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Posts Tagged ‘Nolan’

A Complete Performance by Falcons

December 17th, 2012 Comments off
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Thomas DeCoud celebrates

The Falcons have faced their fair share of criticism this year. It all stems from the main question that hovers over their 2012 season like a specter: whether or not the Falcons can win a playoff game. Well, the Falcons appeared to exorcise that ghost with a dominant 34-0 shut out of the New York Giants.

The Falcons have been accused of taking advantage of a very weak schedule this year. The Giants represent one of only four opponents on the Falcons slate that currently has a winning record. The others: the Denver Broncos, Washington Redskins, and Dallas Cowboys were all beat by the Falcons. They have won a number of close games against cellar-dwelling opponents. That all culminated with an embarrassing 10-point loss to the Carolina Panthers. Coming off a thrilling win over the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night the previous week, the Falcons looked unfocused and lethargic against the Panthers. Questions were raised about whether this team had the focus to change their postseason fortunes.

But the Falcons provided answers Sunday afternoon with their beatdown of the New York Giants. The Giants are a team that has built a reputation in recent years as one capable of turning on “the switch” at the opportune time. A switch that suggests when their backs are against they wall, they play their best football. After all, they had done so a year ago with a strong finish on their path to a Super Bowl victory. A path that went right over, through, and under Atlanta in the playoffs.

But on Sunday afternoon, the Falcons returned the embarrassment as the Giants were outright throttled by the Falcons. After two lackluster offensive performances against the Saints and Panthers, the Falcons offense rebounded with a brilliant effort against the Giants. The Falcons 34-point effort was their biggest of the season since the 40 points they scored in Week 1 mashing of the Chiefs. Their defense was able to create three turnovers and shut down the Giants three times on fourth and short, guiding the Giants to their donut on the scoreboard.

A week ago the Falcons appeared to be limping towards the top seed in the NFC. This week, they are going to be among the most feared teams in the NFL. The Falcons defense had appeared to be in “playoff mode” since their win over the Saints where Brees was picked off five times. The offense not so much…until yesterday.

The offensive line, which had been whipped by the Giants last January performed marvelously against the vaunted Giants front. Matt Ryan was sacked only once and saw little pressure. So little that Ryan seemed to hardly break a sweat as he completed 82% of his 28 attempts for 270 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Falcons gained 129 yards on the ground, their second best effort of the season.

The defense continues to build its reputation for strong play against top quarterbacks. It marked the Falcons sixth game where the defense forced at least three turnovers. Eli Manning adds his name to the list of top quarterbacks who have suffered that fate alongside his older brother Peyton, Philip Rivers, and Drew Brees.

The Falcons now sit 12-2, atop the NFC and likely to finish with home field advantage throughout the playoffs. They will hope and plan to use this Giants victory as a springboard to change their fortunes from the last time they had such an advantage, back in 2010. Then, they lost to the Green Bay Packers in an embarrassing fashion. They were unable to force a single punt all game long. This year, Mike Nolan has the defense firing on all cylinders, ready to eradicate that memory from the minds of Falcon fans and Defend the Dome. Now, it finally appears that the offense is now caught up and ready to go as well.

UPDATE: Forgot that the Cowboys also sport a winning record.

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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 8 Review

October 31st, 2012 Comments off

Initially from watching the game live, I was very impressed with the Falcons performance. Upon review, I still came away impressed but cannot dismiss that the Eagles did not play well in this game. Most of the positives come on the offensive side of the ball.

Matt Ryan had a strong game. The running game had its moments and you could certainly argue this was the most complete game the offense has played this year. Turner had one of his better performances and Quizz also ran what might be the best game of his career. The blocking was just OK in this game. Relative to recent games, the pass protection held up well. There were some holes in this game, but It was inconsistent. But probably less inconsistent than it has normally been this year.

Sam Baker usually gets destroyed by Trent Cole so only giving up two pressures is relatively a strong performance for him. Clabo continued to have his issues, but had his share of moments as a run blocker. Watching live, I thought Konz played well. Upon further review, I might hold off on that. He did have his moments particularly as a run blocker, but there were two many missed blocks and he had some struggles in pass protection. He had 2 hurries and a pressure on plays that we’re wiped out by penalties. I think he definitely flashed his potential in this game, but still needs to work out the kinks. Reynolds at this point might be more consistent/reliable, but I don’t think he has the upside of Konz, particularly in the ground game. It seemed that Konz had many of his issues trying to block linebackers in the run game, and also struggled versus stunts.

Speaking of blocking, my hat goes off to DJ Davis and Roddy White for their efforts there. Davis had an impressive debut, standing out as a blocker. Both of his catches came when he was wide open thanks to Eagle defenders focusing on the Falcons’ other playmakers, but he did make a nice catch on the TD since it was not a particularly well-thrown ball. Roddy has been an underwhelming blocker so far this year, as I’ve noticed several times this year where he misses an assignment that could have potentially sprung a runner for a big gain. But that was not the case on Sunday.

Julio was very impressive, as his two big plays were a welcome addition to the offense. He absolutely roasted Nnamdi on the touchdown, and if not for an excellent tackle by Kurt Coleman, could have potentially scored on the 37-yard screen pass. The Eagles really had a hard time defending the Falcons screens as well as the shovel passes to Snelling, which essentially doubled as running plays.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Matt Ryan$15$3$0$0$0$0$18.00
Julio Jones$0$1$10$0$0-$1$10.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$7$1$0$0$0$8.00
Michael Turner$0$7$1$0$0-$1$7.00
D.J. Davis$0$0$4$2$0$0$6.00
Roddy White$0$0$3$2$0$0$5.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$3$0$0$0$3.00
Jason Snelling$0$0$3$0$0$0$3.00
Todd McClure$0$0$0$2$0-$1$1.00
Sam Baker$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Peter Konz$0$0$0-$2$0$0-$2.00

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Are the Falcons Using Too Much Nickel?

October 4th, 2012 Comments off

Through the first two weeks of the season, I was astounded by the amount of nickel defense the Falcons played. Their base defense which featured all three linebackers was only used on about a dozen plays out of about 150 combined plays.

While it seemed to be paying dividends with their successful pass defense, it seemed detrimental against the run. Through two weeks the Falcons pass defense was one of the best in the league, but the run defense was near the bottom of the league. Against San Diego, the Falcons used more of their base package, and it seemed to pay some dividends against the run with some improvement.

Here are the numbers from that game, which exclude kneel downs and scrambles on passing plays. SR stands for success rate, which I think is a more accurate reflection of rushing success than yards per attempt, which can be heavily skewed by a single run e.g. Jackie Battle’s 52-yard run. If you’re unfamiliar with what success rate is, here is a pretty straight-forward explanation.

RUSHING
Att.
Yds
Avg
TD
SR
Base9343.8044.4%
Nickel68013.3083.3%

NYPA = Net Yards Per Attempt, which factors in yards lost due to sacks.

PASSING
Att.
Comp.
Pct.
Yds
Avg
TD
INT
Rtg
NYPA
Base8450.0516.40070.36.4
Nickel301756.71284.30239.33.8

While there is clear evidence that the Falcons run defense improved when they were in their base package, it was clear that their nickel subpackage was highly effective against Philip Rivers.

Now here are the numbers against Carolina. Note these do not include plays where Cam Newton scrambled after dropping back to pass, but do include his designed runs.

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Week 4 Preview: How the Falcons Will Beat the Panthers

September 27th, 2012 Comments off

As mentioned earlier, the Panthers do have some of the tools to potentially beat the Falcons. But I do not think they will.

If the Falcons just have a “normal” game based around what they have done these first three weeks they will beat the Panthers. They simply are a better team. But they cannot take the Panthers lightly, because as mentioned earlier, the Panthers can do a couple of things that can hurt the Falcons.

The main key for the Falcons is going to be able to throw to win. They can throw fairly easily on this Panther secondary. Rookie Josh Norman is likely to be matched up on Julio Jones on the outside for most of the game. Norman is not a bad player, and down the road he might turn into a pretty good starting corner. But he’s not there yet, and I think Julio should be poised to prey on that. The question becomes is Julio’s hand injury more serious than we expect, and will it impact the game?

What is interesting about Roddy White is that you look over the past few seasons, and there is always one game against Carolina where he’s very good, and another where he’s just mediocre. And there’s no real rhyme or reason to which performance he has. Sometimes it is at home, sometimes on the road. But you wonder if Jones is less than 100%, and this is the game that Roddy decides not to show up for, then the Falcons could potentially be in trouble.

I don’t think that will happen, and it’s going to be a cold day in hell when both Roddy and Julio are no shows on this offense. But this is also why the Falcons have Tony Gonzalez and Harry Douglas, to help pick up that slack.

The Panthers run defense is weak, so I suspect Michael Turner and the ground attack could have another strong week. I would be shocked if Blalock and Reynolds have much problems with the Edwardses (Dwan and Ron) and opening lanes for Turner. The Falcons seem poised to give Rodgers a bit more reps on the ground going forward, and he could also have a good day.

Defensively, John Abraham tends to have a field day against the Panthers. I expect the Falcons to be able to get pressure against Newton. Newton has that ability to extend plays and make things happen with his legs, but the Falcons have been fairly competent at containing that. I think the Falcons will try and be aggressive with Newton, attack him with blitzes and challenge him to make accurate throws downfield.

Mike Nolan is probably going to throw a lot of things at Cam, frankly things that I can hardly imagine at this point. But if he can design schemes that can get Peyton Manning off balance, he can certainly do some things that can get Newton’s mind twisted.

Because the Panthers will likely rely on a steady ground attack, like last week, Akeem Dent should get more opportunities to emerge. That should also mean increased reps for Ray Edwards as well.

Cam Newton is currently second in the NFL in terms of highest interception rate. And the Falcons right now are the most opportunistic secondary in the league. This is why this should be a good matchup for the Falcons. With Abraham’s pressure and Nolan’s blitzing schemes, they should be able to create a number of turnovers this week. At some point this season, the Falcons defense is probably not going to be able to create multiple turnovers in a game. But I doubt that this week is the time when that occurs.

It’s becoming less and less about the Falcons opponents, at least during this early slate of 2012 games. It’s becoming more about competing with themselves for this Falcon team. Meaning their biggest obstacle is their own complacency. The day they decide to just show up some place, and think they can win with minimal effort, is the day they will get beat.

And what Mike Smith has done a pretty good job instilling in his time in Atlanta, is a hungry mentality week to week that keeps his team motivated and moving forward. And that is why I think they will win this game. It’s a division rival, and it’s an opportunity to really send out a signal to the other teams in the division and conference that this team is as formidable as advertised. It’s their first NFC game, and while they have eleven more that will also affect the season, they cannot really afford to dig themselves in a hole at the outset with an 0-1 record. Especially to a division rival and lesser team like Carolina.

Long gone are the days of Mora where as a fan you weren’t sure what Falcon team would show up in a given week. The Mike Smith Falcons are much more consistent, and rarely lay eggs. I expect that trend to continue and the Falcons extend their record to 4-0 this week.

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5 Keys if the Falcons Want to Improve in 2012

September 7th, 2012 Comments off
Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

Matt Ryan

Often when people look to see if a team has improved, they will measure it with wins and losses. And while that is not a bad way to do so, it is not a true measure of a team’s ability. Because you’re not playing the same schedule year to year, and even the teams that you do play annually aren’t always the same quality as they were in previous years. Every NFL season brings a new and different set of challenges, and to simply measure them by how many games you’ve won or lost doesn’t accurately gauge whether you rose to meet those challenges.

Here are five areas that I think the Falcons need to improve in if they want to be able to say they have improved as a team from 2011 and previous years. These are five areas that you could set apart as mini-goals for this team. And if they were to accomplish all five by the end of the year, I believe this will result in more regular season wins for the Falcons as well as a greater chance of winning in the postseason. And not just winning one game in January, but potentially many multiple so that they could possibly be winning come February.

1. Matt Ryan Needs to Take the Next Step as a Passer

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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 20 “2012 Preview”

September 5th, 2012 Comments off

Ryan and I discuss and preview the Falcons Week 1 matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs in this week’s episode. You’ll also hear our opinions on the Falcon’s additions to the practice squad, as well as whether an interview of Mike Nolan divulges some question marks within the Falcons front office. During our preview of the Chiefs game, you’ll hear our thoughts on how certain aspects of the Falcons offense and defense match up with the Chiefs. Later in the episode, we are joined by a FalcFans.com forum member in Allen Strk, who helps us reminisce on past Falcon players and games. You’ll also hear some thoughts on current Falcons, as well as predictions for the upcoming 2012 season including how good we think the Falcons will be and whether or not they are good enough to make the Super Bowl.

Ep. 20: 2012 Preview [Download]

Duration: 54 minutes

 

If you have any questions and comments, you can hit us up on Twitter, post in the forums in the podcast thread, or drop Ryan an e-mail at: ryan-valdez@live.com or myself at: pudge@falcfans.com. Don’t forget to drop by every week to hear our live broadcast at: ustream.tv/channel/falcfans-show

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. You can also subscribe directly to our feed at the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/falcfans/LXSt

Camp Battles 2012: Defensive Line

July 17th, 2012 Comments off
Thomas Campbell-US Presswire

Lawrence Sidbury

Relative to many positions on the Falcons roster, the defensive line won’t see a lot of shakeup during training camp. The four starters are pretty much settled and the majority of the reserves are fairly secure in their roster spots. The brunt of the competition will be based around many of those reserve players trying to carve out larger niches in the Falcons rotation.

The four starters that are likely to open the season include John Abraham and Ray Edwards at defensive end and Jonathan Babineaux and Corey Peters at defensive tackle. As far as the starters go, the issues to watch are how much improvement both Edwards and Peters make, and whether Babineaux can bounce back after a subpar 2011.

Edwards was hampered by an injury last summer, but also never seemed to mesh with Brian VanGorder. New defensive coordinator Mike Nolan hopes to fix that issue, and it seems that Edwards has already warmed up to him and his new scheme. Last season, Peters flashed top-level playmaking skills, but still has yet to develop the sort of consistency to put together a complete season. It will be interesting to see whether or not the fact that he won’t have to look too much over his shoulder will drive him for greater success this season. Babineaux was hampered by an injury early last year, and the Falcons are hopeful that his production will return to a level where it was prior to 2011 when he was one of the most disruptive interior players in the league.

For bench players like Kroy Biermann and Lawrence Sidbury, both won’t have to worry too much about not collecting a check from the Falcons this year. Last year Biermann stole reps in nickel situations from Edwards. He’ll be competing to show that the new deal he signed this past off-season was money well worth spending. Biermann likely benefited to a degree from the relationship with VanGorder, and will have to find a way to similarly impress Nolan that he is worthy of being the top backup in the rotation. Sidbury was no sure thing to make the roster last summer, so a year has made a world of difference. Sidbury flashed potential last season and will be working to carve out a larger spot in the rotation. He’ll push Biermann to be the team’s top reserve. He’ll need to show improvement as a run defender, where Biermann has the edge. Abraham’s playing time is stream-lined so that the majority of snaps he comes off the field will be in running situations. And if Edwards can bounce back and earn Nolan’s trust on passing situations, then there may not be as many opportunities there as well. Becoming a more all-around player will be the key to Sidbury taking the next step.

Outside those six, the roster spots aren’t solidified. The Falcons will likely keep at least nine, but potentially ten players to beef up their rotation. A big part of the competition will be at tackle, where Peria Jerry, Vance Walker, and rookie Travian Robertson will all be competing for playing time. Jerry’s roster spot is probably the safest because his contract is structured so that cutting him doesn’t help the Falcons cap situation to a significant degree. And Vance Walker has proven himself over the years to be a valuable rotation player, making him less likely to be cut. Robertson will need a strong summer to move up the depth chart, but should be kept as a potential fifth tackle. The Falcons carried five tackles for much of last year with Carlton Powell in that role. That makes undrafted rookie Micanor Regis on the outside looking in as far as the roster goes, since he’s unlikely to leap frog all three players to make the team. But with a strong summer, he definitely can be a candidate for the practice squad.

At end, one of the big battles will come in the competition between Jonathan Massaquoi and Cliff Matthews for the fifth defensive end spot. It’s unlikely that the Falcons will try and carry six defensive ends. It’s not impossible that the Falcons may opt to carry six defensive ends, particularly if they try and work either Massaquoi or Matthews at outside linebacker. But given only four ends will likely be active on game days, carrying a sixth player will mean that the roster could be depleted elsewhere. Massaquoi has the edge given that he has a bit higher upside as a pass rusher. Most years the Falcons have only seen their fifth defensive end as a special teams player, which may limit Massaquoi’s contributions as a rookies. But if he has a strong summer, he could push for playing time during the regular season comparable to Sidbury back in 2009. Even if the Falcons part ways with Matthews, he is still a prime candidate for the practice squad. He will need to have a strong summer to make the roster.

Also competing will be Louis Nzegwu, who is in a similar boat as Regis in facing long odds to make the roster. But he has the sort of athletic talent that can make him a nice project to carry and develop on the practice squad for a year or two.

Overall the issue along the defensive line won’t about shuffling around the roster, but more about Nolan trying to get more out of the current slate of players.

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 17 “The One About the Falcons”

June 10th, 2012 Comments off

In this week’s episode, Ryan and I get back to the grind of talking about the Falcons. Taking segments of recent live shows where we talk about different position groups on the offense, this episode is an amalgamation (I know, big word) of those discussions. Also included in this episode is our interview with The Bleacher Report’s Scott Carasik, another knowledgeable Falcon fan. If you want to hear practically every offensive player on the Falcons roster get discussed, then this is the episode for you. Topics range from who will make the roster to what can be expected from different players this year. What if any changes that Dirk Koetter has will affect different players and positions. Ryan and I get into a long debate about what exactly is an elite quarterback. Michael Turner’s future, Chris Redman, Kerry Meier, Julio Jones, and Sam Baker are other Falcon players that get extensive discussions in this episode.

Ep. 17: The One About the Falcons [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 39 minutes

 

If you have any questions and comments, you can hit us up on Twitter, post in the forums in the podcast thread, or drop Ryan an e-mail at: ryan-valdez@live.com. Don’t forget to drop by every week to hear our live broadcast at: justin.tv/didziojo

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. You can also subscribe directly to our feed at the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/falcfans/LXSt

2012 Key Player: Dunta Robinson

June 1st, 2012 Comments off
Icon Sports Media, Inc.

Dunta Robinson

Robinson’s performance in 2012 will be counted on as being one of the Falcons’ keys for success. Like his defensive counterpart Ray Edwards, Robinson’s 2011 season was disappointing. Robinson did have his positive moments, but too often last year they seemed to be weighed down by negative ones.

With the team’s addition of Asante Samuel, expectations are high for the Falcons secondary this year. With that addition and the team placing the franchise tag on Brent Grimes, Robinson is largely a forgotten man in the defensive backfield. Robinson is expected to move inside in nickel situations, a role he played with the Houston Texans prior to coming to Atlanta. New defensive coordinator Mike Nolan will be looking to take advantage of having three skilled starting corners on the field to potentially give the Falcons a stronger pass defense.

But much of that rests on exactly how well Robinson plays on the inside. The Falcons nickel corner spot has been a problem area for the team throughout Mike Smith’s tenure. In 2008, Chevis Jackson played the role fairly well. But in 2009, he took a major step back and the team was forced to sign and plug in Brian Williams. Williams got hurt early on, and Jackson resumed his mediocrity for the remainder of the season. In 2010, the team signed Robinson and hoped that Chris Owens’ move inside would fix the problem. That did not prove to be the case, and the team inserted Williams once again, who was middling. Last summer, Owens and now Dominique Franks vied for the position. But both struggled in camp, and the team then signed Kelvin Hayden. Hayden was an improvement, but still was nothing special in the role. He then went down with injury midway through the season, and the team was forced to turn to Franks, who also looked miscast in the role.

If Robinson can step up and give the team strong production in the slot, then it will be a huge boost to the Falcons defense. Over the years, the Falcons have struggled to cover the middle of the field due to coverage issues at nickel corner, linebacker, and safety. If Robinson can pull his weight, that’s one less issue the Falcons will have to try and solve.

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