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Ranking the Falcons 2014: No. 34 Jacquizz Rodgers

July 16th, 2014 No comments

Josh D. Weiss-US PRESSWIRE

Jacquizz Rodgers

I’m counting down the top 40 players on the Atlanta Falcons, and let’s continue with 34th-ranked player: running back Jacquizz Rodgers.

To read the methodology I devised to rank the Falcons players, click here.

Total Score: 44/100

Last year’s rank: 27
Player Grade: 49/100
Teams he is starter: 0 out of 32
Teams he is best position player: 0 out of 32
Teams he is role player: 28 out of 32
Peak-Year Bonus: +2
Positional Bonus: +3

Rodgers was pushed down in this year’s rankings thanks to additions the Falcons made in the offseason as well as the fact that a number of unproven players rose in the rankings from a year ago. But that does not mean that Rodgers doesn’t add significant value to the Falcons roster.

While he’ll face stiff competition from rookie running back Devonta Freeman this summer, Rodgers isn’t exactly going to lay down. He is one of the best third-down backs currently in the league, being one of only four players that ranked in the top 15 in premium website Pro Football Focus‘ pass-blocking efficiency and yards per route metrics for running backs in 2013.

But Rodgers likely hopes to expand his role as a rusher this season. He received a career-high 96 carries in 2013, including 58 carries during a five-week stint where starter Steven Jackson was sidelined with injury. Rodgers has yet to receive more than 10 carries in a game in which he was not filling in as a starter or the Falcons were involved in a rout. Earning those reps will become harder with Freeman on the roster, as the team envisions Freeman as capable of being a lead back, something that Rodgers has not been.

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Categories: Features Tags: , , ,

Atlanta Falcons Training Camp Preview 2014: Running Back

July 15th, 2014 No comments
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Devonta Freeman

The biggest questions surrounding the Atlanta Falcons running back position are less about who will make the team, but how the team will stack its depth chart.

Steven Jackson returns as the unquestioned incumbent starter at the position. Jackson missed a significant chunk of his first year with the Falcons due to a hamstring injury, but finished the year relatively strong. Jackson rushed for 392 yards in the final seven games, which extrapolates to just shy of 900 for a full 16-game slate.

Although it’s worth noting that low figure likely has a lot to do with the fact that the Falcons rarely had opportunities to run the ball in the second halves of games down the stretch due to getting behind early. Over the final seven games, the team ran the ball on 35.6 percent of first-half plays, but only on 30.6 percent of second-half plays.

Jackson also saw his production dip significantly in those second halves, averaging just 2.4 yards per carry versus 4.8 yards in the first halves of the final seven games.

The team is hopeful that there will be more balance with their running game this year given improvements made along the offensive line as well as on defense which should prevent the team from getting too far behind early.

Behind Jackson may be the most notable competition at the position, which will feature a battle between Jacquizz Rodgers and rookie Devonta Freeman for the right to be the team’s primary third-down back.

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Atlanta Falcons Takeaways from Last Week – July 7, 2014

July 7th, 2014 No comments

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Harry Douglas

The NFC South is expected to be one of the more competitive divisions in all of the football this season. But that is nothing new.

It’s a division so competitive, that no team in its 12-year existence has ever won the division in consecutive years. And I doubt that streak is broken in 2014.

The Carolina Panthers won the division in 2013, being carried by one of the league’s premier defenses and their ability to win a bunch of close games. After losing their two opening games last year by one score, the Panthers won all five one-score games in the second half of the season.

That ability to win close games is often the difference between whether or not you can win the division or not. The Panthers and Atlanta Falcons have benefited from it the most in the years where they have managed to win the division. In years where the Panthers won the NFC South (2003, 2008 and 2013), they have posted a combined 19-6 record in one-score games. The Falcons record is 20-6 in their three division-winning seasons (2004, 2010 and 2012).

Since the division’s creation beginning with the 2002 season, the Falcons have played in the greatest amount of one-score games (100) within the four-team group and also have the best winning percentage (56.5 percent). No team has benefited more from their ability to win close games than the Falcons under head coach Mike Smith.

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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 69 “Legion of Zoom”

June 27th, 2014 No comments

logoAllen and I are joined by third wheel Rashad James to discuss all the big news from the month of June surrounding the Atlanta Falcons, including the injury to Sean Weatherspoon, pickups of Tim Dobbins and T.J. Yates, and their future appearance on HBO series’ Hard Knocks. Other topics include: Brandon Flowers, Matt Ryan, Harry Douglas, D-Block, NFL Top 100 players, San Diego Chargers fanhood, the best wide receiver duo in the league and the Miami Heat.

Episode 69 – Legion of Zoom [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 9 minutes

Allen covers the Falcons for Pro Football Spot. His twitter handle is: @Allen_Strk.

Rashad can be found on twitter with the handle: @100K_Jay.

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

Atlanta Falcons 2014 Rookie Scouting Report: Devonta Freeman

May 21st, 2014 Comments off
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Devonta Freeman

A breakdown of the Atlanta Falcons 2014 fourth-round selection, former Florida State running back Devonta Freeman.

BIO

Height: 5’8″
Weight: 206
College: Florida State
40 Time: 4.58 (Combine)
Three-Cone: 7.11 (Combine)

He was born on March 15, 1992 in Miami, Florida where he attended Miami Central High. Comes from a rough background, surrounded by crime and violence as a youth and was able to use drive to excel at football to help rise above it. Coached in Pop Warner football by Luther Campbell a.k.a. “Uncle Luke,” lead rapper in group 2 Live Crew.

As a true freshman at Florida State, he started the final seven games of the season and led the team in rushing with 579 yards on 120 carries (4.8 avg) and eight touchdowns. He had twice as many carries as the next tailback that season. Also caught 15 passes for 111 yards (7.4 avg). Began sophomore year again as a reserve player but would eventually start the final four games. Would once again lead team in rushing with 660 yards on 111 carries (5.9 avg) and eight scores. Only had one more carry and 20 more yards as the next tailback on roster (James Wilder, Jr.). Also had 10 receptions for 86 yards (8.6 avg) that season. As a junior, took over lead tailback duties full-time and started all 14 games. His 1,016 rushing yards led the team and also became first Florida State tailback since Warrick Dunn in 1996 to rush for over 1,000 yards. His 173 carries as a junior was also more than the next two backs combined. Averaged 5.9 yards per carry and had 14 touchdowns, along with 22 receptions for 278 yards (12.6 avg) and another touchdown. Earned first team All-ACC honors as a junior.

Noted for his work ethic, which allowed him to receive the majority of reps during his career despite not being considered the most talented running back on the roster.

2013 GAMES WATCHED

Date
Opponent
Att.
Yds
YAC
TD
Out SR
In SR
Fum
Oct-19Clemson218830180%31%0
Oct-26N.C. State129225263%75%0
Dec-07Duke189119138%44%1
Jan-06Auburn117318133%40%0
YAC - Yards After First Contact; Out SR - Outside Runs Success Rate; In SR - Inside Runs Success Rate
Date
Opponent
Tgt
Rec
Yds
YAC
TD
UC
Oct-19Clemson1111900
Oct-26N.C. State11302900
Dec-07Duke11222700
Jan-06Auburn33211700
YAC - Yards After Catch; UC - Uncatchable Passes

SKILLS
The grading system is based on a 10-point scale: 1-pathetic, 2-poor, 3-weak, 4-below average, 5-average, 6-above average, 7-good, 8-very good, 9-excellent, 10-elite.

Speed (6.0) – Possesses good speed but is not going to run away from many NFL-level starters at linebacker and in the defensive backfield. Not a threat to take it the distance every time he touches the ball, but when he can get space is able to cover ground quickly and generate big plays from time to time.

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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 66 “Tear Down Your Hopes and Dreams”

May 13th, 2014 Comments off

Allen and I are joined by The Falcoholic contributor, Murf Baldwin, to discuss our thoughts on the Atlanta Falcons 2014 draft class. Murf gives a less than glowing assessment of the Falcons picks, including whether or not Ra’Shede Hageman and Dezmen Southward offered good value in the second and third rounds. We wonder whether or not the Falcons pass rush has been significantly improved and break down whether Devonta Freeman and their late-round picks add anything to the roster that wasn’t already there. Allen and I finish with a brief discussion of our hopes for the NBA playoffs, our usual around the league segment, as well as Allen’s explanation on why he could not make a triumphant return to Radio City Music Hall to witness the draft.

Episode 66 – Tear Down Your Hopes and Dreams [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 26 minutes

Allen covers the Falcons for Pro Football Spot. His twitter handle is: @Allen_Strk.

Murf writes for The Falcoholic, Roll Bama Roll and can be found on twitter: @MurfBaldwin.

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

Draft Needs: Can the Falcons Add Steven Jackson’s Successor?

April 28th, 2014 Comments off

The retirement of running back Jason Snelling certainly will affect the Atlanta Falcons depth at running back. Coupled with the strong possibility that Steven Jackson is playing his last season with the team, there appears to be a compelling need at the position headed into next month’s draft.

Jackson has one more year left on his contract beyond this season, but carries nearly a $5 million cap hit in 2015. He’ll be 32 entering that season, and only three running backs have rushed for 1,000 yards at that age over the past 15 seasons. And it’s far from a given that Jackson will have that sort of production in 2014 to even merit that expectation next year. While playing roughly 11.25 games in 2013, Jackson had 543 yards, which extrapolates to 772 yards over 16 games.

Given that, it would seem very doubtful that Jackson is going to be a Falcon beyond this season even if he has the desire to continuing playing. It makes no sense to pay a guy $5 million if he’s not capable of breaking 1,000 yards rushing.

Jacquizz Rodgers is Jackson’s primary backup, but has done little in his three seasons with the team to suggest that he is ready to take over the full-time duties. Rodgers is entering his contract year with his future also in some doubt. Helping Rodgers retain long-term value however is that he is one of the better third-down backs in the league. That’s a role and skill set that isn’t likely to diminish for many years given Rodgers is only 24 years old.

But it’s certainly possible that Rodgers could be a free agent next year, and another team could value his third-down abilities far more than the Falcons and sign him. Therefore, he too could be playing in his final season with the team.

Fellow backups Antone Smith and Josh Vaughan are also set to be free agents after this season. This means that beyond 2014, the Falcons running back position is completely unknown. So it makes perfect sense to draft a running back to add some stability for the future.

The first priority is replacing Jackson. While there is no guarantee that the Falcons re-sign Rodgers, there is certainly a much higher chance of that happening than Jackson discovering the fountain of youth in 2014. There is every reason to believe that any rookie drafted can be expected to form a one-two punch with Rodgers beyond this year.

It does appear that the running back prospects the Falcons have shown the most interest in this offseason are in that mold of lead back. Prospects like Terrance West, Carlos Hyde, Jeremy Hill and Storm Johnson all are bigger, powerful runners in the mold of Jackson and his predecessor Michael Turner.

Any rookie added is probably only going to be used sparingly in 2014, just as Snelling was a year ago. Snelling played 233 snaps last year (according to premium website Pro Football Focus), 61 percent of which came between Weeks 2 and 8 when Jackson was injured. Basically in games where both Jackson and Rodgers were healthy, Snelling averaged about 6.6 offensive snaps per game. Essentially, any rookie added will be asked to redshirt this year, learn the offense if things go according to plan.

But in the NFL, things rarely go according to plan. And injuries happen, and any draft pick would also give the team insurance in the event of their occurrence since he’d offer greater potential than either Smith or Vaughan could.

So while the Falcons don’t have to draft a running back, it makes little sense not to.

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 63 “That Sort of Weed-Eating Upside”

April 8th, 2014 1 comment

I am joined by Tom Melton to go in-depth on the Atlanta Falcons’ options in the 2014 NFL Draft. Tom talks up his affinity for players like safety Dion Bailey and defensive tackles Dominique Easley and Aaron Donald. We also talk in-depth about whether trading up for Jadeveon Clowney is a good move and whether or not the Falcons can motivate him to play well. We discuss whether the crop of prospects on the offensive line and pass rusher is really that deep and whether the Falcons can afford to pass on one group in the early rounds. During that conversation we discuss Khalil Mack, Anthony Barr, Jake Matthews, and Greg Robinson’s fits with the team. Taylor Lewan, Jeremiah Attaochu and Demarcus Lawrence are other prospects discussed during the show. We close with talking about the Falcons backup running backs including Jason Snelling’s retirement, Antone Smith’s new role with the team, and whether Jacquizz Rodgers fits. Warning: This episode features some borderline PG-13/explicit content.

Episode 63: That Sort of Weed-Eating Upside [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 4 minutes

Tom Melton can be found on twitter: @TMeltonScouting, and also writes for Draft Falcons. You can find the draft guide he contributed to at: The Draft Narrative.com.

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

Team Needs: Falcons Could Upgrade Special Teams in Return Game

February 9th, 2014 Comments off
Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

Bosher (left) and Bryant celebrate a win

The Atlanta Falcons special teams was perhaps the only aspect of their team that consistently played at a high level in 2013. Thus there won’t be any imperative drive to try to make substantial changes this offseason.

Matt Bryant, at age 38, showed he is still kicking strong. He is entering the final year of his contract and thus the only major concern for the Falcons is thinking about his eventual replacement in 2015 and beyond. It’s doubtful that the Falcons will try to replace Bryant this year since he’s been so effective in clutch situations as well as whenever he’s kicking inside the Georgia Dome. He’s made 21 of his last 22 field goal attempts kicking at home.

But the team should at least give a long look to a young kicker in training camp just to plan ahead to 2015 when it’s possible that Bryant could decide to hang it up. The Falcons tried this strategy over a decade ago when they carried Jake Arians on the practice squad in Morten Andersen’s final season in 2000. Arians was eventually beat out by Jay Feely the following summer for the kicking job, but the strategy is still a relatively sound one. The Falcons need to start prepping for the future and that begins this offseason.

The Falcons don’t have to do such preparation at punter as Matt Bosher is blossoming into one of the better young punters in the NFL. Bosher continues to make strides both as the team’s kickoff specialist and as a punter. His big leg proved an asset several times last year when the team struggled to move the ball offensively, to help flip field position and give the Falcons’ struggling defense a fighting chance. The only real issue moving forward with Bosher is when the Falcons plan to start talking contract extension. 2014 also represents the final year on his contract, and there’s little doubt the team at some point in the next 12 months will lock him up for a lucrative long-term deal.

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Team Needs: Fresh Legs Could Improve Falcons at Running Back

January 28th, 2014 Comments off
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Jason Snelling may be the most expendable back on the roster

Running back, a position that once was a veritable strength for the Atlanta Falcons, has now fallen on hard times and has been one of the more unremarkable groups on the roster.

Over recent seasons the Falcons have relied much too heavily on older, declining running backs due to the greater emphasis the team has had on the passing game. Essentially the team seeks players that complement their passing game, as opposed to a player that can be the centerpiece of an offense much like Michael Turner was when he first arrived in Atlanta in 2008.

Current incumbent starter Steven Jackson embodies that mentality. While Jackson is the rare sort of runner that has managed to avoid the menacing clutches of Father Time, he no longer is a back that can carry an offense. And the value that Jackson brought in the passing game in 2013 wasn’t great given too many breakdowns in pass protection and dropped passes.

The goal of the Falcons when they signed Jackson as a free agent a year ago was to get an upgrade over the version of Turner that played in 2012, a version which was on its last legs. And the Falcons can proudly say that mission was accomplished. Despite missing several games at the start of the season, Jackson showed over the final two months of 2013 that he was a much more adept lead back than Turner. And it gives the team some optimism that Jackson could be poised for an even stronger 2014 if he can remain healthy and get improved blocking along the offensive line.

But in reality, the Falcons goal with adding Jackson was about as low as one gets. The 2012 version of Turner was among the league’s least effective starting running backs and the Falcons were arguably the worst rushing attack in the league that season. One analogy would be to compare it to the Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback version, which was arguably the worst in the league in recent years with failed draft pick Blaine Gabbert as the starter. Chad Henne is a better option than Gabbert, but he’s by no means a good option.

Essentially, the Falcons new goal should become to find not just a better option but a good one. Jackson, at this point in his career, is not that.

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Categories: News Tags: , , , ,