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Posts Tagged ‘McClure’

Takeaways from Last Week – August 26

August 26th, 2013 Comments off
Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Could Lamar Holmes make or break the Falcons Super Bowl chances?

The big story from the weekend is the fact that the Falcons offensive line looked very suspect against the Titans on Saturday.

In fact, calling their performance suspect is about as nice as I can be. They got whooped. And if I could travel back in time and run into myself from a year ago and told him about their efforts against the Titans, my past self would tell the future self, “No duh.”

Frankly, the Falcons front five got whooped quite a bit in 2012. And by quite a bit, I mean that I can count on one hand how many games where they could be considered the victors of the battle in the trenches. And if their performance against the Titans is any indicator, that will not change in 2013.

It’s no small wonder. The Falcons replaced long-time fixtures at center and right tackle in Todd McClure and Tyson Clabo. They are still in a plug and play mode at right guard with Garrett Reynolds, in the hopes that third time is a charm with Reynolds as far as his production goes. If I ran into my past self, he’d call me naive if not downright stupid for thinking there would be significant improvement up front considering what the Falcons did this past off-season.

The offensive line certainly is going to be a work in progress. And in truth it may be several years before things get fixed up front.

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McClure set to retire

March 13th, 2013 Comments off
Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE

Todd McClure

Long-time Falcons center Todd McClure is set to retire on Thursday per an AJC report, following a tweet from former Falcon receiver Brian Finneran yesterday of McClure’s intention. McClure will hold a press conference and file his retirement papers according to the AJC.

McClure is the longest-tenured Falcon currently on the team, first joining the team as a seventh round draft pick in 1999. He would miss his rookie season with an injury, going down with an ACL tear on the opening day of training camp. But he would return and land the starting center job midway through his second season and never relinquish it. Over the course of the next 13 seasons, he would log 195 starts, missing only 4 starts from 2001-12. Before missing time at the start of the 2011 season, McClure had made 144 consecutive starts without missing a game. His 198 total appearances are fourth most in team history, and his 195 starts are the third-highest.

Consistently undersized as far as NFL centers go, McClure learned to be effective with leverage and intelligence. He anchored offensive lines that for three consecutive seasons (2004-06) finished atop the league in rushing yards, and ranked fourth in 2002. During the time when the Falcons were quarterbacked by Michael Vick, McClure routinely called out the team’s protections. That intelligence and experience helped a young Matt Ryan, who has since become the 9th-least sacked quarterback in NFL history.

The Falcons will likely employ a competition between Peter Konz and Joe Hawley at center to replace him in 2013. Hawley started three games in 2011 as a replacement for McClure.

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Falcons Needs: Interior Offensive Line

February 5th, 2013 Comments off

The interior of the Falcons offensive line could definitely use an upgrade, but it’s possible that the Falcons may opt not to invest significantly at this position.

Center Todd McClure and guard Garrett Reynolds are the team’s lone free agents at the position. While McClure seems set to try and play one more year in the NFL, it remains to be seen if that place is Atlanta. The Falcons have invested draft picks in both Joe Hawley and Peter Konz for a reason, with the intent of succeeding McClure. Given that 2013 will be the final year of Hawley’s contract, it seems that now is the time to determine whether or not he is going to stick long-term in Atlanta.

Because the team may want to give Hawley an opportunity to start at center and earn a long-term contract a year from now, it may mean that Peter Konz will return to start at right guard next year. The Falcons will have to determine whether they consider Konz a better candidate at that position versus a free agent or draft pick. Konz struggled throughout much of the 2012 season but played relatively well in the playoffs, potentially giving the team some hope that he could make significant improvement next year. If that proves to be the case, then the Falcons will likely only be looking for a backup to bolster depth and to compete in camp as opposed to a starter that will supplant Konz.

But if the Falcons do decide to sign/draft someone to be the starter, it will then likely move Konz to center so that he and Hawley compete for that vacant position.

The Falcons will need to decide what to do with Garrett Reynolds. While Reynolds was a serviceable starter this year before he was injured, he has not played well enough to stick in the starting lineup, and thus will likely be viewed as a backup going forward. If he’s willing to stay in Atlanta for the modest price of a reserve then he should be back. If not, then it will mean the team will probably add a veteran or draft pick to replace him. While youngsters like Phillipkeith Manley, Jacques McClendon, and Harland Gunn will be expected to compete for reserve roles next year, it would be a tall order to ask any of them to be a play away from being the Falcons starter at right guard, especially considering how much turnover has been there recently. Only once in the last four years did the opening day starter at right guard end the year in that same position. It’s possible the Falcons could move Mike Johnson back to guard, but that may be dependent on what moves if any the Falcons make at the tackle position. If Sam Baker is re-signed, it increases the chances that Johnson could be competing for a starting guard spot next year. If not, then the Falcons may need him more as a depth option at tackle than they do at guard.

Justin Blalock is coming off a subpar season at left guard, but due to the big contract the team gave him in 2011, he’s not going anywhere.

Falcons FA Focus: Running Back

January 31st, 2013 Comments off
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

DeAngelo Williams

As noted when discussing the Falcons needs at the running back position, it is likely that the team will opt to go for a young back in the draft rather than free agency. If the Falcons are looking for a guy that can fill the mantle as the team’s feature back and sustain the team’s ground attack with a heavy workload, there will be better options come April in the draft than in the free agent market in March. But if the Falcons prefer someone that can split reps with Rodgers and Snelling to form more of a three-man committee system, they should have plenty of options in free agency.

The biggest names to hit the free agent market will likely be Steven Jackson (Rams) and Reggie Bush (Dolphins). Jackson is fast approaching the end of his career, as retirement talk has been broached. Jackson still has a bit left in the tank, but similar to the likely departing Michael Turner, he is a shell of the runner he once was. The value that Jackson brings is that he’s a veteran that is comfortable in the passing game, and still has retained some quickness and burst, certainly more than Turner. He would represent an upgrade, but not a significant one. The other downside of signing Jackson is the likelihood it’s probably only a one-year stopgap which would mean the Falcons would need to hope that Jacquizz Rodgers emerges as a viable lead back candidate in 2013 or be right back searching for someone else come 2014.

Bush is a big name due to his former high draft status and high profile in New Orleans for years, not particularly because he’s a blessed runner. Bush still has excellent quickness and speed to make the big plays. But in two years in Miami, he proved that he is not quite capable of being a lead back, and should return to the duties he held in New Orleans which was primarily a situational runner that provides value in the passing game. Besides his home-run potential, Bush at this point in his career doesn’t bring much more to the table than Rodgers.

Another free agent is Pittsburgh’s Rashard Mendenhall. But Mendenhall’s injury history, off-field issues, character, coupled with limited value in the passing game likely will keep him firmly off Atlanta’s radar.

Restricted free agent Chris Ivory (Saints) could draw attention. He’ll likely receive a second-round tender from the Saints, which may be a steep price to pay for him. Ivory has similar tools as Jason Snelling, except his superior footwork, balance, and burst probably make him a better candidate to be a lead back. But he’s limited in the passing game, which is the main reason why he has yet to flourish in New Orleans despite being consistently productive whenever he does get reps. While Ivory has some upside due to his youth, giving the division rival Saints a second round pick for his services seems too high especially given the fact that the Falcons could use that pick on a more well-rounded player in the draft.

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Categories: Features Tags: , , ,

Moneyball 2012 – Week 20 Review

January 24th, 2013 Comments off

The Falcons offense got off to a roaring start, making the 49ers defense look silly. Frankly, the 49ers never really stopped them. Nearly all of the Falcons shortcomings and failures on offense were self-inflicted wounds.

They just didn’t take advantage of their opportunities in the second half, turning the ball over twice in 49er territory after driving down the field and were likely going to get some points.

Matt Ryan played very well. Besides his fumble on the botched snap, there is really no room to complain. He earned $19 of his total earnings in the first half. His interception was due to Roddy slipping, not because of a poor throw or read. Julio Jones went off in this game, and it’s interesting because you could tell that Jones was a little shaken up on the second series. He still managed to catch 7 more passes for 109 yards and another touchdown after his injury. The 49ers really did not have an answer for the Falcons weapons.

The offensive line did a good job protecting Ryan. Aldon Smith was able to beat Baker a couple of times, but giving up just 1 pressure and 1 hurry represents a solid performance for Baker. Their run blocking was a little mixed, but mostly it was solid relative to their performances for much of the year. I thought McClure had a good game, and if it’s his final game as a Falcon and it probably will be, then I’m glad he went out well.

Overall, a very good offensive performance from the Falcons despite the fact that they were shut out in the second half.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Matt Ryan$24$0$0$0$0-$1$23.00
Julio Jones$0$0$15$0$0$0$15.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$6$0.5$0$0$6.50
Roddy White$0$0$6$0$0$0$6.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$5-$1$0$1$0$5.00
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0$4$0$0$4.00
Michael Turner$0$4$0$0$0$0$4.00
Todd McClure$0$0$0$3$0$0$3.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Harry Douglas$0$0$2$0$0$0$2.00
Peter Konz$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Jason Snelling$0$2$0$0$0$0$2.00
Mike Cox$0$0$0$0.5$0$0$0.50
Sam Baker$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00

Defensively, the Falcons did not play well. They looked very good in the first quarter, but after that they really did nothing to stop the 49ers offense. You could see the disparity between a really dominant run blocking line for the 49ers and the Falcons own offensive line. Up front, our D-linemen were getting pushed around quite a bit, and guys were able to get downfield with ease and get after all three linebackers.

There were really no standout performances. I thought Babineaux had a decent game, and Corey Peters also did some very good things early on. Besides that, I can’t say anybody else had a good game. Biermann and Abraham were invisible for the most part. Linebackers had a tough day. Both Dent and Spoon struggled all game taking on and getting off blocks. Many of Nicholas troubles came in coverage, and he may have had his worst game as a Falcon.

Vernon Davis ran amok through the Falcons secondary, and continued to the Falcons problems covering tight ends. Well at least they were consistent right? But they weren’t faring much better against Crabtree and Moss. It did seem like the Falcons blew some coverages because they were overly concerned with the read-option, focusing on Kaepernick and losing sight of their assignments in coverage and against the run.

Overall, no pressure and poor run defense is not a good recipe for success.

PLAYER
DEF
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Matt Bosher$0$3$0$3.00
William Moore$1$0$0$1.00
Corey Peters$1$0$0$1.00
Vance Walker$1$0$0$1.00
Matt Bryant$0$1$0$1.00
Kroy Biermann$0$0$0$0.00
Thomas DeCoud$0$0$0$0.00
Akeem Dent$0$0$0$0.00
Dunta Robinson$0$0$0$0.00
Asante Samuel$0$0$0$0.00
John Abraham-$1$0$0-$1.00
Robert McClain-$1$0$0-$1.00
Sean Weatherspoon-$1$0$0-$1.00
Jonathan Babineaux-$2$0$0-$2.00
Cliff Matthews-$1$0-$2-$3.00
Stephen Nicholas-$4$0-$2-$6.00

Advanced Stats from Week 20:

Poor Throws (3): Ryan
Drops (1): Rodgers
Key Blocks (4): Clabo (2), McClure (1), Cox (0.5), Gonzalez (0.5)
Sacks Allowed (0)
Missed Blocks (1): Baker
Pressures Allowed (1): Baker

Tackles For Loss (2): Dent, Walker
QB Sacks (1): Peters
QB Pressures (0)
QB Hits (0)
Passes Defended (3): DeCoud, Moore, Peters
Blown Coverages (7): Nicholas (2), DeCoud (1), McClain (1), Moore (1), Robinson (1), Weatherspoon (1)
Missed Tackles (3): Babineaux, DeCoud, Nicholas
Key Blocked (5): Abraham, Dent, Matthews, Nicholas, Peters

Offensive Line to Face Scrutiny vs. 49ers

January 19th, 2013 Comments off
Christopher Hanewinckel-US PRESSWIRE

The lights will be upon Sam Baker Sunday.

One of the big question marks about Sunday’s matchup against the San Francisco 49ers is the Falcons offensive line. A year ago, they got dominated in an embarrassing playoff loss to the New York Giants. That led to the dismissal of offensive line coach Paul Boudreau, who was replaced by former Fresno State head coach Pat Hill. After such an embarrassing finish, one expected a major shakeup to the offensive line in the off-season. The Falcons did use their two top picks on offensive linemen, drafting Peter Konz and Lamar Holmes in the second and third rounds. Also, one of their few moves in free agency was to pick up a veteran in Vince Manuwai. But by the time the 2012 season began, Manuwai had been bounced and the position battles involving Konz and Holmes resolved with incumbents Garrett Reynolds and Sam Baker, respectively, retaining their jobs. The Falcons started the same five in 2012 that finished 2011 poorly. It was an interesting statement by the team, suggesting that the major issue up front wasn’t a lack of talent, but an issue of coaching.

And now the Falcons are on the verge to face their biggest challenge of the season, the vaunted 49ers front seven. It was a dominant unit in 2011, and spearheaded their run to the NFC Championship behind Pro Bowl seasons from Justin Smith and Patrick Willis. That group’s reputation and continued production led to Aldon Smith and Navorro Bowman sharing those same honors this season. If the Falcons have their way, all four players will be appearing in next Sunday’s Pro Bowl. But that will likely require the offensive line to do their job this Sunday afternoon.

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Categories: Features Tags: , , , ,

Moneyball 2012 – Week 13 Review

December 4th, 2012 1 comment

This was a very bad game for the offense as the passing game never got into sync. The Falcons went nearly the full game without converting a third down and the lack of big plays was stark. I don’t think Ryan played poorly, but he certainly did not play well. He looked rattled early, as the Saints were effective pressuring him early. It caused him to be off on some throws and reads. Towards the latter part of the game, he seemed less willing to sling it downfield, and was going more for the easy completions in an effort to keep the offense on schedule. They attempted to take some shots early in the game, but they failed. Obviously when this offense is settling on 6 or 7-yard completions on a lot of dumpoffs to the running backs, then it is not potent at all.

The running game started strong, and one criticism could be that the team abandoned it during the middle portion of the game where the offense was struggling to move the ball. I don’t really adhere to that criticism. Everyone knows this team offensively is carried by its passing attack. The running game was on point against the Saints, but I don’t think you could believe it would be sustainable throughout the night.

One thing I did notice in terms of the backs was that I think Rodgers could be more potent with Mike Cox blocking for him. Cox has been an upgrade at the fullback position in recent weeks. And while he’s no Ovie, he’s at least competent to good for the most part. Traditionally, the Falcons like to use Cox in conjunction a lot with Turner, but I think Rodgers might be a better match. Turner’s late fumble was partially his fault for fighting for yards, but also it did seem that the refs were fairly lethargic on blowing the whistle for forward progress. But in the end, you still have to secure the football, which Turner did not, and ultimately the blame still falls squarely on him. After recent games, it’s going to be hard for Turner to earn the trust back of the coaching staff in order to finish games. While Turner was superior to Quizz in the early going, it does seem that the Falcons offense seems more effective with Quizz as the closer.

Up front, the line blocked well earning most of their key blocks in the early going. Konz was the weakest of the front, as he along with McClure, Blalock, and Baker all had their troubles blocking Sedrick Ellis. By my count, Ellis had a pressure (vs. McClure), 2 hits (1 vs. Baker, 1 vs. Konz), and a hurry (split by Baker & Blalock). McClure had his ups and downs, missing a couple of blocks (one of which was on a screen), giving up pressure to Ellis and Hicks up the middle. But he also made some very nice blocks in this game, so it also balances out. Clabo had a good game, as it seems like this is the first game in forever that he didn’t give up a pressure/hurry once. But overall, I think the line has been showing some improvement in recent weeks. It’s about time…

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Michael Turner$0$9$0$0$0-$2$7.00
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0$5$0$0$5.00
Sam Baker$0$0$0$4$0$0$4.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$4$0$0$4.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$3$0$0$0$0$3.00
Todd MCClure$0$0$0$3$0-$1$2.00
Mike Cox$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Julio Jones$0$0$2$0$0$0$2.00
Matt Ryan$2$0$0$0$0$0$2.00
Jason Snelling$0$0$2$0$0$0$2.00
Antone Smith$0$0$0$0$1$0$1.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$3-$2$0-$1$0.00
Roddy White$0$0-$1$0$0$0-$1.00
Peter Konz$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00

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Moneyball 2012 – Week 11 Review

November 21st, 2012 Comments off

An underwhelming performance for the offense. Granted, the Arizona Cardinals feature probably the best defense the Falcons will see all year long, and the fact that Julio Jones was not healthy all contribute to the poor performance. But the Falcons still managed to have opportunities in this game that they did not take advantage of.

I have to give the line some credit, as pressure was not a major issue in this game. Blalock had a few key blocks, and Turner had some nice runs, showing good power at times. By league standards, it was a mediocre game for the Falcons running the ball. But considering the struggles the Falcons have had this year, it was a good day by their standards. That’s how far things have fallen with the Falcons ground attack over the years.

As for Ryan’s interceptions, at least two came on instances where the Cardinals were able to blitz and get a free rusher to Ryan. I don’t really think you can blame the line for that, since that tends to be under the jurisdiction of the QB to make the proper adjustments. Other than a handful of bad throws, I thought Ryan played well otherwise.

Give the Cards some credit, they covered Gonzalez well. There were times where Ryan was looking for him and he was covered. Jones clearly was hurt and lacked explosion in his cuts. Douglas stepped up in the fourth quarter and made a number of big catches to help this team pull out the victory.

It also looked like McClure’s injury bothered him as he had a bad series on the opening drive of the third quarter (he was injured on the penultimate drive in the second quarter). I don’t know what that will mean for future games, but it certainly tells me that the injury was more severe than probably initially thought when he just managed to miss a single snap.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Michael Turner$0$9-$1$0$0$0$8.00
Roddy White$0$0$5$0$0-$1$4.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$4$0$0$4.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$1$3$0$0-$1$3.00
Harry Douglas$0$1$3$0$0-$1$3.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$3$0$0$0$3.00
Matt Ryan$3$0$0$0$0$0$3.00
Jason Snelling$0$0$3$0$0-$2$1.00
Mike Cox$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Julio Jones$0$0$1$0$0$0$1.00
Peter Konz$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Sam Baker$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Todd McClure$0$0$0$0$0-$1-$1.00

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Palmer and Smith to miss Raider game

October 12th, 2012 Comments off

Today, the Falcons announced their injury report for this weekend’s home game against the Oakland Raiders. Tight end Michael Palmer (shoulder) and running back Antone Smith (hamstring) were both declared out for the game, as neither player practiced this week. Palmer will miss his third consecutive game after suffering his shoulder injury in the first quarter of the team’s Week 3 win over the San Diego Chargers. Smith missed two games due to his hamstring injury in Weeks 3 and 4, but returned to practice last week and suited up for the Week 5 matchup against the Redskins. But he reaggravated the injury and will also miss his third game of the 2012 season due to injury.

Also on the injury report were defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux (groin) and linebacker Stephen Nicholas (ankle) as questionable. Babineaux was limited in all practices this week. Nicholas was limited in Thursday and Friday practices after missing Wednesday. Nicholas suffered his injury late against the Redskins last weekend. He was replaced by Mike Peterson in the lineup. However middle linebacker Akeem Dent took over his role in the team’s nickel defense. If Babineaux does not suit up or has his role reduced, it will likely result in Vance Walker getting a start and/or Travian Robertson seeing increased reps. Robertson has been active for every game thus far this season, but has only garnered playing time late in the team’s Week 3 blowout of the Chargers.

Players that appeared on the injury report but were listed as probable for the Raider game include: wide receivers Kevin Cone (knee) and D.J. Davis (knee); defensive tackle Peria Jerry (thigh), center Todd McClure (pectoral), safety William Moore (hip), guard Garrett Reynolds (back), and cornerback Dunta Robinson (shoulder). All seven players fully participated in Friday’s practice. Cone, Davis, and Robinson also were full participants on Thursday.

Falcons Announce Week 5 Injury Report

October 5th, 2012 Comments off

The Falcons announced their injury report for this weekend’s upcoming game against the Washington Redskins. Tight end Michael Palmer will miss his second consecutive game with a shoulder injury, as he was listed as out. Center Todd McClure, safety William Moore, and fullback Lousaka Polite were all listed as questionable. Both McClure and Moore were limited in practice all week long with pectroal and hip injuries, respectively. Polite missed both Wednesday and Thursday practices with a hamstring injury, but was upgraded on Friday and participated on a limited basis.

Also on the Falcons injury report were defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux (groin), wide receiver Julio Jones (hand), linebacker Stephen Nicholas (thigh), cornerback Chris Owens (concussion), and running back Antone Smith (hamstring), all listed as probable. All five players were full go in Friday’s practice. Babineaux and Smith were limited on both Wednesday and Thursday, while Nicholas and Owens were only limited in Wednesday’s practice.

For the Redskins, safety Brandon Meriweather (knee) and cornerback Cedric Griffin (hamstring) are out this Sunday. Running back Evan Royster (knee) is questionable. Wide receiver Pierre Garcon (foot), tackle Trent Williams (knee), returner Brandon Banks (hip), and cornerback DeAngelo Hall (flu) were listed as probable.