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Scouting Report: Steven Jackson

June 12th, 2013 Comments off
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Steven Jackson

It’s time to look at the Falcons signature offensive free agent addition in running back Steven Jackson.

In fact, one could argue the Falcons made a mistake by not trading for Jackson at the trade deadline last fall, as the boost he could have potentially provided down the stretch could have meant the difference between the Falcons losing in the NFC Championship Game and going to the Super Bowl. The Falcons appear to believe that acquiring Jackson later is better than never. But let’s first look at Jackson’s skillset before talking about what exactly he could bring to the table in 2013. Once again, the grading system is based on a ten-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.

SKILLS

Speed (5.0) – Jackson possesses good burst and hits the hole quickly. He however lacks the long speed to be particularly dangerous on the second level. He’s never been a back known for his ability to break long runs having 31 runs of 20 or more yards in his 9-year career. In comparison to Michael Turner, who had 45 in his 5 years in Atlanta and 29 between 2008-10. Jackson’s running style is more suited to being a volume back that can consistently get gains of 3-7 yards per run and wear down opponents over time.

Power (8.0) – Jackson runs with great authority, toughness, and physicality. He’s not afraid of contact and will consistently crave it. He consistently keeps his feet churning after initial contact and in traffic, allowing him to consistently add yards here and there. While not a player that is going to run over every defender, he does make it so that he’s not easy to bring down which can help wear down defenses. As a volume runner that can make him most effective in the fourth quarter.

Agility (6.0) – Jackson possesses good lateral agility and quickness, able to side-step defenders in the hole. He shows good burst out of his cuts, as he’s comfortable working inside and on the edge. His agility makes him an effective one-cut runner when working on stretch plays and other zone blocking runs. He is able to make a defender miss on the second level and bounce plays to the edge, although again his lack of ideal speed limits his ability to generate big plays in those instances.

Vision (7.0) – Jackson has good vision to the hole, able to run to daylight and due to his power, burst, and lateral quickness, he can exploit it. But his declining skill in those areas doesn’t allow him to always do so to the level he once did in the past. There will be many runs where he’ll run into traffic and use his size and power to make a hole where there is none.

Hands (7.0) – He possesses good hands and is comfortable catching the ball out of the backfield. He’ll drop some passes on occasion, but considering his relatively high volume of targets and opportunities, it’s a fairly low percentage. He is able to secure the ball and then square his shoulders to get downfield to run hard after the catch.

Blocking (7.0) – He is an experienced pass protector having served in that role for the Rams for a number of years. His reps were cut down last year in part due to the presence of Daryl Richardson, and also do to the Rams new offense preferring to spread the field and limiting how much backs were asked to block. His size and physicality makes him more than capable of squaring up a defensive linemen coming off the edge or up the middle.

OVERVIEW

Jackson isn’t the player he once was. Five years ago, he was in the mix for being one of the top backs in the league a notch below players like Adrian Peterson. Similarly, Jackson possesses all the tools you look for in a top back, size, speed, power, pass catching ability, quickness, and agility. And despite languishing on bad Rams teams for years, he was be able to showcase these skills. So even while his production never matched that of a player like Michael Turner in his heyday in Atlanta, I always considered Jackson to be the superior back.

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Scouting Report: Sean Renfree

May 24th, 2013 Comments off

Robert Mayer-US PRESSWIRE

Sean Renfree

Here is my breakdown of the Falcons final pick in Duke quarterback Sean Renfree:

Height: 6-3 1/8
Weight: 219
School: Duke
Class: Senior
Speed: 4.76 (estimate)

Was recruited by Jim Harbaugh at Stanford, but ultimately chose Duke when Andrew Luck landed there. Became the starter as a redshirt sophomore. Showed improvement with his production every year, culminating in career highs in completions, completion percentage, and touchdowns as a senior. Posted his best record as a starter that year, leading Duke to a 6-6 record and their first bowl appearance since 1994. Nearly led the Blue Devils to a win over Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl, but a last minute touchdown pass lifted the Bearcats over them. Wound up injuring himself on the last play of the game, getting hit and tearing his pectoral muscle. That torn pec led to him not throwing in the off-season and not working out at either the Combine or his pro day. Is expected to begin throwing at some point in May before training camp begins. Renfree was coached by David Cutcliffe, a noted QB guru, at Duke. Pretty much every starting QB that has played under Cutcliffe since 1991 has played in the NFL: Heath Shuler (1991-93), Peyton Manning (1994-97), Tee Martin (1998), Romaro Miller (1999-00), Eli Manning (2000-03), Brady Quinn (2005), Erik Ainge (2006-07), Thad Lewis (2008-09), to Renfree. He was a three-time Academic All-ACC selection as well as served as Duke’s team captain his final two years.

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Scouting Report: Zeke Motta

May 23rd, 2013 Comments off

Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE

Zeke Motta

Here’s a look at the second safety the Falcons selected in the seventh round in Zeke Motta.

Height: 6-2 1/4
Weight: 215
School: Notre Dame
Class: Senior
Speed: 4.71 (Campus)

He split reps with Jamoris Slaughter during his sophomore and junior seasons at strong safety, playing opposite Harrison Smith. After Smith was drafted in 2012, he moved to free safety as a senior in his lone season as a full-time starter. He had career highs in tackles. Not a great coverage guy, Motta has good size and is an active run defender. But like many of his Notre Dame brethren, Motta’s stock was hurt by the fact that he had an underwhelming game against Alabama in the National Championship. He did lead the team with tackles in that game, recording a career-high 16 but many of those were made several yards downfield after successful Alabama runs or throws. Then his stock was hurt even more with a slow 40 time at the Combine (4.83). His first name is short for Ezekiel.

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Scouting Report: Kemal Ishmael

May 22nd, 2013 Comments off
Beth Hall-US PRESSWIRE

Kemal Ishmael

I have to be honest, when the Falcons made Kemal Ishmael the first of three seventh round picks, I didn’t have a clue who he was. But I went back and watched tape of him while he was at Central Florida, and here is what I came away with…

Height: 5-10 3/4
Weight: 201
School: Central Florida
Class: Senior
Speed: 4.63 (Campus)

A four-year starter that started 49 consecutive games over his career at UCF at free safety. Ishmael was a highly productive run-defending safety that was a tackling machine during his days in school. He led the Golden Knights defense in tackles in his last three years, culminating in a senior year where he had career highs in every statistical category. He had a knack for making plays, including a total of 6 turnovers (3 interceptions and 3 forced fumbles). He set the school record for career tackles among defensive backs. A player that lacks ideal NFL measurables, but managed to get by with toughness, work ethic, and leadership. He hails from the same high school in Miami as Louis Delmas, currently with the Detroit Lions.

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Scouting Report: Stansly Maponga

May 20th, 2013 Comments off
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Stansly Maponga

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to go back and watch more than one game from Maponga this past season. But I had broken down last year’s bowl game, so I will also factor in my notes from that game as part of this evaluation.

Height: 6-1 7/8
Weight: 251
School: Texas Christian
Class: Junior
Speed: 4.81 (Campus)

Maponga was born in Zimbabwe, but moved to the United States when he was a child. His career path to the NFL mirrors that of Falcons teammate Jonathan Massaquoi. Massaquoi, a native of Liberia came to the U.S. at a young age as well. Massaquoi shined at Troy during his sophomore year, but his production fell off as a junior. But he wound up declaring for the NFL draft and probably not going as high as he initially envisioned (fifth round). Maponga had a strong sophomore campaign, emerging as one of TCU’s top pass rushers with 9 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss. He looked much more pedestrian as a junior, although he was somewhat limited by a broken foot in October. But he only managed 1 sack and 2.5 tackles for loss in the six games prior to the injury. His production actually went up over the final 5 games with 3 sacks and 4 tackles for loss. Maponga opted to declare for the draft. TCU has been a school that has produced a steady line of productive pass rushers at the collegiate level, but not as many have translated well to the pro game in recent years. Jerry Hughes has struggled in Indianapolis since being a top pick, and players like Chase Ortiz, Tommy Blake, and Wayne Daniels are recent players that produced at TCU, but could not translate at all to the NFL level. If Maponga does find success at the next level, he will be the first former Horned Frog since Aaron Schobel (2001-09). Maponga was primarily used as a left defensive end while at TCU, able to exploit the slower feet of many right tackles.

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Scouting Report: Levine Toilolo

May 19th, 2013 Comments off

Cary Edmondson-US PRESSWIRE

Levine Toilolo

Let’s look at what I thought was an underrated tight end prospect in this year’s class in Levine Toilolo.

Height: 6-8 3/8
Weight: 259
School: Stanford
Class: Junior
Speed: 4.86 (Combine)

Toilolo continues the trend that the Falcons apparently adopted in 2013 by selecting a player with NFL bloodlines. Three of his uncles: Dan Saleaumua (1987-98), Edwin Mulitalo (1999-2008), and Joe Salave’a (1998-2006) all played in NFL. Toilolo comes from an athletic family of Samoan Americans. A top recruit for Stanford, he started as a redshirt freshman back in 2010 in the season opener, but tore his ACL which lost him for the year. He came back the following year mixing in the rotation with Zach Ertz and Coby Fleener. He had a solid year, putting up slightly better production than Ertz. But as junior, Ertz would take off while Toilolo would sort of languish at the status quo. Didn’t have the breakout year expected, and had basically the same production despite the uptick in opportunities with Fleener in the NFL. He is primarily a blocking tight end, but possesses the length and athleticism to create matchup problems and wreak havoc in the secondary. He continues a strong tradition of Stanford tight ends in the NFL, with Ertz being taken in 2013. Fleener was the top TE drafted in 2012. Jim Dray and Evan Moore each were backups this past year, while Alex Smith was a productive starter in Tampa Bay before becoming a backup in Cleveland. His name is pronounced La-Veen Toy-lo-lo.

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Scouting Report: Malliciah Goodman

May 19th, 2013 Comments off

Joshua S. Kelly-US PRESSWIRE

Malliciah Goodman

Here’s my take on defensive end Malliciah Goodman, the first of a pair of fourth round picks by the Falcons in 2013.

Height: 6-3 5/8
Weight: 273
School: Clemson
Class: Senior
Speed: 4.87 (Combine)

Goodman was a highly recruited prospect at Clemson, and finished his career strong with a 3-sack effort against LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. In that game, he was working against a true freshman who began the season as a backup and dominated him early before LSU made adjustments. He began his career as the backup to Da’Quan Bowers, recording 3 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss. In his first year as a starter, he had 2 sacks and 4 tackles for loss. As a senior, he was shut out in terms of sacks for the first four games of the season. But finished the year with 7 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss in the final 6 games, including the 3-sack, 3-TFL performance in the finale vs. LSU. Goodman transitioned to the Combine where he impressed again with his long arms. They were measured 36 and 3/8 inches, making them the longest of any of the prospects in Indianapolis. Those long arms give him a lot of developmental potential as a defensive end where they can be highly valuable as an edge rusher. He played exclusively at left end at Clemson.

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Scouting Report: Robert Alford

April 27th, 2013 Comments off

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Robert Alford at the Senior Bowl

After the Falcons selected him, I went back and took a look at Alford for the first time by watching some archived games on WatchESPN.com.

Height: 5-10 1/8
Weight: 188
School: Southeastern Louisiana
Class: Senior
Speed: 4.39 (Combine)

Alford is a small school corner prospect hailing from the FCS subdivision (formerly Division I-AA). He earned a bunch of accolades during his final season, being named a Buck Buchanan Award (given to top defender in FCS) finalist, 2nd team FCS All-American, and 1st team All-Southland Conference performer. That production earned him a Senior Bowl invite, where he was among several corners that impressed observers. He had a standout performance in the actual game, returning a kickoff 88 yards and also picking off a 2-point conversion attempt. He was able to show that he could match up with some of the top athletes around the nation from larger programs. He then transitioned easily to the Combine, where he was among the elite performers this year at the cornerback position. His speed, vertical jump, broad jump, and bench press were all among the Top 4 guys in Indianapolis. Alford was so explosive that he even got some reps on offense as a scenario, working on reverses (2 carries) and being a vertical threat on occasion (4 catches for 52 yards). His older brother Fred Booker was journeyman corner out of LSU in 2001 that bounced around the Arena League and NFL Europe before finally landing with the New Orleans Saints in 2005 where he played in 12 games as a reserve and special teams player.
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Scouting Report: Desmond Trufant

April 26th, 2013 Comments off
Steven Bisig-US PRESSWIRE

Desmond Trufant

Most years I will break down anywhere between three and six games during the course of the year for scouting draft prospects. This year, I did not do that much. In recent weeks I did go back and watch a pair of games that Trufant played this past season, and also did scout him in three games as a junior. But here’s my take on Trufant as a player:

Height: 5-11 5/8
Weight: 190
School: Washington
Class: Senior
Speed: 4.38 (Combine)

Trufant was a productive, high-character, four-year starter at Washington. He comes from an NFL family, as his oldest brother Marcus played a decade with the Seattle Seahawks (2003-12), earning a Pro Bowl bid in 2007. He has another brother Isaiah, who has spent the past three season as a reserve and special teams player with the New York Jets. Trufant had a solid senior year, but probably entered the off-season considered to be a second day pick. But after a strong week of Senior Bowl practices, where he showed he was comfortable against top competition, his stock began to rise. He coupled that with a strong performance at the Combine, and ultimately was able to push his stock up into the latter part of the first round, earning consensus first round grades from most experts. He earned the starting job within the first month of his true freshman season. He started 45 straight games until missing 1 game late in his senior year with a hamstring injury. Finished his career as the school’s all-time leader in pass deflections with 38.

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Scouting Report: Asante Samuel

August 27th, 2012 1 comment
Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

Asante’s ‘G Stance’

Last week, I started things with scouting Sean Weatherspoon. Now it’s time to look at the Falcons only major pre-draft off-season addition still with the team: Asante Samuel, and what skills he brings to the table in 2012.

Pros: Samuel is an instinctual cover corner with good ball skills, awareness, and excellent anticipation. Does a good job challenging throws when he’s in position, and makes quarterbacks have to work to complete passes against him. Will jump slants and outs, able to make the big play. Does a solid job working in both man and zone coverage. Plays balanced and has good hips to match up man to man. He’s comfortable playing in space. Hard to beat deep due to his ability to play deep zones. Does a nice job covering crossing routes as well. Does his best work when he’s allowed to play off coverage, which allows him to keep things in front and read the quarterback.

Cons: Is lacking and lazy in run support. Is a poor tackler with bad technique, as he tends to duck his head and rarely wraps up. Relies too much on chopping legs of defender in open field, which is effective at times but very inconsistent. Doesn’t work to get off blocks, and tends to shy away from run support assignments, letting the other 10 guys on the field do most of the work. Too often gives up too much cushion when working in off coverage. Can be attacked on the deep posts for those reasons. Will get caught looking in the backfield at times, and give up the easy completion. Can get burned due to his gambling ways, biting on double moves. At times will leave his safety out to dry because he’ll bite on the underneath pattern and leave his safety on an island deep. Can be effective in press, but not good when asked to try and jam receivers at the line.

2012 Outlook: Samuel is a ball-hawk that has earned a strong reputation over the years for his ability to create turnovers and make the big play. While he’s not always the most disciplined corner, that reputation has allowed him to get away with things that lesser corners probably could not. This means he’s a “field-tilter” because opposing quarterbacks tend to shy away from him, and effectively takes his man out of the play, allowing his teammates to channel things to the opposite field. His struggles in run support are well-known and well-documented, but the Falcons are hoping that limiting his exposure there by playing him in the nickel will streamline his production.

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