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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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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.

 

 

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 38 “How Much Money Did They Pay Baker?”

September 12th, 2013 Comments off

Allen and I recap our thoughts on the Atlanta Falcons Week 1 loss to the New Orleans Saints. Including our thoughts on the Falcons promising young corners … The play of the front four including how Osi Umenyiora stacks up against John Abraham … Akeem Dent’s coverage abilities … The play of tackles Lamar Holmes and Sam Baker and if/when a change could be made up front … Steven Jackson’s performance in his first game as a Falcon … Harry Douglas’ Ascension to Stardom … Later we switch our attention to the Falcons Week 2 matchup against the St. Louis Rams which include: What Matchup issues Chris Long and Robert Quinn might present to the Falcons OL … How crowd noise can benefit the Falcons at home … Cortland Finnegan and a young Rams secondary’s ability to match up against the Falcons receivers … The Falcons pass rush and how it might affect the game … Whether Asante Samuel is needed to help bottle up the explosive Rams receivers … At the end, we re-hash their opinions on other Week 1 performances including their observations from both Monday Night Football games, as well as Lavonte David, Pittsburgh Steelers, etc.

Ep. 38: How Much Money Did They Pay Baker? [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 19 minutes

Allen writes for TJRSports.com as well as the Bleacher Report. 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

Moneyball 2013 – Week 1 Review

September 11th, 2013 Comments off

This was your classic Falcons-Saints game where the Saints proved victorious. The Falcons had numerous opportunities to steal the win, but they didn’t take advantage of enough of them.

The Falcons couldn’t move the ball against the Saints as the game progressed mainly because of their woes in pass protection. From my count, the Falcons gave up pressures or hurries on 8 of their 12 third/fourth down attempts, which shows you why it is not surprising that they only converted 3 of them. Thus why most of their drives after the first quarter were stalled.

Lamar Holmes had a really bad game. And the only reason his earnings aren’t lower than they are, is because I don’t subtract points for pressures and hurries given up. I probably should, but I don’t because otherwise our offensive linemen would be in the negative almost every week. Cameron Jordan just worked over Holmes, as I counted 3 hurries and 2 pressures from Jordan alone when working against Holmes. The one time it wasn’t Jordan that beat Holmes on a pressure, it came off a stunt from Tyrunn Walker, where Holmes couldn’t get outside quick enough after releasing Jordan inside to Reynolds.

Sam Baker also had one of his weaker games. I did notice early in the game (maybe the second series?) Baker got his leg rolled up from behind and was slow to get up. Did the affect him the rest of the game? Perhaps, and it’s interesting that he sat out Wednesday’s practice with a knee ailment.

Maybe that is an excuse for his shoddy play. Twice Baker got beat when the Falcons were inside the 5-yard line. The first time came in the 1st quarter, when Galette beat him on 3rd down forcing Ryan to throw it away and the team to settle for a field goal instead of scoring a touchdown. The second time came when he gave up a hurry to Curtis Lofton at the end of the game on Ryan’s lob to Gonzalez. I only considered it a hurry rather than pressure because Ryan did seem to hold onto the ball a bit too long waiting for Gonzalez to get open.

Speaking of Ryan, I thought he had a good game. But at the very end on the last two plays where first Steven Jackson and then Gonzalez couldn’t reel in the game-winning touchdown, he seemed to lock on both guys early on. Jackson definitely should have caught his pass. Gonzalez should have too, given that he is the G.O.A.T., but at least in his case he has the excuse that Kenny Vaccaro tipped it just before it hit his hands. Given that Ryan was running for his life most of the game, he probably deserves MVP honors for the game.

The running game was mostly non-effective. Not due to Jackson, who on several plays made something out of nothing. But the Falcons couldn’t consistently create push and open holes. They might want to mix in some more stretch plays, as it seemed that early on some of their early success occurred when guys were blocking on the move.

Roddy White clearly was not fully healthy and was a decoy for most of the game. Harry Douglas stepped up and filled in ably. Jones played well, the only negative being that fumble he had which was one of several plays that really turned the Falcons’ fortunes. The holding call on Baker that negated a 3rd down conversion to Douglas at midfield was another killer.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLK
ST
PEN
TOTALS
Matt Ryan$15$2$0$0$0-$1$16.00
Steven Jackson$0$7$3$0$0$0$10.00
Harry Douglas$0$0$6$0$0$0$6.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$5$0$0$0$5.00
Julio Jones$0$0$5$0$0-$2$3.00
Bradie Ewing$0$0$2$1$0$0$3.00
Garrett Reynolds$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Antone Smith$0$0$0$0$2$0$2.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Levine Toilolo$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Roddy White$0$0$1$0$0$0$1.00
Peter Konz$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Lamar Holmes$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00
Sam Baker$0$0$0-$1$0-$1-$2.00

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How the Falcons Scheme for Jimmy Graham

September 4th, 2013 Comments off
Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

Jimmy Graham drags Stephen Nicholas

One of the things that stood out in the Falcons two matchups against the New Orleans Saints last year was how different the two games were in regards to Saints tight end Jimmy Graham’s performances. In the first contest, a loss for the Falcons in the SuperDome, Graham was the best player on the field for the Saints passing attack, finishing with a team-leading 146 yards on 7 catches. He scored a pair of touchdowns and also caught a 46-yard pass that set up what proved to be the Saints’ game-sealing field goal. But in the second game, where the Falcons won in the Georgia Dome, Graham was marginalized. He caught only a single pass in the first half, and was held out of the endzone on a total of 4 catches for 59 yards. Those numbers are even made more impressive by the fact that over the course of the second game, Drew Brees dropped back to pass 18 more times, thus giving Graham much more opportunity to pad his stats. In the first game, Brees targeted Graham on roughly a quarter of his dropbacks (8 targets, 33 dropbacks), but that was more than halved in the second game (6 targets, 51 dropbacks).

What changed? A variety of factors could be considered for why the Falcons were much more effective at covering Graham the second time around. Part of it was venue. While Graham’s numbers home versus away the past two seasons as a starter are similar, with only minor variations in receptions and yards, he has managed to catch nearly twice as many touchdown passes at home (13) than he does on the road (7). The Falcons also got a lot more pressure on Drew Brees in the second game, which had him rattled from his five interceptions. When you’re throwing it so much to the other team, it’s hard to complete passes to your top target. But the biggest takeaway I had was how Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan changed his approach for dealing with Graham.

There’s no doubt that Graham is the centerpiece of the Saints passing attack. While Marques Colston is technically their No. 1 receiver, Graham is such a difficult matchup problem due to his speed, size, and athleticism that defenses must focus the majority of their attention on him or else fear getting burned. If Nolan wasn’t aware of this fact prior to the Falcons first matchup against the Saints last year, he certainly became acquainted with that notion during the game. The Falcons appeared in the second contest to have a much more concerted effort to contain Graham.

Nolan mixed up his looks with how he dealt with Graham. The Falcons rolled a lot of their coverages to Graham in the middle of the field, with both safeties Thomas DeCoud and William Moore not being far from Graham on most snaps. DeCoud drew a number of one-on-one assignments against Graham in the first half of the game. In the second half, the Falcons switched it up by putting linebacker Stephen Nicholas on him more often than not. But either safety wasn’t far.

This sort of blanket coverage put other Falcon defenders in tougher situations as they couldn’t consistently rely on safety help. Asante Samuel left that game early with an injury, and was replaced by Chris Owens. Owens had one of his best performances in that game. Robert McClain was often matched up against Marques Colston in the slot, and handled him effectively. Sean Weatherspoon was tasked with trying to deal with the explosive Darren Sproles for much of the game, and had his share of struggles there.

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