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Roster Talk: The Twenty Most Vulnerable

August 20th, 2013 Comments off

The Falcons will have to cut 14 players a week from today to get their roster limit down to the league-mandated 75-player limit. This Saturday’s game against the Tennessee Titans will be the last opportunity for a few players in their short NFL careers.

Trying to peg which fourteen players will have to turn in their playbooks by next Tuesday is tough to predict. But I’ll try and highlight twenty players at each position group that are most vulnerable.

It should be noted that sometimes teams will try and cut a player at the first cutdown date in the hopes that they sneak through waivers and can be later added to the practice squad. The Falcons haven’t normally done this as I could only find a single instance of this occurring under Thomas Dimitroff. That came a year ago when tight end Chase Coffman was cut early on and wound up on the team’s practice squad. So it’s certainly possible that a player that I haven’t mentioned here gets cut firstly because I’m not omniscient, but secondly because the Falcons might be wanting to sneak someone through waivers in order to scoop them back up come September.

Quarterback – Seth Doege

I think it’s obvious that Doege is on the bubble as he has yet to attempt a pass in the preseason. In past years, the Falcons have given all of the fourth preseason game reps to a single quarterback. Although I think that might change this year with both Dominique Davis and Sean Renfree perhaps needing the extra work.

Running Back – Donald Russell

The Falcons have a glut of young guys that have flashed ability, but I think they’ll be hard-pressed to take all of them into the final preseason week where they face the Jacksonville Jaguars. Typically reserves like Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling have gotten work in that game, but that might change this year if the team wants to get longer looks at Antone Smith, Josh Vaughan, and/or Ronnie Wingo. Of the group, Russell might be the most vulnerable simply because he has shown the least of the group as a runner, although no one should mistake that for meaning Russell hasn’t showed anything.

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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 35 “Ravens Recap/Titans Preview”

August 20th, 2013 1 comment

Allen and I are joined by Dave Choate of the Falcoholic to discuss the Falcons preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens. We talk of the players that impressed us the most in the game: Peter Konz and the solid offensive line play, Steven Jackson’s improvement, Paul Worrilow’s emergence, and the battle between Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford… Stephen Nicholas, and how safe his roster spot is… Whether Lamar Holmes has solidified the starting right tackle spot, or whether the Falcons should be on the lookout for help there in free agency… Potential of adding a defensive tackle to bolster the interior rotation and later discuss some specific names… Dave then breaks down some of the players he thinks are sleepers that could wind up making the roster and gives his thoughts on how the depth at wide receiver might shape up. And whether Michael Jenkins could help bolster that position… Thoughts on the Baltimore Ravens, their off-season moves, and whether or not they can repeat as champions… Reviewing some of the matchups that could be interesting this week against the Tennessee Titans… Discussion of the Falcons subpar pass rush and tight end depth… Von Miller’s suspension and how that could affect the Denver Broncos season and AFC playoff picture.

Ep. 35: Ravens Recap/Titans Preview [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 21 minutes

Allen writes for TJRSports.com as well as the Bleacher Report. His twitter handle is: @Allen_Strk.

Dave writes for The Falcoholic and can be found on twitter: @TheFalcoholic.

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

Preseason Week 2 Stock Report

August 18th, 2013 Comments off
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Peter Konz appears to have found a home at center

This is the third installment in the weekly stock reports, assessing which Falcon players have improved or diminished their stock for making the Falcons roster and/or potentially contributing in 2013.

Last week I indicated that four players’ stock was down: QB Dominique Davis, TE Levine Toilolo, OT Ryan Schraeder, and CB Dominique Franks. Without going into great detail, all four players improved their performances against the Ravens. Franks stood out the most as he was arguably the most impactful defender on the field once the starters went out. He blanketed Ravens wideout LaQuan Williams, and made it nearly impossible for backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor to complete a pass to the young receiver. But rather than rehash previous players, I’ll indicate some new faces that were able to raise their stock within the past week.

Stock Up

 

RB Antone Smith – After a strong preseason debut by Ronnie Wingo, Smith’s grip on a roster spot seemed a bit more tenuous especially given the time he missed due to injury. But Smith responded with a solid performance against the Ravens. As a rusher, Smith was unimpressive. He rushed for 16 yards on 6 carries (2.7 avg). None of his first five carries proved successful, until his sixth and final carry of five yard where he was able to bounce a play to the edge. He is being pushed for what is expected to be the fourth running back spot by a trio of youngsters in Josh Vaughan, Ronnie Wingo, and Donald Russell. That trio combined for 12 carries and 67 yards (5.6 avg) against the Ravens. Seven of those dozen combined carries (58.3%) were successful runs. Vaughn looked particularly impressive, with his first four carries all counting as successes. But Smith showcased excellent speed, which can be valuable in both the passing game and on special teams. He was able to use that speed on the edge on a pair of catches in the flat that went for a combined 40 yards, almost all of it coming after the catch where he streaked by Ravens’ defenders. That speed also came into handy on special teams where he was able to get downfield quickly and cover punts, including downing one at the Ravens’ own 2-yard line. While Smith doesn’t offer the same long-term potential as a runner that the other young backs on the roster do, he does offer immediate value in the passing game, thus complementing Matt Ryan well, and on special teams, meaning he can be active and contribute every Sunday.

OC Peter Konz – While I did highlight Konz as a player whose stock was rising a week ago, it should be mentioned that it continues to rise after a standout game against the Baltimore Ravens. He faced 4-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and was highly effective in controlling the 340-pounder. As mentioned previously, former Falcons center Todd McClure routinely struggled against big 3-4 nose tackles. But if Thursday night is any indcator, that will no longer be an issue with Konz playing the pivot.

Stock Down

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Five Falcons to Watch Tonight vs. Ravens

August 15th, 2013 Comments off

This second preseason game will likely feature a longer look at the Falcons starters, who played three series and much of the first quarter in their opener against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Several of the same five players that I indicated you should keep your eyes on against the Bengals would probably be my choices again this week, including Dominique Davis, Ryan Schraeder, and Desmond Trufant. But I opted to go with a new quintet of players just to keep things fresh.

WR Marcus Jackson

Drew Davis appears to being solidifying his grip on the fourth wide receiver spot on the depth chart, but no one yet has emerged as the front-runner for the fifth and final spot. Jackson has earned praise in camp alongside Martel Moore, and thus needs to turn that into production on the field. Tonight will be as good a time as any to start.

TE Levine Toilolo

Toilolo had a disappointing performance against the Bengals, not necessarily because he did not catch a pass, but because he looked  overwhelmed as a blocker. Toilolo needs to rebound this week and show that he is an effective blocker, as well as potentially showcase his potential as a receiver. He needs to show that he can do at least one of those things well, otherwise he may find himself hard-pressed to see the field come the regular season.

OC Peter Konz

Konz will be going up against All-Pro nose tackle Haloti Ngata when facing the Ravens’ starters. Ngata is one of the best in the business and will be a very tough matchup for any center. Even if Konz fares poorly, it will be a good litmus test for him going into the season. His predecessor, Todd McClure, routinely struggled going up against 3-4 nose tackles, both good and bad, throughout his career. It will be worth watching to note whether Konz has those same issues moving forward.

DE/DT Cliff Matthews

Matthews, similar to Toilolo, looked a bit overwhelmed in the preseason matchup against the Bengals. He appeared to have the majority of his work come inside at defensive tackle, but seemed to get pushed around too much, unable to get off blocks. Matthews is a high-motor that did an excellent job at run defense when he was a much smaller end last year. He needs to showcase that the bulk he added this off-season to get more reps inside is paying dividends by being more stout against the run there.

S Charles Mitchell

One of the issues facing this Falcon team is depth at the safety position given the durability issues that have plagued William Moore almost every season he’s been with the team. Mitchell is the most talented of the group of young safeties and he’ll need to step up to provide confidence that he could fill in if Moore was to go down again. A strong performance against the Ravens could inspire that confidence.

Spoon doubtful to play against Ravens

August 12th, 2013 Comments off

Via the team’s official twitter, Falcons head coach Mike Smith indicated that linebacker Sean Weatherspoon is unlikely to play in the team’s second preseason matchup against the Baltimore Ravens this Thursday. Other reports from Smith indicated that wide receiver Julio Jones is likely to suit up for the first time this preseason after missing the team’s preseason opener against the Cincinnati Bengals last Thursday. Spoon suffered an open dislocation on his finger last week, an injury that required stitches and is expected to be held out until the wound fully heals. Jones missed last week’s game due to tightness in his hamstring that left him limited in team practices, but he fully participated in yesterday’s practice for the first time in a week.

No word on whether other recently injured players such as linebacker Robert James, fullback Bradie Ewing, and running back Antone Smith will suit up on Thursday evening. Both Ewing and Smith were initially expected to miss 5 to 10 days of practice when they first went down with injuries on July 30. James suffered his injury during the Bengals game after limited work. All three players missed Saturday’s practice.

Takeaways from Last Week – August 12

August 12th, 2013 Comments off
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Is Vick the one to lead the Eagles in 2013?

I don’t feel the need to really discuss the Falcons preseason opener against the Cincinnati Bengals. I spent 4,300 words breaking down nearly every player on the roster on both offense and defense, an hour-long podcast, as well as seeing which players’ stock is up and down following the game.

But the one thing I do think is worthwhile mentioning about the preseason opener is just many of the reactions I’ve seen and read about it. For whatever reason, people seem to have what I believe to be an overreaction to preseason games in general, but particularly the first one. If I am to wager a guess as to why that is, it’d be that since it’s really the first real football action we’ve seen in six months, people tend to probably overrate it. Similar to if you’re on a diet and you’ve decided to cut out soda or pizza. If you were to a regular consumer of either and then went six months without it, you might think that first sip of cola or slice of pepperoni is among the greatest thing you’ve ever eaten. Even if it is just the generic brand you bought for $0.89 at the local grocery store, or the crappy pizza from your local parlor that makes Pizza Hut look like gourmet stuff.

It’s not surprising that many fans do this. They are probably just aping what the media is doing, whose job it seems to be only about overreacting to things.

Take for instance the happenings in Philadelphia. First, Riley Cooper mouths off and says a racial slur. This might be a controversial viewpoint to some, but I don’t get what the big deal is. Cooper did what tens (if not hundreds) of millions of (white) Americans have done in the past, especially when they have imbibed alcohol. The only difference is that Cooper is semi-famous and it was posted on YouTube. I’m certainly not trying to condone what Cooper said, but why is the media coverage of this incident to the degree like he is/was the first person to use a racial slur. If you just paid attention to television, you would think Cooper and Paula Deen were the only people to use a racial slur in the past twenty years.

The other thing in Philly is how quickly everyone seems to be slamming the door on the quarterback competition between Michael Vick and Nick Foles. I don’t deny that Vick’s performance against the New England Patriots likely means he’s the front-runner and likely winner of the job going into the regular season. In fact, it’s not really the notion that people believe the competition is over since I’m fairly confident that it is over as well. But it’s the notion that Vick’s performance in the preseason opener means that all the question marks that the Eagles have at that position are answered.

Vick threw an extremely pretty pass to DeSean Jackson for a score against New England. But hitting deep passes to Jackson really hasn’t been Vick’s problem over the years. It’s been managing games and limited turnovers. His performance against New England did nothing to indicate those won’t continue to be issues for Chip Kelly and the Eagles to try and overcome this season.

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Preseason Week 1 Stock Report

August 11th, 2013 Comments off

Andrew Weber- US PRESSWIRE

Corey Peters

A week ago, I discussed some of the players that bolstered their stock up or down during the first part of training camp. Now it’s time to look at which players did the same in the first preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Some of these thoughts were previously expressed in my offensive and defensive reactions article from a few days ago. But these are the players that I think really helped or hurt their stock when it comes to solidifying their respective positions and/or making an impression to earn a spot on the roster.

Stock Up

 

RB Ronnie Wingo – Wingo ran with authority and power while working with the third team units against the Bengals. He did drop one pass, and he’ll need to showcase that he can produce in the passing game if he has a chance to make the roster. That goes both for catching the football and in pass protection, something he didn’t get much opportunity to do against the Bengals. He took advantage of the absence of Antone Smith, who’s grip on the fourth running back position appears a little more tenuous. But among the backup running backs not named Jacquizz and Jason, Wingo appears to be the best runner.

OC Peter Konz – Konz had a nice debut at center against the Bengals, showing that he was capable in pass protection and run blocking. The beauty of being a center is that you don’t have to do a whole lot to look good. But Konz did all the right things, playing balanced and with leverage and getting good position as a run blocker. He’ll best tested even more this next week against Baltimore Ravens nose tackle Haloti Ngata. Blocking Ngata is often like trying to block out the sun, nearly impossible. If Konz fares well against him, then things will definitely be looking up.

DT Corey Peters – After missing all of camp and the first half of the regular season last year with a foot injury, Peters appeared poised and ready to show out in his contract year. He did not disappoint in the opener, as the Bengals struggled to move the ball on the ground when they ran to his side. He has never been the sort of disruptive force up front that Jonathan Babineaux is (which was also on display against the Bengals), but Peters did show his ability to anchor and get off blocks at the point of attack against what is a fairly good Bengals blocking interior. He appears in regular season form, which bodes very well for Peters in 2013.

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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 34 “Everything Bengals”

August 10th, 2013 Comments off

Allen and I are joined once again by Matt Chambers to recap the Falcons preseason opener against the Cincinnati Bengals. We each give our thoughts on some of the things we liked and did not like about the game. You’ll hear our thoughts on the rumors of Steven Jackson’s demise…How Garrett Reynolds, Lamar Holmes looked and how it could affect the offensive line play in 2013…Paul Worrilow vs. Akeem Dent…The pass rush and whether some of the young defensive linemen are ready to step up…Robert McClain, Desmond Trufant, and Robert Alford and how they looked against the Bengals…The greatness of Dane Sanzenbacher…Brian Banks and what are his chances of making the roster…Dominique Davis’ performance and how the backup QB position may play out…The greatness of Jason Snelling…Whether Chase Coffman is for real…What to look forward to in upcoming preseason games, including next week’s matchup against the Baltimore Ravens.

Ep. 34: Everything Bengals [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 6 minutes

Allen writes for TJRSports.com as well as the Bleacher Report. His twitter handle is: @Allen_Strk.

Matt Chambers can be found on twitter: @FalconsM5, and also writes for Grits Blitz blog.

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

Reactions to Falcons-Bengals (Defense)

August 9th, 2013 Comments off

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Banks got his first football action in a decade

It’s time to look at what the Falcons defense and special teams did against the Bengals in their preseason debut. From the scoreboard (34 points allowed) it would seem not particularly good. But there were some bright spots. As with what I did for my offensive reactions, I will go through each position group and highlight what I saw from individuals and make loose conclusions about them and their respective position battles.

Again remember, it’s only the first preseason game and thus players will have plenty of opportunities to either improve or decline in upcoming games as well as camp practices.

Defensive End

What I Saw: Osi Umenyiora stood out when he got the opportunity to work against Anthony Collins on the second Bengals series. He got credit for a pressure, beating him with an inside move. He also got in the face of Dalton on a botched screen play although Corey Peters made the play there (more on that to come). Kroy Biermann started opposite him and looked solid defending the run. Osi did not fare as well in that area, struggling to get off blocks at the point of attack. He did make one stop (again teaming with Peters), but that was when he came off the edge on the backside pursuit. Massaquoi and Maponga got mixed in with the reserves. Malliciah Goodman and Neal Huynh also received snaps on the edge. I don’t recall Cliff Matthews getting much edge work, so I’ll hold off on discussing him until I get to the tackles. Massaquoi looked sharp as a pass rusher, as he seemed to be one of the few Falcons reserves up front that could beat individual blocks. He got a sack and a pair of hits from either side of the line. He was able to beat a cutblock by Tyler Eifert to make a stop vs. the run, but there was another time where he was out of position on a play-action rollout. Goodman didn’t do a lot when he played at end. Maponga did get a hurry/hit on a play at left end. That followed Massaquoi’s sack, both of them badly beating Dennis Roland. Roland is a player I considered as a potential pickup after cuts to bolster depth at right tackle, but I think after last night’s performance we might want to scratch him off the list. Overall, outside those few plays the Falcons struggled to get pressure off the edge and had to rely a lot on blitzing and stunts to manufacture pressure, which also wasn’t all that effective. Cam Henderson and Brandon Thurmond got work at the end of the game, but didn’t really stand out.

Conclusion?: It would’ve been nice to see Osi work over Andrew Whitworth like he did Collins, but Whitworth sat out of the game. In the immortal words of Denny Green, Osi, Massaquoi, and Biermann are what we thought they were. Other than that, not much to take away from this position. Goodman and Maponga looked like rookies still growing into their roles, so we’ll have to see what improvements they make in the coming weeks.

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Reactions to Falcons-Bengals (Offense)

August 9th, 2013 Comments off
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

An unimpressive debut from Dominique Davis highlights last night’s game

Preseason is all about individual evaluation, and I’m doing some of my own, position-by-position. I re-watched the Falcons loss to the Bengals again this morning, and took copious notes. And you will now see my copious write-up of what I took away from the offensive players. I will try and mention every player that played (and a few that did not), and give an assessment on where some of the position battles might lie with one preseason game down.

It’s the first preseason game, and I’m going to try not to overreact to the good performances, nor the bad ones. Several players that were unimpressive will have up to three more chances to reverse that, and certainly the opposite is true as well. Thus why I add the question mark after the conclusions I made since they are very loose ones. Nothing is concluded as of yet.

Quarterback

What I Saw: Matt Ryan was near-perfect, managing the game on his three offensive series. Seemingly his only mistake (barely so) being a rushed throw that was too high for Harry Douglas where Geno Atkins was in his face. Dominique Davis got the brunt of the work after that and started slow. Davis’ footwork and mechanics were iffy at times and his accuracy was off too often in this game. He made a couple of plays with his legs. He was able to get into a rhythm on the opening drive of the 3rd quarter. But his only really good throws were mainly checkdowns and throws to his running backs. He struggled connecting with his receivers on downfield throws. He didn’t have great protection either. Renfree didn’t get a lot of work, making a nice throw on a rollout and having a pair of drops later. Seth Doege did not play.

Conclusion?: Overall, Davis didn’t do much to inspire a ton of confidence with his ability to handle the No. 2 spot, but Renfree didn’t get enough action to push him. How this position battle plays out will get an Act 2 next week as we’ll just have to wait and see if Davis improves.

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