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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 66 “Tear Down Your Hopes and Dreams”

May 13th, 2014 Comments off

Allen and I are joined by The Falcoholic contributor, Murf Baldwin, to discuss our thoughts on the Atlanta Falcons 2014 draft class. Murf gives a less than glowing assessment of the Falcons picks, including whether or not Ra’Shede Hageman and Dezmen Southward offered good value in the second and third rounds. We wonder whether or not the Falcons pass rush has been significantly improved and break down whether Devonta Freeman and their late-round picks add anything to the roster that wasn’t already there. Allen and I finish with a brief discussion of our hopes for the NBA playoffs, our usual around the league segment, as well as Allen’s explanation on why he could not make a triumphant return to Radio City Music Hall to witness the draft.

Episode 66 – Tear Down Your Hopes and Dreams [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 26 minutes

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

Murf writes for The Falcoholic, Roll Bama Roll and can be found on twitter: @MurfBaldwin.

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

Takeaways from 2014 NFL Draft – May 12, 2014

May 12th, 2014 1 comment
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Falcons 2014 Top Selection: Jake Matthews

Normally I write my weekly takeaways column on Sunday afternoon or evening with the intention of it being posted first thing Monday morning around 8:00 a.m. This week, that was no the case.

That’s partly to blame for the fact that it was Mother Day’s weekend, and instead of doing all the things I normally would have done on a Sunday afternoon/evening to get this weekly column posted, I decided to spend time with my mother, who had driven four hors from Virginia to North Carolina to witness my sister-in-law’s graduation from grad school. In the interest of being a good son, my mother took precedent over this column.

Secondly, I had not watched all of the Atlanta Falcons 2014 draft picks play yet. And the column after the draft is the one devoted to my thoughts on whether I believe the Falcons’ draft was a good one or not.

Because unlike most people, I try to be informed before giving my opinions. If you want to know my take on any of the Falcons undrafted free agents, I don’t have one because I haven’t seen any of them play. Until I do, which will be in the first preseason game, my opinion on them will remain largely non-existent.

I was born in 1983, so I spent a significant portion existing in a world without the internet. That was a world where people couldn’t post their opinions, thoughts or insights with the click of a button on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or in Yahoo! News comments.

Back in those times, the only people that were given a platform to express opinions were people that had earned that right to be called experts in their give fields. There was a filter, and it was one that you had to work hard to break through.

The idea that Courtney Love could be involved in finding a missing plane in that time was laughable at best. Instead of social media, people expressed their opinions to companions and family members in their respective living rooms, kitchen dinner tables or bars.

But that age doesn’t exist anymore, and now people are free to give their opinions with no filter. Today, everything is thrown at the wall, and it’s only a matter of what sticks.

Why am I telling you this? Because one of the things I find fascinating is how everybody, including those least informed, will give their opinions on the draft. Besides watching a YouTube highlight clip and reading a bunch of online scouting reports, most people aren’t informed about most of these players with their own eyes.

It often leads to people have overly optimistic expectations about a particular draft prospect, or overly pessimistic ones. There is no longer a middle ground. And people should know that most things fall into that middle area.

I’m saying all this because I believe it will take time to see how these draft prospects develop. Patience is really the key, and while it won’t stop me from having an opinion today, I’m at least aware of the fact that what my opinion today is relatively meaningless in the big picture. That big picture will be determined by where the Falcons 2014 draft picks are three to five years from now.

What will this column will entail from this point is my best guess on where those players will be at that point. While that guess is an educated one based off informed analysis from watching these guys play a handful of collegiate games, it is still a guess nonetheless.

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Atlanta Falcons 2014 Rookie Scouting Report: Jake Matthews

May 10th, 2014 Comments off
Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

Jake Matthews

Here’s my breakdown of the Atlanta Falcons top 2014 NFL Draft selection, offensive tackle Jake Matthews.

BIO

Height: 6’5″
Weight: 308
College: Texas A&M
40 Time: 5.07 seconds (Combine)
Bench Press: 24 reps (Combine)

Matthews hails from a football-rich family with practically every male member having NFL experience for three generations. Grandfather Clay Matthews Sr. played defensive lineman for the San Francisco 49ers (1950-55). His father, Bruce, played offensive line for Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans from 1983-2001 and was inducted into Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007. His uncle, Clay Matthews Jr., played linebacker for Cleveland Browns (1978-93) and Falcons (1994-96). Brother, Kevin played center for Titans from 2010-13. Cousin, Clay III, plays linebacker with Green Bay Packers since 2009. Cousin, Casey, plays linebacker for Philadelphia Eagles since 2011. Has a younger brother, Mike, that is currently at Texas A&M.

Matthews is a three-year starter that spent the beginning of his career playing right tackle before moving to left tackle as a senior. He started the final seven games of his true freshman year at right tackle, playing opposite 2013 first-round pick Luke Joeckel. Started every game as a sophomore and junior at right tackle (26 total). Moved to left side upon Joeckel’s departure in 2013, and started 13 games there. He earned All-SEC honors as a junior and senior, and was an honorable mention candidate for All-Big 12 as a sophomore. He was a finalist for the Outland Trophy as a senior, and won the Bobby Bowden Award that same year. That award honors players for their high performance on the field, in the classroom and community.

Full name is Jacob Matthews, and was born on February 11, 1992. He attended Elkins High in Missouri City, Texas.

2013 GAMES WATCHED

Date
Opponent
2nd Lev
Pull
Cut
Screen
Key Blk
Miss Blk
Sack
Hit
Press
Pen
Pen Type
Sep-14Alabama2/31/12/20/0100120N/A
Sep-28at Arkansas5/90/01/10/0210011holding
Oct-12at Ole Miss1/10/01/10/0310021holding
Nov-23at LSU1/20/00/00/0000021ill. block
Nov-30at Missouri5/100/03/30/1010051holding
2nd Lev (second level), Pull (pulling), Cut (cut blocking) and Screen indicate how often he was able to hit his blocking assignments in those situations.

 

SKILLS
The grading system is based on a 10-point scale: 1-pathetic, 2-poor, 3-weak, 4-below average, 5-average, 6-above average, 7-good, 8-very good, 9-excellent, 10-elite.

Strength (6.0) - Shows decent strength but certainly has the potential to get much stronger. Measuring in at 308 pounds at the Combine, that’s about seven pounds lighter than the NFL average. Could potentially add another 10-15 pounds to his frame easily, particularly to improve his upper body strength. Rarely dominates opposing players with his strength alone. He lifted 225 pounds 24 times at the Combine, which is adequate for a tackle of his caliber.
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Matthews to Play Right Tackle in 2014, Left Tackle Beyond

May 9th, 2014 Comments off

The Atlanta Falcons made Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews their top selection in the 2014 NFL Draft last night, making a significant splash to upgrade their offensive line. Matthews brings a certain pedigree to the unit that has been certainly missing over the years, being the son of NFL great Bruce Matthews, and hailing from a football family that includes three active members in the NFL and more to come.

But with the selection of Matthews comes the question of where he will play immediately. The Falcons took him with the sixth overall pick, and given the track record under Thomas Dimitroff and Mike Smith, first-round picks are expected to play and start immediately. So where will Matthews wind up? We got our answer late last night from Jay Adams of Atlanta Falcons.com:

This decision makes perfect sense. Matthews began his career at Texas A&M as a right tackle, starting his first 33 games there over the course of three years. The reason for that was largely due to the fact that across from him was Luke Joeckel, a three-time all-conference player, that ultimately was selected second overall in the 2013 NFL Draft. Once Joeckel was in the pros, Matthews made a seamless transition to the left side and started 13 games there as a senior.

A similar transition will probably be made for Matthews in Atlanta, eventually. But he’ll be penciled in right away to play right tackle over the likes of Lamar Holmes, Mike Johnson, Gabe Carimi or Ryan Schraeder.

Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

Jake Matthews

While it could be argued that Matthews could potentially represent an upgrade at left tackle over Sam Baker given the latter’s erratic play over the past six seasons, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to move Baker. Baker has played his entire career at left tackle dating back to his beginnings at USC a decade ago. When the Falcons moved him to right guard briefly in 2011, it was to disastrous results. While Baker could possibly kick over to the right tackle position, he’s a very unknown commodity there. And the Falcons don’t want to run the risk of him losing a battle to Holmes or someone else, and now have a $41 million anchor on the bench.

Frankly if for nothing else but to protect their investment, the Falcons won’t mess with Baker at left tackle in 2014. The hope will be that Baker will play at a level comparable to his performance in 2012, where he was a decent to good starter for most of the year. If that is the case and Matthews has a good rookie season at right tackle, then that would represent the best combination they could have at the tackle spots.

If Baker has a solid 2014, then he should be relatively safe for 2015. Per Over the Cap.com, Baker is set to count $7.3 million against the Falcons 2015 salary cap. If he is released, he will assume a dead money hit of $9.2 million, meaning the Falcons will take an extra $1.9 million hit on their cap if Baker is gone. If Baker is bad in 2014, then I believe the Falcons will eat that dead money and release him in order to plug Matthews in at left tackle. In that event, the Falcons would likely designate Baker a post-June 1 release, and potentially lower the amount of dead money they would have to eat in 2015. However if Baker is decent to good this season, he should be kept for 2015 with Matthews projected to take over in 2016.

2016 is really the first year in which the Falcons can cut Baker and not take a major cap penalty, as his release that offseason before June 2 could net them about $1.65 million in cap savings. So essentially Baker is playing for his job beyond this year.

That should give Matthews at least a year or two to acclimate himself to the NFL as a right tackle. Such a transition from right to left tackle is relatively common in the NFL. It’s expected that Joeckel will make that transition this year in Jacksonville. The Falcons did it in the past with Bob Whitfield manning the right tackle position for three seasons before taking over for long-time Falcon great Mike Kenn at left tackle. Jammal Brown, Michael Roos, Jordan Gross and Joe Staley are all recent examples of players that began at right tackle and made the eventual switch to the left side. If Matthews follows a similar career path as some of those players, the Falcons will extremely happy with this pick.

Categories: Features Tags: , ,

Falcons Select Jake Matthews at Top of 2014 NFL Draft

May 8th, 2014 Comments off
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Jake Matthews stands with Commissioner Roger Goodell at the 2014 NFL Draft

The Atlanta Falcons selected Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews with their first-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. He was selected with the sixth overall pick and will be an immediate upgrade to the team’s offensive line and pass protection.

Matthews has strong NFL bloodlines, as his father Bruce is a Hall of Famer tackle that played 19 years with the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans. His cousins, Clay III and Casey currently play linebacker for the Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles, respectively. His older brother Kevin is currently a free agent center and played for the Titans from 2010-12. His uncle, Clay Matthews Jr., played linebacker for three years with the Falcons from 1994-96 after a long career with the Cleveland Browns.

Matthews was a four-year starter at A&M, playing right tackle before kicking over to the left side as a senior to replace Luke Joeckel, who was selected by the Jacksonville Jaguars with the second overall pick last season. Matthews started his last 46 games at A&M, 13 at left tackle and 33 at right tackle. He earned All-SEC honors both as a senior and junior and All-American honors as a senior. He was also named a team captain his final year in College Station.

At the Combine, Matthews measured 6’5″ 308 pounds with a 5.07-second 40-yard dash, 24 bench reps of 225 pounds, 30.5-inch vertical jump, and a 7.34-second three-cone drill.

Matthews was one of several prospects that visited the Falcons during a busy week in April.

 

Categories: Draft Central, News Tags: ,

Takeaways from Last Week – May 5, 2014

May 5th, 2014 Comments off
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Clowney, Clowney, Clowney, Clowney

Only a few more days until the 2014 NFL Draft and the wait is agonizing.

The draft was moved back two weeks this year due to the fact that Radio City Music Hall, the draft’s permanent home since 2006, was hosting an Easter celebration the weekend that the draft normally happens. That show was subsequently cancelled.

But I heard a year ago on Rich Eisen’s podcast that a May draft has always been the goal of the NFL because it will better mesh with sweeps weeks to bolster ratings and subsequently advertising dollars.

Will the draft move back to late April next year? Who knows? The fact that the league is mulling over expanding the draft to four days from three indicates that fan feedback isn’t what is driving their decision making. Almost no one likes the extra two weeks of waiting and the idea of a four-day format just sounds exhausting.

The three-day format is already long enough. While the opening night is exciting, any fervor is dramatically reduced by the time the third day rolls around and you’re about a round or two into the draft.

Adding another day would be akin to pulling teeth by the time the seventh round rolls around on either Saturday or Sunday.

But again, feedback isn’t driving the bus. Fans and media personalities can moan and decry a four-day May draft, but it’s not going to stop them from watching. It’s certainly not going to stop me.

I can’t remember the last time I did not watch the entirety of the draft from start to finish. I just can’t get enough of it.

This year will probably be the first time in many years where I won’t thanks to my sister-in-law graduating from grad school this Saturday. That will consume much of my afternoon. But if I had a choice about supporting her or just mindlessly watching as players I’ve never heard of get drafted in the fifth round on Saturday, I’d choose the latter.

Ultimately, until fans are willing to turn off their television sets when it comes to the draft, there is going to be no incentive for the league itself to not keeping going down this path. Eventually, the draft could be in June and last a full seven days, one per round, and it would still likely be the highest-rated television event for that week.

But I can’t wait for Thursday and Friday night this week as the 2014 NFL Draft will finally be upon us. I’ve gotten fatigue in writing about what the Falcons will do week after week, and most of it involving the decision to trade up for South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.

Will the best defensive prospect in years wind up a Falcon? That has been the big question of the offseason, and it seems that everything they’ve done so far will be easily eclipsed if the answer is yes.

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Categories: Features Tags: , , , ,

Falcons Line Up Draft Visits This Week

April 21st, 2014 Comments off

As reported yesterday, the Atlanta Falcons are set to have a busy week where they will have a large number of 2014 draft prospects in and out of team facilities to conduct visits.

Previous reports indicated that outside linebackers Anthony Barr (UCLA) and Khalil Mack (Buffalo), defensive ends Jadeveon Clowney (South Carolina) and Dee Ford (Auburn), wide receiver Jarvis Landry (LSU), offensive tackles Jake Matthews (Texas A&M) and Greg Robinson (Auburn) and running back Terrance West (Towson) are scheduled to visit the team.

One more name can be added to that list, as Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert tweeted this morning that he will making a visit to Atlanta later in the week.

https://twitter.com/JGil_4/statuses/458086613050851328

Some of the dates are known for when several of the prospects will visit the team. Ford will be the first to arrive today and stay through tomorrow. He will be joined by his Auburn teammate Robinson and Barr on Tuesday. On Wednesday Clowney, Mack and West will work out for the team. Exact dates for Matthews and Landry’s visits are not known yet. It’s very likely that Gilbert’s visit won’t be until the end of the week.

There is other news involving these prospects, as Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun reports that a notable contingent of the Falcons’ top brass were in the Baltimore area on Sunday to conduct a private workout of West at Towson University. Per Wilson, head coach Mike Smith, general manager Thomas Dimitroff, assistant GM Scott Pioli, and player personnel director Lionel Vital were all on hand to see West.

Takeaways from Last Week – April 21, 2014

April 21st, 2014 2 comments
Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Khalil Mack could be a trade target for Falcons

As indicated last week, looming questions surround the Atlanta Falcons and their potential to make a trade in this year’s draft. Most of those questions center around the team’s rumored desire to move up at the top of the first round. But there is also a good possibility that the Falcons decide to maneuver later in the draft.

The Falcons currently hold the sixth and 37th overall picks in the first two rounds of the draft. Frankly, I would be very surprised if we’re looking back on the first two days of the draft come May 10 and see that they retained both of those picks. It seems probable that the Falcons could move out of one or both spots.

First, let’s once again discuss the Falcons draft-day trade scenarios with the former pick in the first round.

The Falcons need a pass-rusher to try improve the league’s worst third-down defense and marginally better pass rush. It would be ludicrous to think the team does not believe that the most pressing need is adding someone that can line up at either outside linebacker or defensive end and put heat on the quarterback.

Much of the speculation centers on the team’s possible desire to move up for South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. And I think those rumors have legs. Clowney is clearly the best pass-rusher in this class and from a historical standpoint, matches up with anybody that has come out over the past decade or more. That is an intriguing option for the Falcons, and one that will require careful consideration when we get to the opening night of the draft on May 8.

But the more I think about it, the more I’m starting to believe that trading up for Clowney is unlikely. It’s a definite possibility, but in the end I think it’s going to come down to price tag. If the Falcons can jump up from the sixth overall selection into the top 3 picks of the draft without giving up an arm and a leg, then it’s worthwhile. Last week, I outlined a trade that had the Falcons giving up this year’s first, second and fourth-round picks, along with possibly a second-round pick next year to move up to get Clowney. Whether that meets the definition of an “arm and leg” is up for interpretation, but it’s certainly at least an arm.

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Falcons Pro Day Round-Up 4/20

April 20th, 2014 Comments off

This past week was a big one for the Falcons as they conducted their local pro day where draft prospects from Georgia high schools and colleges got a chance to showcase their stuff in front of the team on Tuesday, April 15.

We originally reported a number of players that were expected to show up, but in the days since there have been more reports about the prospects that were available. Georgia State sent three prospects, the previously reported defensive linemen along with offensive lineman Ulrick John. Clemson cornerback Darius Robinson was another player that himself tweeted he was there. Shane DePasquale of NFL Draft Diamonds reports that Southern Illinois linebacker Bryan Presume was among the prospects.

A pair of Valdosta State wide receivers in Regginald Lewis and Seantavius Jones were reportedly there to work out.

D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC reports that other players were there including:

  • Running Back Ryan Boykin, Ohio
  • Outside linebacker Clifton Crews, South Alabama
  • Wide receiver Ryan Culbreath, Furman
  • Safety Kenny Ladler, Vanderbilt
  • Safety Kimario McFadden, South Carolina State
  • Tight End Evan Wilson, Illinois
  • Safety Greg Worthy, Furman

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What if Falcons Focused on Offense in 2014 Draft?

April 17th, 2014 1 comment

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Greg Robinson (73) and Tre Mason could form the cornerstones of the Falcons 2014 draft class

What if the Atlanta Falcons decided to devote the bulk of their early-round 2014 NFL Draft picks to improving and solidifying the offense rather than the defense?

I should have prefaced that question by stating this is more of a thought exercise than any sort of formal proposal.

But one reason why the Falcons might decide to focus on offense because relative to the defense, it seems a lot closer to being elite.

The Falcons defense needs help at all three levels. While the pass rush is the most glaring issue on that side of the ball, the team also needs to shore up depth at several positions including linebacker and safety. And it’s not as if one pass-rusher is going fix the area, as any top-level pass rush has multiple playmakers that can consistently get pressure on the quarterback.

On offense the Falcons already made a big improvement to their offensive line by signing guard Jon Asamoah in free agency. They also added speedster Devin Hester to help at wide receiver and on special teams. But they could use more help.

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