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Mike Smith: Roddy Will Play on Sunday

September 11th, 2013 Comments off
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Roddy White

The Falcons announced their injury report for Wednesday, which included wide receiver Roddy White who did not practice due to the high ankle sprain he suffered in the preseason. Jay Adams of AtlantaFalcons.com quotes Falcons head coach Mike Smith:

We kept Roddy out and, again, he’s the guy that played for us (last) week and we anticipate that he’ll play this coming week.

The Falcons will face the St. Louis Rams on Sunday, coming fresh off their Week 1 loss to the New Orleans Saints.

When White initially went down with his injury in the Falcons’ second preseason contest against the Baltimore Ravens, it was expected that White would be ready to play in the season opener against the Saints. He did play on Sunday, but was limited to 37 snaps (per Pro Football Focus). Per White, he was supposed to play only 10-15 snaps against the Saints. Initially labeled a low-ankle sprain, on Sunday it was revealed that the injury was in fact the more severe high ankle sprain.

White was limited to just two catches for 19 yards with limited mobility and burst. Since being a first round pick for the Falcons in 2005, White has never missed a game, now having logged 129 consecutive games played with the Falcons.

The Falcons worked out a trio of free agent wide receivers yesterday in Courtney Roby, Mohamed Massaquoi, and Lavelle Hawkins according to Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post. Likely in preparation for the possibility that White may sit out the game.

Roby, 30, is a former Saint that played primarily as a special teams player and kickoff returner since 2008. During that span, he only caught a pair of passes for 15 yards. He was cut at the end of camp by the Saints.

Massaquoi, 26, was a second round pick with the Cleveland Browns in 2009 out of the University of Georgia. He signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars this past off-season, but was released midway through camp. He spent little more than a week with the New York Jets before being released a second time. Over four disappointing seasons with the Browns, he started 43 games and caught 118 passes for 1,745 yards (14.8 avg) and 7 touchdowns. He is cousins with current Falcons defensive end Jonathan Massaquoi.

Hawkins, 27, is a former fourth round pick with the Tennessee Titans in 2008 out of California. He had several lackluster seasons. Most of his production came in 2011, where he finished fourth on the team with 47 receptions for 470 yards (10.0 avg) and a touchdown. Like Massaquoi, he has already been cut a couple of times this past year. He was initially released by the Titans in May, before spending the next three months with the New England Patriots before getting purged at the start of training camp. He was picked up by the San Francisco 49ers and was productive during the preseason with 7 catches for 104 yards and a touchdown, but was cut at the end of camp thanks to some mental breakdowns in their preseason finale.

Also listed on the Falcons’ injury report were defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux, offensive tackle Sam Baker, and wide receiver Julio Jones as not having participated on Wednesday due to various kneel ailments. Safety Thomas DeCoud, defensive tackle Peria Jerry, and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon were also limited on Wednesday due to knee injuries. Defensive end Cliff Matthews (neck) and cornerback Asante Samuel (thigh) were also limited. Samuel was inactive on Sunday due to his lingering thigh injury suffered during the summer.

White Questionable Against Saints

September 6th, 2013 Comments off

The Falcons announced their weekly injury report today, with wide receiver Roddy White being listed as questionable with an ankle injury. White injured the ankle in the Falcons’ second preseason contest against the Baltimore Ravens but indicated yesterday that he’d be ready to go on Sunday. He was limited in all three of the Falcons practices this week.

Also listed on the Falcons’ injury report as questionable were linebacker Stephen Nicholas (thigh) and cornerback Asante Samuel (thigh). Both players suffered injuries during the course of the preseason, and like White were limited all three of practice. The Falcons have indicated earlier that all would be expected to play Week 1, and it’s possible their limitations could have been due to not trying to risk re-aggravation of their injuries rather than indicative of their subpar health.

Kicker Matt Bryant (back) and center Joe Hawley (illness) were listed as probable as they fully participated in practice all week. Hawley was not listed on the injury report as of Wednesday, and was added Thursday. The Saints have yet to release their official injury report this afternoon, but as of yesterday every player on it except backups safety Isa Abdul-Quddus (ankle) and defensive end Glenn Foster (ankle) were full participants in Wednesday and Thursday practices. Neither Abdul-Quddus nor Foster participated in either day of practice.

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Ultimate 2013 Predictions

September 5th, 2013 Comments off
John Rieger-US PRESSWIRE

Ryan and Jones lead the Falcons to a fourth consecutive playoff season

The 2013 NFL season kicks off tonight, and it’s once again time for the yearly predictions. You’ll see how I project the Falcons 2013 season to go as well as my projections for the other 31 NFL teams. I’ll also try and estimate some of the stats that Falcons players will have this year. I was fairly accurate on many of those projections last year.

If you heard the latest episode of the FalcFans podcast, where myself and Allen Strk projected the playoff teams, you’re not going to see many significant changes. But there are a few, not that I’ve had a few more days to dwell on things.

2013 ATLANTA FALCONS

Final Record: 10-6 (2nd place in NFC South)

1- at Saints – L
2- Rams – W
3- at Dolphins – W
4- Patriots – W
5- Jets – W
6- bye
7- Bucs – W
8- at Cardinals – W
9- at Panthers – L
10- Seahawks – W
11- at Bucs – L
12- Saints – L
13- at Bills – W
14- at Packers – L
15- Redskins – W
16- at 49ers – L
17- Panthers – W

The rest of the league’s projections continue after the jump.
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Injured vets expected to go Week 1

August 26th, 2013 Comments off

Jay Adams of Atlanta Falcons.com cites Falcons head coach Mike Smith as indicating that several players that suffered injuries over the course of the preseason are expected to play when the Falcons open the regular season on September 8 against the New Orleans Saints. Those players include: kicker Matt Bryant (back), defensive tackle Peria Jerry (jaw), cornerback Asante Samuel (thigh), and wide receiver Roddy White (ankle).

Bryant suffered from back spasms and did not suit up against the Tennessee Titans on Saturday. Jerry and Samuel both suffered their injuries in the first half of the Titans game. Jerry returned to practice on Monday. While White injured his ankle the preceding week against the Baltimore Ravens and missed the Titans game.

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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.

Ryan Has His Money, Now He Needs More Help

July 27th, 2013 Comments off
Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

Matt Ryan

Matt Ryan got paid, and deservedly so. While he may not have the accomplishments that put him on par with the other most highly-paid quarterbacks in the league, it certainly doesn’t make him any less deserving of being in that peer group.

And by accomplishments, we’re talking about playoff wins and Super Bowls.

Now that Ryan is being paid handsomely for his services with the Falcons, more scrutiny is going to come towards him even if he doesn’t feel it. Rightly or wrongly, quarterbacks are largely judged by how many playoff wins and Super Bowl rings they have.

I personally believe those things often get overrated when assessing individual quarterbacks. Postseason success is largely billed as reflective of quarterbacks, but it is in fact reflective of the entire team that he plays on. Teams win games, not necessarily quarterbacks. While quarterbacks are the most important aspect of a team, football is not like basketball where you can be a championship contender by having one transcendent player. Just look at Drew Brees in New Orleans, who by the way had zero playoff wins in his first five seasons (one less than Ryan). Brees has helmed the Saints for seven seasons, and three of those seasons the Saints did not finish with a record above .500. Their lack of success in those seasons was largely because of their poor defensive play which ranked among the ten worst teams in the league in all three seasons. Brees will ultimately be enshrined in Canton for his tenure with the Saints, but it’s clear that even a quarterback of his caliber can’t do it all on his own.

And that’s the point I’m getting to with Ryan. While the Falcons have rewarded Ryan with a resplendent contract, they need to get him more help if they hope that he ultimately will have greater postseason success moving forward.

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Ranking the Falcons: No. 5 Asante Samuel

July 26th, 2013 Comments off
Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

Asante Samuel

Falcons cornerback Asante Samuel ranks 5th among the team’s players. Click here to read about how the scoring system for these rankings was devised.

Total Score: 87

Player Grade: 77 out of 100
Teams he could start for: 32 out of 32
Teams he is best position player: 25 out of 32
Teams he could find role on: 32 out of 32
Peak-Year Bonus: +0
Positional Bonus: +4

At 32 years old, Asante Samuel continues to defy the odds. The Philadelphia Eagles practically gave him away last year for a seventh round pick in a trade with the Falcons. Then the Eagles watched their pass defense struggle while that unit for the Falcons proved to be the strength of their defense thanks in large part to Samuel.

Samuel isn’t the biggest corner around, and it shows in run support. While he’s not afraid to every now and then lower his shoulder and deliver a blow to a receiver or ballcarrier, he’s going to pick and choose his spots. And he’ll create more headaches than highlights when it comes to run support. Per Moneyball, he had 9 missed tackles in 2012 that led to either first downs or touchdowns, which was second-most on the team behind only Thomas DeCoud. That was one of the reasons that the Eagles opted to ship him out of town.

But he more than makes up for it with his awareness, anticipation, and ball skills in coverage. Samuel is so good at jumping routes, that it typically leads quarterbacks to shy away from him. Using Pro Football Focus‘ targets per coverage snaps metric, he ranked in the Top 10 among the least targeted corners every year between 2009-11. He was targeted a lot more last year in Atlanta (ranking 36th by that metric), but he only allowed 53% of the passes thrown at him to be completed. That low percentage of completed passes was thanks largely to his ability to break up passes (14.5 passes defended) and create turnovers (5 interceptions).

His gambling got him into trouble a couple of times last year, as he would leave his own assignment to try and jump underneath routes, and give up some big plays. But the scales tip heavily in favor of Samuel, making more of those plays than giving up. The Falcons hope to see that continue to be the case in 2013. With the likelihood that a rookie in Desmond Trufant starts opposite Samuel at right cornerback, Samuel should see less work. But he needs to be steadier with whatever he does see and continue to take full advantage of those opportunities. The key will be staying patient, something he wasn’t always last year. If Samuel can be a touch more disciplined, then there is little reason to not expect the Falcons pass defense to once again be among the better groups in the league.

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2013 Key Player: Asante Samuel

June 30th, 2013 1 comment
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Samuel picks off Manning against the Giants

I’ve already outlined a few players that could be key players this year including Julio Jones and Steven Jackson on offense. But it’s time to look at one of the players in a key position to perform on defense: cornerback Asante Samuel.

One could make the argument that Samuel was the team’s most valuable player on defense last year. His candidacy is buoyed by the number of game-changing plays he had last year. His pick six against the Oakland Raiders essentially won the Falcons that game. Twice he intercepted quarterbacks on their first passes of the game, against Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints as well as Eli Manning and the New York Giants. The latter of which set the tone for what would turn into a 34-point shutout for the defending Super Bowl champions.

Last year, I outlined that Samuel’s dynamic ball skills and ability to be left on an island against quality wideouts would be key factors in why he was a key player. He lived up to those expectations.

But this year, there will be different expectations. A year ago, he was expected to team with veterans in Dunta Robinson and Brent Grimes to give the Falcons three top-notch corners for their nickel defense. Grimes went down with an injury in the season-opener and Robert McClain stepped in shortly thereafter to have the best season a Falcons nickel corner has had in recent memory.

This year however, he will be surrounded by youth. McClain is expected to retain his nickel spot, but opposite him will be a pair of rookies no doubt in Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford. That puts a different pressure on Samuel this year. That pressure is based off consistency.

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Falcons Super Bowl Window is Small

June 7th, 2013 Comments off
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

White hopes his next big celebration includes a Lombardi Trophy

Falcons receiver Roddy White made recent headlines with comments that the time is now for the Falcons to win a Super Bowl. I for one am not a person that typically agrees with many of the public utterings made by White, but in this case he’s 100% correct.

The Falcons do have a small window of opportunity to “get over the hump” and try and win a Super Bowl. While the powers that be in Flowery Branch probably won’t say as much publicly, the truth is in their actions.

And by actions, just look at the team they’ve constructued. While it wouldn’t be accurate to say the Falcons are “all in” for a Super Bowl in 2013, they certainly are for the next two seasons.

Don’t agree? Well, here’s a thinking exercise… Name the Falcons current ten best players. Go ahead, I’ll give you a minute.

Okay done? Here’s probably the list you came up with, or very close to it…

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