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2014 Falcons Preseason Stock Report – Week 2

August 20th, 2014 No comments
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Paul Worrilow

The Atlanta Falcons lost their second preseason game to the Houston Texans this past weekend in somewhat sloppy and embarrassing fashion, getting outplayed in all three phases of the game. But despite the disheartening loss, there were a few players that raised their stock in bids to earn key roles or roster spots with the team, along with others that must do more to get back into the good graces of coaches and fans alike.

STOCK UP

DE Malliciah Goodman

Goodman is ascending with two solid preseason performances this summer. Showing the ability to penetrate and collapse the pocket, he was the team’s most productive pass-rusher against the Texans. Goodman has also made plays against the run, showing the ability to defeat double teams and disrupt plays in the backfield.

He’s an ascending player, and frankly has played at a level that is deserving of a starting spot if not for the deference given to veterans Jonathan Babineaux and Tyson Jackson. Goodman has appeared in the team’s sub-packages lined up beside Babineaux as an interior pass-rusher. That is possibly a role he could maintain in the regular season given that neither Jackson nor nose tackle Paul Soliai are known for their pass-rushing prowess. But Goodman’s ability to also stuff the run means the Falcons could tinker with the notion of starting him over either veteran. In the case of Babineaux, it would help keep the 32-year old fresher for those passing situations. In the case of Jackson, it may simply result in getting a better player on the field for the majority of snaps.

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Falcons Roughed Up in 32-7 Loss to Texans

August 17th, 2014 No comments

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Jadeveon Clowney lowers the boom on Antone Smith

The Atlanta Falcons looked lackluster in their second preseason action of 2014, losing in a one-sided road game against the Houston Texans by a score of 32-7. It was a sloppy night for the Falcons, particularly on special teams where they had both a punt and field goal blocked. The Texans were able to score off the blocked punt, as well as on a pick-six thrown by T.J. Yates in the fourth quarter. Both teams were heavily penalized, with 25 combined penalties being called. The Falcons accounted for 10 of them.

Matt Ryan led the way but was not particularly sharp on the night. He completed just three of seven passes for 37 yards on four short series of action. He gave way to Sean Renfree, who completed seven of 10 passes for 49 yards and a touchdown. Yates struggled, completing just four of 11 passes for 63 yards with two interceptions. Jeff Mathews saw his first action of the preseason late in the game, completing just one of three passes for 18 yards. Devonta Freeman once again led the team on the ground, rushing for 31 yards on six carries, and should have had more if not for penalties calling back a few runs. Antone Smith added eight carries for 27 yards, with starter Jacquizz Rodgers rushing three times for 13 yards. Julio Jones saw his first action of the summer, catching a pair of passes for 20 yards. Devin Hester caught two passes as well for 15 yards, and the team’s lone touchdown on a 12-yard screen pass. Julian Jones had the longest reception of the night, his lone catch going for 29 yards. Matt Bryant had his lone field goal attempt of 51 yards blocked and Matt Bosher punted seven times for an average of 41.4 yards, with a blocked punt as well. The Falcons managed to convert just three of 11 third-down tries for a total of 248 yards on the night. The starters failed to convert any of their four third-down attempts while they were in the game.

Defensively, the Falcons started fairly well but gave up a total of 386 yards to the Texans. Including the points off the interception and blocked punt, the Texans were able to generate a total of 16 of their 32 points off turnovers, with Atlanta’s defense deserving credit for limiting Houston to just 16 points on three scores. Paul Worrilow led the team with eight tackles, including one for a loss. Robert Alford (one tackle, two passes defended); Pat Angerer (five tackles, one for loss); Joplo Bartu (three tackles); Kemal Ishmael (three tackles; one for loss; one interception); William Moore (six tackles); Travian Robertson (three tackles, one for loss); Prince Shembo (three tackles) and Dezmen Southward (three tackles) all had noteworthy games.

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Atlanta Falcons Training Camp Preview 2014: Linebacker

July 22nd, 2014 Comments off

Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Joplo Bartu

There are a lot of questions surrounding the Atlanta Falcons linebacker position, with a number of unproven players being asked to contribute larger roles in 2014.

For the Falcons, things took a turn for the worse when linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, the unit’s leader and best player, was injured in June with a torn Achilles. Weatherspoon’s loss has forced the team to look in the others’ directions to compensate.

Much of the void left by Weatherspoon is expected to be filled by middle linebacker Paul Worrilow. Among the three projected starters, Worrilow is the most solidified in his role. As a second-year player, he will have to take on a much larger mantle, becoming the unit’s top playmaker and leader on defense.

While Worrilow possesses the necessary traits for leadership, it remains to be seen if he can perform up to them. Worrilow came out strong last summer as an undrafted free agent to make the team, and this summer will need a similar emergence to lead the team.

Strong-side outside linebacker Kroy Biermann is expected to return from his own Achilles injury to flank Worrilow on the edge. After using Biermann as a bit of a “joker” player in his first season under defensive coordinator Mike Nolan in 2012, the team moved him fully to linebacker last summer. But Biermann was injured too early in the season to know if that transition was successful. Thus, he’ll have to prove himself again this summer.

Beside Worrilow at the other inside position that is expected to replace Weatherspoon is Joplo Bartu. Bartu, a 2013 undrafted free agent like Worrilow, also quickly impressed the coaching staff last summer with his range and athleticism. He quickly carved out a role in the sub-packages due to his coverage potential, and relative to his undrafted status as a rookie, played well in 2013. But there have been recent concerns over whether the coaching staff is ready to place the same amount of trust in him this year.

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Ranking the Falcons 2014: No. 18 Paul Worrilow

July 19th, 2014 Comments off

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Paul Worrilow

I’m counting down the top 40 players on the Atlanta Falcons, and let’s continue with 18th-ranked player: linebacker Paul Worrilow.

To read the methodology I devised to rank the Falcons players, click here.

Total Score: 60/100

Last year’s rank: N/A
Player Grade: 56/100
Teams he is starter: 18 out of 32
Teams he is best position player: 0 out of 32
Teams he is role player: 31 out of 32
Peak-Year Bonus: +4
Positional Bonus: +3

Worrilow certainly qualifies as the player that made the biggest leap in this year’s rankings considering his humble origins as an undrafted free agent last year. Expected to be a camp body last summer, Worrilow is now going to be counted upon to be a key difference-maker in the Falcons defense.

That has been largely brought on by the recent season-ending injury to fellow linebacker Sean Weatherspoon. But even before Weatherspoon went down, Worrilow was expected to be a big part of the team’s defensive resurgence in 2014.

Worrilow impressed last summer and coupled with the shoddy play of Akeem Dent, made a swift and prompt move into the starting lineup at middle linebacker.

One of the reasons why Worrilow was so impressive as a rookie was his natural feel for the game and instincts. He certainly showed a better knack for diagnosing plays and being in proper position than Dent, who had more than two years worth of NFL experience on him.

But there were still several times last season where Worrilow looked and played like a rookie. Yet, the Falcons remain optimistic that many of those issues can be ironed out.

Not blessed with great size and strength, Worrilow has bulked up this offseason to improve his tackling.

Another area where he’ll need to improve is in coverage. Last season, he wasn’t asked to play a ton of man coverage and there will be more opportunities this year. And it’s a question of whether Worrilow or opposing teams will take advantage of those increased opportunities.

Worrilow has the potential to grow into one of the better inside linebackers in the league, and should be helped by the beef the Falcons have provided in front of him that should better shield him from blockers and take advantage of those instincts to make plays.

As a second-year player, Worrilow is going to be asked to be the stabilizing force for the middle of the Falcons defense. He’s certainly capable of being that player, but it’s now going to have to be displayed on the field. Had Weatherspoon been aligned beside him, it would have made Worrilow’s job easier. But in the face of adversity, some plays will rise while others will fall. In the case of Worrilow, he now has to be the former.

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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 70 “Do You Remember Where You Were When Courtney Roby Signed?”

July 8th, 2014 1 comment

Allen and I are joined by The Falcoholic staff writer, Matt Chambers to discuss our favorite NFL team: the Atlanta Falcons once more. Matt’s fifth appearance on the podcast includes discussion of newly signed wide receiver Courtney Roby and the injury to Drew Davis. We also dive into Hard Knocks and training camp storylines along with some possible emerging undrafted rookies. Sean Weatherspoon, Paul Worrilow, Prince Shembo and Sam Baker are also discussed along the way.

Episode 70: Do You Remember Where You Were When Courtney Roby Signed? [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 7 minutes

Allen covers the Falcons for 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! For Android users, DoubleTwist is a good app to listen as well. You can also subscribe directly to our feed at the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/falcfans/LXSt

Atlanta Falcons Takeaways from Last Week – June 16, 2014

June 16th, 2014 Comments off
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Sean Weatherspoon

Once again, the Atlanta Falcons have lost linebacker Sean Weatherspoon to a major injury. This time it is for the rest of 2014 due to a torn Achilles heel which he suffered last Tuesday during practice.

There seems to be three presiding theories on what Weatherspoon’s impending absence will mean to the Falcons.

There’s the conservative theory that losing Spoon is not a huge loss. The presences of second-year linebackers in Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu will allow the Falcons defense to navigate the loss of its leader to a competent level.

This theory makes sense given Worrilow and Bartu had to perform the same task a year ago as undrafted rookies. They certainly will be better prepared to fill Spoon’s shoes with a full year under their belts.

But it still does not adequately encompass the loss of Spoon on the field. Which creates the second theory: that Spoon’s absence will have a dramatic negative effect on the team’s defense in 2014.

That is also somewhat fair given the simple fact that neither Worrilow and Bartu are Sean Weatherspoon.

Falcons Have a Leadership Void That Needs to be Filled

Weatherspoon was the defensive leader for a reason. That being that he is one of the team’s best players on the field and has a natural outgoing personality that makes him capable of adopting a leadership role. Neither Worrilow nor Bartu are of Spoon’s talent level on the field, and while Worrilow especially, has shown solid leadership traits, he is not the defensive leader.

Leadership in the National Football League often comes simply from the fact that you’re the best player on the field. Leaders are supposed to rally the troops and when the team needs it and have to be the guys to step up in the face of adversity. Simply put, you can’t lead from the bench.

That being said, it would be more advantageous for the Falcons if Desmond Trufant was the second-year player that stepped up and took on a leadership role in Spoon’s absence versus either Worrilow or Bartu. Trufant was the team’s best defender a year ago and he’ll need to have possibly an even better second season to follow up. Other players like William Moore, Jonathan Babineaux, Osi Umenyiora, Kroy Biermann and Jonathan Massaquoi will also have to step up in the locker room as well as produce on the field.

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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 66 “Tear Down Your Hopes and Dreams”

May 13th, 2014 Comments off

Allen and I are joined by The Falcoholic contributor, Murf Baldwin, to discuss our thoughts on the Atlanta Falcons 2014 draft class. Murf gives a less than glowing assessment of the Falcons picks, including whether or not Ra’Shede Hageman and Dezmen Southward offered good value in the second and third rounds. We wonder whether or not the Falcons pass rush has been significantly improved and break down whether Devonta Freeman and their late-round picks add anything to the roster that wasn’t already there. Allen and I finish with a brief discussion of our hopes for the NBA playoffs, our usual around the league segment, as well as Allen’s explanation on why he could not make a triumphant return to Radio City Music Hall to witness the draft.

Episode 66 – Tear Down Your Hopes and Dreams [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 26 minutes

Allen covers the Falcons for Pro Football Spot. His twitter handle is: @Allen_Strk.

Murf writes for The Falcoholic, Roll Bama Roll and can be found on twitter: @MurfBaldwin.

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

Draft Needs: Falcons Looking to Replace Weatherspoon at Linebacker?

May 1st, 2014 Comments off

When you separate their need for a pass-rusher, the Atlanta Falcons appear relatively secure at linebacker. The unit is anchored by Sean Weatherspoon and the team got production from undrafted free agents Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu in 2013, with only room to get better in 2014.

But there may not be as much security as it initially seems. Weatherspoon is coming off an injury-filled season and is entering his contract year where he’ll be set to hit free agency in 2015. Worrilow and Bartu fared well for rookies, but are far from proven at the position.

The team also has Akeem Dent in the mix, adding depth and helping out on special team. But Dent has struggled the past two years when asked to start. And it’s telling in how quickly the Falcons pulled the plug on him as the starting middle linebacker last year in favor of Worrilow, given Dent’s much higher draft status. At this point, the team should only see Dent as an experienced backup in the event of another injury at the position.

The key is Weatherspoon, who is slowly recovering from a knee injury suffered late last year. Spoon also missed a significant portion of 2013 with a foot injury and whether or not he can stay healthy is an unanswered question. He has missed a total of 17 games due to injuries over four seasons with the Falcons. If Spoon comes back in 2014 and has a strong year and avoids injury, it’s likely the Falcons will look to re-sign him to a long-term contract to continue anchoring the defense. But if not, then the team may need to be prepared to move on.

Bartu flashed some things late in the year as a replacement for Spoon but he’s far from a proven commodity. Bartu has good athleticism, but needs to improve in his instincts and awareness for the position. He spent his rookie season primarily playing strong-side linebacker as an injury fill-in for Kroy Biermann, but could move to the weak side if the team is successful in adding an edge pass-rusher in the draft. But at this point Bartu remains a developmental option as opposed to someone that can be penciled in right now as a future starter.

Worrilow had a strong rookie year and showed excellent instincts and awareness given his youth and lack of experience. He will need to continue to get better as a tackler and in coverage to truly take that next step to becoming a trusted starter. But the presence of Dent behind him and the fact that he handled starting duties for an extended period last year should have the Falcons more confident in his future than that of Bartu.

Outside the current four, there are no other true linebackers on the roster. The Falcons will be in the market to add another insurance policy at the position, someone that not only adds depth but also is a potential candidate to be a starter in the near future.

The Falcons need another athletic linebacker that can play on passing downs, since that deficiency led to Dent’s benching as well as the eventual dismissals of Curtis Lofton and Stephen Nicholas.

Given that Spoon is a former first-round pick, any player taken in the middle rounds of the 2014 draft won’t be on the same plane athletically. But the higher said prospect is selected, the better an athlete he’s likely to be.

Any draft pick selected may be relegated mainly to special teams as a rookie, but in the event of Spoon’s departure in 2015, he should offer some potential to compete with Bartu for the vacated starting position. Ideally, Weatherspoon will have a great 2014 and any draft pick selected this year will be used as a capable backup in the event of another injury down the road.

Ultimately the Falcons can’t really control what happens in 2014 in terms of whether Spoon stays healthy, or whether Bartu and Worrilow take those next steps in their NFL development. The goal of adding a linebacker in the middle rounds of the 2014 draft is about giving themselves an insurance policy in case some or none of those things happen.

Takeaways from Last Week – April 28, 2014

April 28th, 2014 Comments off
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Ed Werder kicked off a firestorm this past week

The buzz this past week centered around whether the Atlanta Falcons would trade up for South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.

This isn’t anything new if you’ve been around the Falcons for the past few months. Clowney has been on the tip of every Falcon fan’s tongue since November when it was clear the team would finish the year with a poor and subsequently a high first-round draft pick. Would it be high enough for the team to get Clowney? That question fractured the fan base into two groups: the tankers and the anti-tankers. The former group wanted the Falcons to lose as many games as possible to secure the highest possible draft pick, while the latter group wanted to see their beloved Falcons scrap it out and finish the 2013 season as strongly as possible.

Two guesses as to which group I fell into.

But now the media is a few months late to the party. I first began writing about trading up for Clowney during February’s Combine. But soon afterward, things went by the wayside and the Falcons went back to where they’ve been for most of the franchise’s existence: obscurity and irrelevance.

But now that rumors that the Houston Texans are keen on moving back from their No. 1 overall selection, the Falcons are now thrust back into the limelight. Given the team’s recent history for bold draft-day moves, their open admiration of Clowney, it makes perfect sense to link them as the likeliest trade partner for the Texans.

And now we find the fan base once again fractured into two groups: those that want the Falcons to do whatever is necessary to get a talent like Clowney, and those wishing the avoid Clowney like the plague. We’ll call them traders and anti-traders.

However, that’s probably an over-generalization. Instead, the majority of Falcons fans would probably be very interested in acquiring Clowney, but are cautious about the amount of compensation a trade with the Texans or any other team at the top of the draft the Falcons would require.

Clowney Adds Significant Talent to Falcons Defense Read more…

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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