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Falcons 2014 Training Camp: Day 17 Report

August 18th, 2014 No comments
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Jake Matthews

The Atlanta Falcons finally broke training camp with a morning practice today. Let’s take a look at the various tweets, articles, reports, news and rumors that surfaced from the last day of camp this morning:

ESPN’s Vaughn McClure hits several things in his recap of the day. First among them is the fact that rookie Jake Matthews is moving from right tackle to left tackle, which was reported first by D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC this morning. Matthews played left tackle his final season at Texas A&M after spending three years at right tackle. He was slotted in immediately at right tackle by the Falcons due to the presence of Sam Baker on the left side. But Baker injured his knee in this past Saturday’s preseason action and will miss the entire 2014 season.

Matthews is working through the change, saying this about the adjustment between the two sides:

“Yes, the stagger changes. You go for a long time used to bracing a guy with one leg back. And now you’ve got to flip it around. It’s like almost going from writing with your right hand to your left hand. But I did it in college. I feel pretty comfortable on both sides.”

However, Falcons head coach Mike Smith remain confident:

“I don’t think he’ll blink. We’re not.”

With Matthews moving to the left side, it leaves a void on the right side. That void, for the time being, is expected to be filled by offensive tackle Lamar Holmes. Holmes had been serving as the reserve behind Baker this preseason at left tackle, but the Falcons always envisioned Matthews as a long-term solution on that side of the ball.

However offensive line coach Mike Tice did not express the same degree of confidence in Holmes as Smith did in Matthews.

The team signed free-agent offensive tackle Pat McQuistan earlier today to shore up depth on the right side.

In addition to McQuistan, the Falcons can expect the return of offensive tackle Gabe Carimi to the lineup in next week’s final preseason action against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday, August 28. Carimi has experience at right tackle, having played that position under Tice during their shared two seasons with the Chicago Bears from 2011-12.

The Falcons also welcomed back defensive tackle Corey Peters to practice today. Peters has been recovering from a torn Achilles tendon suffered last December. He had been held out of practice on the training camp version of Physically-Unable-to-Perform (PUP) list. Peters had a light workload in his first time back in nearly eight months.

In other news, cornerback Javier Arenas is expected to earn the start at nickel cornerback on Saturday against the Tennessee Titans. Per premium website Pro Football Focus, Arenas has earned the least amount of reps among the trio of corners competing for the nickel cornerback spot. Arenas has played 38 snaps through the first two preseason games, with Josh Wilson (65) and Robert McClain (53) earning the most of any defensive back on the team.

Rookie linebacker Prince Shembo is seeing increased reps with the starters, putting him well on track to leapfrog Joplo Bartu as the starter at weak-side inside linebacker by the regular season opener against the New Orleans Saints on September 7.

Injured linebacker Sean Weatherspoon was on hand to cheer on teammates:

Coach Smith indicated that the Falcons will follow tradition and play their starters for the entirety of the first half, and likely for a series into the second in Saturday’s game against the Titans.

AtlantaFalcons.com’s Jay Adams provides his usual five things from the final day of camp, including notes on Matthews, Holmes, Peters, the nickel cornerback spot and the coaching staff’s emphasis on avoiding penalties.

Falcons Sign Pat McQuistan; Put Baker on IR

August 18th, 2014 No comments
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Pat McQuistan with the Arizona Cardinals in 2012

The Atlanta Falcons signed offensive tackle Pat McQuistan to replace offensive tackle Sam Baker, who was also placed on injured reserve today. Baker suffered a torn patellar tendon in Saturday’s preseason loss to the Houston Texans and will miss the entire 2014 season.

News of the signing came after reports surfaced earlier today that the Falcons would be moving rookie Jake Matthews from right tackle to left tackle to replace Baker. Lamar Holmes, who has been backing up Baker this preseason on the left side, will be plugged in for the time being at right tackle.

A veteran of eight years, McQuistan is the twin brother of Paul, who played with the 2013 Super Bowl-winning Seattle Seahawks. In total, Pat has appeared in 72 career games, starting 11 of them.

He finished last season with the Tennessee Titans, after being added mid-season when injuries hit the interior of their offensive line. He spent two weeks on the roster before earning his release after the Titans replaced him with Kevin Matthews, the older brother of Jake.

In 2012, McQuistan played with the Arizona Cardinals as an injury fill-in, starting three of six games at right guard. He was picked up by the Cardinals after spending training camp with the Dallas Cowboys. In 2011, he was a reserve with the New Orleans Saints, where he served as a blocking tight end and worked on special teams. He was with the Miami Dolphins in 2010, starting eight games mostly at right guard.

McQuistan began his career as a 2006 seventh-round pick out of Weber State with the Cowboys, spending four seasons there as a reserve swing tackle. He earned no starts with the Cowboys, but did appear in 40 games mainly on special teams. The Cowboys traded him to the Dolphins at the start of the 2010 season.

McQuistan is currently listed at 6’6″ 317 pounds. He will compete against Holmes, Ryan Schraeder and Terren Jones for a chance to earn a reserve spot at right tackle. Holmes currently is being given the first crack at replacing Baker in the starting lineup, but by no means has a final decision been made according to the Falcons coaching staff.

Categories: News Tags: , , , , , ,

Atlanta Falcons Takeaways From Last Week – August 18, 2014

August 18th, 2014 No comments
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

2014 is another lost season for Sam Baker

The biggest concern emerging from the Atlanta Falcons 32-7 preseason loss to the Houston Texans on Saturday was the injury to left tackle Sam Baker.

Baker tore his patellar tendon in his right knee and is out for the season. It likely marks the end of Baker’s career as a Falcon.

The team drafted Jake Matthews to be their left tackle of the future and after Baker’s injury, the future is now.

There is a part of me that is glad the Falcons will be able to liberate themselves from Baker’s terrible contract, but at the same time, there is a larger part of me that is distraught that it had to end this way.

While Matthews’ presence made Baker the most expendable of their five projected starters, it does not mean that the Falcons won’t lose something.

That is because the Falcons may be forced to play either Lamar Holmes or Ryan Schraeder in the starting lineup this season. And thus far based off their play in the preseason, neither have shown any strong inclination that they are prepared for such an assignment.

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Falcons 2014 Training Camp: Day 15 Report

August 13th, 2014 No comments
David J. Phillip/From AJC.com

Roddy White, Arian Foster (middle) and Andre Johnson. From AJC.com

Let’s take a look at the various tweets, articles, reports, news and rumors that surfaced from the 15th day of Atlanta Falcons training camp earlier today:

The Falcons held combined practices with the Houston Texans today in Houston. Much of the focus centered on the battles in the trenches, where Falcons linemen faced Texans pass-rushers in J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney.

Left tackle Sam Baker fared pretty well when going against the rookie Clowney, although they had a bit of a back and forth.

Rookie right tackle Jake Matthews was able to go against both Clowney and Watt. Matthews had his Hall of Fame father, Bruce and other family members on hand to witness the action. Jake’s little brother Luke, might be following the family tradition.

Not to be left out of the action, backup right tackle Ryan Schraeder seemed to also relish his opportunities to square off with Clowney. Left guard Justin Blalock on the other hand, did not fare quite as well against Watt, getting beat a couple of times. Blalock was not alone, as his backup Mike Johnson also struggled.

Along with the Matthews family, several local Falcon players had the support of nearby family members at practice including defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux and running back Jacquizz Rodgers. Linebacker Joplo Bartu will have a family reunion of sorts at Saturday’s game against the Texans.

Outside the trenches, the Falcons-Texans practice featured a few new Falcons mixing it up with a few former Falcons. Fullback Maurice Hagens is making his bid for a roster spot by getting after it with linebacker Akeem Dent. Matthews also go to work against defensive end Lawrence Sidbury.

Running back Devonta Freeman is showing strides in pass protection, the key to unlocking more playing time this season.

Free safety Dwight Lowery also got to mix it up with some real contact after missing time with a concussion.

The team also welcomed back Tim Dobbins against his former team today. Dobbins had missed the past few days with an ankle injury suffered in the Falcons win over the Miami Dolphins last Friday night.

Jay Adams has the usual five things we learned from practice.

Vaughn McClure of ESPN has the skinny on other noteworthy observations from today’s session.

On the opposite side of the coin, ESPN Texans blog writer Tania Ganguli noticed how a few Texans corners matched up against Falcons wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones. As far as Texans fans are concerned, today’s practice saw the return of several key players. That includes Falcons quarterback T.J. Yates, who is still loved by a segment of Texans fans. The Texans also put out video of today’s practice.

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 73 “Harry Douglas Wears Women’s Deodorant”

August 11th, 2014 No comments

FalcFans.com

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 73

Allen and I are joined once again by The Falcoholic’s training camp correspondent, Jeanna Thomas, to discuss the past week of Atlanta Falcons practice and their preseason win over the Miami Dolphins. We give our thoughts on what things stood out to them in the first game and how certain rookies looked in their debut including Jake Matthews and Devonta Freeman, as well as various position battles throughout the roster. We then give praise for the first episode of Hard Knocks before jumping into a brief preview of the Falcons second preseason contest against the Houston Texans. Allen and I finish up with their usual around the league segment, reviewing the past week’s preseason games and previewing this week’s.

Episode 73 – Harry Douglas Wears Women’s Deodorant [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 29 minutes

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

Jeanna writes for The Falcoholic and can be found on twitter: @jeannathomas.

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! For Android users, DoubleTwist is a good app to listen as well. You can also subscribe directly to our feed at the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/falcfans/LXSt

Breakdown of Falcons Preseason Week 1

August 9th, 2014 No comments
Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Jacquizz Rodgers

As I did last year with each preseason game, I will post my reactions to what I saw on the field in the Atlanta Falcons preseason-opening win over the Miami Dolphins.

The preseason is a time for individual player evaluation, and I’ve looked at every snap from the game and here are my thoughts, observations, and opinions based off what I saw. Since there are so many players to discuss, like last year, I will break them down by position group.

Quarterbacks

What I Saw: Matt Ryan played well in the game, getting pulled after the opening series, a 10-play drive. He completed all of his passes. His best throw was probably his first, which saw him thread the needle to Harry Douglas on a slant pass. To no one’s surprise, it was a solid night for Ryan and he’s poised for the regular season.

T.J. Yates stepped in on the second offensive series and played through the midpoint in the third quarter for five possessions. I thought Yates showed good decision-making throughout the night, but his accuracy wasn’t stellar. There were a couple of throws where he had to make his receivers work a little harder than they needed to, but in most cases they were catchable passes. The throw to Devonta Freeman at the end of the half probably was the most glaring example where Yates could’ve had better placement. That could have been a touchdown. He almost had a second touchdown on a slant to Geraldo Boldewijn at the end of the third quarter, but I put more blame on Boldewijn there even though it wasn’t a perfect throw. Yates pocket movement was good, but his lack of ideal arm strength and accuracy hold him back. But a lot of his incompletions probably had more to do with him working with green, inexperienced receivers. If he was to work with guys like Jones, Douglas and White, he should be okay as a fill-in starter behind Ryan.

Sean Renfree played four series in the second half and made a couple of nice throws. His wheel route to Freeman for 57 yards was his best throw. He almost threw a pick at the end of the game because he stared down Freddie Martino and did not see the linebacker underneath in the throwing lane. From this game, there appears to be a gap between Yates and Renfree, which should surprise no one. Jeff Mathews did not suit up.

Conclusions: Judging solely off this game, Yates probably has a firm handle on the No. 2 job simply because he seems to be operating at a much more cerebral level than Renfree. He’s more decisive and showed better touch, timing, and accuracy on his throws, despite not exactly grading off the charts in those areas. I will be curious if the Falcons do Mathews like they did Seth Doege, who did not take a single snap last summer in four preseason games. If Mathews doesn’t get a couple of series next week, that becomes a strong possibility.

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Falcons 2014 Training Camp: Day 10 Report

August 5th, 2014 No comments
From AtlantaFalcons.com

Ricardo Allen. From AtlantaFalcons.com

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

The Falcons gave their official update on the statuses of offensive tackle Terren Jones and defensive lineman Ra’Shede Hageman this morning. Head coach Mike Smith indicated that Jones was released from the hospital late Sunday and is currently in the league’s concussion protocol after a scary incident Sunday afternoon in which he was carted off the field and taken away via ambulance. Smith also confirmed what various reports indicated in that Hageman did not suffer any break in his hand or wrist, but did not specify the exact nature of whatever hand injury Hageman sustained that forced his exit from practice Sunday.

Clearly, the injury wasn’t that serious as Hageman did participate fully in Monday’s combined practice with the Tennessee Titans.

Jay Adams gives us five takeaways from the day’s work, including Kemal Ishmael’s preparation, Jacquizz Rodgers’ superior pass protection skills and an injury update.

To no one’s surprise, the Falcons and Titans got into it early during practice on special teams, with a fight that involved cornerback Robert McClain. Center Joe Hawley was ejected from practice not long after for fighting and would spend the rest of the day in the locker room. Titans safety Bernard Pollard had choice words for the Falcons during practice. His attitude towards the Falcons seemingly even bothered his own teammate.

Falcons offensive lineman Gabe Carimi also left practice, but his was due to an undisclosed injury he suffered. According to a tweet by FOX Sports’ Alex Marvez early this morning, the team is cautiously optimistic that Carimi only suffered an ankle sprain. How severe that sprain is is not yet known, but it doesn’t sound like Carimi’s season is over. But in the competition for a reserve spot, any missed time will hurt him.

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Offensive Line Stability Important For Falcons Success

August 1st, 2014 No comments
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Jake Matthews

You’ve probably heard the word continuity in relation to offensive line play. There should be no doubt that continuity can contribute to a team’s success when you just only look at Atlanta Falcons history. I went back and looked at Falcons history dating back to 2000 to see different starting lineups of offensive lines. What emerged was a strong link between continuity and team success.

Up front, continuity just means that teams are starting the same five guys up front every game. Ideally, over an entire season or multiple seasons. The five members of the offensive line function as a unit, and as the old adage goes, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Thus it’s important for continuity to occur upfront so that the five blockers get comfortable with one another. When teams constantly shuffle in different five-man groups of linemen, it destroys continuity. Injuries are usually the cause and there can be a substantial drop-off in ability from starter to reserve in many cases. Another reason why teams will change starters up front is simply from poor play. And there seems to be numerous instances throughout Falcons history, including last year, where the Falcons had to bench and replacement guys that weren’t getting it done.

Let’s look at the numbers:

Historical Falcons OL Lineups (since 2000)

* Starts refer to the number of games in which the most popular starting five appeared
Year
Wins
# of OL Lineups
Most Popular Starting Five
Starts*
200046Whitfield-Collins-McClure-Claridge-Salaam6
200176Whitfield-Hallen-McClure-Claridge-Salaam8
20029.53Whitfield-Claridge-McClure-Forney-Weiner11
200354Whitfield-Claridge-McClure-Forney-Weiner; Shaffer-Garza-McClure-Forney-Weiner6
2004113Shaffer-Garza-McClure-Forney-Weiner14
200583Shaffer-Lehr-McClure-Forney-Weiner14
200675Gandy-Lehr-McClure-Clabo-Weiner6
200746Gandy-Blalock-McClure-Forney-Weiner5
2008112Weiner-Blalock-McClure-Dahl-Clabo11
200994Baker-Blalock-McClure-Dahl-Clabo10
2010131Baker-Blalock-McClure-Dahl-Clabo16
2011104Svitek-Blalock-McClure-Hawley-Clabo9
2012132Baker-Blalock-McClure-Konz-Clabo10
201346Holmes-Blalock-Konz-Reynolds-Trueblood5

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Categories: Features Tags: , , , ,

Falcons 2014 Training Camp: Day 4 Report

July 28th, 2014 No comments
From AtlantaFalcons.com

Jake Matthews. From AtlantaFalcons.com

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

The Falcons participated in their first padded practice of training camp today and really got after it. Notably, there were a pair of fights between offensive and defensive linemen.

The first fight occurred when offensive tackle Gabe Carimi and defensive end Stansly Maponga got into it. It then spread to center Joe Hawley and outside linebacker Jacques Smith. Hawley had some choice words for Smith afterwards. The media on hand at practice called it a draw.

The second fight involved offensive tackle Ryan Schraeder and Smith again.

Of course, head coach Mike Smith was less focused on the aggression showed in practice, but the more on technical things like pad level.

But today’s practice also meant a shift in philosophy:

The Falcons ran the Oklahoma drill, which you can see an example of here. D. Orlando Ledbetter breaks it down at the AJC. Fullback Patrick DiMarco was one player that reportedly shined.

The shift in philosophy and atmosphere the Oklahoma drill signifies was not lost on some observers:

Other highlights of the day included the play of defensive tackle Travian Robertson in one-on-one drills. Rookie offensive tackle Jake Matthews drew heaps of praise:

And according to Smitty, Matthews is on the fast track along with defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman for increased reps. But Hageman may have been less than dominant at times today.

The punt block drill drew some eyes as well.

Atlanta Falcons Takeaways from Last Week – July 28, 2014

July 28th, 2014 No comments
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Desmond Trufant is the rare impact rookie in NFL

Atlanta Falcons training camp has begun. And all the prognostications and analysis that has occurred over the past six months of the NFL offseason are basically thrown out the window at this point as things will soon be decided on the field.

It’s one of the reasons why football is great because of its unpredictably. As I noted last week, it’s one of the most unpredictable of the major American sports. And it’s for that reason, what I do is somewhat meaningless.

Like so many others, for the past six months I have made a bunch of educated guesses as to what I thought the Falcons would do this offseason, in the draft, and ultimately how that would lead to a successful or unsuccessful 2014 season.

What will ultimately happen this season is completely beyond me. If I knew, then I’d get on the first plane to Las Vegas and bet it all.

There are always several surprises in not just the regular season, but in training camp. There is always a player or two that winds up making the Falcons roster that I’m fairly dumbfounded as to why it happened. There’s always a promising prospect that doesn’t make the cut which disappoints me. There’s always a player that I had exceedingly low expectations on entering the summer, but manages to blow those out of the water. And then there’s the opposite, a player that disappoints greatly during the summer months. It all adds up to an eclectic mix that will eventually make up the Falcons 2014 roster.

One of the things that typically emerge during the initial days of camp reports and observations is how promising much of the new blood added to roster in the offseason is looking.

For instance, one can make the argument that after cornerback Desmond Trufant the best player on the Falcons defense last year was defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux. And it’s very possible that he may hold that title going into 2014. But you probably won’t hear very much about Babineaux this summer during camp practices because he’s old news. Unless Babineaux is schooling one of the young kids like Malliciah Goodman or Ra’Shede Hageman on the intricacies of the position, there won’t be a lot of buzz surrounding him. Yet given that he’s the best player up front, he probably is a player that practices the best as well.

But nobody wants to hear how Babineaux still looks solid in the various camp reports you’ll find over the next several weeks. It’s more about how those young guys like Goodman and Hageman are looking and likely to contribute significantly in 2014.

So pardon my cynicism, but that’s the nature of the beast. People tend to get caught up in what is shiny and new rather than what appears old hat.

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