Posts Tagged ‘Nicholas’

Falcons Needs: Linebacker

February 10th, 2013 Comments off

The Falcons linebacker position had its ups and downs in 2012. First-year starter Akeem Dent was erratic in his first year as a starter. Stephen Nicholas got off to a good start, but his play petered off over the second half of the season. And Sean Weatherspoon dealt with injuries and was not the consistent impact player on the field when he was healthy that he was in 2011.

The Falcons could opt to shake up this position in the off-season, but I don’t think that will be a major goal this spring. Weatherspoon will certainly be back to anchor this position and the hope will be that in his second year under Mike Nolan, he can start to play at a higher level. Weatherspoon is a fast, rangy playmaker that is very good in pursuit against the run. But too often last year, he was forced to take on blocks due to the Falcons porous run defense and it affected his ability to make those plays.

Dent also struggled taking on blocks and defending the inside run. That was an area that was a strength while he was at Georgia. He did a much better job this year playing sideline to sideline and defending the run outside the tackle box. As he gets more comfortable and experienced with his role in the middle, there should be improvement.

Nicholas is a good, hard-nosed run defender, but his inability to cover tight ends was an issue the Falcons dealt with all year. He wasn’t alone in that regard, as Weatherspoon also blew a number of coverages against tight ends. But because of those issues, the Falcons probably will return to Nicholas being more of a two-down defender, and trying to mix Dent into the nickel subpackage. Dent has better upside there because he has better hips and flexibility to turn and run with receivers and backs.

But one can also expect the Falcons to look for outside options to help improve their coverage ability. Mike Peterson, while still a solid run defender, is a free agent and probably won’t be back. He was only brought back this past year due to the injury to Lofa Tatupu. The team is likely to look for a player in the draft and/or free agency to replace him, preferably one that can help out in the nickel.

Right now the Falcons depth here is untested with Robert James, Pat Schiller, and Matt Hansen being the only backups under contract. So adding a veteran in free agency makes sense. Someone like Peterson that can play both inside and outside, and also contribute on special teams. A rookie that might be drafted could be a player that projects to playing the strongside with the hopes that either this year or next he can push Nicholas for his starting job.

Abraham, Babineaux questionable vs. 49ers

January 19th, 2013 Comments off

The Falcons announced their injury report for this Sunday’s upcoming NFC Championship Game matchup against the San Francisco 49ers. On it, defensive end John Abraham and defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux were listed as questionable. Abraham injured his ankle in the Falcons’ season finale against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He returned last week in the Falcons’ win against the Seattle Seahawks, but re-aggravated the injury after roughly a dozen snaps and was pulled from the game. He was limited in all three days of practice this week. Babineaux was also limited all week with a shoulder injury. Babineaux played against the Seahawks last week, and had an outstanding performance in the first half, but had a fairly quiet second half.

Also on the injury report were safety William Moore (hand), linebacker Stephen Nicholas (foot), and cornerback Chris Owens (hamstring). Both Moore and Nicholas managed to practice fully all three days this week with their injuries. Owens missed last week’s game but after being limited on Wednesday and Thursday, he suited up for full participation for Friday’s practice.

Categories: News Tags: , , , , ,

Offense struggles again in loss to Panthers

December 9th, 2012 Comments off
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan is disappointed

The Falcons dropped their second game of the 2012 season with a 30-20 loss to the Carolina Panthers. The Falcons record goes to 11-2. The Falcons looked lackluster with another poor offensive effort following a 10-day layoff from their last game. They were shut out in the first half, down 16-0, the first time that’s happened to the team since 2009, and the first time it has occurred with Matt Ryan at the helm.

Matt Ryan had a lackluster performance, despite completing 34 of 49 passes for 342 yards with 2 touchdowns and an interception. On the ground, Jacquizz Rodgers led the team with 21 yards on 4 carries. Michael Turner added 7 carries for 14 yards and a touchdown. Roddy White led receivers with 9 catches for 117 yards and a touchdown. Tony Gonzalez (8 catches, 61 yards), Rodgers (6 catches, 43 yards), and Julio Jones (5 catches, 66 yards, and a TD) also were key contributors. Matt Bryant attempted no field goal tries on the day. Matt Bosher punted 4 times on the Falcons first 4 possessions for an average of 42 yards, with 1 placed inside the 20-yard line. Jacquizz Rodgers returned 2 kickoffs for 42 yards, and they returned neither of the pair of Brad Nortman punts for the Panthers. Offensively, the team struggled on 3rd down for the second week in a row, converting only 2 of 8 tries. The Falcons could not sustain drives early in the game, only possessing the ball for a total of 6 minutes in the first half.

Defensively, the Falcons could not get off the field on third downs. The Panthers wound up converting 9 of 15 third down tries and produced 475 yards of total offense, including 195 on the ground. The Falcons defense did do a good job in the redzone keeping the Panthers out of the endzone, forcing field goals on both of their redzone entries. But two big plays resulted in the Panthers two second half touchdowns, which helped put the game out of reach for the struggling Falcons offense. Stephen Nicholas led defenders with 9 tackles. Kroy Biermann (4 tackles); Thomas DeCoud (4 tackles); Akeem Dent (8 tackles); Robert McClain (8 tackles); Chris Owens (5 tackles, 1 forced fumble, 1 pass deflection); Dunta Robinson (8 tackles, 1 pass deflection); Vance Walker (2 tackles, 1 sack); and Sean Weatherspoon (7 tackles) had noteworthy games.

The game began with a long, 11-play, 77-yard drive by the Panthers that consumed over 7 minutes of the first quarter. Cam Newton hit Steve Smith to convert on a quick slant. Three plays later, Newton scrambled up the middle for a 6-yard gain. A reverse to Joe Adams on the next play was stopped by John Abraham a yard shy to set up 3rd & 1. But Mike Tolbert powered through a tackle on the next play for a 7-yard gain to convert the third down. Three plays later, Newton connected with Greg Olsen on a back-shoulder throw for a 25-yard scoring strike over Thomas DeCoud. The Falcons took a 7-0 lead. The Falcons followed up with Gonzalez getting an 8-yard catch on second down to convert for a first down. But Ryan would get sacked on the next play by Frank Kearse. Ryan’s next pass would be an overthrow to Antone Smith on a screen pass. He checked down to D.J. Davis for a 6-yard gain on 3rd & 18 to force Bosher’s first punt. A steady ground attack would get the Panthers in Falcon territory with another long drive to eat away the last 5 minutes of the first quarter. Newton ran up the middle for a 2-yard gain to convert a 4th & 1 to close out the quarter. Three plays later, Corey Peters would get penetration and get Cam Newton in the grasp on the sack, but Newton spun out, made a couple of defenders miss, and managed to run 14 yards for the first down on 3rd & 11. Two plays later, Louis Murphy would catch a Newton pass for 16 yards to put the ball inside the Falcons 10-yard line. Sean Weatherspoon would trip up DeAngelo Williams on the draw play on the next play. Newton would miss to Murphy in the back of the endzone on the next play. Then pressure would get to him as Mike Nolan dialed up a blitz and hwas forced to throw it away on third down. The Panthers would set for a 24-yard field goal from Graham Gano to go up 10-0. All in all, the Panthers had held the ball for over 9 minutes for 17 plays, and 72 yards on that scoring drive. The Falcons next series was a three-and-out as Ryan’s pass to Michael Palmer on 3rd & 5 came up a yard short of the sticks. Newton would hit Steve Smith on a crossing pattern for 20 yards on first down of the next Panthers drive. Smith would then beat Chris Owens on the next play for a 15-yard completion. Two plays later, Newton would get dropped by Vance Walker for the sack, putting hte Panthers at the Falcons 30-yard line. On third down, Newton would overthrow Steve Smith and once again Gano came on the field to convert a 41-yard field goal. The kick was good and the Panthers now had a 13-0 lead with just 5 minutes left in the first half. On the first play of the Falcons next series, Ryan would find Rodgers on a checkdown for 9 yards, breaking a couple of tackles. Three plays later, while trying to escape the pocket, Ryan’s checkdown to Rodgers would fall short. The Panthers blitzed on the next play, and Ryan hit his hot read in Tony Gonzalez, but he is easily stopped by D.J. Campbell for no gain to force the punt. The Panthers took over with 3:35 left in the half at their own 28-yard line. As the two-minute warning hit, Newton scrambled off the right side for a 21-yard gain on 3rd & 6. Louis Murphy would beat Dunta Robinson deep on a double move, but Newton would miss the wide open touchdown pass, overthrowing him. Two plays later, Steve Smith would beat Owens on the deep out for 19 yards. Five plays later with the Panthers having a 1st & 15 at the Falcons 19-yard line, Newton would hit Murphy along the sideline in the endzone. But Murphy was only able to get a single foot down inbounds resulting an incomplete pass. An incomplete pass to Olsen on the next play would set up a 3rd & 15. Newton’s pass to Murphy was stopped for just a 6-yard gain. And Gano would hit his third field goal of the game from 31 yards to close out the first half.

To start the third quarter, the Falcons went into no huddle mode. Ryan hit Roddy White for his first two receptions on the opening two plays for a combined 28 yards. But three plays later, on 3rd & 7, Ryan tried stepping up in the pocket but wound up overthrowing Harry Douglas. And the Falcons fourth possession ended in a punt. On the third play of the Panthers series, Mike Tolbert bust up the middle for a 5-yard gain to convert on 3rd & 1. On the next play, Cam Newton kept the ball and rushed virtually untouched 72 yards down the left side for a touchdown. That quick score put the Panthers up 23-0 with 11 minutes remaining in the third quarter. A 6-yard handoff to Jacquizz Rodgers started the next Falcons series. Ryan then converted on second down with a 9-yard comeback to Julio Jones. That was followed by a 5-yard run by Rodgers. Ryan hit Gonzalez on the next play for a 16-yard gain to put the ball in Panther territory. White, Gonzalez, and then Rodgers would touch the ball on the next three plays to put the ball inside the Panthers redzone. On second down, Ryan missed Jason Snelling in the flat on an overthrow. Pressure got to Ryan on the next play, and his out pass to Gonzalez on 3rd & 4 fell incomplete. The Falcons opted to go for it on 4th & 4 from the Panthers 13 yard line. Ryan hit Snelling on a shovel pass and he rumbled 5 yards to convert. Two plays later, Ryan hit Roddy on a crossing pattern for the 4-yard touchdown pass. The Falcons got on the board for the first time of the game with 4:50 remaining on the third quarter clock. Steve Smith gained 16 yards on a Newton pass to start the next Panthers series. DeCoud would wrap up DeAngelo Williams in the backfield for a 2-yard loss on the next play. Two plays later, Newton would overthrow Smith on 3rd & 4 and the Panthers would be forced to punt for the first time. The Falcons now took over at their own 20-yard line with 2:38 left in the quarter. Ryan hit Roddy for a 14-yard gain on 2nd & 7 on the third play of that series. Ryan took a deep shot to Roddy, but the receiver stumbled and the ball was overthrown. Two plays later, Ryan would find White again for an 18-yard completion on a deep comeback. To close out the third quarter, Ryan would hit Julio Jones who made an excellent diving grab over the middle for a 21-yard gain. Ryan took another shot at Jones on the next play, but Jones cannot secure the fingertip grab going out of bounds. The Falcons would convert their first third down of the day two plays later with an 11-yard completion to Gonzalez. That put the ball at the Panther 11-yard line, which the Falcons took advantage of with a bubble screen to Julio Jones who scored thanks to a couple of good blocks by Todd McClure, Justin Blalock, and Harry Douglas. The Falcons went for two following the score, hoping to make it a one score game with 14 minutes left. Ryan sprint out on the play and found Roddy White going out of bounds. What looked to be a catch was ruled incomplete due to the ref indicating that White bobbled the ball as he was going to the ground. The play was challenged by Mike Smith, but the refs did not overturn the highly questionable call. And thus the Falcons were still down 10 points, 23-13. The Panthers began to try and run out the clock with 2 runs for 8 yards on their next series. But Newton again would convert on 3rd down with a 7-yard pass to Smith. He would then hit Olsen on the next play for 18 yards on a pass over the middle. Two plays later, Louis Murphy would drop a pass along the sideline near the sticks. But Ron Rivera challenges the ruling, and it’s overturned. Instead, the play is ruled a fumble by Murphy instead of a drop, and the Panthers convert the first down. Chris Owens gets credit with the forced fumble on the play. Two plays later the Panther drive stalls on third down thanks to Dunta Robinson breaking up a pass to Smith. The Panthers punt is fair caught by Dominique Franks at the 10-yard line. Ryan went back to the Roddy well on the next series, hitting him on the two opening plays for a combined 21 yards. Harry Douglas would get into the act with a 19-yard grab on the next play. Turner rushed for 5 yards on the next play. But then on 2nd & 5, Greg Hardy would sack Ryan. Ryan would check down to Rodgers on 3rd & 12 to get 4 yards back to try and set up a makeable 4th down try. Pressure would flush Ryan out of the pocket, and throwing off his back foot, he could not get enough on the ball. That allowed Thomas Davis to step in front of the pass to White for the interception, essentially ending any hopes of a miracle finish for the Falcons with 6:19 to go. The Falcons defense would get a stop on their next series, with a Newton pass to Armanti Edwards going for only 4 yards on 3rd & 9. But Robinson would be called for defensive holding against Edwards, giving the Panthers a first down near midfield with about 5 minutes to go in the game. On the next play, Newton would hit the screen to DeAngelo Williams, who with help from a couple of missed tackles would run 53 yards for a touchdown icing the game. The Panthers took a 30-13 lead with 4 minutes left in the game. Ryan would try and take a deep shot to Jones on first down of the ensuing Falcons series, but it would be overthrown. Jones would extend high in the air to make an excellent grab in traffic for a 17-yard gain on the next play. Ryan would hit Tony Gonzalez on a pair of 6-yard plays, followed by a 10-yard pass to Douglas, and then a 11-yarder to Chase Coffman. Two plays later, a checkdown to Rodgers for 8 yards would give the Falcons another first down with the two-minute warning hitting. Ryan’s pass out of the break was a 17-yarder to White that put the ball at the Panthers 1-yard line. Ryan took a shot to Jones in the endzone, but it was knocked away by Josh Thomas. Ryan’s next pass went over the head of a crossing Kevin Cone. On the third down, Ryan tried a quick slant to Gonzalez that was incomplete, but Captain Munnerlyn was called for pass interference. That gave the Falcons a first down at the 1, and on Turner’s second rush he was able to score the 1-yard plunge. With less than a minute left in the game, Bosher’s onside attempt was easily covered by Jordan Senn. The Panthers opted to kneel on the ball on the last two plays and the game was over.

Next week, the Falcons will be hosting the New York Giants. Their last contest against the Giants was a rough one, a 24-2 loss on the road in last year’s playoffs. The Falcons have lost 7 straight home games against the Giants going back to 1981, and three straight in the Georgia Dome. Overall, the Falcons have lost four straight against the Giants. Their last victory was a road win in 2004 by a score of 14-10. Prior to the arrival of Mike Smith, the road team won the Falcons-Giants matchup 12 straight times going back to 1982. Since Smith’s arrival in 2008, the Falcons have lost both contests against New York, both of them coming on the road. Under Mike Smith, the Falcons are 8-0 in home games following road losses. They have won 11 straight games following losses of any kind, and are 19-3 overall under Smith under those circumstances.

Categories: Features Tags: , , , ,

Moneyball 2012 – Week 12 Review

November 29th, 2012 Comments off

A solid game for the offense particularly when it came to producing some explosive plays at key moments. Most of those plays came via the legs and speed of Jacquizz Rodgers. Rodgers had a career high in earnings, collecting as a runner, receiver, blocker, and on special teams. It’s probably about as good a game from him that you might be able to expect from him. The disparity in burst and elusiveness between Quizz and Turner has been noticeable in recent weeks, and it really doesn’t get more apparent than it was this week. The Falcons offense now is predicated on generating big plays and the coaches will be doing themselves a favor by continuing to give Rodgers more snaps, and more carries on the ground.

But I did notice in this game that many of the Turner runs were poorly blocked. It’s almost as if the team’s effort goes down when he’s running the ball. It’s a ridiculous statement to make, yes I know. Or maybe the Bucs effort goes up because they are keying on the run harder. That sounds more plausible, but it’s not any more provable just from watching tape.

Ryan had another solid game, although there were a couple of missed throws he had this week that I’m not sure he would have missed a month or so ago. It’s a very, very minor concern at this point, but it’s something I want to keep my eye on going forward. The last player I want to see getting into a bit of a lull is Ryan.

Julio Jones had another big game. He also had a pair of dropped touchdowns (one of which was negated by his OPI penalty). The actual drop was a bad throw on Ryan’s part, but Jones did an excellent job adjusting to the ball behind him and had a chance to catch it as it sort of bounced off his chest. I’m going to say it right now, I think drops are going to be a regular thing with Julio going forward. His range and ability to get his hands on balls that many, rather most other receivers cannot is going to lead to a lot of drops. Especially when you use the litmus test where if he can get both hands on the ball (which generally I do), then it should be caught. It just might be similar to Terrell Owens (a comparison someone made in the forums), although towards the end of his career it seemed like T.O. dropped a lot of easy passes due to poor concentration. Jones has certainly had his share of lapses in concentration during his short Falcon career, but it wasn’t a problem this week and hasn’t been the past few games from what I can recall. Brandon Marshall is that same way, and all three guys are/were physical specimens which occasionally seems to be a disadvantage (although I welcome that trade-off for all the times when it’s a major advantage).

A quiet game for Roddy White, but he made some nice plays when it counted. I think his low production had more to do with Ryan attacking matchups he liked with the weaker Buc corners. And that often was Julio on whomever. Gonzo was money on third downs, as usual. I did like the flat pass to Douglas working out of trips. I’ve seen the team use that a bit more often in recent weeks, and I think it’s a nice way to manufacture yards on first down via the pass, instead of relying on the ground attack. I hope to see more of that the rest of the season. If you’ve been wondering where Douglas can make an impact on this offense down the stretch it’s potentially there.

This also was one of the better games for the pass protection, who had a nice long run of not doing a great job. A couple of hurries where the Bucs were able to move Ryan off his spot, but nothing grievous outside a pressure given up by Baker, and a hit/hurry given up by Cox on a completion to Jones.

The run blocking still needs work however. The Falcons just really struggle to create any push at the line of scrimmage. Both of those late runs by Turner that went for negative yardage were poorly blocked. Turner made a mistake on the last one, and had he not fought for extra yards, it could have been “just” a loss of two. But I’m not sure I can really blame Turner too much because it’s silly to tell him that he should let Adam Hayward tackle him. The mistake was going deeper in the backfield however, not breaking Hayward’s tackle. But nonetheless, the run was doomed from the start. Again, even if Turner had not backtracked on that play, the best you could have hoped for was a loss of 2 yards, which is a failure on the O-line.

Clabo had both of his key blocks on early Rodgers runs where he pulled and was able to cut a defender. The first was on Quizz’s opening carry for 20 yards, the second on the 5-yard TD run. But Clabo also was credited for missing the block on that -8 yard run by Turner at the end. Other Falcon blockers missed their assignments as well (Konz and Johnson) but it was Gerald McCoy beating Clabo that really blew up that play.

Matt Ryan$14$2$0$0$0-$2$14.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$9$2$1$1$0$13.00
Julio Jones$0$1$8$1$0-$1$9.00
Roddy White$0$0$4$2$0$0$6.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$4$0$0$0$4.00
Michael Turner$0$4$0$0$0$0$4.00
Todd McClure$0$0$0$3$0$0$3.00
Jason Snelling$0$0$3$0$0$0$3.00
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Sam Baker$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Mike Cox$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Peter Konz$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Antone Smith$0$0$0$0$1$0$1.00
Michael Palmer$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00
Harry Douglas$0$0$0$0$0-$1-$1.00

Read more…

Samuel questionable against Saints

November 28th, 2012 Comments off

Asante Samuel

The Falcons announced their weekly injury report this afternoon, earlier than normal due to the fact that they will host the New Orleans Saints tomorrow on Thursday Night Football. On the report, cornerback Asante Samuel and defensive tackle Peria Jerry were listed as questionable after sitting out all three days of practice this week. Samuel was nursing a bum shoulder, which he has been limited with in recent weeks. He re-injured the shoulder last Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and missed the fourth quarter. Jerry is nursing the same quadricep injury that kept him out of last week’s game. He’s dealt with thigh and knee injuries already this year which have curtailed his reps in recent weeks. Both could get welcome rest after this week’s game, as they will receive an extra three days of rest as they will not play again until December 9. If Samuel is unable to go, then Robert McClain will likely take reps at left cornerback, while Chris Owens plays in the nickel. If Jerry does not play, then Vance Walker and Travian Robertson are likely to see an increase in reps. A week ago, both players saw season-high snaps with 49 and 16, respectively.

Also appearing on the injury report listed as probable were tackle Sam Baker (groin), wide receivers Kevin Cone (groin) and Harry Douglas (ankle), safety Charles Mitchell (calf), linebacker Stephen Nicholas (knee), tight end Michael Palmer (back), cornerback Dunta Robinson, defensive tackle Vance Walker (ribs), and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (ankle). Besides Robinson, all of the players were limited in practice this week due to the short week. Robinson was added to the report on Tuesday, after missing practice due to an illness.

A key injury for the Saints is right tackle Zach Strief, who was listed as questionable with a groin injury. Strief was limited in practice all week after missing three games. If he does not go, then Will Robinson will be expected to start at right tackle. Robinson is the Saints fourth string right tackle, and was only signed to the roster on November 20.

Out this week for the Saints are defensive end Junior Gallette (ankle), wide receiver Courtney Roby (shoulder/ankle), tackle Charles Brown (knee), defensive tackle Tom Johnson (back), and safety Isa Abdul-Quddus (concussion). Tight end David Thomas (knee) and cornerback Corey White (knee) are questionable. Cornerback Elbert Mack (concussion) is probable.

Falcons scoot by Bucs

November 25th, 2012 Comments off

Jones runs by Leonard Johnson for an 80-yard TD

The Falcons extend their record to 10-1 with a 24-23 win over division rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the road. It was another nail-biter that potentially came down to the final play, as the Bucs had a chance to win with a hail mary as time expired.

Matt Ryan started off strong, as he completed his first 10 passes. He finished the game completing 26 of 32 passes for 353 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Jacquizz Rodgers led rushers with 49 yards on 10 carries and a touchdown. Michael Turner also scored a touchdown, adding 17 yards on 13 carries. In the air, Julio Jones had a strong game despite still recovering from an ankle injury. He led receivers with 6 catches for a career-high 147 yards and a touchdown. Tony Gonzalez (5 catches, 62 yards), Roddy White (5 catches, 57 yards), Jason Snelling (3 catches, 33 yards), and Rodgers (2 catches, 30 yards) also made big contributions on the day. Matt Bryant hit on only 1 of 3 field goal attempts. He connected on a 31-yarder, but missed from 22 and 48 yards. Matt Bosher punted only once for 45 yards, placing it inside the 20-yard line. Rodgers had 2 kickoff returns for an average of 36.5 yards, while Dominique Franks had a single punt return for 10 yards.

Defensively, the Falcons run defense stepped up big and bottled up Doug Martin. He and the Bucs team was held to just 50 yards on the ground. They did give up 326 total yards and allowed 4 of 10 third down conversions. Stephen Nicholas led the unit with 7 tackles. Jonathan Babineaux (2 tackles); Kroy Biermann (2 tackles, 1 sack); Akeem Dent (4 tackles); William Moore (6 tackles); Dunta Robinson (6 tackles, 1 sack); and Sean Weatherspoon (6 tackles) had noteworthy games.

Read more…

Categories: News Tags: , , , , , ,

Jones, Spoon questionable against Cardinals

November 16th, 2012 Comments off

Today, the Falcons released their injury report for Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals. On it, wide receiver Julio Jones (ankle) and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (ankle) were listed as questionable. Neither player practiced during the week, and according to head coach Mike Smith will be game-time decisions. Jones suffered his injury during the first half of last week’s loss to the New Orleans Saints, but later returned to the game in the third quarter. Weatherspoon has missed the past two games with his injury.

Wideout Kevin Cone (groin) and safety Charles Mitchell (calf) also missed the week of practice nd were listed as out for the Cardinals game. It’s the third consecutive game missed for Cone, while the second for Mitchell.

Also listed as questionable were defensive end John Abraham (back), running back Michael Turner (groin), and defensive tackle Vance Walker (ribs). All three players were limited in practice for all three days of practice this week. Listed as probable on this week’s report were defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux (thigh), wide receiver Harry Douglas (ankle), tight end Tony Gonzalez (shoulder), linebacker Stephen Nicholas (groin), and linebacker Mike Peterson (foot). Peterson fully participated in all three days of practice, while Babineaux, Douglas and Gonzalez were full participants on Thursday and Friday. Nicholas was upgraded on Friday and fully participated in practice for the first time all week.

Douglas and Peterson will likely replace Jones and Weatherspoon in the lineup, respectively if the pair sit. The injury to Abraham plus the release of Ray Edwards this week could mean a significant increase in reps for Lawrence Sidbury, Cliff Matthews, and/or Jonathan Massaquoi at defensive end. Turner’s injury could lead to the team giving increased reps to Jacquizz Rodgers and/or Jason Snelling at running back.

Moneyball 2012 – Week 9 Review

November 8th, 2012 Comments off

Despite scoring only 19 points, I was impressed with how the offense performed against the Cowboys. Breakdowns in pass protection and their inability to run the ball in the early part of this game prevented them from finishing some drives. But for the most part, the Falcons had little issue moving the ball against the Cowboys defense.

Matt Ryan had an excellent game despite not throwing a touchdown. Roddy White and Julio Jones for chunks of this game appeared uncoverable to Dallas defenders. The Cowboys only effective way of slowing down the Falcons passing attack was with pressure, something they got regularly in the first three quarters. But when things counted late the O-line stepped up, protected Ryan, and opened some running lanes for Turner.

I think Turner may have looked the most like his former self in this game, running hard, and breaking a number of tackles. The Falcons goalline and short-yardage blocking has been abysmal this year, so it was nice to see Turner pound it in from 3 yards out for the team’s lone touchdown on the night. In previous efforts, it might have taken the team 3 or more plays to run it in from that distance. Konz got the key block on that play, and had a much improved effort than he did last week. Clabo continues to struggle in pass protection despite not giving up any pressures or sacks. I counted five “hurries” he gave up, which I’ve previously explained are times when pressure happened but did not result in an incompletion, or there was light enough pressure where the QB had to rush a throw or move off his spot. The rest of the line combined for just two hurries. So while Baker’s earnings were less, I think he had the better game among the tackles. Overall, a subpar effort up front which has been a regular occurrence this season.

The team cut Lousaka Polite this week. You might make the case that this was his strongest lead blocking effort of the season, but that isn’t really saying much since he was fairly poor in all other games. The dropped pass, missed assignments, and poor pass protection combined to force the team’s hand. Personally if I was calling the shots in Atlanta, I would just move Snelling to fullback. Cox is largely serviceable, and probably won’t be a Falcon next year (due to Ewing’s return), thus I’d try to find some developmental guy to use his roster spot on. Or perhaps give Matthews or Massaquoi more reps on gameday with the extra spot. But it’s fairly inconsequential. And who knows, maybe Cox actually helps improve the ground game down the stretch.

Rodgers really came through with two critical third down conversions. I really want to see the Falcons do a better job integrating their entire receiver corps with Harry Douglas being largely an afterthought. I have no answers to offer them. I think one of the issues for Douglas in this particular game was the quality of Dallas’ corners, and his continued struggles with beating press and tight man coverage.

Matt Ryan$16$1$0$0$0$0$17.00
Michael Turner$0$11-$1$0$0$0$10.00
Roddy White$0$0$9$1$0$0$10.00
Julio Jones$0$2$6$0$0-$1$7.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$0$4-$1$0$0$3.00
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$2$0$0$0$2.00
Peter Konz$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Todd McClure$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Michael Palmer$0$0$1$0$0$0$1.00
Jason Snelling$0$1$0$0$0$0$1.00
Antone Smith$0$0$0$0$1$0$1.00
Sam Baker$0$0$0-$2$0$0-$2.00
Lousaka Polite$0$0-$1-$1$0$0-$2.00

Read more…

Week 6 Preview: Falcons vs. Raiders

October 12th, 2012 Comments off

Typically these previews consist of two parts, the first detailing how the Falcons upcoming opponent could beat them, and the second consisting of what the Falcons can do to counter that. But this week, I just couldn’t really find enough material to write up how the Oakland Raiders could beat the Falcons this week.

Not to say it’s not possible, but it really is just a repeat of what I’ve said the past two weeks with the potential gameplans of the Carolina Panthers and Washington Redskins. The Raiders will rely on a ground attack to keep the explosive Falcons offense sidelined, and try to generate some big plays offensively, as well as create turnovers on defense and try to get a boost on special teams. Not exactly a ground-breaking formula, as it’s going to become the norm for most teams that play the Falcons this year.

But as the Panthers, Redskins, and Raiders all try to adopt the same gameplan/formula for beating the Falcons, unfortunately for the Raiders they are the weakest team of the three. And thus, it will be hardest for them to execute such a plan. See, in the cases of both Carolina and Washington, they had a couple of playmakers on either side of the ball that if things went their way they could really challenge the Falcons. And to a certain extent, things did go both teams’ ways, which is why the Falcons had to come from behind in both games to pull out the victory.

But I don’t expect the Raiders to get such luck. While Darren McFadden presents a challenge to the Falcons defense, I don’t think he presents as much as DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, and Alfred Morris did. The Raiders run a zone-blocking scheme similar to what the Redskins have, but they are not quite as good upfront, and McFadden has not quite gotten the hang of the Greg Knapp offense. Outside a 64-yard run against the Steelers in Week 3, McFadden is averaging 2.4 yards on his other 57 carries. That run, and another are the only gains he’s had of the year longer than 10 yards. Morris has been one of the better runners after contact in the league this year, while McFadden is more of a finesse, speed guy. I don’t expect Falcons defenders to have as much trouble getting him down as they did against Morris.

Read more…

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.