Posts Tagged ‘Koetter’

2012 Key Player: Michael Turner

May 27th, 2012 Comments off
AP from Yahoo! Sports

Michael Turner

It’s not a secret that I don’t think too highly of Michael Turner’s future with the Falcons. All off-season long, I’ve advocated that I think the team will be better off without him than with him. But it’s clear at this point that the Falcons brass disagree with me. And because of that, Turner’s production in 2012 will be a key to the team’s success.

Turner’s production has been on a fairly steady decline in recent years. Although last year he did see a jump in yards per carry, I attribute much of that to the season’s two bookend games against the Bears and Bucs where he averaged over 10 yards on a total of 27 carries. If you look at the other 14 games he played in where he totaled 274 carries for 1068 yards (3.9 avg), it mirrors almost exactly the season that Cedric Benson had last year (273 carries, 1067 yards, 3.9 avg). Benson is currently an unsigned free agent because most feel that he’s past his prime, coupled with his less than stellar production in the passing game, thus making him undeserving of a starting job. It’ll will be up to Turner this year to prove skeptics like myself wrong that he should not be in a similar boat.

Turner should get some help from what should be an upgraded offensive line. It’s no doubt that the drop-off in production up front played a part in Turner’s less than stellar production throughout the 2011 season. The question remains how much a part of it. If it was a huge part, then any improvements should be a huge positive for Turner.

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Categories: Features Tags: , , ,

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 16 “Chocolate and Vanilla”

May 20th, 2012 Comments off

Ryan and I give our thoughts on the Falcons State of the Franchise address from this past week including debating what may come of the Falcons new stadium, and the buzz it could create among the fanbase and whether or not it matters all that much. We also discuss what changes they can realistically expect with new coordinators, and what level of influence does Mike Smith have on those chances. We discuss Jason Snelling and his potential role with the team as well. Later, we talk about the NBA playoffs, including quite a bit on Ryan’s beloved Indiana Pacers against the Miami Heat. We also talk about wrestling, boxing, and MMA. Ryan professes his love for the women of TNA, while I stick by the old standby in Kim Kardashian. The topic without a doubt turns to stalkers and Vince McMahon’s profound philosophical insights before it’s all said and done.

Ep. 16: Chocolate and Vanilla [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 20 minutes


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Free Agent Focus: Wide Receiver

January 25th, 2012 Comments off

AP Photo

Harry Douglas

The Falcons will have to make a decision on whether to keep or let Harry Douglas go in free agency. And you could make the case for either happening. The Falcons are expected to install a vertical offense under Dirk Koetter. And playing the vertical game is really not a strength of Douglas. He’ll make the occasional play down the field, but his bread and butter is really the shorter and intermediate routes where he can use his quickness and burst after the catch to make plays. So in that sense, it would make sense for the Falcons to pass on Douglas and find someone that is a better fit for the scheme.

But at the same time, it’s not like you’re going to run 3 or 4 verticals every snap of the game, and having a nice outlet option underneath to make teams pay if they set their coverages too deep is a valuable commodity.

Ultimately the main issue with Douglas is the price. For the right price, the team should want him back. But at the wrong one, it’s probably best if the team lets him walk. And that’s going to be the big question surrounding this year’s free agent market at wide receiver.

Last summer, the market wasn’t very big for a lot of players. Outside Sidney Rice and Santonio Holmes, no one really got paid that much. Now making $2-3 million a year is not chump change, but a lot of young receivers were expecting to cash in with lucrative long-term deals and did not. If that repeats this off-season, then a lot of players like Douglas could be left out in the cold. And that would make the chances that the Falcons can get Douglas for a modest price very high. And it seems based off deals that players like Earl Bennett and Jordy Nelson signed this past fall/winter, it doesn’t seem like teams are willing to break the bank for these complementary receivers.

If the Falcons are looking for a receiver that is a better fit in their more vertical-oriented passing attack, targeting someone with size and speed would be best. There are a number of players that sort of fit that mold as guys that are good going down the field. The ideal player would likely be Brandon Lloyd (St. Louis), but he’s likely to price him out of the Falcons range since Lloyd should be looking for starter’s money. The same could probably be said of Pierre Garcon (Indianapolis).

Next on the Falcons list would probably be Mario Manningham (NY Giants) and Robert Meachem (New Orleans). But both are quasi-starters for their respective teams, and will probably be looking for more lucrative deals and playing time. But with both, they have proven they are good No. 3 receivers and able to make big plays downfield, their primary roles with their respective teams.

Another pair of cheaper options I like are Chaz Schilens (Oakland) and Devin Aromashodu (Minnesota). Schilens is more big than fast, but his size allows him to make plays downfield because he can be so valuable on the jump balls. Aromashodu has a better mix of size and speed. The good thing about both is that it’s very likely both will come fairly cheap because neither have had more than 29 receptions in a single year. Frankly, if the Falcons could keep Douglas as well as sign one of them, it would be a good move for their wide receiver corps.

One issue the Falcons may face if they do choose to retain Douglas, is that whoever could potentially join the team as the fourth receiver would need to be able to play on special teams. That is a role that none of the previously mentioned free agents have really done. It’s a role that Douglas has performed little of. And it’s why the team has valued players like Eric Weems and Kerry Meier in recent years. That could make a player like Devin Thomas (NY Giants) a bit more attractive. Of course Thomas has been plagued with inconsistency throughout his career and has made minimal contributions on offense. If the Falcons signed him, it might be too lofty of expectations to think he will make any significant contributions on offense. It could be similar to when the Jaguars signed Kassim Osgood a year ago to be more of an offensive playmaker than he was in San Diego, and that did not work out so well.

Either way, the Falcons will have to address their receiver depth this off-season. If none of those free agents can be had at the right price, they might turn their attention to getting bigger and faster via the draft.

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Fullbacking Future

January 24th, 2012 Comments off


Is Ovie done in Atlanta?

To be honest, when I wrote up the free agent focus article on the running back position, I completely ignored the fullback position. It was an error on my part because it’s a position that is often overlooked, but in the case of the Falcons it certainly will be worth watching this off-season.

New offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter by many accounts prefers to use more two-tight end sets rather than using the traditional fullback position. But from what I’ve read, it seemed that in Jacksonville Greg Jones was so good as a lead blocker that he couldn’t really phase him out like he normally would. For much of the Mike Smith/Mike Mularkey Era, Ovie Mughelli has widely been considered the best or one of the best lead blockers in the game. But that all changed last year. If I’m not mistaken, Mughelli injured his knee early against the Bears (perhaps on the opening kickoff), but proceeded to continue playing with the injury until he was placed on injured reserve in October. That injury could explain why Mughelli was largely ineffective as a lead blocker through the first month or so of the season. Or it could be age starting to catch up with him. But Mughelli was only 31 this past year, and other top fullbacks similar to him like Lorenzo Neal, William Henderson, Mack Strong, and Tony Richardson were able to continue playing at a high level into the mid-to-late thirties.

But all of this raises questions about his future with the team. Mughelli is coming off season-ending knee surgery, entering the final year of his contract which will pay him $3 million in base salary. That’s a hefty price to pay for a fullback, even one as good as Mughelli. Especially if the Falcons shake up the running back position as much as they potentially could.

Part of the equation will be how the Falcons felt about Mughelli’s replacement, Mike Cox. Cox will be a free agent, and he certainly had his moments as a lead blocker, but he certainly didn’t come close to playing at the level that Ovie has been known to play at over the years. But if Koetter intends to minimize the role of the lead blocker, then it’s probably smarter to go with a cheap but solid guy like Cox, rather than the more expensive Mughelli. One certainly expects that Cox can be re-signed for considerably less than the $3 million the team would be paying Ovie. Retaining Jason Snelling also would give them another alternative option.

The Falcons also need help at tight end, and likely will target some young guy in the draft to groom as the heir apparent to Tony Gonzalez. And it will be interesting to see if they target someone that is more of an H-back type than your traditional inline tight end. If that is the case, then it would de-emphasize Mughelli’s role and value as well.

At this point, I would probably be pleasantly surprised if Ovie Mughelli returns to the Falcons in 2012. Just the sheer combination of age, injury, salary, and the fact that the team has two decent alternatives in Cox and Snelling, probably puts Ovie behind the eight ball. I would personally love to see him return because I still think a healthy Ovie can be a very effective player on this team and within this offense. But I can certainly understand if the Falcons brass decide to move in a different direction.

The Future of Matt Ryan

January 23rd, 2012 Comments off

Getty Images/Yahoo! Sports

Matt Ryan

2011 was an interesting year for Matt Ryan. While he had a solid, productive season, he faced more scrutiny than probably any other year besides his rookie season. Ryan’s less than stellar performances in some of the team’s bigger games this year has caused much concern among the fan base on whether Ryan is truly this team’s franchise quarterback going forward.

Personally I think Ryan is that player, but I do think there is a lot of room for improvement from him as well as this coaching staff. Asking him to simply be a game manager is not going to cut it, especially if they cannot invigorate him with the confidence to be able to make the big plays in the big games when this team needs him to. Against the New York Giants, Ryan played poorly. Frankly, he played with the confidence of a guy that had just been handed the starting job a few weeks before. And while Ryan deserves ample blame for his impotent performance, I can’t help but point a few fingers at the coaching staff as well. Especially when I’m watching Alex Smith and the 49ers do exactly what should have happened with Ryan and the Falcons, which is basically playing like they have a pair.

One of the weaknesses of Ryan this past year was his ability to throw the deep ball. It’s never really been the strength of his game dating all the way back to his days at Boston College, but he’s been effective from time to time during his short NFL career (particularly as a rookie). New offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter is expected to install an offense that emphasizes the vertical pass, and so it will be critical for the Falcons to get Ryan to improve significantly there.

Personally, I think one of the reasons why Ryan struggled with his vertical passing this year is because of how much this coaching staff stresses not to make mistakes and turn the ball over. It’s why Ryan is consistently overthrowing his streaking receivers because “if you’re long, you’re never wrong,” a statement I’ve heard Ryan say more than once. Throwing the ball shorter, which will allow his playmakers like Julio Jones and Roddy White to go and get the ball should make him more effective. But at the same time it will allow defensive players more opportunities to make a play on the ball. But if Ryan is going to work in this new offense, then this coaching staff is going to have to be much more tolerant of turnovers and interceptions. It simply comes with the territory.

You hate to put it in a sort of ultimatum, but if this coaching staff cannot trust Ryan enough to coach him that way, or are unable or unwilling to coach him that way, then something has got to give and someone is going to have to go. Being too conservative and “playing scared” which in my eyes summarizes the disappointment of the 2011 season is simply not going to cut it anymore. Championships are not going to come to you, you have to be willing to go out and take them.

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Why the Falcons Should Let Turner Go

January 22nd, 2012 2 comments
Getty Images from Yahoo! Sports

Michael Turner

The measure of any good talent evaluator is not only to be able to determine where a player is currently, but also to project where a player will be in the future. In Tom Callahan’s book, The GM, which detailed the life and career former Giants GM Ernie Accorsi, one of the few things that stuck with me was when Accorsi stated he’d rather be accused of getting rid of a player a year too early, rather than a year too late.

And it’s that statement that leads me to believe that the Falcons should part ways with Michael Turner this off-season.

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Falcons to hire Koetter

January 15th, 2012 Comments off

Chris Mortensen of ESPN reports that league sources have indicated the Falcons have hired former Jacksonville Jaguars offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter as their new offensive coordinator, replacing Mike Mularkey who took over the Jacksonville head coaching position this past week.

Koetter first joined the Jaguars in 2007, the last season where current Falcons head coach Mike Smith served as that team’s defensive coordinator. That season also marked the only time the Jaguars offense was highly ranked under Koetter, finishing 7th in total offense and 6th in scoring offense largely built off the league’s 2nd ranked rushing offense. Since then, the Jaguars offense has struggled at various times, averaging a rank of 17th in total offense and 22nd in scoring over the ensuing three seasons. This past year the Jaguars fell all the way to 32nd in total offense and 28th in scoring, largely due to their poor performing rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert who finished the year with a 65.4 passer rating, lowest in the league.

Prior to joining the Jaguars, Koetter spent six seasons as the head coach of Arizona State, leading them to a 40-34 record, including a 2-2 bowl record. Prior to Arizona State, he was Boise State’s head coach for three seasons compiling a 26-10 overall record and 2-0 bowl record. Koetter led Boise State to their first bowl win 1999 after the team made the jump to Division I (now FBS) in 1996. Before taking over the head job at Boise State, he was the offensive coordinator at several schools for the previous 14 years, starting at San Francisco State (1985), UTEP (1986-88), Missouri (1989-93),  Boston College (1994-95), and Oregon (1996-98).

After his collegiate career as a quarterback at Idaho State ended in 1980, he spent two years as the head coach of his alma mater, Highland High before moving onto San Francisco State in 1985.

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