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What Is Wrong With Falcons Backup Quarterbacks?

August 20th, 2014 No comments
Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

Dirk Koetter

It looked like the Atlanta Falcons had finally decided to address their lack of experience at the quarterback position behind starter Matt Ryan this past June when they acquired T.J. Yates via trade from the Houston Texans.

However that decision has yet to pay dividends.

Yates is coming off a very poor performance in the team’s second preseason action against his former team, where he threw two interceptions and had a couple more passes that could have easily been turnovers.

In June, I outlined reasons why the team’s acquisition of Yates was a good move. Those reasons were centered on the fact that Yates had experience as a starter, something the team lacked at the time in reserves Dominique Davis, Sean Renfree and Jeff Mathews, all of whom hardly had any NFL experience.

While by no means did I want to suggest that Yates was a particularly good backup option, he certainly was better than what the team had. And for a Falcons organization that has a tendency to twiddle its thumbs even when there are fairly obvious roster issues, striving for better was at least a step in the right direction if not ultimately the solution.

However, 2014 is a critical year for this team and its coaching staff. At this point for Falcons head coach Mike Smith, who faces scrutiny coming off a 4-12 season, every win that he can get in 2014 matters.

And thus, if having a competent backup quarterback can mean the difference of winning one more game if the team finds itself in the absence of Ryan, then that one decision could ultimately decide Smith’s fate.

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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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Hard Knocks Episode 3 Recap – Masters of Fundamentals

August 20th, 2014 No comments

Hard KnocksAnother week and another episode of Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Atlanta Falcons aired last night. It was another good one featuring several montages in the lead-up to the Falcons’ road trip to Houston to face the Texans in preseason.

I’m sure the show was able to clear a couple of rooms to start off, showing doctors performing surgery on linebacker Marquis Spruill’s torn ACL. If you’re a bit squeamish, it might have been a good time to go grab a beer from the fridge for a few minutes. But it was good to see Marquis have a very positive attitude about it, saying that he’d be “right as rain” soon.

It was an injury-filled episode. Not only did we see how players like Steven Jackson, Kroy Biermann and Julio Jones are recovering from their respective injuries, but we also witnessed Sam Baker’s season-ending injury suffered towards the end of the episode in the game against the Texans.

We got to see that the team’s delay on officially moving Jake Matthews to left tackle was just as much a farce as you thought it was. During the Texans game, offensive line coach Mike Tice told Jake that he would be the new left tackle immediately once Baker went down.

William Moore got to showcase his freestyling skills in front of teammates in the trainer’s room. He was outdone in the music department when we witnessed a jam session with ukeleles between Levine Toilolo and Brenden Daley while hanging out by the pool at the team hotel in Houston. Toilolo’s rendition of Mario’s “Just a Friend 2002″ was great.

Wide Geraldo “Amsterdam” Boldewijn was featured heavily on last night’s episode. We learned that he’s super raw as a wide receiver, taking some heat from both wide receivers coach Terry Robiskie and quarterback Matt Ryan alike. But at least he can speak four languages.

We got to see Harry Douglas, Roddy White and Julio Jones spend some time at the bowling alley. Harry got to show off his “aerial” technique, although Julio wound up winning the game, beating him by a single point. Roddy was a distant third.

Not only were Roddy’s bowling skills subpar, but his reflexes and hand-eye coordination was lacking in a game where the Falcons receivers were taking turns trying to catch a dollar bill before it hit the ground. I did like the jab that the producers of Hard Knocks took at their practice antics by displaying a sign afterwards that said: “No Children Allowed on the Field.”

T.J. Yates’ struggles to pick up the offense were also featured. That might explain his struggles in last week’s game. Or maybe he just wanted to make his former teammates look good.

Bryan Cox was revealed as an overprotective father when it comes to his daughters. We also got a brief earful of his prolific sex life. Apparently he was getting dirty instead of learning his multiplication tables. He is without a doubt the breakout star of the show.

I’m not sure Matt Ryan has a second career in comedy. Nothing wrong with the joke itself, but he didn’t tell it particularly well. However, I did like the fingertip grab made by the son of the Texans tight ends coach after practice on a pass from Ryan.

Other highlights:

  • Keith Armstrong chewing out Tyler Starr for his “karate moves” in trying to defeat blocks on special teams coverage. Non-Bryan Cox Quote of the night might have been Armstrong’s: “God Bless you, but get down the field!”
  • J.J. Watt enters practice like a boss!
  • Maurice Hagens is not good at removing his pads.
  • Bernard Reedy is not very friendly to rival mascots.
  • Don’t mess with D.J. Swearinger, especially if you’re going to try and sucker punch him like Douglas.

Next week’s episode promises to feature Joe Hawley’s take on the famous scene from the film Ghost and Bryan Cox’s cinematic tastes.

Breakdown of Falcons Preseason Week 2 vs. Texans

August 17th, 2014 No comments
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

T.J. Yates

Just like last week, I’m breaking down any and every player that stood out to me (or didn’t) in the Atlanta Falcons preseason loss to the Houston Texans. Since there are so many players, I’ve separated them by position group. Brew a cup of coffee and sit back, because we’re going to be here for a while.

Quarterback

What I Saw: It’s hard to be critical of Matt Ryan’s performance in this game. His numbers weren’t good, but he didn’t play poorly. He missed on the first big throw to Julio Jones down the sideline, throwing too far outside which made it hard for Julio to keep both feet in bounds. He then had two more incompletions because of what I’d call lackadaisical effort by Roddy White. His last incompletion wasn’t an ideally placed pass on an in cut by Jones, but more often than not, Julio wins in those sort of traffic situations.

The Falcons backup quarterback play was erratic at best, and just plain horrible at worst. Sean Renfree had a nice stat-line, but got help from defensive penalties that nullified a couple of bad throws and decisions. Renfree had a couple of overthrows and inaccurate passes that he should have hit on. But he fared much better than T.J. Yates, who had a very rough game with two picks. The first, a pick-six, I’d blame mainly on Julian Jones who didn’t even look for the ball on a miscommunication. The second pick was 100 percent on Yates. It was a 2nd-and-18, and Yates was looking for a first down from Jabin Sambrano, throwing late over the middle. Texans linebacker Max Bullough read the throw the entire way and made an easy pick. On that play, Yates had easier completions on check downs to Tramaine Thompson, Jerome Smith or Brian Wozniak that could have gained a few easy yards and set up a more manageable third down. Obviously, Yates got too aggressive and the Falcons paid for it.

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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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Falcons 2014 Training Camp: Day 13 Report

August 12th, 2014 No comments
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Mickey Shuler

Let’s take a look at the various tweets, articles, reports, news and rumors that surfaced from the 13th day of training camp yesterday:

Jay Adams has the official site’s usual five things we learned from yesterday’s practice, including the team’s preparation for an extended trip to Houston to practice against the Texans before playing them in a game on Saturday, and preparation of certain players: Antone Smith, T.J. Yates and Jake Matthews to face the Texans.

ESPN’s Vaughn McClure has a few takeaways from practice as well, which can be found here.

Running back Devonta Freeman missed practice yesterday with an undisclosed injury, but it’s believed that he was affected by the heat and should be fine for today.

The Falcons backup quarterback position is an area in flux, with the team expected to give more backup reps to Sean Renfree rather than T.J. Yates this week. However, head coach Mike Smith indicates not to read too much into how the reps are split this week. It’s likely that their performance on Saturday against the Texans could be the deciding factor as Smith indicates the team wants to have the spot nailed down by their third preseason game scheduled against the Tennessee Titans on August 23.

Smith is looking forward to the team’s combined practices with the Texans over the next two days.

Tight end Mickey Shuler seems to be making the most of his opportunity by stealing some starters reps. Shuler may be closing the gap on presumed No. 2 tight end Bear Pascoe with a solid performance against the Miami Dolphins last week.

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Breakdown of Falcons Preseason Week 1

August 9th, 2014 No comments
Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Jacquizz Rodgers

As I did last year with each preseason game, I will post my reactions to what I saw on the field in the Atlanta Falcons preseason-opening win over the Miami Dolphins.

The preseason is a time for individual player evaluation, and I’ve looked at every snap from the game and here are my thoughts, observations, and opinions based off what I saw. Since there are so many players to discuss, like last year, I will break them down by position group.

Quarterbacks

What I Saw: Matt Ryan played well in the game, getting pulled after the opening series, a 10-play drive. He completed all of his passes. His best throw was probably his first, which saw him thread the needle to Harry Douglas on a slant pass. To no one’s surprise, it was a solid night for Ryan and he’s poised for the regular season.

T.J. Yates stepped in on the second offensive series and played through the midpoint in the third quarter for five possessions. I thought Yates showed good decision-making throughout the night, but his accuracy wasn’t stellar. There were a couple of throws where he had to make his receivers work a little harder than they needed to, but in most cases they were catchable passes. The throw to Devonta Freeman at the end of the half probably was the most glaring example where Yates could’ve had better placement. That could have been a touchdown. He almost had a second touchdown on a slant to Geraldo Boldewijn at the end of the third quarter, but I put more blame on Boldewijn there even though it wasn’t a perfect throw. Yates pocket movement was good, but his lack of ideal arm strength and accuracy hold him back. But a lot of his incompletions probably had more to do with him working with green, inexperienced receivers. If he was to work with guys like Jones, Douglas and White, he should be okay as a fill-in starter behind Ryan.

Sean Renfree played four series in the second half and made a couple of nice throws. His wheel route to Freeman for 57 yards was his best throw. He almost threw a pick at the end of the game because he stared down Freddie Martino and did not see the linebacker underneath in the throwing lane. From this game, there appears to be a gap between Yates and Renfree, which should surprise no one. Jeff Mathews did not suit up.

Conclusions: Judging solely off this game, Yates probably has a firm handle on the No. 2 job simply because he seems to be operating at a much more cerebral level than Renfree. He’s more decisive and showed better touch, timing, and accuracy on his throws, despite not exactly grading off the charts in those areas. I will be curious if the Falcons do Mathews like they did Seth Doege, who did not take a single snap last summer in four preseason games. If Mathews doesn’t get a couple of series next week, that becomes a strong possibility.

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Falcons Pull Out 16-10 Win Over Dolphins in Preseason Opener

August 8th, 2014 No comments

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Ryan was nearly perfect in his lone series against the Dolphins

The Atlanta Falcons won their preseason opener in the Georgia Dome against the Miami Dolphins with a tightly-contested 16-10 victory. It halts the Falcons five-game preseason losing streak dating back to the summer of 2012, with their last win being over the Dolphins by a score of 23-6. It also marks the first time since 2010 that the Falcons have won their preseason opener.

Matt Ryan led the team and played only a single series. But he made the most of it, leading the Falcons on a scoring drive while completing all seven pass attempts for 53 yards. He later gave way to T.J. Yates, who completed seven of 16 passes for 127 yards. Sean Renfree also saw second-half action, completing six of 15 passes for 108 yards. On the ground, Devonta Freeman led the team in rushing with 50 yards on 10 carries. Jacquizz Rodgers added 20 yards and Atlanta’s lone touchdown on seven carries. Antone Smith also had an impressive game, although penalties wiped out two big plays of his, including a 76-yard scoring run. He finished with just five yards on his three carries. Roddy White got all of his work on the opening drive, leading the team with four receptions for 27 yards. Bernard Reedy led the team in receiving yards with 61 on a pair of catches. Freeman also had a single catch for 57 yards. Courtney Roby (two catches, 27 yards), Mickey Shuler (two catches, 23 yards), Levine Toilolo (two catches, 19 yards) and Maurice Hagens (two catches, 15 yards) also had notable contributions. The Falcons connected on all three of their field goal tries, with Matt Bryant hitting from 21 yards and Sergio Castillo connecting on kicks from 21 and 34 yards out. Matt Bosher punted four times for an average of 53 yards with one touchback. Castillo had a pair of punts for an average of 46.5 yards. Offensively, the Falcons were able to convert on eight of 17 third-down tries including all three attempts when the starters were in the game. The Falcons also finished with 372 total yards and had a relatively clean game with no turnovers. But they were penalized heavily nine penalties for a total of 82 yards.

Defensively, the Falcons did not look good on the opening drive against the Dolphins starters. They let Miami drive down the field on a 10-play, 73-yard drive for a touchdown. But otherwise, they put the clamps on the Dolphins reserves allowing just 229 total yards and conversions on just five of 14 third-down tries. They were also able to force a turnover which sealed the Falcons victory. Javier Arenas, along with Kimario McFadden, Sean Baker, Jonathan Massaquoi, Prince Shembo and Cliff Matthews tied for team-lead with three tackles each. Arenas added a pass breakup and a tackle for loss, while Baker also broke up a pass. Shembo had a sack and Massaquoi added a tackle for loss. Tim Dobbins (one tackle, one tackle for loss); Nosa Eguae (one tackle, one fumble recovery); Jordin Mabin (two tackles, one pass defended); Robert McClain (two tackles) and Paul Worrilow (two tackles) all had noteworthy games.

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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 72 “Nailing the Training Camp Report”

August 4th, 2014 No comments

Allen and I are joined by Jeanna Thomas of the Falcoholic to break down her observations from the first week of the Atlanta Falcons 2014 training camp. Jeanna gives us the skinny on which young skill position players have emerged early in camp plus the Falcons potential upgrades in the trenches. Allen and I finish with more talk of the Falcons, preview the preseason opener against the Miami Dolphins and some of the latest around the league news.

Episode 72 – Nailing the Training Camp Report [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 23 minutes

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

Jeanna writes for The Falcoholic and can be found on twitter: @jeannathomas.

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 Training Camp Preview 2014: Quarterback

July 14th, 2014 Comments off

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

T.J. Yates

Every since Matt Ryan first won the job in his first summer with the team in 2008, the Atlanta Falcons starting quarterback position has been settled. Instead the brunt of the question marks and competition at the position comes in the battle for the right to back up Ryan each year.

This year will be no different, as the team traded for former Houston Texans quarterback T.J. Yates last month to fill that role. Yates seemingly should be an upgrade over Dominique Davis, who previously held the mantle of the team’s No. 2 quarterback before his untimely release.

Unlike Davis, Yates has legit NFL starting experience, having started six games during his rookie season in 2011.

Upon his release, Davis indicated that the Falcons planned to keep only one backup on the roster behind Ryan, and that their decision to acquire Yates essentially made the decision who that would be before any real competition took place.

But that doesn’t mean Yates is by any means a lock to make the roster. As the team saw in the summer of 2012, there was a similar situation where Chris Redman should have had the backup spot all wrapped up. However, Redman struggled and allowed a bright-eyed, then undrafted rookie with the name of Davis to oust him from the roster.

This summer, young players like Sean Renfree and Jeff Mathews hope to repeat that history.

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