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Atlanta Falcons Takeaways from Last Week – July 28, 2014

July 28th, 2014 No comments
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Desmond Trufant is the rare impact rookie in NFL

Atlanta Falcons training camp has begun. And all the prognostications and analysis that has occurred over the past six months of the NFL offseason are basically thrown out the window at this point as things will soon be decided on the field.

It’s one of the reasons why football is great because of its unpredictably. As I noted last week, it’s one of the most unpredictable of the major American sports. And it’s for that reason, what I do is somewhat meaningless.

Like so many others, for the past six months I have made a bunch of educated guesses as to what I thought the Falcons would do this offseason, in the draft, and ultimately how that would lead to a successful or unsuccessful 2014 season.

What will ultimately happen this season is completely beyond me. If I knew, then I’d get on the first plane to Las Vegas and bet it all.

There are always several surprises in not just the regular season, but in training camp. There is always a player or two that winds up making the Falcons roster that I’m fairly dumbfounded as to why it happened. There’s always a promising prospect that doesn’t make the cut which disappoints me. There’s always a player that I had exceedingly low expectations on entering the summer, but manages to blow those out of the water. And then there’s the opposite, a player that disappoints greatly during the summer months. It all adds up to an eclectic mix that will eventually make up the Falcons 2014 roster.

One of the things that typically emerge during the initial days of camp reports and observations is how promising much of the new blood added to roster in the offseason is looking.

For instance, one can make the argument that after cornerback Desmond Trufant the best player on the Falcons defense last year was defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux. And it’s very possible that he may hold that title going into 2014. But you probably won’t hear very much about Babineaux this summer during camp practices because he’s old news. Unless Babineaux is schooling one of the young kids like Malliciah Goodman or Ra’Shede Hageman on the intricacies of the position, there won’t be a lot of buzz surrounding him. Yet given that he’s the best player up front, he probably is a player that practices the best as well.

But nobody wants to hear how Babineaux still looks solid in the various camp reports you’ll find over the next several weeks. It’s more about how those young guys like Goodman and Hageman are looking and likely to contribute significantly in 2014.

So pardon my cynicism, but that’s the nature of the beast. People tend to get caught up in what is shiny and new rather than what appears old hat.

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Atlanta Falcons Training Camp Preview 2014: Linebacker

July 22nd, 2014 No comments

Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Joplo Bartu

There are a lot of questions surrounding the Atlanta Falcons linebacker position, with a number of unproven players being asked to contribute larger roles in 2014.

For the Falcons, things took a turn for the worse when linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, the unit’s leader and best player, was injured in June with a torn Achilles. Weatherspoon’s loss has forced the team to look in the others’ directions to compensate.

Much of the void left by Weatherspoon is expected to be filled by middle linebacker Paul Worrilow. Among the three projected starters, Worrilow is the most solidified in his role. As a second-year player, he will have to take on a much larger mantle, becoming the unit’s top playmaker and leader on defense.

While Worrilow possesses the necessary traits for leadership, it remains to be seen if he can perform up to them. Worrilow came out strong last summer as an undrafted free agent to make the team, and this summer will need a similar emergence to lead the team.

Strong-side outside linebacker Kroy Biermann is expected to return from his own Achilles injury to flank Worrilow on the edge. After using Biermann as a bit of a “joker” player in his first season under defensive coordinator Mike Nolan in 2012, the team moved him fully to linebacker last summer. But Biermann was injured too early in the season to know if that transition was successful. Thus, he’ll have to prove himself again this summer.

Beside Worrilow at the other inside position that is expected to replace Weatherspoon is Joplo Bartu. Bartu, a 2013 undrafted free agent like Worrilow, also quickly impressed the coaching staff last summer with his range and athleticism. He quickly carved out a role in the sub-packages due to his coverage potential, and relative to his undrafted status as a rookie, played well in 2013. But there have been recent concerns over whether the coaching staff is ready to place the same amount of trust in him this year.

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Atlanta Falcons 2014 Rookie Scouting Report: Tyler Starr

May 29th, 2014 2 comments
Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE

Tyler Starr

A breakdown of Atlanta Falcons’ 2014 NFL Draft seventh-round pick, former South Dakota edge-rusher Tyler Starr.

BIO

Height: 6’4″
Weight: 250
College: South Dakota
40 Time: 4.95 (Combine)
Three-Cone: 6.64 (Combine)

He was born on January 25, 1991 and attended George-Little Rock High School in George, Iowa.

He redshirted his first year at South Dakota, and then sat out the next year due an academic problem where he did not have enough credits. When he finally got on the field as a redshirt sophomore in 2011, he broke out with a 14-sack season while starting 11 games at defensive end. He also had 51 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, one pass breakup, seven forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. He would earn first team All-Great West Conference honors that year. During his junior season he moved to outside linebacker where he started 10 of 11 games. He finished the season with 74 tackles, seven for loss, four sacks, two pass breakups, two forced fumbles and a blocked kick. He would earn second team All-Missouri Valley Football Conference honors and received one vote as one of 20 Buck Buchanan Award finalists (award given to top defensive player in FCS sub-division). He also earned MVFC honor roll, showing his academics had gotten in good standing. As a senior, he started 11 of 12 games at outside linebacker, recording 71 tackles, 15 for loss, nine sacks, one interception, four pass breakups and four forced fumbles. He placed ninth in voting for Buck Buchanan Award finalists, earned MVFC Defensive Player of the Year honors and was a first team all-conference selection. He was also named second team FCS All-American by the Associated Press. Starr finished his career tied for the school’s all-time lead in sacks with 27.

He participated in the East-West Shrine All-Star game at the end of the year, where he had an impressive week of practice. Known for his aggressive play, he was ejected during a game as a senior for a targeting penalty. He launched himself into Missouri State’s quarterback with the crown of his helmet. He also worked hard to improve his academics over course of his career, but had reputed bouts of immaturity at a young age that led to his struggles to get on the field until his third year at South Dakota.

Had an impressive Combine performance, as his three-cone time was the best posted by a true linebacker since 2006. Possesses 32.5-inch arms and 9.5-inch hands. He had a 32-inch vertical, 9-foot, 8-inch broad jump, and the fourth-fastest short shuttle of 4.15 seconds at the Combine.

2013 GAMES WATCHED

Date
Opponent
TFL
Stop
Sack
Press
Hit
FF
Miss Tkl
Key Blkd
Pen
Pen. Type
Sep-07Kansas012201210N/A
Nov-02Youngstown St.00.51401030N/A
Date
Opponent
Tgt
Rec.
Yds
YAC
TD
UC
YPT
INT
PD
Sep-07Kansas2153002.5001
Nov-02Youngstown St.1140161040.0001

SKILLS
The grading system is based on a 10-point scale: 1-pathetic, 2-poor, 3-weak, 4-below average, 5-average, 6-above average, 7-good, 8-very good, 9-excellent, 10-elite.

Speed (6.5) - Starr’s speed looks better on tape than his timed speed. He shows good ability in pursuit and can make plays by chasing down slower backs from the backside. Can collapse the edge quickly to get penetration and make stops in the backfield. Has good speed to run with tight ends down the seam when asked to don so. Clocked a 4.85-second 40 time at his pro day.

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Falcons Sign Five Draft Picks

May 19th, 2014 Comments off

On Saturday, the Atlanta Falcons announced the signings of five of their nine 2014 draft picks. The five that signed were all selected on the third and final day of the draft earlier this month, including cornerback Ricardo Allen and linebackers Prince Shembo, Yawin Smallwood, Marquis Spruill and Tyler Starr. All agreed to undisclosed four-year contracts.

Allen was a fifth-round selection of the team out of Purdue. Shembo was selected in the fourth round out of Notre Dame. Both Smallwood and Starr were selected at the end of the seventh round from Connecticut and South Dakota respectively, while the team traded into the fifth round to select Syracuse’s Spruill.

All five players are expected to compete for reserve roles with the team this summer. Their signings leave the Falcons first four selections unsigned: offensive tackle Jake Matthews, defensive end Ra’Shede Hageman, safety Dezmen Southward and running back Devonta Freeman.

Categories: News Tags: , , , , , ,

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 67 “Coming to Terms With Prince Shembo”

May 18th, 2014 Comments off

I am joined by Jeanna Thomas of The Falcoholic to give a more positive spin on the Atlanta Falcons 2014 draft class plus some of the early developments in the team’s rookie mini-camp. The conversation then dives deep into a discussion of Falcons fourth-round selection, linebacker Prince Shembo, and his alleged off-field incident during his time at Notre Dame. We do our best to figure out how they can reconcile our issues over the incident.

Episode 67 – Coming to Terms With Prince Shembo [Download]

Duration: 41 minutes

Jeanna writes for The Falcoholic and can be found on twitter: @jeannathomas. You can read Jeanna’s article referred to in the episode by clicking here.

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

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 66 “Tear Down Your Hopes and Dreams”

May 13th, 2014 Comments off

Allen and I are joined by The Falcoholic contributor, Murf Baldwin, to discuss our thoughts on the Atlanta Falcons 2014 draft class. Murf gives a less than glowing assessment of the Falcons picks, including whether or not Ra’Shede Hageman and Dezmen Southward offered good value in the second and third rounds. We wonder whether or not the Falcons pass rush has been significantly improved and break down whether Devonta Freeman and their late-round picks add anything to the roster that wasn’t already there. Allen and I finish with a brief discussion of our hopes for the NBA playoffs, our usual around the league segment, as well as Allen’s explanation on why he could not make a triumphant return to Radio City Music Hall to witness the draft.

Episode 66 – Tear Down Your Hopes and Dreams [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 26 minutes

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

Murf writes for The Falcoholic, Roll Bama Roll and can be found on twitter: @MurfBaldwin.

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

Takeaways from 2014 NFL Draft – May 12, 2014

May 12th, 2014 1 comment
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Falcons 2014 Top Selection: Jake Matthews

Normally I write my weekly takeaways column on Sunday afternoon or evening with the intention of it being posted first thing Monday morning around 8:00 a.m. This week, that was no the case.

That’s partly to blame for the fact that it was Mother Day’s weekend, and instead of doing all the things I normally would have done on a Sunday afternoon/evening to get this weekly column posted, I decided to spend time with my mother, who had driven four hors from Virginia to North Carolina to witness my sister-in-law’s graduation from grad school. In the interest of being a good son, my mother took precedent over this column.

Secondly, I had not watched all of the Atlanta Falcons 2014 draft picks play yet. And the column after the draft is the one devoted to my thoughts on whether I believe the Falcons’ draft was a good one or not.

Because unlike most people, I try to be informed before giving my opinions. If you want to know my take on any of the Falcons undrafted free agents, I don’t have one because I haven’t seen any of them play. Until I do, which will be in the first preseason game, my opinion on them will remain largely non-existent.

I was born in 1983, so I spent a significant portion existing in a world without the internet. That was a world where people couldn’t post their opinions, thoughts or insights with the click of a button on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or in Yahoo! News comments.

Back in those times, the only people that were given a platform to express opinions were people that had earned that right to be called experts in their give fields. There was a filter, and it was one that you had to work hard to break through.

The idea that Courtney Love could be involved in finding a missing plane in that time was laughable at best. Instead of social media, people expressed their opinions to companions and family members in their respective living rooms, kitchen dinner tables or bars.

But that age doesn’t exist anymore, and now people are free to give their opinions with no filter. Today, everything is thrown at the wall, and it’s only a matter of what sticks.

Why am I telling you this? Because one of the things I find fascinating is how everybody, including those least informed, will give their opinions on the draft. Besides watching a YouTube highlight clip and reading a bunch of online scouting reports, most people aren’t informed about most of these players with their own eyes.

It often leads to people have overly optimistic expectations about a particular draft prospect, or overly pessimistic ones. There is no longer a middle ground. And people should know that most things fall into that middle area.

I’m saying all this because I believe it will take time to see how these draft prospects develop. Patience is really the key, and while it won’t stop me from having an opinion today, I’m at least aware of the fact that what my opinion today is relatively meaningless in the big picture. That big picture will be determined by where the Falcons 2014 draft picks are three to five years from now.

What will this column will entail from this point is my best guess on where those players will be at that point. While that guess is an educated one based off informed analysis from watching these guys play a handful of collegiate games, it is still a guess nonetheless.

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Falcons Finish With Yawin Smallwood and Tyler Starr in Seventh Round of 2014 NFL Draft

May 10th, 2014 Comments off
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Yawin Smallwood

The Atlanta Falcons finished off their 2014 NFL Draft class by selecting a pair of linebackers in Connecticut’s Yawin Smallwood and South Dakota Tyler Starr at the tail-end of the seventh round. Both were compensatory picks, as Smallwood was taken with the 253rd overall selection and Starr went two picks later, the penultimate selection in the entire draft.

Smallwood declared as a junior this past year after spending three years as a starting middle linebacker at UConn. He was highly productive leading the team in tackles all three years, combining for 332 career tackles. He also added 27 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. Smallwood added a pair of interceptions, 13 pass breakups, five forced fumbles and two touchdown returns (one interception and one fumble).

At the Combine, Smallwood measured in at 6’2″ and 246 pounds with a 36.5-inch vertical jump and lifting 225 pounds 18 times on the bench press. He was clocked at 5.01 seconds in the 40-yard dash, but strained his hamstring during the run. He was unable to run at his pro day in March because of the injury.

Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

Tyler Starr

Starr was a three-year starter at South Dakota and finishied his career as the school’s all-time in sacks (27) and forced fumbles (13). As a redshirt freshman, he sat out the season due to academics before earning the starting defensive end spot as a sophomore. That season, he had a career-high 14 sacks, 19 tackles for loss and seven forced fumbles. He was a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award given the best defensive player in the FCS the following year and placed ninth in voting this past season with 71 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and 9 sacks. For his career, Starr had 41 tackles for loss, one interception, seven pass breakups, and one blocked kick.

At the Combine, Starr led linebackers with a 6.64-second three-cone time, while posting a 4.95-second 40-yard dash, 24 bench reps, and 32-inch vertical jump. Starr measured in at 6’4″ and 250 pounds.

Smallwood is more of a thumper in the middle than Falcons fifth-round pick Marquis Spruill and will add depth behind Paul Worrilow and Akeem Dent at middle linebacker. Starr adds more depth at outside linebacker and will likely compete as a reserve at strong-side linebacker behind Kroy Biermann and Joplo Bartu.

Categories: Draft Central, News Tags: , ,