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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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Scouting Report: Sean Weatherspoon

August 22nd, 2012 Comments off
Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

Sean Weatherspoon

As has been the case the past two summers, I will look at evaluating some of the Falcons current players. Will be looking to assess their strengths, weaknesses, and what fans can expect to see from them in 2012. Let’s kick things off with the player that anchors the defense in Sean Weatherspoon.

Pros: Spoon possesses very good range and speed, able to make plays anywhere on the field from sideline to sideline. Does a good job as a “run and hit” linebacker, able to flow to the football and make plays in pursuit. He has good instincts when it comes to reading and reacting to plays, and does a good job taking good angles to the football. Packs some power and pop as a tackler, and will lower the boom to deliver a big hit to the ballcarrier. Has very good athleticism with good flexibility and hips, making him an ideal coverage linebacker. Capable of matching up with some of the league’s better tight ends. Is a very effective blitzer due to his speed and short-area burst, able to explode upfield and into the backfield to disrupt the pass. Has a loquacious and jubilant personality that makes him effective in a leadership position.

Cons: Not always a reliable tackler and can be overpowered at the point of attack. Doesn’t do a great job getting off blocks at the point of attack, causing him to get caught up in traffic against the inside run. Also has some difficulty getting off blocks in space, particularly when it comes to screens. Despite his natural skillset, still needs to develop better awareness when in coverage. Aggressive play can get him in trouble at times by bordering on being overaggressive.

2012 Outlook: Weatherspoon was arguably the best 4-3 outside linebacker in the NFL last season, joining the ranks of players like Lance Briggs, Daryl Smith, and Chad Greenway in a position group that has largely dominated by 3-4 players that get nationwide recognition. It’s one of the reasons why Weatherspoon is still a bit under the radar from a national perspective. With new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan calling the shots, the Falcons will continue to look at Spoon as being one of the lynchpins of their defense. He was good enough last year to earn defensive MVP honors from this site and was overlooked in Pro Bowl voting. But this upcoming season, those things hopefully will change as Weatherspoon should be poised for his first Pro Bowl appearance.

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Scouting Report: Jonathan Massaquoi

May 5th, 2012 Comments off
US PRESSWIRE

Jonathan Massaquoi

I wanted to get this up sooner, but I finally gone back and looked at tape of the Falcons newest fifth round pick on the defensive side of the ball. Massaquoi was a player that first came to my attention in the 2010 New Orleans Bowl, where he utterly dominated Ohio’s offensive line to have 8 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, and 2.5 sacks in that game. From that game he looked like he had the potential to be a stud pass rusher at the next level.

But after watching four games of his from this past year, I’m not nearly as impressed with him. Here are some of the things I saw on tape:

Pros: Has nice straight-line burst off the edge. He plays with a high motor and continues until the whistle. Does a good job timing snaps and getting a good jump to get the offensive tackle off-balanced. Will use his hands at times to keep blockers off him and get extension. Flashes ability as a bull rusher, able to get his hands inside and jolt the tackle off the snap. Can make the quick inside counter move to collapse the pocket from the edge. Has experience dropping into coverage on zone blitzes, and does a nice job with his backpedal and footwork.

Cons: Doesn’t have the first step or burst off the edge to really wow you. His first step is really only effective against the lesser tackles he faces. If he cannot win with his first step, he struggles to disengage and win battles. Gets pushed around too easily and knocked off his rush when tackles get their hands on him. Struggles to get leverage at the point of attack and tends to get swarmed under when you run directly at him. He doesn’t show great recognition to maintain the edge. Not a very good open field tackler because he doesn’t do a great job breaking down and ducks his head. Doesn’t change direction well when you get him in space, and can get caught out of position against the run there. Doesn’t show great hips when he drops in coverage, and is very straight-line.

I think part of hte reason why Massaquoi shined in 2010 vs. Ohio was because he was much lighter than he was in 2011. He was listed at 252 back in 2010, but appeared to play much closer to 260-265 range as a junior in 2011. That additional weight seemed to make him lose a step. While he does have decent burst, it didn’t look good enough where he was going to really beat starting-calber NFL tackles with it. The hope for the Falcons is that the burst can return once he gets a bit more used to playing at the additional weight.

Another reason is that Troy’s defense doesn’t really take full advantage of Massaquoi’s skillset. He plays left defensive end in their defense, and too often I saw him lined up in a 5-technique or over the tackle. Forcing him to use his hands rather than his speed. His hands are by far his weakest aspect. But he still managed to be productive in the four games I saw when he was able to pin his ears back and get after the quarterback. But a lot of his pressures came from him being able to time snaps very well rather than him being able to simply win with his burst alone.

Overall, Massaquoi reminds me a lot of Lawrence Sidbury. Sidbury playing at Richmond also didn’t have a high degree of competition on a weekly basis. Sidbury too could prey on the weakest offensive tackles he faced. Massaquoi and Sidbury’s burst are similar, and like Sidbury I think Massaquoi can be a very good situational/rotational player. But he’ll likley be very limited in a starter’s role because of his lack of size and the fact that he doesn’t have the burst to really be a force off the edge.

And thusly, like Sidbury, I don’t see Massaquoi doing a whole lot his rookie season. And may not be a guy that will contribute until his third year. Unless he can add strength and learn how to use his hands better, it’s hard to see Massaquoi doing much more. One thing I did like about him that could be developed is his bull rush. He could at times get his hands inside and jolt tackles off the ball. He still hasn’t quite mastered the ability to lock on and drive the blocker into the backfield, but that can come in time.

Overall, I believe Massaquoi is a nice depth option for the Falcons that can be developed to help out the rotation in time. His potential to play in coverage might be a little better than the Falcons current group of edge rushers, but it’s probably not a skillset that will be developed to any high degree.

Scouting Report: Lamar Holmes

April 29th, 2012 1 comment
US PRESSWIRE

Lamar Holmes

When the Falcons drafted Southern Miss offensvie tackle Lamar Holmes, I’m sure I was among many Falcon fans that were perplexed. Holmes had been designated by many draft sites as a late round project, and here the Falcons a team that desperately needed a left tackle had just taken him in the third round. It suggested they thought much more highly of Holmes than many of the so-called experts.

I’ve learned over the years, that when it comes to rookies and draft prospects, you shouldn’t have any strong opinions about them until you’ve seen them play. Guys that are initially judged as reaches can often become studs. And others that are deemed sure-fire studs and can potentially become busts.

I went back and watched three games of Southern Miss on ESPN3.com to form my own impression of Holmes. I saw him from this past year against Virginia, Houston, and Nevada.

Pros: The first thing you notice about Holmes is his size. He has very good size for an NFL tackle with the long arms and bulky frame you want. He is a fairly good athlete that is able to move his feet and slide in pass protection. His technique and footwork are pretty solid. His long arms allow him to get extension in pass protection, as he’s able to initiate contact with pass rushers on the edge. He bends his knees well and can get leverage at the point of attack as a run blocker. He can drive his feet when he does lock on as a run blocker to get some push. He is able to block on the move and does a nice job getting downfield to hit assignments on the second level. He also flashed nice potential as a cut blocker.

Cons: Holmes lacks great feet. He can struggle at times with speed, mainly because while he does a good job initiating contact on the edge, the contact is lackluster. He tends to push rather than punch pass rushers, which allows them to continue to work their way around the edge. He doesn’t do a great job locking on which prevents him from maintaining his blocks. And he doesn’t possess the short-area power as a run blocker that even when he gets leverage he is able to consistently push defenders off the ball. Doesn’t do a great job finishing his blocks either because of his inability to lock on. Doesn’t dominate smaller defenders in a short-area the way a guy with his size should.

Holmes is expected to compete right away for the left tackle position for the Falcons. But in watching Holmes in these three games I do not think he’s quite ready to be an NFL starter. While he is technically sound in the sense that you can tell he’s been well-coached, he hasn’t quite polished that technique to make him effective against speed. He needs to refine his technique, and getting at least a year in the weight room and on the bench should help him go a long ways towards doing that.

But even if Holmes does get a year to learn and improve, I’m still not convinced he’s ideally suited to play left tackle in the NFL. At least not a high level. He looks more like a player that is better suited to playing right tackle in the league because of his struggles against speed.

Whoever plays left tackle for the Falcons this year is not going to have an easy task over the first half of the season. Likely matchups include going against Tamba Hali (12 sacks in 2011), Elvis Dumervil (9.5 sacks), Shaun Philips (3.5 sacks), Charles Johnson (9 sacks), Brian Orakpo (9 sacks), Matt Shaughnessy (7 sacks in 2010), Trent Cole (11 sacks), and DeMarcus Ware (19.5 sacks) over the first 8 games.

That’s not going to be an ideal situation for a player like Holmes. I believe Holmes can be a good player for the Falcons, but probably not in 2012. In time, he can potentially become a Donald Penn-caliber of left tackle. He won’t set the world on fire, but is more than capable of doing more good than bad if he can be developed. That should begin with patience from the Falcons.

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Scouting Report: Kelvin Hayden

September 2nd, 2011 Comments off
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Kelvin Hayden

With the Falcons picking up cornerback Kelvin Hayden, I went back and watched four of his games from 2010 to see how Hayden could potentially fit in here in Atlanta. If you’re wondering which games I watched, it was: Week 2 vs. Giants, Week 3 vs. Broncos, Week 8 vs. Texans, and Week 10 vs. Bengals.

Pros: A good athlete with good hips and quick feet. Shows good speed to turn and run with receivers. Does a nice job closing on the ball upfield when he can keep things in front of him. That’s when he’s at his best. Does a nice job defending the underneath stuff, able to jump routes on the comebacks and slants to break up passes. Shows nice ball skills. Willing in run support, will set the edge, and deliver hit to the ball carrier. Shows good speed and range when working in zone and can cover a lot of ground, showing good awareness. Comfortable playing in either off or press coverage and has the size and speed to be effective in both. Has a knack for making the big play with two defensive touchdowns on interceptions last year.

Cons: Doesn’t always do a good job defending the deep ball and when he’s in jump ball situations, not going to make very many plays. Gives up too much cushion at times, which can lead to mistakes after the catch. Not as physical in run support as his size would merit, and misses a lot of tackles in the open field because he doesn’t do a great job breaking down and wrapping up. Will take some bad angles in space.

2011 Outlook: Hayden was brought in by the Falcons to solidify their depth and add a starter-quality defender to play in nickel situations. They did a good job finding him because he has the ability to do so. The questions about Hayden stem from him coming from a different scheme in Indianapolis, and whether he can excel doing the things the Falcons will ask him to do.

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Scouting Report: Ray Edwards

August 28th, 2011 Comments off
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Ray Edwards

Pros: Has good, strong athletic build. Shows comfort and range to drop into shallow coverages to cover backs and tight ends in the flat on the zone blitz. Uses his quick first step to challenge the edge and most effective when he can line up wide in a 9-technique and pin his ears back to get after the quarterback. Has the sort of edge speed that is a difficult matchup for the majority of right tackles in the league. Occasionally flashes the technique and hand use to use rips, spins, and bull rush to beat the blocker. Has a decent power move inside.

Cons: Tends to rely on his speed to beat the tackle, and not that effective when you can chip him or the blocker gets his hands on him. Doesn’t do a good job using his hands and technique to disengage on the edge. Lacks the elite edge speed to dip the shoulder and turn the corner on a consistent basis. Struggles too often at the point of attack against the run. Will get pushed off the ball by the double team and struggles to get off blocks. Results in him not making many plays against the run. At times will get too far upfield, taking himself out of plays. Has an inconsistent motor at times.

2011 Outlook: Edwards is a gifted athlete that is looking to prove skeptics wrong in his first year with the Falcons. Many thought he was the player that benefited the most playing on a stacked Vikings defensive line. The Falcons are hoping that Edwards added ability on the left side of their line will make several other players up front better.

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Scouting Report: Jonathan Babineaux

August 26th, 2011 Comments off
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Jonathan Babineaux

Pros:Has a quick step upfield to beat interior linemen with his quickness. Has good strength for his size and shows a capable bull rush to use a power move. Does his best work when he’s allowed to get upfield, penetrate and make plays in the backfield. A good run defender because of this. Can get off blocks and make the hit on the ballcarrier. Rarely gets caught out of position. Plays with a high motor and consistently plays to the whistle. Shows good athleticism to occasionally drop into coverage to make a play. Shows very good durability.

Cons: Not a dynamic pass rusher that will consistently generate a lot of sacks. His production notably drops off when he goes up against top guards. Can get pushed off the ball at times and doesn’t always match up well with bigger, more powerful guards.

2011 Outlook: Babineaux is arguably the best and most consistent defender on the Falcons defense that impacts both as a run defender and pass rusher. He is one of the best 4-3 defensive tackles in the league, and hopes to showcase that as more and more people around the league begin to realize this.

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Scouting Report: Kroy Biermann

August 25th, 2011 1 comment
AP from Yahoo! Sports

Kroy Biermann

After four offensive profiles, it’s time to look on the defensive side of the ball at defensive end Kroy Biermann.

Pros: Has nice quickness off the snap to challenge the corner as pass rusher. Has nice technique, using his hands to beat the tackle. Capable of closing on the ball and delivering a hit to create a turnover. Will get his hands up to bat down passes as well. Shows improved recognition, and has improved his ability to play the run and not get caught out of position at the point of attack. Able to make stops on the edge, and can get off blocks.

Cons: Doesn’t wow you with his edge speed and doesn’t have quite the burst to beat most upper-level tackles around the corner consistently. Is not that big and on occasion can get pushed around versus the run by bigger tackles. Struggles when asked to drop into coverage and play in space as he shows very little awareness and poor hips there.

2011 Outlook: Biermann is hoping to bounce back after a somewhat disappointing 2010 season due to the introduction of Ray Edwards into the lineup. It should allow him to do what he does best, which is get after the quarterback as a situational rusher off the bench.

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Scouting Report: Chris Redman

August 24th, 2011 Comments off
Getty Images/K.C. Cox

Chris Redman

So far, I’ve scouted a pair of wideouts and a running back, so let’s look at one of the guys that is tasked with getting them the football, Falcons backup quarterback Chris Redman.

Pros: Has a strong arm and likes to throw down the field. Shows nice accuracy and does his best work in the vertical passing game. Comfortable filling in as a spot starter, able to competently manage a game and offense for a short period of time. Shows nice anticipation on the majority of his reads and can see the field when given time. Shows ability to anticipate blitz and make the proper reads.

Cons: Pocket presence and awareness are not great and does not have a quick trigger. Will tend to take some sacks because of this and his lack of mobility. This makes him more susceptible to see a decline in play when he’s pressured. Also has a tendency to force passes downfield looking for the big play. This can lead to turnovers. Doesn’t possess the sort of intangibles that can take the bull by the horns and be a leader on a team for an entire season.

2011 Outlook: If all things go according to plan, Redman will have no impact whatsoever on the Falcons success this year. That is because if things go well, he’ll never play a single snap this year. But if not, then the Falcons will be looking for Redman to step in for the short-term to keep the offense afloat and hopefully not get it off-track in the playoff race.

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Scouting Report: Michael Turner

August 22nd, 2011 Comments off
courtesy of Getty Images

Michael Turner

It’s time to look at the Falcons bruising tailback, Michael “The Burner” Turner…

Pros: Shows excellent power and enjoys running over and through defenders. Does a great job after initial contact when he can square his shoulders and runs behind his pads very well. It’s going to be extremely difficult to bring him down for a single defender. Runs with good balance and low to the ground which makes his power and bulk very compact and even more effective. Very dangerous on the second level, and possesses a solid second gear that allows him to break long runs when he gets there. Generally does a very good job with ball security. Because his running style wears on a defense, he gets better as the game progresses and eventually he’ll break a big one when he gets enough touches. Does a nice job in pass protection, throwing his weight around and rarely misses an assignment.

Cons: Not very sudden and doesn’t do well when you force him to move laterally. Needs room to build up steam and square his shoulders, meaning that a disruptive defense that can hit him in the backfield before he gets to the line of scrimmage will be most effective against him. Has inconsistent hands and not too reliable there. Because of his lack of the quick first step, not as effective in the flat as a receiver if a defender can hit him before he can square his shoulders and get downhill. Conditioning has been questioned from time to time, and his burst and second gear has diminished since joining the team.

2011 Outlook: Turner has served as the centerpiece of the Falcons offense for the past three years, and it’s going to be interesting to see if in 2011 that remains the case. The addition of Julio Jones and the continued maturation of Matt Ryan could force his role to diminish somewhat.

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