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Gonzalez Questionable in Week 11 vs. Bucs

November 15th, 2013 Comments off

The Atlanta Falcons announced their injury report for this weekend’s upcoming matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and tight end Tony Gonzalez was among several players listed as questionable. Gonzalez injured his toe during last week’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks and was held out of practice this week on Wednesday and Thursday. He returned to practice on a limited basis today, but his status for Sunday’s game remains up in the air.

Also questionable on the injury report are wide receiver Harry Douglas (knee), and defensive tackles Peria Jerry (toe) and Corey Peters (knee). Douglas suffered his injury during the week, missing Thursday’s practice but returned to practice on a limited basis today. Both Jerry and Peters were able to play last week despite suffering from the same injuries. Jerry was limited in practice on all three days, while Peters missed Wednesday’s practice, but was limited on Thursday and Friday. Defensive end Malliciah Goodman (calf) will miss this week’s game as he was out all three days of practice.

Listed as probable are running back Steven Jackson (toe), linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (foot), and wide receiver Roddy White (shoulder). Jackson and White have both been limited this year with other injuries. Jackson missed several games earlier in the season with a hamstring injury. White returned to the Falcons lineup last week for the first time since Week 5 after suffering from hamstring and ankle injuries. Weatherspoon was just elevated off the short-term injured reserve this week after suffering a foot injury earlier in the year.

Also appearing on the injury report is running back Jason Snelling. Snelling missed Wednesday’s practice with a knee injury, but was limited. He missed Friday’s practice with a non-injury related issue due to his arrest for possession of marijuana.

Notable injuries for the Buccaneers include guard Carl Nicks (foot) and defensive end Da’Quan Bowers (concussion), who are out and questionable, respectively. Also listed on the injury report as probable are safety Mark Barron (knee), wide receiver Vincent Jackson (knee), guard Davin Joseph (knee), tackle Donald Penn (calf), and defensive tackle Akeem Spence (wrist).

White Questionable but Expects to Play vs. Seahawks

November 9th, 2013 Comments off

The Falcons injury report released this week lists Falcons wide receiver Roddy White as questionable with his hamstring/ankle injuries that has caused him to miss the past three games. White indicated earlier this week that he expects to play this Sunday, but was listed as questionable due to being limited in all three days of practice this week.

Also listed as questionable were offensive tackle Sam Baker (knee), linebacker Stephen Nicholas (thigh), and defensive tackle Corey Peters (knee). Like White, Baker and Nicholas were limited in all three days of practice this week. Peters missed Wednesday and Thursday’s practices and was limited on Friday. Peters suffered his injury during last week’s loss to the Carolina Panthers. Baker returned to the starting lineup against the Panthers for the first time since Week 4. Nicholas has missed the past two games with his injury.

Defensive tackle Peria Jerry (toe) was listed as probable after being limited on Wednesday and Thursday’s practices, and fully participated in Friday’s practice.

For the Seahawks, notable injuries include defensive end Red Bryant (concussion) and center Max Unger (concussion), who were listed out. Right tackle Breno Giacomini (knee) is doubtful. Safety Kam Chancellor (ankle), defensive end Chris Clemons (non-injury) and running back Marshawn Lynch (knee) were listed as probable.

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Falcons Midseason Superlatives 2013: Stock Up, Stock Down

November 6th, 2013 Comments off
Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Corey Peters

We’ve already looked at the most valuable players and best newcomers through the first half of the 2013 season. We’ll finish our look at the superlative honors by looking at which players have improved the most, and who also has been the biggest disappointment through the first half of the year.

Most Improved Player: Corey Peters

There are a couple of options to choose from here. On the offensive side of the ball, players like Harry Douglas and Garrett Reynolds have stepped up their play from previous years. Akeem Dent at linebacker is a much-improved player from a year ago where he was consistently in my doghouse. Up front, Peria Jerry has also improved to become an effective rotation player from a practical non-entity.

But ultimately it has to go to Corey Peters. I’ve been pretty hard on Peters over the years, as I believe his impact on the defense has been overblown. But he’s bringing it this year, particularly against the run. He’s also had his moments as a pass rusher. But the run defense has improved signficantly from a year ago where it was downright atrocious at times. And while the 2013 Falcons run defense isn’t great, it’s been fairly good, and a lot of credit deserves to go Peters’ way because I believe he’s the biggest catalyst for that improvement.

Most Disappointing Player: Peter Konz

How do you single out one individual on a team full of disappointments? Which player best embodies the high expectations coming into the year as well as the failure to meet them?

Probably the first player that jumps to mind is Steven Jackson. But it raises the question of whether his injury means that he deserves a pass. If yes, then several other injured players are removed from contention, such as Sam Baker. If the answer is no, then that means that all injured players are thusly fair game. And therefore, there’s an even more obvious choice for this honor: Roddy White. But it would feel vindictive to single him out as a disappointment, thus I’ll eliminate injured players from consideration.

Even with that caveat, there are still plenty of players worthy of consideration: Thomas DeCoud, Lamar Holmes, and Jonathan Massaquoi, among others. I think it really just comes down to two prime candidates: Robert McClain or Peter Konz.

In the case of McClain, the expectations were that he would pick up where he left off a year ago, which was as one of the better nickel corners in the league. That hasn’t been the case, and he’s been benched in favor of Alford. Alford’s solid play probably eases the sting of McClain’s disappointment.

Konz was the top rookie last year by default because he was the only guy to really play, not because he played well at right guard. They could potentially bench him or move him back to guard, and promote Joe Hawley at center. But this team has been firmly committed that Konz was the replacement for long-time starting center Todd McClure. And such a move to replace Konz at center, would be an indicator that they are no longer committed to that.

Such a move may not be merited because I believe Konz still could turn into a very good player for the Falcons. But given that his play has at least sewn the seeds of doubt in my own and others’ minds makes him the biggest disappointment thus far this year.

It’s going to be interesting to see at year’s end whether these superlative awards will change hands. One or two typically do.

Categories: Features Tags: , , ,

Jackson to Return; White and Snelling Out in Week 8

October 26th, 2013 Comments off
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Steven Jackson

The Falcons announced their weekly injury report yesterday, indicating that wide receiver Roddy White and running back Jason Snelling will be out for this weekend’s matchup against the Arizona Cardinals. White (hamstring/ankle) and Snelling (ankle) both missed the entire week of practice thanks to their respective injuries. Also linebacker Stephen Nicholas (thigh) was held out of practice this week and will miss the game.

But the Falcons got good news as running back Steven Jackson (hamstring) is expected to suit up for the Falcons for the first time since Week 2. Jackson was limited all three days of practice and was declared probable. Typically the Falcons only declare players that fully participate on Friday as probable, but Jackson’s status is indicative that his limited reps this week were more precautionary than necessary.

Also questionable will be offensive tackle Sam Baker (knee) and linebacker Akeem Dent (ankle). Baker and Dent were both limited in all three practices this week. If Baker is unable to go, Lamar Holmes will likely get the start at left tackle, a role he’s filled the past two games with Baker out of the lineup. Dent returned to the lineup last week after missing the Falcons Week 5 contest against the Jets due to the ankle injury he suffered the preceding week against the New England Patriots. Omar Gaither started at middle linebacker against the Jets in Dent’s absence.

Listed as probable on the injury report were cornerback Robert Alford (ankle), tight end Chase Coffman (knee), and defensive tackle Corey Peters (shoulder). Alford was limited on Wednesday, but fully participated in Thursday and Friday’s practices. Coffman and Peters were both limited on the first two days of practice, but saw a full workload on Friday. Alford supplanted Robert McClain as the team’s nickel cornerback last week and also replaced Harry Douglas on punt returns. But the team has indicated that they might look at other players in the latter role given Alford’s costly turnover last week on his lone punt return.

Notable injuries for the Arizona Cardinals include running back Rashard Mendenhall (toe), who is doubtful for the game. It will likely lead to backup Andre Ellington starting for the team on Sunday. Left guard Daryn Colledge (back) and outside linebacker Matt Shaughnessy (knee) are questionable. Colledge’s absence could lead to Nate Potter getting inserted into the lineup, a role he struggled in last week in Arizona’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (hamstring) fully participated in all three days of practice and is listed as probable.

How the Falcons Defense Matches Up Against the Bucs Offense

October 19th, 2013 Comments off
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Falcons must slow down Doug Martin

The Atlanta Falcons offense isn’t in a favorable matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense on this weekend’s Week 7 NFC South divisional matchup. Thus the Falcons may need their defense to step up and tip the scales in their favor.

The Falcons defense has struggled throughout this year, largely because their pass defense has given up a bunch of yards, big plays, and created very little turnovers. That will need to change this week, as the Falcons may need some turnovers to give their limited offense extra opportunities to score.

The Bucs top wideout is Vincent Jackson, and they will line him up all over their offense to create mismaches. He’s been effective in the slot, where he will draw the assignment of Robert McClain, who has struggled this year. If McClain is going to turn around his season and retain his spot in the lineup, he will need to bounce back this week.

The Falcons will also need Desmond Trufant and Asante Samuel to play well on the outside, and potentially create a couple of turnovers as well. Mike Williams is expected to work his way back into the lineup this week, and will likely get a lot of looks against Trufant, testing the rookie cornerback.

But the Bucs offense is heavily reliant on their rushing attack. The focus of the Falcons defense this week will be on stopping Doug Martin. They will get help in the form of guard Carl Nicks’ absence due to an infection in his foot. That will likely put Gabe Carimi or Ted Larsen as the starting left guard. Carimi is a good run blocker, but a questionable pass protector. Larsen is a more natural center, and lacks the strength to get push in the ground attack. The Falcons defensive tackles in Corey Peters and Jonathan Babineaux will try to exploit that weakness, regardless of who gets the start. Right guard Davin Joseph also hasn’t had the best season either, and thus the Falcons will need to control the line of scrimmage.

That will take pressure off the Falcons linebackers to have to make plays. The defense should get a boost from the return of middle linebacker Akeem Dent. While Dent has struggled in coverage this year, he’s been effective agains the run. That could make a difference, giving the Falcons the front necessary to slow down Martin.

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Categories: Features Tags: , , , , ,

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 42 “The Mayans Were Wrong”

October 12th, 2013 Comments off

Allen and I are back and more sullen than ever as they recap the Atlanta Falcons Monday Night Football loss to the New York Jets. Things we discuss: How the Falcons defense made Geno Smith look extremely poised; The offensive line’s struggles and problems that will likely continue the rest of the season; Matt Ryan and Jacquizz Rodgers being two of few bright spots on offense; Concerns over the defense and special teams; Whether Levine Toilolo is the only hope among the Falcons non-star receivers; Whether Robert McClain has played well enough to keep his job; Red Zone Efficiency; I apologize to Osi Umenyiora… Finally we discuss the impact of Julio Jones’ injury and whether trading for a player such as Josh Gordon would be a good move; Trading Tony; How the Falcons can turn their season around; Corey Peters and whether he’s earned a new contract; What happened to Stephen Nicholas?; and finish up with some around the league stuff, where I find a way to call out Drew Davis.

Ep. 42: The Mayans Were Wrong [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 3 minutes

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

If you have any questions and comments, you can hit us up on Twitter, post in the forums in the podcast thread, or drop an e-mail at: pudge@falcfans.com.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, and be sure to rate us there! You can also subscribe directly to our feed at the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/falcfans/LXSt

Falcons Lose to Jets on Last Second Field Goal

October 8th, 2013 1 comment
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Folk celebrates the game-winning field goal

The Atlanta Falcons dropped another heart-breaker when a last second field goal by kicker Nick Folk lifted the New York Jets to a 30-28 win. The Falcons had been successful with taking a late one-point lead with less than two minutes remaining in the game, but their defense failed to get a stop to deliver the team a win. Atlanta’s record falls to 1-4 as they enter their bye week.

Matt Ryan led the way, completing 36 of 45 passes for 319 yards and a pair of touchdown passes. The Falcons running game was led by Jacquizz Rodgers, who rushed for 43 yards and 2 touchdowns on 14 carries. Jason Snelling added 13 yards on 7 carries. Tony Gonzalez led Falcons receivers with 10 catches for 97 yards, on his way to be the second player in NFL history to catch a pass in 200 consecutive games after Hall of Famer Jerry Rice. Julio Jones added 8 catches for 99 yards. Snelling had five catches for 10 yards and one of Ryan’s touchdowns. Levine Toilolo had the other on his way to 2 catches for 15 yards. Matt Bryant attempted no field goals as the Falcons found greater success in the red zone. They were able to convert touchdowns four times on five trips. Matt Bosher punted twice for an average 49.5 yards, but had one punt blocked. Harry Douglas returned a pair of punt returns for 22 yards, while Rodgers only returned a single kickoff for 23 yards. The Falcons generated 363 yards of total offense and were able to convert on 6 of 12 third down attempts, while converted on 1 of 2 fourth down attempts. They did manage to turn the ball over once, on a Ryan fumble.

Defensively, the Falcons only allowed 288 total yards from the Jets. Much of those yards came on the ground, as the Jets were able to generate 118 rushing yards. They sacked quarterback Geno Smith four times, but weren’t able to force any turnovers of the rookie passer. Stephen Nicholas led defenders with 7 tackles. Jonathan Babineaux (4 tackles); Joplo Bartu (3 tackles, 1 sack); Thomas DeCoud (5 tackles); Omar Gaither (4 tackles); William Moore (3 tackles); Corey Peters (3 tackles, 1 sack, 1 pass defended); Desmond Trufant (3 tackles, 1 pass defended); Osi Umenyiora (6 tackles, 2 sacks); and Paul Worrilow (6 tackles) had noteworthy games.

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Falcons vs. Patriots: Six Intriguing Matchups

September 27th, 2013 Comments off
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Julio Jones

The Falcons hope to respond after a disappointing loss last week as they face the New England Patriots and Bill Belichick, who has earned a reputation as the league’s best schemer. With questions surrounding Falcons head coach Mike Smith and whether the Falcons coaching staff is pulling its own weight, they will have to be up to the task of trying to match wits with Belichick.

In looking at the past two Patriots games, here are three favorable matchups to watch out for on Sunday night for each team.

Advantage: Falcons

Julio Jones vs. Aqib Talib

Last week, the Patriots asked Talib to shadow Vincent Jackson and he was very effective doing so. Jackson was limited to just three catches for 34 yards. It is likely that the Patriots will do something similar this week hoping that Talib can have a similar effect against Jones, who is clearly the Falcons No. 1 target. Jones has been targeted on nearly half (43-percent) of Ryan’s 81 attempts this year. It should be noted that even at his peak in 2009, Roddy White never exceeded 36-percent. If Talib is effective in containing Jones, it will make the Falcons offense much less effective. But that will be a tall order for Talib. It has been no secret the first three games of this season that Jones has been best and often sole offensive weapon in the passing game, yet no Falcons opponent has really been effective at slowing him down. Talib and Jones have only faced each other once, back in Week 3 of 2011. According to Pro Football Focus, Jones was able to catch a pair of passes against Talib for 25 yards on three targets in that game. The Falcons coaching staff, knowing that the Patriots No. 1 defensive priority will be limiting Jones’ impact on the game will have to find ways to get him the ball despite the shadow that Talib creates.

Tony Gonzalez vs. Patriots LBs/Safeties

If Talib shadows Jones throughout the game, it should allow Belichick free to mix up his coverages in regards to tight end Tony Gonzalez. Gonzalez has yet to really have a breakout game this season and this week he could be poised for such. The Pats have yet to really face a formidable tight end through the first three weeks of the 2013 season. A year ago (per Football Outsiders) the Patriots were weak against the tight end, ranking 29th in DVOA. Note that the Falcons, who also struggled to cover tight ends, ranked 21st last year. The Patriots may not put a single player on Gonzalez, but rotate multiple players. Normally, safety Steve Gregory and linebackers Jerod Mayo and Don’ta Hightower tend to draw most of the assignments against opposing tight ends. But the Patriots may try using athletic rookie linebacker Jamie Collins as well in the hopes he may be better suited against a veteran like Gonzalez.

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Takeaways from Week 3

September 23rd, 2013 Comments off

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Ryan and the running game give Atlanta hope

I have become increasingly aware of the fact that over the years part of my duties as a Falcons blogger is being able to talk my fellow fans down from the ledge.

Under Mike Smith, losses by the Falcons are relatively rare and thus it seems that the negativity is magnified during the weeks following a loss. People have to get all the negativity that they are used to getting out over a 12-loss Falcon season in less than half as many games. Also it seems like after every single loss that Falcon fans want to take a referendum on the season and use that individual game to determine whether the Falcons are going to or capable of winning a Super Bowl.

Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news. But the only game that determines whether a team is able to win a Super Bowl is the Super Bowl itself. And that game is a long ways off. Thus nobody should be trying to figure out February in September.

Look, I’ll admit the stats aren’t that promising since teams that start the season 1-2 aren’t exactly known for making deep playoff runs. But here’s something that should provide you a bit of solace. Five of the twelve playoff teams last year did start the season 1-2. That might be the most ever, although I only checked back to about 1990 or so before my eyes glazed over. In 2010, none of the playoffs teams got off to worse than a 2-1 start. What does that mean? I don’t know. It could be a one-year aberration or a sign that parity is rising in the NFL. But more importantly, it’s supposed to illustrate to you that a 1-2 start doesn’t end your season just as it did not for Denver, Green Bay, Indianapolis, New England, and Washington a year ago.

Also, the 2001 Patriots and 2007 Giants both started the year 1-2 and ultimately won the title. Sure, two out of twelve doesn’t exactly fill you with an abundance of confidence but it should illustrate to you that an NFL season is not defined by what happens in Week 3.

If I’m making the argument for why the Falcons are going to turn around their season then that argument is going to be based off the fact that both losses came in the final minute. A play or two here and there, and the Falcons could easily be 3-0. The fact that the Falcons’ are pretty beat up at this point in the year also could play into their favor later on. It’s getting a lot of younger players reps to the point that several of them might wind up stepping up. It is noteworthy that without contributions from rookies like Aaron Ross, Kevin Boss, Ahmad Bradshaw, and Michael Johnson, the Giants may not have made it to the Super Bowl back in 2007.

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Spoon to Short-term IR; Jackson week-to-week

September 17th, 2013 Comments off

The Falcons announced today that linebacker Sean Weatherspoon will be placed on injured reserve, but designated to return. As such, he will miss the next eight games, but could potentially return to practice in six weeks. FOX Sports’ Mike Garofalo reports that the foot injury that caused Weatherspoon to exit Sunday’s win over the St. Louis Rams, is a lisfranc injury. Running back Steven Jackson also exited the Rams’ game with a thigh injury. NFL.com’s Ian Rapaport reports that the injury is suspected of being a week-to-week injury that could cause him to miss two to four weeks.

Defensive tackle Corey Peters suffered a lisfranc foot injury last summer and missed all of training camp, preseason, and the first six weeks of the regular season. If Weatherspoon’s injury is of a similar severity, then him missing two months would seem optimistic. Joplo Bartu will likely replace Weatherspoon in the lineup at weakside linebacker.

With Jason Snelling filling in for Bradie Ewing at fullback, Jacquizz Rodgers will likely become the team’s starter at running back.