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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 72 “Nailing the Training Camp Report”

August 4th, 2014 No comments

Allen and I are joined by Jeanna Thomas of the Falcoholic to break down her observations from the first week of the Atlanta Falcons 2014 training camp. Jeanna gives us the skinny on which young skill position players have emerged early in camp plus the Falcons potential upgrades in the trenches. Allen and I finish with more talk of the Falcons, preview the preseason opener against the Miami Dolphins and some of the latest around the league news.

Episode 72 – Nailing the Training Camp Report [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 23 minutes

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

Jeanna writes for The Falcoholic and can be found on twitter: @jeannathomas.

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! For Android users, DoubleTwist is a good app to listen as well. You can also subscribe directly to our feed at the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/falcfans/LXSt

Falcons 2014 Training Camp: Day 8 Report

August 3rd, 2014 No comments
From AtlantaFalcons.com

Mike Smith. From AtlantaFalcons.com

Let’s take a look at the various tweets, articles, reports, news and rumors that surfaced from the eighth day of Atlanta Falcons training camp yesterday:

It was an overcast day on Saturday with a few drops of rain to highlight the Falcons practice.

Reid Ferrin gives five things we learned from Saturday’s practice including update on Dwight Lowery’s concussion, Tyson Jackson’s mentoring of Ra’Shede Hageman and assistant coach Keith Armstrong’s focus on special teams, where Bernard Reedy has stood out.

ESPN’s Vaughn McClure adds five notes from practice including some of the same subjects but also adds discussion of Tyler Starr’s fight with Brian Wozniak during practice. Starr spoke to the media after practice about the event. Thankfully, safety William Moore was on hand during the scuffle to prevent both benches from clearing into an all-out melee.

McClure also gives a thorough update on Lowery’s concussion as well as the Falcons attempts to cross-train a pair of cornerbacks in Robert McClain and rookie Ricardo Allen to work at safety. Both players got work there on Saturday, while Kemal Ishmael and Sean Baker held down the starting spot in Lowery’s absence. In this video from the AJC, head coach Mike Smith provides his take on the Falcons safety depth. Speaking of McClain, it appears that he is now getting first-team reps at the nickel position.

Read more…

Atlanta Falcons Training Camp Preview 2014: Tight End

July 17th, 2014 Comments off

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY

Levine Toilolo

For five seasons the Atlanta Falcons’ tight end position was one of the league’s best due to the presence of Tony Gonzalez, but now entering 2014 could have possibly morphed into one of the league’s weakest units.

There are unanswered questions heading into training camp at this position, centering mostly on whether Levine Toilolo is ready to take over for Gonzalez.

Toilolo was drafted in the fourth round of last year’s draft and tabbed as the heir apparent to Gonzalez. However, despite the team’s youth movement at most other positions in the second half of 2013, the Falcons never saw fit to really get Toilolo on the field. It raises questions about the level of confidence the team should have in the young tight end.

No one expects Toilolo to come close to filling Gonzalez’s shoes, but that doesn’t mean that expectations are low. Toilolo is currently penciled atop the Falcons depth chart at tight end, and thus should still at least act accordingly.

Toilolo won’t be one of the top starting tight ends in the league in 2014, but should at least look competent. And whether he can achieve that remains to be seen. The hope is that Toilolo eventually develops into a player similar to Marcedes Lewis, who Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter had in Jacksonville. Lewis has good size and is known mainly as one of the top blocking tight ends in the league, but is also an occasional playmaker and red-zone threat.

Toilolo has the tools to be that sort of player, but it might take some time before that sort of ability comes forth. It should be noted that Lewis got off to a slow start in his pro career. Toilolo will need a very strong preseason, something he lacked last summer, to allay any concerns about his immediate starting potential.

Read more…

Ranking the Falcons 2014: No. 37 Levine Toilolo

July 15th, 2014 Comments off
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Levine Toilolo

I’m counting down the top 40 players on the Atlanta Falcons, and let’s continue with 37th-ranked player: tight end Levine Toilolo.

To read the methodology I devised to rank the Falcons players, click here.

Total Score: 42/100

Last year’s rank: 32
Player Grade: 48/100
Teams he is starter: 3 out of 32
Teams he is best position player: 3 out of 32
Teams he is role player: 15 out of 32
Peak-Year Bonus: +4
Positional Bonus: +3

This season could prove to be a very interesting season for Toilolo as it may wind up being his one and only shot to prove he merits a starting position with the Falcons. Tasked with the unenviable task of filling the shoes of the greatest tight end in NFL history by the name of Tony Gonzalez, there will be a certain degree of expectations on Toilolo this season.

It’s not fair to expect Toilolo to be anywhere close to the player that Gonzalez was, but it is certainly fair to think that he should at least be a serviceable and occasionally good starter. The player that Toilolo is in 2014 might only be a sample of the player he could grow into.

Toilolo has tools to work with, particularly his size and athleticism. He could make a very good target over the middle with more ability to stretch a defense down the seam than Gonzalez did in his time in Atlanta. That was exactly where Toilolo excelled at doing in his days at Stanford when he was catching passes from Andrew Luck.

Toilolo also can be a big factor in the red zone. This was an ability that the Falcons took advantage of on occasion during his rookie season in 2013, but certainly not to the liking that I would have preferred. But the team will likely have a lot more opportunities in 2014.

Read more…

Categories: Features Tags: , ,

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 68 “Go Blame Thomas Dimitroff!”

June 12th, 2014 Comments off

Allen and I are back with our friend Steve Cohen to discuss the Atlanta Falcons offseason and the latest happenings in OTAs. We discuss the injuries to Julio Jones, Zeke Motta and Levine Toilolo; what role will Devonta Freeman and Antone Smith have at running back; trade rumors surrounding Oakland Raiders wide receiver Denarius Moore; the Falcons front office’s aggressiveness with making moves at the end of training camp; competition featuring Dwight Lowery vs. Dezmen Southward; whether Desmond Trufant could be used as a shadow corner; recent quarterback contracts around the league and the NBA Finals. The podcast ends with Allen and my live reactions to news of Sean Weatherspoon’s season-ending injury.

Episode 68 – Go Blame Thomas Dimitroff! [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 22 minutes

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

Steve can be found on twitter: @SteveInBrooklyn

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! For Android users, DoubleTwist is a good app to listen as well. You can also subscribe directly to our feed at the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/falcfans/LXSt

Draft Needs: Is Levine Toilolo Ready to Start?

April 28th, 2014 Comments off

The Atlanta Falcons are certain to add a tight end in next month’s 2014 NFL Draft. It’s not a question of if, but rather when.

That is purely based off the fact that Toilolo is the most experienced tight end on the roster, and he’s only been in the league one season. Mickey Shuler entered the league in 2010 and played six games with the Miami Dolphins that year, but hasn’t played a snap since. Toilolo played in every game as a rookie in 2013. Between the two of them, they have a combined 13 catches in the NFL.

They are tasked with replacing the greatest tight end in NFL history by the name of Tony Gonzalez. Impossible shoes to fill, but the Falcons will be certain to provide a little extra help in the draft.

In fact, the void for Gonzalez is so large, that the Falcons could presumably draft two tight ends and wouldn’t even come close to filling it.

Toilolo was a forgotten man for large chunks of 2013. Even when the Falcons went with a young movement in the final month of 2013 at several other positions, Toilolo’s playing time stayed about the same. The team knew that Gonzalez was set to retire, and trying to mix in Toilolo to get more reps to see if he could be an adequate replacement made a ton of sense at the time. Yet they chose not to do so.

That raises questions about how much confidence the team has in Toilolo. Last year, they had every reason to play him and did not. If that lack of confidence carries over into 2014, it signals that the team will make a significant addition at tight end to upgrade not only their depth, but also to add someone that can challenge Toilolo as a starter.

If that is the case, it would seem the second day is a likely point in the draft where they could address this position. Particularly if the player the team targets is supposed to contribute as a pass-catcher. The premium at the tight end position remains guys that can make plays in the passing game as those guys get snatched up quickly in the early rounds of any draft.

If the Falcons want someone that can be a reliable option for Matt Ryan in the passing game, they may be hard-pressed to find him after the third or fourth round.

Not only could the team be looking for someone that can help as a pass-catcher, but also a player as a blocker. If the Falcons deemphasize the fullback position, as previously postulated, they will need to shore up their depth at tight end. If the Falcons are going to use more two tight-end sets, then they need to have at least three they trust can play.

So even if the Falcons were to take a tight end in the second or third round, it would not be surprising if they double-dipped at the position and took someone that can block later in the draft. It’s notable that since the team traded for Gonzalez, most of the tight ends added to the roster have been known primarily as blockers: Toilolo, Shuler, Michael Palmer, Tommy Gallarda, Adam Nissley, Andrew Szczerba.

It suggests a preference for the traditional “Y” tight end that lines up beside a tackle and is asked to block inline rather than the “H” tight end that can be flexed out as a receiver or lines up in the backfield. So even if the team adds a pass catcher early in the draft, it would not be surprising if that prospect also has extensive experience as an inline blocker.

Categories: Draft Central Tags: , ,

Draft Needs: Do the Falcons Need to Draft a Fullback?

April 28th, 2014 Comments off

When the Atlanta Falcons opted to release the oft-injured Bradie Ewing this offseason, it certainly created a void at the fullback position. That void is currently filled by Patrick DiMarco, who was serviceable in the absence of Ewing last season. But is DiMarco capable of filling that void in 2014 and beyond?

The Falcons certainly will add fullbacks to bolster competition in camp, but the question remains whether they will draft one.

I’ve outlined in the past why drafting fullbacks has garnered little value for NFL teams over the years. My research shows that drafting a fullback adds marginal value over signing one as an undrafted free agent.

Could the team afford to wait until after the draft before addressing the position? The research says it would be prudent. But it’s understandable that given so many picks the team would be hard-pressed to not address a vacancy at fullback with one of them.

But whether or not the Falcons feel compelled to add that player could depend on whether they address another position early in the draft: tight end.

The team certainly has a need at tight end, and if they are successful in using a high pick on the position, that player is going to be expected to play quite a bit as a rookie. Thus it would appear the Falcons could transition to using more two tight end sets with a rookie and Levine Toilolo. That transition would deemphasize the fullback’s role in the offense, and thus make it a little less necessary to draft one later.

Categories: Draft Central Tags: , , ,

Takeaways from Last Week – April 28, 2014

April 28th, 2014 Comments off
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Ed Werder kicked off a firestorm this past week

The buzz this past week centered around whether the Atlanta Falcons would trade up for South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.

This isn’t anything new if you’ve been around the Falcons for the past few months. Clowney has been on the tip of every Falcon fan’s tongue since November when it was clear the team would finish the year with a poor and subsequently a high first-round draft pick. Would it be high enough for the team to get Clowney? That question fractured the fan base into two groups: the tankers and the anti-tankers. The former group wanted the Falcons to lose as many games as possible to secure the highest possible draft pick, while the latter group wanted to see their beloved Falcons scrap it out and finish the 2013 season as strongly as possible.

Two guesses as to which group I fell into.

But now the media is a few months late to the party. I first began writing about trading up for Clowney during February’s Combine. But soon afterward, things went by the wayside and the Falcons went back to where they’ve been for most of the franchise’s existence: obscurity and irrelevance.

But now that rumors that the Houston Texans are keen on moving back from their No. 1 overall selection, the Falcons are now thrust back into the limelight. Given the team’s recent history for bold draft-day moves, their open admiration of Clowney, it makes perfect sense to link them as the likeliest trade partner for the Texans.

And now we find the fan base once again fractured into two groups: those that want the Falcons to do whatever is necessary to get a talent like Clowney, and those wishing the avoid Clowney like the plague. We’ll call them traders and anti-traders.

However, that’s probably an over-generalization. Instead, the majority of Falcons fans would probably be very interested in acquiring Clowney, but are cautious about the amount of compensation a trade with the Texans or any other team at the top of the draft the Falcons would require.

Clowney Adds Significant Talent to Falcons Defense Read more…

What if Falcons Focused on Offense in 2014 Draft?

April 17th, 2014 1 comment

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Greg Robinson (73) and Tre Mason could form the cornerstones of the Falcons 2014 draft class

What if the Atlanta Falcons decided to devote the bulk of their early-round 2014 NFL Draft picks to improving and solidifying the offense rather than the defense?

I should have prefaced that question by stating this is more of a thought exercise than any sort of formal proposal.

But one reason why the Falcons might decide to focus on offense because relative to the defense, it seems a lot closer to being elite.

The Falcons defense needs help at all three levels. While the pass rush is the most glaring issue on that side of the ball, the team also needs to shore up depth at several positions including linebacker and safety. And it’s not as if one pass-rusher is going fix the area, as any top-level pass rush has multiple playmakers that can consistently get pressure on the quarterback.

On offense the Falcons already made a big improvement to their offensive line by signing guard Jon Asamoah in free agency. They also added speedster Devin Hester to help at wide receiver and on special teams. But they could use more help.

Read more…

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 58 “Is Matt Ryan Elite? Regardless Get Clowney!”

February 19th, 2014 Comments off

I was joined by long-time Atlanta Falcons fan and season ticket holder Danny Lanier to discuss whether quarterback Matt Ryan is elite and if he’s not, then what he and/or the team need to do in order for him to take that next step. We discuss the lack of signature moments for Ryan as a pro and Danny questions whether the team needs to refocus its identity around improving the defense by acquiring a trascendent star. I wonder if Ryan is too cerebral and compare the Falcons’ 2013 season to their playoff loss to the New York Giants in 2011. Danny weighs in on his thoughts on the Falcons planned personal seat licenses (PSLs) at the new stadium, as well as whether Ryan could benefit from the departure of Tony Gonzalez. We both give our expectations for the upcoming season at the end of the episode.

Episode 58: Is Matt Ryan Elite? Regardless Get Clowney! [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 18 minutes

Danny wrote a pair of articles for the Falcholic which can be found here:

Feb. 4: Has the Super Bowl Window Already Closed on Matt Ryan and the Falcons?
Feb. 10: So…What Does Matt Ryan Need To Do To Become an “Elite” QB?

And don’t forget Allen Strk 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