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Posts Tagged ‘Mularkey’

Falcons Need Periphery More Involved on Offense

October 12th, 2011 Comments off

On Sunday night, Falcon fans were treated to two things. The first was what a dynamic offense looks like in the form of the Green Bay Packers, and the other was glimpses of the same from the Falcons.

Aaron Rodgers connected with 12 different receivers over the course of Sunday Night’s game. Matt Ryan and the Falcons with 7. That’s not a low number, as 6 or 7 targets in the passing game is fairly typical at this level of competition.

The glimpses of this dynamic Falcon offense came on their first two series where they got five different receivers involved. They ran the ball as well, getting Julio Jones and Jacquizz Rodgers opportunities there along with their usual handoffs to Michael Turner. The Falcons ran the rub route for Harry Douglas to success on 3rd down, something that should be used more often. Later in the game, Eric Weems even got a reception, his first of the year. The Falcons used misdirection very effectively and it caught the Packers defense off-balance early on. After those two drives, the Falcons did very little misdirection plays and I would say non-coincidentally the offense stagnated.

The Falcons have to try and get more weapons involved on offense to make it harder for opposing defenses to defend. One of the issues that teams have to deal with when they play the Packers is that you have to defend the entire field. If you focus on Jermichael Finley or Greg Jennings, then Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Donald Driver, or James Jones are bound to hurt you. Players like John Kuhn, Tom Crabtree, D.J. Williams, and Alex Green have gotten a few touches on offense and also can become reliable outlets for Rodgers when those other more dynamic players are unavailable.

The Falcons should treat some of their lesser players similarly. Everyone knows about Tony Gonzalez, Roddy White, and Julio Jones. The Falcons made some strides Sunday night with plays designed to Jason Snelling and Harry Douglas. Jacquizz Rodgers should be more involved than he was last week because he seems to be successful nearly every time he touches the ball. But what about players like Michael Turner, Ovie Mughelli, Michael Palmer, and Eric Weems? They aren’t dynamic options, but in the same mold as Kuhn, Crabtree, Williams, and Green they can add something to the offense when those other more dynamic threats like Gonzo and Jones are covered.

One of the things that hurt the Falcons on Sunday was their inability to stay on schedule and be successful on first down. They started too many drives 2nd & 10, 2nd & 8, and 2nd & 12, which tends to force you to go to your more tried and true options to try and get into a 3rd and manageable situation. Thankfully for the Falcons, they were very successful on those 2nd & Long situations getting the ball in the hands of many of those tried and true playmakers. But it is worth noting that on a 2nd & 13, Jason Snelling got 17 on a screen pass, and Rodgers got 11 on a pitch on 2nd & 12 early on. That suggests that going to White or Gonzo is not always necessary as the Falcons did on half of their 12 second downs where they had 6 or more yards to go to the sticks. On those 6 plays to either Gonzo or White, they were successful on 50% of them. On the 6 plays that did not go to that pair, they were successful on 83%. Those 6 other plays included two runs by Turner, his two best of the night for 8 and 15 yards, a 3-yard catch by Douglas, a 16-yard slant by Jones, and the previously mentioned plays by Snelling and Rodgers.

So it does seem that looking away from Gonzalez and White on occasion has been beneficial to the offense. Pretty much every game the Falcons have played this year, half of Ryan’s pass attempts go to those two players. Which is understandable because Ryan’s rapport is strongest with them and they are the two most reliable options in any given situation. But is that making the Falcons too easy to defend is the question that needs to be asked. Mularkey and Ryan need to put in more effort to throw the ball to other players. Whether that is Jones, Rodgers, Snelling, Palmer, Weems, or Reggie Kelly really does not matter. But I’m betting that regardless of which Falcon player is on the receiving end of those passes and designed plays, it will be beneficial to the offense like it was at various times this past weekend.

Moneyball 2011 – Week 5 Review

October 11th, 2011 Comments off

My vitriol for the play-calling on both sides of the ball in this game has subsided somewhat after reviewing the game. But I’m going to use this entry for Moneyball to vent a little about what I think are some of the problems that have plagued the Falcons this year, which are reasons why I think they have yet to reach their full potential on either side of the ball.

What disappoints me the most is that the Falcons did an excellent job with misdirection plays on their first two series, but pretty much stopped doing that as the game wore on and went back to a more traditional gameplan of just trying to “out-execute” the Packers defense, and it did not work. Ryan missed on a couple of throws, and the offensive line essentially could not handle that gameplan. Tyson Clabo had two drive-killing penalties on 3rd downs, Roddy White had another, Harry Douglas had a catch overturned.

Mularkey did a better job using guys like Douglas, Weems, and White to manufacture yards and stay on schedule in early downs, replacing rushing yards. The Falcons need to continue to do this. While Turner and the ground attack was effective early in the game, in the second half it stopped because just like the Seahawks, the Packers began to stack the box and the Falcons offensive line was unable to get enough push to spring a slow back like Turner. But Mularkey needs to do more of this with screens and quick throws to receivers in the flat. Doing this 2 or 3 times a game is not going to be enough given the Falcons blocking issues.

The offensive line had a nice game, giving Ryan much more time than he’s seen most of this year, but when push came to shove there were too many instances where Ryan was pressured which led to incompletions. Sam Baker’s missed block on Desmond Bishop on 1st down in the fourth quarter was the lone sack the team allowed. But it put the Falcons in a 2nd & 21, and Ryan got too greedy on the next play trying to get it all back and his throw to Gonzo was a few inches overthrown and led to the interception that pretty much ended the game.

I don’t even know why guys like Michael Palmer and Reggie Kelly are on the team. They have contributed next to nothing to this offense. The Falcons just need to go out and sign someone like Alge Crumpler, Ben Patrick, Chris Baker to try and add something to this offense as a second tight end.

The Falcons need to get Jacquizz Rodgers more involved. His quickness can potentially be an asset because he might be able to squeeze through those smaller creases that the offensive line can create that Turner cannot.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLOCK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Michael Turner$0$10$0$0$0$0$10.00
Matt Ryan$6$0$0$0$0$0$6.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$4$0$0$0$4.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$3$0$0$3.00
Jason Snelling$0$0$3$0$0$0$3.00
Julius Jones$0$2$1$0$0-$1$2.00
Roddy White$0$0$3$0$0-$1$2.00
Garrett Reynolds$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0$3$0-$2$1.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$2$0$0$0-$1$1.00
Harry Douglas$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Joe Hawley$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Sam Baker$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00
Reggie Kelly$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00

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Why is the Falcons Offense Struggling?

September 26th, 2011 Comments off
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Ryan is sacked

Through the first three games of the 2011 season, the Falcons offense has been a disappointment. Things that the Falcons did very well in 2010, they have not done very well in 2011. Last year, the Falcons were 3rd in the league when it came to converting third downs. This year, they are currently tied for 13th. A year ago they were 2nd in the league in time of possession, this year they are 27th. They were the least penalized team in the league in 2010, and now they are the 9th most penalized team. The Falcons were last in the league in generating explosive pass plays, and now have made a minimal improvement to 27th ranked in that regards.

The Falcons seem to have only had success scoring points when they are operating in their no huddle attack. That has caused many fans to levy blame upon offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey for the team’s struggles when he’s calling plays. And rightfully so, but it should not be forgotten that one of the reasons why the no huddle is so effective for the Falcons and other NFL teams is because it forces defenses to play vanilla against you. It’s much easier to execute an offense when you don’t have to worry about exotic blitzes, very basic coverages, and the defense playing on its heels and out of breath.

Of course Matt Ryan seems at his best in the no huddle. Any quarterback worth his salt should be.

But what has gone wrong in Atlanta? Are we witnessing a sluggish start for the Falcons, or is this essentially what we’re going to see the rest of the way?

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Falcons Weekly Round-Up 7/1

July 1st, 2011 Comments off

Recapping news and headlines involving the Falcons from the week of June 26…

ICON SMI

Stephen Nicholas

‘Big’ Chance Nicholas returns

The Florida Times-Union visited Falcons linebacker Stephen Nicholas at his youth football camp last weekend to discuss the possibility of what he might do this season. Nicholas is a prospective free agent. Nicholas indicated that he wants to test the market, but also said there is a “big” chance that he will return to Atlanta. The Falcons tagged Nicholas with a restricted free agent tender, which he did not sign. But if the Collective Bargaining Agreement is made before the start of the 2011 season, then Nicholas due to having four years of experience should become an unrestricted free agent. Nicholas was a regular attendee of the Falcons player-organized “Camp Exile” during the month of June. (Source: Tania Ganguli, Florida Times-Union)

Schillinger at around 85 percent

Writing up some observations from the Falcons player-organized “Camp Exile,” D. Orlando Ledbetter indicates that free safety Shann Schillinger, who is coming off a broken ankle he suffered in the penultimate game of last season is around 85 percent recovered. Schillinger indicated that he is making steady progress daily on his recovery and can participate in football-related drills, including 7-on-7 drills at Camp Exile. He appeared with a notable limp during the final practice. Schillinger is expected to have a bigger role this year on defense, as he will be tasked with replacing veteran Erik Coleman. (Source: D. Orlando Ledbetter, Atlanta-Journal Constitution)

Mularkey excited about the upcoming year

Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey was enjoying some vacationing time in Cherrokee County, North Carolina when the Andrews Journal caught up with him to discuss the upcoming season. Mularkey spoke on his desire to try and keep the Falcons offensive line intact, due to three of the team’s five starter being impending free agents.

We had five fantastic guys last season. They are a special group, and I wish we could keep them together forever. They are one of the most physical offensive lines in the league. If we don’t sign them back up, it will be disappointing … but that is just business in the NFL.

Mularkey also broached the topic of the Falcons incoming rookie class, praising wideout Julio Jones. He also expressed confidence that even without contact with the coaches, those rookies would be getting a lot of help from Matt Ryan during player-organized workouts, calling the team’s fourth-year quarterback a “coach on the field.” (Source: Robert Horne, Andrews Journal)

Falcons ‘not panicked’ about O-line

On the subject of the potential impending shakeup of the Falcons offensive line, Dan Pompei writes that the Falcons wont’ be too worried if they lose multiple starters via free agency. Offensive tackle Tyson Clabo, and guards Harvey Dahl and Justin Blalock are potential free agents. Per Pompei, the team is confident that three of the linemen they have drafted over the past three drafts: Garrett Reynolds, Mike Johnson, and Joe Hawley, can potentially fill the voids left by any of those players. Reynolds has worked primarily as a reserve at right guard behind Dahl, but played right tackle while in college, making him a possible candidate to replace Clabo. Johnson played left guard last season behind Blalock. Hawley has worked primarily as the backup center behind Todd McClure, but has also gotten reps at the guard spots as well. (Source: Dan Pompei, National Football Post)

Jackson working out on his own

Falcons took Fresno State guard Andrew Jackson in the seventh round of this year’s draft. And while he did not attend any of the team’s player-organized workouts since being drafted, or will be attending along with some of his other new teammates at the NFLPA-organized rookie symposium this week, Jackson has been keeping busy. He has been staying in shape and working out at facilities at his alma mater. He also has spent time visiting local high school football camps to talk to the kids about football. (Source: Anthony Barstow, Grass Valley Union)

Getting More Explosive on Offense: Part 1

February 17th, 2011 Comments off

There should be no doubt to anyone that the Falcons have to manage somehow to get more explosive on offense. The team ranked last in the league in terms of how many of their pass attempts resulted in 20+ yard completions, even behind the Carolina Panthers. On the opposite end of the spectrum, teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers were among the league leaders in that area on offense, so one certainly sees how it can be beneficial to an offense.

One of the issues the Falcons face however is the fact that quarterback Matt Ryan isn’t known for his arm strength. Ryan isn’t weak-armed, it’s just that in comparison to passers like Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers, there are just throws that he’s not going to be able to make on a consistent basis. Case in point is the big 58-yard bomb Roethlisberger hit Antonio Brown on in the Steelers-Ravens matchup that set up the Steelers go-ahead touchdown for the Steelers in the final minutes of that game. Not to say that Ryan is completely incapable of making that throw, it’s just unlikely those types of plays are going to be a big part of the Falcons offensive repertoire with Ryan at the helm.

So the Falcons will likely have to find other ways to create “splash” plays in the passing game without relying on the 40 and 50-yard bombs. More likely, the Falcons should probably focus on getting more vertical plays between 20 and 30 yards, which is right up Ryan’s alley as far as arm strength is concerned.

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Mularkey of interest to Titans

February 2nd, 2011 Comments off

ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reports that the Tennessee Titans have been granted permission to interview Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey for their vacant head coaching position.

Mularkey interviewed last month for the Cleveland Browns gig, and was also on the Denver Broncos’ radar before declining to interview. The Falcons have already lost quarterbacks coach Bill Musgrave to the Minnesota Vikings, and have yet to hire his replacement. Losing Mularkey to the Titans could be a huge loss for the Falcon offense.

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Mularkey set to interview with two teams

January 4th, 2011 Comments off

ESPN reports that Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey has been contacted by both the Cleveland Browns and Denver Broncos to interview for their vacant head coaching spots. Mularkey is set to interview with the Broncos on Friday and the Browns at an undisclosed time later this week as well. The Falcons are off this weekend due to a first round bye in the playoffs.

Mularkey has been the Falcons offensive coordinator the past three seasons and has been instrumental with the development of quarterback Matt Ryan. The Falcons offense ranks 5th in the league in scoring offense this year, and have two Top 10 finishes during Mularkey’s stint running the offense. He has previous experience, serving as the head coach of the Buffalo Bills from 2004-05, where he compiled a 14-18 record.

This is not the first time that Mularkey has been on other NFL teams radars since he’s been the Falcons offensive coordinator. He turned down an opportunity to interview with the Detroit Lions two years ago.

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