide receiver Roddy White is already ailing from a high ankle sprain suffered in the preseason. He injured his hamstring late in the game, shortly before Jones’ own exit from the game.

The Falcons are off this week due to a bye. In the absence of Jones, the Falcons will have to rely on Harry Douglas and a potentially recovered White to carry the Falcons passing attack at wide receiver. Kevin Cone made his first career catch against the Jets, while fourth receiver Drew Davis has been shut out with only a single target this year. Jones currently leads the NFL in receiving yards (580) and is second in receptions (59) behind only Jacksonville’s Cecil Shorts (62). Any rumors of the Falcons potentially making a trade before the October 29 deadline will certainly pick up in the coming days. There have been rampant reports in recent weeks that the Cleveland Browns are listening to offers for wide receiver Josh Gordon. Gordon missed the Browns first two games of the year due to a suspension by the league for their banned substances policy, for allegedly an accidental ingestion of banned cough syrup. In the three games since, he’s caught 18 passes for 303 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

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Baker, Samuel and White Questionable For Week 4 vs. Patriots

September 28th, 2013 Comments off

The Falcons announced their Week 4 injury report yesterday, listing offensive tackle Sam Baker (foot/knee), wide receiver Julio Jones (knee), cornerback Asante Samuel (thigh), and wide receiver Roddy White (ankle) as questionable. Running back Steven Jackson (hamstring) is out as a previous report indicated. Both Baker and White missed Wednesday’s practice and were limited on Thursday and Friday. Jones was limited all week, while Samuel was added to the injury report just yesterday after fully participating the previous two days.

With Baker out of the lineup last week against the Miami Dolphins, the Falcons started Lamar Holmes at left tackle and replaced him at right tackle with Jeremy Trueblood. It remains to be seen if the Falcons will go with that combination again this week. Baker missed two days of practice due to a knee injury prior to the team’s Week 2 bout against St. Louis, was listed as questionable but managed to play. He wound up starting, but did not play the last few snaps after suffering the foot injury that kept him out last week.

Jones has been limited in nearly every practice since suffering his knee injury in Week 1, but has been no worse for wear on gamedays. He is currently leading the NFL in receptions (27) and receiving yards (373).

Samuel being added to the injury report suggests his thigh injury has regressed somewhat. He missed the season opener and played only seven snaps against the Rams. He managed only one day of practice last week but only missed a single snap in Week 3 against the Dolphins. In his absence earlier in the season, slot corner Robert McClain got the start at left cornerback and slid back back inside in the nickel to make way for Robert Alford on the outside.

White has yet to fully participate in any practice this year, as he grits through a high-ankle sprain suffered in the preseason. He has played every game, but been essentially splitting reps with Harry Douglas opposite Jones.

Jackson’s absence will mean that Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling will carry the load at running back for Atlanta for the second week in a row.

Also appearing on the injury report as probable were: center Peter Konz (knee), cornerback Robert McClain (knee), guard Garrett Reynolds (knee), and running back Josh Vaughan (ankle). Both Konz and Reynolds were limited on Wednesday and Thursday, but fully participated in practice on Friday. McClain and Vaughan both fully participated in all three practices this week. McClain and Vaughan both suffered their injuries against the Dolphins and exited the game. Konz had the same practice schedule and was nursing his knee injury a week ago. Reynolds suffered his injury against the Dolphins, but was not removed from the game.

For the Patriots, wide receiver/special teams player Matt Slater (wrist) was listed as out. Notable players that are questionable were wide receiver Danny Amendola (groin), cornerback Kyle Arirngton (groin), running back Brandon Bolden (knee), tight end Rob Gronkowski (back/forearm), tackle Sebastian Vollmer (foot), and running back Leon Washington (thigh). According to reports cited by WEEI’s Mike Petraglia, Amendola and Gronkowski are unlikely to play this week.

Quizz Gets Golden Opportunity From Jackson’s Injury

September 26th, 2013 Comments off
Josh D. Weiss-USA TODAY Sports

Jacquizz Rodgers

Jacquizz Rodgers has a golden opportunity due to a report this week that running back Steven Jackson may miss nearly a month due to his hamstring injury.

Jackson will miss his second consecutive game this week, matching his total number of missed games from the past four seasons. Jackson was noted for his durability and longevity over the near-decade he spent playing for the St. Louis Rams before joining the Falcons this off-season. But now he may be sidelined for the time being, opening the door for his backups in Rodgers and Jason Snelling.

Earlier this summer, I discussed the potential outlook for Rodgers this season as he tried to deal with Jackson’s added presence on the team. Then, it did not look promising with the Falcons likely centering their offense around Jackson. That looked to be the case in the team’s season-opening loss to the Saints as Jackson received 11 carries and Rodgers only saw a pair of them. But once Jackson was injured after scoring on Falcons opening drive the following week against his former team, the Falcons turned to Quizz. He did not make the most of that opportunity, gaining a paltry 17 yards on 11 carries. But he bounced back last week against the Dolphins, with an impressive 86 yards on 18 carries.

What was so impressive about was how consistent Rodgers was, something that has not been a hallmark of his short career in a Falcons uniform. That was displayed by his success rate on the ground. Success rate basically categorizes runs as a success or failure based on down and distance. Typically, gained 45-percent of the needed yardage on first down, 60-percent on second down, and converting for a first down regardless of distance on third and fourth down are considered successful runs.

For Rodgers, 12 of his 18 runs proved to be success, for a very impressive 67-percent. That helps keep the Falcons offense on schedule with manageable third downs. Rodgers was successful on 5 of his 11 first down runs but more impressively was perfect on all six of his second down runs and lone third down attempt. The Falcons have rarely seen that sort of rushing success in recent seasons, particularly on first down.

They will hope it continues in the coming weeks with Jackson absent. It will obviously be critical for the Falcons short-term success as they try to get out of their 1-2 rut. But it will also affect Rodgers’ long-term future as his contract will be up sooner rather than later following the 2014 season. Thus far in his short career his production hasn’t been great, with 182 attempts and 669 yards for a subpar 3.7 yards per carry. His value has mainly been in the passing game with 81 catches and where his 628 receiving yards nearly match his rushing total.

While Rodgers will continue to share the load with teammate Jason Snelling, it is really the former that is in prime position to show his value as a runner, not just as a third down specialist. Snelling turns 30 this December and while his contract is also up at the end of the 2014 season, his age will likely prevent him from receiving anything beyond a one or two-year deal from the Falcons. Rodgers will have just turned 25 by the time he hits free agency in March 2015, which opens the possibility for a long-term deal. Potentially one that pays him a salary compatible with a starting running back. That is a ways off, but it starts this season with how well Rodgers can fill the shoes of Jackson in the coming weeks. If he continues to be a productive back that can be successful while getting 15-20 carries per game, then the Falcons may begin to see him as more than just a role player and third down specialist. He may be able to sneak his way into their sights as a potential option to replace Jackson as the starting tailback a year or two down the line when the veteran is ready to hang up his cleats.

Takeaways from Week 3

September 23rd, 2013 Comments off

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Ryan and the running game give Atlanta hope

I have become increasingly aware of the fact that over the years part of my duties as a Falcons blogger is being able to talk my fellow fans down from the ledge.

Under Mike Smith, losses by the Falcons are relatively rare and thus it seems that the negativity is magnified during the weeks following a loss. People have to get all the negativity that they are used to getting out over a 12-loss Falcon season in less than half as many games. Also it seems like after every single loss that Falcon fans want to take a referendum on the season and use that individual game to determine whether the Falcons are going to or capable of winning a Super Bowl.

Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news. But the only game that determines whether a team is able to win a Super Bowl is the Super Bowl itself. And that game is a long ways off. Thus nobody should be trying to figure out February in September.

Look, I’ll admit the stats aren’t that promising since teams that start the season 1-2 aren’t exactly known for making deep playoff runs. But here’s something that should provide you a bit of solace. Five of the twelve playoff teams last year did start the season 1-2. That might be the most ever, although I only checked back to about 1990 or so before my eyes glazed over. In 2010, none of the playoffs teams got off to worse than a 2-1 start. What does that mean? I don’t know. It could be a one-year aberration or a sign that parity is rising in the NFL. But more importantly, it’s supposed to illustrate to you that a 1-2 start doesn’t end your season just as it did not for Denver, Green Bay, Indianapolis, New England, and Washington a year ago.

Also, the 2001 Patriots and 2007 Giants both started the year 1-2 and ultimately won the title. Sure, two out of twelve doesn’t exactly fill you with an abundance of confidence but it should illustrate to you that an NFL season is not defined by what happens in Week 3.

If I’m making the argument for why the Falcons are going to turn around their season then that argument is going to be based off the fact that both losses came in the final minute. A play or two here and there, and the Falcons could easily be 3-0. The fact that the Falcons’ are pretty beat up at this point in the year also could play into their favor later on. It’s getting a lot of younger players reps to the point that several of them might wind up stepping up. It is noteworthy that without contributions from rookies like Aaron Ross, Kevin Boss, Ahmad Bradshaw, and Michael Johnson, the Giants may not have made it to the Super Bowl back in 2007.

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Baker, Jackson Out vs. Dolphins

September 20th, 2013 Comments off

The Falcons announced their injury report for Sunday’s road matchup against the Miami Dolphins today. On it, offensive tackle Sam Baker was listed as out with knee and foot injuries after a week of not practicing. Running back Steven Jackson (hamstring) is also out, although his absence was known earlier this week.

Baker will likely be replaced at left tackle by starting right tackle Lamar Holmes. In Holmes’ stead, Jeremy Trueblood will be elevated to the starting lineup at right tackle. Holmes was Baker’s primary backup at left tackle as a rookie in 2012, but moved to right tackle this year after the departure of Tyson Clabo. Holmes has struggled thus far at right tackle this year, as Baker has at left tackle. The Holmes-Trueblood combination was inserted for the final three snaps of the Falcons’ win over the St. Louis Rams last week.

Questionable on the team’s injury report are wide receiver Julio Jones (knee), defensive tackle Cliff Matthews (neck), cornerback Asante Samuel (thigh), and wide receiver Roddy White (ankle). Both Jones and Matthews were limited in all three days of practice this week with their respective injuries. Samuel sat out Wednesday and Thursday practices, but was limited on Friday. White missed practice on Wednesday, but was limited the remaining two days.

Jones was questionable a week ago, but still managed to match career-highs of 11 catches and 182 yards against the Rams. Matthews also was limited last week by his neck injury and exited the game early after re-aggravating the injury on special teams, but later returned against the Rams. Samuel missed the season opener against the Saints with his thigh injury, and was pulled early against the Rams. In his absence, Robert McClain and Robert Alford have been working at left cornerback. Roddy White has been limited in both of the Falcons’ first two games, with the bulk of snaps opposite Jones being performed by Harry Douglas.

Defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux missed Friday practice with a non-injury related absence. Linebacker Akeem Dent fully participated today after after being limited the two previous days with a shoulder injury. Similarly, center Peter Konz was limited two days with a knee injury before fully participating today. All three of them were listed as probable on the team’s injury report.

For the Dolphins, cornerback Dimitri Patterson (groin) and nose tackle Paul Soliai (knee) were declared out this week on their injury report. Safety Chris Clemons (hamstring), quarterback Pat Devlin (ankle), linebacker Koa Misi (knee), center Mike Pouncey (ankle), and wide receiver Mike Wallace (groin) were declared questionable. Notably, quarterback Ryan Tannehill (right shoulder) was listed as probable after being limited early in the week, but fully participating on Friday.

Spoon to Short-term IR; Jackson week-to-week

September 17th, 2013 Comments off

The Falcons announced today that linebacker Sean Weatherspoon will be placed on injured reserve, but designated to return. As such, he will miss the next eight games, but could potentially return to practice in six weeks. FOX Sports’ Mike Garofalo reports that the foot injury that caused Weatherspoon to exit Sunday’s win over the St. Louis Rams, is a lisfranc injury. Running back Steven Jackson also exited the Rams’ game with a thigh injury. NFL.com’s Ian Rapaport reports that the injury is suspected of being a week-to-week injury that could cause him to miss two to four weeks.

Defensive tackle Corey Peters suffered a lisfranc foot injury last summer and missed all of training camp, preseason, and the first six weeks of the regular season. If Weatherspoon’s injury is of a similar severity, then him missing two months would seem optimistic. Joplo Bartu will likely replace Weatherspoon in the lineup at weakside linebacker.

With Jason Snelling filling in for Bradie Ewing at fullback, Jacquizz Rodgers will likely become the team’s starter at running back.

 

 

Biermann, Ewing out for the season

September 16th, 2013 Comments off

Icon Sports Media, Inc.

Kroy Biermann

Falcons head coach Mike Smith announced in his press conference today that defensive end Kroy Biermann and fullback Bradie Ewing will be placed on injured reserve and are out for the year. Biermann suffered a torn Achilles tendon while Ewing separated his left shoulder during the first half of Atlanta’s win over the St. Louis Rams yesterday.

Biermann has served as the team’s starting left defensive end, but has also earned reps at strongside linebacker. His versatility has been a boon to the Falcons defense under defensive coordinator Mike Nolan the past two years. Biermann suffered his injury while pressuring Sam Bradford in yesterday’s game, but had got his foot caught under him when an opponent fell on top of him. Through one and a half games, Biermann had tallied seven tackles, second-most among defensive linemen behind Corey Peters’ eight tackles. It is likely that Jonathan Massaquoi will be asked to fill some of Biermann’s pass rushing duties, although he’s as of yet unproven in terms of his ability to drop in coverage and play linebacker as Biermann has. It will also potentially mean more snaps for linebackers Joplo Bartu and Stephen Nicholas, who currently are the team’s top candidates for the strongside position.

Ewing was a fifth round choice of the Falcons in 2012. He was lost during the opening series of his first preseason action that summer, tearing his ACL and missing that year. He came back this summer and while he missed early work due to an injury, he returned and played well. Ewing suffered his injury at the end of the play after catching a 14 yard pass from Matt Ryan. In his debut against the New Orleans Saints last week, he had a single catch for 15 yards.

It is likely the team will promote practice squad player Patrick DiMarco to the roster and platoon him with Jason Snelling at fullback. Snelling filled in for Ewing after he was lost on the opening series of the Rams game. DiMarco filled in for Ewing this summer while he was out with an injury.