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Biermann, Ewing out for the season

September 16th, 2013 Comments off

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Kroy Biermann

Falcons head coach Mike Smith announced in his press conference today that defensive end Kroy Biermann and fullback Bradie Ewing will be placed on injured reserve and are out for the year. Biermann suffered a torn Achilles tendon while Ewing separated his left shoulder during the first half of Atlanta’s win over the St. Louis Rams yesterday.

Biermann has served as the team’s starting left defensive end, but has also earned reps at strongside linebacker. His versatility has been a boon to the Falcons defense under defensive coordinator Mike Nolan the past two years. Biermann suffered his injury while pressuring Sam Bradford in yesterday’s game, but had got his foot caught under him when an opponent fell on top of him. Through one and a half games, Biermann had tallied seven tackles, second-most among defensive linemen behind Corey Peters’ eight tackles. It is likely that Jonathan Massaquoi will be asked to fill some of Biermann’s pass rushing duties, although he’s as of yet unproven in terms of his ability to drop in coverage and play linebacker as Biermann has. It will also potentially mean more snaps for linebackers Joplo Bartu and Stephen Nicholas, who currently are the team’s top candidates for the strongside position.

Ewing was a fifth round choice of the Falcons in 2012. He was lost during the opening series of his first preseason action that summer, tearing his ACL and missing that year. He came back this summer and while he missed early work due to an injury, he returned and played well. Ewing suffered his injury at the end of the play after catching a 14 yard pass from Matt Ryan. In his debut against the New Orleans Saints last week, he had a single catch for 15 yards.

It is likely the team will promote practice squad player Patrick DiMarco to the roster and platoon him with Jason Snelling at fullback. Snelling filled in for Ewing after he was lost on the opening series of the Rams game. DiMarco filled in for Ewing this summer while he was out with an injury.

Falcons Overcome Rams’ Comeback for First Win of 2013

September 15th, 2013 Comments off
Matt Ryan throws a pass against the St. Louis Rams

Matt Ryan throws a pass against the Rams

The Atlanta Falcons got off to a fast start with a big early lead against the visiting St. Louis Rams. But a fourth quarter comeback made a lot of Falcon fans nervous, but the Falcons put together two good drives at the end to prevail and get their first win of 2013. The Falcons’ record moves to 1-1.

Matt Ryan led the way, completing 33 of 43 passes for 374 yards and two touchdowns. On the ground, the Falcons could not get much of anything going as they accumulated a total of 36 rushing yards. Steven Jackson started the game and gained no yards on three carries before exiting with an injury. Jason Snelling led the team with 19 yards on a pair of attempts. Julio Jones led receivers with 11 catches for 182 yards (16.5 avg) and a touchdown. Jackson added the team’s other score on his lone catch for eight yards. Harry Douglas, Snelling, Tony Gonzalez, and Jacquizz Rodgers each caught 4 passes for 43, 41, 33, and 28 yards respectively. Matt Bryant hit on his lone field goal attempt from 38 yards. Matt Bosher punted six times for an average of 53 yards, with two placed inside the 20-yard line. Douglas added a pair of punt returns for four yards, while Rodgers returned a single kickoff for 17 yards. The Falcons’ offense was much more efficient this week than a week ago. They converted seven of 13 (54-percent) third down attempts, and scored touchdowns on two of three red zone trips. They accumulated 393 total yards despite their one-dimensionality on offense. But the offense did grow stagnant in the third quarter as they totaled only 7 total yards on four drives.

Defensively, the Falcons gave up a lot of yards as the Rams were in comeback mode for much of the game. Sam Bradford’s 352 yards contributed to the Rams’ 421-yard total for the game. But they bottled up the Rams’ ground attack, which only gained 69 yards on 18 carries (3.8 avg). The defense even scored a touchdown of its own on a pick six by Osi Umenyiora, the lone turnover the game. Umenyiora returned the interception 68 yards untouched for a score. Umenyiora also added a pair of batted passes and a quarterback hit in the game. Robert McClain led the defense in tackles with 9, and he also added a quarterback hit and a pass defended. Robert Alford (2 tackles, 1 QB hit); Joplo Bartu (6 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 QB hit); Kroy Biermann (2 tackles); Thomas DeCoud (3 tackles, 1 pass defended); Akeem Dent (4 tackles, 1 pass defended); Jonathan Massaquoi (2 tackles, 1 for loss, 1 QB hit); William Moore (7 tackles); Desmond Trufant (3 tackles, 1 pass defended); and Sean Weatherspoon (3 tackles) had noteworthy performances. The unit got lax at the end, allowing Rams’ touchdowns on each of their three final possessions to put the game’s outcome at risk.

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Takeaways from Last Week – August 19

August 19th, 2013 Comments off
ICON SMI

Could we see the return of Mike Peterson?

Roddy White is injured, and I’m not worried. At least I should say I’m not worried right now. If White is out of the lineup in Week 1, then I’ll be worried.

But I’m pretty calm at this point in time, even knowing that White will miss the rest of the preseason with an ankle injury that he suffered on Thursday night against the Baltimore Ravens.

The Falcons now have three weeks for White to get some rest and hopefully heal what the team termed a “minor” injury. Initial reports seem to confirm the lack of severity on this injury, suggesting White could suit up within a week if this were the regular season. But to be honest, I don’t fully buy that. The Falcons routinely have underestimated the amount of time it would take for their players to return. One famous example came in 2010 when Michael Jenkins suffered a shoulder injury in early August that was originally slated to put him out 4-6 weeks. Jenkins did not suit up for a Falcons game until 10 weeks later.

Now it should be noted that since 2010 I don’t recall any other blatant misreads of a player’s recovery. And the team may be a lot better today now three years removed at estimating the timetables for players’ recoveries. But generally speaking, I tend to add a week or two to all prognoses that the Falcons release about their injured players. The fact that the Falcons usually don’t put a timetable on players’ returns is also indicative that they also realize that it only opens themselves up for more criticism.

But the term “minor” is such a relative term. It could be minor in the sense that it may only keep him from practice or playing for a week or two. It could be minor in the sense that it won’t require surgery, but could keep him out of the lineup for a month or more. We really won’t know until Wednesday, September 4, when the Falcons practice report for Week 1 is released and it says either FP (full participation), LP (limited participation), or DNP (did not practice) to indicate where White’s status is. My personal philosophy is que sera sera, thus there is no sense worrying about things you cannot control.

And losing White is arguably the lesser of two evils, at least compared to losing Julio Jones. While I think Richard Sherman’s “dissing” of White several months ago went a bit too far (by saying he’s a product of the system), I do think there is a small sliver of a kernel of truth to what Sherman was saying in that White isn’t as good a player as Jones. Jones is the player that really makes the Falcons offense go, at least in the sense that it changes the way teams try to defend the Falcons. I do think there is a lot more overlap in regards to how the Falcons normally use White in comparison to his replacement, Harry Douglas.

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Training Camp: Day 17 Report

August 18th, 2013 Comments off

The Falcons break training camp after a brief practice Sunday morning. The following was the news emerging after Saturday’s practice.

  • Head coach Mike Smith gave injury updates (video) on players after practice yesterday. Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon returned to practice on Saturday after suffering an injury to his finger early last week. Running back Jason Snelling is expected to return to practice today. Linebacker Robert James and fullback Bradie Ewing are expected to resume regular practice on Tuesday, since the Falcons will be off on Monday. All four players missed this past Thursday’s preseason loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
  • Falcons wideout Roddy White will not play in the team’s upcoming preseason contest against the Tennessee Titans next Saturday and thus will not suit up for the remainder of the preseason. Regular starters do not suit up for the  fourth and final preseason, scheduled for August 29 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Smith indicated that he’s on the same “plan” as the rest of the starters i.e. he won’t play against Jacksonville.
  • In other injury news, linebacker Stephen Nicholas did not finish practice on Saturday. No further information has been made available.
  • Tony Gonzalez is set to return today after a three-week absence from camp.
  • Click here to check out the five things Jay Adams learned about the Falcons on Saturday.
  • Defensive end Osi Umenyiora made the decision to switch his uniform number from 90. He will be taking No. 50 from linebacker Pat Schiller. Schiller’s new number has yet to be determined.


FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 34 “Everything Bengals”

August 10th, 2013 Comments off

Allen and I are joined once again by Matt Chambers to recap the Falcons preseason opener against the Cincinnati Bengals. We each give our thoughts on some of the things we liked and did not like about the game. You’ll hear our thoughts on the rumors of Steven Jackson’s demise…How Garrett Reynolds, Lamar Holmes looked and how it could affect the offensive line play in 2013…Paul Worrilow vs. Akeem Dent…The pass rush and whether some of the young defensive linemen are ready to step up…Robert McClain, Desmond Trufant, and Robert Alford and how they looked against the Bengals…The greatness of Dane Sanzenbacher…Brian Banks and what are his chances of making the roster…Dominique Davis’ performance and how the backup QB position may play out…The greatness of Jason Snelling…Whether Chase Coffman is for real…What to look forward to in upcoming preseason games, including next week’s matchup against the Baltimore Ravens.

Ep. 34: Everything Bengals [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 6 minutes

Allen writes for TJRSports.com as well as the Bleacher Report. His twitter handle is: @Allen_Strk.

Matt Chambers can be found on twitter: @FalconsM5, and also writes for Grits Blitz blog.

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! You can also subscribe directly to our feed at the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/falcfans/LXSt

Reactions to Falcons-Bengals (Offense)

August 9th, 2013 Comments off
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

An unimpressive debut from Dominique Davis highlights last night’s game

Preseason is all about individual evaluation, and I’m doing some of my own, position-by-position. I re-watched the Falcons loss to the Bengals again this morning, and took copious notes. And you will now see my copious write-up of what I took away from the offensive players. I will try and mention every player that played (and a few that did not), and give an assessment on where some of the position battles might lie with one preseason game down.

It’s the first preseason game, and I’m going to try not to overreact to the good performances, nor the bad ones. Several players that were unimpressive will have up to three more chances to reverse that, and certainly the opposite is true as well. Thus why I add the question mark after the conclusions I made since they are very loose ones. Nothing is concluded as of yet.

Quarterback

What I Saw: Matt Ryan was near-perfect, managing the game on his three offensive series. Seemingly his only mistake (barely so) being a rushed throw that was too high for Harry Douglas where Geno Atkins was in his face. Dominique Davis got the brunt of the work after that and started slow. Davis’ footwork and mechanics were iffy at times and his accuracy was off too often in this game. He made a couple of plays with his legs. He was able to get into a rhythm on the opening drive of the 3rd quarter. But his only really good throws were mainly checkdowns and throws to his running backs. He struggled connecting with his receivers on downfield throws. He didn’t have great protection either. Renfree didn’t get a lot of work, making a nice throw on a rollout and having a pair of drops later. Seth Doege did not play.

Conclusion?: Overall, Davis didn’t do much to inspire a ton of confidence with his ability to handle the No. 2 spot, but Renfree didn’t get enough action to push him. How this position battle plays out will get an Act 2 next week as we’ll just have to wait and see if Davis improves.

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Bengals take down Falcons in opener

August 9th, 2013 Comments off
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Dominique Davis gets chased by a Bengals defender

The Falcons continued their preseason struggles of recent seasons with a 34-10 loss to Cincinnati Bengals in the Georgia Dome. The Falcons held a 3-0 lead until the reserves stepped into the game late in the first quarter. But the backups struggled to move the ball and gave up too many big plays to allow the Bengals to win big.

Matt Ryan led the way with a solid performance, completing 6 of 9 passes for 89 yards before he was pulled in the first quarter after three series. Dominique Davis did the brunt of the remaining work and got off to a slow start. But he finished fairly well and had 8 of 19 completions for 78 yards with a touchdown and interception. Sean Renfree mopped up, completing 2 of 4 passes for 20 yards. On the ground, Steven Jackson kicked things off with 5 carries for 8 yards. Ronnie Wingo led rushers with 29 yards on 4 carries late in the game. Jason Snelling added 23 yards on 5 carries himself. He also led receivers with 3 catches for 21 yards and the Falcons’ lone offensive touchdown. Drew Davis, Darius Johnson, and Chase Coffman each had a pair of receptions for 53, 27, and 12 yards respectively. Harry Douglas had one catch for 42 yards to highlight the rest of the receivers in a game that saw minimal work from Roddy White and none from Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez. Matt Bryant connected on his lone field goal try from 37 yards. Matt Bosher got a lot of usage due to the offensive struggles, punting 7 times for an average of 47.9 yards with 2 placed inside the 20-yard line. Harry Douglas had one punt return for 11 yards, and Robert Alford returned one for 2 yards. Jacquizz Rodgers, Josh Vaughan, and Levine Toilolo each returned one kickoff for 24, 21, and 12 yards respectively. Collectively, the Falcons offense gained 268 total yards and converted a modest 5 of 13 tries (33%) on third down.

Defensively, the Falcons gave up 434 total yards and allowed the Bengals to convert 9 of 16 third downs (56%). The Bengals chewed up the Falcons with 230 yards on the ground thanks in part to a team-leading 64 from quarterback Josh Johnson. But they also gave up three plays of 20-plus yards in the air as well. Paul Worrilow stood out with a team-leading 11 stops on defense. Pat Schiller had 5 tackles with Jonathan Massaquoi tallying 3 tackles, 1 sack, and a pair of QB hits. Robert Alford also had an impressive debut with 3 tackles and 2 passes defended. Other notable defenders include Joplo Bartu (3 tackles); Kemal Ishmael (3 tackles); Stansly Maponga (2 tackle, 1 QB hit); Zeke Motta (3 tackles); Adam Replogle (3 tackles); and Desmond Trufant (3 tackles). Among starters Osi Umenyiora only had a tackle, but was able to provide some pressure off the edge before being pulled. Special teams also gave up a 71-yard touchdown return on a punt by Dane Sanzenbacher. Worrilow was among six Falcon defenders that had a stop on special teams.

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Training Camp: Day 7 Report

August 2nd, 2013 Comments off

A minor discrepancy in how the count Wednesday’s off day. It was in fact the seventh day since camp opened, causing the AJC to consider Thursday to be the eighth day. However the team’s official site counts Thursday as the seventh day, skipping Wednesday altogether. For these recaps, we’ll be going with the “official” numbering of AtlantaFalcons.com.

So here is all the media buzz from Thursday, Day 7 of Falcons training camp:

  • The Falcons announced a pair of roster moves on Thursday, waiving-injured cornerback Saeed Lee, who suffered a serious knee injury on Tuesday. The team picked up cornerback Jordan Mabin in his place. Lee underwent surgery on Wednesday for his knee injury, although it was not ACL surgery per John Manasso. If he clears waivers, he will wind up on injured reserve for the Falcons. Mabin was an undrafted free agent out of Northwestern last year with the Baltimore Ravens. He spent time on the Ravens practice squad before finishing the season on the practice squad of the Cleveland Browns. He also spent time on the practice squad of the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL last October. He was re-signed by Montreal this past March before joining the Falcons.
  • Joe Hawley was working with the first team at right guard.
  • I suggested before that whoever lines up as the second-string left tackle would have a good shot at making the roster. Well in certain drills on Thursday, Ryan Schraeder, who is already having a standout camp according to some observers, was working there across from Lamar Holmes at right tackle.
  • Malliciah Goodman has been generating some buzz with his work among the reserves.
  • Jason Snelling was in the mix to return punts with the same foursome from before. James Rodgers is among that foursome, but will also be in the mix to return kickoffs. Harry Douglas might only be considered a last resort however as a punt returner. The AJC has a quick interview with Douglas.
  • Osi Umenyiora’s role as a stand-up linebacker may be limited with his primary value there to help defend the read-option. The Falcons will see plenty of that this year with matchups against Carolina, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington again this season. Also the potential of E.J. Manuel to run that with the Buffalo Bills could also be in play in 2013.
  • Daniel Cox has his five observations from Day 7, including more insight into the competition for the returner jobs, Robert Alford’s fashion, Desmond Trufant’s work in the slot, and unsung performances by rookies Ronnie Wingo and Brandon Thurmond.

 

Takeaways from Last Week – July 29

July 29th, 2013 Comments off
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Should Stephen Nicholas be worried?

Training camp has begun for the Falcons. And it’s still early, but there have been a few interesting developments.

A lot has been made of the beatings that rookie corners Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford have had at the hands of Julio Jones and Roddy White. It’s somewhat silly, given it’s their first few days in camp. They are going up against arguably two of the ten best receivers in the league (I’d love to meet the person that would argue against it). And they are rookies after all. Frankly, if Patrick Peterson didn’t set the world on fire as a rookie, and he was the best cornerback prospect to come out since Champ Bailey, then why would anybody expect either Trufant or Alford to not suffer through growing pains? The key for them is going to be how much progress they show over the course of camp and the preseason. And then they’ll face Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints in the season opener. And I have no doubt that Sean Payton and Brees are going to very purposefully attack them in that game. And my expectations are that Payton and Brees will get the better of them more than they won’t. But even then, I won’t be upset. In regards to Trufant, Alford, and Robert McClain, it’s less about how good they are in September, but how good they are in January. After all, everyone expects this Falcon team to make the playoffs and make a title run.

It’s hard to tell who is ahead in some of the other position battles that dot the roster. What limited word we’ve heard about the right tackle position, suggests that Mike Johnson is still slightly ahead of Lamar Holmes. But one can’t put too much stock in one observation during one drill. We’ll see how that plays out the rest of summer. In past summers, things usually start to pick up by the second preseason game for offensive line battles so we’ll see how that goes.

It’s going to be interesting to see how the tight end battle plays out with Tony Gonzalez’s prolonged absence from camp. Chase Coffman and Tommy Gallarda appear to be getting much of the first-team reps thus far, with Levine Toilolo working as a reserve. While Toilolo’s roster spot isn’t really in jeopardy, we’ll have to see if he can leapfrog either in the coming days and weeks. As I’ve mentioned before, what sort of summer Toilolo has could have significant impact on how the rest of the roster plays out at that position. If he shines as a blocker, then Gallarda loses a bit of value. If he shines more as a receiver, then Coffman loses a bit of his luster there.

Defensively, there isn’t any direct competitions per se that I’m paying attention to. I’m more curious to see and hear how the Falcons use certain players like Kroy Biermann and Osi Umenyiora, who seem to getting a lot of time playing on their feet thus far. Eventually, I’m curious to see how the competition between Akeem Dent and Stephen Nicholas plays out for the second linebacker in the nickel. I fully expect Dent to win the job, but I’m curious how it all plays out. I’d like to see Dent win the job handily, that would give me more confidence that things are looking up for the Falcons coverage abilities from the linebacker position. There is some risk that Nicholas winds up a cap casualty at the end of camp. I don’t expect that to happen, but I also didn’t expect the Falcons to cut John Abraham at the beginning of the off-season. The Falcons cap situation currently (projected at roughly $5.7 million in cap space after Ryan’s extension) doesn’t call for the team to really need to purge salary at the end of the summer. As I’ve noted before the Falcons can save $905,000 against the cap by cutting Peria Jerry. Well actually that’s not true, the savings really only becomes $498,000 when you factor in a player like Micanor Regis (2013 cap hit of roughly $407,000) would then take up a roster spot and eat into those savings.

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Camp Battles 2013: Running Back

July 13th, 2013 Comments off
Josh D. Weiss-US PRESSWIRE

Antone Smith’s roster spot is vulnerable

The top of the Falcons depth chart at this position is fairly set in stone. Newcomer Steven Jackson will be the feature back and likely get the brunt of the workload in 2013. Behind him will be Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling. How much either player is worked in the lineup will be dependent on Jackson’s early season production as well as their own. Both players are excellent third down options, but Jackson also is adept in that role. But given that the Falcons will likely want to try and save Jackson somewhat for the stretch run in December and January, they could try and mix in both Rodgers and Snelling as reserves here and there.

Lining up next to Jackson is expected to be second-year fullback Bradie Ewing. Ewing went down with an ACL tear in the preseason opener before getting any real action on offense, so he is relatively an unknown commodity. But the Falcons had a lot of confidence in him going into last summer, and it would be a major upset if he didn’t open the season as the starter. If there is any real competition behind him, it likely rests in Patrick DiMarco, who played for the Kansas City Chiefs last season. DiMarco was productive as a late season starter, after injuries forced him into the lineup. The Falcons won’t be afraid to play DiMarco over Ewing if he proves to have the better summer, but it would likely take an extraordinarily good preseason from DiMarco and an unexpectedly lackluster one from Ewing for that to become the case. More than likely DiMarco’s best route to the roster will be showcasing value on special teams.

Traditionally the Falcons have kept five running backs on the roster, with the fifth spot serving primarily as a special teams role. That has been filled by Antone Smith the past three seasons, who has settled in nicely on special teams. His 10 special teams tackles over the past two seasons is third highest among current Falcons behind Akeem Dent (20) and Shann Schillinger (11). Helping Smith potentially retain his grip on the roster spot is the fact that he’s a known commodity. But he’s vulnerable due to the fact that he’ll be counting $662,500 against the Falcons 2013 salary cap. The Falcons could potentially save over $250,000 against their cap by going with one of the young undrafted backs: Ronnie Wingo or Donald Russell.

For both players, not only will they need to showcase potential as ballcarriers and receivers on offense, but they will need to shine on special teams. That will be their best routes to giving Smith a run for his money. If they can showcase immediate value on special teams, the savings the Falcons could garner might be enough to give either a shot on the roster. More than likely, strong preseason performances will lead to spots on the practice squad rather than the final roster for either player.

Special teams ability might give Josh Vaughan the best potential odds among the backs to make the roster over Smith. Vaughan was a productive special teams player for the Carolina Panthers in 2011. The Falcons won’t reap huge savings for opting for Vaughan over Smith (roughly $110,000), but it could be worthwhile if Vaughan shows enough upside on offense. He differentiates himself from Smith by being a more powerful, downhill runner. If he can show value in the passing game, particularly in pass protection, and have a strong preseason then he has a chance to earn a spot.

Undrafted fullback Devonte Campbell was an effective blocking tight end at Maryland last year and too will more than likely be trying to impress his way onto the eight-man practice squad, since he’s a roster longshot.