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Five Falcons to Watch Tonight vs. Bengals

August 8th, 2013 Comments off
Phil Sears-US PRESSWIRE

Dominique Davis

You might have thought I cheated by putting six Falcon players, but I didn’t. I have five Falcons and one Bengal. And watching that one Bengal will allow you to watch multiple Falcon players. But these are a handful of Falcons that I think certainly deserve to draw a lot of eyeballs in tonight’s preseason opener against the Cincinnati Bengals.

QB Dominique Davis

Matt Ryan may only see a series or two in the preseason opener if anything, which should give Davis a lot of work with the starters. While he won’t have Julio Jones or Tony Gonzalez to throw to, he should get plenty of time with players like Harry Douglas and Chase Coffman, as well as many of the Falcons starters up front, a considerable uptick from what he was predominantly working with last preseason as the fourth string quarterback to start off. If Davis picks up where he left off last summer, he’s well on his way to locking down the No. 2 spot behind Matt Ryan.

OT Lamar Holmes/Ryan Schraeder

Holmes will get the start at right tackle. I would not be surprised to see Holmes get the brunt of the work in the first half and give way to Schraeder at some point in the second or third quarter. I also would not be surprised for the Falcons to pull the plug fairly early on Sam Baker at left tackle, and give Schraeder reps on the left side in the first half, so the possibility that they can evaluate both Schraeder and Holmes at the same time. The Bengals front line is a formidable unit, and with ends like Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap, all of the Falcons tackles will have their backs against the wall. Luckily for them, it’s doubtful that they will see either starter for extended reps.

MLB Brian Banks

Tonight’s game will mark Banks’ first real football action in a decade since he was falsely incarcerated as a top high school prospect. Banks has received plenty of work in recent months with the Falcons, but ostensibly when he hits the field he will be even rawer than your typical rookie due to all the time and learning lost. While the expectation won’t be that Banks will be a monster his first game in, it will be important for him to try and limit the mental errors he makes. And if he can make a couple of plays here and there, particularly against the run, that will be a bonus.

CB Desmond Trufant

I suspect Trufant will get the start at right corner. It’s a shame that Bengals wideout A.J. Green will be out of the lineup since Trufant would get an opportunity to test himself against one of the league’s best. Or at least another opportunity, since he gets two of those opportunities every day in practice going against Jones and Roddy White. Instead he should get plenty of work against the Bengals new de facto No. 1 receiver in the absence of Green which is Mohamed Sanu. Well, he was likely to see a lot of Sanu regardless, since he is the receiver that typically lines up against the right side. Sanu isn’t the fastest receiver, but he’s got good size and athleticism which allows him to make plays on the ball even when you have him blanketed. That should be a good first test for Trufant as he prepares to get ready for Marques Colston and Lance Moore in Week 1.

TE Tyler Eifert

I mention Eifert because he’s likely to get extended reps in his first preseason action. The 6’6″ 250 first round pick has had a strong camp and will be a difficult matchup for the Falcons starting linebackers, let alone the backups. With Sean Weatherspoon out of the lineup, it will be a good opportunity for Akeem Dent to showcase any abilities he possesses in coverage. And certainly if any of the reserves fare well if/when matched up on an island against Eifert, it could greatly benefit their chances of making the Falcons final roster. Essentially you’re watching Eifert to see which Falcon defender is covering him on that given play.

Takeaways from Last Week – August 5

August 5th, 2013 Comments off
David Kohl-US PRESSWIRE

Carlos Dunlap

Today the Falcons begin their joint practice sessions with the Cincinnati Bengals as they prepare for their preseason opener against them on Thursday night. Two days of practice, which all of the players look forward to because it’s nice to hit someone that is not your teammate. One of the more interesting developments that could come from this session will be if any fights occur. I could be mistaken but generally speaking it seems like the number of training camp fights is a lot lower with Mike Smith than previous regimes.

One of the drawbacks for these two days of joint practices will be the absence of Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green. Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford have both taken their fair share of lumps from Roddy White and Julio Jones through the first week-plus of training camp, and it would be nice to see them go against another top wideout. Green injured his knee last week, and is expected to be held out by the Bengals for this first week of preseason if not the next week. He is by far their primary offensive weapon, and they don’t want to risk further injury to him.

If there was another matchup that I’d be curious to see is how right tackles Mike Johnson and Lamar Holmes handle standout Bengals left defensive end Carlos Dunlap. Dunlap is one of the premier situational pass rushers in the league. So much so that he just earned a $40 million contract, despite the fact that he’s only technically started two games in three seasons in Cincinnati. We won’t know how much work either party will see in Thursday’s game, so how they fare in practice against a premier pass rusher like Dunlap could determine a lot about how much confidence the team has in either player. It’s probably too late for the Falcons to try and make a move in free agency to bolster the position if they don’t like what they see this week. But it could go a long way to determining just how the Falcons handle their protections this year. Most NFL teams tend to roll their protections to the left side in order to protect the blindside of the quarterback, with the Falcons being among those teams. But given all the question marks that the Falcons could have on the right side with a pair of unproven starters in Garrett Reynolds at right guard, and either Johnson or Holmes at tackle, the Falcons might have to do the opposite. Given the Falcons have invested nearly $80 million in the left side of their offensive line, it would only make sense then that they should feel comfortable enough with them to put them more on an island.

Another fascinating development will be getting to see these joint practices and the upcoming preseason game portrayed on HBO’s series Hard Knocks. The cameras are enveloping Bengals training camp for the second time in the series’ history. The Falcons have indicated that they are interested in the show in the past, but have said that the timing wasn’t right. Personally, I believe the Falcons want to be on Hard Knocks. Arthur Blank very much strikes me as the type of owner that would be very open to the idea of millions of viewers seeing the greatness that is the organization he’s built in Atlanta. But they also don’t want to deal with the potential for distractions it creates. I think they are waiting until after they win a title before we’ll see the NFL Films crew descend upon Flowery Branch. But until then, we’ll just have to settle for the taste we’ll likely receive in the second episode, which will air next Tuesday.

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Falcons to open preseason at home on ESPN

April 4th, 2013 Comments off

The league announced some of the preseason dates for the upcoming 2013 season today. The Falcons four preseason opponents have been set. They will open their preseason schedule on Thursday, August 8 at home against the Cincinnati Bengals which will air on ESPN. For their second preseason game to be played between August 15 and 19, they will travel to Baltimore to take on the Ravens. In Week 3 of the preseason (August 22-26) they will face the Tennessee Titans on the road. They close the preseason on August 29 at home against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The more tentative dates for the second and third preseason games will be set at a later date.

The league is expected to unveil the regular season schedule on April 16.

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Preseason Stock Exchange (Week 4)

August 31st, 2012 Comments off

Looking at which players potentially stepped up in last night’s loss to Jacksonville to make one final push for a roster/practice squad position. As well as those players that may have not.

Stock Up

Kevin Cone – Cone has had a few too many drops this preseason, but he made up for it with a nice catch and run for the team’s lone passing touchdown against Jacksonville. If Cone is cut, the highlight of that play alone will make it harder for him to clear waivers and wind up on the Falcons’ practice squad. I don’t know if he showed enough to make the team as the fifth wideout, but he definitely did enough to make that decision harder for the Falcons brass.

Pat Schiller – I’ve been impressed with Schiller in each of the Falcons preseason games, but watching him last night as he tied with Akeem Dent for the team lead in tackles, I think he’s far and away the most impressive of the team’s three rookie linebackers. He may not be the biggest, strongest, or fastest of the group, but watching him closely, he’s the most instinctual and best able to put himself in a position to make a play. That’s what you want in a young linebacker. I don’t think it has been enough to make the final roster, but at the very least it solidify a practice squad spot for him.

Peyton Thompson – Thompson did some nice things both on defense and special teams. While he was the culprit that got beat by the long touchdown to Kevin Elliott, in retrospect he won’t look as bad when the team reviews the film, because Mike Smith will be so busy chewing out everyone else for missing those tackles to notice Thompson got beat. Thompson is a solid corner in run support as well as coverage and has had a good enough summer that he should be a shoe-in for a practice squad spot. And it might have been good enough that he could sneak onto the roster, especially if Chris Owens’ health and availability for the regular season opener is questionable.

Chris Hope – With Mitchell having some struggles, I think Hope showed some things last night including some on special teams. Schillinger is one of the team’s top special teams players, but Hope’s ability to contribute there could get him potentially the nod. Up until last night, I think Hope’s chances were tied exclusively to his experience, and not necessarily whether he can bring certain skills to the field. But I think that began to teeter last night, and Hope showcased that he is much more than an old guy that at one point in time was a pretty good safety.

Stock Down

Dominique Davis – I don’t think Davis hurt his chances of making the team. I think he was a lock to make it before last night, otherwise they would not have cut Chris Redman. But in increased reps, Davis did not really blossom as much as people hoped (including myself). He made some nice plays, but made his share of mistakes. I believe the Falcons were hoping going into the game, that if Davis had a strong enough performance he could potentially take over the No. 2 position behind Matt Ryan. But after a few too many mental errors and inaccurate throws, I’m not sure that was accomplished.

LaMark Brown – Brown had another pass go through his hands and into the arms of a defender, the second time that has happened this preaseason. While Brown has excellent athletic potential as a tight end and H-back, it does not appear he’s ready for prime time. The Falcons probably need to be scouring the waiver wire for their third tight end.

Charles Mitchell – I think Mitchell was probably the safest of the three backup safeties going into the Jaguar game, but now I’m not so sure. He missed a couple of tackles, two of which directly resulted in Jaguars touchdowns. Mitchell has a potentially bright future on special teams, so I think he’ll still make it. But the race is tighter than it was 24 hours ago.

Falcon Players to Watch Tonight vs. Jaguars

August 30th, 2012 Comments off

The Falcons are expected to give some of the starters some work tonight. The new CBA and league-mandated rules limiting contact in practices likely is the main cause of this. Guys just aren’t getting as many reps as before to get ready for the regular season. The fourth preseason game used to be one where none of the starters played except perhaps a series or so. But nowadays, you can expect teams to give their starters a couple of series if not a full quarter of play. The Jaguars are planning on playing their starters for the entire first quarter. I would not expect the Falcons to do the same, but I do think we’ll see many of them get work.

My hope for Mike Smith is certain “essential” players will be rested. Matt Ryan doesn’t need to play tonight, along with a few others of our key offensive playmakers. We’ll see how he plays it.

QB Dominique Davis – Part of me wants some of the offensive starters to get reps tonight, but with Davis lining up under center. I believe the Falcons will give Davis most if not all of the snaps under center tonight. Davis has worked almost exclusively with the third string performers on offense, and allowing him to work with several of the players higher on the depth chart will be an excellent gauge as to whether he’s ready to be the team’s No. 2 quarterback this year. This is the main reason to keep an eye on Davis tonight. He has played well throughout the preseason. But another strong performance with some of the second team players could be enough to catapult him into the role of primary backup. It’s possible with a strong enough performance, that Davis can inspire enough confidence that this team doesn’t even keep Luke McCown.

RB Dimitri Nance – Nance needs a strong performance tonight to stick on this roster. He has run well this summer, but he’s working behind Antone Smith on the depth chart. Smith is the superior special teams player and has also had a strong summer. But Nance is not only fighting for his hopes of making the Falcons roster, but a strong performance tonight certainly could get him looks from other teams.

FB Lousaka Polite – It’ll be interesting to see how the Falcons handle their fullback rotation giving questions on how much the starters will play. Polite has seen increased reps with the starters since joining the team, and if he can showcase his trademark power tonight and help the runners have a big night, he could take the job from Mike Cox.

WR Kevin Cone/D.J. Davis – If the Falcons choose to sit both Roddy White and Julio Jones, that could mean that Cone and/or Davis could be elevated to the starting positions potentially depending on the health and availability of Kerry Meier. Among the group of wide receivers competing for the fifth spot on the depth chart, these two are the two most prominent. That fifth spot will more than likely go to the player the team likes the most on special teams (likely Davis), but a strong offensive showing from Cone could also force them to shift their thinking.

OG Peter Konz – The battle at right guard is not complete, and I believe the Falcons are really hoping for a strong outing by Konz in order to make the final decision easier for them. I think they want Konz to have the job, but he’s not going to be given that opportunity, he has to earn it. A good game against the Jaguars could be what does it.

OT Lamar Holmes – It will be Holmes second outing, and it’s possible if not probable that he could be asked to play every snap. I think Holmes is still working himself back into playing shape due to all the missed time this off-season, and those extended reps could do a lot to help him. It would be smart of the Falcons to also try and get him some reps at right tackle as well, since he’s likely to be the team’s swing tackle this year.

DT Micanor Regis – I think Regis is on the outside looking in as far as a roster spot goes, but I think has done more than enough to land a practice squad role with the Falcons. But another strong outing could make the Falcons decision that much harder. Ultimately it could lead to them keeping five defensive tackles, or possibly cutting a veteran like Vance Walker.

LB Akeem Dent – If any of the Falcons projected 22 starters needs reps, none of them need them moreso than Dent. Dent has had his ups and downs this summer, and needs to have a few more ups tonight against Jacksonville. Of the 11 projected starters on the defense, Dent is the only one where questions remain to exactly what the team has in him. Getting him more work in the nickel subpackage should also benefit his prep for the regular season. It might not even be about Dent having a good game, it’s probably just more about getting him as many reps as possible to get him ready.

S Chris Hope/Shann Schillinger/Charles Mitchell – All three players are potentially on the roster bubble, since according to my calculations, I’m not sure the Falcons can afford to keep five safeties this year. I think Mitchell is probably the safest of the trio, but Hope and Schillinger could be competing directly for a single roster spot. If any one or two of them emerge tonight, it could be what solidifies their hold on the team.

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 19 “Cuts and Around the League”

August 29th, 2012 Comments off

Ryan and I are back to recap the preseason win over the Miami Dolphins, as well as talk about the cuts the Falcons made over the weekend to get down to the 75-man roster limit. We discuss how we think the final roster could shape up as well and preview a bit of what we expect to happen in Week 1 against the Kansas City Chiefs. We get into discussions about a few Falcon players. Such as some of the young guys that appear to be stepping up including Lamar Holmes, Cliff Matthews, Micanor Regis, Akeem Dent, and the drama surrounding the backup QB position. Veteran players such as Corey Peters and Dunta Robinson are discussed also. We also discuss many topics around the league from Larry Fitzgerald’s praise of the Falcons offense, the Vontae Davis trade, and the Dolphins QB Controversy. We even get to have a lengthy discussion about Ryan’s favorite team the Dallas Cowboys, and how their current predicament with Dez Bryant relates to the Falcons. You’ll even hear our thoughts on the upcoming release of EA’s Madden NFL 13.

Ep. 19: Cuts and Around the League [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 7 minutes

 

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

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

Falcon Players To Watch Tonight vs. Dolphins

August 24th, 2012 Comments off

Tonight marks the final dress rehearsal for the regular season, at least as far as the starters go. They will likely play the entire first half and a bit into the third quarter as well. Most of the guys you’ll see on the field during that time period are locks to make the roster. Next week, most of those same players will sit for the preseason finale. The third preseason game is often considered to be the most important because it more closely mirrors the intensity of the regular season. With that in mind, here are some Falcon players that you should be keeping your eyes on against the Miami Dolphins:

Michael Turner – Turner has rushed 8 times for a total of 14 yards this preseason, not a good look for him. He has been successful on two of those runs. He hasn’t had great blocking up front, but he needs to step it up against the Dolphins. Turner wants to silence the doubters and having a solid performance in his final preseason action will be a key aspect in doing so.

Sam Baker – Baker has been really spared this summer, with both Terrell Suggs and Carlos Dunlap, Baltimore and Cincinnati’s top pass rushers, respectively being out of the games. Baker has yet to really be tested. Well this week, he should get tested against Cameron Wake, and it should be a nice indicator whether the Falcons brass was right to have confidence in Baker in 2012.

Lamar Holmes – Holmes will make his preseason debut tonight and should get a ton of reps. He’ll be one to watch to indicate whether the Falcons have good depth at left tackle. Holmes is not in the mix to start given his lack of reps, but he can answer questions about whether the Falcons might need to look at other tackles come cutdown days if he doesn’t have a good performance tonight.

Kerry Meier – I’ll keep harping on Meier needing to emerge until he does. Meier needs to show that he is capable of stepping into the lineup in the event of an injury to Jones, White, or Douglas, and has yet to do so. It would be nice to see him go out in the first half or so against the Dolphins starters and make a play. He missed the Bengal game with a leg injury and needs to play and produce against the Dolphins.

Ray EdwardsLast time I mentioned that Edwards stock was down due to the fact that he was being pulled off the field in nickel situations. This week if that remains the case, then Edwards makes the most of his pass rushing situations against the Dolphins.

Akeem Dent – Dent is back after missing last week’s game with a concussion. He had his ups and downs against the Ravens, and needs to come back with a performance against the Dolphins that shows more ups than downs. In particular, he needs to improve in coverage to at least give the team faith that he won’t be totally lost if he has to pull extended reps there during the regular season.

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 18 “Bengals-Falcons Recap”

August 21st, 2012 3 comments

Ryan and I get together to discuss and recap the Falcons preseason loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, and our takeaways from the game. We discuss which players and position groups we thought stood out in the game, as well as a few that did not. Discussions center around our respective concerns about the offensive line, especially in the wake of an injury to a key backup. We discuss the A.J. Green vs. Julio Jones debate, Dominique Davis and the Falcons backup QB situation, which players might get axed with the looming cutdown date, and how much of a role Michael Turner should play in the Falcons offense this year. In non-football related discussion, you even get to hear Ryan’s take on what shows were popular around 2006 as well as his views on the Batman cinematic franchise.

Ep. 18: Bengals-Falcons Recap [Download]

Duration: 1 hour

 

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

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

Falcon Players to Watch Tonight vs. Bengals

August 16th, 2012 Comments off

Looking at several Falcon players that are in prime position in tonight’s preseason matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals to stand out and make a big push to make this Falcons team come September.

  • WR Kevin Cone – While the offensive production of Cone and the other receivers is what is easiest to pay attention to, the key for Cone making the Falcons roster will be his performance on special teams. With D.J. Davis already putting some nice highlights there last week, it’s time for Cone to step up and start to make some key contributions. Otherwise regardless of his offensive potential, he won’t be a Falcon in 2012.
  • WR Kerry Meier – Meier was highlighted last week, and will be so again. Against the Ravens, he played with the first unit taking over the third wide receiver spot for Harry Douglas and did not notch any production. With Douglas returning to the lineup, he’ll likely be pushed to the second units where he can start to make an impact on offense. While Meier’s roster spot is pretty much locked up, he needs to start producing on offense to verify that the Falcons depth is not weak at this position.
  • DE Cliff Matthews – Matthews had a nice performance last week against the Ravens, and will need another solid to strong one tonight. He’s in a battle with Jonathan Massaquoi for the fifth defensive end spot. If push comes to shove, it’s likely that Matthews will be the odd man out if the team is forced to choose only one of the pair. But both players have performed well enough to think the Falcons might try and keep six ends. But that will only become a possibility if Matthews continues to play well.
  • DT Micanor Regis – While Travian Robertson’s play was highlighted from last week’s preseason opener, Regis also made some things happen against the Ravens. Regis has the sort of bulk and presence in the middle to play the nose in a three-man front. While it seems doubtful that he’ll win an outright roster spot, continuing to play well this summer likely can lock up a practice squad spot for him. But his roster chances are enhanced if Vance Walker sits out once more tonight.
  • LB Mike PetersonHe will get the start tonight for an injured Akeem Dent. Few have ever questioned Peterson’s ability to defend the run, and if Dent cannot show he’s significantly better in pass coverage, then it’s possible the team could lean towards the veteran Peterson as the starting middle linebacker. But he’ll need to stand out against the Bengals for that possibility to occur.
  • CB Dominique Franks – It won’t really be Franks coverage abilities that will be worth monitoring, but his return skills. With the team electing not to use Douglas on returns, Franks has a perfect opportunity to solidify his hold on the position. Another productive night could be the nail in the coffin for that competition.
  • S Shann Schillinger – Charles Mitchell made a bit of a name for himself last week on defense, and it’s time for Schillinger to step up his game a little. While Schillinger has proven himself to be one of the team’s best special teams players, he needs to showcase that he does offer some upside on regular defense to really solidify his roster prospects.

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.