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2014 Falcons Preseason Stock Report – Week 3

August 26th, 2014 1 comment

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Devin Hester

It’s another week and another Atlanta Falcons preseason game to evaluate. This time it’s a loss to the Tennessee Titans, but there were many positives to take away from the game mainly because the starters looked impressive. But let’s examine which players have raised their stock and also lowered it within the past week.

STOCK UP

WR Devin Hester

Hester made a couple of plays, including a nice 31-yard touchdown catch where he was able to generate big yards after the catch. But Hester’s most impressive play may have been a speed out late in the second quarter that went for 16 yards. That play occurred when the Falcons offense was in the no-huddle and trying to mount a scoring drive at the end of the first half. Hester blew past Coty Sensabaugh on that play, and it was a display of Matt Ryan recognizing the situational mismatch and Hester taking advantage of it. His 31-yard catch was more the result of Titans cornerback Jason McCourty slipping out of his break and safety Bernard Pollard being out of position to try and make a tackle after a quick slant. It was an excellent play and showcased Hester’s ability after the catch. It’s something the Falcons can build off, trying to take advantage of Hester’s ability to make plays with the ball in his hands.

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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 76 “Aaron Doesn’t Know Talent”

August 26th, 2014 No comments

Allen and I discuss our favorite team: the Atlanta Falcons, with this week’s third wheel, Ben Grazebrook of Blogging Dirty. We review the Falcons preseason game against the Tennessee Titans before looking ahead to the regular season opener against the New Orleans Saints. We each give our thoughts on what may be some of the lingering questions surrounding the Falcons roster, including the tight end position, the defensive line rotation, the battles at outside and inside linebacker, nickel cornerback, backup quarterback and safety depth. As usual there is a bit of an around the league discussion centering on the 49ers wide receivers and the Buccaneers offensive line.

Episode 76 – Aaron Doesn’t Know Talent [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 8 minutes

Allen covers the Falcons for Pro Football Spot. His twitter handle is: @Allen_Strk. Allen has a new article up reviewing who’s stock is up and down from the Titans game.

Ben writes for Blogging Dirty and can be found on twitter: @grazybizzle. Check out Ben’s review of the Titans game as well as his 53-man roster projection from last week.

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! For Android users, DoubleTwist is a good app to listen as well. You can also subscribe directly to our feed at the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/falcfans/LXSt

Breakdown of Falcons Preseason Week 3 vs. Titans

August 24th, 2014 No comments
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Smith and coaches have some decisions to make

The Atlanta Falcons dropped another preseason game, in their third contest of the summer against the Tennessee Titans. But despite a game that ultimately goes down as a loss, there were many positives the Falcons, particularly their starters can take from the game.

As I’ve done for the previous two preseason games, I’ve got a thorough breakdown of what I saw from Falcons players in the game, and it’s broken down by position group.

Quarterback

What I Saw: The only real negative that can be said of Matt Ryan’s performance was that he was a bit too long on each of his three deep shots. It reminded me of what Ryan did prior to 2012 on his deep passes, preferring to throw long rather than risk an interception. That conservative style was a major contributing factor in why the Falcons rarely hit on deep passes. Instead, he needs to loft it up, so that his receivers can better make a play on the ball in the air since Ryan should instead trust Julio Jones (his target on all three deep shots) to go up and make a play. Other than that, Ryan looked sharp and looked excellent in the no-huddle at the end of the first half. T.J. Yates entered the game after him in the third quarter and struggled on his three possessions. Yates seemed to struggle with pressure in his face and had bouts where his lack of ideal accuracy and anticipation led to incompletions and/or sacks. Sean Renfree came in later and working on just one series where he was in the two-minute drill, looked fairly sharp. He hit on several passes, although his pass to Julian Jones in the endzone on the final play was a bit off the mark. But he fared better when trying to handle pressure and made some decisive throws and decisions. No reps for Jeff Mathews.

Conclusion: Falcons were able to generate some big plays in this game on busted coverages and broken tackles, but would have preferred to see them hit those when they dialed up the big plays. Ryan’s deep touch seemed to have regressed a bit if judging against the last two seasons, but there’s no reason to panic. Renfree clearly outplayed Yates on his lone series, and it was the first time I thought that Renfree was deserving of real praise this summer. In previous outings, he may have been better than Yates but that had more to do with Yates’ struggles than Renfree doing anything particularly well. There will likely be one more game with each Renfree and Yates getting a half’s worth of play vs. the Jaguars next week. Their performances in that game will be the final deciding factor in the battle for No. 2 quarterback, although Renfree is decidedly in the lead right now. I doubt Mathews makes it past the first round of cuts.

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What Is Wrong With Falcons Backup Quarterbacks?

August 20th, 2014 No comments
Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

Dirk Koetter

It looked like the Atlanta Falcons had finally decided to address their lack of experience at the quarterback position behind starter Matt Ryan this past June when they acquired T.J. Yates via trade from the Houston Texans.

However that decision has yet to pay dividends.

Yates is coming off a very poor performance in the team’s second preseason action against his former team, where he threw two interceptions and had a couple more passes that could have easily been turnovers.

In June, I outlined reasons why the team’s acquisition of Yates was a good move. Those reasons were centered on the fact that Yates had experience as a starter, something the team lacked at the time in reserves Dominique Davis, Sean Renfree and Jeff Mathews, all of whom hardly had any NFL experience.

While by no means did I want to suggest that Yates was a particularly good backup option, he certainly was better than what the team had. And for a Falcons organization that has a tendency to twiddle its thumbs even when there are fairly obvious roster issues, striving for better was at least a step in the right direction if not ultimately the solution.

However, 2014 is a critical year for this team and its coaching staff. At this point for Falcons head coach Mike Smith, who faces scrutiny coming off a 4-12 season, every win that he can get in 2014 matters.

And thus, if having a competent backup quarterback can mean the difference of winning one more game if the team finds itself in the absence of Ryan, then that one decision could ultimately decide Smith’s fate.

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Falcons Roughed Up in 32-7 Loss to Texans

August 17th, 2014 No comments

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Jadeveon Clowney lowers the boom on Antone Smith

The Atlanta Falcons looked lackluster in their second preseason action of 2014, losing in a one-sided road game against the Houston Texans by a score of 32-7. It was a sloppy night for the Falcons, particularly on special teams where they had both a punt and field goal blocked. The Texans were able to score off the blocked punt, as well as on a pick-six thrown by T.J. Yates in the fourth quarter. Both teams were heavily penalized, with 25 combined penalties being called. The Falcons accounted for 10 of them.

Matt Ryan led the way but was not particularly sharp on the night. He completed just three of seven passes for 37 yards on four short series of action. He gave way to Sean Renfree, who completed seven of 10 passes for 49 yards and a touchdown. Yates struggled, completing just four of 11 passes for 63 yards with two interceptions. Jeff Mathews saw his first action of the preseason late in the game, completing just one of three passes for 18 yards. Devonta Freeman once again led the team on the ground, rushing for 31 yards on six carries, and should have had more if not for penalties calling back a few runs. Antone Smith added eight carries for 27 yards, with starter Jacquizz Rodgers rushing three times for 13 yards. Julio Jones saw his first action of the summer, catching a pair of passes for 20 yards. Devin Hester caught two passes as well for 15 yards, and the team’s lone touchdown on a 12-yard screen pass. Julian Jones had the longest reception of the night, his lone catch going for 29 yards. Matt Bryant had his lone field goal attempt of 51 yards blocked and Matt Bosher punted seven times for an average of 41.4 yards, with a blocked punt as well. The Falcons managed to convert just three of 11 third-down tries for a total of 248 yards on the night. The starters failed to convert any of their four third-down attempts while they were in the game.

Defensively, the Falcons started fairly well but gave up a total of 386 yards to the Texans. Including the points off the interception and blocked punt, the Texans were able to generate a total of 16 of their 32 points off turnovers, with Atlanta’s defense deserving credit for limiting Houston to just 16 points on three scores. Paul Worrilow led the team with eight tackles, including one for a loss. Robert Alford (one tackle, two passes defended); Pat Angerer (five tackles, one for loss); Joplo Bartu (three tackles); Kemal Ishmael (three tackles; one for loss; one interception); William Moore (six tackles); Travian Robertson (three tackles, one for loss); Prince Shembo (three tackles) and Dezmen Southward (three tackles) all had noteworthy games.

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Falcons 2014 Training Camp: Day 13 Report

August 12th, 2014 No comments
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Mickey Shuler

Let’s take a look at the various tweets, articles, reports, news and rumors that surfaced from the 13th day of training camp yesterday:

Jay Adams has the official site’s usual five things we learned from yesterday’s practice, including the team’s preparation for an extended trip to Houston to practice against the Texans before playing them in a game on Saturday, and preparation of certain players: Antone Smith, T.J. Yates and Jake Matthews to face the Texans.

ESPN’s Vaughn McClure has a few takeaways from practice as well, which can be found here.

Running back Devonta Freeman missed practice yesterday with an undisclosed injury, but it’s believed that he was affected by the heat and should be fine for today.

The Falcons backup quarterback position is an area in flux, with the team expected to give more backup reps to Sean Renfree rather than T.J. Yates this week. However, head coach Mike Smith indicates not to read too much into how the reps are split this week. It’s likely that their performance on Saturday against the Texans could be the deciding factor as Smith indicates the team wants to have the spot nailed down by their third preseason game scheduled against the Tennessee Titans on August 23.

Smith is looking forward to the team’s combined practices with the Texans over the next two days.

Tight end Mickey Shuler seems to be making the most of his opportunity by stealing some starters reps. Shuler may be closing the gap on presumed No. 2 tight end Bear Pascoe with a solid performance against the Miami Dolphins last week.

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Roster Talk: Five Falcons on the Bubble

July 24th, 2014 Comments off
Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

Darius Johnson

After examining the top 40 players on the Atlanta Falcons roster, that still leaves 50 players that did not get such in-depth looks. Most of those top 40 players will wind up making the Falcons 53-man roster this year, leaving little more than a dozen roster spots for the remaining 50.

Let’s examine several of the players “on the bubble” that may struggle to make the cut. All five of the following players have been counted among contributors in the past, but may not be any longer. In examining each, I’ll break down what exactly are their best avenues of making the team.

Darius Johnson, Wide Receiver

Johnson played well last year considering he was an undrafted rookie, leapfrogging both Drew Davis and Kevin Cone on the depth chart, two third-year veterans. But that won’t earn him lingering credit if he doesn’t perform up to task this summer.

He’ll face steady competition from a group of young, explosive receivers like Bernard Reedy. What hurts Johnson is that he won’t be able to help himself much on special teams. Given his smaller stature, he’s not shown that he’s very effective when asked to cover punts and kicks.

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Atlanta Falcons Training Camp Preview 2014: Quarterback

July 14th, 2014 Comments off

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

T.J. Yates

Every since Matt Ryan first won the job in his first summer with the team in 2008, the Atlanta Falcons starting quarterback position has been settled. Instead the brunt of the question marks and competition at the position comes in the battle for the right to back up Ryan each year.

This year will be no different, as the team traded for former Houston Texans quarterback T.J. Yates last month to fill that role. Yates seemingly should be an upgrade over Dominique Davis, who previously held the mantle of the team’s No. 2 quarterback before his untimely release.

Unlike Davis, Yates has legit NFL starting experience, having started six games during his rookie season in 2011.

Upon his release, Davis indicated that the Falcons planned to keep only one backup on the roster behind Ryan, and that their decision to acquire Yates essentially made the decision who that would be before any real competition took place.

But that doesn’t mean Yates is by any means a lock to make the roster. As the team saw in the summer of 2012, there was a similar situation where Chris Redman should have had the backup spot all wrapped up. However, Redman struggled and allowed a bright-eyed, then undrafted rookie with the name of Davis to oust him from the roster.

This summer, young players like Sean Renfree and Jeff Mathews hope to repeat that history.

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Categories: Features Tags: , , ,

An Early Look at Key Training Camp Battles on Atlanta Falcons Offense

May 31st, 2014 Comments off
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Dominique Davis

June is a month filled with organized team activities, as we steadily inch closer to NFL training camps that open up at the end of July.

Let’s take a look at some of the burgeoning roster battles on offense that will become the key storylines come July and August during the Atlanta Falcons training camp.

Quarterback

The main issue for this position is the backup spot behind starter Matt Ryan. Dominique Davis is the front-runner given his experience, but is far from proven. Davis struggled last preseason, but so did his biggest competition in 2013 seventh-round pick Sean Renfree. Renfree has the draft status backing him up, which means the Falcons have a vested interest in developing him. But he’ll need to prove he can stay healthy, something that has been exceedingly difficult for him the past few years, and also improve his play on the field.

Undrafted free agent Jeff Mathews will also be in the mix, possessing good size and a strong arm that could impress enough to be a serious contender for the job. Normally, Mathews would be competing solely for a spot on the practice squad, but there are so many question marks at the position that if he comes out strong this summer, he could potentially win the No. 2 job behind Ryan.

This is a position that if the performances aren’t up to par, the Falcons may look elsewhere for help as they did two years ago by signing Luke McCown before the start of the regular season.

Running Back

The top of the Falcons depth chart is pretty settled with Steven Jackson as the starter and Jacquizz Rodgers serving as the team’s third-down back. The key issue is whether or not rookie Devonta Freeman can perform well enough to steal significant reps from either player once the regular season begins.

Antone Smith’s special teams ability alone likely will net him a roster spot. Smith has always been productive during the preseason on offense as well, which is why he’s lasted five summers in Atlanta. That leaves the question of whether Josh Vaughan or Jerome Smith can perform well enough to take another spot. The odds are against both as the team is unlikely to carry a fifth back in Vaughan on the roster due to the addition of Freeman, and Smith is likely competing for a practice squad spot even if he has a strong summer.

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Draft Needs: Do Falcons Need Another Backup Quarterback?

April 27th, 2014 Comments off

While it’s clear the Falcons are set at the starting quarterback with Matt Ryan, there is an adage in the NFL that you’re only as good as your backup at that position.

Earlier this offseason, I discussed the team’s need at quarterback, mentioning the possibility that there is significant room for improvement in terms of their backup situation at the position.

Dominique Davis has talent worth developing but is he ready to become a starter in the unfortunate event that Ryan misses significant time?

It would be ironic that given the improvements the Falcons could make to their offensive line with the signing of guard Jon Asamoah potentially coupled with the use of a high pick on an offensive tackle, that Ryan could get injured this year. But that’s often how the cookie crumbles in the NFL as things rarely go according to plan.

Davis has struggled with his mechanics and his accuracy on intermediate and deep passes, which isn’t a great recipe for success if he’s forced to play more than a couple of series. Sean Renfree, a seventh-round pick last season, has struggled to stay on the field due to injuries dating back to his days at Duke. And in his first preseason with the team looked very rusty in limited reps.

I don’t expect the Falcons to draft a quarterback this year given the investments already made in Davis and Renfree. But this summer, if neither Davis nor Renfree show significant growth, then the Falcons may have to look in a new direction come 2015.

If a talented quarterback slips into the late rounds of the draft, given the high number of picks the team may have, they might be able to afford to draft another passer. But it’s likely any such player will still be a developmental guy that will take time to develop. That certainly could pay off down the road, but there is a more immediate concern at the position on whether the current backups are ready to produce if thrust into the lineup.

One positive is that Davis and Renfree remain eligible for the practice squad, along with any rookie added. Thus the Falcons could still manage to retain all three under certain circumstances.

But it still remains a longshot that the Falcons would address this position seriously in the 2014 draft.

Categories: Draft Central Tags: , , ,