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Posts Tagged ‘Koetter’

Falcons’ Second Season Begins

December 31st, 2012 Comments off

It is called the postseason or second season in many circles, because the month of January kicks off a brand new season in the NFL. It is one where who or what you were in the regular season is meaningless and trivial, a small footnote. Teams will be tested purely off their own merit, not their regular season achievements. Whether you finished with a 9-7 record or 13-3, you’re all the same when the second season begins: 0-0.

The Falcons have struggled in the second season, as it has been been seven years since they have won a game there. They are winless under the leadership of Mike Smith. What has been disheartening to Falcon fans is that each of those losses have gotten progressively worse. The Falcons intend to turn the tide this year, as they sport the best offense they’ve had in the Mike Smith Era, and a defense that has routinely stepped up in big games.

Having the best regular season record and the No. 1 seed is meaningful only in the sense that it means the Falcons will be playing at home. Two of their three postseason losses have come on the road, where the team has struggled throughout the Mike Smith Era. But that has changed this year. While the Falcons have a better record at home (7-1) than on the road (6-2) this year, the Falcons offense is better by 51.0 total yards per game, 3.4 points per game, and about 0.7 yards per play when traveling. The story is the opposite for the defense, surrendering 24.4 less yards per game, 3.4 less points per game, and about 0.4 less yards per play at home rather than on the road.

In past postseason games, the defense has struggled to get stops, create turnovers, and not surrender big plays to opposing teams. Mike Nolan will have this year’s unit charged to change that.

But the onus will likely rest on the team’s offense to play better at home than it has for much of the year. The offensive line has struggled when asked to play indoors for the most part this year. The lone exception being an outstanding performance against the New York Giants a few weeks back. They have also been able to generate some of their big plays at home, with a total of 25 explosive pass plays (for 20 or more yards) at home, while only 21 on the road.

If the Falcons intend to reverse their fortunes in this year’s second season, it will likely require them to be able to pass protect Ryan effectively in order to generate those big explosive passing plays. While it won’t be a tall order, it is something the Falcons have been inconsistent with during the regular season. But the beauty of the second season is that all gets thrown out the window. The Falcons will have their opportunity to showcase an explosive offense and opportunistic defense in the playoffs. What they did before won’t matter. It is all up to what they do going forward.

Categories: Features Tags: , ,

Moneyball 2012 – Week 14 Review

December 12th, 2012 Comments off

To put it simply, the Falcons got their butts kicked in this game. They just really came out with zero intensity or passion for this game and seemed to be going through the motions.

I thought Matt Ryan got off to a poor start. And it really wasn’t until late in the game did he really start to play at a relatively high level. He only looked comfortable when he was running the no-huddle. I know many will complain why did the Falcons wait so long to go to the no-huddle. Well they didn’t wait that long. They went to it on their 10th offensive play during the 3rd series. But I don’t think Ryan looked his usual self or at least the guy that was playing at an MVP level earlier in the season. I mentioned it before, but I do think Ryan does look a little less. It wasn’t until late in the game (when he got into a rhythm in the no-huddle) did I really see him put good zip on the ball. Frankly, his arm looks a little tired. He wasn’t as quick on the trigger on a some early throws that had he pulled the trigger a half-second earlier could have wound up being big plays for the Falcons. They were not, and the offense was stagnant. I also thought he struggled a bit when the pocket was muddy, not setting his feet and struggling when he was moved off his spot. That reminded me too much of last year’s Ryan, not this year’s, who for the first half of the season did an excellent job working behind a subpar O-line.

That was not the case this week. The Falcons O-line once again got pushed around by the Panthers front. Every single lineman gave up at least one pressure, and there were a number of hurries. Peter Konz struggled in this game. And I think it’s reached a point where a change might be in order. The guy just isn’t really cutting it at right guard. He gave up a 3.5 hurries, 1 sack, and a pressure. And he was somewhat responsible for another sack (the first, attributed to McClure). He and McClure were double-teaming Frank Kearse, then Konz left to chip Charles Johnson who was working against Clabo. The shove Konz gave Johnson, allowed Johnson to get free of Clabo and pressure Ryan to step up in the pocket. And at that point, McClure got beat by Kearse with a rip move and had an easy sack on Ryan. It would be one thing if Konz had been going up against Ndamukong Suh or Geno Atkins, but Nate Chandler, Greg Hardy, and Frank Alexander are beating you, then it becomes an issue. And it’s not just this game, but it’s been at least two or three straight games where he’s clearly been the weakest link on the offensive line. So the Falcons might want to think about giving Mike Johnson a shot (who got credited with the key block or rather “hold” on Turner’s touchdown).

Clabo’s false start was credited to McClure, who failed to snap the ball. As for the run blocking, it wasn’t bad, but it certainly wasn’t good.

The Falcons passing game had a lot of success going to Roddy. I don’t know if he was working against James Dockery all game, but he was abusing him throughout the second half. Jones had a number of drops in this game. Not all were perfectly thrown passes, but still catchable for Jones.

I thought it was interesting that on Turner’s first 2 carries of the game, he was unsuccessful. Then the Falcons ran to Quizz 4 straight times, and he was successful on all of them. Then Turner got the rock twice, neither successful runs. Then he got a successful run on the 5-yard gain (his 5th carry), then was stuffed at the goalline, and then had an obviously successful run on the touchdown carry. Does any of that mean anything? Eh, not really. Just thought it was interesting that the Falcons clearly were not going with the hot hand.

For the people that want to call out Koetter for his play-calling/management in the game, there is some fodder. It did not appear that the Falcons called any plays until a minute left in the 3rd quarter that was designed for Ryan to throw downfield. That first play was the one where Roddy stumbled and Ryan overthrew him. After that point, they took many shots downfield. And by that point Ryan had 21 pass attempts. Other than that, I really don’t think you can find much fault in Koetter’s play-calling that isn’t just nitpicking.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Matt Ryan$17$0$0$0$0$0$17.00
Roddy White$0$0$10$0$0$0$10.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$4$3$0$0$0$7.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$4$0$0$0$4.00
Julio Jones$0$0$4$0$0$0$4.00
Michael Turner$0$3$0$0$0$0$3.00
Harry Douglas$0$0$2$0$0$0$2.00
Sam Baker$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Chase Coffman$0$0$1$0$0$0$1.00
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Mike Johnson$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Jason Snelling$0$0$1$0$0$0$1.00
Todd McClure$0$0$0$0$0-$1-$1.00
Peter Konz$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00

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Moneyball 2012 – Week 10 Review

November 15th, 2012 Comments off

Sorry for the delay in getting this up. I know the rest of the world has moved on from this game, and re-hashing why the Falcons lost this game so late in the week is not fun.

I thought offensively the Falcons did a lot of good things, but there was too long a gap (particularly the second and third quarters) where they were unable to put points on the board, which caused them to get in too deep a hole to dig out of. One of the trends I’ve noticed with this year’s team as well as past years’ is that they rarely give you a solid three or four quarters of strong play. I think that is a big reason why they have struggled to win big games, including in the playoffs. That sort of inconsistency is fine if you’re facing Carolina, Minnesota, or Oakland, but simply can’t cut it against teams like New Orleans.

Matt Ryan played well, but he seemed to play with a bit of a sped up clock due to the pressure he was seeing. I think that pressure was a major contributor to the drought in scoring. I did like the fact that the Falcons continue to show the ability to generate explosive plays downfield. That is going to be the key to whether this offense can really rise to the top because that was sorely lacking over the first month or so of the season. Gonzalez continues to play at a high level and he might really be doing himself a disservice by retiring. Even if he’s only 75% the player he is this year from now on, he could easily remain a premier TE in this league for another 4 or 5 years. The Falcons clearly missed Jones, and it’s no coincidence that their struggles to put points on the board were primarily when he was out of the game.

This game exposed many of the masses to really how poor the Falcons running game is this year. In key games, they are essentially one dimensional and if they get into a situation where they need to get a single yard on the ground, they are very likely to fail. I don’t really want to point fingers at Koetter, but I do think his decision to run Turner on that 3rd & 1 at the goal line was not a good decision. Frankly, I bet he called it not because he actually thought the play would work but because he didn’t want the talking heads and second guessers talking about how they threw it 3 straight times from the goal line with Michael Turner in the backfield. Or maybe because of some pipe dream from the coaches that there is some semblance of physicality with this offense. Memo to Koetter and Mike Smith, if you thought there was a physical element to this offense, then you haven’t been watching them this year. I suggest you embrace the fact that you are a finesse team. Not saying you should shoot to throw the ball 50 times a game, but in the do or die situations, keep the ball in Matt Ryan’s hands, your best player, rather than Turner who might now be sixth best on offense due to the ascendancy of Jacquizz Rodgers.

The Falcons just can’t win up front. I noticed many instances where if guys could hold a block for more than a split-second, it could have sprung Turner for longer runs. Turner just lacks the burst to take advantage of those short-lived creases, and the Falcons need to be willing to give Rodgers and Snelling more reps as runners. The ground game will still be terrible, but potentially not as terrible.

I don’t wish to pile on Turner as many have done this week, but the Falcons brass have had an overwhelming sense of denial to how much he had left in the tank this year. I can’t be too harsh on him, because Turner has stepped up in recent weeks. But this game showed that in these bigger games, he’s been at best a non-factor and at worst a liability.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Matt Ryan$16$1$0$0$0$0$17.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$9$0$0$0$9.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$3$4$0$0$0$7.00
Julio Jones$0$0$5$0$0$0$5.00
Roddy White$0$0$5$0$0$0$5.00
Michael Turner$0$2$0$1$0$0$3.00
Harry Douglas$0$0$2$0$0$0$2.00
Mike Johnson$0$0$2$0$0$0$2.00
Peter Konz$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Tommy Gallarda$0$0$0$0$1$0$1.00
Jason Snelling$0$0$0$0$0.5$0$0.50
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
D.J. Davis$0$0$0$0$0-$1 -$1.00
Antone Smith$0$0$0$0$0-$1-$1.00
Sam Baker$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00
Todd McClure$0$0$0-$1$0-$1-$2.00
Read more…

Koetter a Candidate to Take Over at Kentucky

November 6th, 2012 Comments off

Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports reported on Sunday that after the University of Kentucky fired its head coach Joker Phillips, that according to sources Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter was among several candidates on the short list by UK athletic director Mitch Barnhart to take over the gig.

Koetter joined the Falcons this year after five seasons as the offensive coordinator of the Jacksonville Jaguars. He has been a college head coach before, with stints at Arizona State (2001-06) and Boise State (1998-00). During his nine seasons as a college head coach, he compiled a 66-44 record, including a 3-2 bowl record.

Fellow candidates per Forde include former University of Tennessee head coach Phil Fulmer, Louisiana Tech head coach Sonny Dykes, University of Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease, Texas Tech offensive coordinator Neal Brown, and Western Kentucky head coach Willie Taggart.

Categories: News Tags: ,

5 Keys if the Falcons Want to Improve in 2012

September 7th, 2012 Comments off
Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

Matt Ryan

Often when people look to see if a team has improved, they will measure it with wins and losses. And while that is not a bad way to do so, it is not a true measure of a team’s ability. Because you’re not playing the same schedule year to year, and even the teams that you do play annually aren’t always the same quality as they were in previous years. Every NFL season brings a new and different set of challenges, and to simply measure them by how many games you’ve won or lost doesn’t accurately gauge whether you rose to meet those challenges.

Here are five areas that I think the Falcons need to improve in if they want to be able to say they have improved as a team from 2011 and previous years. These are five areas that you could set apart as mini-goals for this team. And if they were to accomplish all five by the end of the year, I believe this will result in more regular season wins for the Falcons as well as a greater chance of winning in the postseason. And not just winning one game in January, but potentially many multiple so that they could possibly be winning come February.

1. Matt Ryan Needs to Take the Next Step as a Passer

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MJD to Falcons doesn’t make a lot of sense

August 22nd, 2012 1 comment
Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

Maurice Jones-Drew

Yesterday, news broke that Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew following some inflammatory comments by Jaguars owner Shahid Khan, was open to a trade. And it caused an uproar, as well it should because MJD as he is affectionately known, is the Jaguars best player and it made a lingering holdout into a major drama.

And as is often the case, dots began to be connected for the possibility that if MJD was traded, he could find his way north from Jacksonville to Atlanta. On one hand, it makes sense. His former offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter is here, and current head coach Mike Smith along with several other assistants currently in Atlanta were also in Jacksonville in 2006 when he was first drafted.

Much of the off-season talk in Atlanta has centered around whether or not Michael Turner is past his prime. I for one, fall in line as one of those people that believe Turner is well on the downside of his career. Getting a player like MJD, the league’s top rusher from a year ago certainly would be an upgrade at the running back position. MJD is younger than Turner as well as more explosive and versatile.

Even if you can get past the fantasy that the Jaguars would trade MJD, which is an extremely high hurdle to jump. Even as of this morning, the MJD camp is backing off their trade demands simply because they know they’re not going to get them. Jacksonville is not going to trade their best player. But you can never say never, so let’s assume that Jones-Drew is being shopped. It still doesn’t make too much sense for the Falcons.

Firstly, while Jones-Drew is younger than Turner by about 3 years, they have nearly identical career workloads as far as rushing attempts go, with MJD having 67 more than Turner. When counting carries up until the age of 27, Jones is fairly high on the list particularly for modern running backs. Among players drafted in the past decade, he’s only exceeded by Steven Jackson in terms of touches before the age of 28. The point being MJD is not as spry a 27 as most.

He had knee surgery prior to 2011. Clearly, his performance last year showed that he suffered no major ill effects from that. But what is interesting is throughout the 2011 season, MJD was limited in most of the Jaguars’ Wednesday practices. It was likely to keep him well-rested to play down the stretch (where an ankle injury bothered him). It’s a practice that the Falcons do as well, but largely with their 30+ year old veterans like Tony Gonzalez, Todd McClure, and John Abraham. It’s a red flag that indicates that his body may be breaking down sooner rather than later.

The other main issue is the price tag, both when it comes to what the Falcons would need to give up to secure MJD from Jacksonville, as well as any extension he would want. The reason this holdout began is because he wants a raise. And he likely wants to be among the highest paid running backs in the league, after seeing the big extensions signed by Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte, Ray Rice, Arian Foster, etc. over the past year or so. Not only would the Falcons have to part ways with a high round pick, but then also pay a high premium in salary to secure MJD.

The Falcons are moving towards a pass-first offense, as they should. Centering the offense around Matt Ryan in the hopes it elevates his game is the team’s best chance to win a championship in the immediate future. So going out and giving up what they would need to get MJD doesn’t make much sense in that context. Like it has become the case in most NFL cities, the running back is becoming a complementary position in Atlanta. And there’s no need to ship a first or second round pick plus pay $40-50 million to a complementary player, even one as capable as MJD.

The bottom line is that MJD would be a short-term solution that requires long-term commitment. The Falcons have given away far too many premium picks over the past three drafts to merit doing it a fourth year in a row, especially for a player that is on the verge of hitting the same wall that many accuse Turner to be currently parked in front of.

Categories: Features Tags: , , ,

Questions Remain at Fullback

August 11th, 2012 Comments off

The injury to Bradie Ewing, while not devastating to the Falcons offense, it certainly doesn’t leave it in good shape. The Falcons made the decision to part ways with Ovie Mughelli in May, thanks in large part due to his advanced age and hefty pricetag. They wanted to get younger at the position, and their plans were embodied in Ewing, a player they envisioned growing into a top-notch lead blocker similar to how Mughelli had been the past four years.

But now Ewing is done for the year, and next year will be coming off a more severe knee injury than Mughelli was attempting this year. Mughelli is now with the Rams and they hope there he opens holes for Steven Jackson as well as he did for Michael Turner here in Atlanta.

It’s interesting to gauge how much this will affect the Falcons offense. For the first part of the 2011 season, Mughelli played on a bum knee and it was clear that he was not nearly the same as a blocker. And while Mike Cox was able to fill in competently, it was clear that he was not anywhere close to the Pro Bowl player that Ovie was a year before.

Last year, Cox had 110 total run blocking opportunities (per Pro Football Focus) and ended up with 10 key blocks, making for a percentage of 9.1%. That is essentially equal to the percentage that Mughelli had in 2010, where on 280 run blocking opportunities, he finished with 25.5 key blocks. That was an improvement from Mughelli earlier in the season, who had a key block percentage of around 6.5% (6 key blocks on 93 opportunities). The issue with Cox last year was how often he missed he blocks. He missed a total of 5.5 blocks, for a percentage of 5.0%. That was a decline from Mughelli in 2011 (3.2%), but a huge decrease from Ovie in previous years, where in 2010 his missed block percentage was at 2.1%, and 0.4% in 2009.

The other interesting stat is looking at Turner’s own production when working out of the I-formation. Here are the numbers from the past four seasons:

Read more…

Categories: Features Tags: , , , ,

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 17 “The One About the Falcons”

June 10th, 2012 Comments off

In this week’s episode, Ryan and I get back to the grind of talking about the Falcons. Taking segments of recent live shows where we talk about different position groups on the offense, this episode is an amalgamation (I know, big word) of those discussions. Also included in this episode is our interview with The Bleacher Report’s Scott Carasik, another knowledgeable Falcon fan. If you want to hear practically every offensive player on the Falcons roster get discussed, then this is the episode for you. Topics range from who will make the roster to what can be expected from different players this year. What if any changes that Dirk Koetter has will affect different players and positions. Ryan and I get into a long debate about what exactly is an elite quarterback. Michael Turner’s future, Chris Redman, Kerry Meier, Julio Jones, and Sam Baker are other Falcon players that get extensive discussions in this episode.

Ep. 17: The One About the Falcons [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 39 minutes

 

If you have any questions and comments, you can hit us up on Twitter, post in the forums in the podcast thread, or drop Ryan an e-mail at: ryan-valdez@live.com. Don’t forget to drop by every week to hear our live broadcast at: justin.tv/didziojo

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. You can also subscribe directly to our feed at the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/falcfans/LXSt

2012 Key Players: Offensive Line

May 29th, 2012 Comments off
US PRESSWIRE

The Falcons Front Line

I’ve already discussed how Michael Turner’s play this year will be a key to success for the Falcons in 2012. Tied to that is the play of the offensive line. It’s clear that the Falcons are a team that pride themselves on being an effective to good running team. And that notion isn’t likely to change under new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. The Jaguars under Jack Del Rio styled themselves in a similar manner, being a team that could run the ball well and play good defense, i.e. often the core elements of what is called being “physical.” That’s the exact sort of mentality and identity that Mike Smith has tried to instill here in Atlanta over the past four seasons. And it’s probably one of the main reasons why Smith was attracted to Koetter to take over for Mike Mularkey.

But joining Koetter on his quest to reinvigorate the Falcons offense on the ground will be new offensive line coach Pat Hill. Hill comes to the Falcons after years as the head coach at Fresno State. The Falcons hope Hill’s brand of high energy and toughness will also prove a boost up front.

It was clear last year that the biggest weakness on the offense was the offensive line. They struggled to create holes for Turner to run through, and struggled protecting Matt Ryan when they faced quality pass rushes. While the team may be very vocal about not regretting the decision to trade for Julio Jones, they certainly should be regretful over how they took the offensive line for granted last off-season.

Too often the line got manhandled in 2011 and it often occurred in instances where they could not establish the run early in games. If they got behind the offense would become one-dimensional and lose its balance. And several opposing teams were able to take advantage by pinning their ears back and be effective at getting to Matt Ryan.

Ryan is not a quarterback that likes to get hit. That isn’t questioning his toughness, but there is plenty of evidence over the past four years that if teams can get to him early and often, it can affect his play the rest of the game. That could also describe Tom Brady rather easily. So it’s prohibitive of Ryan becoming a top quarterback, it’s just an obstacle to overcome. You can live with a subpar O-line in Pittsburgh with Ben Roethlisberger behind center because he seems to thrive at times with pressure in his face. But that won’t be the case here in Atlanta, and thus emphasizing better play up front will remain important as long as Ryan is the starter.

Thus the Falcons off-season decisions to bolster the competition up front were good moves. The team needed to improve their blocking, and they did so by adding veteran guard Vince Manuwai and drafting rookies Peter Konz and Lamar Holmes in the draft.

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2012 Key Player: Julio Jones

May 28th, 2012 1 comment
US PRESSWIRE

Julio Jones

When looking over the final numbers that Julio Jones posted in 2011: 54 catches, 959 yards, 17.8 avg, and 8 touchdowns, you would think he was one of the most feared wideouts in the league. Then considering that he missed what combined to be 3.75 games (about 15 quarters), then his production becomes even more astounding. His projected 1253 yards over 16 games would have had him finished 10th in the league in yards not far behind Roddy White (1296 yards), and his 10 touchdowns would have ranked 6th, exceeding that of White and players like Wes Welker, Victor Cruz, Vincent Jackson, Larry Fitzgerald, and Greg Jennings. But as usual, when one examines only the raw numbers it can paint an inaccurate picture. A deeper look at Jones performance in 2011, particularly when you look at each game paints a slightly different picture.

Not to slight Jones and his excellent rookie season, but there were trademark signs of the inconsistency that is common among first-year wideouts that is not easily seen if you just look at the overall numbers. Two prime examples of this was his Week 3 performance against the Bucs and his Week 13 performance against the Panthers. In both games, his final box score numbers looked great with 6 catches for 115 yards against Tampa Bay and 3 catches for 104 yards and 2 touchdowns against Carolina. But in both games, Jones was extremely quiet for the first three quarters of the game.

Against Tampa Bay, he was targeted a grand total of 2 times in the first three quarters, catching the ball once for an 18-yard gain. With the Falcons down 16-3 going into the fourth quarter, Jones was able to turn things on, catching all 5 of his targets for 97 yards including a 49-yard bomb that set up a scoring play to Tony Gonzalez which cut the Bucs lead to 6 points with 10 minutes to go on the game.

Against the Panthers, through the first three quarters Jones had been targeted a total of 6 times, catching the ball only once for 12 yards. That also included 2 dropped passes. Then in the fourth quarter, he caught a pair of touchdowns on his only two targets for a total of 92 yards.

These two games are perfect illustrations of the highs and lows that Julio Jones experienced in 2011. With the highs you get that game-changing big play ability that this offense was sorely lacking in previous seasons. But with the lows, you get next to nothing where he is virtually a non-existent factor in the offense.

Another often overlooked thing was Jones number of drops. While most observers criticized Roddy’s league-leading 15 drops, forgotten is that Jones had 9 of his own. Once you factor in targets (91 for Jones, and 175 for White according to Pro Football Focus.com), you realize that Jones dropped a slightly higher percentage of passes than White did: 9.8% for Jones vs. 8.6% for White.

The key for the Falcons in 2012 is to find ways to minimize those lows while also being able to maintain or maximize the highs. That will be potentially the biggest priority that new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter will need to accomplish this year. And if the Falcons can get him to a point where opposing defensive coordinators have to fear him the most, then that opens up opportunities for their other weapons.

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