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Moneyball 2013 – Week 15 Review

December 17th, 2013 Comments off

After reviewing the All-22, no doubt this was an ugly win for the Atlanta Falcons over the Washington Redskins.

As I noted yesterday, the offense was fairly conservative in terms of taking deep shots down the field. It appeared that the Falcons only drew up three plays in which Matt Ryan was looking to throw the ball beyond 15 yards. I noticed how often the Falcons run plays that require the receivers to run to the sticks or a yard shy, and that’s it. There was a play-call on a 3rd-and-21 in the second quarter where it was supposed to be a clear-out for Darius Johnson. I get that with the Falcons backed up inside their 10-yard line, that Dirk Koetter didn’t want to risk Ryan taking a deep drop and increase the potential for a safety. But Johnson got no separation from David Amerson on that play and it was just a three-yard gain. That play sort of epitomizes the sort of conservative approach of the offense.

I thought Ryan did some good things, particularly in terms of his movement within the pocket to avoid pressure. There were about three times where he was able to step up in the pocket to avoid pressure and deliver a completion down the field. So much of this season I’ve watched Ryan check it down in the face of pressure, and it was nice to see him using his legs to create space and extend plays.

The only real complaint I have with Ryan in this game was his overthrow on his interception, on one of his few shots downfield at the end of the first half. I like that he was being aggressive, he just needed to make a better throw. This week will go down as one of his lower earnings of the season, but I think that had more to do with play-calling than him playing poorly.

There were problems (as usual) with the pass protection with too many breakdowns. Lamar Holmes struggled to handle Brian Orakpo, with both of his sacks allowed coming against him. Ryan Kerrigan also did good work against Ryan Schraeder on the other side with a sack and a hurry, but also was very effective when matched against our tight ends when they were blocking. I was surprised to see such a big game from defensive end Chris Baker, who got credited with a hurry (against Justin Blalock), hit (against Holmes), and pressure (against Peter Konz). He also mauled Holmes on one of the goal line runs in the second quarter where Steven Jackson got stuffed in the backfield (that was Holmes’ credited missed block). He’s a free agent after this season, so I definitely made a mental note for March.

On the bright side up front, I thought Joe Hawley had another solid game at center, and I was very impressed with Harland Gunn in his limited action on two or three series. He looked much better than Konz did at right guard. I’d say Konz probably had one of his best games of the season, but still struggled too many times. He spent a lot of time on the ground on the opening drive, and for those that don’t know, that’s not a good sign for an offensive linemen. But I’ll give Konz some credit, I think Sunday’s game was the first time he ever hit an assignment on the second level with a nice cut block on a screen pass that Jacquizz Rodgers gained 15 yards on in the third quarter.

But Gunn looked much more violent and physical, playing with better balance and footwork, and doing a better job using his hands. I really liked how quick Gunn was coming off the snap and getting to the second level. He and Hawley are two peas in the same pod, in that what they lack in power and pure strength they make up for with aggressiveness and knowing how to get position against bigger defenders. Despite not having ideal size or strength, Gunn seemed to be the only blocker that was effective at times one-on-one against Baker. That includes Blalock, who probably had his worst game of the season. He wasn’t bad by any means, but got pushed around too much in pass protection, more so than he has to date in 2013.

There isn’t much else that needs to be said about the offense. I thought Steven Jackson ran hard, and his trucking of Josh Wilson will certainly be one of the highlights of the year.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Steven Jackson$0$9-$1$0$0-$2$6.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$5$1$0$0$6.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$2$2$0$1$0$5.00
Matt Ryan$6$0$0$0$0-$2$4.00
Harry Douglas$0$0$3$0$0$0$3.00
Joe Hawley$0$0$0$3$0$0$3.00
Roddy White$0$0$2$1$0-$1$2.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Peter Konz$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Darius Johnson$0$0$1$0$1$0$2.00
Jason Snelling$0$0$0$0$1$0$1.00
Harland Gunn$0$0$0$0.5$0$0$0.50
Levine Toilolo$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00
Ryan Schraeder$0$0$0-$0.5$0-$1-$1.50
Lamar Holmes$0$0$0-$2$0-$3-$5.00

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Pudge’s Picks – Week 15

December 15th, 2013 Comments off

Thursday Night Football hasn’t been that kind to me over the past six weeks, where I’ve compiled a 1-5 record when picking against the spread. Here’s hoping that I pick Sunday’s slate of games as well as I did a week ago where I went 9-6 against the spread.

Washington Redskins (3-10) at Atlanta Falcons (3-10)
Sunday, December 15 at 1 pm ET on FOX

Line: Falcons (-6.5)

Sure, the Redskins are in disarray, but this isn’t a good matchup for the Falcons. They don’t have a pass rush, so regardless of who starts at quarterback for the Redskins (it’ll be Kirk Cousins), he’ll have plenty of time to locate his receivers. And the strength of the Redskins offense still remains Alfred Morris, and the fact that the Falcons run defense has been porous throughout this season doesn’t bode well for them. It’s a boost for the Falcons that Redskins tight end Jordan Reed looks out for this game, otherwise he was likely to have a field day against Zeke Motta, who will draw his first start of the season.

The major positive for Atlanta is that Washington might have one of the few defenses that is worse than their own. And given the more comfortable confines of the Georgia Dome, the Falcons offense should look competent if not good this week.

Spread Pick: Redskins
Straight Pick: Falcons

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Categories: Features Tags: , ,

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 51 “A Weird, Bad Team”

December 11th, 2013 Comments off

Allen and I discuss the Atlanta Falcons Week 14 loss to the Green Bay Packers, as well as preview their Week 15 matchup against the Washington Redskins. Some of the topics hit this week include: my newfound hatred for Harry Douglas, Mike Smith’s fourth down decision making, Corey Peters’ sack dance, debut of Zeke Motta, Paul Worrilow and Sean Weatherspoon’s play at linebacker, Jonathan Massaquoi’s improvement, Steven Jackson’s expendability, and Dirk Koetter’s potential departure. As usual, we discuss the rest of the league as well, including the Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, Carolina Panthers, Seattle Seahawks, and Rob Gronkowski’s injury.

Episode 51: A Weird, Bad Team [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 16 minutes

Allen writes for TJRSports.com as well as the Pro Football Spot. His twitter handle is: @Allen_Strk.

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

Moneyball 2013 – Week 14 Review

December 10th, 2013 Comments off

A very disappointing finish to a game with a promising start for the Atlanta Falcons.

The offense never really looked comfortable in the cold of Lambeau Field against the Green Bay Packers. The Falcons offense reverted back to the conservative, dinking and dunking of previous weeks (as opposed to last week’s win), and there was only one instance where the Falcons took a shot downfield before the fourth quarter. Sure, you can partially blame the cold and wind (although it wasn’t that windy) that limited how much the Falcons could let things fly, but I’ve long said that the link between this offense scoring and generating big plays is significant. And they simply didn’t have many in this game (just two before the final minute), which is why the offense really only had one successful drive. And it’s not a coincidence that both of their big plays came on that drive. It boils down to the fact that the team did not try hard enough to get those big plays.

I don’t think Matt Ryan had a great game. I saw too many throws that were off the mark, but I’ll partially blame the weather for some of that. I also didn’t like that Ryan seemed to be staring down his initial read quite a bit in this game, which was often Roddy White. White had a good game, so for the most part it didn’t hurt Ryan too much. But it did on the final play where he forced a throw to Harry Douglas, when he potentially had Darius Johnson open on the other side. Johnson was singled up in coverage, and had Ryan made a good throw on that play, it potentially could have set up a very long field goal (likely 53-55 yards) that could have won it rather than the pick.

I don’t want to sound like I’m blaming Ryan for the loss, but it was a rather nondescript performance from him. I thought he had fairly good protection. The Packers started to use more stunts at the end of the game once they realized that Peter Konz and Ryan Schraeder couldn’t handle them. It was one such stunt that disrupted the throw with 21 seconds left on the play preceding the infamous Douglas drop. I thought Schraeder handled himself relatively well since it was his most extensive playing time. The sack he gave up to Mike Neal was a result of just bad technique and footwork. I don’t see any reason why Trueblood should get his job back at this point.

Peter Konz is simply a liability at right guard. When you’re getting beat by a speed rush from B.J. Raji, it tells me you have no business playing guard. I think it’s time the Falcons gave Harland Gunn a look over these last three games.

Lamar Holmes had his share of struggles against Clay Matthews with all of his hurries coming against him. Joe Hawley had a nice block downfield on the 22-yard run by Steven Jackson, and Justin Blalock was his usual solid, but unspectacular self.

I could say some negative things about Douglas and his drop at the end of the game, but I’d just be repeating myself.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Matt Ryan$12$0$0$0$0$0$12.00
Steven Jackson$0$7-$1$0$0$0$6.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$2$4$0$0$0$6.00
Roddy White$0$0$5$1$0$0$5.00
Drew Davis$0$0$4$0$0$0$4.00
Joe Hawley$0$0$0$3$0$0$3.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$1$1$0$0$2.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Lamar Holmes$0$0$0$1$0-$1$0.00
Peter Konz$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Jeremy Trueblood$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Harry Douglas$0$0-$1$0$0$0-$1.00
Ryan Schraeder$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00

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Takeaways from Week 14

December 9th, 2013 Comments off

Gary Kubiak fired by Houston Texans

Despite solid play, Steven Jackson remains expendable

Another week gone by and another loss by the Atlanta Falcons.

I’ve grown numb to it over the course of this season, as the Falcons dropping another game to a very mediocre Green Bay Packers team on Sunday barely affected me.

After feeling some small elation a week ago following Atlanta’s win over the Buffalo Bills, it’s back to the same old bitterness of defeat this week. It’s a feeling and situation very reminiscent of past Falcon teams, especially the Mora Era teams that never could ever really seem to build sustaining momentum.

I could sit here and sound like a broken record, but I’ll continue to stress that we saw another week where the Falcons were conservative offensively with their willingness to take shots downfield, and we saw another week where the Falcons offense struggled to move the ball and score points.

It just can’t be a coincidence that the Falcons put forth one of their best offensive games of the season a week ago against the Bills in a game where Matt Ryan took more deep shots than he did in the previous three outings combined.

And this week, they revert back to that dink and dunk offense with Ryan only taking one deep shot in the first 52 minutes of the game. The Falcons offense subsequently generated just seven points up to then if you don’t count the pick-six and the gift touchdown off a turnover that required them to move only 13 yards before they reached pay dirt.

Someone might retort that the wintry conditions prevented the Falcons from being more aggressive, which I don’t quite buy. In the game between the Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steelers, with similar conditions, both teams threw the deep four times in the first 52 minutes of that game.

I just think that maybe if the Falcons had taken two or three more shots downfield, they could have completed at least one of them, and that could have helped put at least three more points on the board, making the outcome potentially different.

But enough about the timidity of the offense, let’s move onto something a bit more interesting, which is the 2014 season.

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Gonzalez Questionable But Expected to Play vs. Saints

November 21st, 2013 Comments off
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Tony Gonzalez

Yesterday, the Atlanta Falcons announced their injury report for their Thursday Night contest against NFC South Division rival, the New Orleans Saints. On it, tight end Tony Gonzalez was among several players listed as questionable with a toe injury, but according to head coach Mike Smith (via ESPN’s Vaughn McClure), he is expected to play. Gonzalez did not participate in practices on Monday and Tuesday this week, but did participate on a limited basis on Wednesday.

Also listed as questionable are defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux (tricep), quarterback Dominique Davis (knee), and safety Zeke Motta (hand). All three players were limited in all three days of practice this week. Davis suffered his injury in the fourth quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, prompting the team to work out a pair of veteran quarterbacks in Trent Edwards and Mike Kafka this week. Neither passer was signed due to the expectation that Davis will be available against the Saints. Motta has a broken finger and is expected to play with a cast according to an earlier report this week.

Listed as out on the injury report is defensive end Malliciah Goodman, who also missed last week’s game with a calf injury. He was held out of practice again this week.

Defensive tackle Peria Jerry (shoulder), running back Jacquizz Rodgers (ankle), offensive tackle Jeremy Trueblood (knee/hip), and linebacker Paul Worrilow (shoulder) were all listed as probable. All three players fully participated on Wednesday, while being limited in practice on Monday and Tuesday due to the shortened week of preparation.

Notable injuries for the Saints include guards Jahri Evans (ankle) and Ben Grubbs (neck), defensive end Akiem Hicks (back), running back Darren Sproles (knee/ankle), safety Kenny Vaccaro (concussion), and tight end Ben Watson (concussion). All six players were listed as questionable on the team’s injury report. Both Evans and Sproles were held out of Tuesday and Wednesday’s practices. Also appearing on the injury report as probable are tight end Jimmy Graham (elbow/foot), defensive end Cameron Jordan (ankle), and linebacker Curtis Lofton (hamstring/ankle). Cornerback Jabari Greer was placed on injured reserve earlier this week with a torn ACL. He is expected to be replaced in the starting lineup by second-year cornerback Corey White.

White Questionable in Week 9 vs. Panthers

November 2nd, 2013 Comments off

The Falcons announced their injury report yesterday, and wide receiver Roddy White was listed as questionable after participating on a limited basis in Friday’s practice. White has missed the past two games with a hamstring injury, and was held out of practice on Wednesday and Thursday. If White is unable to go, the Falcons will continue to start Drew Davis opposite Harry Douglas at wide receiver as they have done the past two weeks.

Also listed as questionable were offensive tackle Sam Baker (knee), safety William Moore (hip), and defensive end Osi Umenyiora (knee). All three players were limited on all three days of practice this week. Out this week will once again be Stephen Nicholas (thigh), who was held completely out of practice. If Baker is unable to go, he will be replaced by Lamar Holmes, who has started the past three games at left tackle in Baker’s absence. Moore’s backup is rookie Zeke Motta, who has had minimal reps on defense thus far this year, mostly appearing on special teams. Umenyiora’s potential absence could see the Falcons shuffle their defensive end rotation, moving Jonathan Massaquoi to right end and potentially starting Malliciah Goodman at left end.

Jason Snelling (ankle) is probable after missing Wednesday’s practice, but fully participated on Friday. Linebacker Akeem Dent (ankle), center Joe Hawley (elbow), defensive tackle Peria Jerry (toe), and guard Garrett Reynolds (knee) were all probable as well. Dent and Reynolds were both limited on Wednesday, but fully participated in Thursday and Friday’s practices. Hawley and Jerry were limited on Wednesday and Thursday, but fully participated on Friday.

For Carolina, notable players on their injury report are: linebacker Chase Blackburn (foot), who is questionable this week, along with linebacker Thomas Davis (shoulder), defensive end Charles Johnson (groin), and running back DeAngelo Williams (quad), who are all probable. Johnson and Williams were held out of practices on Wednesday and Thursday, but returned on a limited basis on Friday.

Three Key Position Battles to Watch Tonight vs. Jaguars

August 29th, 2013 Comments off

Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

Darius Johnson is poised to make a bid for the roster tonight

While the majority of the Falcons roster is fairly settled, there remain some roster spots open. And many of them come at a few key positions, where a clear-cut winner has yet to emerge. Here are three key position battles where the player who has the best performance tonight against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the Falcons preseason finale could emerge the winner, while the loser seeks employment elsewhere.

Fifth Wide Receiver: Darius Johnson vs. Kevin Cone

The Falcons top four wideouts appear locked in with Roddy White, Julio Jones, Harry Douglas, and Drew Davis atop the depth chart. The Falcons have traditionally kept five wide receivers over the years, with the fourth and fifth players primarily playing special teams.

That helps Kevin Cone, who has been effective working on punt and kickoff coverage dating back to 2012. But Cone has been disappointing thus far on offense. That’s where Darius Johnson has shined. Johnson is the opposite of Cone, in that he’s small, but very quick and explosive. He has been highly productive working with the second and third team offenses. While Cone has made some contributions there, they have been too few and far between. While Cone’s hands have shown improvement from a year ago, he has struggled to separate from coverage.

Johnson did get reps as a return man during his days at SMU, and his speed and quickness could potentially be an asset there in the event that Harry Douglas or Jacquizz Rodgers go down with injuries. But his smaller size remains an obstacle when it comes to coverage on special teams. It didn’t stop a player like Eric Weems from excelling over the years in Atlanta in that realm, but Johnson is a ways from proving himself to be another Weems.

How this final game plays out will determine who wins the job. Cone’s a much more proven commodity as far as special teams goes, while Johnson seems to possess greater offensive potential. The Falcons will ultimately have to decide which they value more. But in both players’ cases, it will help if Cone has a good night on offense, and/or Johnson can make a few plays on special teams. What helps Cone in his bid for a roster spot is that he isn’t eligible for the practice squad, while Johnson is. The Falcons would then have to decide whether they want to risk exposing Johnson to waivers. It would be iffy at best if Johnson cleared them, considering he is currently ranked tied for third in the league in receptions going into the final preseason game. That is likely to catch some receiver-needy team looking for a quick, slot-type to develop.

Another factor that could be in play might be the questionable health of Roddy White. While White is expected to suit up for the Falcons Week 1, if there are any setbacks with his recovery from an ankle injury between now and then, the Falcons could be tempted to carry six receivers on the roster for the opening week as insurance. That could ensure that both players wind up being kept.

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Roster Talk: Locks and Bubble Players

August 28th, 2013 1 comment

Back at the start of training camp, I made my projections on who would make the Falcons final roster. And frankly, I feel very good about most of them. I feel like I might be in the single digits with the number of ones where I was off on, which should work out to be only about a sixth of the roster. I’ll take that.

But on the eve of the Falcons final preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, I want to discuss which players on the roster are locks versus those that are likely on the outside looking in. I’ll break down all 75 players and put them into four categories which should determine their status for the impending Falcons final 53.

Locks

These players from the start were really in no danger to get released. While they may not have all been 100%, they were in the upper part of the 90th-percentile, and thus were more at risk to be injured than cut by the Falcons.

Among them are a few rookies, who weren’t in danger of getting released one bit such as their top four picks this past April. Their play in training camp and the preseason was to determine how much they’d play when the regular season begins, not whether the Falcons would carry them on the roster.

Quarterback: Matt Ryan
Running Backs: Steven Jackson, Jacquizz Rodgers, Jason Snelling
Wide Receivers: Roddy White, Julio Jones, Harry Douglas
Tight Ends: Tony Gonzalez, Levine Toilolo
Offensive Line: Sam Baker, Justin Blalock, Peter Konz, Lamar Holmes, Garrett Reynolds, Joe Hawley
Defensive Ends: Kroy Biermann, Osi Umenyiora, Jonathan Massaquoi, Malliciah Goodman
Defensive Tackles: Corey Peters, Jonathan Babineaux, Travian Robertson
Linebackers: Sean Weatherspoon, Akeem Dent
Cornerbacks: Asante Samuel, Robert McClain, Desmond Trufant, Robert Alford
Safeties: Thomas DeCoud, William Moore
Special Teams: Matt Bryant, Matt Bosher, Josh Harris

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Training Camp: Day 14 Report

August 12th, 2013 Comments off

Sunday represented the final practice that would be open to the public. The Falcons will break camp next weekend before proceeding on their normal schedule leading up the all-important third preseason game on August 24 against the Tennessee Titans. These are news and reports that emerged from Sunday’s practice:

  • Dominique Davis is his own worst critic, calling his interception against the Bengals on Thursday night a “dumb decision.”
  • The AJC provides Mike Smith’s thoughts following practice.
  • The Falcons elevated rookie safeties Zeke Motta and Kemal Ishmael on their depth chart. Both are listed as the third string strong and free safety respectively on the depth chart, but got work with the second unit Sunday. The second team consists of Charles Mitchell and Shann Schillinger.


  • After a day off, Daniel Cox was back at it discussing his five observations from Sunday’s practice. They include Harry Douglas’ value in the slot, the emergence of young running backs due to the injury to Antone Smith, Julio Jones’ full return to practice,and how the roster could shake out along the offensive line.