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Falcons need to make a move for a backup QB

August 17th, 2012 3 comments
Mike Carter-US PRESSWIRE

Colt McCoy

Despite the promising and strong showing of Dominique Davis in last night’s preseason loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, the Falcons backup quarterback position has emerged as a problem position so far this summer. Chris Redman has struggled mightily and John Parker Wilson has been largely a non-factor. While Davis has made his name and I believe has performed well enough in the preseason to merit this team keeping him as the third quarterback on the depth chart, he’s not quite ready to fill the role as Matt Ryan’s primary backup.

Davis is still a bit too raw. There are too many missed throws or reads for him to be trusted to fill in and keep the Falcons playoff hopes alive in the event of a Ryan injury. But Davis has shown enough upside that with more development, one could envision him down the road as Ryan’s primary backup. But in the meantime, the Falcons are in a position where it’s imperative they make a move.

Redman’s regression over the past two seasons has been stark. While he looked good in some of his spot starts in 2009 for an injured Ryan, it was the last time that has been the case. Without any reps in 2010, Redman got some opportunities late last season. But in the season finale against the Buccaneers, Redman  played about half the game and looked very rusty. That seemed odd given that he had gotten extensive reps in each of the past two games prior to that to shake off any rust. It was the first sign that things were not looking optimistic.

The big names being discussed as possible trade bait are Colt McCoy and Tarvaris Jackson. While both would be definite upgrades over Redman, if I had to choose between one of them, I would think McCoy would be the better move for the Falcons. Mainly because Davis brings many of the same traits to the field that Jackson does, as well as the fact that Jackson has never taken an NFL snap in a game where Darrell Bevell was not calling plays for him. And it remains a question mark whether he can adapt to a non-Bevell-coached West Coast system. With McCoy having been coached by both Brian Daboll and Pat Shurmur, the hope is at least that he would be better able to adapt to a brand new system. It’s ideal to have a backup quarterback that believes he has a future as a starter. That has been one of the biggest knocks against Redman, who from his lacking desire to test himself on the open market in free agency, indicates that he has really no desire to start for an NFL team. Someone that envisions themselves starting will at least put in the work during the week to try and improve and will do their best to take advantage of any opportunity that comes along. That hasn’t happened with Redman for some time. And with a player like McCoy, that should change.

If the Falcons were to make a move for a player like McCoy, they would likely need to part ways with a late round pick. Because reports indicate there is a lot of interest in McCoy, it might drive up the price slightly. A fifth round pick might need to be moved to acquire his services. It’s not ideal, but I’d certainly happily forfeit next year’s fifth round pick to prevent Chris Redman from stepping on the field in a Falcon uniform again.

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Preseason Stock Exchange (Week 1)

August 14th, 2012 Comments off

It’s time to look at which Falcon players have improved their stock and those that have not after the first preseason outing. This is mostly looking at who shined and who did not against the Ravens.

Stock Up

QB Dominique Davis – Davis benefited greatly from the lackluster night by both Chris Redman and John Parker Wilson. Besides Wilson running an effective 2-minute drill at the end of the half, both veteran passers looked very rusty against the Ravens. Davis showed some athleticism, using his legs to extend plays and also showed off his strong arm with some shots downfield. Davis still needs to polish up his footwork, mechanics, and tighten up his accuracy, but if he can build off last week’s performance against the Bengals, he will be in prime position to potentially earn a roster spot.

WR DJ. Davis – The No. 5 wide receiver spot will almost certainly be determined by special teams ability. And Davis stood out against the Ravens, particularly with his excellent open field stop when working as a gunner on a punt returner, tripping up Bobby Rainey in the 3rd quarter to cause a 1-yard loss on a Dawson Zimmerman punt. Kevin Cone looked to have the inside track at the spot, but Davis is making up ground.

OL Peter Konz – Konz had his moments when working at right guard with the second team offensive line, showing ability to get some push. He missed a block while pulling inside on a play, but then helped make up for with a good block downfield when he pulled outside on the next play. Konz had some struggles when he moved to center for the third unit. But if he’s going to make up ground against Garrett Reynolds for the starting right guard spot, he got off to a solid start.

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Falcon Players to Watch Tonight vs. Ravens

August 9th, 2012 Comments off

Here is a list of several Falcon players that are worth paying some extra attention to if and when they get on the field tonight against the Baltimore Ravens in the team’s preseason opener. Typically in the first game of the preseason, the majority of the Falcons starters will only get a series or two of work. Then the reserves come in and remain in for the remainder of the game. The second half of the game typically will be full of players that don’t have a firm grip on the roster.

Typically fans will try and draw strong conclusions from that first series or so when both teams’ first team units are in. And while scoring a touchdown is certainly a positive development and should be a goal, people should not be too judgmental over things in an exhibition game where neither team has game-planned against the other. A typical regular season game will have a team having up to a dozen offensive possessions, and trying to extrapolate the performance of one or two series to that makes little sense when the overarching themes of tonight when it comes to the starters will be to avoid injury and not tip one’s hand. If you’re going to want to judge the first unit offense and defense, wait until the second and third preseason games for a better litmus test.

However, the first preseason game is a prime opportunity for many of the second and third unit players to shine and potentially take an early lead or make up one in some of these position battles. Roughly two-thirds of the final 53 that will make the Falcons this year is fairly set in stone, but that latter third which will be filled primarily with those that can shine on special teams is relatively wide open. Strong performances tonight can build off each other in subsequent practices and preseason games, and thus go a long way for some to make the team.

 

  • Antone Smith – While Smith has been labeled a darkhorse candidate for the kickoff returner spot, it seems that it makes the most amount of sense if he wins the job outright. That way, the Falcons won’t be forced to activate a fifth receiver on gamedays (such as James Rodgers), and won’t have to expose Jacquizz Rodgers to greater potential for injury. So it will be interesting to see if Smith or any of the other candidates on the roster can perform and make an impression as returners in tonight’s game.
  • Garrett Reynolds – With the Falcons seemingly comfortable with Sam Baker at left tackle, the only contested starting position on the entire offense is right guard. Reynolds is currently the starter and has been praised by the coaching staff and training camp observers alike this summer. While most of the offensive starters will likely only get a single series of reps tonight, traditionally the Falcons leave the starting offensive line in for a few more series. It should give them a longer look at Reynolds to see how much improvements he’s made last year. The key to watch for Reynolds will be whether he’s improved his technique, which will be determined by how low he plays. Reynolds’ height is a disadvantage inside at guard, and he’ll need to play much lower than he did throughout 2011 where he struggled in pass protection.
  • Akeem Dent – Similar to Reynolds, Dent is expected to be the lone major change in the defensive starting lineup this year. It’s unlikely he’ll get a ton of a playing time against the Ravens, but it would greatly alleviate the concerns of many Falcon fans if during that time he can make a couple of nice stops and tackles.
  • Peria Jerry – With Corey Peters out with a foot injury and no set time-table for when he could return, Jerry finds himself with a prime opportunity to excel. Essentially the door is open for Jerry to take back the starting job that he lost in 2010 when he himself was coming off a major injury. The key for Jerry that he will need to show this summer is if much of the explosiveness he lost due to that knee injury has returned now that he’s nearly three years removed from it. As well has he improved his hand use and technique that will allow him to better get leverage against the run and beat blockers will moves as a pass rusher.
  • John Parker Wilson – This summer marks the last chance for Wilson to make an impression as a passer. He’ll need to play well tonight, assuming he gets reps in the second half. The team carried two quarterbacks on the roster last season, with Wilson spending the first half of the year on the practice squad. But without a better effort this summer than he had last summer, it’s doubtful he’ll even get that opportunity. He’s entering his fourth summer in the NFL, and should be showing much better command and anticipation when running the Falcons offense than he has shown to date.
  • Bradie Ewing – Ewing has an opportunity to start this year, but needs to hit the ground running in his first preseason game. He’ll need to perform in three phases this summer to usurp Mike Cox as the starter: 1) as a lead blocker 2) as a receiver and 3) on special teams. Ewing is capable in all three areas and certainly offers more upside than Cox, but he’ll need to prove it starting with tonight’s game. Another key area to watch is pass protection. Will he handle his opportunities there with ease and hit his assignments.
  • Kerry Meier – The time is now if Meier is going to emerge as anything more than a special teams player. Meier has always displayed that he has good hands, but the key for him will be to show he can separate and get open against man coverage. He needs to have a good summer as a receiver to reassure fans that the team doesn’t have a depth problem at wide receiver. Meier’s primary role this season will be on special teams, but in the event of an injury to Jones, White, or Douglas, he’s going to be called upon to perform a big role on offense. Against the caliber of talent he’ll be facing this summer, he should be more productive offensively than he has shown thus far.

Camp Battles 2012: Quarterbacks

June 24th, 2012 Comments off

Getty Images

Matt Ryan

Matt Ryan is entering a pivotal year for his future in Atlanta. He has two years left on his contract including the 2012 season, and with him coming off his third consecutive playoff loss, there are questions whether Ryan is capable of leading the Falcons to the next level. Fortunately for Ryan, he’s not the first prominent quarterback to lose his first three playoff games. Somebody by the name of Peyton Manning entered his sixth season with an 0-3 postseason record, then helped lead the Colts to two playoff wins in 2003 with an eventual loss in the AFC Championship game to the New England Patriots. That 2003 season also marked Manning’s first MVP season, earning co-MVP honors alongside Steve McNair. While such expectations could be considered lofty for Ryan in 2012, it certainly means that the door hasn’t closed on Ryan’s ability to lead this team to greater overall success.

Hopefully helming that success will be new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. Ryan has progressed and improved as an NFL passer each season he has been in the pros, and that is expected to continue under Koetter. The question remains how much improvement will Ryan have. Koetter intends to adopt more of a pass-oriented offense than under previous coordinator  Mike Mularkey, now head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Reports indicate that Koetter will make continued use of the no-huddle offense that Ryan shined in under Mularkey. One of the key areas where Ryan must improve is on the deep passes. Ryan really struggled there throughout 2011, and a hallmark of Koetter’s scheme is the four verticals. It stresses vertical routes from the receivers which help open up opportunities underneath as well. But it is not very effective if the threat of the vertical strike is not present. Without significant improvement in that area, there will be a firm cap on how much progress and production Ryan can show in the new offense.

While there are questions about Ryan’s potential, there are none about his role as the starter. The Falcons brought back Chris Redman as a free agent, who is a strong bet to resume his fifth season as the primary backup to Ryan. The Falcons adopted the growing trend in the NFL last year by carrying two quarterbacks at the start of the season. Although the team did add a third passer to roster midway through the season in John Parker Wilson. Wilson served as the No. 3 quarterback in 2009 and 2010, but began last year on the practice squad. It remains to be seen if he will land the third spot on the roster  this year. He remains still eligible to be on the practice squad in 2012. Wilson did not show a lot of progress last summer in his third year in the Mularkey offense, which likely led to the decision to cut him at the end of camp. He’ll have to show more this summer in Koetter’s offense to stick again. When the team first picked up Wilson as an undrafted rookie in 2009, it was likely with the intent to develop him as the long-term replacement for Redman. But that plan has yet to come to fruition, and without a strong summer the team could abandon that plan completely.

Hoping to alter their plans is undrafted rookie Dominique Davis out of East Carolina. Davis is a raw prospect with good arm strength and athleticism. But his footwork and mechanics are raw, and accuracy erratic, and he’s likely a long-term developmental prospect. But his ability to extend and make plays with his legs could be an intriguing asset for the Falcons. If Davis can showcase that athleticism during the preseason, he could certainly earn a practice squad spot. But he probably has only a slim chance of making the final roster as the No. 3 quarterback unless he has a really strong summer. Otherwise, Davis should be able to clear waivers and make it to the practice squad.

He and Wilson will be competing directly for the third spot, but there is no guarantee that the Falcons keep either player. Redman was only signed to a one-year deal and thus the priority for the Falcons could be looking to see if either Wilson or Davis are potentially ready to assume the role as No. 2 in the near future. If the answer is no, then it’s quite possible the Falcons pass on both and look elsewhere for a developmental backup.

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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 17 “The One About the Falcons”

June 10th, 2012 Comments off

In this week’s episode, Ryan and I get back to the grind of talking about the Falcons. Taking segments of recent live shows where we talk about different position groups on the offense, this episode is an amalgamation (I know, big word) of those discussions. Also included in this episode is our interview with The Bleacher Report’s Scott Carasik, another knowledgeable Falcon fan. If you want to hear practically every offensive player on the Falcons roster get discussed, then this is the episode for you. Topics range from who will make the roster to what can be expected from different players this year. What if any changes that Dirk Koetter has will affect different players and positions. Ryan and I get into a long debate about what exactly is an elite quarterback. Michael Turner’s future, Chris Redman, Kerry Meier, Julio Jones, and Sam Baker are other Falcon players that get extensive discussions in this episode.

Ep. 17: The One About the Falcons [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 39 minutes

 

If you have any questions and comments, you can hit us up on Twitter, post in the forums in the podcast thread, or drop Ryan an e-mail at: ryan-valdez@live.com. Don’t forget to drop by every week to hear our live broadcast at: justin.tv/didziojo

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

Free Agent Focus: Quarterback

January 23rd, 2012 Comments off
Getty Images/K.C. Cox

Chris Redman

The Falcons have to make a decision with their backup quarterback this off-season. Chris Redman is a prospective free agent, and they will have to determine whether he’s worth bringing back. Redman has been solid reserve for the Falcons, but with a new offensive coordinator coming into the fold and him on the verge of turning 35, it may be the right time to move in a new direction.

It seemed like the Falcons were hopeful that John Parker Wilson would develop into the clear-cut choice for the No. 2 position by now, but Wilson showed minimal progress this past summer. So little that he was cut by the team and kept on the practice squad for most of the season. If the Falcons saw Wilson as the eventual backup to Ryan, it’s very unlikely they would have risked losing him to waivers last summer.

So that means that if the Falcons want to address their backup quarterback situation, they are likely to look elsewhere. Two options that immediately jump to mind are Luke McCown and Trent Edwards. What both players have in common is experience in Dirk Koetter’s offense. McCown had a disappointingly short stint as the Jaguars starter this year before being benched by Week 3 in favor of rookie Blaine Gabbert. But he has been a Jaguar since 2009 after getting traded there by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Edwards was picked by the Jaguars in 2010 after the Buffalo Bills cut him, and spent this past summer with the Oakland Raiders before being cut loose.

Neither player has really shown that they are better than Redman in recent years, but a good strategy for the Falcons would be to sign both players and have them compete directly for the No. 2 job. Unlike Redman, they won’t need to be taught a new system and their experience can help facilitate Ryan’s knowledge of the system as well. And one imagines that via the competition, the better of the two would emerge and in theory should be as competent as Redman would be.

One of the issues I have with Redman is that I think he is perfectly content to being the backup here in Atlanta, and collecting his $3 million or so paycheck. While people think that he could and should get looks by other teams, I don’t think there are any teams that are viewing him as a potential starter, just a backup with the same role/function he had here in Atlanta. And personally, I don’t think a team’s backup should be content. I’d much rather have someone that has some desire to be the starter and therefore will do everything in his power to try and push the starter, even when he has no realistic chance of landing said gig (like here in Atlanta).

Redman is going to be 35, and the end of his career is right around the corner. He should be chomping at the bit to try and get one more chance to be a starter elsewhere. If Redman had the previously mentioned mentality, the Falcons would have virtually no chance of re-signing him. But I don’t get that vibe from him. It’s somewhat a Catch-22, if the Falcons can re-sign Redman then they should not want to, and if they cannot, then they should want to.

I don’t know whether or not Edwards or McCown have such a mentality, but given their relative youth (29 and 30, respectively), I assume they are probably a bit hungrier.

What the Falcons do with the fourth arm in camp is up to them. They could give Wilson another shot, or they could look at other options in the draft. But they certainly should be looking into developing somewhat long-term that can be a backup to Ryan.

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Falcons add seven to the practice squad

September 4th, 2011 Comments off

The Falcons announced they have signed seven players to their practice squad, all of whom were cut by the team yesterday. Safety Rafael Bush, wide receivers Kevin Cone and D.J. Davis, guard Andrew Jackson, linebacker Robert James, offensive tackle Jose Valdez, and quarterback John Parker Wilson were all added to the team’s practice squad. Teams are allowed to keep up to eight players on their practice squad throughout the year.

Bush, James, and Valdez all have previous experience on the Falcons practice squad. Jackson, a draft pick, along with Cone and Davis are first-timers on the practice squad. Wilson joins the practice squad for the first time after spending the last two seasons on the team’s roster.

Falcons cut 10 to get down to 53

September 3rd, 2011 Comments off

The Falcons announced the last ten roster moves to get down to the 53-player limit today. The cuts included: S Rafael Bush, WR Kevin Cone, WR D.J. Davis, OG Andrew Jackson, LB Robert James, C Brett Romberg, DE Emmanuel Stephens, OT Jose Valdez, and QB John Parker Wilson. The team also announced that it reached an injury settlement with TE Ryan Winterswyk, resulting in his release as well.

Prominent among the moves was the departure of Wilson, who made the Falcons team as their third quarterback the past two seasons since being an undrafted rookie in 2009. Jackson, was the Falcons lone draft pick in their 2011 draft class that did not make the roster. James was a 2008 draft pick that had bounced off and on the Falcons roster over the past two seasons, spending most of the past two seasons on the practice squad. Valdez spent the past two years on the practice squad as well. Bush was on the Falcons practice squad a year ago. Romberg was signed by the Falcons earlier this week to add depth behind injured center Todd McClure, but the team opted instead to keep Rob Bruggeman as the team’s third center on opening day for the second year in a row.

Prominent among the players that the Falcons apparently are keeping on their 53-man roster is cornerback Darrin Walls, who made the team as an undrafted free agent. Also defensive tackle Carlton Powell made the roster as a fifth defensive tackle. Powell joined the Falcons on August 14, only a week before they broke training camp, showing he could beat the odds and impress the team despite others getting a two-week head start.

The Falcons will need to establish a practice squad tomorrow consisting of eight players. Many of the players cut today and yesterday will be eligible. The Falcons may make other moves in the week before the regular season starts as they scour the waiver wire to add other players were cut around the league.

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Final 53-man Roster Prediction

September 2nd, 2011 Comments off

Well, here is the prediction for who will make the Final 53 as teams have until Saturday afternoon to make those decisions. Only one player from my previously mentioned locks won’t make the team, due to the Falcons roster moves earlier this week.

QUARTERBACKS
Matt Ryan
Chris Redman

Wilson’s poor performance vs. the Ravens I think might have gotten him cut, especially given the injury issues the Falcons have on their lines.

RUNNING BACKS
Michael Turner
Ovie Mughelli
Jason Snelling
Jacquizz Rodgers

Despite a strong performance last night against the Ravens, I don’t see either Antone Smith making the roster, but he remains eligible for the practice squad. Injuries on both lines I think will prevent the Falcons from carrying a fifth running back in Week 1. But once those units get healthy, do not be surprised if you see them pick up someone later in September.

WIDE RECEIVERS
Roddy White
Julio Jones
Harry Douglas
Kerry Meier
Eric Weems

Brandyn Harvey showed enough to potentially make the roster, but the Falcons don’t appear able to afford a sixth receiver when they have other injury issues elsewhere.

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Edwards, Johnson return to practice, Peters goes down

August 14th, 2011 Comments off

Falcons defensive end Ray Edwards and guard Mike Johnson returned to practice on Sunday, although neither qualified as a full participant. Edwards practiced in pads for the first time since joining the Falcons on July 29. Johnson is expected to participate fully in practice beginning tomorrow according to Jay Adams of Atlanta Falcons.com. Johnson has been out of practice since Sunday, August 6, when he suffered a concussion. Both Edwards and Johnson missed Friday’s night preseason opener against the Dolphins.

Two other players that missed the Dolphin game: tight end Marquez Branson and defensive tackle Vance Walker are expected to return to practice Monday according to Knox Bardeen of CBS Sports.

Starting defensive tackle Corey Peters was injured during practice today, and was carted off the field with a left leg injury according to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC. There has not yet been an update on the extent of his injury.

The team also announced that Akeem Dent, Justin Peelle, and John Parker Wilson are likely going to be out for Friday night’s preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Wilson suffered a concussion during the Dolphin game in the third quarter. Dent and Peelle also played, but had limited snaps. Trey Lewis returned to practice today after injuring his arm against the Dolphins.