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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 39 “Is the Sky Falling?”

September 18th, 2013 Comments off

Allen and I break down our thoughts on all of the injuries that have hit the Falcons this week, including assessing whether losing Sean Weatherspoon, Steven Jackson, or Kroy Biermann will impact the team the most … We also look at how the Falcons can potentially replace those guys, including how the team should use Jason Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers … Questions about whether the Falcons should bring in another pass rusher or fullback from off the street … Recapping the Rams game and whether certain things like the Falcons’ pass protection is improving … Previewing the Dolphins game and whether Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez can really make the difference in a win/loss … Joplo Bartu’s emerging greatness … I rant about some of the overrated young quarterbacks in this league including Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson … And we end with talking about our two favorite subjects: Dunta Robinson and the magnificent Philadelphia Eagles.

Ep. 39: Is the Sky Falling? [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 19 minutes

Allen writes for TJRSports.com as well as the Bleacher Report. 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

Moneyball 2013 – Week 2 Review

September 17th, 2013 Comments off

This was one of the more one-dimensional offensive efforts I can recall seeing from the Falcons. There have been plenty of times the past few years where the Falcons running game was virtually non-existent, but it never seemed this bad. One measly yard in the first half? And as I mentioned yesterday, when the Falcons (and frankly most NFL teams) are this bad at running the ball, they find it hard to win.

Yet the Falcons did, and that was mainly due to the performances of Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, who were outstanding in this game. The Falcons made ample use of Jones’ ability on screens, as I counted five screens to him in this game. In truth, only two of them were effective (tallying 38 combined yards), but they contributed to scoring drives. And of course, Jones’ 81-yard catch was also pivotal in this game. As it truly was the Falcons’ lone big play of the game, as they had to rely on a lot of short and intermediate throws due to the lack of the running game and poor pass protection.

On the subject of pass protection, once again another poor performance for tackles Sam Baker and Lamar Holmes. Baker really struggled in the first quarter vs. Robert Quinn, giving up three of his hurries, one of his pressures, and his only missed block in that quarter. Relatively, he played better the rest of the game giving up only a sack, pressure, and hurry over the final three quarters. Holmes’ struggles came in the second quarter, giving up three of his four hurries to Chris Long in that quarter.

It was no surprise that either struggled, since Quinn and Long are arguably one of the two or three best pairs of pass-rushing ends in the league. I’ll give Baker a bit of a pass because he was dealing with a knee injury and he seemed to adjust somewhat to Quinn’s speed after the first series. I will be a little harder on Holmes because many of his struggles came on instances where his technique was poor. Too often it was if he didn’t understand that you are allowed to punch and use your hands. Holmes also got away with a false start on the opening series that was instead called against Chris Long for an offsides. Without that missed call from the refs, the Falcons likely would have begun the game with a three-and-out rather than eventually scoring a touchdown, and it might have been a drastically different game.

As for the rest of the line, they were relatively solid. Blalock had the best game. He missed a block on the first play of the game, but after that he did a pretty good job despite giving up a sack to Eugene Sims. Reynolds gives a bit too much ground than I would like in pass protection. Ryan’s quick trigger has not made that an issue yet, but there may be a game down the road against a good defensive tackle where that will become a problem. But Reynolds is doing good things as a run blocker. Konz has not been having the sort of performances that I was expecting after a strong preseason. He had his hands full with Michael Brockers throughout the game. He hasn’t been playing poorly by any means, but he is far from dominant, which he seemed to flash during the summer.

The line gave up pressure on five of the 13 third down attempts, which is an improvement from last week. So that’s a positive I guess since they basically cut last week’s number in half.

The running game was limited mainly due to blocking, but there were a few carries by Jacquizz Rodgers where he did not hit the hole hard. In the future, the Falcons may try to avoid running him up the middle. He just was a bit too tentative, and if the team wants him to be an effective runner, they should stick to the counters and stretches that were more effective last year. But more of his runs were stopped because of poor blocking than his own poor running.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLK
ST
PEN
TOTALS
Matt Ryan$21$0$0$0$0$0$21.00
Julio Jones$0$0$11$0$0$0$11.00
Jason Snelling$0$5$4$0$0$0$9.00
Harry Douglas$0$0$5$0$0$0$5.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$2$3$0$0$0$5.00
Steven Jackson$0$0$3$0$0$0$3.00
Garrett Reynolds$0$0$0$3$0-$1$2.00
Bradie Ewing$0$0$2$0$0$0$2.00
Antone Smith$0$0$0$0$2$0$2.00
Peter Konz$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Roddy White$0$0$1$0$0$0$1.00
Drew Davis$0$0$0$0$1$0$1.00
Kevin Cone$0$0$0$0$1$0$1.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$3-$2$0-$1$0.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Sam Baker$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00
Levine Toilolo$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00
Lamar Holmes$0$0$0-$1$0-$1-$2.00

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Falcons Overcome Rams’ Comeback for First Win of 2013

September 15th, 2013 Comments off
Matt Ryan throws a pass against the St. Louis Rams

Matt Ryan throws a pass against the Rams

The Atlanta Falcons got off to a fast start with a big early lead against the visiting St. Louis Rams. But a fourth quarter comeback made a lot of Falcon fans nervous, but the Falcons put together two good drives at the end to prevail and get their first win of 2013. The Falcons’ record moves to 1-1.

Matt Ryan led the way, completing 33 of 43 passes for 374 yards and two touchdowns. On the ground, the Falcons could not get much of anything going as they accumulated a total of 36 rushing yards. Steven Jackson started the game and gained no yards on three carries before exiting with an injury. Jason Snelling led the team with 19 yards on a pair of attempts. Julio Jones led receivers with 11 catches for 182 yards (16.5 avg) and a touchdown. Jackson added the team’s other score on his lone catch for eight yards. Harry Douglas, Snelling, Tony Gonzalez, and Jacquizz Rodgers each caught 4 passes for 43, 41, 33, and 28 yards respectively. Matt Bryant hit on his lone field goal attempt from 38 yards. Matt Bosher punted six times for an average of 53 yards, with two placed inside the 20-yard line. Douglas added a pair of punt returns for four yards, while Rodgers returned a single kickoff for 17 yards. The Falcons’ offense was much more efficient this week than a week ago. They converted seven of 13 (54-percent) third down attempts, and scored touchdowns on two of three red zone trips. They accumulated 393 total yards despite their one-dimensionality on offense. But the offense did grow stagnant in the third quarter as they totaled only 7 total yards on four drives.

Defensively, the Falcons gave up a lot of yards as the Rams were in comeback mode for much of the game. Sam Bradford’s 352 yards contributed to the Rams’ 421-yard total for the game. But they bottled up the Rams’ ground attack, which only gained 69 yards on 18 carries (3.8 avg). The defense even scored a touchdown of its own on a pick six by Osi Umenyiora, the lone turnover the game. Umenyiora returned the interception 68 yards untouched for a score. Umenyiora also added a pair of batted passes and a quarterback hit in the game. Robert McClain led the defense in tackles with 9, and he also added a quarterback hit and a pass defended. Robert Alford (2 tackles, 1 QB hit); Joplo Bartu (6 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 QB hit); Kroy Biermann (2 tackles); Thomas DeCoud (3 tackles, 1 pass defended); Akeem Dent (4 tackles, 1 pass defended); Jonathan Massaquoi (2 tackles, 1 for loss, 1 QB hit); William Moore (7 tackles); Desmond Trufant (3 tackles, 1 pass defended); and Sean Weatherspoon (3 tackles) had noteworthy performances. The unit got lax at the end, allowing Rams’ touchdowns on each of their three final possessions to put the game’s outcome at risk.

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Six Falcons Starters Questionable vs. Rams

September 14th, 2013 Comments off

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Julio Jones (left), Roddy White

Yesterday, the Falcons released their injury report for Sunday’s matchup against the St. Louis Rams, the team’s home opener. On it, six Falcons starters were listed as questionable including: defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux (knee), offensive tackle Sam Baker (knee), wide receiver Julio Jones (knee), cornerback Asante Samuel (thigh), linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (knee), and wide receiver Roddy White (ankle). All six were limited in Friday’s practice. For Babineaux, Baker, and White, that was the only practice they participated in all week long. Jones missed Wednesday’s practice, but was limited on Thursday and Friday. While Samuel and Weatherspoon were limited throughout the week.

White and Samuel’s injuries stem from the preseason, while the others were suffered in the Falcons’ Week 1 loss to the New Orleans Saints.

Earlier this week, Falcons head coach Mike Smith indicated that White is expected to play this Sunday after spending the season opener in a limited role and mainly as a decoy. That led to increased reps for wide receiver Harry Douglas. With Jones also limited, the Falcons may count more on fourth wide receiver Drew Davis this week as well.

Samuel missed the season opener, and the team had Robert McClain start in his place. Rookie cornerback Robert Alford was promoted into McClain’s vacated nickel cornerback spot.

Babineaux is the team’s starter at right defensive tackle, which leads to him also getting work at defensive end in the multiple fronts employed by defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. His primary backup is Travian Robertson, who was inactive last week. Although if he’s unable to go it will likely fall upon Malliciah Goodman and Cliff Matthews for increased reps. They combined for only 14 snaps last week against the Saints (per Pro Football Focus). Peria Jerry would like get the start.

In the case of Baker, the Falcons have been getting newly signed tackle Jeremy Trueblood up to speed in preparation for the possibility that he starts this weekend. Trueblood was signed over a week ago and could make his debut at right tackle. That could potentially slide starting right tackle Lamar Holmes over to left tackle, the position he played as a rookie and while in college at Southern Miss. It could also mean playing time for undrafted rookie Ryan Schraeder, who is the team’s primary backup at that position.

Weatherspoon’s injury could lead to increased reps from Joplo Bartu or Paul Worrilow. Both are undrafted rookies and played solely on special teams in their NFL debuts last week. If Weatherspoon was to miss the game, Stephen Nicholas would likely be start at weakside linebacker, as he did in the preseason when Weatherspoon was limited by a finger injury. That would likely lead the Falcons to utilize defensive end Kroy Biermann more as a strongside linebacker than defensive end. Nicholas did not play a single defensive snap last week due to the Falcons ability to play Biermann as well as their reliance on the nickel subpackage.

Also listed on the Falcons’ injury report as probable were safety Thomas DeCoud (knee), Jerry (knee), and Matthews (neck). All three players were limited in practice on Wednesday, but fully participated in both Thursday and Friday practices.

Notable injuries for the Rams include: tight end Cory Harkey (probable/knee), defensive end Chris Long (questionable/hip), cornerback Quinton Pointer (out/thigh), running back Daryl Richardson (probable/foot), and safety Darian Stewart (doubtful/thigh).

Mike Smith: Roddy Will Play on Sunday

September 11th, 2013 Comments off
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Roddy White

The Falcons announced their injury report for Wednesday, which included wide receiver Roddy White who did not practice due to the high ankle sprain he suffered in the preseason. Jay Adams of AtlantaFalcons.com quotes Falcons head coach Mike Smith:

We kept Roddy out and, again, he’s the guy that played for us (last) week and we anticipate that he’ll play this coming week.

The Falcons will face the St. Louis Rams on Sunday, coming fresh off their Week 1 loss to the New Orleans Saints.

When White initially went down with his injury in the Falcons’ second preseason contest against the Baltimore Ravens, it was expected that White would be ready to play in the season opener against the Saints. He did play on Sunday, but was limited to 37 snaps (per Pro Football Focus). Per White, he was supposed to play only 10-15 snaps against the Saints. Initially labeled a low-ankle sprain, on Sunday it was revealed that the injury was in fact the more severe high ankle sprain.

White was limited to just two catches for 19 yards with limited mobility and burst. Since being a first round pick for the Falcons in 2005, White has never missed a game, now having logged 129 consecutive games played with the Falcons.

The Falcons worked out a trio of free agent wide receivers yesterday in Courtney Roby, Mohamed Massaquoi, and Lavelle Hawkins according to Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post. Likely in preparation for the possibility that White may sit out the game.

Roby, 30, is a former Saint that played primarily as a special teams player and kickoff returner since 2008. During that span, he only caught a pair of passes for 15 yards. He was cut at the end of camp by the Saints.

Massaquoi, 26, was a second round pick with the Cleveland Browns in 2009 out of the University of Georgia. He signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars this past off-season, but was released midway through camp. He spent little more than a week with the New York Jets before being released a second time. Over four disappointing seasons with the Browns, he started 43 games and caught 118 passes for 1,745 yards (14.8 avg) and 7 touchdowns. He is cousins with current Falcons defensive end Jonathan Massaquoi.

Hawkins, 27, is a former fourth round pick with the Tennessee Titans in 2008 out of California. He had several lackluster seasons. Most of his production came in 2011, where he finished fourth on the team with 47 receptions for 470 yards (10.0 avg) and a touchdown. Like Massaquoi, he has already been cut a couple of times this past year. He was initially released by the Titans in May, before spending the next three months with the New England Patriots before getting purged at the start of training camp. He was picked up by the San Francisco 49ers and was productive during the preseason with 7 catches for 104 yards and a touchdown, but was cut at the end of camp thanks to some mental breakdowns in their preseason finale.

Also listed on the Falcons’ injury report were defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux, offensive tackle Sam Baker, and wide receiver Julio Jones as not having participated on Wednesday due to various kneel ailments. Safety Thomas DeCoud, defensive tackle Peria Jerry, and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon were also limited on Wednesday due to knee injuries. Defensive end Cliff Matthews (neck) and cornerback Asante Samuel (thigh) were also limited. Samuel was inactive on Sunday due to his lingering thigh injury suffered during the summer.

Saints Swarm Ryan and Falcons in Opener

September 8th, 2013 Comments off
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan gets sacked by Parys Haralson

The Falcons dropped a tough divisional loss to the New Orleans Saints 23-17 in their 2013 NFL season opener. The Falcons had an opportunity to take the lead with a score in the final minutes, but Falcons receivers could not reel in Matt Ryan’s passes to win it.

Matt Ryan led the team, completing 25 of 38 passes for 304 yards, 2 touchdowns, and an interception. Ryan saw significant pressure as he was sacked three times and hit six times. Steven Jackson had an impressive debut with 77 yards on the ground on 11 carries, including a 50-yard run. Julio Jones led receivers with 7 catches for 76 yards and a touchdown. Tony Gonzalez had the Falcons other score, finishing the game with 3 catches for 36 yards. Harry Douglas (4 catches, 93 yards) and Jackson (5 catches, 45 yards) also had standout performances. Roddy White, who was injured, was limited with just 2 catches for 19 yards. The Falcons offensively got off to a good start, taking an early 10-0 lead over the Saints, but the Falcons couldn’t sustain it. They did have 367 total yards and converted only 3 of 11 third downs. Matt Bryant connected on his lone field goal attempt from 23 yards out. Matt Bosher had six punts for an average of 46.8 yards, with 2 placed inside the 20-yard line. Harry Douglas returned a pair of punts for 21 yards.

Defensively, the Falcons got off to a good start, keeping the Saints scoreless through the first quarter. Asante Samuel was a gameday scratch, and the team was forced to start Robert McClain at left cornerback, and promote Robert Alford to nickel back. Akeem Dent led the Falcons defense with 11 tackles, including 2 for loss. Alford (1 tackle, 1 interception, 2 passes defended), Kroy Biermann (5 tackles, 1 tackle for loss), Thomas DeCoud (7 tackles, 1 tackle for loss), Peria Jerry (1 tackle, 1 sack), McClain (10 tackles, 1 pass defended), William Moore (8 tackles), Corey Peters (6 tackles, 1 sack), Desmond Trufant (5 tackles), and Sean Weatherspoon (7 tackles, 1 tackle for loss) had notable games. The Saints put up 419 total yards and converted 6 of 13 third downs (46%).

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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.
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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 36 “Beggars Can’t Be Choosers”

August 28th, 2013 Comments off

Allen and I are joined by Steve Cohen once again to recap and discuss our observations from the Falcons-Titans games. We discuss some of the problems that plagued the Falcons, notably their pass protection … Discussion of the overall strength of the Falcons roster … Do they need to add help at WR, S, and OL … How is Robert Alford performing … Garrett Reynolds, Lamar Holmes, and who are the weak links up front … Roster cuts and impending decisions … Who will stay or go? … What we want to see in the preseason finale vs. Jacksonville.

Ep. 36: Beggars Can’t Be Choosers [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 16 minutes

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

Steve can be found on twitter: @SteveInBrooklyn

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

Titans’ pass rush swallows Falcons

August 24th, 2013 Comments off

Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Ryan was sacked five times vs. Tennessee

The Falcons remain winless in the 2013 exhibition season as they dropped another game to the Tennessee Titans by a score of 27-16. The Falcons starters struggled to produce points on their limited redzone opportunities.

Matt Ryan led the Falcons, completing 11 of 19 passes for 138 yards. He saw ample pressure as he was sacked five times in just over a half of play. He gave way to Dominique Davis in the third quarter, who completed 7 of 14 passes for 105 yards, a touchdown and an interception. On the ground, Steven Jackson led the team with 51 yards on 12 carries. Davis added 45 of his own on a pair of attempts. Julio Jones and Darius Johnson tied for the team lead with 4 receptions each for 81 and 62 yards, respectively. Johnson had a touchdown, the Falcons’ only of the night. Chase Coffman and Tony Gonzalez also got into the act with a pair of catches each for 24 and 21 yards, respectively. Jackson also had a trio of receptions for 15 yards. Jeremy Shelley worked in for Matt Bryant, who sat out the game with back spasms. Shelley connected on 3 of 4 field goal tries from 27, 31, and 32 yards. He missed a 46-yarder. Matt Bosher had 4 punts for an average of 51 yards with 2 placed inside the 20-yard line. Jacquizz Rodgers had a lone kickoff return of 32 yards, while Harry Douglas returned a pair of punts for a combined 22 yards. The Falcons offense struggled to protect their quarterbacks, allowing six sacks on the night from the Titans defense. They struggled on third downs, converting on 4 of 12 attempts for the game, with the starters only converting 1 of 7 tries. They did not convert touchdowns on any of their three redzone tries.

Defensively, the Falcons got off to a good start but could not maintain that early momentum. They allowed the Titans to convert half of their fourteen third down tries, and also allowed touchdowns on 3 of 4 redzone attempts. They did force a pair of Titans turnovers and did manage to generate 10 points off them. Kroy Biermann led the group with 7 tackles, including a pair of sacks and three tackles for loss. Robert Alford (6 tackles, 3 pass deflections), Joplo Bartu (4 tackles, 1 forced fumble), Thomas DeCoud (1 tackle, 1 fumble recovery), Akeem Dent (6 tackles), William Moore (6 tackles), Corey Peters (3 tackles, 1 sack, 2 tackles for loss), Desmond Trufant (4 tackles), and Sean Weatherspoon (3 tackles) had notable games.

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Takeaways from Last Week – August 19

August 19th, 2013 Comments off
ICON SMI

Could we see the return of Mike Peterson?

Roddy White is injured, and I’m not worried. At least I should say I’m not worried right now. If White is out of the lineup in Week 1, then I’ll be worried.

But I’m pretty calm at this point in time, even knowing that White will miss the rest of the preseason with an ankle injury that he suffered on Thursday night against the Baltimore Ravens.

The Falcons now have three weeks for White to get some rest and hopefully heal what the team termed a “minor” injury. Initial reports seem to confirm the lack of severity on this injury, suggesting White could suit up within a week if this were the regular season. But to be honest, I don’t fully buy that. The Falcons routinely have underestimated the amount of time it would take for their players to return. One famous example came in 2010 when Michael Jenkins suffered a shoulder injury in early August that was originally slated to put him out 4-6 weeks. Jenkins did not suit up for a Falcons game until 10 weeks later.

Now it should be noted that since 2010 I don’t recall any other blatant misreads of a player’s recovery. And the team may be a lot better today now three years removed at estimating the timetables for players’ recoveries. But generally speaking, I tend to add a week or two to all prognoses that the Falcons release about their injured players. The fact that the Falcons usually don’t put a timetable on players’ returns is also indicative that they also realize that it only opens themselves up for more criticism.

But the term “minor” is such a relative term. It could be minor in the sense that it may only keep him from practice or playing for a week or two. It could be minor in the sense that it won’t require surgery, but could keep him out of the lineup for a month or more. We really won’t know until Wednesday, September 4, when the Falcons practice report for Week 1 is released and it says either FP (full participation), LP (limited participation), or DNP (did not practice) to indicate where White’s status is. My personal philosophy is que sera sera, thus there is no sense worrying about things you cannot control.

And losing White is arguably the lesser of two evils, at least compared to losing Julio Jones. While I think Richard Sherman’s “dissing” of White several months ago went a bit too far (by saying he’s a product of the system), I do think there is a small sliver of a kernel of truth to what Sherman was saying in that White isn’t as good a player as Jones. Jones is the player that really makes the Falcons offense go, at least in the sense that it changes the way teams try to defend the Falcons. I do think there is a lot more overlap in regards to how the Falcons normally use White in comparison to his replacement, Harry Douglas.

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