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Falcons 2014 Training Camp: Day 1 Report

July 25th, 2014 No comments
AtlantaFalcons.com

Julio Jones going through drills. From AtlantaFalcons.com

Let’s take a look at the various tweets, articles, reports, news and rumors that surfaced from the first day of Atlanta Falcons training camp:

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Jones, Biermann To Be Limited At Start of Training Camp

July 25th, 2014 No comments

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Julio Jones

ESPN’s Vaughn McClure has the scoop on Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith’s appearance 92.9 the Game this morning. During his appearance, Smith detailed the team’s plans for the practicing schedules of wide receiver Julio Jones and linebacker Kroy Biermann, both of whom are recovering from major injuries in 2013.

Every other day, Jones will receive a day off from practice, while Biermann will practice two days and then receive time off every third practice. Jones is recovering from a foot injury that sidelined him for the final 11 games of 2013. Biermann missed 14 games after tearing his Achilles tendon in Week 2 of last season.

Smith also indicated that he expects defensive tackle Corey Peters to be removed from the active/Physically-Unable-to-Perform (PUP) list quickly. Like Biermann, Peters is also recovering from an Achilles tear that caused him to miss the Falcons 2013 season finale.

Categories: News Tags: , , ,

Julio Jones Cleared for Training Camp Practices

July 23rd, 2014 No comments
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Julio Jones

D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones has been cleared medically to participate in training camp practices. Camp commences on Friday for the Falcons. Jones is recovering from a foot injury that sidelined him for the final 11 games of the 2013 season. Per Falcons head coach Mike Smith however, Jones will be kept on a strict snap count with the goal of him remaining healthy until the Falcons regular season starts in September.

Last season Jones broke the screw that was placed in his right foot back in 2011 prior to his entry into the league as the Falcons’ No. 1 pick. Jones originally broke the foot during his days at Alabama.

He has been limited throughout the offseason after undergoing an experimental procedural to help promote healing in the affected area. Jones had bone marrow removed from his hip and injected into his foot coupled with the insertion of another larger screw.

Jones is the Falcons’ top offensive weapon, as he was the league leader in receptions (41) and second in receiving yards (580) at the time of his injury last season. His continued good health may be the biggest factor in the Falcons success in 2014.

Categories: News Tags: , ,

FalcFans Weekly – July 20, 2014

July 20th, 2014 No comments
US PRESSWIRE

Julio Jones

Once again recapping the highlights that was the past week of the Atlanta Falcons.

In case you missed anything on FalcFans.com this past week, here are all the links to catch you up:

Atlanta Falcons Training Camp Preview 2014: Wide Receiver

July 16th, 2014 No comments

Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE

Julio Jones (left) and Roddy White

The Atlanta Falcons head into the 2014 season with the same basic trio that they have sported for the past three seasons, yet for perhaps the first time ever in that span there are some causes for concern.

The biggest being the health of Julio Jones. Jones is recovering from a foot injury that cost him the final 11 games of the 2013 season and has been rested for all of the offseason.

While the word all offseason long has been that the team is resting Jones in preparation for training camp, there is no guarantee that he’ll even see much action when camp does arrive.

The Falcons have been clear that they won’t rush Jones back, which could lead to him missing all or most of the preseason if he’s not 100 percent within the first week or two of camp. Expectations are that Jones will return for the regular season opener against the New Orleans Saints, but the Falcons probably won’t risk jeopardizing that even if it means playing Jones at 98 percent.

That translates to the possibility that Jones will sit out all of the preseason with the possible exception of the third game against the Tennessee Titans. If Jones is not 100 percent by mid-August, it likely means that he will skip that Titans game and go into the regular season with limited work in pads.

In the meantime, the Falcons should have Roddy White and Harry Douglas to fill any void. White also missed much of the offseason as he was dealing with a family matters due to the murder of his brother. But expectations are that White will be back for training camp and may have a new contract as well.

Douglas is coming off a career-high season in which he led the Falcons in receptions and yards. His play this summer will be a big factor as he is the team’s primary option to fill the void left by the retirement of tight end Tony Gonzalez. The Falcons are expected to employ three wide receivers significantly more to try and compensate for Gonzalez’s loss. Douglas played in 59 percent of the team’s offensive plays in 2012, but that figure increased to 86 percent in 2013 (per premium website Pro Football Focus). It’s likely that his workload in 2014 will mirror his 2013 one.

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Atlanta Falcons Takeaways from Last Week – July 14, 2014

July 14th, 2014 No comments
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Ryan

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was snubbed from the NFL’s annual player-voted top 100 list. Ryan ranked 17th on the list a year ago following a career-best season in 2012. But after a dismal season from the Falcons in 2013, Ryan fell completely off the list. It marks the second time in three seasons that Ryan has not been elected by his peers as one of the league’s best 100 players.

As I wrote a year ago, I’ve never been a big fan of the top 100 because I think there is a clear bias in the voting. The fact that Ryan failed to be listed indicates one of those biases, which penalizes good players on bad teams. Exactly half of the players voted on the list played on one of the dozen playoff teams in 2013.

Several positions are poorly represented, indicating another bias. Last year, only six offensive linemen made the list. This year, that number increased to 10, but that still is far too few given the importance of impact blockers. There is still too much of a bias towards “fantasy” players, with 43 of the top 100 being either quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers or tight ends.

The simple fact that Ryan has only made the Top 100 list once in the past three years is very indicative of the lack of respect. Joe Flacco played very poorly last year, yet was voted 58th. We can say that is due to the Super Bowl bias. Simply put, because Flacco has a ring, he’s probably going to be grandfathered onto the list most years. After ranking 43rd in 2013, Eli Manning fell off the list entirely this year. So presumably if Flacco is once again terrible in 2014, then he might find his way off the list. But despite the widespread belief that Ryan is superior to Flacco as a quarterback, the Ravens team success allows Flacco to be among the top 60 players, while Ryan cannot crack the top 100.

But I can forgive that Super Bowl bias somewhat even though I disagree with it. But the one quarterback ranked ahead of Ryan that I struggle to grasp is Detroit’s Matt Stafford. Stafford has been voted onto the top 100 list for three consecutive years, and I’m just curious what his peers are seeing that the rest of us aren’t. Yes, Stafford has a rocket arm, one of the strongest in the league. But besides that, there isn’t much else to like about his game.

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Categories: Features Tags: , , , ,

FalcFans Weekly – July 13, 2014

July 13th, 2014 No comments
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Julio Jones

I know I have not done much of these weekly recaps since the spring but given the dearth of football-related events at this point in the calendar year, it would be a good idea to bring it back. Here’s recapping some interesting Atlanta Falcons-related reads (and listens) I found this week:

In case you were wondering what Falcons defensive tackle Corey Peters has been up recently, I conducted an interview of him on Falcons Central Radio on Pro Football Central.com.

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Grantland’s Robert Mays wrote a preview of the Falcons this year, with a focus on the 2011 draft-day trade for wide receiver Julio Jones. Mays states what I currently think about that trade, a change from a previous opinion, in that the trade had both a positive and negative impact on the team. Basically the Falcons would not have gotten as far as they did in 2012 without the trade, but also would not have sunk as low in 2013. It’s worth a read and also makes a key point towards the end, which is the Falcons’ success in 2014 seems to be firmly fixed on the health of Jones.

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ESPN’s Vaughn McClure assesses that the Falcons’ biggest key to success in 2014 is returning to being an offensive juggernaut. McClure writes that will be the team’s key to success for the upcoming seasons. And similarly, the health of Jones will matter there, but McClure also points out the offensive line upgrades made by the team this offseason in acquiring guard Jon Asamoah and tackle Jake Matthews will be key. Hard to argue against McClure’s conclusions. The Falcons defense isn’t poised to be anything more than above average this year (at best) and until the team makes a similar investment in upgrading their pass rush, it’s unlikely that will be the case in any season in the near future.

On ESPN, voters also expressed their opinion that Morten Andersen’s game-winning kick against the Minnesota Vikings in the 1998 NFC Championship Game that sent the Falcons to their first (and only) Super Bowl appearance is the greatest play in team history. It edged out Michael Vick’s impressive overtime run against the same team in 2002.

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Categories: Features Tags: , , ,

Atlanta Falcons Takeaways from Last Week – July 7, 2014

July 7th, 2014 No comments

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Harry Douglas

The NFC South is expected to be one of the more competitive divisions in all of the football this season. But that is nothing new.

It’s a division so competitive, that no team in its 12-year existence has ever won the division in consecutive years. And I doubt that streak is broken in 2014.

The Carolina Panthers won the division in 2013, being carried by one of the league’s premier defenses and their ability to win a bunch of close games. After losing their two opening games last year by one score, the Panthers won all five one-score games in the second half of the season.

That ability to win close games is often the difference between whether or not you can win the division or not. The Panthers and Atlanta Falcons have benefited from it the most in the years where they have managed to win the division. In years where the Panthers won the NFC South (2003, 2008 and 2013), they have posted a combined 19-6 record in one-score games. The Falcons record is 20-6 in their three division-winning seasons (2004, 2010 and 2012).

Since the division’s creation beginning with the 2002 season, the Falcons have played in the greatest amount of one-score games (100) within the four-team group and also have the best winning percentage (56.5 percent). No team has benefited more from their ability to win close games than the Falcons under head coach Mike Smith.

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Atlanta Falcons Takeaways from Last Week – June 30, 2014

June 30th, 2014 No comments
Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

Darius Johnson could be a factor in Atlanta’s future

The Atlanta Falcons made a move this past week, signing wide receiver Courtney Roby. But Roby should instead be referred to as a special teams player, because that is what his role, if any, will be with the Falcons this season. Roby is basically a direct challenger for Drew Davis’ roster spot.

Davis has gotten by over the past few years on his ability as a special teams player. While Davis has made a handful of plays at the wide receiver position, he’s clearly shown to any that are paying attention that he is not a viable candidate to be a significant contributor on offense.

The most important skill that an NFL wide receiver can possess is the ability to separate from coverage. And the simple truth is that Davis has rarely done that in his few years with the Falcons. Most of his catches are the result of broken coverages rather than instances where he simply beat an opposing corner and made a play.

Frankly, that important skill-set has been missing from the majority of Falcons receivers over the years. In truth, only Roddy White and Julio Jones have possessed it in abundance. Michael Jenkins and Harry Douglas are decent at it, but by no means special in that regard. Both can do separate, but not on a consistent enough basis that makes them more than quality reserves.

Brian Finneran, Marty Booker, Eric Weems, Darius Johnson and Kevin Cone have also all struggled with this issue during the past six seasons. This issue isn’t helped by the fact that besides Jones, the Falcons have invested very little in terms of the draft in the wide receiver position. Since drafting Douglas in the third round of the 2008 NFL Draft, the Falcons have drafted just two wide receivers since: Jones and Kerry Meier. That is a league low when the average NFL team has drafted roughly six (5.8 to be exact) wide receivers over the past six drafts.

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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 69 “Legion of Zoom”

June 27th, 2014 No comments

logoAllen and I are joined by third wheel Rashad James to discuss all the big news from the month of June surrounding the Atlanta Falcons, including the injury to Sean Weatherspoon, pickups of Tim Dobbins and T.J. Yates, and their future appearance on HBO series’ Hard Knocks. Other topics include: Brandon Flowers, Matt Ryan, Harry Douglas, D-Block, NFL Top 100 players, San Diego Chargers fanhood, the best wide receiver duo in the league and the Miami Heat.

Episode 69 – Legion of Zoom [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 9 minutes

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

Rashad can be found on twitter with the handle: @100K_Jay.

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