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Posts Tagged ‘Weatherspoon’

2013 Key Player: Akeem Dent

June 28th, 2013 Comments off
US PRESSWIRE

Akeem Dent

Last season linebacker Akeem Dent got the opportunity to replace long-time starting middle linebacker Curtis Lofton. He didn’t exactly run away with that opportunity. Dent was the focus of many of my game reviews, noting several times how much he was struggling to impact against the run in 2012. That is going to have to change in 2013.

This upcoming season is going to be an important career marker for Dent. It’s likely going to be the year where shows enough that he could be counted on to become a significant contributor for the Falcons for years to come or one where he shows himself to be relegated to becoming a role player.

Dent does not have to come out and be an elite middle linebacker in 2013. But he does need to show significant improvement from a year ago. Dent struggled to make plays when the Falcons utilized their base package last year. He appeared in less than half (48.5%) of the team’s total defensive snaps last year (according to Pro Football Focus).

That led to the Falcons overuse of strongside linebacker Stephen Nicholas, whose Pro Football Focus coverage rating was the fifth-worst among all linebackers. Dent should be in a prime position to take reps from Nicholas. Dent is more athletic and has better hips than Nicholas. While Dent is no coverage maven, he should be an upgrade physically. The key will be the mental aspect of the position however.

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Categories: Features Tags: , ,

OTAs: Day 7 Report

June 12th, 2013 Comments off

The media once again had access to the first of four days of the Falcons third and final offseason team activities. The Falcons will have a mandatory minicamp starting next week on June 18:

  • As mentioned earlier, Desmond Trufant returned to practice today. He and fellow rookie Robert Alford were able to get extra reps due to the excused absence of veteran cornerback Asante Samuel today. Trufant at left corner, Alford at right, and both Robert McClain and Dominique Franks manning the slot. Matt Ryan was impressed with the Falcons top pick.
  • Speaking of Ryan isn’t too concerned over his looming contract status.

    You know what, I leave that to my agents and the front office. Those guys will get that stuff done.

  • Absent at today’s session were Samuel, as mentioned previously, Tony Gonzalez, and Levine Toilolo. Toilolo is expected to join the team tomorrow. Meanwhile, Chase Coffman stepped in for Gonzalez at tight end with the Falcons starters. Sean Weatherspoon and Stephen Nicholas still look to be on schedule to return for next week’s minicamps.
  • Steven Jackson has improved his diet to try and defeat Father Time. Sounds like his plans are to be a “finisher” for the Falcons with most of his work on the ground coming in the fourth quarter. He’s focused on getting on the same page with Ryan in the passing game for the no-huddle offense earlier in games.
  • Matt Ryan seems to admit the offensive line is a work in progress, but that strides are being made. And it looks like they might be incorporating more tempo which I suggested the other day.

 

Trufant returns; Maponga out til training camp

June 11th, 2013 Comments off

Jay Adams of Atlanta Falcons.com reports that Falcons head coach Mike Smith updated the status of three rookies today at the team’s OTA session. Top pick and cornerback Desmond Trufant was able to participate in his first Falcon practice due to the graduation of students at the University of Washington. Tight end Levine Toilolo is expected to join the team tomorrow. Smith also indicated that rookie defensive end Stansly Maponga is expected to be out until training camp, as he recovers from offseason surgery on his broken foot/ankle.

Trufant had been trying to keep up with the team by speaking with defensive backs coach Tim Lewis via Skype due to his absence away from the team due to league rules indicating that rookies can’t join their teams until after their respective schools graduate. Toilolo’s absence has been for similar reasons.

In other injury news, linebackers Stephen Nicholas (sports hernia) and Sean Weatherspoon (knee) appear to be on track to re-join the team for mandatory practices next week. That had been the target date since their injuries were announced.

Falcons Super Bowl Window is Small

June 7th, 2013 Comments off
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

White hopes his next big celebration includes a Lombardi Trophy

Falcons receiver Roddy White made recent headlines with comments that the time is now for the Falcons to win a Super Bowl. I for one am not a person that typically agrees with many of the public utterings made by White, but in this case he’s 100% correct.

The Falcons do have a small window of opportunity to “get over the hump” and try and win a Super Bowl. While the powers that be in Flowery Branch probably won’t say as much publicly, the truth is in their actions.

And by actions, just look at the team they’ve constructued. While it wouldn’t be accurate to say the Falcons are “all in” for a Super Bowl in 2013, they certainly are for the next two seasons.

Don’t agree? Well, here’s a thinking exercise… Name the Falcons current ten best players. Go ahead, I’ll give you a minute.

Okay done? Here’s probably the list you came up with, or very close to it…

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Takeaways from Last Week – June 3

June 3rd, 2013 Comments off

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

2013 Could be a Make or Break year for both Dent and Spoon

We’re entering the “dark time” of the NFL calendar where there isn’t a whole lot going on. Teams are conducting minicamps and OTAs and it’s the season of hype. Media members talk up this new free agent or rookie, or that new assistant coach or coordinator, and how it’s going to pay big dividends for their respective team. Sometimes it does, but most times it does not.

Teams have got to sell tickets, and it doesn’t feel right putting down hundreds of your hard-earned dollars for an inferior product. So they have to sell you on how your team’s product is going to be superior and merit that investment. For good teams like the Falcons, that means talking up Super Bowl possibilities. For mid-level teams like say the Panthers, it means talking up playoff potential. For cellar-dwelling teams that are rebuilding like the Raiders, it’s usually about how management has things moving in the right direction.

I apologize for my cynicism, but I can’t help it. For whatever reason, it’s always the month of June where I get the most skeptical, pessimistic, and negative about the upcoming season. Maybe it’s the freshness of the draft starts to wear off, and now we sit in this lull waiting for training camp to come around. Maybe it’s just my impatience making me bitter. No different than waiting in an overly long line to get into a store or venue, and beginning to wonder if the product or event is really worth all this fuss. This is why I don’t shop on Black Friday.

I think it’s also because I have a tendency to be contrarian. Not to extreme measures, but if you have a certain viewpoint, I enjoy exploring the opposite viewpoint. I was never on the debate team in high school, but I think I probably would have enjoyed it. You think Player A is going to have a breakout year for B and C reasons, well then I’ll start to think about D and E reasons why you’re wrong.

Speaking of breakout candidates, I’m actually not sure if I can think of many for the Falcons this year. At least no one I’m really confident is poised for a big 2013 season. I’m sure there is going to be a player a lot like Robert McClain, that sort of comes out of nowhere and becomes a key contributor for the team. But I can’t really wager a guess because it really comes from nowhere.

But there are a number of Falcon players that I hope have breakout years and really become big-time contributors in 2013.

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OTAs: Day 1 Report

May 29th, 2013 Comments off

Technically it’s the second day, but this is the first day that media have been covering things.

  • So the biggest news from the day is that Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez were absent from these these voluntary workouts. So was Desmond Trufant, who is finishing school at the University of Washington. But he’s apparently putting in the extra work by contacting coaches via Skype. Levine Toilolo is also finishing up his schoolwork at Stanford.
  • As reported earlier, linebackers Sean Weatherspoon (knee), Stephen Nicholas (sports hernia), and rookie end Stansly Maponga (foot/ankle) were held out of practices today due to their recoveries from off-season surgeries.
  • The Falcons opened with a brand new starting 5 on their offensive line: LT Sam Baker, LG Justin Blalock, C Peter Konz, RG Garrett Reynolds, and RT Mike Johnson. Lamar Holmes is expected to be in the mix with Johnson at right tackle.
  • The Falcons cut UDFA Deon Goggins. Goggins played DT at Syracuse, but was being converted to fullback in Atlanta.

Weatherspoon, Nicholas to miss start of OTAs

May 24th, 2013 Comments off

D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC reports that linebackers Sean Weatherspoon and Stephen Nicholas will miss the start of Falcons’ organized team activities which begin next Tuesday due to their recoveries from off-season surgeries. Weatherspoon had arthroscopic knee surgery, while Nicholas is recovering from a sports hernia. Both players are expected back by mid-to-late June in time for the team’s mandatory minicamp which begins on June 18.

Ledbetter also reports that a pair of rookies will be limited for the start of OTAs: defensive end Stansly Maponga who is recovering from surgery on his broken foot in March, and quarterback Sean Renfree who suffered a torn pectoral at the end of December both were limited throughout the pre-draft process and off-season.

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 28 “2013 Schedule Breakdown” Parts 1 & 2

May 14th, 2013 1 comment

Allen and I take part in another two-part episode in which we go week by week, breaking down the Falcons 2013 schedule. We look at favorable matchups that the Falcons can exploit along with our thoughts on how good the Falcons 2013 opponents will be this upcoming fall. In the first part, we look at the first half of the season culminating in our analysis of the Falcons Week 10 matchup against the Seattle Seahawks. You’ll hear our thoughts on each of the Falcons first nine opponents, as well as insights on how the Falcons defensive line and offensive lines will look in 2013 and odds that the Falcons pick up a veteran free agent such as John Abraham, Richard Seymour, or Karlos Dansby before the summer starts. You’ll also hear our breakdown of how Darrelle Revis stacks up against Julio Jones, and Ron Rivera in comparison to Mike Smith.

In the second part of our schedule breakdown extravanganza, Allen and I take a look at the Falcons final seven opponents beginning in Week 11 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. We talk about how good a year Steven Jackson might have, along with whether or not the Falcons have made enough improvements on defense to handle the New Orleans Saints. You’ll also hear our thoughts on how the division race in the NFC East may shake out as well as some of the other NFC squads that could be wildcard contenders. We cap things off with our insights on how the 2013 season as a whole should play out for the Falcons.

Part 1:

Ep. 28: 2013 Schedule Breakdown Part 1 [Download]

Duration: 51 minutes

Part 2:

Ep. 28: 2013 Schedule Breakdown Part 2 [Download]

Duration: 55 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. You can also subscribe directly to our feed at the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/falcfans/LXSt

Scheme Change Unnecessary for Falcons Defense

February 13th, 2013 Comments off
Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Mike Nolan

There appears to be a movement among the Falcons fan base to push for the team to move towards a 3-4 defense. While I think ultimately the Falcons could benefit from a shift to a 3-4 base defense down the road, any changeover should be gradual. The Falcons just don’t currently good 3-4 personnel.

It is clear that Mike Nolan is a 3-4 coach. While he may suggest that he is a practioner of the 4-3, for seven straight years prior to joining the Falcons he coached 3-4 units. And he quickly incorporated 3-4 principles so that for a large chunk of the 2012 season, the Falcons defense had more of a 3-4 flavor than a 4-3 one.

So it makes sense to opt for the defensive scheme that the defensive coordinator prefers. But again, the Falcons shouldn’t rush headlong into a switch. Very few of their current players would benefit from such a change.

The main argument against an immediate switch to the 3-4 is it hurts your best defensive player: Sean Weatherspoon. It’s not a coincidence that Weatherspoon’s production dropped significantly in 2012 with the shift to Nolan’s scheme versus that of Brian VanGorder’s. Under Nolan, Weatherspoon was asked more often to read and react, and have to take on and shed blockers. That is not where he is best at. Weatherspoon is a guy that needs to play in space and run around to make plays. Now, that’s not to say that Spoon can’t be good in a 3-4. Arizona’s Daryl Washington possesses a similar skillset but was one of the league’s best defensive players in 2012. But Washington benefits from having a nice group of linemen up front to help allow him to flow to the ball.

At the nose tackle position, he has Dan Williams. Williams is by no means a superstar, but is an effective nose tackle that can help shield blockers off the inside linebackers like Washington. I think Corey Peters has enough ability to have similar value as Williams, but it’s by no means a slam dunk. To ensure Spoon excels in a 3-4, they must find a suitable nose tackle.

The Cardinals also benefit from having a pair of good ends in Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell. While Jonathan Babineaux and Dockett are similar players and could provide similar roles as penetrating ends, the Falcons do not possess a player like Campbell that has the capacity to dominate one-on-one matchups and draw double teams both versus the run and pass. That needs to be acquired, and as suggested before is the key to any really successful 3-4 defense.

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Categories: Features Tags: , ,

Falcons FA Focus: Linebacker

February 12th, 2013 Comments off
Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Jon Beason

I know I skipped over the defensive line positions in terms of looking at prospective free agents that could help the Falcons, but there are a lot of players to watch to drink it all in. So I’ll just instead skip ahead to the linebacker position won’t take a huge amount of effort to break down.

The Falcons need at linebacker centers around their desire to get better in coverage. It arguably cost them a chance at the Super Bowl after tight end Vernon Davis carved up the Falcon defense in the NFC Championship Game, following a year where tight ends seemed to do the same every week.

The Falcons are expected to challenge Stephen Nicholas for his role in the team’s nickel subpackage. The primary challenger probably will be middle linebacker Akeem Dent, but with Mike Peterson hitting free agency and unlikely to return, there is a definite void that could be filled this off-season. And it makes the most sense if that is a player that also can help out in coverage.

It makes sense if the Falcons wait until the draft to address this position. One of the many issues with the Falcons’ coverage at the linebacker position is a lack of speed. While Sean Weatherspoon, the unit’s best player does not lack in that arena, he too struggled at times to match up. Particularly with New Orleans Saints running back Darren Sproles, who worked him over in Week 13 last year. Upgrading in that area makes a lot of sense to try and give the team a linebacker that can deal with Sproles. That way, the Falcons can utilize Weatherspoon more effectively to cover tight end Jimmy Graham in those Saints matchups, which may prove ultimately more fruitful than previous attempts.

The simple fact is that linebackers in the draft are going to be younger, sprier, and ultimately more explosive than any veterans that have already accumulated wear and tear in the league. If the Falcons want someone with speed that can potentially match up with Sproles, their best options likely lie in the draft.

But that doesn’t mean that the Falcons can’t find veterans worth signing. With Peterson likely departing, the Falcons have a need for depth. Currently their backups are Robert James and Pat Schiller due to the release of Matt Hansen over the weekend.

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