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Grimes out for year with Achilles injury

September 10th, 2012 Comments off
Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

Brent Grimes

The Falcons announced on twitter today that cornerback Brent Grimes would be gone for the year with an Achilles injury. Grimes left the second half of yesterday’s win over the Kansas City Chiefs with what was deemed a calf injury. The exact nature of Grimes injury has not been disclosed, but it is likely Grimes suffered a torn Achilles and will require season-ending surgery. The team announced that Grimes would go on injured reserve.

Grimes has served as the Falcons top corner the past two seasons, including a Pro Bowl year in 2010. He missed 4 games last year with a right knee injury and was given the Franchise tag after the season, set to make around $10.3 million this year. In Grimes absence, the Falcons will likely promote either Dominique Franks or Chris Owens into the nickel role. Grimes started at right corner against the Chiefs, a role that will likely be resumed by Dunta Robinson. In nickel situations, either Franks or Owens will come into the game on the right side as Robinson moves into the slot.

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Falcons Week 1 Injury Report

September 7th, 2012 Comments off

The Falcons released their injury report for this weekend’s season opener against the Kansas City Chiefs. Only two players appeared on it, with cornerback Chris Owens (hamstring) and running back Jason Snelling (calf) listed as probable this week.

Both Owens and Snelling were able to fully participate in Thursday and Friday’s practices, after being limited on Wednesday with their respective injuries. Both Owens and Snelling sat out the preseason with their respective injuries.

For the Chiefs, nose tackle Anthony Toribiio (ankle), defensive end Allen Bailey (ankle) and safety Kendrick Lewis (shoulder) were listed as doubtful. All three players sat all three days of practice this weekend.  Also on the Chiefs’ injury report were linebackers Derrick Johnson (ankle) and Jovan Belcher (groin) and cornerbacks Jalil Brown (groin) and Brandon Flowers (foot), all listed as questionable. Johnson, Brown, and Flowers were all limited in practice all three days, with Belcher missing Thursday practice and being limited on Wednesday and Friday.

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Which Falcons could become trade bait?

August 30th, 2012 Comments off

This is the port in the summer where people are talking about trading players, and I just wanted to quickly go over some Falcon players that probably have the most trade value. Obviously, a player like Roddy White would have huge trade value, but the Falcons won’t trade him. I’m looking more at guys that appear to be somewhat expendable and have an outside shot that it could happen if a phone call was made.

Most trades at this point in time involve late round picks and roster bubble players. The Vontae Davis trade withstanding, it’s rare a team will part ways with their top corner who is only in his third year in the league. The normal trade at this point in time is what the Colts did earlier when they acquired Josh Gordy from St. Louis. Most of these trades are for conditional picks, meaning that if said player makes the new team’s roster or plays a certain amount of games in the upcoming season, compensation will be exchanged. If not, then nothing is lost.

I’ll start with Michael Turner, not because I think he’ll be traded or should be traded, but just because in the dark reaches of an alley, there are a few Falcon fans conspiring about it. Turner does not have a ton of trade value. I think it would be possible for the Falcons to get a conditional fifth or sixth round pick at this point in time for Turner, potentially based off how many rushing yards he has this season. But that’s probably about it. That really is not worth it.

Jason Snelling is another player that could be shopped most years, but his injury as well as the question marks that the Falcons have at fullback probably placed in the non-expendable category. Teams don’t normally trade for injured players, and when they do it rarely turns in their favor. (see Otah, Jeff)

Also on offense, players that could be parted ways with include some of their backup offensive linemen. Namely Andrew Jackson, Joe Hawley, and Mike Johnson. Hawley and Johnson probably have better value on the market namely because Hawley has gotten extensive reps last year and Johnson was a higher round pick that many people liked coming out of Alabama. A team like Dallas, who has been hurting at a position like center could probably be interested in a player like Hawley for a possible sixth or seventh rounder. Johnson probably could fetch the same price, if a team was looking for a guy that can add depth at guard or tackle.

On the defensive line, the two players that are probably the easiest to trade would be Kroy Biermann and Vance Walker. I would be shocked if the Falcons would trade Biermann because he seems to be nestled atop their depth chart as the team’s nickel pass rusher, replacing Ray Edwards. But given the fact that they still would have Edwards and Lawrence Sidbury to fill that role, and could still develop Jonathan Massaquoi and/or Cliff Matthews as depth, it would not be crazy if the Falcons did shop Biermann for a late round pick. Walker’s experience means that a team hurting for a run-stopping one-gap tackle could be enticed to give up a seventh rounder.

If the Falcons were confident in the return abilities of Harry Douglas on punts, it could potentially mean that Dominique Franks could be shopped. If a team was really hurting for depth at cornerback, they might also look at Chris Owens, assuming he’s fully recovered from his hamstring injury. The Falcons could presumably opt to deal one of them because of the other’s presence.

I don’t think any of these players should be traded or will be traded, but it always interesting to see what possibilities are out there. A lot of those players I mentioned, getting just a conditional sixth or seventh round pick doesn’t seem like a fair trade for the Falcons. Ultimately the depth many of those guys provide and the roles they fill are worth me in return than a draft pick that ultimately will just be a career backup and special teamer in all likelihood. Biermann is a prime example of this. He’s a pulled muscle away from starting a bunch of games this year and helping keep the pass rush from evaporating. No offense, but that right there is worth more than drafting another Charles Mitchell or Wilrey Fontenot.

Roster Talk: Defense

August 28th, 2012 Comments off
Fernando Medina-US PRESSWIRE

Is Schillinger on the bubble?

Earlier, I broke down many of the position battles and how the roster could break on the offense. Now I’m going to turn my attention to the defense which seems to have a lot less question marks.

Most of the roster spots seem relatively sewn up, but the last few spots at each position group still seem to be up in the air. And guys will have one last opportunity on Thursday night in Jacksonville to showcase their skills to make one last pitch for the roster and/or practice squad.

Defensive End

The Falcons have kept five defensive ends each of the past few years, but I think this year they will possibly keep a sixth. Keeping five has been their M.O. mainly because they had a young developing prospect that they didn’t trust would clear waivers to make the practice squad due to the league’s premium on pass rushers. In 2009 and 2010, it was Lawrence Sidbury that filled that role, and a year ago it was Cliff Matthews’ turn. As evidenced by Sidbury in 2010 and Matthews last year, whoever that player is rarely gets a chance to play on defense. Thus that would make keeping six seem like extravagance, since now you have two guys that are spending most Sundays inactive. But I think the battle between Jonathan Massaquoi and Matthews has been that close, that I don’t think the team wants to part with either. Massaquoi’s potential as a pass rusher probably means he’ll be higher on the depth chart than Matthews if push came to shove. But Matthews has played well this summer and played consistently with a high motor. So high in fact that you could make the argument he has the best motor of any of the ends on the team. And that’s not the type of player I could see the Falcons cutting when it comes down to it. Matthews still remains eligible for a practice squad spot, but if any team pops in tape of the Falcons previous three preseason games, one of the 31 other teams is certainly going to be impressed enough to snatch him up similar to how the Browns pounced on Emmanuel Stephens last year.

Best Guess for Final 53: Abraham, Edwards, Biermann, Sidbury, Massaquoi, Matthews

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Peterson to start vs. Bengals with Dent out

August 14th, 2012 Comments off

The Falcons ruled middle linebacker Akeem Dent out for Thursday night’s preseason matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals due to a concussion he suffered during last week’s game against the Baltimore Ravens. In his stead, Mike Peterson is expected to start at middle linebacker. Peterson was signed by the Falcons just before the start of training camp, after a season-ending injury to Lofa Tatupu. Along with Dent, defensive end Louis Nzegwu (leg) has already been ruled out for the Bengals game.

Harry Douglas, who missed the Ravens game with a rib injury, is expected to play against the Bengals. Several players that missed the Ravens game remain unknown as far as their status for this week’s game. Mike Calvin (leg) and Corey Peters (foot) remain unable to practice as of Tuesday and are expected to miss the game. Vance Walker (foot) returned to practice on Tuesday and could be available against the Bengals.  Erik Folk, Richard Medlin, Chris Owens (hamstring), Jason Snelling (leg), and Lamar Holmes also did not play against the Ravens, and their statuses for this week’s Bengals game is unknown.

Camp Battles 2012: Secondary

July 19th, 2012 Comments off
Bob Donnan-US PRESSWIRE

Dunta Robinson

One of the most interesting battles that will come in training camp this summer will occur in the secondary, as the Falcons look to shuffle their depth at cornerback.

With the addition of Asante Samuel joining Dunta Robinson and Brent Grimes, the Falcons are now three-deep at the cornerback position, and intend to take full advantage of that this season. The nickel package is expected to often be utilized as the Falcons base package with the intent of getting the best 11 defenders on the field at the same time.

But what needs to occur first in camp, is which of the three players will emerge as the two everydown players. Two of the players will play virtually every snap on defense, with the third nickel corner subbing in on passing situations. That third corner will play the majority of snaps on defense overall, but it won’t be every snap. Last year when Grimes was healthy, he and Robinson averaged about 63 snaps per game as starters, while the nickel corner was on the field (a combo of Kelvin Hayden, Dominique Franks, and Chris Owens) for about 36 snaps per game. The latter number is likely to increase, potentially to as high as 45-50 snaps per game.

Robinson and Grimes are the incumbents, and as such got most of the first team reps during the off-season. That means that Samuel will be coming off the bench as the nickel corner. If that remains the case into the season, then in those nickel situations Samuel will play on the outside across from Grimes with Robinson moving inside to the slot corner spot. This is arguably the best usage of the three players since among the three Samuel is the weakest in run support and thus limiting his first and second down reps could streamline his usage. But at the same time, Samuel is also the best playmaker of the group, and thus it would make sense to maximize that ability by putting him on the field as much as possible. Robinson on the other hand is the least likely to make plays in coverage, and while his strength has historically been run support, that was an area where he struggled throughout the 2011 season. He’ll need to show the coaching staff this summer that 2011 was an aberration, and his former toughness against the run has returned.

Franks, Owens, and Darrin Walls will be competing for the opportunity to be the first player off the bench in the event of an injury. Franks is the most likely of the group to win the job. He had his share of moments last year as an injury replacement for Grimes down the stretch. While Franks is not well-suited to playing in the slot, he does have a solid skillset that can make him a potentially effective starter on the outside. And given the looming contract issues that both Robinson and Grimes face in the future, the team may want to groom Franks as a potential replacement come 2013.

The addition of Samuel to the roster means that the Falcons could be parting ways with either Owens or Walls. Walls shined last summer but in the face of minimal competition due to the fact that he was competing with other undrafted free agents. He won’t have such a luxury this year, as he’ll likely be going directly up against Owens for the fifth and likely final cornerback slot. Owens has struggled throughout the years when lined up in the slot, but when he’s been an outside corner as a rookie and late last year, he has been a solid reserve. That experience and versatility coupled with Owens being one of the team’s better producers on special teams should give him an edge to win the job. But it’s no slam dunk. Owens is entering the final year of his contract, and while Walls is probably never going to be a better player than Owens in the long run, the fact that Walls is two years younger and cheaper could give him a slight edge in the competition. The key for Walls is showing that he can also be a very good special teams player. The positive for Walls is that he remains eligible for the practice squad, so it’s possible they could keep both.

There will be added competition at cornerback this summer. The team picked up Robert McClain in the off-season as well as adding undrafted free agents Marty Markett and Peyton Thompson. McClain was a solid special teams player as a rookie in 2010 with the Panthers. And Markett is a track guy from South Carolina that could potentially be an excellent gunner. Thompson has solid cover skills and the sort of toughness that could also make him a capable special teams player. Because of their potential to impact on special teams, all three players have a legit chance of making the roster.

At safety, the starters are settled with Thomas DeCoud at free safety and William Moore at strong safety. The team made a good decision to upgrade their depth by signing veteran Chris Hope. Hope will be the primary backup at strong safety, but he also posseses the experience to fit nicely as the team’s top backup at free safety as well. All three players have firm holds on their roster spots.

The key competition at safety will come for who wins the fourth safety spot. Shann Schillinger will compete with rookie draft pick Charles Mitchell, along with undrafted rookies Chad Faulcon and former practice squad player Suaesi Tuimaunei. Schillinger is one of the team’s top special teams players, which gives him an edge in the competition. But the team likes Mitchell and his skillset should also translate well to producing on special teams. Mitchell is not a great cover guy, but is an ace run defender despite being undersized. Schillinger has not shown a lot on defense the past two summers but he’s a free safety while Mitchell is a pure strong safety. And since Hope is primarily a strong safety, that also gives Schillinger the potential nod. The Falcons may opt to keep five safeties particularly if Schillinger manages to win the job, but Mitchell may also be destined for the practice squad at least early in the year. As for Faulcon and Tuimaunei, they are likely competing for practice squad spots, but will be hard-pressed to do so especially if the Falcons manage to keep five safeties. Their best chances will be impacting on special teams.

Moneyball 2011 – Week 18 Review

January 10th, 2012 Comments off

I know I’ve said this a couple of times already this year, but this was really hard game to re-watch. It felt like getting a prostate exam. The Falcons just looked inept on offense in this game, and seemed like some 6-10 team that had won a door prize to get into the playoffs, rather than the 10-6 team we saw most of the year.

Matt Ryan did not play well in this game. He was late on throws and reads, and seemed unwilling to try and challenge downfield. It looked like the Falcons gameplan was to feature a lot of short passing to offset the lack of a running game in the hopes that getting the ball out of his hands quickly would slow down the Giants pass rush. Well it really didn’t work too well. Roddy White did not play very well, with three drops. Julio Jones had a nice day, but the reality is that the Falcons did not really try to feature him. Gonzalez made some nice catches, but he too seemed to be not heavy into their game plan.

Much of their gameplan centered on feeding Michael Turner, which was certainly expected. But the Falcons offensive line struggled to move the pile and Turner was for the most part a non-factor. The Falcons offensive line is probably the real culprit of this loss. THey got their butts kicked by the Giants front, and nothing signifies this more than they two 4th & 1 stuffs on the sneaks where they got no push. But don’t always forget that the Falcons had a 3rd & 2 and 3rd & 1 that the line could not convert either.

Personally, I really don’t have a major issue with Mike Smith’s decision to go for it on either fourth down instead of kicking the field goal. I tend to favor coaches that are a bit more aggressive on fourth down. What I do have issue with is that the Falcons did not convert. They were asked to “man up” and they got punked. And regardless of whether the Falcons net 6 points on those two series, it still doesn’t change the fact that the Giants were punking them throughout the day. So while it would have made the score closer had the Falcons kicked those field goals, I certainly don’t think it would have really had any impact on the outcome of the game.

The bigger coaching decision I have to question is why the Falcons did not call a timeout at the end of the first half in their two-minute drill after Ryan inept-looking scramble. After that play, 18 seconds ticked off the clock. Why did Smith nor Ryan not call a timeout then? That’s two or three plays that the Falcons could have had at the end of the half to try and put some points on the board.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLOCK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Michael Turner$0$6$0$0$0$0$6.00
Julio Jones$0$2$3$0$0$0$5.00
Matt Ryan$6-$2$0$0$0$0$4.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$4-$1$0$0$3.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Jason Snelling$0$1$0$0$0.5$0$1.50
Todd McClure$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Mike Cox$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Eric Weems$0$0$0$0$0.5$0$0.50
Michael Palmer$0$0$0$0$0.5$0$0.50
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0$1$0-$1$0.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Will Svitek$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Joe Hawley$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00
Roddy White$0$0-$1$0$0$0-$1.00
TEAM OFFENSE$0$0$0$0$0-$1-$1.00

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Grimes out ‘a couple’ of weeks

November 30th, 2011 Comments off
Icon Sports Media, Inc.

Brent Grimes

Falcons head coach Mike Smith indicated that cornerback Brent Grimes will miss ‘a couple of weeks’ due to minor surgery on his injured right knee that is scheduled to occur tomorrow. Grimes is expected to miss at least two weeks according to Charles Odum of the Associated Press. He left last Sunday’s game early in the first quarter due to the injury, that he suffered reportedly aginst the Lions in late October and has been sore since.

The Falcons are already thin at cornerback with Kelvin Hayden missing today’s practice due to a toe injury and likely to miss this Sunday’s upcoming game against the Houston Texans. Hayden missed last week’s game. In his absence, Chris Owens filled in at the nickel. But due to Grimes injury, Owens is expected to replace him at left cornerback, and Dominique Franks will likely slide into the nickel role.

Also held out of Wednesday’s practice were linebacker Stephen Nicholas (quad), wide receiver Julio Jones (hamstring), running back Michael Turner (groin), and defensive tackle Vance Walker (groin). The team also sat defensive end John Abraham, center Todd McClure, and tight end Tony Gonzalez, but not for injury-related reasons. McClure had what was deemed a minor procedure on his knee in late August, and missed a total of three games and was limited in two others due to the injury.

Offensive tackle Sam Baker (back) was limited in Wednesday’s practice. Baker returned for last week’s game, after missing four games. Cornerback Dunta Robinson (neck) was able to fully participate in practice, after suffering a stinger early against the Vikings.

Moneyball 2011 – Week 12 Review

November 29th, 2011 Comments off

A solid performance by the offense in the first half. I think Mularkey called a good game there, and the Falcons executed that game plan very well. I think things got a little too conservative at the outset of the third quarter and you could see a hint of the Falcons playing to protect a lead as opposed to a team that wanted to keep attacking and being aggressive.

A strong performance for Matt Ryan, the type of game that he had with regularity a season ago. But those games have come with far less frequency this year, but he seems over recent weeks to be getting back into that 2010 stride.

Roddy White had an excellent game, and both Douglas and Gonzalez had solid contributions. Jones was an afterthought for the most part, and it’s a shame because he was wide open on the TD pass to Michael Palmer, and it would have been a much easier throw for Ryan to make if he had spotted him. And he was also open deep on a play late in the game, that Ryan threw to Roddy instead for a 26-yard gain, but if he had taken the deep shot perhaps the Falcons score then rather than six plays later on the pass to Palmer. But I guess you could argue that the additional 3 minutes they were able to milk off the clock on those six plays helped them just as much.

The ground game was solid when the holes were there. A lot of missed blocks on the part of the Falcons. Svitek had a good game, shutting down Jared Allen in pass protection, but struggled at various times as a run blocker, missing 3 blocks. Everyone except Clabo missed a block or two, and everytime Turner was stopped for a minimal gain was due to the blocking. We saw a bit more of the Falcons mixing in Snelling and Rodgers into the rushing rotation, although there are still some instances where the Falcons call plays and I’m wondering why Turner is in the game rather than Quizz.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLOCK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Matt Ryan$16$0$0$0$0-$1$15.00
Michael Turner$0$10$0$0$0$0$10.00
Roddy White$0$0$10$0$0$0$10.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$4$1$0$0$5.00
Harry Douglas$0$1$3$0$0$0$4.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$2$2$0$0$0$4.00
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0$3.5$0-$1$2.50
Michael Palmer$0$0$2$0$0$0$2.00
Todd McClure$0$0$0$1.5$0$0$1.50
Mike Cox$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Jason Snelling$0$1$0$0$0$0$1.00
Eric Weems$0$0$0$0$1$0$1.00
Antone Smith$0$0$0$0$1-$1$0.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0-$0.5$0$0-$0.50
Julio Jones$0$0$0$0$0-$1-$1.00
Will Svitek$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00
Joe Hawley$0$0$0-$0.5$0-$1-$1.50

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Moneyball 2011 – Week 11 Review

November 21st, 2011 Comments off

A solid performance for the offense, although there wasn’t anything great about. Matt Ryan had a solid game managing the offense, with only 1 poor throw on the day. Michael Turner had several nice runs and was his old powerful self, breaking tackles on some of them.

The Falcons were able to spread the ball around to different receivers with Julio Jones out of the lineup, with Michael Palmer and Eric Weems getting some action in the passing game. Roddy White had a nice bounce-back game from last week, although he still wasn’t perfect. But he made some nice grabs on the day. Tony Gonzalez and Harry Douglas also were solid.

The blocking was solid, with Ryan having good protection. Justin Blalock didn’t have a great day, missing 3 blocks, although it is worth noting most of them came when he was pulling or supposed to hit an assignment on the second level. Neither of those two things have ever really been his strength.

Overall, it was a solid performance for the offense. But nothing special. This is the type of game that is giong to be quickly forgotten because there really wasn’t anything notable to happen in it. The struggles the team had converting in the redzone are a chief concern, and it’s hopefully something that can be nipped in the bud.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLOCK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Matt Ryan$13$2$0$0$0$0$15.00
Michael Turner$0$14-$1$0$0-$3$10.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$6$1.5$0$0$7.50
Roddy White$0$0$5$0$0-$1$4.00
Harry Douglas$0$0$4$0$0-$0.5$3.50
Todd McClure$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Will Svitek$0$0$0$2.5$0-$1$1.50
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Michael Palmer$0$0$1$0$0$0$1.00
Antone Smith$0$0$0$0$1$0$1.00
Jason Snelling$0-$1$1$0$0$0$0.00
Eric Weems$0$0$0$0$1-$1.5$0.50
Justin Blalock$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00
Joe Hawley$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00

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