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Free Agent Focus: Tight End

January 29th, 2012 Comments off
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Michael Palmer

After a short lay-off, it’s time to get back into what things to look out for in free agency at each position group. Now it’s time we take a look at the tight end position.

The Falcons were able to hold off on major shake-up at this position by extending Tony Gonzalez’s contract for one more year. It’s likely 2012 will be the swan song season for Gonzalez, who is desperately trying to win a championship, or at least a playoff game before he retires. Since it seems very likely that this upcoming season will be his last, the team must find a viable long-term replacement for Gonzalez.

It was once thought that could potentially be Michael Palmer. But Palmer has done little to justify such beliefs. While Palmer is a solid backup tight end, he has not shown the ability as a receiver to really justify any faith in him to be a viable starter going forward. He has a good set of hands, but has yet to show he can consistently beat man coverage, a requirement for any starting receiver. More than likely the Falcons can pencil in Palmer to perform a role similar to Justin Peelle which is a backup blocker, an area where he has shown improvement.

Reggie Kelly is a free agent, but he’s not expected back after contributing little for most of the season. This all should lead to the Falcons exploring their options to try and find some tight end depth this off-season with an eye towards a guy that can take over the reins from Gonzalez in 2013. It probably makes the most sense to target such a player in the draft but they could look at a few options in free agency.

The best player available is without question Green Bay’s Jermichael Finley. But most expect the Packers to slap the franchise tag on him, limiting his availability. The next best player is probably Washington’s Fred Davis. But he ended the season on a four-game suspension due to failing a drug test (marijuana), and is one more positive test away from a full-year’s suspension. That issue hanging over his head would likely hurt his marketability, making him a cheaper option for any team willing to take on that risk. But given the so-called Falcons Filter when it comes to issues of character, it’s unlikely they would be one of the teams willing to roll that dice.

The next group of starting-caliber tight ends are Martellus Bennett (Dallas), John Carlson (Seattle), and Joel Dreessen (Houston).

Bennett is a brash player known for some of his more out-spoken comments during his days in Dallas, but at the end of the day he’s a pretty good football player. He seems to be a player that is waiting for his opportunity to emerge from the shadow of Jason Witten, and his chance to hit the open market this off-season might be it. Unfortunately, Bennett is more of a blocker at this point in his career than a receiver despite excellent size and athleticism. His hands have been inconsistent at times, and he’s more in line with a good No. 2 than an effective No. 1 tight end. While he could represent a major upgrade over Palmer, it’s unlikely he could come close to filling the shoes of Gonzalez going forward.

Carlson missed all of this past year with a shoulder injury. Prior to the arrival of Pete Carroll, Carlson was a productive tight end in the passing game, tallying over 50 catches in his first two seasons in the league. But part of that may have stemmed from the lack of playmakers that the Seahawks have had on the outside. But he’s a player that can definitely be an effective starter and ideally an H-back, a role he did well with in Seattle. Dirk Koetter’s offense makes ample use of the H-back, and if the Falcons deem Carlson healthy, he might be a nice, solid option to pursue.

Dreessen has performed well as a replacement for an injured Owen Daniels over the past three years. Daniels has missed 14 combined games over the past three seasons, and in those games, Dreessen has combined for 43 catches, 561 yards (13.0 avg), and 3 touchdowns. Dreessen will turn 30 in July, but he’s a player that could fit very well in the H-back role here in Atlanta, although once again as a long-term replacement for Gonzalez, he might be limited.

If the Falcons are looking to try and find a better No. 2 option than Palmer to team with Gonzalez, they could do so in this free agent market. But in terms of strong candidates to be permanent long-term replacements for Gonzalez next year and beyond, this market appears limited. How important that No. 2 TE is could also be determined by how the team handles the fullback position. If Koetter favors more of a two-tight end based offense that marginalizes the need for a blocking back, it’s quite possible the Falcons could try to make a splash in free agency for an H-back, but also go after the heir apparent to Gonzalez via the draft as well. The Falcons definitely have options worth exploring in free agency, but more than likely will focus on the draft when it comes down to it.

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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.

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Moneyball 2011 – Week 17 Review

January 3rd, 2012 Comments off

A dominant performance from the Falcons, reminiscent of the Jaguars game two weeks ago. But one wonders after the Saints game, whether this is because the Falcons are really that good or whether the Jaguars and Bucs are really that bad. And personally, I think it might be more of the latter.

But a solid game on the ground. Matt Ryan really did not have to do a lot in this game. His receivers made plays when he threw it and he just had to hand the ball off largely for 2 quarters before he made way for Redman. Turner had an outstanding game, as the Bucs defenders in their back seven seemed to have no interest in trying to tackle him. The offensive line gets a lot of credit in this game for some good blocking. Clabo, and McClure probably had the standout performances, with a solid outing from Blalock and Hawley as well. Snelling and Cox also made some nice blocks, as well as Roddy getting two key blocks downfield. Reggie Kelly decided to show up for the first time this year, with 3 key blocks.

Jones had a very good game showing his big play potential for another week. Despite two drops, Roddy had a strong game.

Quizz and Snelling also had good games, although Quizz’s fumble at the goalline was a blemish. But considering how good he and others were the rest of the game, it’s not that huge a deal.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLOCK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Michael Turner$0$18$0$0$0$0$18.00
Julio Jones$0$2$7$0$0$0$9.00
Matt Ryan$8$0$0$0$0$0$8.00
Jason Snelling$0$6$0$2$0$0$8.00
Roddy White$0$0$3$2$0$0$5.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$6$0$0$0-$2$4.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$3$0$0$3.00
Todd McClure$0$0$0$3$0$0$3.00
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Joe Hawley$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Reggie Kelly$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Mike Cox$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$1$0$0$0$1.00
Chris Redman$1$0$0$0$0$0$1.00
Will Svitek$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Eric Weems$0$0$1$0$0$0$1.00
Antone Smith$0$0$0$0$1$0$1.00
Sam Baker$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00

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Mughelli to go on IR

October 25th, 2011 Comments off
ICON SMI

Mughelli celebrates vs. Carolina

Jay Glazer of FOX Sports tweets that the Falcons are going to place fullback Ovie Mughelli on injured reserve due to the knee injury he suffered on Sunday against the Detroit Lions. The exact nature of Mughelli’s knee injury has yet to be disclosed. Earlier reports suggested that Mughelli’s season would not end. Per Zach Klein of WSBTV, Mughelli suffered a torn MCL, which is an injury that is rarely treated with surgery, and is known to be able to heal fully inside 6 weeks.

The Falcons brought in two free agent fullbacks: Mike Karney and Jason McKie today for workouts during their bye week.

Jason Snelling likely will be the team’s first option to replace Mughelli in the starting lineup. But if they sign one of those players, it might not be long before they are inserted in the lineup. The Falcons have also made ample use of the two-tight end set in past games where Mughelli has been limited, likely meaning more reps for backup tight ends Michael Palmer and Reggie Kelly.

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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 8 “Screw You Guys”

October 13th, 2011 Comments off

We are now available on iTunes!

Ryan and I are back to discuss more Atlanta Falcons football. This week, we discuss some of the issues that plagued the Falcons offense and defense during the team’s loss to the Green Bay Packers, which I compare to getting a prostate exam. We also get into what twe expect with Julio Jones being injured as the Falcons take on the Carolina Panthers. This game could be a litmus test to the Falcons playoff chances and whether Cam Newton’s rookie season stacks up against that of Matt Ryan. The bulk of our discussion this week however centers on the Falcons draft picks under Thomas Dimitroff and whether they have been all that they’re cracked up to be. Ryan brings up the question of whether Mike Smith is suffering from a “Jim Mora Effect” along with other issues that plague the team’s coaching staff, such as getting other players not named Tony and Roddy getting involved on offense.  And as usual we have a laundry list of players that we feel the need to rag on this week. Also we see if we can lure Carlton Powell onto the podcast, and wax nostalgic over the heyday of internet stalking.

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Falcons release Peelle

August 19th, 2011 Comments off

Aaron Wilson of Scout.com tweets that the Falcons have reached an injury settlement with tight end Justin Peelle, resulting in his release from the team.

Peelle hurt his knee during the Falcons preseason opener against the Dolphins, and his future began to look bleek when the Falcons lured free agent Reggie Kelly out of retirement earlier this week to fill his roster position.

Peelle first joined the Falcons in 2008 as a reserve experienced in Mike Mularkey’s offense from their shared days with the Dolphins in 2006 and 2007. He wound up starting much of that season, replacing an injured Ben Hartsock and caught 15 passes. With the acquisition of Tony Gonzalez the following off-season, Peelle returned to his reserve role. He missed three games last season due to a sports hernia, but combined for 22 catches in 28 games with 16 starts during the past two years.

Peelle’s departure creates more opportunity for young tight end Michael Palmer to move up on the team’s depth chart. Kelly is set to sit out Friday’s preseason contest against the Jacksonville Jaguars, making Palmer the favorite to be the primary backup to Gonzalez in 2011.

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Falcons add Kelly

August 16th, 2011 Comments off

FOX Sports Alex Marvez tweets that tight end Reggie Kelly and the Falcons have agreed to terms following a workout on Monday.

Kelly, 34, announced his retirement last week after passing on a deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but has decided to resume his football career by rejoining the team that originally drafted him way back in 1999. Kelly spent 11 seasons primarily as a blocking tight end in the NFL, playing four with the Falcons and seven with the Bengals. He posted career highs of 31 catches, 340 yards, and 2 touchdowns during his second year in the league, but never exceeded those totals in the years since.

His role diminished last year with the Bengals using their top pick on Jermaine Gresham, after missing the 2009 season following a 31-catch year in 2008. In 14 starts last season with the Bengals, Kelly caught only 10 passes.

The Falcons are likely looking for blocking help at the position, since No. 2 tight end Justin Peelle is injured. The extent of Peelle’s injury has yet to be fully disclosed, although he is expected to miss this Friday’s contest against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

UPDATE: To make room for Kelly on the roster, the team announced it waived undrafted rookie WR P.J. Gore.

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Falcons work out Reggie Kelly

August 16th, 2011 Comments off

Aaron Wilson of Scout.com reports that the Falcons tried out tight end Reggie Kelly on Monday. On Sunday, the Falcons worked out free agent Anthony Becht, indicating that the team is indeed looking for another blocking tight end.

Kelly was originally drafted by the Falcons in 1999 in the second round, as the team parted ways with their 2000 first round pick to move up to get him. Kelly served as the team’s starting tight end for four seasons, but the addition of Alge Crumpler in 2001 sent the team in a new direction when free agency came calling in 2003. Kelly signed with the Cincinnati Bengals, and played seven seasons with them, missing the 2009 season due to injury. Kelly worked out with the Pittsburgh Steelers last week, but subsequently decided to retire after declining a veteran minimum contract. However, as Wilson states, his decision to work out with the Falcons yesterday indicate that he is still entertaining the notion of playing football this season.

Perhaps the chances that Crumpler ends his career in Atlanta have increased?

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