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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.

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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.

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Jackson to Return; White and Snelling Out in Week 8

October 26th, 2013 Comments off
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Steven Jackson

The Falcons announced their weekly injury report yesterday, indicating that wide receiver Roddy White and running back Jason Snelling will be out for this weekend’s matchup against the Arizona Cardinals. White (hamstring/ankle) and Snelling (ankle) both missed the entire week of practice thanks to their respective injuries. Also linebacker Stephen Nicholas (thigh) was held out of practice this week and will miss the game.

But the Falcons got good news as running back Steven Jackson (hamstring) is expected to suit up for the Falcons for the first time since Week 2. Jackson was limited all three days of practice and was declared probable. Typically the Falcons only declare players that fully participate on Friday as probable, but Jackson’s status is indicative that his limited reps this week were more precautionary than necessary.

Also questionable will be offensive tackle Sam Baker (knee) and linebacker Akeem Dent (ankle). Baker and Dent were both limited in all three practices this week. If Baker is unable to go, Lamar Holmes will likely get the start at left tackle, a role he’s filled the past two games with Baker out of the lineup. Dent returned to the lineup last week after missing the Falcons Week 5 contest against the Jets due to the ankle injury he suffered the preceding week against the New England Patriots. Omar Gaither started at middle linebacker against the Jets in Dent’s absence.

Listed as probable on the injury report were cornerback Robert Alford (ankle), tight end Chase Coffman (knee), and defensive tackle Corey Peters (shoulder). Alford was limited on Wednesday, but fully participated in Thursday and Friday’s practices. Coffman and Peters were both limited on the first two days of practice, but saw a full workload on Friday. Alford supplanted Robert McClain as the team’s nickel cornerback last week and also replaced Harry Douglas on punt returns. But the team has indicated that they might look at other players in the latter role given Alford’s costly turnover last week on his lone punt return.

Notable injuries for the Arizona Cardinals include running back Rashard Mendenhall (toe), who is doubtful for the game. It will likely lead to backup Andre Ellington starting for the team on Sunday. Left guard Daryn Colledge (back) and outside linebacker Matt Shaughnessy (knee) are questionable. Colledge’s absence could lead to Nate Potter getting inserted into the lineup, a role he struggled in last week in Arizona’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (hamstring) fully participated in all three days of practice and is listed as probable.

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 44 “Tampa Bay is a Dumpster Fire”

October 25th, 2013 Comments off

Allen and I are joined once again by Rashad James, making his second consecutive appearance on the podcast to discuss the Atlanta Falcons win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 7. We discuss some of the standout players from the game including William Moore, Malliciah Goodman, Harry Douglas, and Desmond Trufant. We also take a look at the play of the Falcons young linebackers and whether or not they have what it takes to turn into good NFL linebackers. In their preview of Week 8, we discuss how much impact a healthy Steven Jackson can bring, whether or not there needs to be changes made at punt returner, how the Falcons left tackle matches up with John Abraham, and whether the Falcons defense can take advantage of Arizona’s lackluster offensive attack.

Ep. 44: Tampa Bay is a Dumpster Fire [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 1 minute

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

Rashad can be found on twitter: @SaucedUp_Boss

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

Steven Jackson’s Status Uncertain for Week 7

October 15th, 2013 Comments off

ESPN’s Vaughn McClure reports that running back Steven Jackson’s status is still a bit uncertain as he works back from a hamstring injury suffered in the first quarter of the Falcons Week 2 win over the St. Louis Rams. McClure first reported three weeks ago that Jackson would likely be out until this weekend’s Week 7 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but Falcons head coach Mike Smith gave no update to Jackson’s status to indicate that he would return to practice this week.

Jackson has missed the Falcons last three games. In his absence, the Falcons have split reps between Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling. Snelling suffered a concussion in the Falcons in Week 6 loss to the New York Jets, but McClure reports that he is expected to return this week.

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Baker, Samuel and White Questionable For Week 4 vs. Patriots

September 28th, 2013 Comments off

The Falcons announced their Week 4 injury report yesterday, listing offensive tackle Sam Baker (foot/knee), wide receiver Julio Jones (knee), cornerback Asante Samuel (thigh), and wide receiver Roddy White (ankle) as questionable. Running back Steven Jackson (hamstring) is out as a previous report indicated. Both Baker and White missed Wednesday’s practice and were limited on Thursday and Friday. Jones was limited all week, while Samuel was added to the injury report just yesterday after fully participating the previous two days.

With Baker out of the lineup last week against the Miami Dolphins, the Falcons started Lamar Holmes at left tackle and replaced him at right tackle with Jeremy Trueblood. It remains to be seen if the Falcons will go with that combination again this week. Baker missed two days of practice due to a knee injury prior to the team’s Week 2 bout against St. Louis, was listed as questionable but managed to play. He wound up starting, but did not play the last few snaps after suffering the foot injury that kept him out last week.

Jones has been limited in nearly every practice since suffering his knee injury in Week 1, but has been no worse for wear on gamedays. He is currently leading the NFL in receptions (27) and receiving yards (373).

Samuel being added to the injury report suggests his thigh injury has regressed somewhat. He missed the season opener and played only seven snaps against the Rams. He managed only one day of practice last week but only missed a single snap in Week 3 against the Dolphins. In his absence earlier in the season, slot corner Robert McClain got the start at left cornerback and slid back back inside in the nickel to make way for Robert Alford on the outside.

White has yet to fully participate in any practice this year, as he grits through a high-ankle sprain suffered in the preseason. He has played every game, but been essentially splitting reps with Harry Douglas opposite Jones.

Jackson’s absence will mean that Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling will carry the load at running back for Atlanta for the second week in a row.

Also appearing on the injury report as probable were: center Peter Konz (knee), cornerback Robert McClain (knee), guard Garrett Reynolds (knee), and running back Josh Vaughan (ankle). Both Konz and Reynolds were limited on Wednesday and Thursday, but fully participated in practice on Friday. McClain and Vaughan both fully participated in all three practices this week. McClain and Vaughan both suffered their injuries against the Dolphins and exited the game. Konz had the same practice schedule and was nursing his knee injury a week ago. Reynolds suffered his injury against the Dolphins, but was not removed from the game.

For the Patriots, wide receiver/special teams player Matt Slater (wrist) was listed as out. Notable players that are questionable were wide receiver Danny Amendola (groin), cornerback Kyle Arirngton (groin), running back Brandon Bolden (knee), tight end Rob Gronkowski (back/forearm), tackle Sebastian Vollmer (foot), and running back Leon Washington (thigh). According to reports cited by WEEI’s Mike Petraglia, Amendola and Gronkowski are unlikely to play this week.

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 40 “A Sense of Urgency”

September 27th, 2013 Comments off

Allen and I are back to discuss the Falcons disappointing loss to the Miami Dolphins in Week 3 as well as preview what we hope to be a rebound win against the New England Patriots in primetime in Week 4 … Questions we try to answer in this episode: 1. Are the Falcons playing with a sense of urgency? 2. Will their schedule in the coming weeks help them get out of this rut? 3. Do the Falcons need to add more pass rush help? 4. Is Stephen Nicholas headed to the bench or the unemployment line? 5. How will Steven Jackson’s injury impact the next few weeks? 6. What is wrong with Thomas DeCoud? We also discuss the play of some of the young players in the secondary, whether veteran players on the defensive line are up to snuff, and whether Matt Ryan deserves criticism for the mistakes made against the Dolphins. We also look around the league at the recent Browns trade rumors, Josh Freeman, and I may be abandoning the Eagles bandwagon.

Ep. 40: A Sense of Urgency [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 5 minutes

Allen writes for TJRSports.com as well as the Bleacher Report. 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

Quizz Gets Golden Opportunity From Jackson’s Injury

September 26th, 2013 Comments off
Josh D. Weiss-USA TODAY Sports

Jacquizz Rodgers

Jacquizz Rodgers has a golden opportunity due to a report this week that running back Steven Jackson may miss nearly a month due to his hamstring injury.

Jackson will miss his second consecutive game this week, matching his total number of missed games from the past four seasons. Jackson was noted for his durability and longevity over the near-decade he spent playing for the St. Louis Rams before joining the Falcons this off-season. But now he may be sidelined for the time being, opening the door for his backups in Rodgers and Jason Snelling.

Earlier this summer, I discussed the potential outlook for Rodgers this season as he tried to deal with Jackson’s added presence on the team. Then, it did not look promising with the Falcons likely centering their offense around Jackson. That looked to be the case in the team’s season-opening loss to the Saints as Jackson received 11 carries and Rodgers only saw a pair of them. But once Jackson was injured after scoring on Falcons opening drive the following week against his former team, the Falcons turned to Quizz. He did not make the most of that opportunity, gaining a paltry 17 yards on 11 carries. But he bounced back last week against the Dolphins, with an impressive 86 yards on 18 carries.

What was so impressive about was how consistent Rodgers was, something that has not been a hallmark of his short career in a Falcons uniform. That was displayed by his success rate on the ground. Success rate basically categorizes runs as a success or failure based on down and distance. Typically, gained 45-percent of the needed yardage on first down, 60-percent on second down, and converting for a first down regardless of distance on third and fourth down are considered successful runs.

For Rodgers, 12 of his 18 runs proved to be success, for a very impressive 67-percent. That helps keep the Falcons offense on schedule with manageable third downs. Rodgers was successful on 5 of his 11 first down runs but more impressively was perfect on all six of his second down runs and lone third down attempt. The Falcons have rarely seen that sort of rushing success in recent seasons, particularly on first down.

They will hope it continues in the coming weeks with Jackson absent. It will obviously be critical for the Falcons short-term success as they try to get out of their 1-2 rut. But it will also affect Rodgers’ long-term future as his contract will be up sooner rather than later following the 2014 season. Thus far in his short career his production hasn’t been great, with 182 attempts and 669 yards for a subpar 3.7 yards per carry. His value has mainly been in the passing game with 81 catches and where his 628 receiving yards nearly match his rushing total.

While Rodgers will continue to share the load with teammate Jason Snelling, it is really the former that is in prime position to show his value as a runner, not just as a third down specialist. Snelling turns 30 this December and while his contract is also up at the end of the 2014 season, his age will likely prevent him from receiving anything beyond a one or two-year deal from the Falcons. Rodgers will have just turned 25 by the time he hits free agency in March 2015, which opens the possibility for a long-term deal. Potentially one that pays him a salary compatible with a starting running back. That is a ways off, but it starts this season with how well Rodgers can fill the shoes of Jackson in the coming weeks. If he continues to be a productive back that can be successful while getting 15-20 carries per game, then the Falcons may begin to see him as more than just a role player and third down specialist. He may be able to sneak his way into their sights as a potential option to replace Jackson as the starting tailback a year or two down the line when the veteran is ready to hang up his cleats.