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FalcFans Weekly – April 27, 2014

April 27th, 2014 Comments off

Much of the news surrounding the Atlanta Falcons this week centered on rumors about whether the team would trade up for South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Reports swarmed that the Falcons could swap picks with the Houston Texans, who hold the No. 1 overall selection in the 2014 draft.

On Friday, Clowney worked out for the team in what wasn’t quite a normal workout, rather a biomechanical “force plate” test. Pro Football Talk has the scoop on what exactly went down. It appears that the test used on Clowney is far from a new development with the Falcons.

Vaughn McClure of ESPN indicates that the Falcons won’t make the trade up. D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC is also suggesting that a trade up isn’t smart on the Falcons behalf as it may be a smokescreen.

In a related article, CBS Sports’ Will Brinson writes about the economics of trading up for the No. 1 pick.

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The 2014 regular season schedule was also announced this week, and the Falcons are set to open up the season at home against their biggest rival, the New Orleans Saints. The war of words has already begun as Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan had some choice words for the Falcons offensive line.

When it comes to the Falcons-Saints matchup on September 7, in the immortal worlds of Bart Scott, “Can’t wait!

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Podcast co-host Allen Strk analyzes the schedule for Pro Football Spot.

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The Falcons offseason program began this week. Mike Smith, Matt Ryan, Sean Weatherspoon and William Moore all spoke to the media on Tuesday and Wednesday and the official site provides the video.
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FalcFans Weekly – April 6, 2014

April 6th, 2014 Comments off
F. Medina-US PRESSWIRE

William Moore

Potential Atlanta Falcons newcomer and safety Rafael Bush appears very keen on joining the team. The Falcons signed Bush to an offer sheet this week as a restricted free agent, giving his former team, the New Orleans Saints until April 8 to match or let him become a Falcon. Bush is still friends with Falcons safety William Moore, from their days with the team back in 2010-11, and is the strongest candidate should he join the Falcons to replace Thomas DeCoud at free safety.

Blogging Dirty’s Jake Bennett has a nice write-up about how Bush’s addition can benefit the Falcons.

And speaking of Moore, he apparently now has a chip on his shoulder in regards to the contract the Saints gave Jairus Byrd this offseason.

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Vaughn McClure of ESPN has an excellent piece on how defensive tackle Paul Soliai’s contract came to be in Atlanta with a  candid discussion with his agent David Canter.

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McClure also shares insights into center Peter Konz, who has been working hard to improve this offseason. Konz has added some muscle and took to heart the final words of tight end Tony Gonzalez, when he addressed the team before the regular season finale against the Carolina Panthers.

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Takeaways from Last Week – March 10, 2014

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

Jon Asamoah

This weekend the NFL instituted it’s second “legal tampering” signing period, allowing free agents to begin negotiating with prospective teams before the official free agency period starts on Tuesday afternoon, March 11.

Already the Atlanta Falcons have been linked to a number of potential free agents, including guard Jon Asamoah, safety Mike Mitchell, and cornerback Champ Bailey.

But the Asamoah linkage seems strongest with multiple outside sources indicating that the Falcons interest in Asamoah is high.

While I like Asamoah quite a bit as a player, I’m not sure that he is a good fit in Atlanta. But apparently it seems like I’m in the minority in that regards.

As for Caplan’s assessment, I would have to respectfully disagree. Asamoah is a player that ideally fits in a zone-heavy blocking scheme because he’s very athletic, but not overly powerful.

The Falcons have incorporated more zone-blocking into their ground attack under offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter the past two years, but still primarily a man-blocking team.

The Falcons have made an effort to emphasize size with their line acquisitions in recent years, evidenced by additions like Terren Jones, Lamar Holmes, Phillipkeith Manley and Peter Konz the past few years since Koetter joined the team. If you’re trying to be an offense that features a lot of zone-blocking, targeting plus-sized linemen, many of whom weigh in excess of 330 pounds is largely counterintuitive.

And the lines that Mike Tice and Wade Harman coached in Chicago and Baltimore respectively emphasized size and/or man-blocking.

Could the team’s interest in Asamoah suggest a shift in their blocking? Perhaps, but more than likely the answer is no.

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Team Needs: Falcons Need More Athletes at Linebacker

February 6th, 2014 1 comment

Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Joplo Bartu

The adversity the Atlanta Falcons faced at linebacker in 2013 should benefit the team in 2014.

The team was without stalwarts Stephen Nicholas and Sean Weatherspoon for much of last season. Nicholas dealt with injuries in training camp, and ultimately lost his job as the team looked at younger, more athletic options in Joplo Bartu at strong-side linebacker position. Weatherspoon missed most of the regular season with an injury, and it thrust Paul Worrilow into the limelight after a promising summer.

Both undrafted rookies, Bartu and Worrilow, got a wealth of experience playing significant roles with the team in 2013. So much so that it is very likely that both will open up this offseason in starting roles with Bartu manning the strong side and Worrilow starting in the middle as Weatherspoon resumes his duties at weak-side linebacker.

Now Nicholas has since been released, and the team is searching to upgrade their depth at linebacker. Particularly in Bartu, the Falcons finally got another “plus” athlete on the roster besides Weatherspoon, and needs to continue that trend into 2014. Nicholas could once be described that, but time and age really started to catch up to him in 2012 where he was continually abused by opposing tight ends. Despite the upgrade in terms of athleticism from Bartu, the Falcons still struggled to check opposing tight ends in 2013. But one hope is that with a year’s worth of experience under his belt, there will be improvement from Bartu moving forward.

Worrilow was so good as Weatherspoon’s replacement at weak-side linebacker that he eventually replaced Akeem Dent as the team’s starting middle linebacker roughly a third of the way through the season. While Dent did show improvement after a lackluster 2012 season, his limited speed, range, and coverage ability just proved to be too much of a liability. While not the world’s greatest athlete himself, Worrilow proved an upgrade in those areas. But more importantly, he was a far more instinctual defender in his first season in Atlanta than Dent had showed in three years. But Dent is expected to return and help out on special teams, an area where he’s excelled at in the past, and add depth in the middle.

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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 55 “2013 Awards Extravaganza!”

January 14th, 2014 1 comment

Allen and I get together once again to discuss our choices for various awards stemming from the Atlanta Falcons 2013 season. Included are our choices for the team’s most valuable player, offensive and defensive players of the year, most improved player, biggest disappointment, and most underrated and overrated players among several other individual honors. During the course of our discussion, I explain my hatred for Harry Douglas for the umpteenth time, and also where I rank Matt Ryan among the league’s top quarterbacks following his play in 2013. After divvying out our awards, we get into a discussion about the winners and losers from the second round of the playoffs, as well as our expectations for the upcoming conference championship games.

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 55 2013 Awards Extravaganza! [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 18 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

Weatherspoon, Rodgers Out vs. Panthers

December 27th, 2013 Comments off

The Atlanta Falcons announced their injury report earlier today with linebacker Sean Weatherspoon and running back Jacquizz Rodgers being listed as out with knee and concussion injuries, respectively. Neither player will suit up this weekend to face the Carolina Panthers in the team’s 2013 regular season finale. Weatherspoon missed his second week of practice with the same knee injury, having missed last week’s loss against the San Francisco 49ers despite being listed as questionable then. Rodgers suffered his concussion in the 49ers game, and was also held out of practice this week.

Likely replacing Weatherspoon will be Stephen Nicholas, who got his most extensive playing time of the year last week against the 49ers. Rodgers serves as the team’s primary kickoff returner and top backup at running back. In both duties he is expected to be replaced by fellow running back Jason Snelling. Snelling did return one kick for 23 yards following Rodgers’ exit from the 49ers game.

Also listed on the team’s injury report is wide receiver Darius Johnson (ankle) as questionable.  Johnson was limited all three days of practice this week after missing every practice last week and the 49ers game. He will likely be replaced by Drew Davis if he is unable to go on Sunday.

Like Johnson, tight end Tony Gonzalez was limited all week with a toe injury but he is listed as probable. Gonzalez has been nursing his toe injury since Week 10, the last time he fully participated in one of the team’s practice. But he has yet to miss a game this year, and Sunday will mark his final game after a 17-year NFL career since he is expected to retire this offseason.

Cornerback Robert Alford (ankle) and offensive lineman Peter Konz (neck) were also listed as probable. Alford was limited on Wednesday and Thursday, but returned to fully participate in Friday’s practice. Konz was able to go fully in all three days of practice this week.

Notable injuries for the Carolina Panthers include wide receiver Steve Smith (knee), running back Jonathan Stewart (knee), and defensive tackle Colin Cole (calf). All three are listed as out this week. Quarterback Cam Newton (ankle) is listed as probable, as he was able to fully participate in practice this week.

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 51 “A Weird, Bad Team”

December 11th, 2013 Comments off

Allen and I discuss the Atlanta Falcons Week 14 loss to the Green Bay Packers, as well as preview their Week 15 matchup against the Washington Redskins. Some of the topics hit this week include: my newfound hatred for Harry Douglas, Mike Smith’s fourth down decision making, Corey Peters’ sack dance, debut of Zeke Motta, Paul Worrilow and Sean Weatherspoon’s play at linebacker, Jonathan Massaquoi’s improvement, Steven Jackson’s expendability, and Dirk Koetter’s potential departure. As usual, we discuss the rest of the league as well, including the Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, Carolina Panthers, Seattle Seahawks, and Rob Gronkowski’s injury.

Episode 51: A Weird, Bad Team [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 16 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 14 Review

December 10th, 2013 Comments off

A very disappointing finish to a game with a promising start for the Atlanta Falcons.

The offense never really looked comfortable in the cold of Lambeau Field against the Green Bay Packers. The Falcons offense reverted back to the conservative, dinking and dunking of previous weeks (as opposed to last week’s win), and there was only one instance where the Falcons took a shot downfield before the fourth quarter. Sure, you can partially blame the cold and wind (although it wasn’t that windy) that limited how much the Falcons could let things fly, but I’ve long said that the link between this offense scoring and generating big plays is significant. And they simply didn’t have many in this game (just two before the final minute), which is why the offense really only had one successful drive. And it’s not a coincidence that both of their big plays came on that drive. It boils down to the fact that the team did not try hard enough to get those big plays.

I don’t think Matt Ryan had a great game. I saw too many throws that were off the mark, but I’ll partially blame the weather for some of that. I also didn’t like that Ryan seemed to be staring down his initial read quite a bit in this game, which was often Roddy White. White had a good game, so for the most part it didn’t hurt Ryan too much. But it did on the final play where he forced a throw to Harry Douglas, when he potentially had Darius Johnson open on the other side. Johnson was singled up in coverage, and had Ryan made a good throw on that play, it potentially could have set up a very long field goal (likely 53-55 yards) that could have won it rather than the pick.

I don’t want to sound like I’m blaming Ryan for the loss, but it was a rather nondescript performance from him. I thought he had fairly good protection. The Packers started to use more stunts at the end of the game once they realized that Peter Konz and Ryan Schraeder couldn’t handle them. It was one such stunt that disrupted the throw with 21 seconds left on the play preceding the infamous Douglas drop. I thought Schraeder handled himself relatively well since it was his most extensive playing time. The sack he gave up to Mike Neal was a result of just bad technique and footwork. I don’t see any reason why Trueblood should get his job back at this point.

Peter Konz is simply a liability at right guard. When you’re getting beat by a speed rush from B.J. Raji, it tells me you have no business playing guard. I think it’s time the Falcons gave Harland Gunn a look over these last three games.

Lamar Holmes had his share of struggles against Clay Matthews with all of his hurries coming against him. Joe Hawley had a nice block downfield on the 22-yard run by Steven Jackson, and Justin Blalock was his usual solid, but unspectacular self.

I could say some negative things about Douglas and his drop at the end of the game, but I’d just be repeating myself.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Matt Ryan$12$0$0$0$0$0$12.00
Steven Jackson$0$7-$1$0$0$0$6.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$2$4$0$0$0$6.00
Roddy White$0$0$5$1$0$0$5.00
Drew Davis$0$0$4$0$0$0$4.00
Joe Hawley$0$0$0$3$0$0$3.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$1$1$0$0$2.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Lamar Holmes$0$0$0$1$0-$1$0.00
Peter Konz$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Jeremy Trueblood$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Harry Douglas$0$0-$1$0$0$0-$1.00
Ryan Schraeder$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00

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Moneyball 2013 – Week 13 Review

December 10th, 2013 Comments off

Sorry for the delay in posting this, I was traveling last week for my day job and procrastinated over the weekend which prevented me from watching the All-22 of the Bills game until this morning. It shouldn’t happen again.

The big takeaway from this game was how aggressive the Falcons were offensively. They took multiple shots down the field, with 11 passes thrown beyond 15 yards and four passes thrown beyond 20 yards. That included four deep throws in the first half, which is a significant increase from previous weeks where the Falcons typically only started to throw down the field after they got behind in games in the second half.

Matt Ryan was able to hit those deep shots to Roddy White, who was able to make contested catches in traffic. I noticed quite a bit how little separation all of the Falcons receivers were able to get against the Bills defensive backs. But White and Tony Gonzalez, to a lesser extent, were able to make those grabs while Harry Douglas was not. This was a very frustrating watch in regards to Douglas, who just seems unable to make any grabs in traffic or whenever he is asked to extend away from his body. The notion that he and Ryan have a strong rapport, judging from this game alone, sounds ridiculous. For a pair of players that have been playing together for five years, Ryan doesn’t seem to ever be able to put the ball in the “sweet spot” where Douglas may be able to catch it like he seemingly does with his other targets. It’s like the conversation they have walking back to the huddle after another incomplete pass is this:

Ryan: “I thought you were going to dive/jump/extend for that one.”
Douglas: “Oh sorry, I didn’t know.”

Although the argument I’d probably make is that there isn’t a sweet spot for Douglas.

It’s going to be so laughable a year from now when the Falcons are overpaying Douglas when Darius Johnson is perfectly capable of filling his role for one-seventh the cost. If you’re going to pay someone to struggle to make contested catches in traffic, might as well pay 14 cents as opposed to a dollar.

Douglas really botched up that late scoring drive in the fourth quarter with his penalty for removing the helmet of Aaron Williams on a block, but got gifted a pass interference call on Nickell Robey on the next play. Yes, Robey was grabbing him, but it was incidental contact (tangling of the feet) that prevented Douglas from coming back to the ball rather than the “hand checking” that Robey was doing. It was a gift of a call, so you can’t always say that the refs are out to get the Falcons.

About the only positive I can say about Douglas is that he could have scored on that screen in overtime had Justin Blalock made the block against Leodis McKelvin.

The pass protection wasn’t great, but they gave Ryan enough time to make several of the throws he needed. Jeremy Trueblood and Peter Konz really struggled in the second half, giving up multiple hurries. I penalized Ryan on the sack where he tripped, although it was Konz that stepped on his foot. Lamar Holmes had early struggles, with Jerry Hughes and the other Bills ends giving him particularly problems with their speed. Holmes just appeared to be stuck in molasses as there was just neither explosiveness to his movements nor power in his punches. Joe Hawley also did not have a good game, although most of his struggles came when he was matched up against a Bills nose tackle (either Marcell Dareus or Alan Branch), similar to Todd McClure over the years. But there were also a couple of breakdowns in the protections, as a couple of times Bills defenders were able to come unblocked because someone missed an assignment (the first sack by Manny Lawson, and later sack by Corbin Bryant) were two good examples of that. That wasn’t reminiscent of McClure from yesteryear, as the Falcons rarely had such breakdowns due to missed assignments. Breakdowns in the past were simply because guys got beat.

Blalock was the only lineman that I would say played well, although he was credited with 1.5 sacks. One of which was due to a stunt by Hughes, that I split between him and Holmes, mainly because Holmes whiffed and when Blalock tried to clean up his mess, he also missed the block. If I was being technical, I’d probably say that play was 75 percent Holmes’ fault. His other sack came when Bryant came unblocked between him and Holmes, and I think it was a blown assignment as Blalock blocked the inside man. It’s just a guess, but I think that was probably more on Hawley for confusion on what the protection was than Blalock messing up.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Matt Ryan$12$3$0$0$0-$2$13.00
Steven Jackson$0$12$0$0$0$0$12.00
Roddy White$0$0$7$0$0$0$7.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$5$0$0$0$5.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$2$2$0$0$0$4.00
Antone Smith$0$4-$1$0$1$0$4.00
Harry Douglas$0$1$4$0$0-$2$3.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$1.5$0$0$1.50
Darius Johnson$0$0$1$0$0$0$1.00
Jason Snelling$0$0$1$0$0$0$1.00
Levine Toilolo$0$0$1$0$0$0$1.00
Jeremy Trueblood$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Patrick DiMarco$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Joe Hawley$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Peter Konz$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Ryan Schraeder$0$0$0$0$0-$1-$1.00
Lamar Holmes$0$0$0-$1.5$0-$1-$2.50

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Falcons Blow Halftime Lead to Packers in 22-21 Loss

December 8th, 2013 Comments off
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Tony Gonzalez is tackled by a Packers defender.

The Atlanta Falcons blew a halftime lead to lose to the Green Bay Packers 22-21. The Falcons were up 21-10 at the midway point, but were unable to generate any offense in the second half to prevent the Packers comeback. The Falcons have three possessions in the final seven minutes of the fourth quarter to retake the lead and win the game, but failed to capitalize on any of them. Atlanta’s record falls to 3-10 for the 2013 season.

Matt Ryan led the team, completing 20 of 35 passes for 206 yards with a pair of touchdowns and an interception. His interception came on the final offensive play of the game, but had mostly been solid up to that point. Steven Jackson led rushers with 71 yards on 15 carries. Roddy White led receivers with eight catches for 74 yards. Jacquizz Rodgers and Tony Gonzalez each had three receptions for 33 and 25 yards respectively. Gonzalez had a touchdown grab for two yards. Drew Davis caught Ryan’s other touchdown on his lone reception for 36 yards. Matt Bryant missed on his only field goal attempt, a 52-yarder that fell short. Matt Bosher punted four times for an average of 44.5 yards, with two kicks being placed inside the 20-yard line. Robert McClain returned one punt return for eight yards, while Rodgers averaged 21 yards on six kickoff returns. The Falcons started strong on third down conversions, converting four of six in the first half, but finished only converting two of seven in the second half. Atlanta netted only 285 total yards on offense, their second-lowest output of the season.

Defensively, the Falcons gave up 334 total yards, including 112 yards on the ground, marking their tenth consecutive game in which they have given up 100 or more rushing yards to an opponent. The Falcons forced two Packer turnovers, an interception and forced fumble on a sack. The interception resulted in a 71-yard touchdown return for Sean Weatherspoon. Paul Worrilow led the defense with 12 tackles, including one for a loss, 1.5 sacks, and 1 pass deflection. Robert Alford (5 tackles); Malliciah Goodman (1 tackle, 1 fumble recovery); Jonathan Massaquoi (5 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1.5 sacks); Robert McClain (5 tackles); William Moore (6 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble); Zeke Motta (6 tackles); Corey Peters (5 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 sack); Desmond Trufant (5 tackles, 1 tackle for loss); and Weatherspoon (7 tackles, 1 interception, 1 pass deflection) had noteworthy performances.

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