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White and Weems make All-NFL team

January 17th, 2011 Comments off

Pro Football Weekly.com in conjunction with the Pro Football Writers of America announced their All-NFL team, not to be confused with the All-Pro teams announced by the Associated Press. Two Falcon players made it: wide receiver Roddy White and specialist Eric Weems. No Falcons made the PFWA team a year ago, although Michael Turner and John Abraham did earn honors in 2008.

White led the league in receptions (115) and was second in receiving yards (1,389). Weems led the Falcons with 16 tackles on special teams, as well as being one of only two players in the league that returned both a kickoff and a punt for touchdowns during the regular season.

Both White and Weems also earned Pro Bowl bids, along with five other Falcon players. They will be familiar with the coaches of the NFC squad, as it will be helmed by Mike Smith and the rest of the Falcons staff. The Pro Bowl will be played in two weeks in Hawaii.

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Seven Falcons named to Pro Bowl

December 28th, 2010 Comments off

The Falcons had a league-leading seven players named to the Pro Bowl squad, announced tonight. That total eclipsed New England (6), Baltimore (5), Dallas (5), Green Bay (5), and Philadelphia (5). The bulk of the Falcons players came on offense with 5 of their Pro Bowlers being named to the NFC squad on that side of the ball. This is the most Pro Bowlers for the Falcons in a single season, eclipsing their 6 players that made it in 1998.

The NFC squad will feature 3 starters from the Falcons, including running back Michael Turner, fullback Ovie Mughelli, and wide receiver Roddy White. Turner leads the NFC in rushing with 1,304 yards and ranks 5th overall in the league. His 11 rushing touchdowns also tie for the conference lead with Adrian Peterson and a tied for third overall in the NFL. It marks Turner’s second stint as a Pro Bowler, as he earned his first bid in 2008, his first year with the Falcons. Much of Turner’s success can be attributed to Mughelli’s fierce lead blocking, which is likely why he was named to the team as the conference’s top fullback. It is Mughelli’s first career Pro Bowl. For the season, Mughelli has 28 rushing yards, 11 receptions, and 1 receiving touchdown. Roddy White leads the league in receptions (109) and is in second place with 1,327 receiving yards behind Denver’s Brandon Lloyd (1,375). White is so far ahead of the curve in the NFC, that the conference’s second leading receiver only has 84 receptions. White also has 9 receiving touchdowns, which is tied for 6th in the conference. White needs only 3 more receptions to eclipse Terance Mathis’s franchise-record 111 receptions in a single season. He only needs 56 more yards to break his own record he set in 2008 for single season receiving yards. It marks White’s third consecutive Pro Bowl bid.

Also making the NFC’s offensive roster is quarterback Matt Ryan and tight end Tony Gonzalez, neither of whom were named starters. Ryan has completed 62.2% of his 539 pass attempts for 3,469 yards, 26 touchdowns, and only 9 interceptions. That gives Ryan a passer rating of 89.8, which only ranks 7th in the conference, but due to the success of the Falcons who sport the conference’s best overall record at 12-3, and because of several come from behind wins and drives led by Ryan gave him the not over some more highly rated passers.

Gonzalez currently has 64 receptions for 603 yards and 5 touchdowns. He ranks 4th in receptions, 6th in yardage, and is tied for 3rd in touchdowns among NFC tight ends. It happens to be the lowest reception and yardage totals for Gonzalez since the 1998 season. This marks the 11th time Gonzalez has been named to the Pro Bowl, but the first time since joining the team a year ago.

On the defensive side of the ball, defensive end John Abraham has been named a starter. Abraham’s 13 sacks ranks him tied for second in the entire league, but first alongside Clay Matthews and DeMarcus Ware in the conference. But it also makes him tied with Jason Babin for the top marks among defensive ends. It’s been a resurgent year for Abraham, after many raised concerns about his ability to produce after a 5.5 sack season a year ago.

Rounding out the Falcons Pro Bowlers is special teams maven Eric Weems. Weems sits atop the NFC with a 27.7 kickoff return average and also ranks highly with his 10.3 punt return average. He also has been one of the Falcons top performers on special teams coverage.

The Pro Bowl will be played on January 30, 2011 in Honolulu.

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Matching Up With the Steelers

September 9th, 2010 Comments off

I’m not sure how regular this will be as the season unfolds, but I’ll try to do one each week if I can. Since this is the first game of the season, I really don’t have any excuses not to do it. But I’m going to be looking at the different matchups that I like and don’t like as the Falcons prepare for the Steelers.

Matchups I Like

Dennis Dixon vs. the Falcons defense

I know many Falcon fans were worried about the possibility of Dixon starting this week instead of Byron Leftwich. They’d rather face the statue of Leftwich rather than the mobile Dixon.

I’m not too worried. Dixon will likely be able to make some plays with his legs, but his accuracy and decision making are the biggest areas of concerns for the Steelers offense. He has only had limited work with the first team offense, so he isn’t likely to be on the same page with most of his receivers. He is only making his second NFL start, so he will also be prone to making a lot of rookie mistakes. How he recognizes defense, how he sees the field, and whether he can make good decisions and put the ball on the money with accuracy to his receivers must be a major concern for the Steelers brass, otherwise they would not have been so reluctant to start him.

The Falcons will likely look to confine him to the pocket where he is going to be less dangerous. Safeties Thomas DeCoud and Erik Coleman will likely be a big reason why if the Falcons are able to take advantage, sitting back and reading Dixon’s eyes and breaking plays on the ball. The hallmark of young quarterbacks is a tendency to stare down his targets, which allows defensive backs, especially safeties a greater opportunity to jump routes and break up plays.

Steelers Right OL vs. Falcons Left DL

This matchup features rookie center Maurkice Pouncey, right guard Trai Essex, and right tackle Flozell Adams versus the Falcons left side of their line which will feature mainly Kroy Biermann at left end, Peria Jerry at left tackle, and Jamaal Anderson splitting time at both spots.

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Scouting Report: Eric Weems

August 18th, 2010 Comments off
Eric Weems

Eric Weems

It’s time to take a gander at an oft-overlooked and underestimated wideout by the name of Eric Weems.

Pros: Has good speed and quickness. As a return man does a good job accelerating and getting to top speed. Fairly sure-handed returner that isn’t prone to fumbles or muffs. As a punt returner, does a good job making the first guy miss. Uses his ability as a returner to pick up yardage after the catch. Is a good runner and can be effective on screens and reverses. Shows good hands and can adjust to a high throw. Is a good blocker for his size, and willing to throw what little weight he does have around.

Cons: Lacks elite long speed to really be a gamebreaker as a return threat. Needs to polish up his route-running. Without it, he has yet to prove he can get open against starting-caliber cornerbacks. Lack of size makes him susceptible to the jam.

2010 Outlook: It’s interesting to note that the very first offensive snap Eric Weems ever took in a regular season game, he threw a touchdown-resulting block for Harry Douglas in 2008. Weems physical attributes favor him as a slot receiver or flanker where his lack of size isn’t as big an issue. Last season he got quite a bit of work that likely would have gone to Harry Douglas had he been available. This year, he is being pushed for his role as incumbent return specialist, but also looking to make more of an impact on offense.

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Camp Battles ’10: Special Teams

July 26th, 2010 Comments off

The Falcons will have an open competition at the kicker position. Matt Bryant is expected to be the frontrunner, but he will be pushed by Steven Hauschka.

Bryant has the experience which likely gives him the edge since the Falcons would like to avoid any inconsistency at the position. But Hauschka has the bigger leg and longer range. The problem is that he has not been particularly effective in clutch kicking situations and showed a tendency to miss some fairly easy kicks last year in Baltimore, leading to his release. But Hauschka also has the added advantage of being 10 years younger than Bryant.

The Falcons will have options, and will likely go with the more consistent of the two. More than likely, the team will alternate them in preseason games to maximize their opportunities.

At punter, Michael Koenen’s job is safe. And while Hauschka was an effective kickoff guy for two years in Baltimore, he doesn’t like he’ll be a serious challenge to Koenen even if he wins the job over Bryant. Joe Zelenka’s job as long snapper appears safe after a good last month of the season in 2009.

The return situation will also feature some heavy competition. Eric Weems is the incumbent returner, and while he may lack explosive speed to really get a lot of big plays, he is fairly consistent with his ability to give the team good field position. Jerious Norwood has more explosive speed on kickoffs, but the team may feel his value on offense makes Weems more desirable there. As a punt returner in 2008, Harry Douglas was fairly good. But he didn’t show the most reliable set of hands and coming off an ACL injury it doesn’t seem like he’ll have that same explosive burst. Dominique Franks will get an opportunity as well. He doesn’t have great speed, but if he can show he can be a reliable set of hands and show some big play potential there, he has a shot to unseat Weems.

Camp Battles ’10: Wide Receiver

July 19th, 2010 Comments off
Eric Weems

Eric Weems

We should expect to see some heavy competition on the backend of the wide receiver position this summer. Roddy White, Michael Jenkins, and Harry Douglas would appear to be locks to make the final roster. The Falcons will likely keep at least five wideouts, so that means that the remaining eight receivers may only be competing for two spots.

The three most likely to land those spots are Brian Finneran, Eric Weems, and Kerry Meier. Finneran is probably ahead of the pack. The coaches love his versatility and veteran savvy. Finn is able and willing to do anything the coaches ask of him, which makes him an ideal reserve. Meier probably has the next best chances because of his status as a draft pick, and he also shows the potential to be a versatile reserve like Finneran in the future. But one shouldn’t discount Weems. His ability to make the roster however may be directly tied to his performance on special teams and return duties. The return of Douglas probably makes his chances of making the final roster a bit tougher.

Among the rest of the group, it’s more likely that Troy Bergeron, Ryan Wolfe, and Brandyn Harvey stand the best odds. Bergeron will have to be all or nothing because his eligibility for the practice squad has expired. Wolfe and Harvey are undrafted free agents with their best chances of making the roster will be if they can impact on special teams coverage. Also in the mix are Andy Strickland and Tim Buckley. Their best chances also will be on their ability to perform on special teams, coupled with their ability to show some explosive playmaking potential in preseason games. But all of them are longshots to make the roster and instead will primarily be competing for a chance to land on the practice squad as the team regularly keeps a wideout there for depth.

Weems faces DUI charges

December 16th, 2009 Comments off
Eric Weems

Eric Weems

It was revealed today that Falcons wide receiver Eric Weems was arrested for driving under the influence last month in DeKalb County, Georgia. According to county jail records, he was arrested on November 16 and released on $1,100 bond the following day.

This incident was also news to the Falcons organization, as head coach Mike Smith indicated that the team had only become aware of the situation yesterday. Weems issued an apology through the team’s website:

Unfortunately, I was involved in an incident on November 17, 2009. I am embarrassed about the situation and I sincerely apologize to the entire Atlanta Falcons organization and our great fans.

Weems is not the only Falcon player dealing with legal issues, as defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux was arrested last week for possession of marijuana during a traffic stop.

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Falcons add six to practice squad

August 31st, 2008 Comments off

The Falcons announced the addition of six players to their practice squad today and also claimed defensive tackle Jason Jefferson off waivers from the Buffalo Bills. To make room for Jefferson, they released Tim Anderson.

The team added seventh round pick Keith Zinger among the six practice squad additions. Also wide receiver Eric Weems, guard D’Anthony Batiste, cornerback Glenn Sharpe, safety Eric Brock, and defensive end Brandon Miller were signed by the team. All six players were with the team this summer. The Falcons have two remaining spots on their practice squad.

Jefferson was a sixth round pick of the New Orleans Saints in 2005. But was cut by the Saints during his first training camp, and spent time on the practice squads of the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles before being signed by the Bills in October 2005. He began the ’06 season on the Bills practice squad before being promoted to the team’s roster in October, but remained inactive for most of the season. His most extensive action coming in 2007, where he had 11 tackles in 11 games. For his career, he has recorded 13 tackles in 21 games.

Anderson, another former Bills castoff was signed by the Falcons in November 2007. He had 5 tackles in 5 games for the Falcons. He was re-signed this past off-season and was seemingly the winner in a competition for the reserve nose tackle position behind Grady Jackson.

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