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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.

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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

Team Needs: Toilolo Would Benefit from a Running Mate at Tight End

January 30th, 2014 Comments off
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Levine Toilolo

The Atlanta Falcons will be attempting to move on from the greatest tight end of all time this offseason in Tony Gonzalez, which is rife with challenges.

Obviously the team will struggle to replace the production that Gonzalez has given that position over the past five years, where he combined to catch 409 passes and 35 touchdowns, resulting in the Falcons losing roughly a quarter of their passing production.

While the return of a healthy Julio Jones, and retention of veterans Roddy White and Harry Douglas at wide receiver can help fill some of that void, it will likely lead to a net loss for the Falcons offense with Gonzalez’s departure. Backup Levine Toilolo got limited snaps during his rookie season and it will be a tall order for him to try and fill the void as the starter.

Toilolo during his days at Stanford shined in a two-tight end offense, where a combination of him and players like Zach Ertz and Coby Fleener would attack the seams in Stanford’s run-oriented, vertical offense. Toilolo’s height and length can make him an effective downfield threat because he can extend to catch high passes that most defenders cannot. That height also serves Toilolo well in the red zone, where he was underutilized as a target this past season. Toilolo was targeted six times this past season in the red zone, scoring a pair of touchdowns which was the highest percentage of touchdowns to targets on the Falcons. The underutilization becomes apparent when compared to White and Douglas, who scored just once on 26 combined targets in the red zone in 2013. But Toilolo is by no means a dynamic weapon, since he is more an outlet option than someone that can be the centerpiece of an offense much like Gonzalez was.

That is why the Falcons will need to bolster this position in some way this offseason, whether via the draft or free agency, or both. Chase Coffman is an impending unrestricted free agent and his return at this point is negligible. Coffman has had a few brief moments during his short stint with the Falcons, but essentially is a third tight end and should not be expected to carve out a significantly bigger role in 2014 than he currently has. Instead, the Falcons must turn to other options if they intend to try and fill some of the void left by Gonzalez.

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Categories: Features Tags: , , ,

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 56 “I’d Take Eugene Robinson at the Drop of a Hat!”

January 28th, 2014 Comments off

After a one-week hiatus, Allen and I are back to discuss the Atlanta Falcons team needs. We are joined by Matt Chambers, a writer for the Falcoholic, to rank the Top 6 needs the Falcons need to address this offseason. Later, we discuss some of the key matchups between the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII, as well as other pervasive topics around the league such as Richard Sherman’s rant, the resurgence of the NFC South in 2014, and my thoughts on whether Anthony Barr should be on the Falcons radar at the top of the draft. Warning: This episode contains some explicit NSFW language!

Episode 56: I’d Take Eugene Robinson at the Drop of a Hat! [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 25 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

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 54 “Tony Gonzalez Tribute”

January 7th, 2014 Comments off

Allen and I discuss the G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time): Tony Gonzalez, in ourr tribute to his career as an Atlanta Falcon. We reminisce about our first reactions to the trade that went down in 2009 that brought Gonzalez from Kansas City to Atlanta, our favorite catches and plays over the years, and debate which of the past five seasons was Tony’s best in Atlanta. We also discuss the chances of whether Gonzalez decides not to hang it up and what is the next step for him in retirement. We also discuss the future of the Falcons own tight ends, and whether Levine Toilolo has shown enough to carry the mantle. Afterwards, we get into our ‘Around the League’ section where we discuss the first weekend of playoff action with a good bit on the dramatic Colts-Chiefs matchup, as well as previewing and picking games for this upcoming weekend’s playoff action. This episode does contain some NSFW language!

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 50: Tony Gonzalez Tribute [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 10 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 12

November 25th, 2013 Comments off
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Thomas Dimitroff Will Face Greater Scrutiny in 2014

Last week, Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank gave head coach Mike Smith a vote of confidence. That was followed up on Thursday, with further elaboration that Blank fully intends to bring Smith and GM Thomas Dimitroff back for 2014. Then later on Thursday, the Falcons played their best game since Week 7.

Maybe, Blank should have backed Smith a month ago.

Blank indicated in Silver’s report that regardless of how the Falcons finish this year, the Terrible Twosome in Smith and Dimitroff will be back. I guess that nips my belief that if the Falcons were to finish 2-14 or 3-13 that Smith would be fired. Although never say never. The Falcons could revert back to getting blown out for the final five games, and I think Blank would have to strongly consider making a change.

But truth be told, I don’t want the Falcons to blow things up. Or at least, I don’t want to feel like the Falcons have to blow things up.

What is most concerning about Blank’s comments is that it may lead to this team not making major changes to their “process.”

For the most part over the years, I have backed the so-called “process.” But the problem with the Falcons process is that it represents very little progress.

Complacency, more so than Injuries are Falcons Downfall

The story of this season will center on injuries and complacency. This team has obviously suffered a number of injuries which have limited their ability to field a competitive team. My personal opinion is that the amount of injuries doesn’t explain how uncompetitive this team has been since the bye week, but I’m sure that is going to be what the Falcons chalk their struggles up to this off-season.

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Moneyball 2013 – Week 9 Review

November 5th, 2013 Comments off

Upon further review, Matt Ryan was not as bad as I initially thought.

Obviously, he had the three interceptions and those were not good plays for the Falcons. Two of them were definitely his fault. But one of them I can’t get too mad over. The first interception was on Ryan. He stared down Tony Gonzalez, who tried a double move against Luke Kuechly. Kuechly didn’t bite and Ryan threw it right at him. Because Ryan staring down Gonzalez, the safety left Patrick DiMarco wide open down the sideline. The other interception that was obviously Ryan’s fault was the final one where he tried to throw a quick curl to Drew Davis at the end of the game. The corner read the play the whole way and jumped it.

But I don’t really blame Ryan on the second interception. He could have made a better throw, but it was a good read and a nice anticipatory throw where he threw to a spot. The problem was Harry Douglas was a half-step slow in getting to that spot. Sure, there were a lot of blue jerseys in the vicinity of the throw, but really none of them were in a position to make a play on the throw. The fact that Quintin Mikell was able to get his hand on the throw was sheer luck, more the result of a desperation swipe than because he was in position. Looking back on the play, I have little to no doubt that had that been Roddy White or Julio Jones, they would have caught the ball.

But all that said, it doesn’t mean Ryan played well. I thought he was very tentative in the early going of the game, looking for the checkdown a bit too quickly. On the first third down of the game, he checked down to Steven Jackson, when I think he could have converted on a first down to Douglas. On the opening play of the third possession, he didn’t even look downfield for a throw, just immediately decided to throw to Jacquizz Rodgers in the flat (ultimately for a 1-yard gain). He could have potentially had Douglas on that play on a downfield throw. Also, on the 32-yard pass he threw to Douglas in the third quarter, he under threw him on the out-and-up. It could have been a much bigger gain with better ball placement throwing over Douglas’ outside shoulder.

Other than that play and the 16-yard throw Ryan made over the middle to Douglas that turned in a 41-yard gain thanks to his ability after the catch, I didn’t really see the Falcons try to go deep at all. That was very disappointing after the things I saw last week.

I’m sure you’re noticing how on these missed opportunities, the receiver I’m mentioning is Douglas, and not Davis or Darius Johnson. Well, the obvious reason for that is because neither player really got open. I don’t quite understand why those two receivers are getting so many snaps, while Levine Toilolo is in the single digits. I understand that the playbook that Dirk Koetter developed upon his arrival in Atlanta was going to feature a lot more 3-wide receiver sets due to the presences of White, Jones, and Douglas, alongside Gonzalez. But Jones and White are not playing, and the Falcons need to utilize more two tight end sets. Toilolo is poised to be the incumbent to start at tight end next year, and the Falcons need to find out what they have in him. The Falcons have a fairly good idea what they have in Davis and Johnson: special teamers. But even still, they aren’t in a position where they are going to be logging significant reps anytime soon once this season is over. I know Koetter used to utilize a lot of two-tight end sets during his days at Arizona State, so it’s not like it’s a foreign concept to him. Toilolo played 10 snaps on Sunday, after a combined 15 the two previous weeks. It should be noted that in Jacksonville under Koetter, the No. 2 tight end averaged roughly 20 snaps a game. It makes no sense for Toilolo to be spending so much time on the bench as it’s hurting this team both short-term and long-term.

The offensive line played pretty well. Sam Baker had a solid game in his first back in the lineup. He gave up a hurry on the final drive, but otherwise had a solid game. Lamar Holmes gave up his sack and pressure in the fourth quarter, both to Charles Johnson. You have to give both tackles credit for holding up fairly well against Johnson and Greg Hardy. The interior struggled to block Star Lotulelei one-on-one in the run game, but at times neutralized him with double teams.

I have to give Patrick DiMarco credit, he absolutely destroyed Luke Kuechly on the first play of the fourth quarter. It ultimately was only a one-yard gain by Rodgers on the sweep because he cut it up early, and Peter Konz didn’t maintain his block on Colin Cole. But DiMarco knocked Kuechly silly and that is probably going to be the highlight of his season. Reminded me of Ovie Mughelli in his heyday.

I credited Douglas with the illegal formation that was attributed to Holmes. Douglas wasn’t on the line of scrimmage, while Holmes was.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Steven Jackson$0$8$2$0$0$0$10.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$6$0$0$0$6.00
Matt Ryan$6$0$0$0$0$0$6.00
Harry Douglas$0$0$4$0$0-$1$3.00
Garrett Reynolds$0$0$0$3$0-$1$2.00
Sam Baker$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$2$1$0$0-$2$1.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Patrick DiMarco$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Darius Johnson$0$0$1$0$0$0$1.00
Peter Konz$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Lamar Holmes$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00

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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

Moneyball 2013 – Week 7 Review

October 22nd, 2013 Comments off

It was a solid win for the Atlanta Falcons over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Falcons really needed to come out strong after their bye week to get their season back on track.

But after watching the tape, I’m not as impressed with this win as I was initially on Sunday. It’s clear that the Bucs are simply a bad team, and while the Falcons are better, I certainly won’t say that they are a good team. The Bucs really hurt themselves with a bunch of penalties and missed opportunities. While it didn’t reach as bad as their infamous performance in Week 17 of 2011 under Radio Raheem, it’s inching closer to that point. While the Falcons controlled this game from start to finish, the Bucs never took advantage of the numerous opportunities they had to get back into this game. In the end, the Falcons won a game that they should have won, but it doesn’t inspire me with a ton of confidence going forward that the team is going to play significantly better in the coming weeks as they did before the bye.

Despite excellent numbers, Matt Ryan was more solid than spectacular. He made several very good throws, but it seemed like the Falcons had a fairly conservative gameplan in the early going. The Bucs had a couple of breakdowns in the secondary that led to some big plays early such as the two to Harry Douglas in the second quarter. While Douglas gets credit for making the plays, it really was a terrible play on the ball by Leonard Johnson on the 54-yard pass and a blown assignment on Mark Barron on the 37-yard touchdown that are more responsible for those plays more than anything Douglas did in particular.

The key for Ryan was that he got good pass protection throughout the game. While the Falcons weren’t spotless up front, the fact that they allowed no sacks, one pressure, and only four hurries the entire game made all the difference. Lamar Holmes looked his best thus far this year, but then again any decent NFL starter should look fairly good going up against Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, Trevor Scott, and Adrian Clayborn. The Falcons did a solid job keeping Gerald McCoy in relative check, as he only had one pressure (vs. Holmes), one hit (vs. Blalock), and one hurry (vs. Reynolds). The Bucs tried to dial up some blitzes, and the Falcons did a fairly solid job picking it up. With time to throw, Ryan was able to locate receivers, particularly Douglas. But so much of the Falcons offense seemed to be devoted to underneath throws to Douglas and Jacquizz Rodgers, with five screens to the latter including the one for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

The running game was very ineffectual, although that was because the blocking was poor up front as nobody really got any push against the Bucs front. Lavonte David was a force against the run, and accounted for both of Peter Konz’s missed blocks in the first quarter.

I noticed the Falcons barely used Levine Toilolo throughout the game, and he got no snaps in the red zone. That was very disappointing given how effective he’s been there the past three games. I’m not sure there’s a good reason why Brian Robiskie and Drew Davis are getting snaps in the red zone, and Toilolo is not.

I know I sound negative, but truthfully the Falcons did what they needed to do, nothing more. The backup receivers in Darius Johnson and Davis, each made nice plays, but considering how many snaps they got, the fact that they really only had 2 catches isn’t very promising. Considering the low expectations however, I can’t complain too much. I’ll just say that I’m very much looking forward to the day that Roddy White is back in the lineup.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLK
ST
PEN
TOTALS
Matt Ryan$13$0$0$0$0-$1$12.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$2$9$1$0$0$12.00
Harry Douglas$0$0$9$0$0-$1$8.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$3$0$0$0$3.00
Jason Snelling$0$3$0$0$0$0$3.00
Garrett Reynolds$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Jeremy Trueblood$0$0$0$2$0-$1$1.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Drew Davis$0$0$1$0$0$0$1.00
Darius Johnson$0$0$1$0$0$0$1.00
Antone Smith$0$0$0$0$1$0$1.00
Joe Hawley$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Lamar Holmes$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Peter Konz$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00

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How the Falcons Offense Matches Up against the Bucs Defense

October 19th, 2013 Comments off
Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Harry Douglas Will Need a Big Week 7

The desperate Atlanta Falcons take on the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a battle that will decide who resides in the basement of the NFC South division as the loser will reside in last place.

One of the bright spots for the Bucs this season has been their defense, which has played well despite their inability to win a game. The Falcons will be playing with a depleted offense this week, thanks to injuries to top wideouts in Julio Jones and Roddy White, as well as missing running back Steven Jackson for the fourth consecutive game. The Falcons are forced to dig deep in order to find a way to attack this Buccaneer defense.

How the Bucs decide to deploy their defense could really impact how the Falcons offense operates. The addition of cornerback Darrelle Revis has really enhanced a Bucs secondary that was among the worst in the league in 2012. The past two weeks Falcons opponents have opted to bracket and double Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez alongside Jones. Now with Jones out of the mix, it will mean Gonzalez will be the focus of the Falcons offense and opposing defense. The Bucs would be smart to try and have Revis shadow Gonzalez throughout the day whenever possible. But that will require the Bucs to ask to play Revis more inside. While Revis is capable, it will mean that the Bucs will have to make significant adjustments to their defense. If the Bucs choose to do that, a way the Falcons can attack him is by lining Gonzalez up as an inline tight end and trying to run directly at him. In the passing game, the Falcons can try to group their receivers in trips sets and try to create confusion in the Bucs secondary.

If not and the Bucs try a more traditional defense, it will feature a lot of using their safeties, Mark Barron and Dashon Goldson, against Gonzalez. The Bucs haven’t faced many top tight ends this year besides Jimmy Graham in Week 2. Graham proceeded to catch 10 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown, leading the Saints receivers. If that is the case, it’s clear that Gonzalez has the ability to exploit that matchup favorably for the Falcons offensive attack.

If Revis is shadowing Gonzalez, then it will leave the Falcons other receivers on islands against the Bucs lesser defensive backs. Starting cornerback Johnthan Banks has had his ups and downs this year as a rookie. But he could match up favorably against a receiver like Harry Douglas, who will be the de facto No. 1 receiver for the Falcons. Douglas isn’t very big, and Banks has good size to be an effective press corner. If the Bucs opt to employ Banks to try and press Douglas on the outside, then it will be hard for sixth-year wideout to get off the line of scrimmage and be effective. The Falcons could mitigate that some by putting Douglas mostly in the slot away from Banks, and against the smaller, less physical Leonard Johnson, the Bucs’ normal slot corner. If Revis is freed up from shadowing Gonzalez, then Douglas will be hard-pressed to get open against one of the league’s premier cornerbacks. The Falcons will try and find ways to feature Douglas with most of the defensive attention going towards Gonzalez. Douglas is at his best on shorter, quicker routes that are designed to get him in space and make us of his speed and explosiveness after the catch. The Falcons may try some screens with Douglas and shallow crossing patterns to try and feature this ability.

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