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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 48 “Soft Spot for the Jaguars”

November 20th, 2013 1 comment

On this week’s episode, Allen and I are joined by Matt Chambers, a writer for the Falcoholic. We express our condolences over the death of Thomas Howard before getting into the discussion about our favorite team: the Atlanta Falcons. We discuss whether defensive coordinator Mike Nolan is to blame for the defensive troubles seen stemming from Bobby Rainey’s breakout performance in Week 11. We break new ground by mentioning the name Jadeveon Clowney for the first time on the podcast, and begin to look ahead to next spring’s draft, as well as discuss many of the misses from past years’ drafts. We discuss whether Steven Jackson is expendable, and just how much Antone Smith’s performance against the Buccaneers means to his future role with the team. That brings us to a discussion of what the Falcons future plans should be at the running back position. We discuss the “mass benching” that occurred vs. Tampa Bay, and how it could affect things particularly on the offensive line. We close with Matt by discussing the upcoming matchup against the New Orleans Saints in Week 12, and whether or not a blowout is inevitable. Allen and I then have a long discussion about other teams around the league because it’s more interesting than anything going on with the Falcons.

Episode 48: Soft Spot for the Jaguars [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 19 minutes

Allen writes for TJRSports.com as well as the Pro Football Spot. His twitter handle is: @Allen_Strk.

Matt Chambers can be found on twitter: @FalconsM5, and also writes for The Falcoholic.

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

Moneyball 2013 – Week 11 Review

November 19th, 2013 1 comment

This game reminded me some of the classic sorts of games the Atlanta Falcons would typically lose in past years, particularly in matchups against the Saints. The Falcons would have a number of opportunities, but due to a few too many breakdowns, they wouldn’t be able to take advantage of them.

The key difference is that this game wasn’t against a Super Bowl-contending Saints team, but against a cellar-dwelling Tampa Bay Bucs team. And the other difference is that after the twenty-minute mark, the Falcons took a notable dive. Bobby Rainey ran for a 43-yard touchdown, which was followed by an onside kick recovery, and things snowballed from there. And that’s when the bad Falcons team that we’ve grown accustomed to seeing over the past month showed up. Before the Falcons could blink, things quickly went from a competitive 3-3 tie three minutes into the second quarter to a 24-3 score in a nine-minute span.

I honestly thought that the Falcons offensive game plan and execution through the first quarter was pretty solid. The only real mistakes were the pair of sacks given up by Peter Konz. Konz just couldn’t handle Gerald McCoy’s quickness and speed, his lack of footwork and punching power showed.

Then at the outset of the second quarter, the Falcons were moving the ball but then things ground to a halt once they got into the red zone. On 1st-and-5 at the Buccaneer 18, Lamar Holmes whiffed on a block that allowed Adrian Clayborn to chase down Jacquizz Rodgers for a 3-yard loss. Then Ryan looked for Rodgers over the middle on a check down but McCoy read it perfectly, sitting back to try and knock down the throw. Ryan tried to throw it over him, and it was off the mark to Rodgers. And then McCoy beat Konz for a third time on the next play, using power this time, and forcing the Falcons to settle for a field goal.

If I’m desperately looking for a positive, it would to say that at least up until this point in the game, the Falcons looked similar to the team they were at the outset of this season, which was a team that could move the ball before things stalled in the red zone. So perhaps that could be considered improvement from some of their recent performances.

But thereafter, the Falcons really did nothing offensively. Ryan did not have a good game as he saw quite a bit of pressure up the middle, particularly from McCoy (3 sacks, 3 pressures). And the Bucs were also effective with delayed blitzes and stunts from other players. But Ryan was not very accurate and was off-target on a lot of throws, matching his season-high of 7 poor throws. He also had 7 against the Cardinals, but it should be noted that Ryan threw the ball 61 times against Arizona as opposed to only 36 attempts against Tampa Bay.

And once again, the Falcons didn’t really dial up any deep shots. On the red zone play I mentioned earlier, other receivers did run deeper routes, but Ryan looked for Rodgers underneath. Although I can’t really blame him because Rodgers was the only receiver that got open thanks to bracket coverage on Tony Gonzalez. The first real designed deep play didn’t come until 1:50 left in the second quarter, where Ryan could have taken a deep shot to Roddy where he was 1-on-1 against Darrelle Revis on the outside. But in truth, Ryan really wanted no part of Revis throughout the game, content to basically look at other receivers. That reminded me of a younger Ryan, when he would generally avoid top cornerbacks (I’m reminded of games against Antoine Winfield and Charles Woodson from 2008-10) at all costs. On that particular play, Ryan locked onto Harry Douglas early, but Dashon Goldson was in position, thus forcing Ryan to flee the pocket and ultimately throw it to Antone Smith for a 4-yard gain. That again led to another field goal. It should be noted that White wasn’t open on that play, but it just illustrates the current tentative state of the offense. Whether due to the fear of Revis Island or Roddy not being 100-percent, in previous seasons (or even games this season) I could guarantee you that would have been Ryan’s first read.

In the second half, the Falcons took a few more measured shots down the field, but didn’t connect because Ryan either made a bad pass or the pass protection wasn’t there. The deepest passes Ryan threw was a 16-yard throw on the 80-yard touchdown to Douglas, which was largely thanks to Mark Barron being out of position. And then later, Ryan’s second interception was when he forced a pass to Douglas over the middle on a 17-yard throw. Goldson picked it off as Ryan did not look him off. He had Tony Gonzalez open on a corner route where he had gotten behind Lavonte David.

As for Dominique Davis, in his limited action, the play-calling centered on quick drops and throws to get the ball out quickly. With the Bucs settling for underneath stuff, Davis had little issues completing most of his throws. His best pass was one where he threw a laser to Douglas, but it went through Douglas hands probably due to timing and the ball came on him out of his break probably a lot faster than he’s used to with Ryan’s throws.

I thought the running game looked fairly solid. Steven Jackson ran hard early, broke some tackles, and seemed to out-producing his blocking. It’s funny because that was often the case with Michael Turner last year, where after games where I was highly critical of Turner in suggesting he needs to be benched (and I had similar sentiments with Jackson last week), he came out and had a strong performance. Then he’d typically fall back to Earth the following week, so we’ll see if Jackson bucks that trend against the Saints on Thursday. If Rodgers had gotten better blocking, he could have had a more productive game. Antone Smith showed good speed in garbage reps and I think the team needs to be more willing to get him involved on some screen passes in future games.

I should also note that the official box score credited Josh Vaughan with a 12-yard catch when it was clearly Gonzalez that made the catch.

As previously noted, the blocking was poor. I thought Ryan Schraeder handled himself down the stretch, although I didn’t see anything to suggest he was clearly better than Jeremy Trueblood. But I do think he needs more reps and maybe alternating series would be a good idea this week. Just like Konz, Garrett Reynolds had his hands full against McCoy, but seemed a bit better because he is stronger and has a better punch. Joe Hawley handled himself fairly well in the middle. He’s a much better second-level blocker than Konz is, and looked similar to an older Todd McClure in the sense of his ability to get position but not push as a run blocker. If that sort of competent performance continues for Hawley, there’s no reason to plug Konz back into the lineup. I’m more than willing to give Konz another shot in 2014, but at this point it’s clear that he’s not among the best five-man unit the Falcons could field.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Steven Jackson$0$6$4$0$0$0$10.00
Harry Douglas$0$0$6$0$0$0$6.00
Antone Smith$0$6$0$0$0$0$6.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$4$0$0$0$0$4.00
Matt Ryan$4$0$0$0$0$0$4.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$3$1$0-$1$3.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Jeremy Trueblood$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Dominique Davis$1$0$0$0$0$0$1.00
Garrett Reynolds$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Levine Toilolo$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Roddy Whtie$0$0$3$0$0-$3$0.00
Joe Hawley$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Ryan Schraeder$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Lamar Holmes$0$0$0$0$0-$1-$1.00
Darius Johnson$0$0-$2$0$0$0-$2.00
Peter Konz$0$0$0-$2$0$0-$2.00

Read more…

Gonzalez Questionable in Week 11 vs. Bucs

November 15th, 2013 Comments off

The Atlanta Falcons announced their injury report for this weekend’s upcoming matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and tight end Tony Gonzalez was among several players listed as questionable. Gonzalez injured his toe during last week’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks and was held out of practice this week on Wednesday and Thursday. He returned to practice on a limited basis today, but his status for Sunday’s game remains up in the air.

Also questionable on the injury report are wide receiver Harry Douglas (knee), and defensive tackles Peria Jerry (toe) and Corey Peters (knee). Douglas suffered his injury during the week, missing Thursday’s practice but returned to practice on a limited basis today. Both Jerry and Peters were able to play last week despite suffering from the same injuries. Jerry was limited in practice on all three days, while Peters missed Wednesday’s practice, but was limited on Thursday and Friday. Defensive end Malliciah Goodman (calf) will miss this week’s game as he was out all three days of practice.

Listed as probable are running back Steven Jackson (toe), linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (foot), and wide receiver Roddy White (shoulder). Jackson and White have both been limited this year with other injuries. Jackson missed several games earlier in the season with a hamstring injury. White returned to the Falcons lineup last week for the first time since Week 5 after suffering from hamstring and ankle injuries. Weatherspoon was just elevated off the short-term injured reserve this week after suffering a foot injury earlier in the year.

Also appearing on the injury report is running back Jason Snelling. Snelling missed Wednesday’s practice with a knee injury, but was limited. He missed Friday’s practice with a non-injury related issue due to his arrest for possession of marijuana.

Notable injuries for the Buccaneers include guard Carl Nicks (foot) and defensive end Da’Quan Bowers (concussion), who are out and questionable, respectively. Also listed on the injury report as probable are safety Mark Barron (knee), wide receiver Vincent Jackson (knee), guard Davin Joseph (knee), tackle Donald Penn (calf), and defensive tackle Akeem Spence (wrist).

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 47 “I Hate Brian Robiskie”

November 14th, 2013 Comments off

Allen and I are more depressed than ever with the Atlanta Falcons. In this week’s episode, we briefly discuss the few positives we saw in the Falcons Week 10 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, but focus mainly on the negative, as we conclude that the Falcons are practically unwatchable. We go into detail about the offensive line and some of the potential roster changes that could be upcoming there. We discuss Sam Baker’s horrible contract, whether Peter Konz should be benched, and the status of Thomas DeCoud and Steven Jackson in 2014. We also talk up Paul Worrilow and how he should be the new starting middle linebacker. Aaron rants about the conservative nature of the offense, coaches on the hot seat, and whether the rumor surrounding Jon Gruden is something to get excited about. Then we go into our thoughts on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and what things you can expect to see in the Falcons Week 11 matchup. Then we look ahead briefly to the New Orleans Saints in Week 12, gripe about our fantasy football teams, and talk playoffs in our weekly “Around the League” segment.

Ep. 47: I Hate Brian Robiskie [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 23 minutes

Allen writes for TJRSports.com as well as the 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! You can also subscribe directly to our feed at the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/falcfans/LXSt

Moneyball 2013 – Week 10 Review

November 13th, 2013 Comments off

Another frustrating watch after another weak offensive performance for the Falcons.

Matt Ryan had another lackluster game. Part of that was due to the amount of pressure he faced throughout this game, as the Seahawks had no problem collapsing the pocket and bullying around all five of the Falcons blockers.

For the third week in a row, the Falcons seemed to tentative to take shots down the field. One of the few plays I noticed where it looked like the design was to attack downfield, was a play-action early in the second quarter, but Peter Konz gave up a hurry, and Ryan was forced to check it down. I felt like I was watching an offense that was helmed by a first-year starter at quarterback with how vanilla the offense looked.

I’m trying to figure out what I can say that I noticed on tape that is interesting, compelling, or noteworthy, and I’m drawing a blank. I’m starting to believe that just like a year ago, the Falcons offense is better when Jacquizz Rodgers and/or Jason Snelling is on the field. When the team is throwing to or handing it off to Steven Jackson, much like Michael Turner a year ago, the offense seems to stall. I just don’t see any reason on tape why Jackson is getting the majority of the touches. The past three weeks, Jackson has received a combined 47 touches when you factor in carries and targets. Quizz has received 28 in that span, and Snelling has had a combined 5 the past two weeks. With 80 combined touches for running backs the past three weeks, that breakdown should be more like 30 for Quizz, 25 for Snelling, and 25 for Jackson. I like Jackson, but there is nothing on tape that indicates he’s the best running back on the roster. Which is the exact same observation that you could make about Turner last year. It’s clear that the Falcons made another lateral move this off-season when they cut Turner for Jackson, which was the fear that I think everyone like myself had when Jackson was signed.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Matt Ryan$7$4$0$0$0-$1$10.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$4$2$0$0$0$6.00
Jason Snelling$0$1$3$0$0$0$4.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$2$0$0$0$2.00
Lamar Holmes$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Darius Johnson$0$0$2$0$0$0$2.00
Jeremy Trueblood$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Steven Jackson$0$1$0$0$0$0$1.00
Peter Konz$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Roddy White$0$0$1$0$0$0$1.00
Garrett Reynolds$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Harry Douglas$0$0$2$0$0-$2$0.00

Read more…

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 46 “It’s Just a Numbers Game”

November 5th, 2013 Comments off

This week, Allen and I are joined by the Falcoholic himself, Dave Choate, to discuss the current state of the Atlanta Falcons. Now at the midpoint of the 2013 season, we discuss in-depth the issues facing this team for the remainder of this season and the following years. We discuss the things they liked and disliked in the Falcons Week 9 loss to the Carolina Panthers, and also preview the upcoming matchup in Week 10 versus the Seattle Seahawks. We talk about Matt Ryan’s struggles and whether he is as good as advertised; Roddy White’s beef with Richard Sherman; the play of young linebackers like Joplo Bartu and Paul Worrilow and the bright futures ahead of them; the young cornerbacks in Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford and how their progress is a sign that the team’s drafting may not be as bad as previously thought; and what sort of changes Arthur Blank may wind up instituting at the end of this season in both the front office, coaching staff, and roster; We look ahead some of the potential veterans that could find themselves playing in other uniforms in 2014; and Allen and I finish by looking at several of the issues around the league including Richie Incognito, Andrew Luck, and the overrated Kansas City Chiefs.

Ep. 46: It’s Just a Numbers Game [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 21 minutes

Allen writes for TJRSports.com as well as the Pro Football Spot. His twitter handle is: @Allen_Strk.

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

Falcons Offense Struggles in 34-10 Loss to Panthers

November 3rd, 2013 Comments off
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Smith expresses his frustration

Halfway through the 2013 season, the Atlanta Falcons record stands at 2-6 with a 34-10 loss to the Carolina Panthers today. The Falcons kept it close through the first three quarters, but mistakes led to the Panthers scoring three times in the final nine minutes to stretch their lead.

Matt Ryan had another up and down game. He threw three interceptions on his way to completing 20 of 27 passes for 219 yards and a touchdown. The Falcons finally showed some life on the ground, as Steven Jackson led the team with 57 yards on 13 carries (4.4 avg). Jacquizz Rodgers added another 19 yards on five carries (3.8 avg). Tony Gonzalez and Rodgers led the team with six catches each, for 81 and 25 yards, respectively. Gonzalez caught Ryan’s lone touchdown pass. Harry Douglas caught three passes for 82 yards with Steven Jackson also having three catches for 19 yards. Matt Bryant hit on his lone 28-yard field goal try. Matt Bosher punted five times, averaging 45.0 yards and placing one punt inside the 20-yard line. Robert McClain returned a single punt for 16 yards, while Jacquizz Rodgers averaged 29.5 yards on a pair of kickoff returns. The Falcons generated 289 of total net yards of offense, their third consecutive game with under 300 yards. The team converted on four of 10 third downs, and managed to convert on one of two red zone trips.

Defensively, the Falcons gave up 373 total yards to the Panthers and allowed eight of 14 third down conversions. They did force a pair of turnovers on Cam Newton interceptions. Paul Worrilow led the team with 19 tackles, a season high for him and the team. Robert Alford (2 tackles, 1 interception); Joplo Bartu (8 tackles); Thomas DeCoud (5 tackles); Akeem Dent (4 tackles); Jonathan Massaquoi (3 tackles, 0.5 sacks); William Moore (6 tackles); Corey Peters (2 tackles, 2 QB hits); Asante Samuel (8 tackles); Desmond Trufant (5 tackles, 1 interception); and Osi Umenyiora (4 tackles, 0.5 sacks) had noteworthy games.

Read more…

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 45 “Something’s Gotta Give”

November 1st, 2013 Comments off

Allen and I recap the Falcons disappointing loss to the Arizona Cardinals in Week 8, considering it one of the most disheartening losses for the Falcons in years. We also discuss the sense of complacency that seems to surround the Falcons franchise over the years, and this current regime in particular. Other topics: Steven Jackson and the historically bad Falcons running game; Sam Baker vs. Duane Brown; Darius Johnson’s future; Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford headline a stronger 2013 draft class. We then switch focus to the Falcons upcoming matchup against the Carolina Panthers in Week 9 and look at: the formidable matchup between the Falcons offensive line and the Panthers front seven; break down Cam Newton’s strengths and weaknesses; and whether the Falcons need to be more aggressive on both sides of the ball to get the win.

Ep. 45: Something’s Gotta Give [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 4 minutes

Allen writes for TJRSports.com as well as the 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! You can also subscribe directly to our feed at the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/falcfans/LXSt

Takeaways from Week 8

October 28th, 2013 2 comments
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

How Much Change Will Arthur Blank Demand in 2014?

The big question last week was whether or not Atlanta’s win over Tampa Bay was because they caught a bad team on the verge of collapse or because the Falcons were finally showing signs of life after a disappointing start to their 2013 season.

Well, judging from their performance on Sunday in their 27-13 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, it certainly doesn’t appear to be the latter.

The Falcons season appears to be done as the team now falls to 2-5 and with upcoming matchups against better teams than Arizona in Carolina, Seattle, and New Orleans over the next four games, they will be hard-pressed to get back to .500. While anything is possible on any given Sunday, the Falcons would need so many things to go their way to pull victories over those teams. And very little has gone the Falcons way this year.

Time for the Youth Movement

We’ve reached the point in the year where the main focus is going to be evaluating much of the young talent on the roster. But thanks to the plethora of injuries the Falcons have suffered this year, they already are evaluating a lot of their younger players. Players like Jonathan Massaquoi, Joplo Bartu, Paul Worrilow, Desmond Trufant, and Robert Alford are now logging serious reps on defense. And the Falcons are going to get long looks at their young receivers such as Drew Davis, Darius Johnson, and Levine Toilolo going forward. The positive is that the experience gained by these players should make them better NFL players. Unfortunately for the Falcons, that likely won’t really pay off until 2014 and beyond.

But the Falcons will need to start mixing in other young players more. I’d like to see Ryan Schraeder get mixed into the lineups on game day. He shouldn’t supplant any starter, but he should be given a couple of series here and there. Let’s face it, Jeremy Trueblood is not a long-term option for the Falcons. As explained two weeks ago, due to price tag and draft status, the Falcons have a vested interest in Sam Baker and Lamar Holmes, respectively, seeing the field. But that is not the case with Trueblood even though he hasn’t been the weakest link among the Falcons starting five, he is the most expendable of the group. The Falcons should try to give Schraeder a couple of series in the coming weeks, and see how he handles going up against players like Charles Johnson, Chris Clemons, and Cameron Jordan as an important evaluation tool on his future.

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Three Keys to a Falcons Victory in Week 8

October 26th, 2013 1 comment
Icon Sports Media, Inc.

Tony Gonzalez

Here’s a look at three keys to victory in order for the Atlanta Falcons to defeat the Arizona Cardinals in their Week 8 road matchup.

Pressure Leads to Turnovers

The Falcons defensive line is coming off its strongest performance of the season, effectively able to control the line of scrimmage last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They got plenty of pressure on Mike Glennon and doing such were able to create an early turnover that led to seven points.

They will have to do much of the same this week against the Cardinals. Carson Palmer has thrown two or more interceptions in each of his last five games, and the Falcons will hope to make it six in a row. The Cardinals defense is one tough nut to crack, and given the Falcons injuries on offense, it will make it even tougher. Creating multiple turnovers can create additional opportunities for the offense to put points on the board.

The best way to create turnovers is to get pressure on the quarterback. That leads to rushed and errant throws, which defenders in the Falcons secondary can capitalize on to make big plays.

The Falcons should see favorable matchups against one of the league’s weakest offensive line. Osi Umenyiora has historically preyed on weak tackles, which the Cardinals sport in left tackle Bradley Sowell. Injury to left guard Daryn Colledge could also lead to backup Nate Potter starting, and the Cardinals also have a weakness at the other guard spot with Paul Fanaika being unexceptional.

Read more…