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Moneyball 2013 – Week 2 Review

September 17th, 2013 Comments off

This was one of the more one-dimensional offensive efforts I can recall seeing from the Falcons. There have been plenty of times the past few years where the Falcons running game was virtually non-existent, but it never seemed this bad. One measly yard in the first half? And as I mentioned yesterday, when the Falcons (and frankly most NFL teams) are this bad at running the ball, they find it hard to win.

Yet the Falcons did, and that was mainly due to the performances of Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, who were outstanding in this game. The Falcons made ample use of Jones’ ability on screens, as I counted five screens to him in this game. In truth, only two of them were effective (tallying 38 combined yards), but they contributed to scoring drives. And of course, Jones’ 81-yard catch was also pivotal in this game. As it truly was the Falcons’ lone big play of the game, as they had to rely on a lot of short and intermediate throws due to the lack of the running game and poor pass protection.

On the subject of pass protection, once again another poor performance for tackles Sam Baker and Lamar Holmes. Baker really struggled in the first quarter vs. Robert Quinn, giving up three of his hurries, one of his pressures, and his only missed block in that quarter. Relatively, he played better the rest of the game giving up only a sack, pressure, and hurry over the final three quarters. Holmes’ struggles came in the second quarter, giving up three of his four hurries to Chris Long in that quarter.

It was no surprise that either struggled, since Quinn and Long are arguably one of the two or three best pairs of pass-rushing ends in the league. I’ll give Baker a bit of a pass because he was dealing with a knee injury and he seemed to adjust somewhat to Quinn’s speed after the first series. I will be a little harder on Holmes because many of his struggles came on instances where his technique was poor. Too often it was if he didn’t understand that you are allowed to punch and use your hands. Holmes also got away with a false start on the opening series that was instead called against Chris Long for an offsides. Without that missed call from the refs, the Falcons likely would have begun the game with a three-and-out rather than eventually scoring a touchdown, and it might have been a drastically different game.

As for the rest of the line, they were relatively solid. Blalock had the best game. He missed a block on the first play of the game, but after that he did a pretty good job despite giving up a sack to Eugene Sims. Reynolds gives a bit too much ground than I would like in pass protection. Ryan’s quick trigger has not made that an issue yet, but there may be a game down the road against a good defensive tackle where that will become a problem. But Reynolds is doing good things as a run blocker. Konz has not been having the sort of performances that I was expecting after a strong preseason. He had his hands full with Michael Brockers throughout the game. He hasn’t been playing poorly by any means, but he is far from dominant, which he seemed to flash during the summer.

The line gave up pressure on five of the 13 third down attempts, which is an improvement from last week. So that’s a positive I guess since they basically cut last week’s number in half.

The running game was limited mainly due to blocking, but there were a few carries by Jacquizz Rodgers where he did not hit the hole hard. In the future, the Falcons may try to avoid running him up the middle. He just was a bit too tentative, and if the team wants him to be an effective runner, they should stick to the counters and stretches that were more effective last year. But more of his runs were stopped because of poor blocking than his own poor running.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLK
ST
PEN
TOTALS
Matt Ryan$21$0$0$0$0$0$21.00
Julio Jones$0$0$11$0$0$0$11.00
Jason Snelling$0$5$4$0$0$0$9.00
Harry Douglas$0$0$5$0$0$0$5.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$2$3$0$0$0$5.00
Steven Jackson$0$0$3$0$0$0$3.00
Garrett Reynolds$0$0$0$3$0-$1$2.00
Bradie Ewing$0$0$2$0$0$0$2.00
Antone Smith$0$0$0$0$2$0$2.00
Peter Konz$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Roddy White$0$0$1$0$0$0$1.00
Drew Davis$0$0$0$0$1$0$1.00
Kevin Cone$0$0$0$0$1$0$1.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$3-$2$0-$1$0.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Sam Baker$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00
Levine Toilolo$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00
Lamar Holmes$0$0$0-$1$0-$1-$2.00

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Ravens streak past Falcons in comeback

August 15th, 2013 Comments off
Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Torrey Smith bolts past Falcons defense for a score

The Falcons went up early against the Baltimore Ravens, but a late fourth quarter comeback led to their second loss of the preseason by a score of 27-23. The Falcons wound up blowing a 16-point lead in the second half.

Matt Ryan was solid despite seeing some pressure in this game, completing 8 of 15 passes for 97 yards and a touchdown. Dominique Davis came into the game in the second quarter, and finished the night completing 8 of 10 passes for 98 yards. Sean Renfree mopped up, completing 8 of 16 passes for 63 yards. On the ground, Steven Jackson was also solid with 42 yards gained on 8 carries. Josh Vaughan led Falcons rushers with 44 yards on 5 carries. Jacquizz Rodgers added 28 yards on 10 carries and a touchdown. Julio Jones shined with the starters, catching 3 passes for 55 yards and a touchdown. Darius Johnson led Falcons receivers with 6 grabs for a total of 50 yards. Drew Davis (4 catches, 45 yards), Antone Smith (2 catches, 40 yards), and Chase Coffman (3 catches, 30 yards) also made contributions in the Falcons’ passing attack. Matt Bryant connected on a 45-yard field goal, and Jeremy Shelley had a pair of field goals from 42 and 29 yards to give the Falcons their other scores. Matt Bosher punted six times for an average of 41.7 yards with 2 punts placed inside the 20-yard line. Robert Alford returned a pair of punts for 29 yards (14.5 avg) and Harry Douglas also returned a punt for 2 yards. All the Ravens kickoffs resulted in touchbacks. The Falcons were able to gain 255 yards of total offense in the first half, with 16 first downs and converted 4 of 8 third downs. They did not fare as strongly in the second half, with 167 total yards, 11 first downs and only 3 of 10 on third down conversions.

Defensively, the Falcons really bottled up the Ravens offense. While they gave up a pair of big plays for scores, the Ravens struggled to move the ball throughout the first three quarters. The Ravens’ starters played the entire first half, and only were able to accumulate 131 yards of total offense, 3 first downs, and converted only 1 of 5 third downs. In the second half, despite the big plays, the Falcons defense only allowed 118 yards of total offense. Paul Worrilow led defenders for the second consecutive game with 6 stops. He also added a sack and a tackle for loss. Among regulars, Jonathan Babineaux (3 tackles, 2 tackles for loss), Akeem Dent (2 tackles, 1 for loss); Robert McClain (3 tackles), and Asante Samuel (2 tackles, 1 interception) had standout performances. Among the backups, Joplo Bartu (3 tackles), Dominique Franks (no tackles, 1 interception, 3 passes defended), Kemal Ishmael (2 tackles), Charles Mitchell (2 tackles, 1 for loss), and Adam Replogle (2 tackles, 1 sack) had noteworthy games. Ishmael also added a pair of stops on special teams as well. The Falcons did give up a 78-yard punt return for a touchdown, the second score allowed in as many preseason games this summer.

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Training Camp: Day 13 Report

August 11th, 2013 Comments off

Today represents the team’s final day of training camp open to the public. The Falcons won’t actually break camp until next weekend. After a day off following the team’s preseason loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, the Falcons returned to practice on Saturday. Here is what was reported:

  • Jay Adams took over for Daniel Cox in highlighted five takeaways from Saturday’s practice. Those include Paul Worrilow’s Thursday night performance against the Bengals, Julio Jones’ return to practice, the play of the Falcons young corners, as well as thoughts from Asante Samuel and Kroy Biermann.
  • Robert James was held out of practice, presumably due to an undisclosed injury he suffered in Thursday night’s matchup that limited him to only five snaps.
  • It appears the Falcons are trying to figure out ways to get both Jacquizz Rodgers and Steven Jackson on the field at the same time:

  • The official site posted Mike Smith’s transcript from his post-practice interview. Smith highlighted the two rookie corners, Matt Bosher, Lamar Holmes and Ryan Schraeder. Also spoke on Peter Konz’s play and Brian Banks’ progress. He also mentioned that newly signed offensive tackle Jeff Nady will get work at right tackle.

Quizz expected to handle kickoffs again in 2013

August 8th, 2013 Comments off
Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

Jacquizz Rodgers

When probed about cornerback Robert Alford’s usage on special teams during a post-practice interview Wednesday, Falcons head coach Mike Smith indicated that the Falcons intend to use Jacquizz Rodgers as their primary kickoff returner this year:

We’ve got some competition [at the returner positions] as well. We think Jacquizz Rodgers will be the guy that will probably will return kickoffs during the regular season but we’ve got some other guys we want to take a look at as well.

Although previously speculated that Rodgers could potentially give way to one of the rookies as the team’s kickoff returner, the Falcons appear content for Quizz to continue in that role. With the expectation that his workload on offense will be lightened from a year ago, Rodgers may be in a better position in 2013 to produce there.

I’ve previously discussed the notion that Alford might be the Falcons best alternative option. Quizz’s brother James also was extensively worked on kickoffs last summer and likely should get opportunities again this summer in the preseason. It’s also been mentioned that Dominique Franks will also be in the mix for the kickoff gig. However it will appear the brunt of the competition for the return gigs will come at punt returner, where the Falcons appear to be actively trying to replace Franks, who struggled in that role a year ago.

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Training Camp: Day 12 Report

August 7th, 2013 Comments off

Wednesday served as a pre-game walkthrough day for the Falcons in preparation for tomorrow night’s preseason opener against the Cincinnati Bengals.

  • Tony Gonzalez’s return to Atlanta is not expected until around August 17 per John Manasso of FOX Sports. It has been previously noted that Gonzalez is expected to return for the third and fourth preseason games, the former of which will be played against the Tennessee Titans on August 24 in Nashville. That third preseason game is typically the one where NFL teams suit up their starters and play them into the third quarter, meaning it makes sense to have Gonzalez back in time for that. The return date of August 17 indicates that Gonzalez will likely use the week prior to knock off any rust that has accumulated since departing camp on July 27. In Gonzalez’s absence, most reports indicate that Chase Coffman and Levine Toilolo have made the most of their opportunities with the starters.
  • Mike Smith talked about many of the things he’ll look for in the upcoming preseason game, including the situation at right tackle. Another interesting note is that Smith indicated that he expects Jacquizz Rodgers to handle the team’s kickoff return duties during the regular season, although other players will get opportunities throughout the preseason. With Rodgers relatively secure on kickoffs, it would seem that the bulk of the competition will come for punt return duties. Throughout camp, players like Robert Alford, Dominique Franks, Jason Snelling, James Rodgers, Harry Douglas, and Rashad Evans have reportedly gotten work there. Previous reports indicate that Douglas is only likely going to be a last resort.
  • Thomas DeCoud gives some personal insight into some of his teammates in the secondary.
  • Daniel Cox has his five notes from Day 12 of camp, including discussion of the increased workload that Dominique Davis saw on Wednesday and will likely see throughout the preseason, the expectation that Lamar Holmes and Ryan Schraeder will likely split reps at right tackle on Thursday, and Matt Ryan’s focus for the preseason and the rest of the year.
  • The Falcons haven’t quite ruled out Mike Johnson for the remainder of the year per Jay Adams of AtlantaFalcons.com.


    As noted earlier, the Falcons could seek to place Johnson on injured reserve but designated for return, sometimes referred to as the “short-term IR.” That would mean he would miss the first six weeks of the regular season and then be eligible to return to practice and subsequently the active roster after eight weeks. The short-term IR is only allowed for one player and must be determined by September 3 in the case of Johnson. The Falcons could opt to keep Johnson on the active roster between now and then, but they would lose one of their 90-man roster spots in camp. However they could potentially place him on the “normal” IR (gaining a roster spot) and then reactivate him for the September 3 deadline so that he can be then designated for return. The third option would to be of course to place him on normal long-term injured reserve with the expectation that he’ll miss the entire season. None of which, as Adams and Smith indicated, will not be known until following his surgery, scheduled for next week.

Camp Battles 2013: Special Teams

July 23rd, 2013 1 comment

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Robert Alford could man both return spots this year

The Falcons brought in a pair of undrafted specialists in Jeremy Shelley and Sean Sellwood to push kicker Matt Bryant and punter Matt Bosher, respectively. Both are longshots and unless Bryant or Bosher get hurt really don’t stand much of a chance to make the roster.

Instead both will be competing in the hopes that it may impress another NFL team that could pick them up at the end of the summer off waivers. If either of them offer much potential for the Falcons it’s Shelley. Matt Bryant is signed through the 2014 season, but is already 38 years old. He’s been highly productive for the Falcons since joining the team late in 2009, but age eventually always catches up. Jason Elam was also solid for the Falcons until he turned 39 that same season, and his inconsistency prompted the team replace him with Bryant. So in reality if Shelley can have an impressive summer, he could be on speed dial in case there is any dropoff from Bryant in the near future. Shelley was one of the more accurate kickers in college football the past few years while at Alabama, specializing on short field goals. He’ll have to prove that he has NFL-caliber leg strength however.

Like Bosher, Sellwood possesses a big leg, but really is just insurance. Bosher struggled throughout his rookie season in 2011, but emerged as one of the top young punters with a much more consistent 2012 season. Sellwood really is only around in case Bosher regresses, which isn’t likely.

Long snapper Josh Harris had a bit of a rocky rookie season, but the Falcons didn’t bring in any direct competition for him. Assuming he doesn’t regress this summer, he should be a lock to retain his spot.

The big battle at this position group will be for the returner positions. Jacquizz Rodgers returned kickoffs last year, while Dominique Franks managed punts. Rodgers was effective at times in his role, but Franks was not. More than likely the Falcons would prefer another young player to emerge at either spot. However, the likelihood that Rodgers has a decreased role on offense due to the presence of Steven Jackson, means that he may better handle return duties. But in reality, he’s probably only going to open the season as the kickoff returner if no one else emerges.

The best candidate may be second round pick Robert Alford. While Alford primarily returned punts in college, his skillset may be better suited to returning kicks due to his excellent straight-line speed. In a perfect world, Alford will take over at both spots and give the Falcons a big play element that has been missing since the heyday of Allen Rossum. He’ll be competing with a number of other potential candidates.

Tim Toone, while not a big play threat as a punt returner, showed last summer that he can be somewhat reliable when it comes to consistently getting yardage. That is a valuable trait in that role and lacking that ability was one of the biggest reasons why Franks struggled last year. Undrafted rookies Rashad Evans and Darius Johnson both offer explosive speed and return experience from college. James Rodgers, Jacquizz’s brother nearly won a spot last summer and if he can improve upon that he is a prime candidate to win one of the spots.

Antone Smith and Harry Douglas also might be in the mix as they have return experience, but really are only options of last resort if no one else emerges.

Ranking the Falcons: No. 25 Jacquizz Rodgers

July 16th, 2013 1 comment
Icon SMI

Jacquizz Rodgers

Running back Jacquizz Rodgers rounds out the Top 25 of Falcons players. You can see why Rodgers ranks here due to the scoring system.

Total Score: 45

Player Grade: 50 out of 100
Teams he could start for: 1 out of 32
Teams he is best position player: 1 out of 32
Teams he could find role on: 28 out of 32
Peak-Year Bonus: +2
Positional Bonus: +3

Similar to Jason Snelling, Rodgers ranking isn’t higher simply because there are a lot more proven running backs elsewhere in the league. At this point, the only team he could probably go to and start on is the St. Louis Rams who are expected to feature Daryl Richardson, a similar back.

Rodgers is a quick, explosive tailback that lacks top-end speed. He has a short, very compact build which gives him good power for a player his size (as Earl Thomas can attest), but he’s not a guy that can consistently run over defenders. But he does pick up yards after contact because of his low height allows him to get under undisciplined tackles that try to take him on too high.

Rodgers primary asset to the Falcons in his ability in the passing game. Even with the addition of Steven Jackson, he may still rank as the team’s most potent weapon there due to his big-play ability on screens. As said earlier, Rodgers doesn’t have great top-end speed, but he accelerates quickly which allows him to make the grab and quickly get upfield for maximum yardage on screens. Dirk Koetter reintroduced the screen pass to the offense last year to great effect, as it had been sorely missing for the better part of a decade in Atlanta.

The Falcons will still likely mix in Rodgers frequently in the passing game. But given that Jackson won’t need to be pulled off the field in those situations in the same manner that Michael Turner did, it’s likely going to be less reps. But Rodgers should still have opportunities early in games to spell Jackson. But his 2013 workload may be reminiscent of what it was for most of his rookie season and the early half of 2012, where he may be lucky to see more than three carries in a game.

The key for Rodgers will be taking full advantage of those limited opportunities, providing more big plays both on the ground and in the air when given chances. In two seasons with 151 combined carries, Rodgers has just 2 runs that gained 20 or more yards. In the passing game, he’s caught a total of 74 passes with 3 of them going for 20 or more yards. Ideally, he’ll at least meet if not exceed his career total of plays of 20 or more yards (5 or more), even if he receives less than half the number of his career touches in 2013.

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Camp Battles 2013: Running Back

July 13th, 2013 Comments off
Josh D. Weiss-US PRESSWIRE

Antone Smith’s roster spot is vulnerable

The top of the Falcons depth chart at this position is fairly set in stone. Newcomer Steven Jackson will be the feature back and likely get the brunt of the workload in 2013. Behind him will be Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling. How much either player is worked in the lineup will be dependent on Jackson’s early season production as well as their own. Both players are excellent third down options, but Jackson also is adept in that role. But given that the Falcons will likely want to try and save Jackson somewhat for the stretch run in December and January, they could try and mix in both Rodgers and Snelling as reserves here and there.

Lining up next to Jackson is expected to be second-year fullback Bradie Ewing. Ewing went down with an ACL tear in the preseason opener before getting any real action on offense, so he is relatively an unknown commodity. But the Falcons had a lot of confidence in him going into last summer, and it would be a major upset if he didn’t open the season as the starter. If there is any real competition behind him, it likely rests in Patrick DiMarco, who played for the Kansas City Chiefs last season. DiMarco was productive as a late season starter, after injuries forced him into the lineup. The Falcons won’t be afraid to play DiMarco over Ewing if he proves to have the better summer, but it would likely take an extraordinarily good preseason from DiMarco and an unexpectedly lackluster one from Ewing for that to become the case. More than likely DiMarco’s best route to the roster will be showcasing value on special teams.

Traditionally the Falcons have kept five running backs on the roster, with the fifth spot serving primarily as a special teams role. That has been filled by Antone Smith the past three seasons, who has settled in nicely on special teams. His 10 special teams tackles over the past two seasons is third highest among current Falcons behind Akeem Dent (20) and Shann Schillinger (11). Helping Smith potentially retain his grip on the roster spot is the fact that he’s a known commodity. But he’s vulnerable due to the fact that he’ll be counting $662,500 against the Falcons 2013 salary cap. The Falcons could potentially save over $250,000 against their cap by going with one of the young undrafted backs: Ronnie Wingo or Donald Russell.

For both players, not only will they need to showcase potential as ballcarriers and receivers on offense, but they will need to shine on special teams. That will be their best routes to giving Smith a run for his money. If they can showcase immediate value on special teams, the savings the Falcons could garner might be enough to give either a shot on the roster. More than likely, strong preseason performances will lead to spots on the practice squad rather than the final roster for either player.

Special teams ability might give Josh Vaughan the best potential odds among the backs to make the roster over Smith. Vaughan was a productive special teams player for the Carolina Panthers in 2011. The Falcons won’t reap huge savings for opting for Vaughan over Smith (roughly $110,000), but it could be worthwhile if Vaughan shows enough upside on offense. He differentiates himself from Smith by being a more powerful, downhill runner. If he can show value in the passing game, particularly in pass protection, and have a strong preseason then he has a chance to earn a spot.

Undrafted fullback Devonte Campbell was an effective blocking tight end at Maryland last year and too will more than likely be trying to impress his way onto the eight-man practice squad, since he’s a roster longshot.

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 31 “Thank God for Jake Delhomme”

July 2nd, 2013 6 comments

This week, Allen and I are once again joined by Tom Melton to discuss some of the upcoming roster and depth chart battles we expect to see in Atlanta Falcons training camp. We break down the battle along the right side of the offensive line as well as what could shake up with the battle for key depth positions at quarterback and tight end … We look at every level of the defense as battles rage at all the position groups. Tom weighs in on how Richard Seymour could help the Falcons … We discuss the depth at linebacker along with what if any of the young players could step up to help the Falcons pass rush … We dive into whether or not this year’s defensive line will live up to some past units and whether Falcon fans have been spoiled by past success up front … It wouldn’t be a Tom Melton episode without some patented Dunta Robinson bashing … We discuss their favorite young punter in the NFL and his name isn’t Matt Bosher … We discuss whether the loss of Tyson Clabo or John Abraham will hurt the team more and then reminisce on some of our favorite Predator moments over the years … Peter Konz’s future is discussed as well as Justin Blalock’s tuba playing … Jason Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers’ values are also discussed. Note: This episode does contain explicit language, so it is NSFW!

Ep. 31: Thank God for Jake Delhomme [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 3 minutes

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

Tom Melton can be found on twitter: @TMeltonScouting, and also writes for his own draft blog and NFL Draft Monsters.

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

2013 Outlook: Jacquizz Rodgers

June 13th, 2013 Comments off

Josh D. Weiss-USA TODAY Sports

Jacquizz Rodgers

Recently, I’ve discussed quite a bit the potential benefits that running back Steven Jackson could add to the Falcons offense in 2013. In doing so, I also made mention that third-year running back Jacquizz Rodgers could get lost in the shuffle.

Rodgers served as a key asset for the Falcons last year. While his production as a runner was not overly impressive, his value in the passing game was critical to the team’s success. Quizz’s quickness and ability in the open field made him a potent weapon on screen passes, and he showcased his abilities in pass protection when the Falcons went into their no-huddle attack. While even a diminished Michael Turner still proved to be the team’s top rusher for much of the 2012 season, the offense was at its most efficient when Quizz was on the field because of their ability to throw the ball, the clear strength of the team.

Jackson and Rodgers won’t have much animosity among them as they compete for reps. Both hail from Oregon State, and have known each other for a long time. But as Jackson is likely to get a significant amount of reps, it will likely be at the cost to Quizz. But the key for Quizz will be to take advantage of what limited reps he does get.

Rodgers will still be the team’s most potent weapon out of the backfield in the passing game. While Jackson is a capable receiver, Quizz’s quickness and explosiveness after the catch make him their best asset when it comes to screens and catching dumpoffs and checkdowns. He can make that first defender miss, and then it’s off to the races. His 17 missed tackles as a receiver (per Pro Football Focus) were second-highest in the league last year among running backs behind only Trent Richardson.

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