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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 74 “The 80th Time”

August 19th, 2014 No comments

Allen and I are joined by The Falcoholic, Dave Choate, to discuss the current state of the Atlanta Falcons following their disappointing preseason performance against the Houston Texans. We discuss the Falcons offensive tackle situation and possible solutions in light of Sam Baker’s injury. Our discussion centers around whether the Falcons current options on the roster: Lamar Holmes and Gabe Carimi, can solidify the spot or does the team need more help. We then get into discussion of the returns of Corey Peters and Dwight Lowery; Kroy Biermann’s waning popularity; and roster battles involving Prince Shembo, Tyson Jackson and Malliciah Goodman. Dave departs, allowing Allen and myself to get into our usual around the league discussion.

Episode 74 – The 80th Time [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 5 minutes

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

Dave is The Falcoholic and can be found on twitter: @TheFalcoholic.

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

Falcons 2014 Training Camp: Day 17 Report

August 18th, 2014 No comments
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Jake Matthews

The Atlanta Falcons finally broke training camp with a morning practice today. Let’s take a look at the various tweets, articles, reports, news and rumors that surfaced from the last day of camp this morning:

ESPN’s Vaughn McClure hits several things in his recap of the day. First among them is the fact that rookie Jake Matthews is moving from right tackle to left tackle, which was reported first by D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC this morning. Matthews played left tackle his final season at Texas A&M after spending three years at right tackle. He was slotted in immediately at right tackle by the Falcons due to the presence of Sam Baker on the left side. But Baker injured his knee in this past Saturday’s preseason action and will miss the entire 2014 season.

Matthews is working through the change, saying this about the adjustment between the two sides:

“Yes, the stagger changes. You go for a long time used to bracing a guy with one leg back. And now you’ve got to flip it around. It’s like almost going from writing with your right hand to your left hand. But I did it in college. I feel pretty comfortable on both sides.”

However, Falcons head coach Mike Smith remain confident:

“I don’t think he’ll blink. We’re not.”

With Matthews moving to the left side, it leaves a void on the right side. That void, for the time being, is expected to be filled by offensive tackle Lamar Holmes. Holmes had been serving as the reserve behind Baker this preseason at left tackle, but the Falcons always envisioned Matthews as a long-term solution on that side of the ball.

However offensive line coach Mike Tice did not express the same degree of confidence in Holmes as Smith did in Matthews.

The team signed free-agent offensive tackle Pat McQuistan earlier today to shore up depth on the right side.

In addition to McQuistan, the Falcons can expect the return of offensive tackle Gabe Carimi to the lineup in next week’s final preseason action against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday, August 28. Carimi has experience at right tackle, having played that position under Tice during their shared two seasons with the Chicago Bears from 2011-12.

The Falcons also welcomed back defensive tackle Corey Peters to practice today. Peters has been recovering from a torn Achilles tendon suffered last December. He had been held out of practice on the training camp version of Physically-Unable-to-Perform (PUP) list. Peters had a light workload in his first time back in nearly eight months.

In other news, cornerback Javier Arenas is expected to earn the start at nickel cornerback on Saturday against the Tennessee Titans. Per premium website Pro Football Focus, Arenas has earned the least amount of reps among the trio of corners competing for the nickel cornerback spot. Arenas has played 38 snaps through the first two preseason games, with Josh Wilson (65) and Robert McClain (53) earning the most of any defensive back on the team.

Rookie linebacker Prince Shembo is seeing increased reps with the starters, putting him well on track to leapfrog Joplo Bartu as the starter at weak-side inside linebacker by the regular season opener against the New Orleans Saints on September 7.

Injured linebacker Sean Weatherspoon was on hand to cheer on teammates:

Coach Smith indicated that the Falcons will follow tradition and play their starters for the entirety of the first half, and likely for a series into the second in Saturday’s game against the Titans.

AtlantaFalcons.com’s Jay Adams provides his usual five things from the final day of camp, including notes on Matthews, Holmes, Peters, the nickel cornerback spot and the coaching staff’s emphasis on avoiding penalties.

FalcFans Podcast – Live Falcons-Texans Conversation

August 17th, 2014 No comments

FalcFans.com

FalcFans Podcast – Episode 73

Allen and I are back in a very special episode of the FalcFans podcast in which we chat while watching the Atlanta Falcons take on the Houston Texans in their second preseason game. Allen and I bring you into our virtual living rooms, where you can experience the first half of the Falcons game as we did live on Saturday night. Our conversation meanders on various Falcons topics, including a discussion of Sam Baker’s injury, re-signing Eric Weems, Joe Hawley bullying 200-pound defensive backs, the Falcons running back committee system, game-day snacks and whether or not the Falcons poor performance against the Texans will affect the regular season. This is our uncut audio so as a warning, there is a fair amount of NSFW language.

Live Falcons-Texans Conversatio [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 41 minutes

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

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

Five Falcon Players to Watch Tonight vs. Texans

August 16th, 2014 No comments

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Sam Baker

Unlike last week where the focus was on several young players trying to carve out roles with the team, this week’s Atlanta Falcons players to keep eyes on are mostly established veterans. That is because the Falcons starters will likely play at least the entire first quarter tonight against the Houston Texans. It will be their most extensive action thus far and should be more informative about whether or not certain roster positions and players are ready to assume significant roles this season.

Sam Baker

Baker was arguably the team’s best blocker among their starting five against the Miami Dolphins last week, but will face a significant test against rookie edge-rusher Jadeveon Clowney on Saturday.

While Clowney is far from a proven playmaker in only his second NFL game, he does present a significant challenge for a player like Baker, who throughout his career has struggled against players with top-level speed and quickness off the line. That certainly can be said of Clowney even at this point in his career, and it will be notable if Baker can perform well against him in this game. He had a good two days of practice against Clowney this past week, and we’ll have to see if that carries over into the game tonight.

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Hard Knocks Episode 2 Recap – Big Balls

August 13th, 2014 2 comments

Hard KnocksAs I did a week ago, I’m here for you folks that either missed last night’s episode of Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Atlanta Falcons, or those that saw it and just want to read my take on it.

The second episode opened showing the team’s release of fullback Roosevelt Nix and players’ reactions to it. That was followed up by showing general manager Thomas Dimitroff riding his bike with Lance Armstrong. At least as far as I’m concerned, while TD’s bike-riding may be interesting to outsiders, it may be the dullest aspect of his personality. How and why people find a 47-year old man riding a bike and palling around with Lance Armstrong to compelling television is beyond me.

But anyway, the show then began to showcase several of the Falcons 2014 draft class, including Ra’Shede Hageman getting some tough love and hard-coaching from Bryan Cox. We got to see the Falcons work against the Tennessee Titans in their scrimmage from last week and were privy to the mixed messages that Mike Smith seems to be sending to the team about fighting. Although in this instance, it seemed more clear that Smith was okay with his players fighting other team’s players versus teammates.

We got to see how some of the rookies spent their off days from camp practice. Hageman and Marquis Spruill swam with a giant whale shark at the aquarium, while Ricardo Allen and his girlfriend went zip-lining. We also were witness to Spruill’s unfortunate knee injury from last week. Aside from Spruill’s injury, I enjoyed these parts the most since we got to see the rookies as human beings blowing off a little steam away from the practice field.

The show closed showing some of the highlights from the Falcons preseason win over the Miami Dolphins last week. Bryan Cox closed out the show in fine fashion with a cigar smoke-laden conversation with outside linebackers coach Mark Collins, discussing some of the Falcons players but more importantly Cox’s examination of the darkness of men’s hearts.

Next week’s show promised a preview of the battle for backup quarterback, with undrafted rookie Jeff Mathews’ arm likely being featured.

Other highlights of the show:

  • A Sean Weatherspoon cameo that also showed his mentoring of Prince Shembo, who looks hungry enough to have Joplo Bartu looking over his shoulder.
  • Cuteness overload with Tyler Starr’s son. Although, a tip to Tyler, teach your son to run with proper form. Apparently, athleticism skips a generation.
  • How Ricardo Allen earned the nickname that headlines this recap.
  • William Moore and Roddy White’s perpetual war of trash-talking.

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 73 “Harry Douglas Wears Women’s Deodorant”

August 11th, 2014 No comments

FalcFans.com

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 73

Allen and I are joined once again by The Falcoholic’s training camp correspondent, Jeanna Thomas, to discuss the past week of Atlanta Falcons practice and their preseason win over the Miami Dolphins. We give our thoughts on what things stood out to them in the first game and how certain rookies looked in their debut including Jake Matthews and Devonta Freeman, as well as various position battles throughout the roster. We then give praise for the first episode of Hard Knocks before jumping into a brief preview of the Falcons second preseason contest against the Houston Texans. Allen and I finish up with their usual around the league segment, reviewing the past week’s preseason games and previewing this week’s.

Episode 73 – Harry Douglas Wears Women’s Deodorant [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 29 minutes

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

Jeanna writes for The Falcoholic and can be found on twitter: @jeannathomas.

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

Breakdown of Falcons Preseason Week 1

August 9th, 2014 No comments
Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Jacquizz Rodgers

As I did last year with each preseason game, I will post my reactions to what I saw on the field in the Atlanta Falcons preseason-opening win over the Miami Dolphins.

The preseason is a time for individual player evaluation, and I’ve looked at every snap from the game and here are my thoughts, observations, and opinions based off what I saw. Since there are so many players to discuss, like last year, I will break them down by position group.

Quarterbacks

What I Saw: Matt Ryan played well in the game, getting pulled after the opening series, a 10-play drive. He completed all of his passes. His best throw was probably his first, which saw him thread the needle to Harry Douglas on a slant pass. To no one’s surprise, it was a solid night for Ryan and he’s poised for the regular season.

T.J. Yates stepped in on the second offensive series and played through the midpoint in the third quarter for five possessions. I thought Yates showed good decision-making throughout the night, but his accuracy wasn’t stellar. There were a couple of throws where he had to make his receivers work a little harder than they needed to, but in most cases they were catchable passes. The throw to Devonta Freeman at the end of the half probably was the most glaring example where Yates could’ve had better placement. That could have been a touchdown. He almost had a second touchdown on a slant to Geraldo Boldewijn at the end of the third quarter, but I put more blame on Boldewijn there even though it wasn’t a perfect throw. Yates pocket movement was good, but his lack of ideal arm strength and accuracy hold him back. But a lot of his incompletions probably had more to do with him working with green, inexperienced receivers. If he was to work with guys like Jones, Douglas and White, he should be okay as a fill-in starter behind Ryan.

Sean Renfree played four series in the second half and made a couple of nice throws. His wheel route to Freeman for 57 yards was his best throw. He almost threw a pick at the end of the game because he stared down Freddie Martino and did not see the linebacker underneath in the throwing lane. From this game, there appears to be a gap between Yates and Renfree, which should surprise no one. Jeff Mathews did not suit up.

Conclusions: Judging solely off this game, Yates probably has a firm handle on the No. 2 job simply because he seems to be operating at a much more cerebral level than Renfree. He’s more decisive and showed better touch, timing, and accuracy on his throws, despite not exactly grading off the charts in those areas. I will be curious if the Falcons do Mathews like they did Seth Doege, who did not take a single snap last summer in four preseason games. If Mathews doesn’t get a couple of series next week, that becomes a strong possibility.

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Falcons Pull Out 16-10 Win Over Dolphins in Preseason Opener

August 8th, 2014 No comments

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Ryan was nearly perfect in his lone series against the Dolphins

The Atlanta Falcons won their preseason opener in the Georgia Dome against the Miami Dolphins with a tightly-contested 16-10 victory. It halts the Falcons five-game preseason losing streak dating back to the summer of 2012, with their last win being over the Dolphins by a score of 23-6. It also marks the first time since 2010 that the Falcons have won their preseason opener.

Matt Ryan led the team and played only a single series. But he made the most of it, leading the Falcons on a scoring drive while completing all seven pass attempts for 53 yards. He later gave way to T.J. Yates, who completed seven of 16 passes for 127 yards. Sean Renfree also saw second-half action, completing six of 15 passes for 108 yards. On the ground, Devonta Freeman led the team in rushing with 50 yards on 10 carries. Jacquizz Rodgers added 20 yards and Atlanta’s lone touchdown on seven carries. Antone Smith also had an impressive game, although penalties wiped out two big plays of his, including a 76-yard scoring run. He finished with just five yards on his three carries. Roddy White got all of his work on the opening drive, leading the team with four receptions for 27 yards. Bernard Reedy led the team in receiving yards with 61 on a pair of catches. Freeman also had a single catch for 57 yards. Courtney Roby (two catches, 27 yards), Mickey Shuler (two catches, 23 yards), Levine Toilolo (two catches, 19 yards) and Maurice Hagens (two catches, 15 yards) also had notable contributions. The Falcons connected on all three of their field goal tries, with Matt Bryant hitting from 21 yards and Sergio Castillo connecting on kicks from 21 and 34 yards out. Matt Bosher punted four times for an average of 53 yards with one touchback. Castillo had a pair of punts for an average of 46.5 yards. Offensively, the Falcons were able to convert on eight of 17 third-down tries including all three attempts when the starters were in the game. The Falcons also finished with 372 total yards and had a relatively clean game with no turnovers. But they were penalized heavily nine penalties for a total of 82 yards.

Defensively, the Falcons did not look good on the opening drive against the Dolphins starters. They let Miami drive down the field on a 10-play, 73-yard drive for a touchdown. But otherwise, they put the clamps on the Dolphins reserves allowing just 229 total yards and conversions on just five of 14 third-down tries. They were also able to force a turnover which sealed the Falcons victory. Javier Arenas, along with Kimario McFadden, Sean Baker, Jonathan Massaquoi, Prince Shembo and Cliff Matthews tied for team-lead with three tackles each. Arenas added a pass breakup and a tackle for loss, while Baker also broke up a pass. Shembo had a sack and Massaquoi added a tackle for loss. Tim Dobbins (one tackle, one tackle for loss); Nosa Eguae (one tackle, one fumble recovery); Jordin Mabin (two tackles, one pass defended); Robert McClain (two tackles) and Paul Worrilow (two tackles) all had noteworthy games.

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Five Falcon Players to Watch Tonight vs. Dolphins

August 8th, 2014 No comments

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Devonta Freeman

All five of these Atlanta Falcons players are in a position to have some standout performances on Friday night in the team’s preseason opener against the Miami Dolphins.

Devonta Freeman

With Steven Jackson out of the lineup, Freeman is likely to get most of the work tonight against the Dolphins. While he may not wind up being the starter, we should see him get work early with the first-team offense. The two areas where Freeman will need to show the most tonight is running the football and pass protection. Toting the rock isn’t a huge challenge for Freeman, but he’ll have to show a few extra things such as the ability to get reliable yards after contact if he doesn’t want to be simply a change-of-pace runner this season. Freeman was a capable pass protector during his collegiate days, but that was then, this is now. He’ll have to show that he can handle the size and strength of NFL defensive linemen, linebackers and other blitzers if he’s going to be trusted to garner serious reps on third down this year. It’s overall, a big potential debut for Freeman. There’s no doubt that Freeman will have some role with the Falcons runners this year, but how big a role that is will be partially determined by how he fares tonight.

Bernard Reedy

There has been a lot of hype surrounding Reedy since his first arrival in Atlanta as an undrafted free agent in May. He’s not the first undrafted rookie wide receiver to receive a great deal of hype as a playmaker in the lead-up to actual games being played. Martel Moore was the superstar of last summer. But Moore did not distinguish himself at all in any of the preseason games despite receiving rave reviews almost every day in practice. Reedy cannot go down that same path.

Reedy has explosive speed and needs to display that tonight after the catch. He should also get a few opportunities as a return man, which should also help his cause. He’s a front-runner as a possible sixth wide receiver on this year’s roster and his preseason debut could help him a long way to earning that.

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Five Things to Expect in Falcons vs. Dolphins

August 8th, 2014 No comments

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Kemal Ishmael

Having done a smidgen of research by looking at last year’s trends in the Atlanta Falcons preseason opening loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, I have come up with five things that you can expect to see in this year’s opener against the Miami Dolphins.

1. Falcons Starters Will Not Play Much

Given the Falcons have only a handful of starting positions up for grabs, most of the team’s starters will be in limited action against the Dolphins. Last year, quarterback Matt Ryan and the starting offense played slightly more than a dozen snaps on the first three series. The defense was about the same.

Depending on how the Falcons perform on their first few series will likely determine if/when Mike Smith decides to pull the plug on them. If the offense marches down the field twice and scores touchdowns, then it’s likely Smith will be satisfied with that performance. But if they were to struggle on either drive, then expect Smith to give them a third to try and iron out the kinks. The same holds true for the defense.

While it’s possible that Smith could pull the starters after a single series, given the increased focus on “toughness” this summer, I suspect they’ll get at least two to try and show some.

It will be interesting to see which starters if any garner increased reps. Last year against the Cincinnati Bengals in the preseason opener, Lamar Holmes and Desmond Trufant were starters that earned extra reps with the second unit groups. If anybody likely gets similar treatment this year, it’s likely to be whoever lines up as the starting free safety, particularly if it’s an unproven player like Kemal Ishmael or Dezmen Southward.

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