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Year-End Superlatives: Most Improved Player

January 5th, 2012 Comments off

This might be the hardest pick to make. At the mid-point, I chose Corey Peters as my pick. At that point in the year, he was playing his best football and looking like an impact pass rusher and playmaker. But unfortunately for Peters, the second half of the season was relatively quiet and it allowed for other people to be considered.

One obvious choice would be Sean Weatherspoon, who was picked as the defensive MVP. Weatherspoon had his moments as a rookie, but injuries and inexperience curtailed his success last year. The fact that he moved from role player last year to MVP this year, probably be default should make him this pick. But since I want to honor as many people as people, we’ll just leave him out of the running.

That could leave Harry Douglas, who went from afterthought last year to a guy that made some plays this year, particularly in the games in the middle of the year where Jones was out with injury. But unfortunately, Douglas sort of returned to being an afterthought once Jones came back from injury and was hitting his stride late in the year. So he too gets passed over.

Will Svitek would be another good pick, having stepped in and filled in for Sam Baker competently and being one of the major reasons why the Falcons were able to stabilize their ground attack and blocking up front. But as the season wore on, Svitek started to fall back to Earth a bit, so he too is out of the running.

Another good candidate would be Lawrence Sidbury, who hardly played a snap last year to finishing tied for second on the team with four sacks. Another good pick would be Dominique Franks, who also was a player that had a very limited role last year, playing on special teams. But late in the year with injuries mounting in the secondary, he was able to step in and solidify the nickel spot and seemingly improved with every single performance. But unfortunately for Sidbury and Franks both, it’s hard to pick them since while they were key contributors, their contributions were smaller due to the fact that they were role players and/or only played a smaller portion of the year.

So that brings us back to where we started with Peters as the best choice for the player that improved the most. Peters was a liability last year vs. the run, but was solid in that area this year. And his ability to make big plays and provide some pressure on the QB up the middle, coupled with the fact that he was a starter throughout the entire year makes him the best choice.

Moneyball 2011 – Week 12 Review

November 29th, 2011 Comments off

A solid performance by the offense in the first half. I think Mularkey called a good game there, and the Falcons executed that game plan very well. I think things got a little too conservative at the outset of the third quarter and you could see a hint of the Falcons playing to protect a lead as opposed to a team that wanted to keep attacking and being aggressive.

A strong performance for Matt Ryan, the type of game that he had with regularity a season ago. But those games have come with far less frequency this year, but he seems over recent weeks to be getting back into that 2010 stride.

Roddy White had an excellent game, and both Douglas and Gonzalez had solid contributions. Jones was an afterthought for the most part, and it’s a shame because he was wide open on the TD pass to Michael Palmer, and it would have been a much easier throw for Ryan to make if he had spotted him. And he was also open deep on a play late in the game, that Ryan threw to Roddy instead for a 26-yard gain, but if he had taken the deep shot perhaps the Falcons score then rather than six plays later on the pass to Palmer. But I guess you could argue that the additional 3 minutes they were able to milk off the clock on those six plays helped them just as much.

The ground game was solid when the holes were there. A lot of missed blocks on the part of the Falcons. Svitek had a good game, shutting down Jared Allen in pass protection, but struggled at various times as a run blocker, missing 3 blocks. Everyone except Clabo missed a block or two, and everytime Turner was stopped for a minimal gain was due to the blocking. We saw a bit more of the Falcons mixing in Snelling and Rodgers into the rushing rotation, although there are still some instances where the Falcons call plays and I’m wondering why Turner is in the game rather than Quizz.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLOCK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Matt Ryan$16$0$0$0$0-$1$15.00
Michael Turner$0$10$0$0$0$0$10.00
Roddy White$0$0$10$0$0$0$10.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$4$1$0$0$5.00
Harry Douglas$0$1$3$0$0$0$4.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$2$2$0$0$0$4.00
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0$3.5$0-$1$2.50
Michael Palmer$0$0$2$0$0$0$2.00
Todd McClure$0$0$0$1.5$0$0$1.50
Mike Cox$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Jason Snelling$0$1$0$0$0$0$1.00
Eric Weems$0$0$0$0$1$0$1.00
Antone Smith$0$0$0$0$1-$1$0.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0-$0.5$0$0-$0.50
Julio Jones$0$0$0$0$0-$1-$1.00
Will Svitek$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00
Joe Hawley$0$0$0-$0.5$0-$1-$1.50

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Final 53-man Roster Prediction

September 2nd, 2011 Comments off

Well, here is the prediction for who will make the Final 53 as teams have until Saturday afternoon to make those decisions. Only one player from my previously mentioned locks won’t make the team, due to the Falcons roster moves earlier this week.

QUARTERBACKS
Matt Ryan
Chris Redman

Wilson’s poor performance vs. the Ravens I think might have gotten him cut, especially given the injury issues the Falcons have on their lines.

RUNNING BACKS
Michael Turner
Ovie Mughelli
Jason Snelling
Jacquizz Rodgers

Despite a strong performance last night against the Ravens, I don’t see either Antone Smith making the roster, but he remains eligible for the practice squad. Injuries on both lines I think will prevent the Falcons from carrying a fifth running back in Week 1. But once those units get healthy, do not be surprised if you see them pick up someone later in September.

WIDE RECEIVERS
Roddy White
Julio Jones
Harry Douglas
Kerry Meier
Eric Weems

Brandyn Harvey showed enough to potentially make the roster, but the Falcons don’t appear able to afford a sixth receiver when they have other injury issues elsewhere.

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Robinson will sit out against Ravens

August 30th, 2011 Comments off

Knox Bardeen of CBS Sports reports that cornerback Dunta Robinson (hamstring) will not appear in Thursday night’s preseason finale against the Baltimore Ravens. Falcons head coach Mike Smith indicates that the teams starters will get a reduced a role in that contest, but Robinson will not be among them. Chris Owens has started in Robinson’s stead the past two preseason contests as he’s been nursing that injured hamstring.

Also out will be Todd McClure (knee), Corey Peters (knee), and Lawrence Sidbury (ankle). Earlier today, it was announced that McClure would be out at least through the first game of the regular season. Peters was injured in the Falcons first preseason contest and has been ruled out indefinitely. Sidbury’s injury will make his ability to retain a roster spot difficult since it appears that rookie defensive end Cliff Matthews is emerging as the team’s potential fifth defensive end.

Seven Roster Spots Remain Open

August 20th, 2011 1 comment

The NFL instituted a new rule that teams will be allowed to activate 46 players on gamedays instead of the traditional 45 players. As such, I think through two preseason contests the Falcons have pretty much found 46 players that assuming there are no injuries to them, are virtual locks to make this year’s roster. That leaves 7 remaining spots that are still in contention that will have to be earned through these final two preseason games.

Here is my list of 46 that are locks to make the roster. These are guys that I feel will not be cut before the season starts. If they aren’t on the final roster it will be because they are on the injured reserve or some other reserve list. Here are the offensive players:

QB – Ryan, Redman, Wilson
RB – Turner, Mughelli, Snelling, Rodgers,
WR – Jones, White, Douglas, Meier, Weems
TE – Gonzalez, Palmer
OT – Baker, Clabo, Svitek
OG – Blalock, Reynolds, Johnson
OC – McClure, Hawley

Now for the defense:
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Spotlight Players vs. Dolphins

August 12th, 2011 Comments off
ICON SMI

WR Julio Jones

These are some of the names and positions you should keep your eye on during the Falcons preseason opener against the Miami Dolphins tonight:

WR Julio Jones

It is no doubt that all eyes will be on Jones tonight. With Ray Edwards being held out, he is by far the biggest new addition to the Falcons lineup. He has been tearing it up in camp so far by all accounts, and fans should be eager to see if that early success translates to the field tonight. Jones will get first team reps, but it will be interesting if the Falcons pull the plug on him with the rest of the first team members early in the game, or get him some more minutes and work with the second unit.

RB Jacquizz Rodgers

The other big name from this year’s rookie class, figures to get some extensive reps on the ground. Rodgers should get some touches in the first half of the game, and fans should be eager to see his quickness and explosion as a runner and hopefully in the passing game. If the Falcons are re-incorporating the screen pass back into their offense, it would be an opportune time to break it out tonight.

TE Michael Palmer

Palmer has a chance to move up the depth chart if he can have another strong performance this summer. A big key for Palmer will be how much progress he’s made as a blocker if he hopes to supplant Justin Peelle as the top reserve to Tony Gonzalez.

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Jackson and Matthews increasing their roster odds

August 10th, 2011 Comments off

Back in May, I speculated that the Falcons pair of seventh round picks Andrew Jackson and Cliff Matthews might face long odds to make the roster. But it seems from early scuttlebutt in camp, that prediction was off the mark. Both players have earned praise from head coach Mike Smith who said of them “[they] might be two of the best-looking guys in the draft class.”

The departure of Harvey Dahl certainly has helped Jackson’s odds of making the roster. The Falcons have typically kept nine offensive linemen on the roster during the regular season. The five starters are obviously locks. Whomever loses the right guard battle between Garrett Reynolds and Mike Johnson also will be a lock. The team will probably also keep reserves Joe Hawley and Will Svitek as well. That leaves just one remaining position, which Jackson probably faces the toughest competition from tackle Jose Valdez. But if both players impress this summer, then it could mean the Falcons opt to keep ten blockers.

Matthews is in the mix at defensive end. The Falcons have kept five defensive ends the past two seasons, and it seems that his early play likely will prompt the Falcons to do so again. John Abraham, Ray Edwards, and Kroy Biermann are locks at the position. If Matthews fills the fifth spot, then that would mean that Lawrence Sidbury and Chauncey Davis are competing for a single roster spot. The fact that both Abraham and Biermann are entering contract years, probably gives a small edge to Sidbury and Matthews due to their youth and developmental potential. If Matthews does land the fifth spot, he’ll likely be relegated to special teams duty this year if anything. As a rookie, Sidbury performed in that role. But last year as the team’s fifth end, he hardly saw the field.

The Falcons carried ten defensive linemen on the roster last year, although it’s unlikely they will carry that many this year. With Peria Jerry seemingly making a healthy return, and Jonathan Babineaux not facing a one-game suspension, carrying a fifth defensive tackle probably is not in the cards. But still the Falcons could have nine defensive linemen on the roster, which is one more than most NFL teams typically carry.

Carrying extra linemen on either side of the ball could potentially affect other roster positions because it means you cannot as many there. It could prompt the team to carry one less running back, wide receiver, linebacker, or defensive back than normal. So the early positives on Jackson and Matthews could turn out to be negatives for other young guys on the roster trying to earn a spot.

Camp Battles 2011: Defensive Line

July 14th, 2011 Comments off

As with some other positions, free agency could offer a significant shake up to this unit if the Falcons pursue a veteran free agent on the open market. But recent reports put a damper on that possibility.

If the Falcons do spend money to go out and get a top-notch free agent such as Charles Johnson or Ray Edwards, then you can pencil in that player to be the starting left end. If not, then Kroy Biermann should be expected back for another year. While Biermann disappointed many with his less than stellar production last year (only 3 sacks), one gets the feeling that the Falcons brass aren’t as down on him as many in the fan base. John Abraham is locked in at right end.

Regardless of whether the Falcons make moves in free agency, the bulk of the competition on the outside will involve several players fighting for depth spots.

If the Falcons do nothing in free agency, it probably makes the odds that Jamaal Anderson returns for fifth season in Atlanta much higher. Anderson is Biermann’s top backup at left end, and his prowess in defending the run helps depth and keeps Biermann fresher. If the Falcons were to add a free agent, it would make it tougher to bring Anderson back unless they moved Biermann primarily to the right side behind Abraham.

Behind Abraham, the team will likely have a three-way competition for who is his top backup. The incumbent is Chauncey Davis, who fills a similar niche as Anderson. But it is becoming increasingly redundant to have both players on the roster, and any addition made in free agency would likely push one of them off the roster. Davis probably has the least firm footing  between the two.

Pushing Davis will be Lawrence Sidbury and rookie Cliff Matthews. Matthews is probably on the outside looking in. His small stature (257 pounds) and undeveloped technique would make him a longshot to beat out either Davis or Sidbury for a roster spot. In recent seasons, the Falcons have carried five defensive ends on the regular season roster, and being that fifth guy might be Matthews best chances to make the team. But more than likely, as has been the case the past two seasons, that player will be inactive most weeks and required to play special teams when he does suit up, making him more of a body than a contributor in 2011.

That leaves Sidbury possibly out of the mix. After a promising preseason last summer, Sidbury proceeded to ride the pine almost the entire 2010 season, souring many on whether or not the Falcons are optimistic about his future. Sidbury offers more pass rush potential than Davis, but he needs to prove that he can also add value on run downs if he expects to unseat an established player like Davis.

More than likely, Davis and Sidbury will be competing for one roster spot, while Matthews may land the fifth spot dependent on how strong a summer he has. Otherwise, he could be headed to the practice squad. Any addition in free agency, will make it that much harder for Davis or Sidbury to remain.

Inside, the Falcons also will have their share of competition. Like Abraham, Jonathan Babineaux is not going anywhere. But the team is likely to have an open competition for the starting spot beside him. The incumbent is second-year pro Corey Peters, but he should be pushed by third-year man Peria Jerry.  The team likely would prefer Jerry to be the starter to confirm his higher draft status, but Peters certainly isn’t expected to roll over and give up his job without a fight.

Jerry is going to have to show the coaching staff that his knee is 100% and remain healthy throughout the summer. Jerry offers greater pass rush potential than Peters due to superior power and quickness, but has had limited opportunities to display his run-stopping abilities in the past. That will be an important element to that competition. Peters struggled throughout most of his rookie season but came on towards the end of the year. If he picks up where he left off, he’ll be difficult to unseat since he represents a potentially better option to play on those first and second downs against the run.

Also on the roster will be Vance Walker and Trey Lewis. Thomas Johnson is a free agent and probably not expected to return. Walker is the likelier of the pair to make the roster. Lewis started the season opener due to a suspended Jonathan Babineaux a year ago, but then never suited up after that point. His 316 pounds make him the heaviest defender on the team, he has struggled to defend the run in recent seasons. That is something of a strength of Walker, who has been a valuable run stuffer over the past two seasons. But it should be noted that Lewis did seem to outperform Walker during last summer’s camp. So Walker is going to need to have a stronger summer than he did a year ago, despite having a much better body of work during the regular season.

Also on the roster is end Emmanuel Stephens, who flashed quickness off the edge last summer. He still should be a candidate for the practice squad, although if the Falcons put Matthews there it will be tougher. But another strong summer and he’ll definitely be in the mix. If the Falcons don’t add a veteran free agent at this position, they still should opt to fill out their depth chart with some undrafted rookies to bolster competition at either end or tackle, particularly the latter.

Jackson and Matthews face tough hurdles to make team

May 26th, 2011 Comments off
Icon Sports Media, Inc.

OG Andrew Jackson

The Falcons used their final two picks of the 2011 draft on a pair of linemen. They took Fresno State guard Andrew Jackson with the initial pick and then closed out their draft class by taking South Carolina defensive end Cliff Matthews.

Both players have the potential to add capable depth to the roster and have talent that could be worth developing down the road, but could find it tough to get over the initial hurdle of just making the team as rookies.

In both cases, they were drafted at positions which are relatively deep for the Falcons. Arguably, the two deepest spots on the entire roster: offensive guard and defensive end. While it’s no secret that the Falcons face questions at both spots, they have done a good job accumulating depth there.

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Falcons draft DE Matthews with final pick

April 30th, 2011 Comments off
Icon Sports Media, Inc.

DE Cliff Matthews

The Falcons closed out their 2011 draft class by taking South Carolina defensive end Cliff Matthews with their second seventh round pick (230th overall).

Matthews was a productive player at South Carolina, before injuries limited him as a junior and senior. He combined for 91 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss, and 12.5 sacks the past year. He began his career as a top-rated prep prospect and linebacker. He has drawn some comparisons to a poor man’s John Abraham, who also hails from USC.

Matthews potentially can upgrade the Falcons pass rushing rotation and could press Lawrence Sidbury and Chauncey Davis immediately for duty.

Click here to read a scouting report on Matthews.

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